It’s a very short ballot for the June 7 election! This is a good thing, because the voters are so focused on the Presidential race that they might not notice that there are lots of other important decisions they need to make. These include the US Senate race to replace Barbara Boxer, the State Senate race in SF, a few ballot measures, and ME! I jokingly refer to myself as the lowest-ranking elected official in California, because I hold a seat on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. The DCCC election is every 4 years on the Democratic presidential primary ballot, and there are 14 seats up for grabs on the east side of SF, and 10 seats on the west side. More about that later.
Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney with a background in municipal law who currently works for small technology companies, and whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m Second Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.
For those of you keeping track, it took exactly 2.75 bottle of rosé to help me write this guide. No, not in one sitting!
President – #DumpTrump
US Senate – Kamala Harris
US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi
US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier
State Senator, District 11 – Scott Wiener
State Assembly, AD-17 – David Chiu
State Assembly, AD-19 – Phil Ting
DCCC, AD-17 – East side of SF (in order of appearance on the ballot)
London Breed, Francis Tsang, Arlo Smith, Jill Wynns, Scott Wiener, Zoe Dunning, Malia Cohen, Tom Hsieh, Rafael Mandelman, Gary McCoy, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Rebecca Prozan, Alix Rosenthal (me!)
DCCC, AD-19 – West side of SF (in order of appearance on the ballot)
Keith Baraka, Mary Jung, Joel Engardio, Mark Farrell, Rachel Norton, Tom A. Hsieh, Emily Murase, Trevor McNeil, Kat Anderson, Marjan Philhour
Judge – Paul Henderson
State Prop 50 – Suspension of Legislators – No
SF Proposition A – SF Public Health & Safety Bond – Yes
SF Proposition B – Set-Aside for Park & Rec Department – Yes
SF Proposition C – Allowing for Increases in Affordable Housing Requirements – Yes
SF Proposition D – Investigations of All Police Shootings – YES!
SF Proposition E – Corrections to Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – Yes
Regional Measure AA – SF Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program – YES!
President – #DumpTrump
Chances are good you have already made your decision about Bernie versus Hillary. Maybe you’re already posting articles on Facebook claiming that your candidate’s opponent is corrupt or incompetent, or can’t win against Trump. So I’m not going to tell you how to vote on this one, only PLEASE PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE SUPPORT WHOMEVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY NOMINATES AGAINST DONALD TRUMP. The Donald has said that he wants to deport 11 million immigrants, he has a deplorable history of treating women badly, and his tax plan is a joke. He joyfully encourages violence at his rallies and enjoys the support of white supremacists. Even if you think the federal government is corrupt and incompetent, I beg you not to let a President Donald Trump pick the next several Supreme Court Justices or represent America to the world for the next four years.
US Senate – Kamala Harris
When you look at your ballot, you’ll notice that it lists all 34 candidates vying to replace Barbara Boxer in the US Senate, including Republicans, Democrats, independents, and all the third parties too. This is because in 2010 California adopted the “Top Two” primary system for state and federal offices, which eliminated party primaries for these candidates. Top Two pits all candidates regardless of party affiliation against one another in “preliminary” elections (in June) with the two highest vote getters advancing to the general election (in November), even if those candidates come from the same party.
You might find it interesting to note that 44% of California voters are registered Democrats, 29% are registered Republicans, 21% have no stated party preference, and the remaining 6% is divided among the smaller parties. This is why Democrats dominate California’s statewide elections, and it would be highly unlikely that a Republican wins Boxer’s Senate seat. In fact, both of the Top Two candidates who will advance to the November election will almost certainly be Democrats.
Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are the two candidates who have been getting the most press in this election, and the most likely to advance to November, based on polling data. Harris is my choice – she is the former District Attorney of San Francisco and 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?” And finally, Elizabeth Warren stars in Kamala’s newest campaign video, below! Please vote for her. She gives me hope for this country.
US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi
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 the November 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 Senator, 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 it pains me to have 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. I urge you to vote for Scott.
Also: keep in mind that because of California’s Top Two primary system (see above), Scott and Jane will face each other again in November because they are the only two (viable) candidates in the race. I know, weird.
State Assembly, AD-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, AD-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!
Democratic County Central Committee – Vote for me! And also these other awesome people.
There are three levels of the Democratic Party: the DNC, which is the national organization that endorses presidential candidates (i.e. Bernie or Hillary), the state parties (which endorse candidates for Governor, US Senate, etc. in each state), and then there are the local parties. The Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) is the governing body of the local Democratic Party, and I currently serve as its Second Vice Chair here in San Francisco. The DCCC endorses candidates in local races, charters Democratic Clubs, registers new voters, and takes positions on issues of local and statewide importance.
