Alix’s Voter Guide – California – November 2020

Hi folks. Thanks for reading my voter guide and for taking your voting responsibility seriously!

I cannot WAIT to throw Orange Julius out of the White House. I hope you are donating and volunteering and doing everything you can to take back our government at all levels. If you haven’t heard of the Sawbuck Patriots, check them out and join if you can. The members donate $10 or more every day to liberal candidates around the country with a path to victory, and whose campaigns will increase voter registration, education and turnout. Its efforts like theirs that are really making a difference in this election.

I’ve been hearing a lot of angst out there about how certain Democratic candidates fall short on this issue or that. I would like to direct you to a meme I just saw on social media:

Please keep that in mind while you study the California measures as well.

The California ballot isn’t especially long, but it is especially difficult. There are 12 statewide measures, 11 of them are very complex and many of them were very hard calls. You’ll find lots of lessons in here about California’s electoral past because many of the measures support or overturn previous measures, so understanding the history is critical to making an informed decision. 

And I want to warn you: none of these measures are perfect. I’m holding my nose on several of these recommendations because of the way they were drafted. But remember: your vote is not a valentine. If you would rather wait for perfect laws, or perfect candidates, you will be waiting a very long time.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my adorable toddler, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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.

Here are my recommendations for the California ballot, with detailed explanations below:

Prop 14 – Bonds to continue funding for stem cell research – No?
Prop 15 – Changing tax assessment of commercial property to fund schools and local government services  YES!
Prop 16 – Bring back affirmative action – YES
Prop 17 – Restoring voting rights to parolees – YES
Prop 18 – Give some 17 year olds the right to vote – YES
Prop 19 – Property tax adjustment for seniors, disabled, victims of wildfire or natural disasters – Yes?
Prop 20 – Restrict parole for certain non-violent offenders – NO!!!!
Prop 21 – Expands local government authority over rent control – Yes?
Prop 22 – Employment status of gig economy drivers – YES!
Prop 23 – Regulation of kidney dialysis clinics – NO!!!!
Prop 24 – Amending consumer privacy laws – NO
Prop 25 – Eliminate cash bail – YES!

Prop 14 – Bonds to Continue Funding Stem Cell Research – No?

This was a tough one for me. It’s a $5.5 billion (with a B!) bond measure that will fund critical stem cell research and treatments for Alzheimers and dementia, among other terrible diseases and injuries. But – now? Really? During an unprecedented economic meltdown? Great cause, but bad timing.

First, some background. Stem cells are those early embryonic and certain mature cells that can produce a range of human tissues, and which are being studied for their potential to cure chronic disease and repair serious injuries.  In the past there has been controversy around stem cell research because abortion opponents believed it was unethical to extract human cells from embryos, and they were able to convince the Bush administration to prohibit federal funds from being used for such research.

In 2004, California took a stand for this kind of medical research by passing Proposition 71, which issued $3 billion in bonds to fund California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and established a state constitutional right (!) to conduct stem cell studies.

Fast forward to 2019, when CIRM is running out of money. In July of last year, CIRM suspended applications for new projects, and as of October 2019, CIRM had only $132 million in funds remaining out of the original $3B.

This year, CIRM supporters placed Prop 14 on the ballot to authorize $5.5 billion in state general obligation bonds to fund CIRM, and add a few more requirements. Prop 14 would make sure that CIRM is spending at least 92.5% of the bond revenues on grants to entities conducting research, trials and programs. $1.5 billion of the bond revenues will go toward therapies and treatments for brain and nervous system diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.

Critics of CIRM say that they don’t have much to show for the $3 billion authorized by Prop 71. While CIRM’s research led to two approved cancer treatments and a number of other prospective therapies in various stages of development, the agency hasn’t been able to claim many other break-throughs.  (See this Chronicle investigation on the subject). To be fair, the science in this field is incremental and very, very slow, and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to invest in it, because what research has been completed is very promising. And in response to this criticism, the authors of Prop 14 added a provision requiring that some of the bond revenues will be spent on improving access to treatments and cures, and other real-world applications. Prop 14 also requires that 15 out of 85 employees of CIRM be focused on treatments and cures.

Here’s the kicker for me. If it passes, Prop 14 bonds will cost the state $2.3 billion in INTEREST over ~30 years, making the total amount that needs to be repaid $7.8 billion. Yikes! That’s a lot of money. However, that cost could be higher or lower depending on interest rates, and well, we know that interest rates are going to remain low for quite some time. (Side note: now is the time to refi your mortgage or take out a loan – borrowing money is basically free right now). The state General Fund (meaning, you the taxpayer) would pay most of the costs. It’s worth mentioning here that the state is still repaying the original $3 billion.

Opponents of Prop 14 argue that California faces an enormous budget deficit due to the COVID-related economic collapse, and the state has far more pressing priorities than medical research (i.e., healthcare, jobs, and housing). That’s a fair point, and it’s a tough time to ask California to take on more debt. That said, the $5.5 billion in bond revenues won’t go into a black hole: it would pay for thousands of jobs for Californians who do this kind of work, which will undoubtedly give a boost to the state’s economy.

Stem cell research advocate Dana Reeve and her late husband Christopher, RIP

Opponents also say that the original justification for funding CIRM was the federal opposition to stem cell research, which is no longer a factor. It is true that in 2009, President Barack Obama lifted most of the restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. However, some federal office holders continue to agree with abortion opponents that stem cell research is unethical, and if (God forbid!) Trump gets re-elected, there is no telling what he will do. Moreover, we have learned in the last 4 years that we can’t rely on the federal government for funding of science, so California is probably on its own here. 

But there’s something weird about this measure, I’m not sure what to make of it. The “yes” side has a robust campaign, and they have raised more than $9 million. They have the endorsements of the California Democratic Party, UC Board of Regents, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. By contrast, the “No” side hasn’t organized a campaign, and it also hasn’t raised a single dollar as of September 19. This is usually a signal to me that the “no” side doesn’t have much institutional support, or maybe they just know they are going to lose. However, all of the major California newspapers have come out against Prop 14. I’ve never seen that happen before. It’s rare that news organizations across this diverse state develop such a consensus on anything, much less on the side of a non-existent campaign. So make of that what you will.

You can probably tell I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit on this one. I believe in science, and I am excited about the potential future applications of stem cell therapies. When my daughter was born, I paid a lot of money to preserve her cord blood stem cells in case a life-saving treatment becomes necessary, knowing full well that the treatment she may need someday has not yet been developed. I am also pleased to see that this research is moving toward a real-world phase of treatments for terrible chronic illnesses and injuries. And just because the science is slow, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fund it.

However, $7.8 BILLION DOLLARS IN NEW DEBT. YEESH. In a boom year, this ballot measure would have been an easy yes for me. But in 2020? I think of how many homeless people that would house, or how many small businesses it would save. In the current economic catastrophe, it does feel like CIRM should find another source of funding. I am going to hold my nose and vote no on this one, and call it a case of terrible timing. 

Prop 15Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial Property to Fund Schools and Local Government Services –  YES!

This one is super wonky – but also super important! – so bear with me.

Let’s start with a(nother) brief history lesson. In 1978, California voters approved Proposition 13, which capped property taxes on residential, commercial, and industrial real estate at 1 percent of the price at the time of purchase. No matter how long you own the property, your property tax is capped, with a small annual adjustment that is less than 2% of your existing tax. When a property is sold to new owners, however, the property tax is reassessed at 1 percent of its sale price and the limit on increases to taxable value resets.

If you’re a homeowner, you have benefited from this law because it has kept your property taxes about the same, even if your home value has increased over time. Before Prop 13, some homeowners, particularly retirees on fixed incomes, were being priced out of their own homes because as their property value increased, their property taxes became out of reach for them.

But while property owners benefitted from Prop 13, schools and other government-funded services suffered, because property taxes are a major source of revenue for local government.

When I was growing up in LA County in the 1970’s, California had one of the best funded, most envied public education systems in the United States. Today, only a handful of states rank lower than California in mathematics, science and reading proficiency. Prop 13 is partially to blame. As you can see in this chart, California’s education spending continues to lag behind the rest of the nation.

Until recently, Prop 13 has been considered a third rail that no politician wanted to touch. Who wants to be responsible for pricing Grandma out of her home? But in the last few years, a few intrepid legislators have started building the case to split commercial and industrial properties off from Prop 13’s protections (calling it a “split roll”), arguing that big business shouldn’t be protected from paying higher property taxes, and local governments desperately needs the revenue to pay for essential services.

Enter Prop 15.

Prop 15 would amend the state constitution require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on their market value. Prop 15 carves out properties zoned as commercial agriculture because everyone recognizes that farms operate on tight margins and nobody wants to put them out of business.

Prop 15 also includes many protections for small businesses.  For most commercial businesses, the change from purchase price to market value will start in fiscal year 2022, but for shopping malls and other properties that rent to small businesses it will start in 2025 (or at a later date to be determined by the legislature). The ballot initiative would make an exception for properties whose business owners have $3 million or less in holdings in California – these properties would continue to be taxed based on their original purchase price. And finally, as an added bonus, Prop 15 would exempt a small business’s tangible personal property from taxes. As a former small business owner, I can tell you this part is huge. I always thought it was weird that I could be taxed on the equipment I needed to run my business, it just felt like government overreach to me.

The state’s fiscal analyst estimated that, after Prop 15 is fully implemented in 5 years or so, it would generate between $7.5 billion and $12 billion in revenue per year. Billion with a B! That’s a lot of moolah! About 40% would be allocated to schools and 60% will go to local governments for things like homeless services and police and fire departments.

Check out this cool online calculator that will tell you how much money will go to schools in your county if Prop 13 passes. San Francisco Unified School District will receive an estimated $35.6 million per year! Oh em gee. That’s a lot of pencils.

Here’s something I like about Prop15: it asks the state legislature to pass laws to phase-in the market value-based taxes, and how often the reassessments would occur (no less than three years between reassessments), and to establish an appeals process for challenging a reassessment. I’m glad these decisions were punted, because if they were codified by the ballot measure they would be impossible to amend. But by delegating it to the legislature, these decisions can be modified over time, as circumstances change.

Supporters of Prop 15 point out that California is facing a $54-billion budget deficit over the next year because of COVID-19. State revenues are expected to drop by a staggering $41.2 billion compared with a pre-coronavirus projection in January, putting school funding in jeopardy.

Prop 15 has received national attention – and has earned endorsements from the likes of Senators Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren; Governor Newsom, former VP Joe Biden, and former Presidential candidates Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, and Beto O’Roarke. The Democratic Party and the Green Party agree on it, as do most major labor unions, local government officials, and civil rights organizations including the ACLU, Equality California, and the League of Conservation Voters.

Opponents include large commercial property owners like Boston Properties, people who hate all taxes like Americans for Tax Reform, pro-business organizations including the California Chamber of Commerce, California New Car Dealers Association, and the California Restaurant Association. They argue that Prop 15 is a slippery slope, and the proponents will be coming for residential property taxes next. The sponsors of Prop 15 have denied this, and I haven’t seen any credible evidence backing up the claim.

Opponents also argue that California already has a terrible climate for business and job creation, and this measure will make it even worse. They threaten that jobs will leave California, costing the state even more revenue than Prop 15 is supposed to raise.

That last point is interesting in light of this new pandemic world we live in. Because where is a work-from-home job “located,” anyway? Now that many workers aren’t required to go to an office every day, many are leaving the state for cheaper rents elsewhere. I’ll be curious to see how that shakes out for California, but I doubt that Prop 15 will tip the scales for any business as to whether they keep their headquarters here or whether they leave. 

The one thing that gives me pause about this measure is the impact it will have on the industrial arts. As one artist friend pointed out to me, industrial art spaces aren’t big money generators, and if Prop 25 passes, the owners of these properties may price artists out in order to cover their new tax obligations.

But I’m a yes on this one, because I think it’s long over due that we split the tax roll and start funding the schools again. As the LA Times writes, “The other way that one could… view Proposition 15 is through a lens of hope. At long last there is a tangible fix in sight for one of California’s most intractable problems: a wildly unfair and lopsided property tax system that for four decades has starved local governments of the revenue they need to provide services and that has distorted the cost of buying a house and starting a business, to the detriment of young families and entrepreneurs. … Indeed, much of what ails California — crumbling roads, under-resourced schools and inadequate social services — can be traced to Proposition 13 and related anti-tax measures. Proposition 13 also shifted the local tax burden, as cities, counties and school districts increasingly turned to other levies, such as sales, hotel and utility taxes, to make up the lost revenue.” 

Vote yes.

Prop 16 – Bring Back Affirmative Action – YES

Prop 16 is especially timely in light of the Black Lives Matter movement and all the recent attention on racial injustice nationwide. If Prop 16 passes, it means the state could once again consider race, sex and ethnicity in hiring, awarding contracts and student admissions, to account for racial disparities in our public institutions.

Let’s go back a few decades. In 1994, Republican Pete Wilson was Governor of California, and Republicans held many prominent positions in state government. That year, anti-immigrant sentiment had reached a boiling point, and the voters of California approved Prop 187, which established a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibited undocumented immigrants from using public services. (It was later held to be unconstitutional.) California was a very different place than it is now.

Two years later, California voters approved Prop 209, which prohibited the use of affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting on account of a person’s or group’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. It was deceptively named the California Civil Rights Initiative, and it passed with 55% of the vote.

Ward Connerly is a leading advocate against affirmative action in California

Ward Connerly, a member of the University of California Board of Regents, led the campaign behind Proposition 209, saying, “Affirmative action was meant to be temporary. It was meant to be a stronger dose of equal opportunity for individuals, and the prescription was intended to expire when the body politic had developed sufficient immunity to the virus of prejudice and discrimination.” He argued that affirmative action was no longer necessary because racial bias no longer existed.

HAHAHA! That’s a good one.

As we have all seen in recent months, with the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, and the nationwide protests that have ensued, not to mention the white supremacists that have been emboldened by President Trump’s dog whistles… discrimination is alive and well in America, and it continues to disadvantage women and people of color.

With that in mind, state Assembly member Shirley Weber (D-79) introduced the legislation that would become Proposition 16 to repeal Prop 209, stating that “the ongoing [coronavirus] pandemic, as well as recent tragedies of police violence, is forcing Californians to acknowledge the deep-seated inequality and far-reaching institutional failures that show that your race and gender still matter.”

If Prop 16 passes, it doesn’t mean that government agencies could do whatever they want to tip the scales for women and minorities. Technically, Proposition 16 would merely remove the state ban on affirmative action from the California Constitution. Government agencies in California would still need to comply with federal laws regarding affirmative action, including a ban on strict racial quotas and racial point systems in higher education admissions. However, agencies could conduct individualized, holistic reviews that consider race as one of many factors, in the interest of educational diversity.

Supporters of Prop 16 include Governor Gavin Newsom, Senators Feinstein and Harris, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and every Democratic Member of Congress representing CA, labor unions including the teachers and nurses, civil rights groups including the ACLU, NAACP, Equality California, Environmental Defense Fund, and, wait for it…the American Beverage Association? Yeah, I don’t get that last one either. But I think it shows the broad range of support this one has from the left… and beverage manufacturers. The campaign has raised more than $12 million, mostly from wealthy white liberal donors.

These proponents argue that Prop 16 levels the playing field for women- and minority-owned businesses who have lost out on public contracts because they don’t have the same connections or resources of those businesses owned by white men.

As for education, they argue that white wealthy Californians have an advantage in college admissions, because they have access to tutors and SAT prep classes, extra-curricular activities that cost money to participate in. And let’s not even talk about the recent college admissions scandal, which laid bare the preferential treatment some students have received through their families’ wealth or political or social connections.

Opponents of Prop 16 include Ward Connerly, Republican former Congressmen Tom Campbell and Darrell Issa, Republican members of the state legislature, conservative think tanks, and some Asian-American political organizations. They have only raised about a million dollars, which tells me their campaign isn’t well organized.

The opponents argue that affirmative action IS discrimination, and it hurts as many people as it helps. They also argue that our universities are already diverse, and that it is more appropriate for schools to consider socioeconomic factors rather than race; using affirmative action to help middle class Black and LatinX students would be patently unfair. Also: if UCs are able to use race as a factor in admissions, will they get lazy and use race as a proxy for socioeconomic status?

