WHAT NOW?!

Yep, Donald Trump is our next president. Are you pissed off? Are you galvanized? Are you wondering what you can do to fight the impending atrocities? Good. Get off of Facebook and do these things now and for the next four years:

1. Hit the streets. Protest. Join peaceful demonstrations and meditation meet-ups and whatever other public gatherings you can find, to demonstrate to the world that this man does not speak for you. In addition to just making you feel damn good being surrounded by like-minded freedom fighters, it shows the world and the president-elect that he does not have a mandate and that he has work to do to unite the country. I just booked a flight to Washington DC to participate in the Million Women March the day after the presidential inauguration, and I can’t wait.

2. Get Involved. Pick a group that fights for the issues that you care about and donate your time or your money to them. These orgs have the existing infrastructure and political networks to fight the Trump administration:

If you can, make a recurring donation, even if it’s small, because these organizations will need more than just a one-time boost to staff the fuck up.

Can’t afford it, you say? I have an idea. Make a donation instead of flying home for Christmas. That way you don’t have to spend quality time with your Trump-loving relatives AND you can feel extra good about where your money went. As comedian John Oliver has suggested, you can make your donation in the name of those same relatives. Your Christmas shopping is done and it’s only November! Kill two very angry birds with one stone.

3. Support paid journalism. Our first line of defense against tyranny is well-funded investigative journalism. Newspapers have been struggling to stay alive in the face of crappy-ass websites that provide fake news for free (I see you, Breitbart and BuzzFeed), and this has contributed to the culture that actually elected a Twitter troll as President of the United States. I subscribe to the NY Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, KQED public radio, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and I am proud to do it. The price of freedom is only about $5-$15 per month. What a bargain!

4. Read the newspaper every day. Every time I read the phrase “President-Elect Donald Trump,” I throw up a little in my mouth. So I totally understand the instinct to bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s going to be alright. Well guess what? It’s not going to be alright, and your country needs you to stay engaged, to man the barricades. But the only way to do this is to know what the fuck is going on. And get out of your Facebook newsfeed bubble, because you know that is why Trump was able to beat us: unicorns and kitten videos and reassurances by Nate Silver that everything would be OK. Guess what, Nate Silver. Everything is not OK.

5. Notice hate crimes. They are on the rise thanks to Trump’s despicable rhetoric on the campaign trail, and now bigots have been emboldened by his election. Even here in leftiest-of-leftist San Francisco, we are seeing racist and xenophobic activity in our community. We have to be fierce in protecting our fellow citizens and stand up to this behavior. When you see a woman in a hijab being threatened on the bus or in the grocery store, rush to her side. Take pictures, take video, take notes. If your community has a hate crimes hotline, report what you saw. And if your community doesn’t have a hotline, call the police.

6. Elect more women. I can’t even believe that in 2016, only six states have female governors, and women only hold 19% of congressional seats. Trump’s election has made it even more urgent to get more women in elective office to fight against gender discrimination and rape culture. As actor Jeffrey Wright tweeted, “May the election of Trump bring forth the fiercest, smartest, toughest generation of ass-kicking women this country could possibly imagine.” Damn straight. Here’s what you can do: (1) Run for office yourself, (2) encourage women you know to run, or (3) donate to the Emerge program, a kickass organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.

And finally:

7. Stay Angry. Do not become complacent. It is a natural human instinct to calm down after an initial shock wears off, to normalize a totally unacceptable thing and learn to live with it. Already, I have friends who have said to me “Maybe he won’t be that bad,” and “Let’s give him a chance.” FUCK NO. Give him a chance to do what? To stack the Supreme Court with reality TV judges? To take away the health insurance of 16.4 million Americans? To accelerate our climate-induced doom? FUCK NO.

As Edmond Burke said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

See you in the streets, friends. Let’s do this.

 

San Francisco Pocket Voter Guide is Here!

Print it, screenshot it, take it with you to the polls.

alix_pocket_bigolvoterguide

Design by Tim Paschke. Thanks Tim!

For a longer explanation of my recommendations on the California measures, go here.

For a longer explanation of my recommendations on the SF ballot, go here.

And if you find this guide useful, please make a donation here! Thanks.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide! San Francisco Ballot, November 2016

There are 25 measures on the SF ballot, which is about 20 too many. If you add the 17 California measures, and a dozen candidate races, that’s 51 separate decisions San Francisco voters have to make in this election! Ridiculous!

And some of the issues are very complicated. How are the voters supposed to understand enough to make informed decisions? This is madness. There are some BFDs on this ballot, with the city facing changes that will make a big difference to its citizens in the coming years.

A lot of this stuff is about the Mayor’s power. He isn’t on the ballot, and hasn’t endorsed any of the measures, but four of them (D, H, L & M) are directly aimed at reducing his power. Many of the 25 measures don’t need to be on the ballot at all, and I call that out in the pages that follow. I’m not sure why, but there seem to be a whole lot of propositions that want to tie the hands of future Boards of Supervisors in how it allocates funding or staffing of government programs. This is silliness if you ask me, and a terrible way to manage the city’s budget and staffing decisions.

And here’s where I admit that I’m not finished with this voter guide. Because it’s so close to Election Day, I’m publishing a mostly complete voter guide with the intention to write more every day to help you make your voting decisions. I start with a summary up top, and then more complete explanations in the pages that follow.

Without further ado, I submit to you my thoughts on the San Francisco ballot. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include defending nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve worked on more political campaigns than I can count, including my own, and I also like long walks on the beach.

For my complete voter guide on the California measures, go here. 

For the super simple, easy-to-take-to-the-polls version, go here.

And if you find this guide useful, please make a donation here! Thanks.

US Senator – Kamala Harris
US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi
US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier
State Senate District 11 – Scott Wiener
State Assembly District 17 – David Chiu
State Assembly District 19 – Phil Ting
Superior Court Judge – Paul Henderson
Board of Supervisors, District 1 – Marjan Philhour
Board of Supervisors, District 3 – No recommendation
Board of Supervisors, District 5 – London Breed
Board of Supervisors, District 7 – #1 Ben Matranga, #2 Joel Engardio
Board of Supervisors, District 9 – Joshua Arce
Board of Supervisors, District 11 – Ahsha Safai
BART District 7 – Lateefah Simon
BART District 9 – Gwyneth Borden
Board of Education – Stevon Cook, Matt Haney, Trevor McNeil, Rachel Norton. Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez, Jill Wynns
City College Board – Amy Bacharach, Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, Tom Temprano. Honorable mention: Shanell Williams

Prop A: School Bond – YES
Prop B: City College Parcel Tax – YES
Prop C: Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing – YES
Prop D: Vacancy Appointments and Letting Voters Elect District Supervisors – NO
Prop E: Responsibility for the Maintenance of Street Trees – YES
Prop F: Youth Voting in Local Elections – YES
Prop G: Police Oversight and Accountability – YES
Prop H: Independent Public Advocate – NO
Prop I: Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities – NO
Prop J: Funding for Homelessness and Transportation- YES
Prop K: General Sales Tax – YES
Prop L:  Balancing MTA Appointments – NO
Prop M: Affordable Housing and Development Commission – NO
Prop N: Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections – YES
Prop O: Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point- YES
Prop P: Bidding Rules for Affordable Housing Projects – NO
Prop Q: Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks – NO
Prop R: Neighborhood Crime Unit- – NO
Prop S: Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds to the Arts & Family Homeless Services – YES
Prop T: Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists – NO
Prop U: Changing Affordable Housing Requirements for Private Developments – NO
Prop V: Tax on sugary beverages – YES
Prop W: Luxury Real Estate Tax to Fund Education – YES
Prop X: Requirements for Changing the Use of Certain Properties – NO
Measure RR: BART Bond – YES

US Senator – Kamala Harris
Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are running against each other to replace (my former boss!) Barbara Boxer.

Harris is a personal hero of mine. As the District Attorney of San Francisco and now as Attorney General of California, she has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage. She also brings a fresh perspective to the office, as she is the first African American, the first Indian American, and the first woman to serve as the state’s top cop.

Sanchez represents a Congressional district in conservative Orange County, which should tell you everything about her politics. She is a Blue Dog Democrat who has voted against important gun control legislation and for the tobacco industry. She is… unpolished, and once made a faux Indian war whoop as she flippantly tried to explain the difference between Native Americans and Americans of Indian descent.

I saw them both speak at the California Democratic Party Convention in February, and the difference between the two was stark. Sanchez’s speech consisted of a list of her accomplishments, and she struck a defensive tone about her conservative votes. By contrast, Kamala was luminous. She had the room on its feet when she talked about the divisive politics running though the Republican presidential contest. What they don’t understand, she said, is that America’s racial and ethnic diversity is its strength. You want to ‘Make America Great Again’?” she asked of Donald Trump and his supporters, “AGAIN FOR WHOM?” Please vote for her. She gives me hope for this country.

US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi
I teared up when Nancy was sworn in as Speaker and called all of the kids and grandkids in the chambers up to the podium with her. This simple act highlighted the significance of the election of the first mother and grandmother to the most powerful position in Congress.

Every two years I say the same thing: we are lucky to have Nancy Pelosi represent San Francisco. Her accomplishments in three decades in the House of Representatives are far too many to list here. She has stood up for reproductive rights, immigrants, women, LGBT folks and the poor. She fought hard to protect the social safety net when the Republicans in Congress wanted to slash it in 2013 and she helped shepherd Obamacare through the House, which was an incredible achievement in itself. Recently, she has advocated for open military service for transgender folks. If the GOP completely crumbles in this election and large numbers of Republican voters stay home (fingers crossed!), it is not impossible that the Democratic Party takes Congress back in this election, and Pelosi will be Speaker again. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Also: watch this interview of Nancy by her daughter, it’s really great.

US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier
I have great admiration for Jackie Speier. She is fearless, thoughtful and smart, and she also has a remarkable personal story. In 1978 she was left for dead on a tarmac in Guyana with her boss Congressman Leo Ryan during the airstrip shootings that triggered the massacre at Jonestown. In her extraordinary career in public service, she has championed consumer protections, banking reform, and increasing federal funding to public transit in the Bay Area, particularly to Muni and for the electrification of Caltrain, an important component of the California High-Speed Rail Project. She has been tough on PG&E for the San Bruno explosion, and she has taken on the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and in the military. I can’t say enough great things about Jackie! Also: she has no credible opposition.

State Senate District 11 – Scott Wiener
Over the years I have worked closely with Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, who are running against each other for Mark Leno’s Senate seat. (Leno is termed out). Both candidates have their merits and I consider them both friends, so it was hard to choose one over the other.

Jane has served on the Board since 2010, and she represents District 6, which is mostly in SOMA and the Tenderloin. Jane’s district has felt real estate development pressure more intensely than most in the last 6 years, and so it’s understandable that her office has been focused on land use and development issues. I like what she has said about gentrification (the Tenderloin doesn’t need more market rate housing, it needs more services for the existing residents), and I think she’s been deft at negotiating with developers. Jane was also the sponsor of the controversial “Twitter tax break” that attracted tech firms like Twitter to the mid-Market area, earning her the scorn of many progressives. It’s interesting to see her now backpedaling on her support of tech companies by opposing the City’s commuter shuttle program, calling Google buses “rolling gated communities.” If you hate the Google buses, Jane is probably your candidate.

I have endorsed Scott because I think he will be a more effective legislator in Sacramento, and he is one of the smartest people I know in city government. He has done more than Jane on the Board of Supervisors to support women and families, including his recent legislation to require SF employers to provide six weeks of paid parental leave. He is a fierce advocate for nightlife and culture, and he will continue Senator Leno’s fight for 4am bar closures in the state legislature. And most important – Scott has done most of the heavy lifting in recent years to improve public transit, to fight for improvements and funding, and he will continue to do so in the State Senate. Senator Leno has endorsed him, and that says a lot to me since he knows the job, he knows both candidates well, and has worked with them both.

