Big Ol’ Voter Guide – California & SF 2010

Now that I sit on the governing board of the San Francisco Democratic Party, I’ve had to pay very close attention to the campaigns that are vying for your vote in November. I’ve researched and grumbled, debated and pondered.  And here’s what I’ve come up with for the upcoming election in California and San Francisco.

At the top is a brief summary, and below you can find more detailed explanations of my endorsements.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a government lawyer and a San Francisco progressive whose passions include preserving and promoting nightlife and culture, fighting for economic and social justice, and getting more women elected to office.  I also like long walks on the beach.

If you live in California, but not SF, check out the statewide endorsements at the very top.  SF peeps? Hang on, this is a long one. You have 53 decisions to make before election day. Yikes. Aren’t you glad you know a policy nerd who did the research for you? ; )

CALIFORNIA BALLOT:
U.S. Senate – Barbara Boxer
Congress, 8th District – Nancy Pelosi
Governor – Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown
Lieutenant Governor – Gavin Newsom? Kinda?
Secretary of State – Debra Bowen
Controller – John Chiang
Treasurer – Bill Lockyer
Attorney General – Kamala Harris
Insurance Commissioner – Dave Jones
Board of Equalization (Dist. 1) – Betty Yee
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tom Torlakson
State Senate Dist. 8  – Leland Yee
State Assembly Dist. 12 (West side of SF) – Fiona Ma
State Assembly Dist. 13 (East side of SF) – Tom Ammiano
Prop 19 – Legalize Marijuana – OH HELL YES
Prop 20 – Congressional District Reapportionment – NO
Prop 21 – Vehicle License Fee for Parks – YES
Prop 22 – Stop the State’s Raid on Local Government – YES
Prop 23 – Suspending Air Pollution Control Laws – OH HELL NO
Prop 24 – Restore Business Taxes – YES
Prop 25 – Simple Majority Budget Passage – OH HELL YES
Prop 26 – 2/3 Vote for Fees – OH HELL NO
Prop 27 – Eliminating Redistricting Commission – YES
 

SAN FRANCISCO BALLOT:
Supervisor District 2 – Janet Reilly
Supervisor District 4 – Carmen Chu
Supervisor District 6 – Debra Walker!
Supervisor District 8 – Rafael Mandelman!
Supervisor District 10 – Malia Cohen
SF Board of Education: Margaret Brodkin, Emily Murase (and Hoehn, Maufas or Mendoza)
SF Community College Board – John Rizzo
BART Board of Directors – District 8 – Bert Hill
Assessor-Recorder – Phil Ting
Public Defender – Jeff Adachi
SF Superior Court Judge (Seat 15) – Richard Ulmer
Prop AA – Vehicle Registration Fee – YES
Prop A – Earthquake Retrofit Bond – YES
Prop B – City Retirement and Health Plans – OH HELL NO
Prop C – Mayor Appearances at the Board – YES?
Prop D – Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections – YES
Prop E – Election Day Voter Registration – YES
Prop F – Health Service Board Elections – NO?
Prop G – Transit Operator Wages – NO
Prop H – Local Elected Officials on Political Party Committees – NO
Prop I – Saturday Voting – YES
Prop J – Hotel Tax Clarification and Temporary Increase – YES
Prop K – Hotel Tax Clarification – NO
Prop L – Sitting or Lying on the Sidewalk – OH HELL NO
Prop M – Community Policing and Foot Patrols – YES
Prop N – Real Property Transfer Taxes – YES

CALIFORNIA BALLOT:

U.S. SENATE – BARBARA BOXER
It’s a fascinating trend in politics, particularly in California. The Republican billionaire with little or no political record (or voting history) takes on a sorta well-liked Democrat with a long history in politics. The GOP tries to use that history against the Democrat, with some success. Here that Republican – Carly Fiorina – might just win. She’s arguing that she has run a multi-billion dollar company, and so she can help recover California from its financial mess. Nevermind that Fiorina was fired from HP after screwing up a merger, and exported 30,000 jobs while she was there. The choice is clear – Boxer’s one of the leading progressive voices in the U.S. Senate. She’s good on foreign policy and on immigration issues, she has been a lifelong champion of the environment and reproductive rights. Nuff said.

CONGRESS, 8TH DISTRICT – NANCY PELOSI
First female Speaker of the House. She’s a fighter, and a survivor. She’s also not perfect, but she takes care of her district, she is doing the best she can under extremely trying (highly partisan) circumstances.