Interestingly, this measure has divided the Asian-American political world, with the liberal side supporting the measure, and the conservative side adamantly against it. The conservative Asian groups are focused on the education piece, arguing that if Prop 16 passes, Black and LatinX students will take the place of Asian-American students with stronger academic records, particularly at the top UCs.

As for public contracting, opponents of Prop 16 argue that introducing affirmative action will cost taxpayers “BILLIONS of dollars,” because the state will reject lowest qualified bidders and in order to choose higher-priced minority- and women-owned contractors. If saving taxpayer dollars is more important to you than equal opportunity, then you should vote no on 16. I personally think the state can do more to dismantle structural racism, even if it costs a few more dollars. 

I think one of the reasons Prop 209 passed is because it was deceptively named the California Civil Rights Initiative, and was written in a confusing way to claim that it was ending discrimination. Its repeal is way overdue. If you hate racism and think it still exists, vote yes on Prop 16.

I agree with the LA Times Editorial Board, who wrote, “The death of George Floyd, yet another unarmed Black man killed by police, and the COVID-19 pandemic‘s disproportionate toll on Black and Latino Americans have been a wake-up call for this country. We must act to dismantle the racism baked into our institutions, and voting yes on Proposition 16 on Nov. 3 will help. … If we want to live in a country that better reflects our national narrative of equal opportunity, we have to build it. That means using the right tools, such as affirmative action. Vote yes on Proposition 16.” 

Prop 17 – Restoring Voting Rights to Parolees – YES

As you probably know, I’m a big voting rights advocate. And yet, even I didn’t know that former felons couldn’t vote in California until after their parole was completed. It’s confusing because the law has changed a few times, and every state treats former convicts differently.

Currently, state law disqualifies people with felonies from voting until their imprisonment and parole are completed. Prop 17 would make it so that former felons could register to vote as soon as they are released from prison.

Here’s how the states compare to California:

  • 2 states – Maine and Vermont – allow people in prison and on parole to vote
  • 17 states prohibit people in prison from voting, but allow them to vote after they are released and are on parole
  • California + 2 other states prohibit people from voting while in prison AND on parole
  • 18 states disqualify people from voting who are in prison, on parole, or on probation
  • 7 states prohibit people convicted of certain felonies from ever regaining the right to vote
  • 3 states prohibit felons from ever regaining the right to vote, although their governors can issue orders to restore voting rights to individuals or groups

As you can see, California is somewhere in the middle with regard to restoring voting rights. The proponents of Prop 17 want to bring California closer to the progressive side of the voting rights spectrum.

Supporters of Prop 17 include Senator Kamala Harris, the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, and the League of Women Voters. They argue that the purpose of parole is to help reintegrate former convicts back into the mainstream. They are often working, raising families, and paying taxes, so they should have a say in government policies that impact their lives.  Moreover, they argue, we as a state should encourage former prisoners to re-enter society and engage in civic life. Voting will help give these citizens a bigger stake in their communities, which will prevent future criminal behavior.

If you are wondering if this is about race, you are spot on. Proponents of Prop 17 argue that disallowing parolees to vote is rooted in a racist and punitive system that intentionally deprives marginalized people of their political power. I don’t have the time here to delve into the history of racism in our criminal justice system and I encourage you to watch the movie “13th if you haven’t already. It’s a devastating examination of how the criminal justice system has been manipulated to deprive Black and Brown communities of their civil rights. 

The opposition to Prop 17 includes Republican State Senator Jim Nielsen and the California Republican Party. They argue that parole is an essential component of a criminal sentence, and its purpose is to provide rehabilitation before a person’s full rights are earned and restored. Those who are on parole are still making full restitution for their crimes.

They also argue Prop 17 is a craven attempt by Democrats to give themselves a larger advantage in state elections, because African-Americans make up a disproportionate amount of imprisoned citizens, and they more often vote for Democrats. There is probably some truth to that; however, I would argue that it is because of the racial bias in the criminal justice system that so many African-Americans were unjustly deprived of their voting rights in the first place.

This one was an easy one for me. Vote yes.

Prop 18 – Give some 17 year olds the right to vote – YES

As my dad drove me to my first day of high school, he asked me, “Honey, what do you think you’ll do at school today?” I responded, “I’m going to be elected freshman class president.” Imagine Tracy Flick and Alex P. Keaton had a love child, and that was me. I was ambitious and into politics; I read the LA Times and listened to NPR. I debated with my parents about term limits and vegetarianism, and I couldn’t WAIT to register to vote.

Image by Bob Akester/Paramount Pictures

Now, I realize that I was not your typical kid. The vast majority of teenagers aren’t interested in government and elections. But wouldn’t it be awesome if more of them were?

That’s the idea behind Prop 18, which will give 17 year olds the right to vote ONLY in California primary elections if they will turn 18 by the time of the general election. This is a small group of kids – 17 year olds whose birthdays fall between March and November in election years.  If it passes, California will join 18 other states and Washington, D.C. in allowing this subset of 17-year-olds to vote in primaries.

Supporters include Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Democratic Party, and high school students everywhere. They argue that Prop 18 will give these teenagers the ability to fully engage in the November election, because participating in the sorting out of candidates in the primary will inform their eventual choice in November. Moreover, it is only reasonable that these youth be afforded the opportunity to shape the choices that appear on the general election ballot by participating in the primary.

Political candidates always struggle to get young voters excited about elections. According to research conducted by the California Civic Engagement Project, in the 2020 primary election in California, voters between 18 and 24 made up 14.5% of the population eligible to vote, yet only about 6% of those who actually voted in the election. The proponents of Prop 18 say that voting is habit-forming—once an individual votes in an election, they are more likely to do so again. This is why they argue that early involvement in the elections is an opportunity to empower California’s youngest voters and encourage them to become life-long participants in the electoral process.

The official opponents are the Election Integrity Project California and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who argue that 17-year-olds are legal minors, living at home, and they will be unduly influenced by their parents and teachers. They won’t be expressing their own, independently thought-out views through their votes.  Moreover, they point out, primary elections aren’t just about candidate races – tax increases and other ballot measures will be decided by these voters, who don’t have the life experience to make informed decisions. They point to drivers license restrictions on 16 and 17 year olds, whom the state has determined don’t have the adequate brain development to drive safely until their 18th birthday. “The agreed-upon age of reason, both statewide and nationally,” they say,”is 18.”

Besides, they argue, politically interested young people can be involved in the political process in all kinds of ways other than voting, including working on campaigns, helping candidates get out the vote, speaking their minds and educating themselves.

If you read between the lines, you can see that these groups are most worried that teenagers, most of whom don’t pay income taxes or property taxes, will serve as a solid pro-tax vote. They point to a 2019 proposed tax increase in Los Angeles that would have raised money for schools. LA Unified engaged in a campaign in favor of the measure, posting banners on campus, and handing out flyers and literature for students to take home, in an effort to influence students and their families.

You probably haven’t seen any ads for or against this measure. By September 19, the “yes” campaign had raised only $300k, and the “no” campaign had raised $0.

This measure is also about increasing turnout in primary elections, because the number of voters who participate in primaries is always exceedingly low. For example, in the 2016 Presidential election, 57% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the November Presidential election, whereas only 34% of eligible voters showed up for the March primary.  If you work in politics, you know that primary voters also tend to be more conservative, older homeowners. So Prop 18 could help make a dent in this demographic balance.

To clarify, I didn’t agree with Keaton’s politics

Considering who I was at the age of 17, this one is an easy yes for me. If this measure gets more people in the habit of voting at a younger age, that is a very good thing.

Prop 19 – The Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire or Natural Disasters Act – yes?

This is another wonky measure that applies to a narrow band of citizens. It kind of hurts my brain, so I’ll try not to waste much of your time on it.

Prop 19 proposes to change the rules for tax assessment transfers for a few categories of homeowners. In California, if you are over 55, have a severe disability, or you are a victim of natural disaster or hazardous waste contamination, you can buy another home and transfer your (Prop-13 protected) tax assessment to your new home, IF the new home has a lesser market value. This law is designed to protect people who are older, disabled, etc. and may not be able to pay a higher property tax when they choose to – or are forced to – relocate.

Prop 19 would:

(1) Allow these eligible homeowners to transfer their tax assessments anywhere within the state and allow tax assessments to be transferred to a more expensive home with an upward adjustment; 

(2) Increase the number of times a senior or disabled person can transfer their tax assessment from one time to three times (disaster and contamination victims would continue to be allowed only one transfer);

(3) Eliminate an exemption that currently allows a parent or grandparent to transfer their primary home to a child or grandchild without the property’s tax assessment resetting to market value, IF the child or grandchild does not use the inherited property as their principal residence;

(4) Create the California Fire Response Fund (CFRF) and County Revenue Protection Fund (CRPF) out of the additional revenues and net savings resulting from the ballot measure. The County Revenue Protection Fund would be used to reimburse counties for revenue losses related to Prop 19’s property tax changes. The Fire Response Fund would be used to fund fire suppression staffing and full-time station-based personnel.

I gotta say, that last part is genius. Who doesn’t want to make sure Grandma and wildfire victims aren’t priced out of a new home, WHILE ALSO raising money for local governments AND firefighters?? It’s pandering, for sure. But very clever.

Anyhoo, supporters include Governor Newsom, State Controller Betty Yee , State Treasurer Fiona Ma, the California Democratic Party, all the labor unions including teachers and nurses, civil rights orgs like the NAACP, Congress of California Seniors (of course), California Statewide Law Enforcement Association, California Association of Realtors, firefighters, and the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

They argue that Prop 19 provides housing relief for millions of seniors, many feeling trapped in homes they can’t maintain, with too many stairs, located too far from family or medical care, and made worse by coronavirus health risks. It also closes a loophole that allows wealthy homeowners to transfer property tax assessments on their vacation homes when giving them to their children, who have no intention to live there. And it helps wildfire victims move to a replacement home anywhere in the state.

Proponents also claim it will generate hundreds of millions in revenue for schools and local governments from senior home sales and from closing the loopholes on inherited properties.

The only official opponent I could find is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is the group that hates all taxes and would prefer that property taxes were eliminated entirely. They argue that Prop 19 chips away at the taxpayer protections in Prop 13 (1978). It’s true, it does, but it is really only taking away the right of a parent or grandparent from transferring a low tax assessment when giving a home to a family member, who then doesn’t intend to live there.

And um, wow –  the “yes” campaign has raised $36 million, and opposition has raised only about $45,000. Talk about lopsided.

Here’s an interesting twist, though: every newspaper is against it. The LA Times, SF Chronicle, Mercury News, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian… Here’s what they say:

“[It’s] an attempt by real estate interests to accomplish what they couldn’t accomplish two years ago by pandering to the state’s firefighters union.” Orange County Register Editorial Board

“Prop. 19 merely plugs one hole in the state’s porous property tax laws while creating another. It’s time for holistic reform that simplifies the system and makes it more equitable. This isn’t it. […]The real reform would be to abolish the tax-transfer program, not expand it.” Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards

“[Prop 19] favors one narrow segment of the tax-paying public but does nothing for the rest of the state’s home buyers. The measure shows the convoluted extremes that California’s tangled property tax system produces. Making it worse isn’t the answer.” San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board

This was a tough call for me, but on balance I think I’m a “yes.” I get really mad when I see super detailed measures on the ballot that frankly the average citizen has no business weighing in on. It infuriates me that millions of Californians have to become experts in tax law every November in order to make an educated vote. I also agree with the newspapers that this measure seems super convoluted, and that we need to overhaul our property tax system entirely to make sure that the folks who need protection will get it without going to the voters every time.

However, the only way to get this reform done is by ballot measure because Prop 19 would change pieces of Prop 13 tax protections, and ballot measures can only be amended by other ballot measures. Ugh. Until we are ready to change the way we make laws in California, I will hold my nose and vote for reforms like this one.

Prop 20 – Restrict parole for certain non-violent offenders – NO!!!!

This was an easy one for me. Prop 20 is a “tough on crime” bill that was put on the ballot by prison guards, and it is widely supported by law enforcement and the Republican Party. It is opposed by civil rights groups, Democrats, voting rights groups, crime victims’ advocates, and even a few District Attorneys. That’s all I need to know.

OK, fine, let’s get into the details.

Prop 20 will impose new restrictions on the state’s parole program for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term for their primary offense. The measure seeks to roll back reforms enacted in the last decade found in these three laws, two of which you probably voted on:

Assembly Bill 109 (2011) transferred certain non-serious and non-violent felons from state prison to county jails. This reform was known as “realignment,” and was brought about because of overcrowding in California prisons, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled was so inhumane as to be cruel and unusual punishment. (!!) 

Proposition 47 (2014) reclassified some non-serious and non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and allowed for the re-sentencing of about 10,000 inmates who had previously been convicted of those specific crimes. Prop 47 also increased the threshold for felony theft to $950, so that every theft under $950 would be considered a misdemeanor.  Note: Retailers were mad about this change, because police don’t prioritize investigating and charging misdemeanors, so increasing the threshold would mean a lot more shoplifting cases wouldn’t get prosecuted.

Proposition 57 (2016) expanded credits for good behavior and expanded parole for felons convicted of non-serious and non-violent crimes. It allowed judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to charge juveniles as adults. Using numbers from early 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons that could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57.

An undated photo from the California corrections department shows inmates in crowded conditions at the state prison in Lancaster. (LA Times)

These laws each had a dramatic impact on the number of people sent to prison and the length of prison terms for non-violent offenders. The graph below illustrates the state’s imprisonment rate from 1995 through 2019 and the impact of these three laws. The orange bars – from left to right – represent the enactments of AB 109, Prop 47, and Prop 57.

Pretty amazing, no? It gives me goosebumps.

I look at that chart and I see a fairer criminal justice system and crimes that are being penalized more humanely. Prison guards and law enforcement unions look at that chart and they see prison revenues dropping and criminals roaming the streets. Which is why they proposed Prop 20.

Prop 20 will roll back Prop 57 by expanding the list of offenses that disqualify an inmate from parole, keeping non-violent felons in prison longer.  You heard that right.

It would change the threshold for some theft crimes from $950 down to $250!! Yep, they want to send MORE people to prison for longer terms, for stealing $250 worth of goods. Just thought I’d mention that one of the most successful musicals of all time was premised on the cruelty of sending a man to prison for five years for stealing a loaf of bread. But I digress.

The measure would make specific types of theft and fraud crimes, including firearm theft, vehicle theft, and unlawful use of a credit card, chargeable as felonies, rather than automatic misdemeanors.

And finally, Prop 20 would also require people convicted of certain misdemeanors to submit DNA samples for a state database.  Given how useful genetic tracing has become in solving crimes, I understand why law enforcement wants to get the DNA of everyone who comes into contact with the criminal justice system. But I also totally get the privacy concerns, especially given that people of color have more interactions with police because of systemic racism.

Minority Report was a scary dystopian action movie, not a feel good film about a crime-free future

As if all that weren’t enough, the state’s legislative analyst says that Prop 20 will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually in increased state and local correctional costs, as well as a few million dollars annually for probation bureaucracy and felony theft filings, and processing the additional DNA samples.

Supporters of Prop 20 include the Republican Party of California, some Republican elected officials, prison guards and other law enforcement unions. Albertson’s Grocery chain is an official supporter too, because of the change in the threshold for retail theft.

Proponents argue that the definition of “nonviolent crime” needs to change, because sex trafficking, child endangerment and hate crimes are considered nonviolent.  They claim that serial theft rates are up in California since Prop 47 reduced penalties for theft in 2014. They are right that shoplifting is on the rise, and that it isn’t prosecuted enough, but I doubt that’s because of the dollar threshold in state law. The proponents haven’t convinced me that stronger criminal penalties will stop car break-ins and home burglaries. To me, the answer is that cops should investigate and charge theft regardless of the criminal penalties associated with them.

The opposition to Prop 20 includes former Governor Jerry Brown, the California Democratic Party, some wealthy liberals who bankrolled the “no” campaign, the ACLU, the California League of Conversation Voters, crime victims’ organizations, Public Defenders, League of Women Voters, and a few liberal District Attorneys. 