AND – just as important to me – Scott is a political nerd of the highest order. He is earnest, prepared, hard working, and focused; these are important qualities in a legislator. Check out his hilarious “Hip to Be Square” ad by MC Hammer and other celebrities.

I urge you to vote for Scott.

State Assembly District 17 – David Chiu
David is a close ally of mine, and he has no credible opposition for his re-election to the State Assembly. In his two years in the state legislature, he has authored 11 bills that have been enacted into law, and he has focused his efforts on affordable housing, supporting women, children and families, standing up for workers and immigrants, improving health care, supporting education, and fixing transportation. Just as important, he is a longtime advocate for car-free living, and every year he rides a Burning Man art car in the San Francisco Pride Parade! Awesome.

State Assembly District 19 – Phil Ting
Even though he and I haven’t always agreed, Phil Ting has my support. He is doing a great job of representing the West side of San Francisco. He currently serves as the chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, and in this capacity he has been instrumental in changing how schools are funded in California through the Local Control Funding Formula. He is a champion of bike safety and incentivizing electric vehicles, and he has also passed through the Assembly one of the most progressive gender-neutral bathroom policies in the country. He is also virtually unopposed. Go Phil!

Superior Court Judge – Paul Henderson
Two smart and competent candidates are running for this judicial seat. Victor Hwang is a civil rights attorney with both criminal and civil law experience who also serves on the San Francisco Police Commission. Paul Henderson is a former Deputy District Attorney who has dedicated his career to public service and currently works in the Mayor’s Office on criminal justice issues.

I am impressed with the number of high powered endorsements that Henderson has been able to earn, and I agree with him that the bench needs to reflect the diversity of the community it serves. Henderson is a black gay man – a constituency that is underrepresented on the bench generally. Given what is happening with the criminal justice system’s unfair treatment of black men nationwide, I think we should put more progressive black men on the bench to help insure that this demographic receives fair treatment from the courts. Vote for Henderson.

Board of Supervisors, District 1 – Marjan Philhour
I adore Marjan, having known her and worked with her for many years. A small business owner and mom of three, she is a straight shooter and has made the Richmond her home for most of her life. She is running on improving neighborhood services, not ideology, which seems to be in line with the priorities of her district. As the Chronicle said in their endorsement of her, “District voters have a chance to put the supervisors on a more practical, problem-solving course. Philhour has the skills and can-do approach to upgrade the area’s voice at City Hall.”

Board of Supervisors, District 3 – No recommendation
Supervisor Peskin is running unopposed in his re-election bid, and yet I am unable to endorse him. In his last race I supported his opponent in part because I was disappointed by Supervisor Peskin’s use of bullying tactics in City Hall, and because he has worked hard to oppose development that I felt would have helped alleviate the San Francisco housing crisis.

Board of Supervisors, District 5 – London Breed
This is the wierdest campaign. A white straight male multi-millionaire (Dean Preston) is running to the left (!) of the black woman incumbent who (is President of the Board of Supervisors and) grew up in the housing projects in the district.

I’m with London because she fights fiercely for her district while wielding a wicked sense of humor. If you’ve been following the Board of Supervisors the last four years, you know that she gives zero fucks. A lifelong rente

r, she has been a tenant advocate on the Board, and also she holds developers accountable. She has also been focused on public safety and transit, succeeding recently in getting more (desperately needed!) trains on the N-Judah line. Her accomplishments are made even more remarkable by her humble upbringing. She deserves a second term.

Board of Supervisors, District 7 – #1 Ben Matranga, #2 Joel Engardio
Supervisor Norman Yee is running for re-election in this district that spans the southwest corner of San Francisco, from Twin Peaks to Lake Merced  It’s mostly single family homes out there, and the biggest concerns are property crimes and traffic safety.  I like both Ben Matranga and Joel Engardio, who are running to replace Yee. Matranga has experience in both transit policy and public safety, having worked in the Mayor’s office on Vision Zero, the program that aims to eliminate pedestrian fatalities. One significant difference for me: I’m an occasional Airbnb host, and Engardio supports home sharing, while Matranga does not. Engardio is a former journalist and tech worker, and a lifelong public policy nerd, having worked at the ACLU and received his Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I worked with Joel on the Democratic County Central Committee, and found him to be a smart, level head. He recognizes that his district needs to participate in alleviating the city’s housing crisis by building taller buildings along transit corridors. As the Chronicle wrote, in their endorsement of Engardio, “The choice comes down to a close call between tech consultant Joel Engardio and financial analyst Ben Matranga.” Either one will do a fine job.

Board of Supervisors, District 9 – Joshua Arce
This is yet another fascinating race that defies the usual left-middle divide in San Francisco.

Hillary Ronen and Josh Arce are the main contenders in this race. They are both public interest attorneys with close ties to immigrant communities. Hillary has served as an aide to Supervisor David Campos in this district, and so she knows the district well. Josh has served as President of the city’s Environment Commission, and his day job is with the Laborers Union, Local 261. Both have fought for rent control and against evictions, and both have shown leadership in pushing the city to build more affordable housing.

The Mission is changing faster than any other neighborhood, and not all of this change is good. Business is booming, but gentrification is happening at a rapid clip, and many of the city’s homeless residents have set up camp there. The district requires leadership that can deftly negotiate with opposing interests: neighborhood merchants, developers, homeless advocates and residents of all stripes.

I served with Josh Arce on the Democratic Party board for the last 4 years, and I have watched with fascination as he walked the tightrope between groups that were at each other’s throats. He is more skilled at diplomacy than most lawmakers I’ve ever met, forging compromise when I didn’t think it was possible. This is why I’m supporting him for Supervisor. He is exactly the person to represent the Mission in this critical moment in its history, with the experience and the temperament to keep the district from tearing itself apart.

Board of Supervisors, District 11 – Ahsha Safai
The two main candidates in D11 are Ahsha Safai and Kim Alvarenga.

Kim and Ahsha have similar backgrounds, in that they have each worked in government and now work for labor unions. Kim was District Director for Assembly member Tom Ammiano, and now she is the political director for SEIU Local 1021, the city’s fiercest progressive labor union. Ahsha has worked in the city’s Housing Authority, the Mayor’s Office of Community Development, and the Department of Public Works, and he currently serves as political director for the local janitors union.

If you didn’t know anything about how government works, you’d see their two platforms, and you’d be wondering why they are running against each other. They are nearly identical: parking and traffic issues, universal preschool (yay!), fixing the homeless problem. But if you look more closely, you’ll see that Ahsha’s platform actually includes ways to solve the problems, rather than just a pie-in-the-sky wish list for all the things that would make the district better. This is the reason why I’m supporting Ahsha. Having worked in city government for many years, he knows exactly where the funding will come from, the departments that will be affected and how to get it done. And if you look at their endorsement lists, you’ll see that Kim is outmatched. Ahsha will be a far more effective advocate for his district.

BART District 7 – Lateefah Simon
If you meet Lateefah in person, you will be charmed by her charisma and her smarts. As a working mother who is also legally blind, she depends on BART to commute to work and pick up her kids. She has an ambitious plan to fix BART and make it a world-class transit system. A lifelong civil rights activist, she is an amazing public speaker and has a bright future in politics. Did I mention she’s a MacArthur genius?

BART Board is just a start for her, I’m sure of it.

BART District 9 – Gwyneth Borden
I am proud to support my good friend Gwyneth Borden for BART Board (District 9) in San Francisco. As the Chronicle said in their endorsement of her: “Gwyneth Borden…was the most impressive of all the candidates we interviewed for the BART board. Her depth of experience in the private and public sectors was evident, as was the commitment to transit of someone who has “chosen to be car-free.” This is Gwyneth’s first run for public
office, and she is fueled by her passion for, and experience in, transit policy. By contrast, her opponent Bevan Dufty is the city’s former homeless czar and a former Supervisor, a career politician who hasn’t had any particular interest in public transportation until now. Vote for Gwyneth!

Board of Education – Stevon Cook, Matt Haney, Trevor McNeil, Rachel Norton

Stevon Cook – Stevon has an inspiring personal story, having pulled himself out of troubled circumstances as a youth being raised by his grandparents, ultimately graduating from Thurgood Marshall High School in the Bayview and going to Williams College. Stevon is passionate about advocating for disadvantaged kids in the public school system, and if you recognize his name it’s because he ran for the school board once before. He has endorsements from across the political spectrum including the Teachers Union, the Chronicle, the SF Democratic Party, the Labor Council, the Firefighters AND Tenants Unions (you don’t see that combo very often) and both LGBT Democratic clubs (also a rare combination). Hoping he wins this time.

Matt Haney – Matt currently serves as the President of the School Board. He is one of the smartest people in local politics, and cares more about education policy than anyone I know. He has a joint JD-MA degree from Stanford in law and education, and his day job is working with Van Jones on criminal justice reform. (RAD!) Literally everybody has endorsed him…as I’ve said before, everybody loves Matt. And so do I! Please vote for him.

Trevor McNeil – There aren’t any current teachers from San Francisco Unified on the school board, and there won’t ever be. The school board oversees the school district and negotiates teacher contracts, and so this would be a direct conflict of interest. This is why it’s important to elect Trevor McNeil – because he brings a very important perspective to the Board of Education, that of a third-generation educator. I worked with him for 6 years on the DCCC. He’s passionate about his students and about education policy, and he works very, very hard. And his daughter Walden is the cutest baby in San Francisco politics.

Rachel Norton – Rachel has been on the school board for 7 years, and has served in its leadership for most of that time. She is whip-smart, level-headed and knowledgeable. She has two kids in public school, one with special needs, and so she’s highly motivated to find workable solutions for students and parents. And she also works very hard; she is particularly good at communicating what she’s doing by way of newsletters and blogs. She also has been endorsed by literally everybody, and she deserves another term.

Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez, Jill Wynns

City College Board – Amy Bacharach, Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, Tom Temprano

Amy Bacharach – Amy was just elected to an open seat on the college board last year, and I am proud to support her again. She understands the value of community college because it enabled her to get her college degree and ultimately her PhD. She is smart, competent, and willing to make the tough calls, particularly in centralizing decision-making in CCSF’s administration.

Alex Randolph – Alex Randolph was just elected last year to fill an open seat on the College Board, and he is running for a full term. He has credited community college with giving him a leg up, and he is kicking ass in helping solve CCSF’s accreditation and enrollment problems. He wants CCSF to staff up the class registration process, which would help with the dramatic decline in enrollment, and he has also identified several places where CCSF could upgrade the technology it uses, to start solving its problems on a larger scale.

Rafael Mandelman – Rafael is an attorney, a really smart guy, and a progressive leader on both the college board and on the Democratic County Central Committee, where I worked closely with him for 6 years. His leadership over 4 very tumultuous years at the college board has helped restore local control and help city college begin to recover from its accreditation crisis.

Tom Temprano – Tom is the owner of Virgil’s Sea Room and an LGBT activist, and like many of the folks on the board, he credits city college with giving him a leg up. He is not afraid to stand up to the administration, as he has been vocal about CCSF’s spending decisions and its decision to cancel courses earlier than usual this semester. He ran last year unsuccessfully, and I hope he succeeds this time.