GOVERNOR – EDMUND G. (JERRY) BROWN
Having worked in Oakland City Hall under Mayor Brown, I know him well. He’s a far more moderate guy than the Jerry who served as Governor from 1975-83, and perhaps that’s what it takes to get elected statewide in 2010.  Brown opposes tax cuts for the rich, he is promoting green jobs and takes bold stands on the environment and on gay marriage. And his hail-Mary campaign strategy (save all your limited resources until the very end when the voters are actually paying attention) is a HUGE risk. But it might just work. The more money Meg Whitman spends on her campaign, the less popular she becomes. And she’s just awful. First thing she wants to do is lay off 40,000 state employees. Really? The state’s unemployment rate will skyrocket. She’ll cut taxes at exactly the time that we’re closing state parks and libraries due to revenue problems. She’s yet another billionaire Republican who thinks she can buy the election – she has no political experience or background, and hasn’t indicated an interest in voting or government until she decided to run.  Ew. Vote for Jerry.

 LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR – GAVIN NEWSOM? KINDA?
Yeah, I’ve heard the argument. Vote for Newsom to get him out of San Francisco. But given his history in City Hall, his political pettiness (see Prop H below) and his pattern of sabotaging the careers of strong women in government, I have a hard time promoting his career any further. Besides, the job of Lieutenant Governor is not very important. The LG sits on, or appoints representatives to, several of California’s regulatory commissions and executive agencies. He or she doesn’t write laws or issue executive orders, and has very little influence over policies that come out of Sacramento. Both Newsom and his opponent are political moderates – there isn’t much difference between them. If you were to vote for a Republican for any statewide seat, this would be it. BUT – Newsom is a little better on promoting a green economy and on marriage equality. If you can’t bear to vote Republican, vote for Newsom.

SECRETARY OF STATE – DEBRA BOWEN
This office runs elections and keeps corporate filings, and Bowen has done a great job at both, IMO. As a former Elections Commissioner in SF, I care very much about maintaining the integrity of electronic voting systems – and this is something Bowen has excelled at.  Like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, Bowen’s opponent is another wealthy Republican who has shown no interest in voting or government until recently.  Damon Dunn is a 34-year-old former pro football player who FIRST REGISTERED TO VOTE LAST YEAR.  If you picked a random person off the street, chances are they would have more elections-related experience than this guy.  And he wants to run the office that oversees elections? His campaign is an insult to your intelligence. Vote for Bowen.

CONTROLLER – JOHN CHIANG
Get to know John Chiang (pronounced “chung”). This guy’s a keeper. Aside from being a perfectly competent Chief Financial Officer for California, Chiang butted chests with Gov. Schwarzenegger when the Guv tried to cut the pay of state employees to minimum-wage level — and forced the Governator to back down.  Chiang is great.

TREASURER – BILL LOCKYER
Lockyer is a lock. His opponent is a weak candidate, and Lockyer has been a decent Treasurer by all accounts. Done.

ATTORNEY GENERAL – KAMALA HARRIS
This is a tight race, and an easy one for me.  Kamala’s opponent – Steve Cooley, DA of LA County – is your typical law-and-order, throw-more-cops-at-the-problem Republican. He’s a big proponent of the death penalty, vowing to make it easier to send people to the death chamber. Cooley has hammered Harris  on problems in the SF crime lab, and in the failure to out bad cops – problems that Kamala’s people should have detected earlier. But Kamala is still a far a better choice. Where Cooley is focused on punishing crime, Harris is focused on deterring it. She has placed an emphasis on preventing recidivism, being “smart on crime” rather than just “tough on crime.” She wants the AG’s office to attack a broad range of issues, including environmental justice and human trafficking. She has refused to seek the death penalty in San Francisco, and would bring the perspective of a woman of color to the AG’s office. She’s the future. Vote for Harris.

INSURANCE COMMISSIONER – DAVE JONES
Assemblymember Dave Jones is a former Legal Aid attorney who is widely known as a consumer advocate.  I like him because he’s so earnest. He’s got the chops – and more important, the integrity – to do this job well.  His opponent, a classic conservative, opposes consumer protections, and wants to limit lawsuits that would keep corporate America accountable.  Jones it is.

BOARD OF EQUALIZATION, DISTRICT 1 – BETTY YEE
The Board of Equalization is more important than you think – it sets and enforces tax policy, and has a hand in just about every area of revenue generation for California.  Betty is one of my political heroes. She was one of the first elected officials to endorse the legalization – and TAXATION – of marijuana. Betty’s a strong progressive, she mentors young women who want to run for office, and she’s one of the rare San Francisco political figures who is liked by folks on both sides of the (San Francisco) aisle. Go Betty!