They argue that California already has lengthy sentences and strict punishment for serious and violent crime. They say the proponents of Prop. 20 are trying to scare you into rolling back effective criminal justice reforms and spending tens of millions of your taxpayer dollars on prisons. Prop 20 cuts rehabilitation programs, which are proven to help make prisoners productive members of society. Governor Brown said, “Prop. 20 wants to basically eliminate all hope in the prison. Men who have given decades will have no chance to earn their way back to society. And that’s fundamental to any kind of criminal justice system that while you impose punishment, you make room for redemption and rehabilitation in the prison.” 

All the newspapers oppose Prop 20, even the ones from conservative Bakersfield and Orange County. The San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board wrote, “Various studies have shown these dramatic drops in incarceration have not contributed to a significant increase in crime, which continues to stabilize at 1960s levels. It’s instructive that one of the big early funders of Proposition 20 was the prison guards, with boosts from other law enforcement unions. Voters who were fed up with the waste of money and waste of lives — and racial disparities — rejected that retrograde mindset with the passages of Props. 47 and 57. Vote no on Prop. 20.”

Prop 21 – Expands local government authority over rent control –  Yes?

Why is it that every single measure on this ballot requires a history lesson? Ugh. You have no idea how much work this voter guide is making me do.

Let’s go back to 1995. The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act was approved by a bi-partisan legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Pete Wilson. Costa-Hawkins provides that cities cannot enact rent control on housing that was built after February 1, 1995, or on single housing units such as single family homes, condos and townhouses. It also provides for “vacancy decontrol,” meaning, landlords have a right to increase rent prices to market rates after a tenant moves out.

Former Governor Pete Wilson

As California’s housing crisis worsened over the years, many attempts have been made to amend Costa-Hawkins both in the state legislature and at the ballot box, in order to give local governments more power to protect tenants from rising rents.

In 2018, California voters rejected Prop 10, which would have repealed Costa-Hawkins, and allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing. The proponents of Prop 10 learned their lesson that year, namely that voters weren’t interested a wholesale repeal, so they came back with a more modest proposal in the form of this year’s Prop 21.

Prop 21 would replace Costa-Hawkins and allow local governments to expand rent control to any housing unit (including single family homes and condos), except those that were built in the last 15 years. It also exempts property from rent control where the landlord only owns one or two buildings.

The most controversial piece of Prop 21 is that it would allow landlords to increase rent by only 15 percent during the first three years following a vacancy (a.k.a. “vacancy control”). Under Costa-Hawkins, landlords can increase the rent to market price after a tenant vacates the unit. Landlords REALLY don’t like this provision because it limits the amount that landlords can raise the rent, even after a tenant vacates who has been in a rent-controlled unit for decades. I agree it’s kinda mean.

Prop 21 has garnered nationwide attention, and has earned the support of Senators Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialists of America, the ACLU, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the California Democratic Party, SEIU, the California Nurses Association, and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers.  Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored Prop 10 in 2018, also sponsored Prop 21.

Supporters say that the rent is too damn high. California’s housing crisis has reached epic proportions, and reform is needed to protect renters from financial ruin. Small businesses are being squeezed because so much of people’s income is being spent on rent. Skyrocketing rents have pushed more than 150,000 Californians into homelessness. COVID-19 has left millions of workers without jobs and worried about their ability to stay in their homes.

Senator Sanders argues,”This initiative will allow California cities to pass sensible limits on rent increases and protect families, seniors and veterans from skyrocketing rents. I was born and raised in a three-and-a-half room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. That most minimal form of economic security was crucial for our family, but today that type of economic security does not exist for millions of Americans. That has got to change.”

Prop 21 exempts landlords who own only one or two buildings, thus protecting homeowners who are not in the rental business. Proponents also claim it is fair to landlords by guaranteeing them a (small) profit.

In a rare split from the rest of his party, Governor Gavin Newsom opposes the bill. He is joined by senior advocates, the Republican Party of California, building trade unions, real estate developers and landlord groups, chambers of commerce, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Newsom says, “Proposition 21, like Proposition 10 before it, runs the all-too-real risk of discouraging availability of affordable housing in our state.”  Senior advocates say that Prop 21 doesn’t go far enough to protect senior renters and senior homeowners who rent out their homes to fund their retirement.

The building trades are against it because they say that expanding rent control means that private sector builders will be less motivated to build new affordable housing units, and landlords of rent-controlled units won’t spend the money on renovating their buildings. They argue that if we want to lower rents, we should focus instead on changing strict permitting processes and building codes, which will lead to building more housing.

It’s true that rent control often leads to rental housing stock deteriorating faster, because landlords don’t put much money into building maintenance, since the cost isn’t always covered by the rent they make. And it’s also true that developers are less likely to build housing in cities where they won’t be able to recoup their costs. But I think the 15-year rolling exemption mitigates that concern – they can charge whatever they want for the first 15 years a building is occupied.

Why is this on the ballot at all? Friends in the state legislature tell me that there have been multiple attempts to strike deals to reform Costa-Hawkins. My sense is that it will never get changed unless it’s at the ballot box.

Interestingly, only one major paper, the LA Times, is in favor of Prop 21. The rest are against it. The LA Times wrote, “Ultimately, the solution to California’s housing crisis is to build more housing, especially affordable housing. That will take reforming zoning codes and regulations that make it impossible to build apartments and townhomes in many communities across the state. It will require reducing onerous fees and bureaucratic hurdles that layer on costs and push up the price of new homes. This is vital work to make California more affordable, but it will take years to construct enough homes to bring down prices. Until then, rent control can be a helpful tool to provide housing stability.” 

On the “no” side, the SF Chronicle wrote, “While researchers have found that rent control can confer substantial benefits on affected tenants, it does so at the expense not only of property owners but also of other tenants. And those benefits are not reliably distributed to those who need them most. The greatest cost, meanwhile, will be to a housing market that can ill afford it, further restricting supply and inflating prices. Californians should vote no on Prop. 21 or risk aggravating the crisis it purports to address.” 

Image by Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I think I’m a “yes” vote. Really, the debate here comes down to whether you think more money should go to landlords or be kept in renters’ pockets. If you’re a landlord, you probably hate this bill. If you’re a tenant, you probably love it. If you’re a homeowner in a neighborhood with lots of units that will become rent-controlled under Prop 21, you might vote no because the buildings around you won’t be maintained as well and their curb appeal could drag down the value of your home. Or, you could think about the bigger picture and see how rising housing costs are ravaging communities across the state, especially in the COVID era. Vote your conscience on this one.

Prop 22 – Employment status of gig economy drivers – YES!

I’m so passionate about Prop 22 that I’ve written a separate post about it. See my thorough analysis here.

Prop 23 – Regulation of Kidney Dialysis Clinics – NO!!!!

I can’t believe it, ANOTHER KIDNEY DIALYSIS BALLOT MEASURE?! You may remember Prop 8 from 2018, which asked voters to limit the profits of kidney dialysis clinics. I went “no” on that one because I didn’t think it was the kind of law that should be decided by the voters. And it was clearly a revenge play by SEIU-UHW West, the labor union that was in a fight with the state’s two largest dialysis businesses DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care. I feel that same way about Prop 23.

Here we are again. Same story, different day. 

SEIU-West has been trying to organize the kidney dialysis clinics for years, and they claim that the big greedy dialysis clinic owners aren’t doing right by their patients or staff and they want better staff-to-patient ratios. The union put Prop 23 on the ballot because they tried getting a law passed in the legislature, but they couldn’t get the votes.

If it passes, Prop 23 would place new requirements on kidney dialysis clinics in the state, including:

  • At least one licensed physician must be on site during treatment;
  • Clinics must report dialysis-related infection data to state and federal governments;
  • Clinics may not close or reduce services without approval from the state; and
  • Clinics may not discriminate against patients based on the source of payment for care.

Supporters of Prop 23 include SEIU-West, the California Democratic Party, and some Democratic legislators. They argue that Prop 23 makes “common sense” improvements to the way that dialysis clinics operate. It’s all about the patients. Mm hmm.

As to the doctor requirement, they argue that dialysis is a dangerous procedure, and if something goes wrong, a doctor or highly trained nurse should be nearby. As for the reporting requirement, they say that they want problems to be identified and solved to protect patients, implying that the clinics aren’t meeting patient needs. Finally, they say that the clinics are critical to patient survival so they shouldn’t be allowed to close or reduce their services, even if this measure makes their costs go up.

I researched this measure pretty thoroughly, and found that the “yes” campaign hasn’t provided any data that back up their claims that these reforms are needed. Check out their website, it’s pretty thin.

Opponents of Prop 23 include the dialysis clinic owners, the California Republican Party, retired veterans groups, the California Nurses Association, the California Medical Association, the California NAACP. All major newspapers in California oppose the bill as well.

They argue that Prop 23 jeopardizes access to care by imposing unnecessary bureaucratic mandates, making it harder for the clinics to do their jobs well. They worry that Prop 23 would increase state healthcare costs by an estimated $320 million annually, and force some clinics to close, pushing patients into emergency rooms for treatment.

For the on-site physician requirement, they argue that every dialysis patient is already under the care of their personal kidney physician and dialysis treatments are administered by specially trained and experienced dialysis nurses and technicians. Prop 23 would make the state’s physician shortage worse by taking physicians away from other hospitals and clinics where they are more needed.

Prop 23’s restrictions on clinics are a bit triggering for me. For most of my career, I’ve been closely watching all the restrictions religious conservatives have succeeded in placing on abortion clinics around the country, and the rules proposed in Prop 23 are eerily familiar. The abortion clinic rules have never been about quality of care, they have always been about making it harder for the clinics to keep their doors open. I suspect the same is true here. Why else would a non-healthcare related labor union put a measure on the ballot with healthcare-related implications? Seems very fishy. ESPECIALLY since the healthcare advocacy organizations (see: California Nurses Association, California Medical Association) oppose the bill.

I’ll conclude by quoting my 2018 analysis of Prop 8, because the same reasoning applies here:

“As you know, a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s no way to govern a state. Super detailed, highly technical laws should NEVER be passed by ballot measure because they usually need adjusting over time, and that can’t happen if they are approved by voters. Moreover, if this measure passes, and dialysis clinics start going out of business, it jeopardizes access to care for patients in California who need dialysis treatments to stay alive.  SEIU should make its case in court, or with the legislature, or the National Labor Relations Board, anywhere but the ballot box.”

Vote NO.

Prop 24 – Amending Consumer Privacy Laws – NO

Another tough call. Another complicated measure. And yet another history lesson.

In June 2018, Governor Brown signed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which made sweeping changes to how businesses store and use consumers’ personal information. Under the CCPA, consumers are allowed to:

  • request that a business disclose to the consumer the personal information that has been collected about the consumer and the commercial purpose of the information collected;
  • request that a business delete the consumer’s personal information;
  • request that a business not sell the consumer’s personal information to third parties.

Prop 24 would expand or amend the provisions of the CCPA to remove the ability of businesses to fix violations before being penalized for violations. If it passes, the measure would require businesses to:

  • not share a consumer’s personal information upon the consumer’s request;
  • provide consumers with an opt-out option for having their sensitive personal information, as defined in law, used or disclosed for advertising or marketing;
  • obtain permission before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 16, and triples maximum penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16;
  • obtain permission from a parent or guardian before collecting data from consumers who are younger than 13;
  • correct a consumer’s inaccurate personal information upon the consumer’s request; and
  • not retain a consumer’s personal information for longer than reasonably necessary.

Prop 24 also would establish a new government agency to enforce and implement consumer privacy laws, and impose administrative fines.

Alastair Mactaggart, chief proponent of both CCPA and Prop 24
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It was placed on the ballot by Alastair Mactaggart, a San Francisco-based real estate developer, who was the original proponent of the CCPA. He described the CCPA as a “great baseline. But I think there are additional rights that Californians deserve.” By placing it on the ballot to affirm the protections of the CCPA, he is essentially setting the CCPA in stone, because a ballot measure is much harder to repeal or amend. “The only thing I want to make sure is they can’t undo the act,” Mactaggart told the San Francisco Chronicle, “There is basically unlimited resources on one side of the fight. If you don’t do anything, they will win eventually.”

Supporters of Prop 24 include former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Congressman Ro Khanna, some Democratic members of the state legislature, State Controller Betty Yee, the firefighters union and the building trades, NAACP. They argue that California consumers want more control over their personal information, and they want a well-staffed public agency watching over the private companies. They point to the “relentless assault” by tech lobbyists that made it necessary to put this measure on the ballot.

Opposition to Prop 24 comes from all sides. It’s a mighty strange coalition of the Republican Party and civil rights organizations, including the ACLU, consumer rights groups, Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, California nurses union, and the League of Women Voters.

Consumer groups say Prop 24 is confusing, and it’s full of contradictions and giveaways to Big Tech. They are upset that Prop 24 doesn’t fix a provision in the CCPA that allows businesses to charge a privacy fee, and downgrade service to those who cannot or will not pay the fee. They also point to loopholes that allow commercial credit agencies and data corporations to sell the personal information of small-business owners, hurting minority groups the most.

The civil rights groups seem most interested in the provision of Prop 24 that allows the continued use of “neighborhood scores” in which lenders use a person’s race or the racial make-up of a neighborhood as a rationale for either refusing to lend to its residents or charging much higher interest rates.

Interestingly, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – the nation’s most respected privacy rights organization – issued a statement taking no position on Proposition 24, describing it as “a mixed bag of partial steps backwards and forwards.”

There is so much behind-the-scenes drama here, it sounds to me like the proposal behind Prop 24 is still a work in progress. And that’s exactly why it shouldn’t be on the ballot, where it could be set in stone for generations. Ballot measures can only be amended or repealed by the voters, which is why proposals like this one that include so much detailed nuance should be decided by the legislature, where it can be hashed out and amended over time.

As the Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards write,”It’s simply the wrong way to try to go about settling an immensely complex issue. Vote no on Proposition 24.”

Prop 25 – Eliminate cash bail – YES!

How much experience do you have with the cash bail system? Actually, I don’t want to know. 

Here’s the deal: you get arrested, the judge sets a dollar amount that you have to pay to get out of jail while you await trial. It’s usually a huge amount of money, and it’s supposed to be based on your perceived threat to public safety or flight risk. You pay the cash bond, and then you get the money back after your trial is completed, no matter the outcome. OR – if you don’t have the cash for bail (and most people don’t), you either stay in jail, or you pay a bail bond company to pay the bond for you, for a 10% non-refundable fee.

Image by Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The criticism of the bail system is that judges often make bail determinations based on subjective and often discriminatory factors. Bail bond companies are seen as predatory, since their fee is high, their overhead is minimal, and the accused don’t have an alternative except to stay in jail.

For these reasons, the state legislature passed a law (SB 10) in 2018 that eliminated the cash bail system, making California the first state to do so. The law would replace bail with a system for pretrial release based on a computer algorithm to determine the public safety or flight risk of the accused.  This risk assessment would determine whether a detained suspect should be granted pretrial release and under what conditions, categorizing them as low risk, medium risk, or high risk. Defendants determined to be a low risk of failing to appear in court and a low risk to public safety would be released from jail, while those deemed a high risk would remain in jail, with a chance to argue for their release before a judge. Those deemed a medium risk could be released or detained, depending on the local court’s rules. All misdemeanor suspects, with a few exceptions, would be automatically released without a risk assessment. The bill required that the “[risk assessment] tools shall be demonstrated by scientific research to be accurate and reliable.”

Governor Brown signed SB 10 into law in August 2018, and the bail bond companies filed a referendum to overturn it the very next day. Implementation of SB 10 was put on hold pending the outcome of the referendum, which ultimately became Prop 25. If voters approve Prop 25, then SB 10 will go into effect. If they reject Prop 25, then SB 10 will be overturned.

Supporters also say that eliminating bail will lead to a more equitable justice system. They point to defendants who plead guilty even when they are innocent, just because they can’t afford bail and they don’t want to languish in jail, resulting in a permanent criminal record.