Honorable mention: Shanell Williams

Prop A – School Bond – Yes
Yes, another school bond measure (seems like there’s one in every election). This is a $744 million bond, and it requires a 55% majority to pass (huh? Yes. It’s complicated). It will go toward repairing and modernizing school district properties to make seismic upgrades, improve disability access, remove hazardous materials, improve technology, basically any kind of repair or upgrade you can think of.
If you are a homeowner, your property taxes will go up by $10-16 per year for every $100,000 of the original amount you paid for your home. If you don’t own your home, WOHOO! Free school upgrades. Seriously – if you’re a renter, there’s no reason not to vote for this thing. Especially if you have school-age children. As a child-free homeowner, I think that $10-$16 is absolutely worth spending to improve our schools. Our schools are chronically underfunded, and this is a small price to pay.

The Bay Guardian, the Chronicle and the Examiner all agree that Prop A is necessary. According to SPUR, the school district has successfully implemented that last three significant bond measures, with projects that have been completed under budget.

Prop B – City College Parcel Tax- Yes
Another unsexy-but-important measure.

A parcel tax is a kind of property tax that is paid per unit rather than by assessed value (like the school bond in Prop A). Currently, every homeowner pays $79 for every unit he or she owns toward an existing Community College parcel tax. If Prop B passes, it would replace this $79 parcel tax with a $99 tax for the next 15 years. It needs a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

Here’s the inside scoop: salaries for faculty and staff at CCSF have been depressed for years, and the unions have been fighting with the administration to get pay increases. They arrived at a deal this year that hinges upon the passage of this measure, which will increase the salaries of those CCSF workers who make between $60k-$90k per year. (How does anyone survive in this ridiculously expensive city on $60k per year?!)

City College is on its way to recovering from the bad years in the recent past, and it provides critical job training that can’t be found anywhere else. I think it will be totally screwed if this measure doesn’t pass. The Chronicle, the Examiner, the Bay Guardian, and the Bay Area Reporter agree: Yes on B.

Prop C – Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing
24 years ago, SF voters approved an ordinance authorizing the City to issue up to $350 million in general obligation bonds (loans) to seismically retrofit buildings that were at risk in a big earthquake. Apparently a big chunk of this money ($261 million) hasn’t been used, and so Prop C proposes to use the leftover bond revenues to acquire and rehabilitate run-down housing and make it permanently affordable housing. The funds could also be used for seismic, fire, and health and safety upgrades. It requires a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

This one seems like a no-brainer to me, and there is no organized opposition. It has to be approved by ballot measure because bonds (and any amendments thereto, like this one), have to go to the voters.

Prop D – Vacancy Appointments and Letting Voters Elect District Supervisors – No
The stakes are high in this election. One of two Supervisors – Jane Kim or Scott Wiener – will win Mark Leno’s State Senate seat, thus vacating a seat on the Board of Supervisors. Prop D will determine whether the Mayor will get to appoint the winner’s replacement to the Board, or whether that person will be elected by popular vote. Prop D was put on the ballot by people who support Jane Kim for Senate, and who don’t want her (leftier) seat to be filled with an ally of the Mayor’s.

The way it is now, the Mayor would get to appoint the replacement temporarily, until the next election is held, and that person runs to defend the appointment. Prop D would change it so that the Mayor could only appoint an interim replacement, and a special election would be held if there wasn’t one scheduled. The interim Supervisor would not be permitted to run for the seat.

I think this measure is a First Amendment challenge waiting to happen, but aside from that, I think it’s just a bad idea, and will cost the city a lot of money. If there isn’t already an election scheduled, the city will be forced to hold one, to the tune of at least $340,000 per election (and do we need more elections? No). It doesn’t do much to change the balance of power in City Hall, though it does create this weird caretaker Supervisor position that will probably be hard to fill with competent people. Vote no.

Proposition E: Responsibility for the Maintenance of Street Trees – YES
There is absolutely nothing sexy about street trees. But they can be a huge headache for property owners and for the city when they are not maintained properly. I’ve owned my home since 2001, so I remember the day when the city had responsibility for the (sad little) tree in front of my house. In 2011, with major budget cuts following the Great Recession, the city transferred ownership and responsibility for this tree to me. This was annoying because it cost me a lot of money to remove and replace this (pathetic, sickly) tree when its time had come.

Several Supervisors put Prop E on the ballot to give responsibility for trees back to the city, in response to community uproar. Prop E would guarantee at lease $19 million per year to pay for it, to be covered by a parcel tax based on the frontage size of a lot. So technically I’m still paying for my little tree, but the city is guaranteeing that it is cared for. (Which is a good thing, since not all property owners are as responsible as I am)

On the one hand, as a property owner, my property value is improved by a healthy tree in front of my house, and so I am the most motivated party to take good care of it. But on the other hand, my little tree really should be a city asset, since it benefits everyone, including the birds and the bees and my neighbors, and the dogs who regularly poop on it (Grr). AND it’s important for the City to prioritize growing our tree canopy, which, according to the Examiner, “ranks among the nation’s smallest for an urban area.” After the city shifted responsibility to property owners, we’ve seen much neglect for our city’s street trees.  As the Chronicle wrote in its endorsement, there’s really no reason to vote no on this one.

Proposition F: Youth Voting in Local Elections – YES
When I was 16 years old I was already a political nerd, running for student government and reading several newspapers. I would have *died* if they let me vote in local elections…that would have been incredibly empowering and exciting to me.

Of course, very few high school kids are as nerdy as I was. But still – allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote is a great idea. These folks drive, work, pay taxes and can be tried as adults in court. They should have the opportunity to influence their government by learning about the issues and exercising the franchise.

Here are some fun facts:

  • 21 states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries if they will be 18 before the general election.
  • Prop F would only apply to U.S. citizens – and there are up to 15,000 kids in this age group in San Francisco. If every one of them registers to vote, they’d constitute 3% of voters in SF.
  • Many industrialized countries allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote.
  • Only a quarter of 18-year-olds register to vote in the United States, and most people don’t start voting until their late 20s.

I’m all for getting kids excited about voting and teaching them how to do it while they are still at home. And there’s evidence that voting earlier in life leads to stronger civic engagement throughout a person’s lifetime.

Between the ages of 18 and 22, most of us are in major life transitions – college, work, (partying?), moving out of our parents’ house – and not focused on voting at all. But if we start them early we can hopefully get them into the habit of voting throughout this transition time. Vote yes.

Proposition G: Police Oversight and Accountability – YES
I’ve always wondered why the police oversight agency is called the “Office of Citizen Complaints.” It’s hella vague, and could be confusing to citizens with other kinds of, um, complaints. Prop G would change its name to the Department of Police Accountability (DPA) – which is WAY more accurate. It would give the department more independence by taking its budget approval away from the Police Commission and give the DPA better access to police personnel records and criminal investigation files. It requires an audit of how the Police Department has handled officer misconduct claims and use of force, every two years.

In light of all the troubling activities in the Police Department this year, including fatal shootings of people of color, and racist and homophobic texts among officers, the more independent the DPA gets, the better in my opinion. These folks need the proper resources and records to hold the SFPD accountable and to begin restore the community’s faith in our police force.

Proposition H: Independent Public Advocate – No
District 9 Supervisor David Campos is out of a job. He’s termed out this year, and has written this ballot measure to create a new citywide elected position for himself called Public Advocate. And arguably it would be the most powerful position in City Hall. If Prop H passes, it will give the new position a six-figure salary and a staff of 25 (!) with the powers to audit all other city departments, introduce legislation at the Board of Supervisors, investigate and resolve complaints against the city, issue subpoenas against city departments, and more. The City Controller estimates this new department could cost the city more than $4 million per year.

Like me, you have probably been frustrated with city government before: business licenses, property taxes, parking tickets, you name it. However, creating this new position – which won’t be accountable to any other city office or department – is not the answer to your frustrations. Every function of the public Advocate is duplicative of an existing department, and the measure doesn’t explain how that overlap will be handled. But more important, Prop H essentially creates an anti-Mayor, whose responsibility is to point out the issues in City Hall without any authority or responsibility to fix those problems. In fact, no matter who gets elected to it, the role will surely be used for partisan purposes, making this person’s foes look bad.

Picture it now: Sarah Palin gets elected to Public Advocate in San Francisco, and decides that she’s going to audit every LGBT department head. She investigates their management styles, their budget decisions, anything she wants. No – even better: Public Advocate Sarah Palin wants to run for Mayor next, and she thinks City Attorney Dennis Herrera is her main rival for the position. She can direct all of the resources of a 25-person department to audit the City Attorney’s office to find things to use in the future campaign. That’s just evil…but it’s well within the Public Advocate’s authority, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. A lot of damage can be done in a 4-year term.

Because of this potential for abuse, Prop H will certainly increase public cynicism toward government. And as a politics nerd, that makes me sad. I went into politics to help create solutions, not to use power for political advantage. Which is why I’d rather see a new city position created to SOLVE problems, not exacerbate them. And it’s why I’m voting no on H.

Proposition I: Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities – NO
Oooh, this is a tough one. Seniors, veterans and people with disabilities are often left out of the city’s budget process, and everyone agrees they need more funding for programs that help them live with dignity. Proposition I will create a “Dignity Fund” requiring the city to set aside $38-$71 million per year, for the next 20 years, to support programs for long-term care, food and nutrition, senior centers, among other things.

These are all worthy programs, but set-asides give me hives. It doesn’t matter how good the program is, or how needy the recipients are, this is no way to manage the city’s budget. I am against tying the hands of future legislators to force them to a specific funding level. And – this doesn’t need to be on the ballot! Grrr. Nine of eleven members of the Board of Supervisors voted to put this on the ballot…why don’t they just vote instead to create and fund this program? They can do it without asking the voters to do their job for them. Vote no.

Proposition J: Funding for Homelessness and Transportation – YES
Prop J is about how to spend the money raised by the tax in Prop K. You should probably go read about Prop K first. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here.

OK. So. If Prop K passes, Prop J would put 1/3 of the revenues toward homeless services and 2/3 toward transportation system improvements. In the first twelve months, the city expects these amounts to be about $48 million and $96 million, respectively. That’s a lot of money! And these DO happen to be the most pressing funding issues in SF right now, so, yeah. Let’s do it.

And yes, I know, I know. These are technically set-asides, which I usually vote against because they tie the Board’s hands in future budgeting. BUT – I like Prop J because (1) we are (hopefully) approving the tax (Prop K) at the same time that we are approving where the taxes would go, and so it’s not like we are taking existing revenues and sidetracking them, and (2) the tax measure and the set-asides are separate measures (smart!) so that the voters can approve or reject the set-asides separate from the tax increase.

But here’s the best part – which was written specifically for people like me who hate set-asides – Prop J would adjust the dedicated amounts over time in line with General Fund growth or decline, until the measure sunsets in 2041. So we wouldn’t be locked in to these funding amounts if there’s another Great Recession, for example. Also: the Mayor has the option to nullify the measure if Prop K loses (whew).

Proposition K: General Sales Tax – YES
I love taxes! Just kidding. Sort of.

Prop K proposes a ¾ cent sales tax increase, making the city’s total sales tax 9.25 cents for every dollar spent. Yeah, yeah, sales taxes are regressive, meaning they hurt poor people the most. But hear me out. Here’s why Prop K is a good idea:

  • ¼ cent of our current sales tax is ending before this one would begin. So effectively, our sales tax would only increase by half a cent.
  • SF’s sales tax is within a half-cent of California’s other big cities: LA, San Jose, Oakland, Long Beach. San Diego and Sacramento are a little lower: 8% and 8.5% respectively.
  • If Prop J passes, the revenues would go to homeless programs and transportation, which are also regressive issues in that they affect poor people the most. So there’s that.