The DCCC race happens every four years, and you have to be a registered Democrat to vote in my race. (To check your voter registration, go here) And it’s a crazy election this time – there are 39 candidates in my district, and many of them are current or former elected officials who have more name recognition than I do. And some of them have no interest in participating in the critical party-building activities that the DCCC does. (Can you see former Congressman John Burton volunteering at naturalization ceremonies to register new voters? I think not). Which is a shame. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the party will fall apart if all of these famous folks get elected, because there will be no one left to do the work.
I have been a lifelong Democrat, and have been active in countless campaigns at the local, statewide and federal levels, as candidate, treasurer, fundraiser and counsel. As the DCCC’s Second Vice Chair, I am responsible for running the party’s endorsement process for every election. I have worked hard to recruit and train Democratic women to run for office, including serving as a trainer for the Emerge Program, and running a slate of women candidates for DCCC in 2012. In my 6 years on the DCCC, I have dedicated considerable time and energy to the party, and I enjoy the work! I would be honored to continue it for another four years.
In the 17th Assembly District (east side of San Francisco), I am running with a slate of folks who are also ready to roll up their sleeves: London Breed, Francis Tsang, Arlo Smith, Jill Wynns, Scott Wiener, Zoe Dunning, Malia Cohen, Tom Hsieh, Gary McCoy, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Rebecca Prozan, and ME! I’m dead last on the ballot. And even though he’s not on my slate, please cast your 14th vote for Rafael Mandelman, because he’s a good Democrat and has worked hard for the party for 10 years.
In the 19th Assembly District (west side of San Francisco), please vote for Keith Baraka, Mary Jung, Joel Engardio, Mark Farrell, Rachel Norton, Tom A. Hsieh, Emily Murase, Trevor McNeil, Kat Anderson, and Marjan Philhour (in that order of appearance on the ballot).
If you want to know more about all of these candidates, check out the Progress Slate’s website.
Judge – Paul Henderson
Three smart and competent candidates are running for this judicial seat: Paul Henderson, Victor Hwang and Sigrid Irias. Irias is a civil litigator and a past president of the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association. Hwang is a civil rights attorney with both criminal and civil law experience who also serves on the San Francisco Police Commission. 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.
A funny thing has happened in this race. The two leading candidates – Hwang and Henderson – have become aligned with the candidates in the State Senate race, and their fates will probably rise and fall with those candidates. Supervisor Jane Kim has endorsed Victor Hwang, who is generally thought to be the more progressive candidate, and is engaged to marry a legislative aide of Kim’s. Supervisor Scott Wiener supports Paul Henderson, with whom he has worked for many years, and both men have served on the board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.
When the DCCC had to decide on a candidate to endorse, it was a tough call for me because all three candidates are highly qualified. But 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.
p.s. If no candidate wins at least 51 percent of the vote in June, the top two vote-getters will face each other in November.
State Proposition 50 – Suspension of Legislators – No
2014 was an extremely bad year for the California Senate: Senator Wright (D-Inglewood) was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying to voters about living in his district; Senator Calderon (D-Montebello) was charged with tax fraud, accepting bribes and money laundering; and Senator Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested on suspicion of soliciting bribes, arms-trafficking and racketeering. The Senate voted to suspend these guys, though they continued to draw a paycheck and receive benefits until their cases were resolved because the current rules don’t allow the Senate to suspend its own members without pay.
Proposition 50 is a reaction to this episode. If it passes, it would explicitly authorize the Legislature to suspend members without pay on a two-thirds vote.
Now I’m not saying that criminals should keep getting paid their full salaries, but I do have concerns about the potential abuses of this law. In the American criminal justice system, a person charged with a crime (even a politician!) is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. This is why I think we should not allow a legislator’s colleagues to suspend them without pay until their case is resolved.
Moreover, I worry that the law could be used for nefarious political purposes against a legislator who is unpopular among his or her colleagues. The ballot measure doesn’t set any standard for what transgressions would justify suspension, and there’s no mechanism to ensure that it would be applied consistently. Eek.
I also wonder whether this is really a problem that needs solving. Before 2014, the Senate had never once suspended one of their members, and they haven’t since. State Senators make $90,000 a year (!), and so we’re not talking about a huge amount of savings for the state budget. I say vote no.
SF Proposition A – SF Public Health & Safety Bond – Yes!
Proposition A would increase the City’s debt by $350 million through issuing general obligation bonds and increasing property taxes to repay the debt. Or rather – it was designed to MAINTAIN the current level of property taxes because this measure will only replace bonds that are retiring this year. So homeowners won’t notice the difference in their property taxes if Prop A passes. Very smart.