Finally, they point to the predatory nature of the bail bond companies. The current bail system merely operates to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from low-income communities to the lucrative bail-bond industry. And this measure is evidence that the industry won’t go quietly.

Supporters of Prop 25 include Governor Newsom and Democratic lawmakers, the California Democratic Party, the teachers union, the California Medical Association, and the League of Women Voters. They make the case that the bail system s unfair and unsafe, because the rich can go free, even when accused of serious violent crimes, while the poor stay in jail even when innocent or accused of low-level non-violent offenses. By contrast, the computer algorithm replacing bail is based on safety and fairness, and is supposed to be backed up by scientific evidence.

Proponents say that Proposition 25 makes our communities safer by ensuring jail space is reserved for those who are actually dangerous and shouldn’t be released, instead of the poor. They claim it costs the state $5 million per day to house poor people accused of minor crimes who can’t afford their bail.

All the newspapers went yes on 25, even the conservative Orange County Register, who says, “The problem with the current system is that people who are innocent can suffer life-destroying consequences if they are arrested and eligible for bail, but lack the financial resources to pay thousands of dollars for a bail bond. While locked up for months before a trial, people can lose their jobs, fall behind on payments for housing and plunge into an even deeper financial hole. Those who are able to borrow money for a bail bond can suffer ongoing harm from the added debt burden. Poverty is not a crime, but for people who are arrested and can’t afford bail, it is punished as if it were.” 

In addition to the bail bond companies, the opposition includes the Republican Party of California; the Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific Chambers of Commerce; crime victims groups, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the NAACP. Wait, what?

That’s right, the NAACP and other civil rights groups oppose Prop 25 because they say that that the computer algorithm that will replace the bail system is even more racially-biased than judges are. They point to the use of predictive modeling by insurance companies to set insurance premiums, which have been proven to discriminate against the poor, minorities and people who live in low income neighborhoods. Interestingly, the ACLU opposed SB 10 when it was before the legislature, but they have declined to oppose Prop 25 because they don’t want to align themselves with the bail bond companies. ACLU of North California executive director Abdi Soltani stated, “Make no mistake, the bail industry is not interested in equal justice or equal protection under the law, they are seeking to turn back the clock to protect their bottom line.”

There are also law enforcement groups who argue, incredibly, that the bail system is fine the way it is and eliminating bail will make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs. They say that bail ensures that people accused of crimes will appear for trial and it holds defendants accountable if they don’t.

The bail bond companies are in a fight for their life. They put Prop 25 on the ballot to buy themselves another year before their industry goes extinct. And if – God forbid – they win this one, I fear it will be decades before we can take another crack at eliminating the cash bail system.

I’m sensitive to the criticism from the left, that the algorithm that will replace bail is racially biased. But I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. The cash bail system is beyond inhumane, and we have to take a stab at replacing it. I am hopeful that the state legislature will keep the pressure on to improve the algorithms used to predict public safety risk. Vote yes!

Thanks for reading! If you found this voter guide useful, please throw a few pennies in the jar to help me cover my costs. And please forward this link to your friends and frenemies, or post it on social media. Sharing is caring. Thank you!

Yes on Prop 22

Here are my thoughts on Prop 22, the measure that will clarify the employment status of app-based transportation drivers. If you are looking for a deeper analysis of all the measures on the November 2020 California ballot, you can find them here.

Let me start by saying that in my day job, I work for Lyft, which is one of the sponsors of Prop 22. That said, I believe every word that I’ve written here, and since I have worked in app-based transportation platforms for more than 6 years, I see how it improves people’s lives every day – for both the drivers and the consumers. The views I express here are my own, and NOT that of my employer. Without further ado….

Proposition 22 – Employment status of gig economy drivers – YES!

This is the big momma of all the measures on the California ballot. It’s the one everyone is talking about, because the election result will have major consequences for millions of Californians, including every single person who uses Uber, Lyft and the delivery services. This probably includes you.

Let’s go back eight or nine years when Uber and Lyft were founded in San Francisco. Taxi services were a joke; you called a dispatch number and the cab never came, or it was 30 minutes late, and this made it impossible to plan your evening. People drove intoxicated more often than they do now; getting to and from the airport was a pain; people went out to bars and restaurants less often; and life was just a lot less convenient.

Enter the rideshare platform companies, who enabled you to call a car at the touch of a button. A neighbor with a car and some free time would pick you up and take you where you wanted to go within minutes. You didn’t need to fumble for cash; the apps made payment seamless. It was life changing, for both the drivers and the riders. City dwellers starting getting rid of their cars; streets became safer from drunk drivers; and bars and restaurants thrived.

And – this is just as important – the average Joe or Jill was given the ability to make some money on the side by driving whenever it was convenient for them. Stay-at-home moms, full time students, free spirits and retirees could drive as much or as little as they wanted, with total flexibility to work for multiple gig companies, often simultaneously.

These companies completely upended both the taxi industry and the traditional employment model. Consumers gained the convenience of a ride whenever they wanted, and drivers gained the flexibility that a traditional job would never allow.

As the gig economy has matured, the companies have each wrestled with how to afford the drivers maximum freedom while also giving them traditional employment benefits like a guaranteed wage, health care and worker’s comp insurance. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Giving drivers employment benefits would risk their independent contractor status under state law. It also doesn’t make sense to give full benefits to a driver who doesn’t want to commit to driving a minimum number of hours per week.

Keep in mind that neither Lyft nor Uber is profitable yet, and the companies are locked in a death grip of competition. A majority of drivers work for both companies, and most consumers use both apps. This means that if Lyft raised its prices in order to pay drivers more, consumers would flock to Uber, and more drivers would switch over to Lyft, leading to an imbalance of supply and demand. Neither company can increase driver pay without losing market share, and the companies can’t collude to raise prices without breaking the law. A legislative solution is the only way to make sure that drivers get paid the same wage at both companies. 

Over the last decade, the gig economy has flourished. Hundreds of gig companies have sprung up to provide consumers with countless different services (I’ll assemble your IKEA furniture! I’ll help you buy groceries! I’ll give your dog a bath!), some with great success, and some have failed (see: Sidecar, my former employer, R.I.P.). But the workers haven’t been able to share in the bounty of the gig economy because their wages have been primarily market driven. 

Taxi companies are also failing because they have been unable or unwilling to catch up to the technology. And unfortunately, the rise of the gig economy has also meant the decline of union membership. Unions haven’t been able to figure out how to organize the drivers, in part because traditional membership requires an “employer” who will collect union dues through a regular paycheck. The unions are also fighting among themselves as to which one gets to (has to?) bring gig workers into the fold.

Let’s talk about unions for a second. In my voter guides, I almost always take the side of labor in my endorsements, and that’s because labor has played a central role in protecting workers and in bringing about the most critical reforms to the workplace. When I worked for the City of Oakland, I was a proud member of IFPTE Local 21, and when I ran for office, unions supported my campaigns, and I proudly displayed the union bug on all my campaign materials.

All that said, I disagree with their position on the classification of gig economy workers.  This is an issue where the unions are on the wrong side of history; they are clinging to an outdated version of the employment relationship. They are working very hard to cripple the tech companies that have provided the opportunity for gig work to millions of Californians, hurting the very workers they seek to protect. Instead, I think they should adapt to the modern workplace and organize the millions of gig workers, giving them even more power to influence worker protections.

In 2019, taxis and unions looked to the state legislature to strike a blow at the gig companies’ business model. The taxi lobby and the unions are powerful players in Sacramento, and they were able to work closely with Democratic legislators to pass Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which changed the classification of millions of independent contractors around the state to grant them employee status. AB5 was a blunt instrument that had many unintended consequences, which is why the Assembly member who authored the bill immediately granted carve-outs to hundreds of businesses that she favored more than the app-based companies.

In response to AB5, Uber, Lyft and other gig transportation companies placed Prop 22 on the ballot. Prop 22 proposes a compromise between the independent contractor model and the traditional employment model. It would guarantee drivers the flexibility that they want, while granting them many of the benefits of employment. These include a minimum earnings guarantee of 120% of minimum wage, health care benefits that drivers would earn with every hour that they drive, and accident insurance that is similar to worker’s comp insurance.  The measure also codifies certain safety measures, many of which the companies already provide: annual background checks, safety training, sexual harassment policies, and the criminalization of impersonating a driver.

The proponents of Prop 22 believe that this gives drivers the best of both worlds: the flexibility they want, and the benefits they deserve, without tying them down to a traditional job.  The opponents of Prop 22 say that the app-based companies are just trying to escape having to treat their drivers with the dignity of having employee status.

The app-based transportation companies have poured more than $184 million dollars into the Yes on 22 campaign. Why? Because this measure isn’t just about benefits for drivers, it’s about changing the entire business model of these companies, and possibly ending app-based transportation as we know it in California.

As a voter, you are deciding between two very different outcomes. If Prop 22 passes, consumers will notice very little difference in the services they receive. Prices will go up a bit, because drivers will be paid more in earnings and benefits, and the companies’ overhead will go up a little.  The companies will be able to serve all the areas they do today. Drivers will get paid more, and they will continue to drive for multiple platforms at once, as they do today.

If Prop 22 fails, things will be very different. All drivers in California will be forced to sign up as employees if they want to keep driving. For most drivers, it will be infeasible to work for multiple companies. Along with the full benefits of employment, they will receive overtime, vacation, and a fixed rate of pay. They will be assigned to shifts, and they will be required to work a minimum number of hours, agreeing in advance to when and where they drive. They will have a supervisor and performance targets, like any other private sector job.

There is no doubt that some gig drivers would benefit from having employee status, because they drive full time and they want the security of a regular paycheck. However, an independent survey of gig drivers released on October 5 revealed that 69% of California respondents want to remain independent contractors compared to only 11.5% who want to be employees. This makes sense, as Lyft reports that 86% of its drivers drive less than 20 hours per week, and many of them already have full time jobs. They are also caregivers for sick family members, or students who drive to cover their tuition, or seniors who enjoy the social connections they make through gig work.

Since only a small minority of drivers (11.5%!!) will choose to be employees, the app-based transportation businesses will shrink dramatically in California if Prop 22 fails. For consumers, this means that wait times will become much longer, because there will be fewer drivers on the road. The companies will limit their services to denser urban areas, because that’s where the drivers will be concentrated, and where the consumers will be willing to pay more. And of course prices will go up, because drivers will be paid more and the companies’ overhead will go up considerably more than it would if Prop 22 passes.

It’s disappointing to see so many Democratic elected officials line up in the “No” camp, including Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. I suspect it’s because they are aligned ideologically with unions, and perhaps they haven’t been briefed on the nuance. (Note: Kamala’s brother-in-law Tony West is the General Counsel at Uber – I would love to be a fly on the wall for their dinner table conversations!) And despite the positive changes that some tech companies have brought into our world, there is a significant backlash against Big Tech in the zeitgeist.

One big happy family

Despite what you may hear from the “No” campaign, this is not a partisan issue. In addition to the usual pro-business advocates, many progressive groups and civil rights organizations support Prop 22, including the California NAACP, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, senior rights advocates, and crime survivors groups. Mothers Against Drunk Driving also supports Prop 22 because of the positive impact ridesharing has had on drunk driving in California.

Above all, this argument should not be about what is good for the companies versus what is good for labor unions. It should always be about what is good for the drivers. Prop 22 isn’t perfect, but it will make the drivers’ lives much better. Go ask them yourself! They will tell you to vote yes.

If you want learn more, I encourage you to read two competing newspaper endorsements: the San Francisco Chronicle which went ”yes” on 22, and the Los Angeles Times which went “no.”  The two opinions do an excellent job of examining the nuance of gig work and in particular, the frailties of AB5.

The election is coming!

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. It will be here before you know it. Verify your voter registration at Vote.org. If you have moved since the last time you voted, change your registration on or before October 20 at the CA Secretary of State’s website.

It’s going to be a HUGE ballot in California, as presidential elections always are. In addition to the race for President, we will vote on congressional seats, State Senate, and State Assembly. Several initiatives have qualified for November, including a few changes to the way property taxes are levied, changes to criminal sentencing and cash bail, and an expansion of local government’s power over rent control.

So buckle up, kids! And make sure you’re registered to vote.

Alix’s Voter Guide – SF & CA – March 2020

Other than the Presidential Primary, this ballot is a snoozer. The six ballot measures are mostly uncontroversial, and our congressional and state delegates are largely unopposed. The rest are down-ballot races that very few of you care about… but I do! And that’s why you are here. I’m happy to help you cut through the crap and decide who you will vote for on Tuesday.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my baby girl, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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.

Here’s the summary, with detailed explanations below:

President of the United States – Elizabeth Warren
*Though, to be clear, I will vote for any Democrat in November

US Congress, D12 – Nancy Pelosi
US Congress, D14 – Jackie Speier
State Senator, D11 – Scott Wiener
State Assembly D17 – David Chiu
State Assembly D19 – Phil Ting
Superior Court Judge, Seat #1 – Maria Evangelista
Superior Court Judge, Seat #18 – Dorothy Chou Proudfoot
Superior Court Judge, Seat #21 – Kulvindar “Rani” Singh

Democratic County Central Committee – AD17 (Central/East side of SF)
Kristen Asato-Webb
Nima Rahimi
Mike Chen
Frances Hsieh
Austin Hunter
Tyra Fennell
Victor Olivieri
Mick Del Rosario
Bivett Brackett
Tami Bryant
Vallie Brown
Steven Buss

Democratic County Central Committee – AD19 (West side)
Abra Castle
Kathleen Anderson
Nadia Rahman
Cyn Wang
Suzy Loftus
Jane Natoli
Seeyew Mo
Mary Jung
Mawuli Tugbenyoh

CA Proposition 13 – YES
SF Proposition A – YES
SF Proposition B – YES
SF Proposition C – YES
SF Proposition D – YES
SF Proposition E – NO

President of the United States – Elizabeth Warren

Wow, they are dropping like flies, aren’t they? On the eve of Super Tuesday, Steyer and Buttigieg just dropped out of the race. That leaves Sanders, Biden, Warren, Klobuchar and Bloomberg. If you are starting to think that Bernie has this thing wrapped up, I refer you to the numbers below, showing that this thing is still anyone’s race.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 4.57.08 PM

I am supporting Elizabeth Warren because she is the only candidate who gives me hope for America. She understands the struggles of working families, having lived it and breathed it herself, and she has translated that understanding into workable policies that will actually improve people’s lives. She’s thoughtful, fearless and above all, persistent. And her comedic timing is unmatched.

 

“Comedic timing?” You ask. “Why on earth would that matter for a presidential candidate?!” Ask Hillary Clinton that question, and then ask Donald Trump. The candidate with the quickest wit is the one best suited to beat Trump at his own game: on the debate stage and on social media. And that is, to me, what matters more than anything.

I also want to remind you that a candidate only gets a state’s delegates to the national convention if they receive 15% of votes statewide. A candidate can also get delegates in individual congressional districts if they get 15% in that district. I know, it makes my head hurt too. Klobuchar is polling at less than 10%, so if she is your first choice, I suggest voting for someone else to make sure your vote counts. Or, you know, you could vote your conscience. Nothing wrong with that.

But regardless of who you vote for in the primary, I hope you will join me in voting for WHOEVER THE FUCK THE DEMOCRATS NOMINATE AGAINST TRUMP. Seriously. Call voters, knock on doors, donate money, do everything you can to get the Trump criminal enterprise out of the White House.

US Congress, D12 , Nancy Pelosi

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.26.19 PMMadame Speaker is the most powerful woman in American government, and she has wielded that power in favor of progressive values in an extremely challenging political environment. She is partly responsible for wresting the House back to Democratic control in 2018 by supporting the right candidates (including many women!) in swing districts. I also admire her ability to troll President Trump and get under his skin. I am voting for her with enthusiasm.

Several folks are running against her this year, including attorney Shahid Buttar, who ran two years ago claiming that Pelosi isn’t progressive enough for San Francisco. I disagree, and I also think that this is not the year to throw Speaker Pelosi – a woman, a fighter, and President Trump’s political nemesis – out of office. It would be the absolute wrong message to send to the rest of the country.