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION – TOM TORLAKSON
This race is a battle over the power of the teachers’ unions. Torlakson – who has the support of the unions – is in a runoff with Larry Aceves, who thinks the unions are the biggest problem in public education.  (I personally think chronic underfunding is the problem, but what do I know?)  Torlakson is a former science teacher who has made education his focus while in the state legislature. Aceves is a former principal and school superintendent who wants the unilateral right to suspend labor contracts. I think the teachers unions have done a good job of keeping school funding at the forefront of every budget debate in California, and I support their endorsement in this race. Vote Torlakson.

STATE SENATE – DISTRICT 8 – LELAND YEE
Yee has no real opposition, and he’ll be easily re-elected.  Even so, he’s running hard because he’s probably running for Mayor next year. He’s worth sending back to Sacramento, because he’s particularly good on governmental and corporate transparency issues.

STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 12 – FIONA MA
Fiona represents the more conservative district in SF, and her politics align with her constituency. I disagree with many things she’s done in Sacramento, including promoting anti-tenant laws – but she’s good on lots of other issues I care about, like public power and high-speed rail. If you live on the west side of town, vote for Fiona.

STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 13 – TOM AMMIANO
Ammiano is the elder statesman of San Francisco politics; his accomplishments are too plentiful to enumerate here.  He was the author of SF’s universal health care law and the City’s rainy day fund – both game-changers.  In the Assembly, he’s championed legalizing and taxing marijuana, and has demanded accountability on public safety issues. Tom is great, please vote for him.

PROP. 19 – LEGALIZE MARIJUANA – OH HELL YES
Millions of Californians have been waiting for this day. Prop 19 lets cities and counties set their own regulations for the adult use of marijuana – it’s a modest way of going about ending prohibition.  Fresno may want to keep it illegal, and Oakland may want to become the weed capitol of California, thereby benefiting from taxing and permitting grow-houses and dispensaries.  Experts agree that marijuana use is far less bad for you than cigarettes or alcohol, both of which are legal and widely used. The Bay Guardian said it best: continuing with pot prohibition will (1) empower the Mexican drug cartels and their violence and political corruption, (2) perpetuate a drug war mentality that is ruining lives and wasting law enforcement resources, and (3) deprive state and local governments of tax revenue from California’s number one cash crop.   Yes on Prop 19! It’s about time.

PROP. 20 – CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT REAPPORTIONMENT – NO
Full disclosure – I’m a big-D Democrat. And this issue is a Democrat versus Republican issue, period. Prop. 20 has to do with the power to draw congressional districts in California – and whether we want to re-draw the district lines to give more power to Republicans (and moderate Democrats) than there is now. The Prop 20 campaign argues that the measure would create more competitive elections and hold politicians accountable. I’m all for holding politicians accountable. But Prop. 20 could also give the GOP an advantage in a Democratic state. Doesn’t make sense to me.

PROP. 21 – VEHICLE LICENSE FEE FOR PARKS – YES
Before the Governator took office, Californians were paying a reasonable vehicle license fee – one that helped cover the full impacts of cars on the state – in road maintenance and repairing environmental damage, for example. Schwarzenegger repealed that fee, costing the state tens of billions of dollars. Prop 21 would charge an $18 annual fee on vehicle license registrations and reserve at least half of the $500 million in revenues for state park maintenance and wildlife conservation programs. The measure would also give cars free entrance to the state parks – bonus! $18 a year? We can afford it. Vote yes.

PROP. 22 – STOP THE STATE’S RAID ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT – YES
As an employee of local government, this one is close to home. In 2009, the California state legislature raided about $5 billion from city, county, transit, redevelopment and special district funds. These local taxpayer dollars would have been used to fund public safety, emergency response, and other local government services (and uh, my salary). Prop 22 would prevent the state from raiding these funds. Which is the right thing to do, because when these taxes were approved, taxpayers were expecting the revenues to go toward LOCAL services, not state programs.  Vote yes.