The reason why transportation in San Francisco is so frustrating is because of decades of underfunding. During the recession, we put off repairing roadways so that we could keep the parks and other departments open. We also delayed maintenance of MUNI buses and BART trains. Now that the economy has improved, it’s time to reverse these funding decisions. And I don’t need to tell you that the city’s homeless programs need more resources to help get folks off the streets. You probably see it every day in your commute to work. I know I do. It’s heartbreaking.

And even if Prop J fails, I have a feeling the city will spend the money on these two priorities anyway. They just won’t be required to. Yes on K.

Prop L – Balancing MTA Appointments – NO
The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is the agency that oversees the city’s transportation network, including buses and trains, roadways and parking. Currently, the mayor appoints the seven members of the board of directors, with confirmation by the Board of Supervisors.

Prop L would take three of these appointments away from the Mayor and give them to the Board of Supervisors. The mayor would appoint the remaining 4, but they would still be subject to confirmation by the Board. Prop L would also change how the Board of Supervisors reviews the SFMTA budget, making it so that the Board could reject a budget with only 6 votes instead of 7.

Power grab much?!

Set aside what you think about THIS mayor and THIS Board of Supervisors, because this law would be a permanent change. It would make the SFMTA more political and less independent from the Board. I can picture the SFMTA funding pet projects in certain districts just to earn votes from Supervisors. Ew. Transportation funds should go where they are needed most regardless of which Supervisorial district they are in. The priorities should be improving safety and reliability, NOT politics.

Prop M – Affordable Housing and Development Commission – NO
Prop M is about two city departments: the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD). These departments oversee the city’s affordable housing programs, small business assistance, jobs programs, and big projects like the Warriors Arena. Like most city departments, they are currently under the direction of the mayor’s office.

Prop M would establish a new commission to take control of two city departments. The Housing and Development Commission would be made up of seven members, three appointed by the Board of Supervisors, three appointed by the mayor (confirmed by the Board of Supervisors), and one appointed by the controller.

As with Prop L, it seems like a power grab to me. This time, it’s taking power away from the mayor and putting it in the hands of an independent commission that is either appointed or approved by the Board of Supervisors. And just like with Prop L, we should set aside what we think about THIS mayor and THIS Board, because this law would be a permanent change.

I served on the Elections Commission, which oversees the Department of Elections, and so I understand the good and the bad of having independence from the mayor’s office. There are only a few departments with the power to hire and fire their own directors, and these departments usually have critically important reasons to be free from political influence (Ethics, Elections, Police, Building Inspection, for example). The proponents of Prop M haven’t articulated a compelling reason as to why the city’s affordable housing and economic development programs need to be independent from the mayor’s office, other than the authors don’t like the current mayor. And that’s not good enough for me.

In fact, I think removing these departments from the mayor’s office will undermine their authority to folks outside of City Hall. OEWD staff is able to negotiate directly with developers – like those building the Warriors Arena, Candlestick Point, and Treasure Island – because they bring the gravitas of the mayor’s office when they walk into a room. And when you’re up against powerful and moneyed interests, it’s critical to have the heft of Room 200 behind you, to make sure the community gets the concessions that it deserves.

Finally, I think city resources could be better spent somewhere else (like homeless programs?). With every new commission, the city has to hire commission staff, assign a deputy city attorney, dedicate regular meeting space, film the meetings and post them online. The clerk’s office needs to post the commission agendas online and in physical locations, and make sure that the agendas comply with the law. The city already has over 90 boards and commissions. That’s a lot of bureaucracy. Vote no.

Prop N – Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections – YES
Prop N will allow non-citizens who are the parents of children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in school board elections. This privilege will apply whether the parents are documented or undocumented, and would be in effect for only five years, through 2022.

(Is 2022 only five years away? I’m feeling old all of a sudden)

After five years, the Board of Supervisors could decide whether to extend this voting right. Makes sense to me – if your kid goes to school here, you want to have a say in who sets the policy direction of his or her school. It would increase parent engagement, which would have benefits for both students and the schools.

However, it *might not* be constitutional, and it would probably be complicated to implement. There would have to be a separate balloting process. And if I was undocumented, I’d be worried about the federal government using my voter registration to track me down. But if Prop N passes, the Board of Supervisors will need to work these details out, with the help of the public school parents affected. Worth a shot.

No taxation without representation! Sort of. Vote yes.

Prop O – Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point – YES
The reason why Prop O is on the ballot is to fix a problem created by another measure passed exactly 30 years ago.

Prop M – approved in 1986 – limits the approval of new office development to 950,000 square feet per year. If the cap is not fully allocated by the Planning Commission in one year, the remaining portions accrue to future years. Until now, the office cap hasn’t been a major limiting factor for new office development. In today’s economic boom, however, the cap is looming over new office projects, as the Planning Department’s permit pipeline exceeds the cap. By a LOT.

In 2008, the voters approved a huge development in the Bayview, which included about 2.15 million square feet of office space, 10,000 new housing units, 885,000 square feet of retail and entertainment uses and 330 acres of parks and open space in the former Hunters Point Shipyard and Candlestick Point. It’s a HUUUGE project that will change the face of the Bayview.

Prop O would exempt this Bayview development from the office cap. By taking the project out of the Prop M calculations, it would enable more of the current backlog in office development to go forward, thus allowing more office space to be added to San Francisco’s tight real estate market and (potentially, hopefully) moderating the price of skyrocketing office rents.

The people who oppose Prop O are the same folks who oppose real estate development generally. I’m supporting Prop O because I think Candlestick Point is a good project, and I voted for it when it came before us as Prop G in 2008. The neighborhood has struggled economically, and this development promises thousands of new jobs, both in construction and operations. Personally, I’d rather see an overall reform or repeal of Prop M, but perhaps that ‘s a bigger undertaking than the authors of Prop O wanted to tackle. Vote yes.

Prop P – Bidding Rules for Affordable Housing Projects – No
Prop P would create a competitive bidding process for affordable housing projects funded by San Francisco on city property. However, it’s unclear what problem Prop. P is trying to solve. And this absolutely doesn’t have to be on the ballot. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of administrative rule that should be decided internally in case it needs to be adjusted over time. As the Chronicle said, “The measure has the potential to stop promising [affordable housing] deals, the last thing San Francisco needs…The guidelines for competitive bidding and income qualifications are better left to a process of legislative hearings, study and political compromise that balances the competing goals and concerns. These are not issues to be settled at the ballot box.” No on P.

Prop Q – Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks – NO

There’s been widespread frustration at a seemingly intractable problem: the tent cities that have gotten so much worse in the last few years. This measure says it will help make the tents go away, by clearing people camped on public sidewalks, so long as they are served with at least 24 hours’ advance notice and offered alternative housing or shelter and homeless services.

But does it actually do that? No. It’s already illegal to put tents on sidewalks, and the city has all the tools it needs to remove them. It would be better if Prop Q created more shelters or housing or services, which is the only way these folks will be able to get off the streets. The cynics in city hall think this measure is about creating a wedge issue in the State Senate race (Jane Kim wants the tents to stay, Scott Wiener wants to see them gone). But the most important reason to vote no is that THERE IS NO REASON WHY THIS NEEDS TO BE ON THE BALLOT. This is an issue that the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health need to tackle without asking the voters to weigh in on it. Vote no.

Prop R – Neighborhood Crime Unit – No
Another good idea…THAT SHOULDN’T BE ON THE BALLOT! Argh.

Prop R will require the Police Department to create a Neighborhood Crime Unit when the city meets its target of at least 1,971 full-duty uniformed police officers. The unit would target neighborhood safety and quality of life crimes like robbery, auto and home burglary, theft and vandalism. Don’t get me wrong – this should happen. But staffing decisions of city departments shouldn’t happen at the ballot box, because it makes it very difficult to adjust or repeal in the future. Let’s hold the Police Department accountable for neighborhood crime in other ways.

Prop S – Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds to the Arts & Family Homeless Services – YES
The Hotel Tax Fund was created in 1961 with the goal of providing stable, dependable funding for arts organizations in San Francisco. At the time, Mayor George Christopher argued that arts and culture were critical to San Francisco’s tourist economy, and the hotels should contribute in this way to a broad range of arts organizations to keep San Francisco culturally relevant.

Then…starting in 1974, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation to raid the Hotel Tax Fund to fund other programs, and in June 2013, the Supervisors removed the allocation to arts programs completely (!) and dedicated half of it to the Moscone Convention Center and the other half to the General Fund. (Nooooooooo!)

Prop S would send part of the hotel tax revenue back to the arts…and also to homeless families. In addition to creating and funding an “Ending Family Homelessness Fund,” Prop S would also establish a Neighborhood Arts Program Fund, provide dollars to nonprofit groups that offer affordable facilities to arts groups. It would also create a Cultural Equity Endowment Fund to support arts organizations dedicated to the experiences of historically underserved communities.

How much money are we talking about? It’s supposed to increase the funding for these programs by $26 million in FY 2017–18, increasing to approximately $56 million in FY 2020–21.

Yeah yeah. This measure is a set-aside, which means it dedicates a city revenue stream toward a specific program. I usually think it’s a terrible idea to do this by the ballot box, because it makes it very difficult to modify or repeal when the city’s financial circumstances change. However, I am also an arts lover, and a former board member of the Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF). BRAF has been a grantee of San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts, which is directly funded by the Hotel Tax revenues. So this fund is near and dear to me, and I’ve seen how important this funding is to keep San Francisco’s diverse arts organizations alive and thriving. Also solving the city’s homeless crisis is just as important to our tourists as it is to residents – so that justifies sending some of the hotel tax to help homeless families get off the streets. And supporting the arts is what this fund was originally created for. So that’s why I’m a yes.

Prop T – Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists – NO
The title makes it sound good, I know. But this one goes way too far.

Prop T would create stricter registration requirements for lobbyists, requiring them to update their registration information and disclosures within five days of any changed circumstances. It would also prohibit lobbyists from making any gift of any value to a city official (the limit is currently $25), and prohibit city officers from accepting or soliciting such gifts. Finally, it would prohibit lobbyists from making any campaign contribution to city elected officials or candidates, or bundling contributions from other sources.

I’m all for transparency and making sure that lobbyists don’t unduly influence our local officials. However, as a former city commissioner, let me tell you these new rules go way beyond what’s reasonable.

I’ve never been a registered lobbyist, but I have been a city official under the existing rules, and let me tell you, they are already very strict. When I was a commissioner, if I went out to lunch with a friend who happens to be a lobbyist (I do have many of them), we couldn’t split the bill in a way that my friend pays for a portion of my lunch that is more than $25. Under the new law, I would have to make sure to itemize everything on our bill to make sure she doesn’t contribute a penny toward my lunch. Come on, now. If someone had wanted to influence my vote on a commission issue, they’d have to bribe me with a LOT more than $25. 😉

Kidding aside, the proponents of this measure haven’t made the case that this change will remove money’s influence in local politics. Under the new law, lobbyists would spend half their time filing paperwork. And they would be prohibited from offering a tic-tac to a city employee. (OK maybe that’s a bad example). They’ve gone too far. No on T.

Prop U – Changing Affordable Housing Requirements for Private Developments – NO
This one is WAAAY too complicated to ask the voters to weigh in on it. And it doesn’t need to be on the ballot. At all. Bear with me as I try to explain it without boring you to tears.

The city requires real estate developers to provide affordable housing as a part of every residential housing project in the city. What is considered “affordable,” and whether a family would be eligible to rent such a unit, depends on a formula that calculates the family’s income as a percent of area median income (AMI), which is in itself based on another economic formula.