US Congress, D14, Jackie Speier

Incumbent Jackie Speier has no credible opposition.

State Senator, D11, Scott Weiner

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.22.04 PMOver the years I have worked with Senator Scott Wiener in advocating for nightlife and culture and paid parental leave. He is also known for his work in improving public transit and access to housing. He is a tireless and prolific legislator, and in recent years he has been relentless in advocating for the development of housing of all kinds across the state. Because he has been fearless in tackling some of the states’ most intractable issues, he’s also made some enemies – especially among those who oppose real estate development. Personally, I agree with Scott that cities of all sizes need to start making sacrifices to build denser housing and taller buildings – it’s the only way out of our perpetual housing crunch in this state.

Scott has an opponent in this race, Jackie Fielder, an organizer for public banking. Fielder is a political newcomer, but a few high profile progressives have lined up behind her, including current and former Supervisors Gordon Mar, Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, Matt Gonzalez, Eric Mar and David Campos, former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Democratic Socialists, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. If you are a Berniecrat, Fielder could be your candidate.

Scott has the support of both moderate and progressive Democrats, including everyone from Speaker Pelosi, Governor Newsom and Senator Harris, to Supervisors Yee, Mandelman, Stefani, Safai, and Walton. Most of the California labor unions support him, as does civil rights icon Dolores Huerta. I agree with them that he deserves a second term.

State Assembly D17

Incumbent David Chiu is unopposed.

State Assembly D19, Phil Ting

Incumbent Phil Ting is virtually unopposed.

Superior Court Judge, Seat #1 – Maria Evangelista

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.25.29 PMFirst, I would like to note that there are six candidates for judge on this ballot: all of them women, and five are women of color. This is remarkable. We’ve come a long way, baby!

In the race for Seat #1, both candidates came from humble beginnings. Maria Evangelista was raised by Mexican immigrant farmworkers. Though her parents had no formal education, Evangelista worked hard to become high-school class valedictorian and student body president, going on to graduate from San Francisco State and Vanderbilt University law school. She is a Deputy Public Defender with 17 years of trial experience, and she is endorsed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and all but one of the members of the Board of Supervisors.

Her opponent Pang Ly came with her family on a fishing boat to the United States in 1979 to escape the Vietnam War. She, too, became the first in her family to graduate from college and earned her law degree from the University of Missouri. She is endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle and Assemblymember David Chiu, among others.

Each has received a “qualified” rating from the Bar Association of San Francisco, and I think they both have the experience to be adequate judges. However, I have heard credible evidence that Ly does not have the demeanor to be a fair and impartial judge. In her current role as a commissioner for the SF Superior Court, Ly is widely known to treat parties and their attorneys with disrespect and has bullied litigants into unfair settlements.  A group of attorneys who have appeared before her are actively opposing her candidacy for this reason.

Evangelista is a relative unknown, but she is a mother of two with nearly two decades of trial experience. I am all for electing more hard working mothers into office! She has a broad range of endorsers, which says a lot about her (and, perhaps, her opponent). She is committed to making sure the courts are accessible to everyone regardless of race, income, and primary language, and that’s a mission I can get behind.

Superior Court Judge, Seat #18 – Dorothy Chou Proudfoot

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.26.40 PMI see two highly qualified women of color in this race: an administrative law judge and a deputy public defender. Both candidates would bring formidable experience to the Superior Court bench. Proudfoot is a former prosecutor who has presided over more than 200 rent-control cases as an administrative law judge. She spent 16 years as a deputy district attorney, specializing in gang violence and sexual assault. She is endorsed by Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblymember David Chiu and over 20 judges.

Tong has been a deputy public defender for over 16 years, having tried more than 50 cases. She is endorsed by the left side of the Board of Supervisors, and many Superior Court judges.

I am impressed by both candidates’ commitment to their communities. Proudfoot has worked with the Asian American Bar Association to increase diversity in the legal profession and she has trained female lawyers for trial work in a program of the Bar Association of San Francisco. Tong has helped tenant families at the Eviction Defense Collaborative, and domestic violence victims, immigrants and restaurant workers through the Asian Law Caucus.

This might be too nerdy for most of you, but the reason I chose Proudfoot is because she refused to fall for a question posed to her by the San Francisco Democratic Party. In its endorsement process, the Party asks candidates whether, if elected, they will fight for the party’s platform. Judges, however, are specifically required to avoid engaging in political activity that would create the appearance of political bias.  Proudfoot answered no, Tong answered yes. What does it mean that Tong would fight for the SF Democratic Party’s platform as a judge? This goes against everything a judge is supposed to stand for. Proudfoot understands the need for political neutrality in a judge’s robe, so that’s one reason why I’m voting for her.

Superior Court Judge, Seat #21 – Kulvindar “Rani” Singh

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 5.27.49 PMRani Singh is an experienced prosecutor who has appeared in more than 100 trials. She is my choice because she received the rating of “exceptionally well qualified” from the Bar Association of San Francisco, which is very rare to see. Rani is not your typical DA – she leads the Collaborative Courts and Mental Health Units of the DA’s office, working with both victims AND defendants on addressing root causes of crime. She is endorsed by over a dozen Judges including Judge John K. Stewart, whose seat she is running for, Judge Linda Colfax, and elected officials including Senator Scott Wiener, former Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assessor Carmen Chu, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin. That’s a broad coalition of support from both sides of the aisle.

Singh’s opponent is tenants’ rights attorney Carolyn Gold, who has 30 years of experience defending San Franciscans from eviction. She oversees San Francisco’s new Right To Counsel program, which provides free attorneys to tenants facing eviction. She is endorsed by the left side of the Board of Supervisors, as well as the most progressive organizations in town.

Gold’s courtroom experience qualifies her as judge, to be sure. But Rani’s support from a broad spectrum of elected officials and groups is what gives her the edge, IMO. In this polarized political environment, it speaks volumes for Singh that a broad coalition backs her.

Democratic County Central Committee

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 8.53.57 PMThe DCCC is the governing body of the local Democratic party. It registers voters, endorses candidates, and takes positions on issues important to San Franciscans. When I served on the DCCC (from 2010-2016), I was most proud of the work I did to recruit and support female candidates for public office.

You’ll notice that there are several candidates on your ballot who are current or former office holders (see: Supervisors Haney, Mandelman, Safai, Walton, Sheriff Miyamoto). While I am friends with many of these folks, and supported them for the Board of Supervisors or for Sheriff, I am not supporting them for DCCC because I believe that the DCCC seats should be held by everyday folks. In my experience, the elected officials aren’t able to roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary to build the party. They are running because they want to control the party’s endorsement process, and I think that’s not a good enough reason to serve on the DCCC. I also think the DCCC should serve as a bench for future candidates for higher office, as it’s an easier office to run for and therefore a good proving ground for future Supervisors and School Board members. That’s why I’m supporting the non-electeds this time around.

The DCCC is elected by Assembly District. AD-17 has 14 seats and AD-19 has 10 seats, based on their relative population size. The candidates on my list below are progressive and diverse. They are LGBTQ, straight, younger, older, black, white, brown and mostly female.  I chose them because I think they can win, and because I think they will work hard on behalf of the party.

AD17 – Castro, Haight, Marina, Fillmore, North Beach, SOMA, Financial District 

KRISTEN ASATO-WEBB, Environmental Non-profit Manager
NIMA RAHIMI, Transportation Policy Attorney
MIKE CHEN, Data Engineer
FRANCES HSIEH, Immigration Rights Analyst
AUSTIN HUNTER, Nonprofit Policy Analyst
TYRA FENNELL, Director, Arts Non-Profit
VICTOR OLIVIERI, Professor
MICK DEL ROSARIO, Public Health Manager
BIVETT BRACKETT, Commissioner / Entrepreneur / Mother
TAMI BRYANT, Youth Employment Coordinator
VALLIE BROWN, Appointed Supervisor – City and County of San Francisco
STEVEN BUSS, Housing Data Analyst

AD19 – Sunset, Richmond, St. Francis Wood

ABRA CASTLE, Parent/School Volunteer
KATHLEEN ANDERSON, Small Business Owner
NADIA RAHMAN, Digital Communications Strategist
CYN WANG, Small Business Owner
SUZY LOFTUS, Attorney
JANE NATOLI, Financial Crimes Investigator
SEEYEW MO, Civic Tech Entrepreneur
MARY JUNG, Incumbent
MAWULI TUGBENYOH, Chief of Policy

State Prop 13 – YES

Prop 13 will authorize $15 billion in state general obligation bonds for construction and modernization of public schools, including pre-K, elementary schools, community colleges and universities. “Wait,” you ask, “didn’t we just approve a statewide school bond in 2016?” Why yes we did, you nerd, it was Prop 51, and it approved $9 billion in bonds to fund improvement and construction of school facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 9.00.03 PMThe revenues from Prop 51 have already been claimed, and unfortunately it was structured on a first-come, first-served basis, so the schools who benefitted were mostly in wealthier and larger school districts who could get their applications in the fastest. Ugh. So here we are, with a LARGER bond measure, specifically designed to prioritize NEED, not SPEED. If Prop 13 passes, the schools in smaller and low-income districts will get the funds they deserve to make their improvements.

It makes me sad that this bond is necessary at all – that the state government isn’t able to dedicate enough of its annual budget to make basic repairs to schools. But I know that California’s structural budget issues are huge and intractable, so here we are… supporting yet another massive loan to the state government to make sure our schools get the upgrades they need.

Part of me wants to vote no, and scream at the legislature to fix the problem at its root. Why don’t they figure out how to fund school repairs without coming to the voters every time?  But the other part of me knows that if this bond measure fails, the poorer schools will simply go without necessary repairs and upgrades, and it will be the children – not the legislature – who will suffer. *Sigh*

When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, the state’s public schools were among the best in the nation. Now that I have a daughter who is approaching school age, it makes me profoundly sad that we are now ranked 37th (!!) for K-12 education. I am voting yes on Prop 13 and I hope that the rest of the state will join me in showing our commitment to public education.

Prop 13 requires two-thirds of the vote to pass. It is endorsed by nearly everybody, including Governor Gavin Newsom, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and every union in California. The only folks opposing it are the folks who hate all taxes.

SF Proposition A – YES

Prop A will authorize $845 million in general obligation bonds to repair City College facilities, including much-needed earthquake safety improvements and improved energy efficiency. The bond will increase property taxes by 1.1 cents/$100 assessed value, and it will sunset in 2053. If you own your home, and your house has $1 million in assessed value, your property tax will go up by $111 per year. This measure requires 55% of the vote to pass.

Are you detecting a theme here? State and local governments aren’t able to fund school repairs through their usual budget process, so they have to come to the voters for massive loans, paid for by property owners.

When I research bond measures, I usually ask a few questions: (1) Does it have a worthy purpose? (2) How do we know the money will go to the right places to solve the problem? (3) Will there be enough oversight and accountability?

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 9.09.15 PM

NOT an actual photo of a City College facility

The answer to question 1 is almost always yes. Here, the bond revenues will go toward desperately needed repairs to City College’s facilities, including dilapidated roofs and walls, outdated heating and plumbing systems, buildings that are seismically unsound. City College is an important piece of the city’s education landscape; it gives San Franciscans from all walks of life the opportunity to remake themselves.

Question 2 is more complicated. City College has been plagued in the recent past by mismanagement and headline-grabbing faculty layoffs. It nearly lost its accreditation in 2012 because of its management issues. However, setting the management issues aside, I believe the bond is well structured to prioritize the highest need. The majority of the revenues will go toward a specific list of repair, renovation and construction projects that have already been identified based on their state of repair and shovel-readiness. About 10% will go toward specific seismically-related improvement projects, and another large chunk will go toward improving disability access, which has been deferred for decades.

As for Question 3 (accountability), Prop A would require the creation of a citizens’ oversight committee to review how the bond funds are spent. This is standard practice, and will help ensure that the funds are allocated in a way that the voters intended. The committee will NOT include district employees, and WILL include a member of a taxpayers association, who will certainly scrutinize the way the money is spent. The committee will also produce annual audits and ensure that none of the money went toward administrator salaries.

I’ll support this one with the same reasoning as Prop 13, above. City government should absolutely have a better way to fund critical education needs like, oh, keeping school roofs from caving in. However, voting no on this measure won’t solve the city’s basic budget problems. I think this cause is worthy – critical, even – and so I’m voting yes.

SF Proposition B – YES

Yep, ANOTHER BOND MEASURE. This one is for emergency preparedness, and will issue $628 million in general obligation bonds. It will increase property taxes by 1.5 cents/$100 of assessed property value, sunsetting in 30 years. If you own your home, and your house has $1 million in assessed value, your tax will go up by $150 per year. This measure requires two-thirds of the vote to pass.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 9.03.06 PMIs it a worthy cause? Seismologists say there is a 72% likelihood that the next major regional earthquake will strike by the year 2043. YIKES. In 2019, a civil grand jury report warned that some SF neighborhoods are woefully underserved by emergency water supply systems for firefighting, including the Sunset and the Bayview. I absolutely want to know that every neighborhood in the city is prepared when the big one hits. So – yes, it’s a worthy cause.

Will the money go to the right places? Yeah, I think so. The revenues will go toward improving or replacing firefighting and emergency preparedness facilities, including: (1) deteriorating pipes and cisterns that ensure firefighters a reliable water supply; (2) neighborhood fire and police stations; (3) the City’s 911 Call Center; and (4) other disaster response and public safety facilities.

Will there be accountability? Yep. Prop B would require a citizens’ oversight committee to do periodic public reporting, as well as the creation of a website describing bond projects and progress.

The bond’s authors are Supervisors Catherine Stefani and Sandra Lee Fewer, and Mayor London Breed, women who do not normally come together on major policy initiatives. I think this demonstrates the nonpartisan nature of this measure, and explains why a broad spectrum of San Francisco political players are backing it.

Literally every elected official supports this measure, as well as SPUR, the Firefighters Union, the Chronicle, and anyone else who matters. There is no organized opposition. Please vote yes!

SF Proposition C – YES

This is a cleanup measure and it’s fairly innocuous. It amends the city charter to make retiree health care coverage available to certain city employees who used to work for the San Francisco Housing Authority. The City Controller estimates an increased cost to the city of approximately $80,000 spread over many years. The reason it’s on the ballot is because changes to the city charter can only be approved by the voters. It’s annoying that such minutiae needs to be on your ballot, but this is only way to make this change. I’m supporting it because the cost is minimal, and it seems like the fair thing to do.

I haven’t been able to find an organized campaign for it, or an organized campaign against it. So yeah, not a controversial measure.

SF Proposition D – YES

Prop D, if it passes, will impose a new vacancy tax on commercial landlords and tenants who keep ground floor retail space empty for 6 months in certain neighborhoods. The city will use the revenues to support small businesses.

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 9.12.13 PM

Empty storefronts are bad for neighborhoods – they contribute to blight, and they drag down the neighboring businesses. The premise of Prop D is that landlords are intentionally keeping these properties empty while they wait for a higher-paying tenant, to the detriment of all of the businesses around them. And if the city makes it more expensive to keep a storefront vacant, landlords will do more to get the spaces rented more quickly.

The Prop D tax would apply in areas like North Beach, Divisadero Street in NoPa, Taraval Street in the Sunset neighborhood and 24th Street in Noe Valley – all neighborhoods with vital business corridors, and which have been impacted by empty storefronts. According to the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development, a neighborhood should maintain about 5-10% vacancy rate in retail units to remain healthy. The current citywide average is about 12 percent, and it is much much higher in some commercial corridors.

Greedy landlords are just one of the reasons for vacant storefronts, of course. Vacancies also result from permitting problems, recessions, fire and earthquake damage. Prop D accounts for some of these problems by including a generous grace period (it doesn’t take effect until 2021), and by making exceptions for fire and earthquake repairs. It also gives the Board of Supervisors the ability to amend or freeze it in a recession. It does NOT address other reasons for vacancy including the cost of construction, the city’s permitting processes, the city’s seismic retrofitting requirement, etc.