PROP. 23 – SUSPENDING AIR POLLUTION CONTROL LAWS – OH HELL NO
This one is really REALLY bad.  Prop. 23 was put on the ballot by oil companies and wingnuts in order to repeal a really important law that is helping combat global warming. Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, imposed enforceable limits on greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 — and Prop. 23 would reverse that law, by suspending it until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for a full year. Right. Like that’s going to happen any time soon. They call it the “California jobs initiative,” which just makes me sick. By pitting jobs versus the environment, you would think the business community would get behind 23 – right? Wrong. The SF Chamber of Commerce is actively opposing Prop. 23. And many business leaders recognize that green jobs are the future, and AB 32 is actually going to lead to more jobs, not less. For more, see this interactive video by my friends at Green for All. No on 23!!

PROP. 24 – BUSINESS TAXES – YES
Prop. 24 will restore certain taxes on large corporations (that had previously been repealed), and it will raise about $1.7 billion for the state’s general fund. California is in dire straits and the money to support our essential services has to come from somewhere. Might as well be the people who can afford to pay. Vote yes.

PROP. 25 – SIMPLE MAJORITY BUDGET PASSAGE – OH HELL YES
This is a really important one. The state budget was a full THREE MONTHS LATE this year. Why? Because California requires a 2/3 majority of the legislature to approve the budget. Which means that a minority (Republicans) can hold the budget process hostage until they get what they want. And in the meantime, workers can be furloughed, state offices can be shut down, the state can issue IOU’s, until a budget is passed. Prop. 25 would fix this problem by allowing the state legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority vote.  And the budget, frankly, will look a lot more like the priorities of the progressives in the legislature. End the gridlock. Vote yes on 25.

PROP. 26 – TWO-THIRDS VOTE FOR FEES – OH HELL NO
Currently, state and local governments must ask the voters to approve any new tax with a 2/3 vote. But “fees” are different from taxes because the revenues that fees generate go directly toward covering costs. For example, SF can charge a fee to block off a street for a festival, to cover the costs of cleanup or re-routing traffic. But Prop 26 would require the legislature or City Council or Board of Supervisors to go to the voters every time they wanted to impose a new fee. You think the ballot is too long now? Wait ‘til this measure passes. Seriously. It’s yet another attempt to make it harder for the City to cover the cost of doing business. Oh yeah, it’s also supported by Big Business and Big Oil, because it would also prevent governments from imposing new environmental impact fees on polluters. Vote NO!

PROP. 27 – ELIMINATING REDISTRICTING COMMISSION – YES
In 2008, voters approved a measure to create a redistricting task force on the premise that the state Legislature shouldn’t be drawing its own district lines. Yeah, I can see how that’s a conflict of interest. But the new task force – which is composed of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans – isn’t the solution. While the task force is supposedly less political, it is not representative of the state, which is dominated by Democrats. (Which of course I think is a good thing). Prop 27 would abolish the task force and return the task to the state legislature. Vote yes.

 

SAN FRANCISCO BALLOT: 

SUPERVISOR, DISTRICT 2 (Pac Heights, Marina, Cow Hollow, Presidio) – JANET REILLY
Frankly, Janet Reilly is overqualified to be Supervisor. She sits on the governing board of the Golden Gate Bridge, she’s a crackerjack fundraiser and policy wonk, she’s smart, thoughtful and level-headed. Which is exactly why City Hall needs her. Janet and I won’t always agree – she opposes most tax measures and she won’t always be aligned with the progressive majority on the board. But her politics seem to closely reflect that of her district – which is on the conservative side of town. And she has far more good ideas and experience than her opponents. Vote for Janet.

SUPERVISOR, DISTRICT 4 – (Sunset) – CARMEN CHU
You may start to detect a theme here. Carmen Chu and I usually disagree, but I recognize that she represents a conservative district, and her politics are similar to those of her constituency.  What I find interesting is that Chu never wanted to be Supervisor – Mayor Newsom plucked her out of his policy staff to serve out the rest of Ed Jew’s term. But she quickly got the hang of it, and she’s running unopposed for re-election. While we may not see eye-to-eye, I trust that she arrives at her decisions honestly, and with her constituents’ best interests in mind.

SUPERVISOR,DISTRICT 6 – (SOMA, Tenderloin, Civic Center, parts of Inner Mission) – DEBRA WALKER!
This is a fascinating race. Debra Walker serves on the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) with me, she’s worked on District 6 issues for a couple of decades, and has served on the Building Inspection Commission for many years. She understands land use and housing, the key issues in D6.  School Board member Jane Kim moved into the district recently in order to run for Supervisor, because she thinks her background, name recognition and political leanings can get her elected in this very leftist district. She, too, is a solid progressive, and her candidacy has split the City’s political left, opening the door for the more conservative candidate to win.  Theresa Sparks is the Chamber of Commerce’s candidate, though it’s interesting to note that she’s also transgender, used to be CEO of Good Vibrations, and served on the Police Commission – an interesting combination. It’s a big field, but those are the three candidates to watch. I’m supporting Walker because she’s paid her dues, she knows the district well, and she’s a progressive with proven integrity and a sharp mind.  Vote for Debra!