In the simplest terms, Prop U will change the income eligibility formula for all new and existing affordable rental units, it would change the way that rent is charged for these units, and it would require the city to change its agreements with existing property owners to allow for this change. It is very messy, and this is exactly why I don’t like it.

First, it doesn’t have to be on the ballot. It’s not a charter amendment, it’s not amending or repealing another measure, and it’s not an issue that the Board of Supervisors has refused to touch. Second, the most complicated measures should be subject to the city’s deliberative process. The agencies that run the city’s affordable housing programs should have a chance to weigh in, as should the citizens who would be affected by the new law. Because it’s complicated, we should be able to change it over time as circumstances change, and that will be very hard to do if we approve this by ballot measure. Bad all around. Vote no.

Prop V – Tax on sugary beverages – YES
Hey soda companies: QUIT IT WITH THE MAIL ALREADY! SF voters are getting mail every single day with misleading information about his ballot measure, calling it a “grocery tax.” Come on, we’re smarter than that.

The truth is that soda is the leading contributor to obesity in America, and increasing the price on soda has been shown to lower the consumption of it, and therefore decrease the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. A similar tax was passed in Berkeley, and the consumption of soda has gone way down. Supervisor Malia Cohen (Bayview, Dogpatch, Potrero) is the champion of this measure, and I love what she’s been saying on the campaign trail. When the measure is attacked for being regressive (meaning it hurts poor people the most), she says, “You know what else is regressive? Type 2 Diabetes.”

Prop W – Luxury Real Estate Tax to Fund Education – YES
Prop W would increase San Francisco’s property transfer tax rate from 2 percent to 2.25 percent on properties with a value of $5 million to $9.99 million and from 2.5 percent to 2.75 percent on properties with a value of $10 million to $24.99 million. Even though the revenues won’t be earmarked for a specific program, the city has said that they will go toward the Prop E street tree program and Community College. Tax the rich! I love trees. Do you love trees? Vote yes.

Prop X – Requirements for Changing the Use of Certain Properties – NO
Yet another extremely complicated ballot measure that should be worked out as legislation at the Board of Supervisors and NOT at the ballot box. 

Prop X would make two changes to development projects within the Mission and South of Market neighborhoods, requiring a conditional use authorization from the Planning Commission if the development project would demolish or convert space used for production, distribution or repair, arts activities or nonprofit community uses, and it would require the new development to replace the production, arts or community space that is converted or demolished…blah blah blah…. Did your eyes just glaze over while reading that? Yes I thought so. That’s EXACTLY why this shouldn’t be on the ballot, and AT THE VERY BOTTOM no less, when voter fatigue has set in. You are totally over this bullshit. I feel you. I am totally over writing about it. 

Vote no. Make the Board of Supervisors do its job. 

Measure RR – YES
The BART system was built in the 1960’s, its repair and maintenance have been severely underfunded, and demand has been growing. Measure RR will bring in a whole lot more money to rebuild the BART system by issuing $3.5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund core system renewal projects, including track replacement, tunnel repair and computer and electrical system upgrades to allow more frequent and reliable service. It will give BART the financial flexibility to plan for the future, by such exciting projects as digging a second tunnel under the Bay (Wheee! I’m a BART rider so this gets me excited).

The bond would be backed by a tax levied on property in three BART counties (San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa) over a term of 30 to 48 years. BART anticipates that the average cost per household would be $35 to $55 per year added to property taxes. Totally worth it, in my opinion. BART needs serious help.  Frankly, the current BART board has been more focused on building longer tracks, farther out, rather than improving and maintaining our existing infrastructure. This is, IMO, because of the way the Board seats are allocated, but I digress.

Vote yes on RR!

AAAND I’m out. Writing this voter guide nearly killed me. If you found it useful, donate to my voter guide writing habit here, or post it on your Facebook page, or both?And for my voter guide on the statewide measures, go here. Thanks friends.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – California Measures (Nov 2016)

That’s it. I’ve had it. With 17 measures statewide, and 25 in San Francisco, this ballot is way too long, and has too many questions on it that require serious research and thought. I’ve decided I’m founding a new fake organization called Democrats Opposed to Overlong Ballots (DOOB) which opposes all measures that clutter our mailboxes and our ballots in each election.

I have several friends who just vote no on everything to protest how long the ballot is. And there’s evidence that measures on long ballots are 5% less likely to pass because of voter fatigue. But here’s the thing: you really shouldn’t just vote no on all of them. This ballot is asking you to decide some BFD issues, such as legalizing recreational marijuana, increasing the cigarette tax, eliminating the death penalty, restrictions on guns and the porn industry, and trying children as adults in criminal court. Since you’re reading this, it means you’re interested in learning about what you’re voting on, so you’re probably not one of those “no on everything” people, so kudos to you. (Now post this on your FB page and help everyone else be informed, K?) 😉

I’ve researched and grumbled and pondered each measure on this ballot, and I’ve adopted a new template to make your decisions easy. In this voter guide, I give you a summary of the measure, my analysis, a list of its main supporters and opponents, and whether this is a decision that has to be made by ballot.

Without further ado, I submit to you my thoughts on the California measures.* In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include defending nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve been involved in politics for as long as I can remember, I’ve been to Burning Man enough times to know that the world doesn’t revolve around it, and I also like long walks on the beach.

For the San Francisco candidates and measures, go here.

For the cute pocket guide version that is easy to take to the polls, go here. (If you’re not in SF, you can ignore the SF races and measures on the pocket guide)

And if you find this guide useful, please make a donation here! Thanks.

First the summary:

Prop 51 – $9 billion in bonds for education and schools – YES
Prop 52 – Voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program – yes?
Prop 53 – Projects that cost more than $2 billion – NO
Prop 54 – Bills must be posted on the internet for 72 hours – YES
Prop 55 – Continue income tax on incomes over $250,000 – YES
Prop 56 – Increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack – YES
Prop 57 – Felons convicted of non-violent crimes – YES
Prop 58 – Bilingual education in public schools – YES
Prop 59 – State’s position on Citizens United – YES
Prop 60 – Require the use of condoms in pornographic films – NO!
Prop 61 – Prescription drug price regulations – YES
Prop 62/66 – Repeal the death penalty (YES!) or execute faster? (NO!)
Prop 63 – Background checks for ammunition purchases – YES!
Prop 64 – Legalization of adult use of marijuana – YES!
Prop 65 (NO) & 67 (YES) – Banning plastic grocery bags

And here’s the complete analysis:

Proposition 51 – $9 billion in bonds for education and schools – YES

It’s a shame this exciting ballot starts with such an unsexy topic. But it’s an important one. Prop 51 would allow the state to take a $9 billion loan out for school construction projects. Most of the money will go towards upgrading public K-12 schools, with $2 billion to go toward community colleges.

It’s been 10 years since the last statewide school bond measure, and the schools are outdated and crumbling. YES – it is INFURIATING that this is the way we have to fund our educational system, bond measure by bond measure, but that’s the subject of a much larger conversation about how the state pays for things, and how the voters in 1978 severely restricted state tax revenues by passing Prop 13, how set-asides cause structural budget deficits, etc. Another time, over a glass of rosé, screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-41-53-pmperhaps. 😉

It is also annoying that this $9 billion bond will cost the state $500 million per year over the next 35 years. That’s $8.6 billion in interest! Which is almost the size of the original loan itself. Ick.

That said, I’m not sure what other choice we have, given how starved our state is for tax revenues. (Yes! Even in a booming economy) It’s clear California needs a complete overhaul of its tax system. But that’s a huge undertaking and not likely to happen soon. In the meantime, we approve bond measures like this one to make sure that our kids have structurally sound places to learn.

Prop 51 will likely pass. It has wide-ranging support, from the two major parties, all of the educational and business communities, unions, etc. The yes side has raised over $9 million, while the opposition hasn’t raised a dime. Jerry Brown is the only politician in California openly opposing 51, and he says it’s because 51 is a boondoggle for construction firms who want to build all the new infrastructure.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. General obligation bonds like this one must be approved by the voters, since it is a loan that taxpayers have to pay back over time.

Supporters: State politicians on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party AND the Democratic Party, all of the educational organizations and chambers of commerce, teachers groups, the state PTA, building and construction trade unions, every school district in the state, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Governor Jerry Brown, the Libertarian Party and taxpayers’ rights orgs, LA Times.

Proposition 52 – Voter approval of changes to the hospital fee – yes?

This is a complicated one, but to summarize: this measure wiscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-46-04-pmll make it so that the legislature can’t divert funds from an obscure hospital fee program away from Medi-Cal patients (poor people).

Here’s the background: California receives federal funds to help pay for health care services for poor people, and it has to match those funds with an equal amount of its own money. In 2009, the state government created a program imposing a fee on hospitals to help the state obtain these matching funds. The fee revenues were supposed to go towards the medical care for poor people, but apparently the state legislature has started to divert some of those monies to the state’s general fund. If the initiative is approved, it will add language to the state Constitution to require voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program to make it harder for the legislature to divert these funds away from poor families. AND it requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to make any changes to the hospital fee program.

Measures like this make me so mad! It’s so complicated that you really have to do your research to understand it, and nobody has the time to dive deep (except me, of course). Isn’t this why we elect a legislature to represent us? To make decisions like this? Argh. And if it passes, it adds ONE MORE THING to the long list of matters that can only be decided by the voters. Thus, it will make future ballots even longer. BUT – the whole reason why this is on the ballot is because the legislature has shown that it can’t be trusted with decisions like this. Frustrating!

SO – If you hate ballot measures generally, and think we should be forcing the legislature to do its job in other ways other than ballot measures, this is a good one to vote against. But if you want to make sure more money is spent on poor people’s access to health care, hold your nose and vote yes. I’m holding my nose.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. Because it is a constitutional amendment, it has to go to the voters. But did it have to be a constitutional amendment? Probably not.

Supporters: The initiative was developed by the California Hospital Association, and supporters include the Democratic Party; the Republican Party; most elected members of the state legislature; advocates for children, teachers, seniors and families; hundreds of hospitals and health care organizations; LA Times; SF Chronicle

Opponent: The only opponent on record is the Libertarian Party of California. (By the way, the Libertarian Party has 0.6% of the total registered voters in California. So their endorsement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.)

Proposition 53 – Projects that cost more than $2 billion – NO

Wealthy farmer and food producer Dino Cortopassi, age 78, is really pissed off. Which is why he put Prop 53 on the ballot and is spending $4.5 million of his own money on the campaign to get it passed. He says he’s doing it because he wants to make it harder for the state to take on new debt. But most people agree he just wants to kill one of Governor Jerry Brown’s pet projects.

Prop 53 would require statewide voter approval of any government project to be financed with more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Allow me to explain for a moment: Not all bonds have to be approved by the voters, only “general obligation bonds” which are basically loans that taxpayers have to screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-48-05-pmrepay (like the one in Prop 51, above). Then there are “state revenue bonds” that don’t require voter approval because they are basically loans that are paid back by a project’s users, like when the bridge tolls were jacked up to pay for the new Bay Bridge.

Prop 53 would require ALL state bonds over $2 billion to be approved by the voters. That’s right! Your ballot just keeps getting longer. Grrrrrr.

In reality, bonds that are valued at $2+ billion are extremely rare. But we do have two major projects pending in California that are threatened by Prop 53, and they are the $64 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project (LOVE! SF to LA in under 2 hours!) and the $17 billion twin water tunnels in the delta. And these are Governor Brown’s two big legacy projects, so he takes this ballot measure as a personal affront.

And Dino Cortopassi? Is a wealthy farmer. And he hates those tunnels. They will siphon fresh water from the Sacramento River and send it to Central and Southern California. So that’s what this is really about. As it stands, the twin water tunnels will be paid for over time by ratepayers in Southern California who will benefit from the project. And unless Prop 53 passes, it won’t be subject to a vote of the public.