The elephant in the room is Amazon and other online retailers, which are putting the brick-and-mortar shops out of business. According to SPUR, private sector employment has grown by 32% in SF since 2001, while brick-and-mortar retail employment has declined by 12%. Just as the San Francisco economy is booming by most other measures, storefront retail is hurting, and it’s even less able to pay the rising rents in commercial corridors.

All that said, I am voting yes on Prop D because I think it will actually make it harder for landlords and commercial tenants to keep a storefront vacant. It may mean that commercial rents will also start to come down around the city, and that is a good thing for everyone (except for the commercial property owners). I also appreciate that the authors included the feedback of many stakeholders in the design process, including small business leaders, neighborhood districts and city agencies.

Prop D has the support of the entire Board of Supervisors, Mayor London Breed, and merchant associations. Commercial landlords oppose it, as does the San Francisco Republican party.

SF Proposition E – NO

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 9.18.05 PMProp E would limit the development of new office space by tying office development projects to whether the city is meeting its affordable housing goals. It is true that the city has enjoyed an incredible employment boom (thanks, Big Tech!); however, it has not been able to build housing fast enough to accommodate all the people who are taking those jobs. As a result, a lot of these folks need to live outside the city, and all those commuters are bad for traffic congestion, transit resources, the environment, etc.. The idea behind Prop E is that we need to bring jobs and housing into a better balance – and we do that by requiring that more affordable housing be built BEFORE we build ANY new office space.

In my humble opinion, the answer to the imbalance isn’t SUBTRACTING office space and choking the city’s growth, it’s BUILDING MORE HOUSING. Prop E doesn’t fund or facilitate the building of housing. In fact, by stopping office developments, Prop E would actually rob the city of “impact fees” that developers pay that WOULD actually fund affordable housing. Doh!

The City’s own economist estimates that over the next 20 years, Prop. E would deprive San Francisco of more than 10 million square feet of office space, 47,000 jobs, $114 million in public programs and services, and 8.6 percentage points in economic growth, the equivalent of $23 billion. Office rents will continue to go up, which will hurt smaller, less profitable businesses. Limiting job growth will not make San Francisco more affordable. This is just bad policy.

Prop E is supported by the progressive members of the Board of Supervisors and the SF Tenants Union. Opposing the measure are SPUR, Mayor London Breed, and the moderate Supervisors, as well as SF Housing Action Coalition, YIMBY and State Senator Scott Wiener.

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Alix’s Voter Guide – San Francisco – November 2019

This one is a short ballot. I mean really short. Only 6 ballot measures and just a few candidate races with more than one contender. Incredibly, 7 out of 9 local races are either unopposed or virtually unopposed! Weird. Or is it? 

In the last few years, local politics has seemed less important to many of us. Given what is happening at the national level (see: a President who thinks he is above the law, the Democratic primary, the worsening gun violence crisis), it feels like arguments over zoning laws and homeless encampments are a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The planet is LITERALLY BURNING…every one of us may be homeless in a few decades.

This all makes me wonder if this short ballot and multiple uncontested races has something to do with our collective despondence about the national situation. Perhaps the political class in San Francisco is standing down because they would rather use their energy to battle a common enemy in the White House than fight each other over taxes.  …just kidding. it’s just an off-cycle election and the voter turnout is predicted to be an all-time low. Without big races at the top (e.g., Governor, President), off-cycle ballots are predictably short.

Before we continue, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my adorable toddler, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a mom, a liberal Democrat, an attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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.

Here’s the summary, with detailed explanations below:

Prop A – Affordable Housing Bond – YES
Prop B – Minor Changes to the Aging and Adult Services Commission – YES
Prop C – Reversing the City’s new restrictions on flavored vaping products – NO NO NO
Prop D – Congestion Tax on Ridesharing Companies – YES
Prop E – Affordable Housing for Teachers and School Employees – YES
Prop F – Campaign Contributions and Campaign Ads – NO

Mayor – London Breed
Board of Supervisors, District 5 – Vallie Brown
City Attorney – Dennis Herrera
District Attorney – Suzy Loftus
Public Defender – Mano Raju
Sheriff – Paul Miyamoto
Treasurer – Jose Cisneros
School Board (one seat) – Jenny Lam
Community College Board (one seat) – Ivy Lee

MEASURES

Prop A – Affordable Housing Bond – YES

You already know this: the rising cost of housing in SF is squeezing out the middle class. Affordable housing is harder and harder to find, and it’s a contributing factor in our growing homelessness problem. Well…the city wants to build new affordable housing, and Prop A will enable the city to borrow $600 million by way of a general obligation bond.

In case you need a refresher on municipal funding mechanisms (ahem), here you go:

A general obligation bond:

  • Is a low-risk way for local governments to raise funds for projects like roads, parks, equipment, and bridges.
  • Imposes a new property tax on homeowners, to pay the bond back over time.
  • Needs 66.6% of the vote to pass, like any other tax in California
  • Must be spent on the specific projects listed in the bond, and always includes enforcement and transparency mechanisms to make sure the funds are being spent appropriately.

Prop A is the biggest housing bond in San Francisco history, and the city estimates that it will fund 2800 new housing units in the city.

It would impose a new tax of 1.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value – which means that if you are a homeowner, and your home is assessed at $1 million, you will pay $190 per year in property tax. However, your property taxes won’t actually go up – the bond is structured so that the new tax will only be imposed as old taxes expire, so your taxes will remain at 2006 levels even after Prop A passes. Win!

The revenue will be divided like this: $220 million to low income housing, $150 million for public housing, $150 million for senior housing, $60 million for middle income housing, and $20 million for educator housing. What is “middle income,” you ask? Up to $215,500 per year for a household of four. Oh, San Francisco.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.30.30 PM.png

As a homeowner, I don’t mind paying such a small amount for $600 million in new affordable housing in the city. I’m really hoping it will make a dent in our housing crisis. Unfortunately, the projects funded by Prop A will still have to face the ridiculous amount of red tape that all residential development projects do – and this Board of Supervisors is dead set against streamlining the process.

The folks who oppose Prop A are the same people who dislike taxes generally. OR they are worried that this measure doesn’t go far enough, since it will only build a few thousand units. I say: something is better than nothing, and as a homeowner, I’m happy to chip in.

Supporters include: Mayor Breed, the entire Board of Supervisors, the SF Chronicle, the SF Examiner, San Francisco Democratic Party, SPUR, SF Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, literally everyone across the political spectrum.

Opponents include: People who hate all taxes; Libertarian Party of San Francisco.

Prop B – Minor Changes to the Aging and Adult Services Commission – YES

Prop B is a technical measure that no one opposes, so I won’t waste your time on it. The measure will rename several city agencies that coordinate services for seniors and people with disabilities, changing the Department of Aging and Adult Services to the Department of Disability and Aging Services. The commission that oversees that department would similarly become the Disability and Aging Services Commission. The idea is that adding the word “disability” to their names will clarify what the agencies do, so that folks with disabilities will know where to go when they are seeking help from the city. The measure will also require the commission to include a person with a disability, a veteran and a senior. Makes sense to me!

Supporters: Mayor Breed and the entire Board of Supervisors; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; SPUR

Opponents: No one.

Prop C – Reversing the City’s new restrictions on flavored vaping products – NOOO!

Prop C is one of the wildest ballot measures in San Francisco history, and I really hope it fails.

The measure was placed on the ballot by Juul, San Francisco-based e-cigarette manufacturer, in order to reverse a new ordinance banning vaping products in San Francisco. The campaign is totally sleazy, if you ask me, because it is intentionally confusing.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.10.55 PM.png

Prop C would impose new restrictions on vaping like limiting how many devices and cartridges can be purchased at a time, prohibiting their sale to anyone under the age of 21, and banning the marketing of vaping products to minors.  Keep in mind that most of these rules already exist as to tobacco products, so they are really a red herring.  More important, this complex set of regulations would permanently legalize the sale of vaping products in San Francisco. Because it’s a ballot measure, it can’t be modified by the Board of Supervisors. Ugh.

But here’s the sleazy part: the campaign ads made it sound like Prop C would impose NEW restrictions on vaping that would protect children from the addictive habit. However, the whole purpose of the measure is to overturn the new vaping ordinance so that e-cigarettes could continue to be sold in San Francisco. Incidentally, Juul has been under fire nationwide for marketing their flavored tobacco products to teens.

Juul put Prop C on the ballot, and then spent $10+ million on the campaign… and then on September 30, in a shocking reversal, they announced they were withdrawing their support. Juul got a new CEO, who apparently (has a conscience and) re-evaluated the company’s political activities. So now the measure is in this weird purgatory where it has qualified for the ballot, and lots of people have seen their misleading campaign ads, and plan to vote for it, and yet its sponsor isn’t supporting it any more.

I feel like I should also mention the recent news about vaping, including more than 1000 incidents of illness and a few deaths. Most of those vaping-related injuries have been associated with THC-containing products bought from underground sources, though the scientific community is still investigating. Prop C is only about tobacco products produced by major e-cigarette distributors.

And while vaping tobacco products might not be the cause of serious injuries and deaths in the news, it is not the panacea for smokers that Juul and the Prop C campaign claim. It makes me sad how many friends I have who are addicted to vaping – and they all think it’s safer than smoking cigarettes, despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary.  Juul’s claim that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking isn’t supported by any legitimate medical authority, and they have gotten the company into trouble with regulators.

Here’s the strongest case I have against Prop C: the regulation of vaping has no business being in a ballot measure.  A ballot measure is a blunt instrument: it can’t be amended except by another ballot measure, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Measures aren’t intended for nuanced and complicated subjects like this one, particularly since this issue continues to evolve as the medical profession learns about the relative safety of vaping. These proposed rules shouldn’t be permanent and hard to amend – quite the opposite – they should be written by the Board of Supervisors, and iterated over time, and also subject to public input and scrutiny.

Anyhoo, I hope this is enough information for you to vote against Prop C. Even if you think that sales of vaping products should be allowed in San Francisco, and the new ordinance should be overturned, this measure is not the way to do it. Vote no.

Supporters: Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation (i.e., Juul); Neighborhood Grocers

Opponents: Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg; SF Democratic Party; SPUR; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; D10 Supervisor Shamann Walton; San Francisco Kids vs. Big Tobacco (“a coalition of doctors, parents, and community groups protecting youth from flavored tobacco products and addiction, sponsored by nonprofit health organizations.”)

Prop D – Congestion Tax on Ridesharing Companies – YES 

Prop D will impose a new tax on Uber and Lyft rides you take within San Francisco. You’ll pay an additional 3.25% on solo rides in gas vehicles and a 1.5% tax on shared rides or rides in electric vehicles. The measure will authorize the city to issue tax bonds up to $300 million to be spent on improving bus and train services, as well as pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure like protected bike lanes. The bonds will be paid back using the new tax revenues.

You may be surprised to learn that the measure is funded by Lyft and Uber, whose businesses will almost certainly suffer once the new tax is approved.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.13.40 PM.pngProp D was introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who worked with Uber and Lyft to settle on the tax rate in exchange for their support for the measure. In my day job, I work for Lyft, and I am proud to support the measure because I think public transit and traffic safety in San Francisco desperately need improvement. As a Lyft employee, I’m a *little* nervous about what the new tax will do to our business in San Francisco. But the average cost of a ride will go up by less than a dollar, so I’m hoping most Lyft and Uber users will barely notice the change. The added cost to solo rides will almost certainly push some users into shared rides (which are less expensive), which is a very good thing. Shared rides help ease congestion by making each car trip more efficient, ultimately getting more cars off the road. The most price-sensitive users will probably use transit, bikes and scooters more, and that will also help in making traffic more bearable in the city.

Some opponents of Prop D argue that the proposed tax isn’t high enough. Others argue that this measure simply makes living in San Francisco more expensive, since public transit isn’t a viable alternative for many people. They also point to the City Controller’s report, which estimates that Prop D will lead to a $25 million loss in San Francisco’s gross domestic product over 20 years and a reduction of 190 total jobs over 20 years. In my opinion, these are small sacrifices to make to improve public safety and transit, but also to reduce driving and encourage other modes of travel.

Supporters: Lyft, Uber, SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Democratic Party, San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Transit Riders, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco, and California Alliance for Retired Americans

Opponents: People who hate taxes; San Francisco Republican Party

Prop E – Affordable Housing for Teachers and School Employees – YES

Prop E is a complicated measure, but here’s the gist: it would make it easier and faster to build housing for educators and projects that are 100% affordable housing. It will do this by changing zoning codes and approvals, allowing this housing on public land, and shortening the time it takes for the city bureaucracy to review development plans.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.16.17 PM.png

That last part is key: accelerating review times will help make it easier for these much-needed housing units to actually get built. The common complaint from real estate developers in San Francisco is that it takes too damn long to get anything approved in this city. And the longer it takes, the more expensive a project becomes. And when you’re trying to develop housing with very low profit margins (like affordable housing), even the smallest delays can kill projects that everyone agrees are needed.

In my voter guides, I am always griping about how ballot measures are a terrible way to run a government. My chief complaint is that ballot measures are permanent – you usually can’t amend a ballot measure except with another ballot measure, which is a long and expensive process. Prop E cleverly sidesteps this problem by enabling future amendments by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Supervisors. I love this, and wish more measures did the same.

By the way, if you want to nerd out on the definition of “affordable housing” and “educator housing,” in Prop E, here you go:

  • 100% affordable housing projects must serve households with an average income of 80% of the area median income (AMI). AMI is defined as $98,500 for a household of 2, and $123,150 for a household of 4. (See table below for sample incomes.) Such projects may allow households making up to 120% of AMI.
  • Educator housing projects require that at least one employee of the San Francisco Unified School District or the San Francisco Community College District lives in each unit. Projects must serve an average household income of 100% of AMI.

graph.pngSource: SPUR

I am supporting Prop E because I think the city needs to do everything it can to keep its middle class from fleeing. Building more affordable housing and teacher housing is a good step in that direction. That said, teachers and people within the affordable housing range are not the only workers who need housing, and I think Prop E should have gone further to help solve a larger range of housing needs.

Opponents of Prop E say that this issue could have been addressed legislatively and did not need to be on the ballot. They argue that the streamlined process may not actually work in practice, because most development projects still need to go through an onerous environmental review required by state law (DOH!). Finally, they argue that housing projects that are 100% affordable usually don’t pencil out for the developer, and this measure doesn’t do enough to incentivize builders to actually put these kinds of projects together.

That last argument is a doozy. I do worry that this measure doesn’t go far enough to make sure affordable housing actually gets built. But it’s worth a shot, given the severity of the city’s affordability crisis. The Association of Bay Area Governments determined that San Francisco needs to build 29,000 new housing units to keep up with housing demand through 2022, and that more than half of those need to be very low, low, or moderate income units. Yikes. We are very far away from that goal today, with few affordable housing projects in the pipeline.

The San Francisco Examiner wrote, “While far from a magic bullet, [Prop E] could save precious money and time and make some projects more likely to come to fruition.” I agree.

Supporters: Mayor London Breed, the entire Board of Supervisors, SPUR, SF Democratic Party, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Prop F – Campaign Contributions and Campaign Ads – NO

Prop F is about two issues: (1) tightening up campaign contribution rules to make it harder for private companies and law firms to influence the Mayor, Supervisors and City Attorney in land use matters; and (2) giving voters more information about who is funding certain kinds of political ads. Both are superwonky issues, so bear with me.

Issue #1: Prop F would specifically prohibit campaign contributions from LLCs and law firms, and ban contributions to members of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor and City Attorney, and any candidates for those offices, from any person with land use matters before the City. This seems a little silly to me. Campaign contributions for these offices are already capped at $500, and citywide candidates need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to compete in their races. So I sincerely doubt that any candidate for public office is going to be swayed by such a small dollar amount.

Issue #2 is more interesting to me – changing the disclosure requirements in campaign ads.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.22.24 PM.png

During election season, you see campaign advertisements and mailers from PACs. The small print on those ads say something like, “Paid for by the Committee to Promote Avocado Toast.”  The problem with this disclaimer is that the “committee” is designed to hide the names of its funding sources, so you might be shocked to learn that its funding comes from people who actually HATE avocado toast. Presumably, if you knew the funding sources, you would view the ad with some skepticism, right? “This campaign mailer is trying to mislead me about the nutritional value of this delicious brunch entrée!” you would declare, hypothetically.