SUPERVISOR,DISTRICT 8 – (Castro, Noe Valley, Inner Mission, Glen Park) – RAFAEL MANDELMAN!
I ran for this seat four years ago, and so I’ve been following this race very closely. The three top candidates are Rafael Mandelman, Scott Weiner, and Rebecca Prozan. (All three are gay Jewish attorneys. Funny.)  This is a critical race for San Francisco, because District 8 is ground zero for the changing demographics of the City, the gentrification of our neighborhoods, the flight of families and the middle class. Rebecca Prozan is a deputy prosecutor and former campaign strategist who is painting herself as the middle-of-the-road candidate. She’s endorsed by outgoing Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose focus on neighborhood services she wants to emulate. Scott Wiener, a deputy city attorney, has done a lot of work in the district. But he might be the most conservative candidate running for Supervisor in any district this November. He and I disagree on almost every local issue.

I support Rafael Mandelman – he is the only progressive on this ballot, he promises to fight for immigrants and tenants, and for economic and social justice. As a former member of the Building Inspection Commission and Board of Appeals, and as a lawyer who advises local government agencies on land use issues, Rafael has good judgment and he has the know-how to be a great Supervisor. Vote for Rafi.

SUPERVISOR, DISTRICT 10 (Potrero, Visitation Valley, Bayview, Dogpatch) – MALIA COHEN
A fellow graduate of the Emerge Program, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, Cohen is my choice for D10 Supervisor. Malia has a long family history in this district, and knows it really well, having served as the D10 neighborhood liaison to the Mayor’s office many years ago.  Her priorities are keeping D10 “working, healthy and safe” – she wants to clean up the Hunters Point shipyard, create jobs, and focus on combating crime in the district. Elect Malia.

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF EDUCATION – MARGARET BRODKIN, EMILY MURASE (and Hoehn, Maufas or Mendoza)
Three spots are open on the School Board, and I have only endorsed two candidates, Emily Murase and Margaret Brodkin. As for my third vote, I’m torn among Kim-Shree Maufas, Natasha Hoehn and Hydra Mendoza. Emily Murase was in my class of the Emerge Program (which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office), and she is Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women. She is a public school parent activist, and her emphasis is on performance incentives for teachers and encouraging parental involvement. She’s a coalition builder, as evidenced by her variety of endorsements from all sides of the San Francisco political world. I am supporting Margaret Brodkin because she is creative, independent and smart, and because she might have more experience advocating for children and their families than all of the other candidates combined.  She has had some personality clashes with certain City Hall folks, but I don’t think that should keep her from serving the school district well.  As the former director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, and as the former director of the SF Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, she is by far one of the most qualified people to run for School Board in a long time.

As for my third choice, I’m torn among Hoehn, Maufas and Mendoza. Natasha Hoehn is an up-and-comer, an 8th grade teacher with a broad range of endorsements. I think her teaching experience would be valuable to the board. But she doesn’t have much local political experience, and so I don’t know if she has what it takes to survive the blood sport that is San Francisco politics. Kim-Shree Maufas (also an Emerge alum) has a strong progressive voting record on the board, and I’m inclined to support her, but I have some reservations. Last year, she was reported to have used a school district credit card for personal expenses, and while she paid the district back, it was an error in judgment. But – she has been a tireless advocate for low-income kids and teachers, and she has always voted the right way on the issues that matter to me.  Hydra Mendoza is dynamic, experienced, and shrewd. While serving on the School Board, she has worked for Mayor Newsom as an education advisor – which I think is a conflict of interest – but she’s been a good School Board member, and she cares deeply about public education. You really can’t go wrong with any one of these three.

SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD – JOHN RIZZO
Here’s the thing: Only three people are running for College Board – for three spots – and all three are incumbents. They are all going to be re-elected, but that doesn’t mean they all should be. The Community College District is a mess. I’m deep into local politics, and even I have had a hard time keeping track of all the scandals and indictments and misused funds that have made the news in the many years while I’ve lived here.  And I place some of the blame on Lawrence Wong and Anita Grier, the two longtime incumbents running for re-election this November. Even if they weren’t responsible for the College Board mess, they certainly haven’t been a part of the solution. John Rizzo, on the other hand, has only served one term, and he is a leader in the movement to reform the Community College District. He is former chair of the Bay Area chapter of the Sierra Club, he is thoughtful and well regarded, and has worked hard to get the district’s finances and foundation under control.  Vote for Rizzo.