There’s a reason why state revenue bonds aren’t subjected to voter approval, and that’s because they only benefit a portion of the population. Unlike general obligation bonds, the entire state isn’t affected by these projects, and so the entire state doesn’t weigh in on them. Prop 53 could potentially give the entire state’s voters the power to veto local projects, and I think that’s just silly.

I personally think that it’s dumb to create yet another category of things that has to be decided by the voters. My fake organization Democrats Opposed to Overlong Ballots (DOOB) would absolutely oppose it, because it will make California ballots even longer in the future. Vote no.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. Because it is a Constitutional Amendment, it has to go to the voters. But did it have to be a constitutional amendment? Probably, because it is imposing a new voter approval requirement.

Supporters: Dino Cortopassi, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, 22 taxpayers rights groups

Opponents: Governor Jerry Brown, Democratic Party, NAACP, League of Conservation Voters, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, farmers organizations, League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, firefighters and sheriffs groups, hospital groups, water agencies, chambers of commerce, about a hundred labor unions, SF Chronicle, LA Times

Proposition 54 – Bills must be posted on the internet for 72 hours – YES

Prop 54 would prohibit the state legislature from passing any bill until it has been in print and published on the Internet for 72 hours prior to the vote. It will also require public legislative meetings to be recorded, and make them available to the public for at least 20 years.

This measure is happeniscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-49-31-pmng because of yet another rich guy with a bee in his bonnet. Conservative Charles Munger, Jr. is the son of billionaire Charles Munger, Sr., and he happens to be an experimental physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center with a thing for government reform. He joined forces with good government group Common Cause to propose Prop 54, and has poured $10.5 million of his own money into the measure.

Local governments have a 72-hour notice requirement, and I’ve often wondered why the state government doesn’t have the same. I think it’s a good thing for citizens to have advance notice of the decisions that its government is making. Keeps politicians accountable, and it makes legislation better by allowing more opportunity for input.

Opponents argue that requiring 72 hours notice will make it harder for government to act nimbly when necessary. But Prop 54 will prevent shenanigans when the legislature doesn’t want to give the public an opportunity to weigh in. It will also stop the practice of “gutting and amending” which my political nerds know is the way that legislators take a bill that’s already on the agenda and replace – at the last minute – every single word of the bill, often with no relationship whatsoever to the original legislation, so that they can avoid having to go through the lengthy deliberative process.

Transparency in government is a good thing. Vote yes.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes, because it’s a Constitutional amendment, and because the legislature would never vote for a measure to limit its own power.

Supporters: Republican Party, LA Times, SF Chronicle, good government groups such as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, League of California Cities, a few dozen pro-business groups including chambers of commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Opponents: California Labor Federation, LA Times, Democratic Party (and only, IMO, because they control the legislature right now. If the GOP had a majority, you better believe they would want this measure to limit their power).

Proposition 55 – Continue income tax on incomes over $250,000 – YES

In 2012, California voters raised the personal income tax rate on individuals making $250k or more, and on couples making $500k or more (top 1% of all earners in CA). It was called Prop 30, and at the time Governor Brown promised it was a temporary tax and said, “…to the extent that I have anything to do with it, will remain temporary.” It was sold as a way to restore funding cuts that were made to schools during the recession.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-23-38-pm

This tax is set to expire in 2019. And once it does, the state will face a drop in revenue of $4.3 billion, according to Brown administration estimates. The gap will be even larger if California’s economy takes another dive.

Prop 55 – proposed by unions and education advocates – would extend the Prop 30 tax until the year 2030. 89% of these tax revenues will be allocated specifically to K-12 schools and 11% to California Community Colleges, with some strict accountability measures to ensure that the money is being spent where it should be. Supporters say that if we don’t approve Prop 55, we are likely to see cuts to schools because of California’s screwed up budget process.

Opponents say, “But Jerry, you promised this tax would be temporary!” They point to California’s $2.7 billion budget surplus, arguing that we can afford to pay for education without extending this tax. (As I understand it, though, a big chunk of this surplus is going toward the state’s rainy day fund).

As I’ve said before, we need comprehensive tax reform to solve the state’s structural budget issues (don’t get me started on Prop 13!). And in the meantime, we keep passing smaller fixes like this one to stop the bleeding. At what point do we rip the band-aid off and force our legislators to come up with a better way of paying for critical government services? Are they even capable of it? Ugh.

That’s why I’m torn on this one. But I have decided to support it for this one reason: California’s schools went from being the best in the country to among the worst in just a few short decades. This is because we lack the funding or the political will to make education a priority. It’s shameful. So let’s pass Prop 55, make the wealthiest 1% pay a little bit more, send the money to the schools. AND ALSO push for comprehensive tax reform to fix this problem once and for all. Stop using the public schools as a political football in every election.

Does it need to be on the ballot? No. The legislature could pass this bill, but it would require a 2/3 vote and they lack the political will to make it happen.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer John Chiang, Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, California Medical Association, hospital and health organizations, school groups, Firefighters Union, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, San Jose Mercury News

Opponents: Republican and Libertarian Parties, taxpayers rights groups, LA Times, San Diego Union Tribune, SF Chronicle.

Proposition 56 – Increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack – YES

This measure will make it more expensive to smoke by enacting a $2-per-pack tax, bringing the total cigarette tax in California to $2.87. Most of the revenues – estimated at $1 billion/year – will go toward Medi-Cal (state sponsored health care for poor people).

And because I have many friends who vape, I looked it up: Prop 56 will also increase taxes on e-cigarette products that contain nicotine by “an equivalent amount.” I couldn’t find an exact figure, but it looks like the state Board of Equalization will set the amount if the measure passes. (E-cigarette devices are not included in this tax, just the nicotine.)screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-25-28-pm

Prop 56 promises to help save thousands of lives from smoking-related illness. I don’t smoke, but I have lots of friends who do, and they have all struggled with quitting. They know smoking could shorten their lifespans, and about 10% of Californians are in the same boat. I’m all about the so-called “sin taxes” on those sins that I don’t commit myself. Kidding! Sort of.

Raising cigarette taxes has been proven to reduce smoking, says the New York Times and health experts. In New York where the cigarette tax is a whopping $4.35 per pack, every time the tax is increased, more smokers quit. Incidentally, California currently has the lowest cigarette tax in the country, New York’s is the highest, and three other states (Colorado, North Dakota and Missouri) are also considering increases this November.

For me, this one is about the children. With every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, the number of kids who start to smoke goes down by 6 or 7%. Prop 56’s proposed tax represents about a 30% increase, thus about 20% fewer kids will start smoking if it passes. Which makes it a no-brainer for me. (Sorry friends who vape.)

Tobacco companies are spending over $55 million to defeat it, and the only other people opposed to it are the Republican and Libertarian parties (of course), and anti-tax organizations. The folks supporting it comprise a broad spectrum of health organizations and environmental groups, immigrant and gay rights groups, education groups and children’s advocates, even chambers of commerce and unions, all of the big California newspapers.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes, it’s a constitutional amendment, so it has to go to the voters. It repeals previous requirements in the constitution regarding tobacco taxes.

Supporters: American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Democratic Party, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, California Medical Association, California Dental Association, dozens of health organizations and environmental groups, immigrant and gay rights groups, education groups and children’s advocates, chambers of commerce and unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Tobacco companies, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association.

Proposition 57 – Felons convicted of non-violent crimes – YES

Oh, Jerry Brown. When he was governor 40 years ago, he signed a crime bill that made criminal sentences longer and eliminated “good behavior” credit for prisoners. Now that he’s governor again, he admits that law was a failure and placed Prop 57 on the ballot to reverse it.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-27-27-pm

In related news, California is facing serious prison overcrowding and health care problems. In 2011, the US Supreme Court held that the state’s prison situation constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the US Constitution, and in 2014 it was mandated by a federal court to reduce its prison population dramatically.

Prop 57 would do two things: (1) It would allow the state parole board to release non-violent inmates who have served their full sentence for their primary offense, but are still in jail because of “enhancements” to their sentence that were within the court’s discretion based on prior or related offenses. These prisoners could receive credit for behaving well and for participating in school programs or drug rehab. (2) It would allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. This will probably mean fewer children are tried in adult courts.

As of the beginning of 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons that could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57 (or about 1,300 each year according to the Brown administration). This one is likely to pass: Supporters have outraised the “No” campaign almost 32-to-1, and it’s polling well. If you think children shouldn’t be tried as adults except for the most heinous crimes, and if you think that prisoners should be incentivized to improve themselves, vote yes.

The opponents are the people you would expect: Republicans and law enforcement types (cops, prosecutors, sheriffs). The supporters include Democrats, teachers, nurses, other labor unions. But two supporters will come as a surprise: LA Police Chief Charlie Beck and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – who apparently has become a vocal advocate for prison reform. (Who knew?)

Does this have to be on the ballot? Yes. It’s a constitutional amendment, so it has to be approved by the voters.

Supporters: Democratic Party, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Newt Gingrich, LA Police Chief Charlie Beck, the President of the Chief Probation Officers of California Mark Bonini, ACLU, SF Chronicle, LA Times, Sacramento Bee, teachers, nurses, other labor unions.

Opponents: Republican Party, District Attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, crime victims groups.

Proposition 58 – Bilingual education in public schools – YES

In 1998, California was a different place. That year, the voters approved Prop 227, which required that all public school instruction be conducted in English. Republican Pete Wilson was Governor at the time, and he had been elected on an anti-immigrant platform.

Today, California is more diverse than it was 18 years ago, as 43% of all public school kids speak a language other than English in their homes. Experience has shown that Engliyes-on-58sh learners in bilingual classes attain higher levels of academic achievement. And more parents (regardless of national origin) are asking for more language immersion options in schools.

Prop 58 would eliminate the English-only requirement. If it passes, public schools can teach English learners in any way that their community feels is appropriate, so long as English proficiency is achieved. It returns local control to the schools on language matters.

There’s some disagreement about whether forcing English learners into English-only immersion classes has actually worked. The San Jose Mercury News wrote “In just five years after its passage, the English proficiency of limited-English students tripled.” On the other hand, the LA Times argued that bilingual education could lead to even better outcomes if it is done right. That said, California is a huge state, and every school district is different. It would seem to me that returning this issue to local control is the best formula for success.

It’s likely to pass, since supporters have raised $1.1 million, and the opponents haven’t put a campaign together. Vote yes.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. The only way to repeal a ballot measure (Prop 227) is by another ballot measure.

Supporters: Democratic Party, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, 4 members of Congress and 34 members of the state legislature, California Teachers Association, dozens of teachers and immigrant groups, school administrators, chambers of commerce, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Republican and Libertarian Parties

Proposition 59 – State’s position on Citizens United – YES

When the US Supreme Court decided Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission in 2010, many of us knew it would be catastrophic. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2012.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-30-40-pm

Citizens United held that political spending is protected under the First Amendment, and it allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political activity. The decision has opened a flood of political spending by wealthy donors, giving them an unfair amount of influence over elections, and it has allowed them to do it anonymously! Boo.

To overturn Citizens United, you either need a future Supreme Court decision to reverse the decision (which is actually possible with a few Clinton appointees); or a constitutional amendment, which is huge undertaking in that it requires Congress to propose the change and at least 38 states to approve it, one by one.

Prop 59 is a non-binding measure that urges state leaders to “use their authority” to start the Constitutional amendment process. There is only a tiny campaign supporting it, and no official campaign opposing it. The folks supporting it say that we need to send a message to Congress (and future Supreme Court justices?) that it’s a terrible decision. That anonymous corporate contributions are eroding our democracy.