The money would be spent like this:
- $272 million:Renovation, expansion, and earthquake safety enhancement for fire safety and healthcare facilities, including General Hospital and the Department of Public Health.
- $58 million:The construction of a larger and more modern city ambulance center and the repair and modernization of fire stations.
- $20 million:Improving homeless care facilities.
Prop A was proposed by the Mayor, and 10 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors have endorsed it, along with the Chronicle and the San Francisco Democratic Party. From what I can tell, the only people who oppose it are libertarians and people who generally hate taxes.
I suppose if you’re a homeowner you’ll do the math and figure out how much your property tax bill would decrease if this measure fails (e.g., $90 per year for a $1 million home). If you’re a renter, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t vote for it, since technically it won’t cost you anything (unless you buy a home in San Francisco in the next 19 years, heh).
Personally, I think it goes without saying that if there are ANY buildings in SF that need to be seismically sound, it’s our fire stations and hospitals. What happens when the Big One hits?? We need our first responders to survive it. Right? What happens if we DON’T approve Prop A? I’m afraid to ask.
Also: given the raging debate about SF’s growing tent cities and why we aren’t doing more to house our homeless population, it would also seem like a no-brainer to put more money into homeless care facilities. Vote yes.
SF Proposition B – Set-Aside for Park & Rec Dept – Yes
It used to be that the parks in San Francisco were better funded. In the year 2000, the city allocated 2.1% of the General Fund to the Rec & Park Department. That percentage has declined steadily over time, and in 2016 that percentage has dwindled to 1.2% (which = $64 million, FYI). That means less money for the parks and playgrounds, and it’s why the Department has been forced to get creative with its funding sources. (See vendors inside city parks. Remember Chicken John’s puke-in in 2011? I do. Ew.)
What this ALSO means is, the parks that get the most love are the ones that are revenue-generating (think golf courses, Golden Gate Park, Kezar Stadium). And the ones that don’t generate revenue – like parks and rec centers in poor neighborhoods – are often neglected.
Prop B is sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell. It is the first ballot measure that would make the Rec & Park Department look at disparities in funding and service levels in low-income neighborhoods, and provide equitable funding for parks and playgrounds for every neighborhood in the city. I think that’s great!
Prop B would also require a minimum level of funding every year for city parks – set at $64 million, with a $3 million increase every year for ten years (unless the city experiences a deficit of $200 million or more). This is what we call a “set-aside” and I usually vote against set-asides because we already have too many in the city budget, tying the hands of the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors every year when they are making decisions about the city’s funding priorities.
But on rare occasion, it is necessary to institutionalize a priority into the city budget. This feels like one of those times. City government has shown its willingness – year after year – to continue to squeeze revenue out of our parks, in a way that leads to vast disparities in funding priorities. Nine members of the Board support the measure – as if to say “please tie our hands.” I’m voting yes.
SF Proposition C – Allowing for Increases in Affordable Housing Requirements – YES
This is by far the most complicated measure on the ballot, so bear with me.
The City Charter has affordable housing requirements for real estate developments that have 25 or more housing units in them. These developers can either make 12% of their units “affordable,” or pay a fee to the city, or build new affordable units offsite.*
Because these requirements are in the Charter, the only way to change them is to go back to the voters for another Charter amendment, which is an expensive and cumbersome process. Almost everyone agrees that the current requirements are too low, and many developments in process have already agreed to affordable (aka “inclusionary”) housing standards that are higher than 12%.
Rather than coming to the voters with a new number that’s higher than 12%, the authors of Prop C propose that we take it out of the Charter altogether. Prop C would authorize the Board of Supervisors to change affordable housing requirements by ordinance. Their argument is that with the rapidly changing housing needs of the city, the affordable housing requirements need to be more nimble, to change over time.
AND – here’s the key – Prop C provides that until the Board of Supervisors takes further action, the affordable housing requirement for new developments would go up to 25%, and Prop C would increase the off-site fee and the off-site units required if the developer doesn’t want to build on-site affordable units.**
This would make San Francisco’s inclusionary housing percentage the highest in the nation. Boston is at 13%, San Jose requires 15%, and New York requires that 20% of units be affordable in exchange for making the building much larger than otherwise permitted. Note, however, that there are developments in SF that have agreed to much higher affordable percentages. For example, the new development on the Giants parking lot agreed to 40% affordable. (!) But they did this at least in part because it will be built on City land, and since it’s on the waterfront the project is subject to much more scrutiny.