BART BOARD OF DIRECTORS, DISTRICT 8 – BERT HILL
I like Bert Hill – he’s earnest, smart, and knows a whole lot about transportation policy. And he’s a Democrat, running against the only elected Republican in San Francisco (James Fang). He wants to bring more transparency to the BART Board and more accountability to the BART police department. Bert for BART!

ASSESSOR-RECORDER – PHIL TING
The Assessor-Recorder evaluates real estate for tax purposes. Boring, right? Wrong! Ting has been an aggressive assessor who has gone after big corporations (and the Catholic church) for trying to duck taxes. He has also been pushing for a statewide tax reform that, if approved, would lead to billions more dollars a year in annual revenues for the state. In this era of dwindling municipal resources, this is exactly the kind of Assessor we need. Phil is great, please vote for him!

PUBLIC DEFENDER – JEFF ADACHI
Most people will agree that Adachi has been doing a solid job as Public Defender, with limited staff and shrinking resources. He did a strange thing this year by sponsoring Prop B – a heinous measure that will cut health care benefits for City employees, and which will hurt the low-wage workers the most. That said, he’s definitely worth re-electing, assuming this Prop B thing was an anomaly.

SAN FRANCISCO SUPERIOR COURT – SEAT 15 – RICHARD ULMER
To me, this election has little to do with the candidates – Incumbent Richard Ulmer and challenger Michael Nava – and everything to do with the interference of politics in judicial decision-making.  I apply a different standard to my judicial endorsements than to political endorsements. In my view (and the view of most attorneys I know), sitting judges who are widely considered to be competent and ethical should be allowed to do their jobs without a political challenge. If a sitting judge is challenged, it requires that judge to raise money from the very attorneys and law firms who appear before him or her, which is icky.  And if judges regularly face electoral challenges they will start factoring endorsements and other political considerations into the decisions they render, with an eye toward their next campaign.  This is how the bench becomes politicized.

In this race, incumbent Judge Ulmer is an interesting candidate – he’s been a judge for less than a year, he’s a former Republican with a long history of pro bono work fighting for reforms in the juvenile detention system. He has a long list of endorsements from people whom I respect. By all accounts, he is doing a fine job. Michael Nava is a gay Latino who has been working as a research attorney for a California Supreme Court Justice, and whose campaign is based on adding diversity to the bench.  Nava has every right to run, of course, but if he wins, it could set a dangerous precedent whereby every judgeship is fair game, and the local judiciary is permanently compromised by electoral politics. I look forwardto supporting Nava when he runs for an open seat in the future. Vote for Ulmer.

PROP. AA – VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEE – YES
Proposition AA would add $10 to the existing annual fee for vehicles registered in San Francisco, and generate an estimated $5 million a year in revenues that would go toward street repairs, public transit, new bike infrastructure, pedestrian crosswalks, and transit reliability projects. These projects need money badly. I think $10/year is a fair price to pay for improving our streets and MUNI. Vote yes.

PROP. A – EARTHQUAKE RETROFIT BOND – YES
Prop A is a $46.15 million bond to support seismic upgrades for affordable housing. Hundreds of buildings will be affected – and this bond is essential to protect vulnerable San Franciscans who live in affordable housing units.  The measure would fund seismic upgrades with grants and deferred loans, which would accrue interest but would only need to be paid back if the building owner converts the building from affordable housing to some other use. Vote yes on Prop. A.

PROP. B – CITY RETIREMENT AND HEALTH PLANS – OH HELL NO
Public Defender Jeff Adachi placed this measure on the ballot to combat rising health insurance costs for the City. Prop. B requires public employees to bear the brunt of these ballooning costs, and in some cases it will cost the employee thousands of dollars.  And it’s regressive – the measure hurts the lowest-wage workers the most, because the additional payment is the same whether the employee earns $40,000 or six figures. I agree that something must be done to limit the City’s expanding health care costs, but this measure is not the answer.  Adachi placed Prop B on the ballot without consulting public employee unions, who deserve a seat at the table when major decisions like this are made.  Let’s defeat Prop B, and then bring everyone to the table to arrive at a more reasonable solution.