And the official ballot arguments against it say that it’s non-binding AF, so why bother? Stop adding advisory measures on an already too-crowded ballot. This argument resonates with me (42 measures on this ballot!! Argh)

But I do agree that Citizens United is making our political system more corrupt than it already is. It’s a message worth sending to Congress, that this state won’t stand for it. Vote yes?

Does this have to be on the ballot? Nope. Doesn’t even do anything if it passes.

Supporters: Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party, good government groups, teachers and nurses unions, SF Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee

Opponents: Some Republican state legislators, LA Times, SD Union Tribune

Proposition 60 – Require the use of condoms in pornographic films – NO

There are some controversial items on the ballot this fall, but nothing as juicy as this one. Prop 60 is pitting gay leaders against gay leaders, AIDS activists against AIDS activists, and doctors against doctors. If it passes, Prop 60 will require porn actors to wear condoms while filming, and provide proof that they have done so. (ew)

It creates a right for any California citizen to sue the porn producers, workers or actors if they think a condom isn’t used. (Yay! California needs more lawsuits! said no one ever). And finally, it requires the legal names and addresses of the film producers to be public, even if the producer is also an actor who goes by a pseudonym to protect themselves from stalkers and weirdos and anti-porn crusaders.

“But wait,” you ask, “doesn’t California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) already require condom use during sex in pornographic films?” That’s right, but it only enforces the law when complaints are filed, which is almost never. (A lot of heavy breathing on THAT non-existent hscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-34-55-pmotline…the one where you report your outrage over a scene in a porno where you’re pretty sure there was intercourse and a condom wasn’t used).

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, put Prop 60 on the ballot with the hope that it would make the condom rule enforced more often. Weinstein’s argument is simple: no one should have to risk their life on the job, and that is what we are asking porn actors to do when they don’t use condoms.

But I think he (over)shot his wad. By requiring the involvement of Cal/OSHA in the filming of every movie, insisting on medical inspections, and revealing the names and identities of the people involved, it clearly poses serious worker privacy issues. Opponents claim that the adult film industry already does a lot to minimize disease transmission, including frequent testing. And they may be right that this measure is going to send the porn industry to Nevada, or worse – underground – where there will be even less worker protection.

Creating a right to sue the filmmakers – by any private citizen! – is scary and will lead to frivolous lawsuits by maladjusted people. Even if these lawsuits are baseless, defendants will need to spend time and money getting rid of them.

Porn or no, it seems to me that workplace health and safety regulations are the kind of thing that shouldn’t become law by way of the ballot box. They need to go through the iterative process of the legislature or another state agency, so that they can be adjusted over time. If California approves this measure, it will be (set in stone? firm? hard? inflexible? I can’t think of the right word) until another well-endowed campaign comes along to change it. And as you know, I’m all about cleaning up the box. I mean the ballot.

And there’s something that bothers me about Prop 60, it feels like an anti-porn measure masquerading as a pro-actor law. The author didn’t consult the industry when he wrote it, and the effect it will have will be to drive some porn producers out of business or out of the state. As my friend Gil Silberman so eloquently said, “There is absolutely no reason why this law is needed, it is to AIDS what voter ID laws are to political corruption, it advances an unrelated agenda by promising to solve a problem that does not exist.”

A lot of people I respect are on the “No” side of this one: Columnist Dan Savage and his Courage Campaign (see “It Gets Better”), State Senator Mark Leno, and many gay rights and AIDS advocacy groups. I’m voting no too.

Does this have to be on the ballot? NO! In fact, it really shouldn’t be.

Supporters: Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Academy of Preventive Medicine, American Sexual Health Association

Opponents: Dan Savage, Sen. Mark Leno, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Courage campaign, Equality California, SF AIDS Foundation, San Francisco Medical Society, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC), LA Times, SF Chronicle

Proposition 61 – Prescription drug price regulations – YES

When drug maker Mylan increased the price of the Epi-Pen by 548% this year, it only verified what we already know, that drug companies are evil. Or rather, that drug companies can set prices to whatever they think the market will bear, and hospitals and patients have no choice but to pay. And if you don’t have health insurance that covers a medication you need, you are totally screwed.

And how does Pfizer explain the $5 Viagra pill that you bought over the counter in Canada because it would cost you (or your insurance company) ten times more here in the States? I think you know the answer. Some countries, and some government agencies, are able to negotiate much lower prices withprop-61 drug companies because they provide care for large populations, and thus they have a lot of bargaining power. (See: why a single payer system would control costs)

And then there’s the fact that California spent $3.8 billion last year on prescription drugs for people covered by state health programs. This figure – along with the wild variability in drug prices – is the reason why many politicians are wondering aloud: what would happen if we forced Big Pharma to be more transparent about the prices they set?

Thus: Prop 61, which hopes to do just that. It says that California public agencies will pay no more for prescription drugs than what the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs pays, the thought being that the VA provides care for so many people (9 million), it pays a lot less money to drug manufacturers than does the state or the average consumer.

The politics of this measure are weird. The drug companies have been able to hire the very best lobbyists and campaign consultants, and Democratic Party activists up and down the state. They have even intimidated the state Democratic Party into not taking a position on it.

The author is Michael Weinstein – yes, the same guy from the condom measure (Prop 60) – and he is not very popular in progressive circles these days. It seems that some people are opposing this measure just because he wrote it. Also: there are veterans who worry that Prop 61 will mean that their drug prices will go up, which is a valid concern since the drug companies have actually threatened it. (See? Evil!).

That’s right. The drug companies are ACTUALLY ARGUING that Prop 61 will hurt veterans because the companies will be “forced” to increase the VA’s drug prices. But it is completely within their control as to whether to increase those prices! Poor Pfizer, I guess a 42% profit margin isn’t quite high enough. Greedy bastards.

And there are many labor unions and political groups that aren’t usually allies of Big Pharma opposing this measure. Here’s my hypothesis: The drug industry has spent over $87 million on the campaign so far (yikes!), and they are spending it in ways that smell a lot like bribery. I’ve seen this before*…they hire progressive activists all over the state to help with “getting out the vote” and surprise! These progressive clubs now oppose the measure, toeing the party line that it will hurt veterans.

The LA Times makes a good point, that the drug pricing problem should really be handled at the federal level. But that’s not a good enough reason to vote no on this measure. If you agree with me that Big Pharma shouldn’t be able to buy its way out of this one, vote YES.

*See also Measure V in San Francisco, and Big Soda’s efforts to derail the local soda tax.

Does it need to be on the ballot? Nope. The legislature could approve this bill. But it’s here because the legislature hasn’t been able to stand up to the powerful drug lobby.

Supporters: Bernie Sanders, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AARP, California Nurses Association, civil rights activists Dolores Huerta and Al Sharpton

Opponents: All the pharmaceutical companies, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, NAACP, a dozen medical organizations, 2 dozen veterans groups, anti-tax advocacy orgs, chambers of commerce, unions.

Proposition 62 (YES!) & 66 (NO!) – Repeal the death penalty, or execute faster?

Here’s why I don’t support the death penalty: It is applied unequally to defendants depending on their skin color; the likelihood of executing an innocent person is shockingly high; and the state can’t find a way to administer it that isn’t cruel and unusual. Besides, if what we want is retribution for the most heinous of crimes, a lifetime in prison would seem to be a far worse fate than death, IMO.

And here’s why it’s on the ballot in November: our capital punishment system is in crisis. California has more prisoners on death row than any other state: 747 humans. And yet we haven’t put anyone to death since 2006, because the state’s lethal injection protocol is legally questionable, and the government has been unable to find a legal source for the fatal drugs it uses. These death row inmates are in legal limbo, costing the state billions of dollars. Far more of them have died of natural causes or suicide than by execution.

On this November ballot, we have the chance to eliminate the death penalty in California, by voting yes on Prop 62. If 62 passes, it would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment. And it would require screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-13-32-pmprisoners sentenced to the maximum punishment to work and pay restitution to victims’ families. Even though these prisoners will live longer in prison, the state will actually SAVE money since it will no longer be paying lawyers and courts to deal with the lengthy and inefficient appeals process.

Prop 66, on the other hand, was put on the ballot by pro-death penalty folks who wanted to kill Prop 62. It would keep the death penalty in place and speed up legal challenges to death sentences, so that the entire appeals process would be completed within 5 years of the original conviction. Death penalty appeals are notorious for dragging on for years, and costing the taxpayers a lot of money. There’s a reason for this, though, which is that if that state is going to execute someone, we better be damn sure that person is guilty, by allowing defendants to exhaust every possible legal option. So speeding up death penalty appeals makes it LESS likely, not more, that justice will be served. (I personally think that Prop 66 will be found unconstitutional for due process reasons, but I digress)

Between 62 and 66, the measure that passes with more votes, wins, and the other becomes void.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, the whole death penalty question may soon be resolved, since I think it’s only a matter of time before the US Supreme Court rules that capital punishment is unconstitutional. Moreover, even if Prop 66 prevails, the state will continue to struggle to secure a legal source for the lethal injections. (If you have time, listen to this amazing podcast about how people are executed).

Yes on 62, NO on 66.

Do these measures need to be on the ballot? Nope! The legislature could take this hot-button issue on, but it doesn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Supporters of 62/Opponents of 66: Gavin Newsom, Bernie Sanders, Mark Leno, Democratic Party, NAACP, ACLU, Amnesty International, criminal defense attorneys groups, California Labor Federation, teachers and nurses unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle, religious groups, Van Jones, Dolores Huerta, an unusual number of celebrities.

Opponents of 62/Supporters of 66: Former Governor Pete Wilson, Republican Party, law enforcement officials and unions, district attorneys, and some high profile crime victims.

Proposition 63- Background checks for ammunition purchases – yes

Every time there’s a mass shooting in America, we collectively shed tears and shake our heads. “Something must be done!” we cry, and then we move on with our lives and nothing is done. Prop 63 – authored by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom – is an attempt to do something about gun violence in California.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-20-31-pmIt’s a complicated measure, but here’s the gist: If you believe that ammunition sales should be regulated and that we should get guns out of the hands of convicted felons, you will vote yes on Prop 63. If you believe that there are already too many restrictions on gun rights in California, you will vote no.

Here are the problems that proponents say this measure attempts to solve:

  1. Gun sales are regulated with background checks for buyers and licenses for gun dealers. But there isn’t a similar regulation for ammunition, and a person who acquires a gun illegally can buy ammunition freely. Prop 63 will control ammunition sales the same way that guns are regulated, thus making it harder for someone who possesses a gun illegally to actually use it.
  2. The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the assault rifle, which uses high capacity ammunition magazines. Prop 63 would ban these magazines in California to make it harder for these guns to be used to kill large numbers of people.
  3. Newsom says there are an estimated 34,000 guns, including an estimated 1,000 assault weapons, in the hands of people who are not legally allowed to own them in California (felons and the mentally ill). Under the current laws, there is no way to locate these guns or hold these folks accountable. To solve this problem, Prop 63 would: (a) require gun owners to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement; (b) create a process for convicted felons to turn in their guns, and certify that they have done so; and (c) make stealing a gun a felony (How is this not already the law?! Currently it’s a $150 infraction. What the actual fuck.)

Yeah, yeah, Newsom is using this measure to elevate his profile and raise money for his campaign for Governor. And yeah, this is a bill that the legislature could have approved without going to the voters (and in fact, it did approve some portions of it). My fake organization DOOB would absolutely oppose it, but this time I would disagree with them. I, for one, am sick of inaction by our government on gun violence, and I’m impressed with Newsom’s leadership on the issue.