When they first heard about Prop C, the developers with projects in the pipeline screamed… as you would expect. And they argued that their inclusionary housing percentage shouldn’t change, since they have already made critical decisions about their projects based on the numbers that were in place when they first applied to the city for their approvals. SO – as a compromise, Prop C’s sponsors – Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim – agreed to grandfather in these developers to the old requirements, in exchange for their support of Prop C. (Clever!)
Pro-development activists claim that 25% is way too high, that it will make building new housing too expensive, that development in San Francisco will screech to a halt. That’s the same argument that developers make every time a new requirement is placed on them that will cost them money, so I am not convinced.
I also agree with Prop C’s sponsors that affordable housing requirements should come out of the Charter. 25% affordable seems a little high to me, but this number was determined after many months of conversation and compromise, and it has earned the support of both the Mayor (who is pro-development) and every member of the Board of Supervisors, and that’s saying something. So I say vote yes.
*A rental unit counts as “affordable” if it is affordable to households earning up to 55% of the area median income. A unit for sale counts toward these requirements if it is affordable to households earning up to 90% of the area median income.
**If you want to learn more about the definition of “affordability,” why Area Median Income matters, and what the in-lieu fees are, go here.
SF Proposition D – Investigations of All Police Shootings – YESSSSSS
You have heard the names Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora: black and Hispanic men who have been shot and killed by the SFPD in the last 2 years. Their deaths have given rise to a vocal and passionate #BlackLivesMatter movement in San Francisco. They are protesting every major city event, and five of their members are on a hunger strike.
But Nieto, Woods and Gongora aren’t the only people shot by cops in our city. In the last five years, 31 police shootings occurred, and complaints were filed with the City for eight of them.
The Office of Citizens Complaints (OCC) is the City Hall department that investigates complaints against police officers. OCC is not allowed to look into an incident if no one files a complaint, and this is where Prop D comes in: it would require them to investigate every single incident in SF in which a police officer kills or physically injures someone by firing a gun.
This measure is a good idea for several reasons. Officers are trained to avoid firing their weapons, and this measure will provide further reason for hesitation. If a cop knows that she will be investigated for using her gun – no matter what – she is less likely to use it in the first place. Moreover, an investigation by OCC is usually highly political, and if the office is required to investigate every single incident, it will have the political cover it needs to do its job.
The City Controller said Prop D could require the City to hire additional investigators to serve in the OCC, but estimated a “minimal effect on the cost of government.” The budget for the entire office was about $5 million in 2015-2016 and had 17 investigators on staff.
This measure was proposed by Supervisor Malia Cohen who represents the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods, and has dealt with more than her fair share of shootings in her district. Kudos to her for having the courage to propose it. Vote yes!
SF Proposition E – Amending Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – Yes
I won’t spend much of your time on this measure, because it’s just a legislative fix that no one opposes. No really! Not a single person signed up to write a ballot argument against Prop E in the voter handbook. I have never seen that happen before.
In 2006, San Francisco voters adopted the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO), which requires employers to provide hourly employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in San Francisco. Then, in 2015, the state legislature passed a similar law that does not override the PSLO and in some ways provides broader protections for employees. Employers have to comply with both the PSLO and the state law, which are slightly different from each other. What a pain.
Prop E would just amend the PSLO to make it so that: (1) employers don’t have to deal with separate compliance requirements, and (2) in the future, if there are changes to the state or federal law that provide broader protections to employees, the Board of Supervisors could amend the PSLO to adopt those provisions without having to go back to the voters. Makes perfect sense. Vote yes.
Regional Measure AA – San Francisco Bay Improvements – Yes!
This proposition has a very long name: “SF Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program” – and it’s an easy one to endorse, so I’ll keep it brief.
This measure proposes a $12 parcel tax – to be paid by every property owner in the nine counties that touch the San Francisco Bay – to raise approximately $25 million annually for the next twenty years. The money will go towards protecting and restoring the Bay by reducing trash, pollution and harmful toxins; improving water quality; restoring habitat for fish, birds and wildlife; protecting communities from floods; and increasing shoreline public access. Plus – the $25 million program could help attract even more federal and state funding for these projects! For $12 a year?? Done. Is there anyone who opposes it? Nope. Well, OK, there are people who hate both taxes and the environment. But if you have read this voter guide all the way to the end, then chances are good you are not one of those people. 😉
Unfortunately, because it’s a special tax it is subject to two-thirds approval in all 9 Bay Area counties. Eek. San Francisco and Alameda will pass it for sure, but they will have to carry the other counties with them. Fingers crossed. Vote yes!