PROP. C – MAYOR APPEARANCES AT BOARD – YES?
This measure requires the mayor to appear monthly, in person, at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors to formally discuss policy matters. I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I’d like to see Mayor Newsom engage in a serious and public discussion of the issues that face the City. This mayor doesn’t value transparency; he has been particularly secretive about his budget decisions and appointments. On the other hand, this measure seems petty. It is clearly aimed at one particularly petulant mayor, whose term is up in a year (or less, if he is elected to statewide office). But can we set aside personal vendettas for a minute, and ask whether we really want to require all future mayors to engage in debate with the Board once a month? I have a feeling that whoever the next mayor is, he or she will be far more personally engaging and transparent than the incumbent. But heck, why not? It will make for good political theater.  Vote yes?

PROP. D – NONCITIZEN VOTING IN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS – YES
This charter amendment would establish a 4-year pilot program to allow San Francisco residents who are parents, guardians, and caregivers of children who attend school in San Francisco, to vote in local school board elections, regardless of whether these residents are U.S. citizens.  The idea is that voting in school board elections will encourage parental involvement, and educational studies show that when parents are involved in the school system, the entire school system improves. Vote yes.

PROP. E – ELECTION DAY VOTER REGISTRATION – YES
California requires voters to register at least 15 days before an election. Prop. E would allow any SF resident to simply show up at a polling place on Election Day, register to vote, and participate in a municipal election. It will increase turnout (by at least 3%-6%), expand the number of people who are eligible to vote, thereby including more citizens in the democratic process! This is a good thing! This change would primarily benefit low-turnout populations such as the young, renters and transients, those who have mobility issues, and the poor. (Note that these people also tend to vote more progressive, ahem). The Department of Elections is confident that if Prop E passes, their existing procedures can ensure against fraud.  I agree with the Bay Guardian here: “In an era of growing political apathy and cynicism, anything that draws more people into the electoral process is a good thing.” Vote yes.

PROP. F – HEALTH SERVICE BOARD ELECTIONS – NO?
I’m not sure why this one is on the ballot. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd sponsored this measure to save the City $30,000 per year (that’s nothing, really), by consolidating elections for the board that oversees the city employee health care fund. Unions are against it because they say the measure will turn board elections into more expensive and complex political contests. So I say no.

PROP. G – TRANSIT OPERATOR WAGES – YES
Muni drivers are the only City employees who don’t have to engage in collective bargaining for wages and work rules, and the City Charter guarantees them the second-highest salary level of all comparable transit systems in the nation. The Muni drivers union squandered all their good will during this year’s budget negotiations. Many of Muni’s work rules need to be changed, and if Prop G passes, it would give the City the leverage it needs to make those changes. Don’t get me wrong, I am a proud union member, and I usually oppose measures that detract from union power – see Props B & F. But here, as a government employee whose pay and benefits have been slashed in the last few years, I think it’s only fair that all City employees – including Muni drivers  – share the pain. Vote yes.

PROP. H – LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS ON POLITICAL PARTY COMMITTEES – NO
If I were an average voter, I’d be pretty annoyed at Mayor Newsom for wasting my time with this one. Here’s the back-story: Newsom supported a bunch of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) this past June, and almost all of them lost. The progressive slate (of which I was a member) had several current and past members of the Board of Supervisors on it, with more name recognition, good will among the voters, and funding than Newsom’s candidates. And we won. Which really chapped Newsom’s hide.  So he placed Prop H on the ballot in order to bar elected officials in San Francisco from serving on the Democratic or Republican committees. Bitter much?  Even if it passes, it’s almost certainly unenforceable  — the parties get to decide their own membership rules — and it just doesn’t pass the smell test. Vote no.

PROP. I – SATURDAY VOTING – YES
As a former chair of the San Francisco Elections Commission, I get excited about measures that make it easier for people to vote (see Props D & E). Prop I proposes an experiment in opening the polls the Saturday before the next mayoral election (November 2011). Saturday voting makes way more sense than Tuesday. Congress established Tuesday voting in 1845, in order to accommodate horse-and-carriage travel times. Obviously, this is not important in modern day San Francisco. I’d like to see Election Day held at a time when most people aren’t working, allowing the voting process to be more of a community and family activity. Vote yes.