That’s the idea behind the new advertising rules in Prop F.  The measure will require campaigns and PACs to prominently disclose the name and dollar amount contributed by the top donors contributing $5,000 or more toward campaign ads. This applies to campaign websites, print materials (flyers, posters, mass mailings, etc.), radio and TV ads. Notably, Prop F does NOT apply to digital or online ads, which, um, is where all campaigns are headed. This, to me, is a very serious flaw (and tells me that Prop F’s authors are out of touch).

Prop F will make it easier for voters to follow the money. This is important in an environment where PAC spending is on the rise (thanks, Citizens United!).  However, if you read my voter guides, you know that I think ballot measures are a terrible way to make complicated policy decisions like this. Complex laws should be written with input from experts, and iterated over time, so that they can adjust to changing circumstances. Measures, by contrast, are set in stone once they are passed. They often aren’t vetted by the right stakeholders, and they can’t be amended except by another ballot measure, which is a time-consuming and expensive process.

While transparency in campaign advertisements is a good idea, Prop F isn’t the way to do it. Campaign finance issues are just too nuanced to be governed by ballot measure. Let’s make the Board of Supervisors do its job, and pass an ordinance that they can go back and adjust over time.

Supporters: Supervisors Yee, Mar, Haney, Fewer, Walton, Ronen, Brown and Mandelman; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; SF Tenants Union; SF Labor Council

Opponents: SPUR; SF Chronicle; SF Republican Party

CANDIDATES

Mayor – London Breed

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.25.33 PM.pngMayor London Breed was first elected in June 2018 after Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly in December of the previous year. Breed is virtually unopposed, meaning, the candidates running against her don’t have the money or name recognition to be viable. And none of the big names in SF politics chose to run against Breed this time around, which says a lot about her strength and her ability to neutralize her opponents. I think the political class decided to give her a pass in this election because she was only sworn in 15 months ago.

Board of Supervisors, District 5 – Vallie Brown

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.26.53 PM.pngThis one is fascinating – it’s a highly contested race between two candidates who are hard to distinguish politically, so the contest is boiling down to the candidates’ personalities and experience.

Incumbent Supervisor Vallie Brown was appointed by Mayor Breed to fill her old Supervisor seat this year. Brown started in politics as a neighborhood activist, and has worked in the District 5 Supervisor’s office for more than a decade. Because of her work in the community, she knows the district inside and out. In her short time as Supervisor, she’s been focused on solving homelessness, affordable housing, improving Muni, and gender and equity issues.  She’s terrific at constituent services, and she’s adept at forging compromise between the warring factions inside city hall.

Brown was an interesting choice for Mayor Breed because their politics aren’t always aligned. Supervisor Brown has split with the Mayor on some important issues – notably Prop C, the homelessness measure that passed in the 2018 election, which would raise $300 million in taxes from the city’s largest businesses to fund homeless services.

Brown’s main competitor, Dean Preston, made his political debut three years ago when he ran against then-Supervisor Breed. Preston is the founder of Tenants Together, a statewide renters’ rights group. He’s a Democratic Socialist and Bernie bro. He has argued that Brown isn’t aggressive enough on housing and homelessness issues. He has never held elective office, and it shows; his proposals on how to build new housing and enable free Muni are completely unworkable.

I’m supporting Vallie because I find her to be thoughtful and pragmatic. She cares a lot about the district, and has no ambition beyond Supervisor, which is refreshing. She prefers to get things done over getting publicity for herself. Frankly, in today’s political environment I think we need more workhorses (and fewer show ponies) in political office.

Supporters of Vallie Brown: Mayor Breed; US Senator Dianne Feinstein; Senator Scott Wiener; Supervisors Yee, Fewer, Stefani, Walton & Safai; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; League of Conservation Voters; VoteProChoice; and many more.

Supporters of Dean Preston: Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano; Former State Senator Mark Leno; Supervisors Mar, Peskin, Haney, Ronen & Mandelman; Tenants Union; Sierra Club; Teachers Union; and many more.

City Attorney – Dennis Herrera

Dennis Herrera is unopposed. He was first elected in 2001, and this will be his 6th term of office. The election of Donald Trump has breathed new life into this veteran politician – Dennis seems to be enjoying suing the White House at every turn for its cruel and unconstitutional policies. Go get ‘em, Dennis!

District Attorney – Suzy Loftus!!

This is an electrifying race between Suzy Loftus and Chesa Boudin, who couldn’t be more different from each other. They agree on many social justice issues, including reforming the police department and the criminal justice system, but the similarities stop there.

Two other candidates in this race – Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch  – aren’t getting as much attention. Tung is a Deputy DA who is the most tough-on-crime candidate in the race. Her key endorsements come from other prosecutors and some retired judges. Dautch is a Deputy Attorney General and former President of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Commission, who has the endorsements of State Treasurer Fiona Ma as well as a few local Democratic clubs.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.32.38 PM

Photo Credit: Rick Gerharter

Loftus was recently called the “front runner” by the SF Chronicle, in part because she has the backing of the SF Democratic Party, and most elected officials and Democratic clubs in town. She is a former Deputy District Attorney and President of the Police Commission, who has worked in criminal justice her entire career. She has an impressive resumé, and she has also rolled up her sleeves in the community to help children in Bayview-Hunters Point deal with the trauma of violence and adversity. She’s a mother of three, and has a progressive approach to policing. Loftus is committed to criminal justice reform and she is focused on quality of life crimes that San Franciscans desperately want addressed. A former prosecutor, she is campaigning on putting more law enforcement resources into stopping the car break-in epidemic, holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable, and working to rebuild the community’s trust in the police force.

Chesa Boudin is a public defender who is running a pro-reform, anti-police campaign. He is intimately familiar with the criminal justice system, as his parents were convicted when he was 14 months old for participating in the murders of two police officers and a security guard. He is legit, in that he is well educated and brings the perspectives of the accused and the convicted to his campaign. He wants to hold police officers accountable when they commit crimes, and he wants to deprioritize misdemeanors.

I’m all for reforming the criminal justice system – it is racist and classist and backward. However, there are crimes that must be prosecuted – both felonies AND misdemeanors. The city has a property crime epidemic – my own apartment was burglarized twice this year – so I think it’s irresponsible for Boudin to declare that misdemeanor crimes won’t be taken as seriously if he is elected. I worry that it will lead to even more lawlessness on our streets.

Recent polls show that the race is neck-and-neck. Boudin has the backing of some big names in entertainment including Danny Glover, Michael Franti, and John Legend. Because of his national connections, including Bernie Sanders, he’s been able to raise money from many out-of-state sources. His local support comes from the more progressive faction of City Hall, including the SF Tenants Union, several labor unions, 5 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, and the League of Pissed Off Voters.

By contrast, Loftus’s endorsements come from across the political spectrum, and include Governor Gavin Newsom, Senators Feinstein and Harris, and 8 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, as well as the SF Chronicle AND the SF Examiner. (Your math is right: 3 of the Supervisors dual endorsed).

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.28.25 PM.pngA funny thing happened a few weeks ago – DA George Gascon surprised all of City Hall by resigning his office before the end of his term, leaving a vacancy for the Mayor to fill. Mayor Breed appointed Loftus, her endorsed candidate, causing quite a brouhaha. The Mayor was in a pickle – the DA’s office needed someone at the helm for the last 3 months of the year, and the Mayor knew appointing Loftus would be controversial. But if she didn’t appoint her, it would imply that she didn’t have enough confidence in Suzy’s ability to win. Both Loftus and Breed were criticized for the appointment by the far left, and yet it doesn’t give Suzy any advantage in this race whatsoever. It’s too late to change her ballot designation to “incumbent,” and it only gives Loftus additional work to do while running for the office. Ultimately, the appointment probably did more harm to Suzy’s campaign than good.

Regardless, I’m voting for Loftus because I think San Francisco needs a DA who will tackle our public safety challenges with both courage AND compassion. There is no doubt that the criminal justice system is broken, but I’d rather hire a mom with prosecutorial experience over a public defender who wants to prioritize reform over safety.

I’d like to add that Suzy is a just a badass. She is raising three young children in San Francisco, while taking care of her mom AND running for office at the same time. (And I think parenting one toddler is hard!) Suzy is one of the hardest working people I have ever met, and I trust her with solving some of the city’s most intractable problems.

Supporters of Suzy Loftus: SF Chronicle; Bay Area Reporter; Governor Gavin Newsom; Senators Feinstein and Harris; SF Democratic Party; Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta; Supervisors Yee, Mandelman, Brown, Stefani, Walton, Safai, Mar, Haney; SF Bicycle Coalition; SF Janitors Union Local 87

Supporters of Chesa Boudin: Senator Bernie Sanders; Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club;  League of Pissed Off Voters; San Francisco Green Party; Teachers Union; Former State Senator Mark Leno; Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Mar, Haney, and Ronen

Public Defender – Mano Raju

Mano Raju was appointed by Mayor London Breed after the sudden death of Jeff Adachi earlier this year. Raju was one of Adachi’s chief deputies, and is well liked by the office. He is unopposed.

Sheriff – Paul Miyamoto

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.30.28 PM

Credit: Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner

Paul Miyamoto has served in the Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years, and has served on the command staffs of three sheriffs.  He has run for Sheriff before, against Ross Mirkarimi in 2011. This time, there is a good chance he will win…because he is the only candidate in the race. He’s been endorsed by the outgoing Sheriff Vicki Hennessey, Mayor Breed, and just about everyone else.

Treasurer – Jose Cisneros

Jose Cisneros was first elected Treasurer in 2005, after being appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 to fill a vacancy. He is doing a fine job by all accounts, and he is unopposed this time around.

School Board (one seat) – Jenny Lam

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.34.49 PM.pngThere are three candidates for this seat, but Jenny Lam is the one. She was appointed by Mayor Breed in January to replace Matt Haney who was elected to the Board of Supervisors. Her day job is Mayor Breed’s education advisor, and she previously worked at Education SuperHighway, a San Francisco nonprofit working to bring high-speed internet to classrooms nationwide. Her two challengers have little connection to education, and haven’t put together viable campaigns. Because of this, Lam has been endorsed by literally everybody.  I am voting for her.

SF Community College Board (one seat) – Ivy Lee is unopposed

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.36.13 PM.pngIvy is unopposed, but I will still say a few nice things about her. She is a City Hall veteran, as she worked for many years as a Board of Supervisors aide to both Supervisors Norman Yee and Jane Kim. She was appointed to the College Board by Mayor Breed In 2018 to fill a vacancy. No one is running against her, at least in part because she has the chops – she was an architect of the Free City College program, and she has fought to stabilize City College and improve the education environment for the 63,000 students the college serves. I’m voting for her.

Ivy’s endorsements are here.

As always, I welcome your input in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter. Tell me why I’m wrong! I love a good debate.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alix’s Voter Guide – SF Ballot, November 2018

All we hear about in the news is the House and Senate races nationwide. Here in San Francisco, our House and Senate races are foregone conclusions, but that doesn’t mean that the election isn’t very important.

In SF, the elephant in the room is homelessness and housing. And Prop C is the most controversial measure on the ballot, promising to double the city’s spending on homelessness solutions. The candidates for Supervisor are battling over where housing should be built, and who has the best solutions to the problem. Homelessness is even an issue in the race for BART Board! It’s everywhere in this election.

An exciting school board race also underway. With 18 candidates to choose from, voters have their work cut out for them. And four Supervisor races are neck-and-neck! Election night is going to be very exciting this year.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my baby girl, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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.

My guide to the California measures and races can be found here.

US House (CA-12) – Nancy Pelosi
US House (CA-14) – Jackie Speier
Assembly, District 17 – David Chiu
Assembly, District 19 – Phil Ting
Assessor Recorder – Carmen Chu
Public Defender – Jeff Adachi
Supervisor, District 2 – Catherine Stefani
Supervisor, District 4 –Trevor McNeil
Supervisor, District 6 – (1) Matt Haney (2) Christine Johnson
Supervisor, District 8 – Rafael Mandelman
Supervisor, District 10 – Shamann Walton
BART Board, District 8 – Melanie Nutter
Community College Board – Thea Selby, John Rizzo, Victor Olivieri
Board of Education – Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga, Phil Kim
Proposition A – Seawall Earthquake Safety – YES
Proposition B – City Privacy Guidelines – NO
Proposition C – Tax on big business to fund homeless services – No
Proposition D – Cannabis Businesses Tax – NO
Proposition E – Arts and Cultural Allocation – Yes

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.43.03 PM.pngUS House (CA-12) – Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi received 69% of the vote in June, and her next opponent, Lisa Remmer (R) got 9%. Pelosi’s re-election is a lock, and so she’s spending all of her time making the Blue Wave a reality. Her “Red to Blue HQ” is rallying volunteers to phone bank for Democrats in swing districts. You may think it’s time for new leadership, and I respect that, but before you judge her too harshly, let’s see how well she does at winning back the House for Team Blue.

US House (CA-14) – Jackie Speier

Speier got 79% of the vote in June. She’s also a lock, and so she’s spending her time amplifying women’s voices and combating sexual violence on college campuses.

Assembly, District 17 – David Chiu

Chiu is running virtually unopposed, and he’s doing a fine job, so I won’t waste your time (or mine) with a lengthy analysis of his fine qualities.

Assembly, District 19 – Phil Ting

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.45.28 PM.png

Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu

Ting is running virtually unopposed.

Assessor Recorder – Carmen Chu

Chu is running virtually unopposed.

Public Defender – Jeff Adachi

Adachi is running unopposed.

Supervisor, District 2 – Catherine Stefani

Supervisor Catherine Stefani faces BART Director Nick Josefowitz and political newcomer Schuyler Hudak. In this district, which encompasses wealthy neighborhoods including Pacific Heights and the Marina, the top issues are homelessness and property crime. Stefani was appointed to the seat when her former boss, D2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, was appointed acting Mayor in the wake of Mayor Ed Lee’s sudden passing last year.

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Supervisor Stefani with Moms Demand Action

Stefani has by far the most experience in the district and in government, having served as a legislative aide for the previous two D2 Supervisors, and most recently as County Clerk. She’s the leader of the San Francisco chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded after the Sandy Hook massacre. She has recently called for an audit of the millions of tax dollars that are distributed to nonprofits serving the homeless, make sure our tax dollars are being well spent. I am supporting her because she has worked in the district for more than a decade, she knows its issues and its constituents, and she’s a fierce advocate for families and against gun violence.

Hudak is the founder of a documentary video startup who is campaigning as an outsider ready to bring change. I find her to be smart and well meaning, but her lack of experience in government disqualifies her, IMO.

Before running for BART Board, Josefowitz founded and ran a solar-energy company, and now he’s using his personal wealth to fund his campaign.  Josefowitz earned the Chronicle endorsement because he has demonstrated a commitment to taking on the housing crisis while he has been on the BART Board, pushing for higher density development along transit corridors. I supported Nick for BART Board, and I think he has some good ideas, but I’m supporting Stefani because of her leadership on gun violence and her vast experience in City Hall.

Supervisor, District 4 –Trevor McNeil

The three main candidates for D4 are community activist Gordon Mar, public school teacher Trevor McNeil and Jessica Ho, legislative aide to D4 Supervisor Katy Tang. In this district, which encompasses the Sunset, voters mostly care about public safety and preserving neighborhood character (which means opposing large scale development).

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Trevor McNeil and his family

Gordon Mar is the brother of former Supervisor Eric Mar, and is favored by the more progressive politicians in City Hall and democratic clubs. He’s a community organizer, and the co-founder and Executive Director of Jobs with Justice, a labor organization. The so-called moderates are divided between Trevor McNeil and Jessica Ho. Jessica has only lived in SF since March, when she moved here from LA to take the job in Supervisor Tang’s office. While Jessica Ho has more experience in city government than either McNeil or Mar, she’s only been in City Hall for 7 months.*

All three candidates want to build more housing, support homeless services, and increase the quality and reliability of the public transit system. In fact, their positions on the issues are pretty close to indistinguishable. However, McNeil is the only one who said he would support a homeless navigation center in the district if it were necessary. I worked with McNeil in Democratic Party leadership several years ago, and I can tell you he works harder than anyone I know. He has three kids under 4, has a full time teaching job, AND works relentlessly for liberal candidates and causes in his free time. Vote for Trevor.