The NRA is right about a few things: if this passes, it will be tied up in the courts for a while, because the “second amendment people” have already teed up their constitutional challenge. And it’s true that if Prop 63 is enacted, people will just go to Nevada to buy ammo without a background check. But we have to keep chipping away at this problem, and California has always been a leader in legislative innovation. Maybe other states will follow our lead when more of them become affected by mass shootings. Enough is enough. Yes on 63.

Does the have to be on the ballot? Nope. Some of it has already been approved by the legislature. Getting it approved by the voters just makes it a lot harder to repeal.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Democratic Party, a ton of Mayors and City Council members from all over the state, SF Sheriff Vicki Hennessey and other law enforcement officials from progressive counties, anti-violence groups, physicians organizations, LGBT organizations, League of Women Voters, teachers and nurses unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle.

Opponents: The NRA, California Police Chiefs Association, Sheriffs in Republican counties, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Jews Can Shoot (families of Holocaust victims who, understandably, want to arm themselves)

Proposition 64 – Legalization of adult use of marijuana – YES!

I’ll be brief because this one is going to pass, and it’s unlikely that any reader of mine believes that the war on drugs has been a worthwhile endeavor.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-16-23-pm

Prop 64 (The Adult Use of Marijuana Act) will legalize marijuana under state law, for recreational use by adults 21 or older. It will restrict where it can be sold and consumed, and who can sell it. It will tax the stuff and provide for a licensing structure, as well as industry standards for marijuana products (much like FDA approval of pharmaceuticals). It will rake in between $300 million to over $1 billion (With a B!) in tax revenues every year.

The new law will reduce the state’s criminal justice costs by tens of millions of dollars annually. And here’s the best part: it would make everyone in prison today for a marijuana-related crime eligible for resentencing or release. YESSSSSSS.

It’s about time we end prohibition in this state.* It’s about time we tax pot, and provide industry standards to benefit consumers (what IS in the stuff we are smoking, anyway?). It’s about time we stop imprisoning people for possessing small amounts of a drug that is far less dangerous to society than alcohol or prescription opiates.

The people I know who oppose this initiative are: (1) pro-law enforcement types who hate drugs, and (2) small pot farmers or distributors who are worried that Big Agriculture is going to come in and wipe them out with their huge resources and their strict cultivation standards. The latter group was able to write in a provision that would limit licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years, and reserve a number of licenses for small-scale and artisan cultivators.

The measure isn’t perfect, for sure, it has some holes in it that many in the industry have identified. But the hope is that these holes will be fixed by regulation in the coming months. Prop 64 is a HUGE step in the right direction. Please vote yes.

*NOTE: If 64 passes, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law. Enforcement of marijuana crimes in states where it is legal is no longer a high priority of the federal government (under Obama), but of course the future of enforcement will depend on the outcome of the presidential election in November. Recreational pot is already legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington. It’s on the ballot this fall in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. Smells like momentum, doesn’t it?

Does it need to be on the ballot? Nope! The legislature could have (and should have?) taken up this controversial issue, but like ammunition sales and the death penalty, it was too scared to touch it.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, the CA Democratic Party, NAACP, ACLU, CA Medical Association, Drug Policy Alliance, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Law enforcement officials, Senator Feinstein (really, Dianne?), Sacramento Bee, and the CA Republican Party

Proposition 65 (NO) & 67 (YES) – Banning plastic grocery bags

These two measures are confusing, and they are a cynical ploy by the plastic bag companies to frustrate you and make you vote no on both of them. But if California does vote no on both of them, a lot of hard work by environmental groups and the state legislature will go out the window. Lemme splain…

A few years ago, the state legislature passed a law that bans plastic bags (SB 270), and that requires grocers to charge at least 10 cents for every paper bag they give to customers. In a deal cut with the grocers to get their support for the ban, the bag fee goes to the grocers. This really pissed off the plastic bag industry, which then put both Prop 65 and 67 on the ballot.

Prop 67 asks the voters to approve or reject the statewide ban, which hasn’t yet taken effect. It only applies to those localities in California that don’t already have their own ban. San Francisco has had a ban since 2007, so if Prop 67 passes, nothing will change here.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-37-45-pm

Prop 65 would punish the grocers for supporting the plastic bag ban, by taking the bag fee and send it instead to a special fund to support environmental projects. Very sneaky, plastic bag barons! That one is perfectly designed to confuse the voters and undermine the bargain that was struck to make SB 270 possible.

If you look below at the Supporters/Opponents of the measures, you might be surprised to see that the environmental groups are generally opposing Prop 65. They see right through the ploy, and say that the two measures are designed to frustrate the voters into voting “no” on both. The Surfrider Foundation and Californians Against Waste, for example, advocated for SB 270 for years, and they are upholding the legislative deal that they helped to cut.

Still with me? Here’s how the results could play out:

  1. If voters approve 67 and reject 65, then the bag ban will take effect, and the bag fee would go to the store owners. In localities with their own plastic bag bans, nothing would change.
  2. If voters reject 67 and approve 65, then the statewide ban will not take effect, and cities and counties with local bans can continue to use funds as currently set up or they can opt to direct the money to the new special environmental fund. Revenue from any future statewide ban would go toward the environmental fund.
  3. If voters pass both measures, then the bag ban will go into effect statewide, and whichever measure has more “yes” votes will determine where the money goes.
  4. If voters reject both measures, then no statewide ban goes into effect, and there will be no restrictions on revenues from future bans similar to SB 270. Localities with existing bans keep doing what they’ve been doing.

Show the plastic bag companies that you’re smarter than they thought. Vote No on 65, Yes on 67.

Does it need to be on the ballot? NO and GRRRRR! The legislature DID pass this law, and the ballot measures are an endeavor by the plastic bag companies to gum up what the legislature has already passed.

Supporters of 65: Republican Party, plastic bag manufacturers

Opponents of 65: League of Women Voters, Surfrider Foundation, California Nurses Association, Californians Against Waste, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Supporters of 67: Jerry Brown, Bernie Sanders, Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, Democratic Party, Tom Steyer, good government groups such as the League of Women Voters, California Labor Federation, NAACP, LA Times, SF Chronicle, every environmental group in the state including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Nature Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, Audubon Society.

Opponents of 67: Plastic bag manufacturers, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Libertarian Party

Thanks for reading all the way through! If you found my voter guide helpful, please throw a few dollars in the jar to support my voter guide writing habit. Thanks!

Drumroll Please…

17 statewide measures. 25 San Francisco measures. 18 races for local, state and federal office. The ballot for the November 2016 election in San Francisco is ridiculously long.

faded-colors-vote-sign-on-a-weathered-gray-plywoodAnd there are some Very Important Decisions to be made, such as eliminating the death penalty, decriminalizing marijuana use, and creating a new citywide elected position in San Francisco. California is poised to elect and African- and  Indian-American woman to the US Senate (Go Kamala!), and the city looks to the voters (again!) to decide what to do about its housing and homelessness problems.

And with the Presidential race on the ballot, we can expect a record turnout, and a high level of interest in each of these things. This is very exciting for political nerds like me. Democracy! Yay.

I’ll be writing my voter guide again, and I’ve got to start it early. Now accepting donations of Clif Bars and dry rosé from Provence to fuel this endeavor.

Ending on a High Note

This was a particularly nasty political season in San Francisco, but it ended on a high note at the DCCC meeting last night. It gives me chills to think about it.

It was the last meeting of the outgoing DCCC – 8 days after the election (in which 11 incumbents lost their seats), 4 days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and 1 day after some post-election nastiness (that I will write about later). We were all emotionally raw, with some of us feeling very angry and hurt by the actions of others sitting beside us at the table. Some members had asked to cancel the meeting because of lingering resentments and mistrust.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.27.12 AMDemocratic club presidents Lito Sandoval (Latino Democratic Club) and Peter Gallotta (Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club) spoke during public comment and called on us to commemorate the Orlando shooting. It was the largest mass shooting in American history, at an LGBT nightclub, with the majority of victims being Latino. And San Francisco is the capital of gay culture in America, and has a large and vibrant Latino community.

So it hit us all like a ton of bricks. Duh. Yes. Of course we should do something. But we had all been so wrapped up in our intra-party feuds that no one had written a resolution, which is the way we take positions as a group.

Normally, the DCCC is unable to take any action that is not on the agenda, and this was not on the agenda. Resolutions usually take several days of thought and collaboration among members, with debate and wordsmithing. Lots of wordsmithing. In my 6 years on the DCCC, no one has written a resolution in the meeting itself, because it is way too hard to get it right. There is no WiFi or cell service in the room where the meeting takes place, so we don’t have access to important information to include in the document. But – this was our last meeting as a group, so it was worth taking a shot. I volunteered to work with Peter Gallotta to write up something short but meaningful, with everyone’s consent. And yes, there was some editing by the group, but we ended up having a beautiful kumbaya moment where we realized that even though we have bitter disagreements, we also have many shared values.

Here’s what we wrote. The body agreed to add it to the agenda as a last-minute item, and the resolution passed unanimously. It was my final action taken as a DCCC member, and I’m proud to have ended my tenure there on such a positive note.

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party 
Regarding the Mass Shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando

WHEREAS, the members of the San Francisco Democratic Party are horrified by the news of the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016; and

WHEREAS, the shooting targeted a well-known LGBTQ nightclub on a night celebrating the Latinx* community, at the height of National Pride Month. Nightclubs are safe havens for LGBTQ people, making this shooting particularly devastating for queer and trans communities, and highlighting the need to protect these community gathering places; and

WHEREAS, the number of mass shootings that take place in the United States signifies a crisis, and it is clear that assault weapons must be prohibited from private ownership.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the San Francisco Democratic Party stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ and Latinx communities in the wake of this terrible tragedy; honors all the LGBTQ people killed and injured by violence, particularly those who are undocumented and may have been denied medical care as a result; and rejects Islamophobic responses to this horrific attack; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the San Francisco Democratic Party calls on state and federal Democratic Party leaders to recommit themselves to passing comprehensive gun control measures, and addressing hate crimes against the LGBTQ community and communities of color; and demands that all who are injured in such events receive medical care regardless of immigration status.

Sponsors: Alix Rosenthal and Peter Gallotta

Co-Sponsors: Joshua Arce, David Campos, Malia Cohen, Petra DeJesus, Matt Dorsey, Bevan Dufty, Zoe Dunning, Rafael Mandelman, Carole Migden, Leah Pimentel, Rebecca Prozan, Francis Tsang, Scott Wiener, Kat Anderson, Joel Engardio, Tom Hsieh, Mary Jung, Hene Kelly, Meagan Levitan, Trevor McNeil, Marjan Philhour, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember Phil Ting, Senator Mark Leno, Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma

*Latinx is not a typo. The “x” is intentional. 

 

Results are in!

Mostly.

And it’s not looking good for my re-election. There are 70,000 ballots yet to be counted by the San Francisco Department of Elections, and I am currently in 18th place out of 39 candidates. There are 14 seats up for grabs, and I am about 1700 votes behind the 14th place finisher. It is mathematically possible for me to make these votes up in the ballots that haven’t been counted, though it is not likely.

I raised more money than most of my competition, and earned a larger number of endorsements than almost every other candidate. My name and face were on at least a dozen mail pieces and even more ads on social media. But there were many current and former elected officials in the race, and 11 of them won based on their name recognition alone. The other 3 seats went to candidates whose names appeared among the highest on the ballot (mine was dead last). These results are frustrating to say the least, and they confirm that the party needs to widen the tent and increase the party membership to include more grassroots activists.