PROP. J – HOTEL TAX CLARIFICATION AND TEMPORARY INCREASE – YES
PROP. K – HOTEL TAX CLARIFICATION – NO
Props J and K are two competing measures that correct a loophole in San Francisco’s existing hotel tax. The loophole is this: If a visitor books her hotel herself, she’d pay the full tax. But if she booked it through Travelocity or some other online booking service, she avoids paying a tax on a chunk of the cost.  Also, airlines that book rooms for flight crews avoid paying hotel taxes. Both Props J & K correct these loopholes. Those changes are expected to generate at least $12 million a year. Prop. J asks visitors to pay a slightly higher tax — about $3 a night — for the next three years. The $3 increase in the hotel tax will generate about $26 million per year.  If both measures pass, whichever gets the most votes will take effect. The Chamber of Commerce and the tourism board say the $3 tax could hurt tourism — but I find this hard to believe. San Francisco desperately needs this revenue to prevent additional layoffs of city workers, and to protect vital services. Vote YES on J and NO on K.

PROP. L – SITTING OR LYING ON SIDEWALKS  – OH HELL NO
Prop L prohibits sitting and lying on the sidewalk. Have you participated in a street fair or Bay to Breakers? Then you know there is nothing inherently wrong about sitting on the sidewalk. We lawyers call measures like Prop L both “overinclusive and underinclusive.” On the one hand, it goes too far – it would prohibit certain behavior that can and should be legal – like sitting on the curb while watching a parade or waiting for a bus. On the other hand, it doesn’t go far enough – it doesn’t actually prohibit the kind of behavior that it is supposedly aimed at, which is the harassment of pedestrians by menacing kids. Moreover, the police already have all the laws they need to stop the harassment of pedestrians.  This measure is unnecessary and it delegates too much authority to the police to cite behavior that should remain legal. Vote no.

PROP. M – COMMUNITY POLICING AND FOOT PATROLS – YES
Prop. M is a great idea. It would require the chief of police to establish a citywide program to get cops out of their cars – and on foot – to deal with safety and civility issues – like, say, the harassment of pedestrians by menacing teenagers (see above).  It would also get the Police Commission involved in developing a community policing policy and encouraging citizen involvement in combating crime.  Prop. M also includes a poison pill: if the voters adopt both M and L, but M gets more votes, then the Sit/Lie Law (Prop L) will not take effect. I’m voting for Prop M because I think it’s a good idea, and also because I don’t like Prop L. Vote yes.

PROP. N – REAL PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX – YES
This measure slightly increases the tax charged by the City on the sale of property worth more than $5 million, and promises to bring in additional revenue of $36 million. Given the City’s budget woes, that’s all I need to hear. Vote yes.


3 thoughts on “Big Ol’ Voter Guide – California & SF 2010

  1. Because city workers have already agreed to pay their own retirement contributions in full, commencing July 01, 2011 [eight (8) months from now], it should be noted that regarding pension reform and prop b; very little money will be saved by forcing city workers to contribute their fair share a mere six [6] months prior to schedule.  

    so apparently then, the “big savings” hoped for by attempting to pass this poorly thought out piece of written scapegoating and bullying must come from the lesser emphasized “healthcare” component.

    in exchange for continued PREVENTIVE health care provisions to children or other needy legal dependant of the hard working city employee, the wealthy authors along with greedy bankroller venture capitalist and billionaire backers of this divisive proposition have opted to use this “hidden” aspect to boost their “savings” figure which they shamelessly tout knowing full well that such drastic cuts will not only displace the most vulnerable, namely children and retirees needing healthcare who cannot otherwise afford PREVENTIVE healthcare but to also undermine the overall universal healthcare concept, which most San Franciscans recognize as smart and cost effective.

    people, please see this for what it is and not for what it is not!  
    cuts to PREVENTIVE healthcare at minimal savings to the city fund will end up costing us tax payers double, triple and quadruple -when REACTIVE healthcare like urgent care and emergency room services at the medical industry’s skyrocketing rates and exorbitant costs and fees are factored in as the only remaining viable options for those no longer able to qualify for any other type of reasonably priced medical coverage!  
    please vote NO on B.

  2. Get outta my head!
    I agree on EVERYTHING you’ve indicated and in EVERY WAY.
    Great job!
    p.s. lieutenant gov – i cannot vote republican [or can i?], so i’m choosing to vote blank on this one, this time ’round [when the lesser of two evils is still just too evil – sometimes u have to].

  3. I loved just about all of this, and certainly appreciate your hard work. I don’t think your positions on 20 / 27 are defensible. Yes, your recommendations would potentially help Democrats, but that’s not improving the electoral process. I’d like to see your recommendation transcend partisan advantage and reach for a system which would benefit all voters long-term.

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