*Edit: She also spent a year interning for the previous D4 Supervisor, but it doesn’t make her much more qualified, IMO.

Supervisor, District 6 – (1) Matt Haney (2) Christine Johnson

District 6 includes SoMa, the Tenderloin and Mission Bay — neighborhoods hit particularly hard by homelessness and rapid development. The person elected to this seat will need to be able to straddle the vastly different worlds of new money and relentless poverty.

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Matt Haney (photo: San Francisco Magazine)

Matt Haney, former President of the school board, is the real deal. He lives in the Tenderloin, he walks the walk, and he has spent the last several years getting to know the woes and triumphs of this multi-faceted district. When Matt was first elected to the Board of Education, he visited every public school so that he could meet the students, teachers and administrators. He has also co-founded #cut50 with Van Jones. Together they have worked to reform the criminal justice system.

Christine Johnson is an engineer, a former Planning Commissioner and a policy nerd with 14 years of experience in public finance. I have heard her speak a few times and I have been impressed with how much she understands about real estate development and the San Francisco budgeting process. She brings ideas to the campaign that are both bold and specific, down to the municipal code sections she would like to see amended.

Trauss is a housing activist who built YIMBY — “Yes in My Backyard” — into a national pro-housing development movement. I have respect for the bold work she has done to increase public awareness around the causes of the San Francisco housing crisis. However, she is a bomb thrower and I find her style to be abrasive and unproductive.

Supervisor, District 8  – Rafael Mandelman

Rafi is running virtually unopposed. He just won the seat in June.

Supervisor, District 10 – Shamann Walton

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Shamann Walton (photo: SF Chronicle)

District 10 includes Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, the Bayview, and Hunters Point. The latter two are some of the city’s poorest and most isolated neighborhoods. The district is seeing some of the city’s most rapid growth along the Third Street corridor and at the former site of Candlestick Park, though some of this development is plagued by a cleanup scandal at the Hunters Point Shipyard. The next D10 supervisor has a very big job ahead of them.

The main candidates in D10 are Shamann Walton, a school board member and the Executive Director for Young Community Developers, a workforce training nonprofit; Theo Ellington, former President of the Bayview Opera House board and former Director of Public Affairs for the Golden State Warriors; and Tony Kelly, theater director and Potrero Hill Democratic Club leader. All three are focused on making sure that new development includes enough benefits for the local community.

I like Theo Ellington, whom I met when he was working for the Golden State Warriors on their arena project. He’s smart and knows a lot about politics and real estate development. However, his youthful enthusiasm doesn’t make up for his relative inexperience in government.

This is Tony Kelly’s third run for Supervisor, and he doesn’t seem to have much traction in this campaign. To his credit, he has some bold ideas around housing, including vacancy control which penalizes owners of vacant residences. He also wants to increase MUNI funding while decreasing fare enforcement, seems contradictory to me.

Having served on the school board for several years, Shamann Walton has the most experience in pulling the levers of government to benefit the community. He has also worked in the Bayview neighborhood for decades, building workforce programs for young people in D10. Shamann has earned the endorsement of every member of the school board, 8 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, including folks on both sides of the (progressive SF) aisle. This is a testament to his ability to work with everybody and get things done. Vote for Shamann.

BART Board (District 8) – Melanie Nutter

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Melanie Nutter

Melanie Nutter is a lifelong environmental advocate, and she is laser-focused on reliability and cleanliness of BART. She wants to enlist BART in taking an active role in getting homeless people out of BART stations and into city services.  And as the former Director of the city’s Department of the Environment, she is also eager to move BART closer to environmental sustainability. Melanie has the endorsements of the SF Chronicle, Mayor London Breed, Senator Scott Wiener, David Chiu, League of Conservation Voters, many democratic clubs, among others.

Jonathan Lyens is a super nice guy, who I’ve known through his work on the FDR Democratic Club. Blind since childhood, Jonathan has overcome tremendous obstacles and taken on tough fights his entire life. He is very well meaning, but doesn’t have much transit-related experience. He’s been endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party, many labor unions, and Supervisors Peskin, Fewer, Yee, Mandelman, and Ronen.

Janice Li has transportation policy credentials, having worked as a policy advocate and community organizer for the SF Bike Coalition. She has earned many progressive endorsements, including Supervisors Peskin, Fewer and Kim, and Assemblymember Phil Ting.

I am voting for Nutter because her many years of working in City Hall will make her a far more effective leader than Lyens or Li. Where her opponents are focused on discrete aspects of BART’s operations, Nutter has a much bigger picture perspective, demonstrated by her understanding of BART’s impact on the Bay Area’s housing crunch and the regional environment. Vote for Melanie.

Community College Board – Thea Selby, John Rizzo, Victor Olivieri

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Thea Selby

Three seats are up on the College Board, and the three incumbents holding those seats are running for re-election: Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila and John Rizzo. They have worked closely together to save City College from the myriad of problems it’s had in recent years, including the accreditation crisis.

John Rizzo, former President of the local Sierra Club chapter, has served the longest on the college board, and his institutional knowledge is critical because there is much more work to do to keep City College on track.  Thea Selby is passionate about public education. She is sharp as a tack, and she served as President of the Board when City College was re-accredited, which was no small feat. She’s also a mother of two, and she advocates for small businesses and public transit in her spare time. I honestly don’t know where she gets all her energy!

Brigitte Davila has been on the College Board for the last 4 years and currently serves as its President. Though she has some high profile endorsements, my sense is that her heart’s not in this campaign. Her website is outdated, and doesn’t say what she wants to do with the next four years if she wins. She’s endorsed by the SF Chronicle; the SF Democratic Party; the Labor Council; and Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Kim, Yee, Mandelman, Ronen and Cohen.

One challenger has emerged – Victor Olivieri – and he has earned a surprising number of powerful endorsements including people who don’t normally endorse in such a down-ballot race: Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, State Controller Betty Yee, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson among many others. Olivieri is young and ambitious. He has a detailed plan for City College, and his website is slick – which tells me that he may be using this race as a stepping stone for higher office. In any case, he has impressed me so far, and he is the one to watch in this race.

Board of Education – Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga, Phil Kim

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Michelle Parker

Three of the seven seats on the school board are up for election, with one incumbent (very recently appointed by the mayor) on the ballot. 18 candidates are vying for the positions, and I’m impressed with the quality of the candidates this year! There are parents, teachers, school counselors, and youth advocates, and they all have unique perspectives on how to make the public schools better.  I’m not going to analyze every single one of their candidacies – there are so many of them! – but I’ll tell you about the ones getting the most ink. I’m endorsing Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga and Phil Kim for the reasons below.

The main issues this year are (1) the elimination of algebra classes in 8th grade, (2) the always-controversial school assignment (lottery) system, and (3) how to manage the district’s $890 million budget, which is strapped by skyrocketing pension costs.

Michelle Parker is one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for school board. She is a parent of three public school students with a long track record of leadership as a parent advocate. She has worked with thousands of parents over the past ten years – as District PTA president, in facilitating community meetings, and in leading efforts to organize parents as a co-founder of Parent PAC. She has served on an array of education advisory committees at the state and local level. I have found her to be knowledgeable and level headed — and prepared to hit the ground running if she is elected. Parker is focused on individualizing student’s educations – bringing back 8th grade algebra and gifted & talented programs; and attracting and retaining educators. Her top endorsers are Mayor London Breed; SF Chronicle; Senator Scott Wiener;  Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting; and Supervisors Stefani, Tang, Brown, and Safai.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 7.56.50 PM.pngFaauuga Moliga is a school social worker and parent. Mayor Breed appointed him to the school board in October to fill the seat of Hydra Mendoza, who moved away. Moliga is the first Pacific Islander member of the school board, representing a community impacted by high poverty and incarceration rates, and low college readiness. His campaign focuses on the opportunity gap for students of all demographics, as well as supporting the well-being of students and families through mental health services. His main endorsers are the SF Teachers Union; organized labor; Mayor London Breed; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Mandelman, Fewer, Ronen, Safai, Peskin and Yee.

Phil Kim is a science teacher and has served on several statewide committees that examine and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in California. He has a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Administration, and a passion for social justice curricula that are developed in partnership with parents and families. I met him at a cocktail party a few weeks ago, and I was impressed with how well he answered my barrage of questions about how to improve the public schools in San Francisco.

Although he works at a charter school (KIPP Academy), he tells me he opposes the proliferation of charter schools in San Francisco.  He advocates for more accountability and oversight of charter schools, and he distances himself from the politics of Marshall Tuck, Betsy DeVos and others who think that charter schools should replace public schools. He thinks that charter schools can play an important but niche role in a public school system, but that the public schools should always remain primary. I agree with him on these points, and I think that his unique perspective would be valuable on the school board. Phil’s major endorsers are  SF Chronicle, State Senator Scott Wiener, City College Trustee Alex Randolph.

Li Miao Lovett is legit. She’s an academic counselor, and has worked in public education for 20 years. Her focus is on making sure immigrant families and poor families have access to resources, ensuring the social-emotional development of all children, and programs that support children of working parents and those with special needs. She is endorsed by the progressive side of town, including the teachers union; Democratic Party; organized labor; progressive elected officials including Assemblymember Phil Ting, Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Yee, Mandelman, Ronen; School Board member Matt Haney.

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Alida Fisher and her family

Alida Fisher is a public school parent and education consultant.  She has a unique perspective because of her experiences as a foster parent and (white) adoptive mother of African-American children. To say she is an involved parent is an understatement. Fisher is a parent mentor with Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, a member of several advisory committees to the Board of Education, and Chair of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. She is endorsed by the SF Chronicle.

John Trasviña is the former dean of USF law school, and he also served as Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development under Obama. He went to public school in San Francisco when he was a kid, but doesn’t otherwise have much of a connection to the public school system. Given his decades of political involvement, it seems pretty clear to me that this office would be a stepping stone for him… though that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a good school board member. He has a lot of powerful endorsements because of his work in immigrant rights and housing over the years, including a mix of both progressives and moderates: Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi,  SF Democratic Party Chair David Campos, Assembly Members David Chiu and Phil Ting, Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, DA George Gascon, Supervisor Katy Tang.

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Monica Chinchilla

Monica Chinchilla is a parent and a community organizer. In 2016 she was the campaign manager for the Proposition V (Soda Tax) campaign in San Francisco, which won despite overwhelming opposition from Big Soda. Her community organizing work has centered around fighting for resources and policy changes that positively impact the Latino and and African-American communities in San Francisco. Chinchilla’s main endorsers are Mayor London Breed; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; School Board members Shamann Walton and Mark Sanchez; Former Mayor Art Agnos; several labor unions.

Gabriela Lopez is a fourth grade teacher who has worked in public schools for 10 years. She has a master’s degree in education and has spent much of her career designing arts-based professional development for educators. Her priorities are improving the classroom environment with smaller class sizes and access to arts programming, supporting students’ different learning needs and expanding special education, and supporting teachers through higher salaries and access to housing. She has been endorsed by the SF Examiner, San Francisco Berniecrats; Supervisors Fewer, Kim, and Ronen; School board members Mark Sanchez and Matt Haney.

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Mia Satya: Badass

Mia Satya has an inspirational personal story. As a young trans woman growing up in rural Texas, she was relentlessly bullied. After moving to California, she struggled with homelessness, discrimination and violence but made a career of working with youth, at an afterschool program and various programs for homeless youth. She’s been a community organizer advocating for racial, economic, and gender justice, and is an effective advocate for youth facing multiple barriers to success. She has been endorsed by the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club; Supervisors Mandelman and Kim; School Board Member Matt Haney, and City College Trustees Thea Selby, Shanell Williams, Tom Temprano, and Ivy Lee

Alison Collins is a mother of twins and a community organizer. She has a master’s degree in education, and worked for the Oakland school district in the past as an administrator. She has initiated campaigns to improve park safety and playground facilities. Her website says she “speaks out on parent rights and holding district leaders accountable,” however, I have also heard from a few sources that her style of advocacy is abrasive and unproductive. She must be doing something right, though, because she has an impressive list of endorsers (from the progressive side of town): San Francisco Democratic Party; the teachers union; the San Francisco Labor Council; the SF Examiner; Supervisors Cohen, Fewer, Peskin, Brown, Kim, Yee, Mandelman and Ronen.

PROPOSITION A – SEAWALL EARTHQUAKE SAFETY – YES

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.01.50 PM.pngIf you’ve taken a walk or bike ride along the Embarcadero, you have seen the crumbling concrete and dilapidated piers along San Francisco’s waterfront. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, and it’s also a threat to public safety.  Ponder this: scientists predict that the sea level will rise three feet in the next 30 years, and that the Bay Area will see another earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or larger sometime in the same 30-year span. You can see why the repair of San Francisco seawall is more urgent than ever.

Proposition A is a $425 million bond that will pay for repairs to the Embarcadero seawall, which protects $100 billion in property and infrastructure that are currently at risk.  Earthquakes and sea level rise are no joke, and as climate change brings more severe weather, high tides and flooding will put more strain on the wall. Repairing the seawall is also critical for the SF economy; San Francisco’s waterfront draws 24 million tourists every year.

The Proposition requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and pretty much everyone has endorsed it. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Who supports it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, Mayor London Breed and every member of the Board of Supervisors, Lt Governor Gavin Newsom, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, State Senator Scott Wiener, Assembly Member David Chiu, Assembly Member Phil Ting, building and construction trades, every member of the Port Commission (duh!) San Francisco Democratic Party, environmental groups including the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters

Who opposes it: Libertarian Party of San Francisco

PROPOSITION B – CITY PRIVACY GUIDELINES – NO

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.03.53 PM.pngData privacy is the hottest topic in government this year after data breaches at Facebook and other companies revealed how tech companies use consumer information. Proposition B is a non-binding resolution asking the city to set privacy standards for companies who do business in San Francisco. The idea is an appealing one, because everyone agrees that consumers should have more control over their data, and if SF – the capitol of tech – sets a high bar, the rest of the nation might follow.

Specifically, the authors of Proposition B want to give you more control over how your personal information – including your sexual orientation, race, national origin, or religious affiliation – is used and shared. They want to regulate how your information is being handed over to law enforcement, third party advertisers, or other private special interests. And they want you to have more control over the use of your location data. These are all appealing goals, and I don’t disagree with any of them. However, I think that a San Francisco privacy law is unnecessary because it’s duplicative of a new California law, and from the perspective of the businesses, a patchwork of city-by-city privacy laws is a nightmare to comply with.

In 2016 the European Union enacted GDPR, a landmark law that grants European consumers far more control over the use of their data. And in June of this year California also enacted its own privacy law mirroring many of the GDPR’s provisions. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will give consumers the right to know all data collected by a business on you; the right to say no to the sale of your information; the right to delete your data; and the right to know the business or commercial purpose of collecting your information, as well as the categories of third parties with whom your data is shared.*

Opponents of Prop B are focused on a tacked-on provision that would allow changes to City Hall’s transparency laws. It would give lawmakers more control over what the public can now access about meetings and public records, and this makes journalists, voting rights groups and good government groups very nervous. I agree with them that maintaining public access to government information is critical to keep public officials accountable for their actions.

* Note: I lead the compliance team at a tech company, and I’m working to get our CCPA compliance plan together before it goes into effect in 2020.

Who supports it: Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Jane Kim, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin (sponsor of the measure), Hillary Ronen, Norman Yee

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner

PROPOSITION C – TAX ON BIG BUSINESS TO FUND HOMELESS SERVICES – NO

This was a tough one for me, and there are smart and thoughtful people on both sides of this measure. I’ll do my best to summarize the pros and cons, so that you can make your own decision.

Prop C will authorize the city to fund housing and homelessness services by enacting a new tax on medium-to-large businesses in San Francisco at the following rates:

  • 0.175 percent to 0.69 percent on gross receipts (revenues) for businesses with over $50 million in annual revenue, or
  • 5 percent of payroll expense for certain businesses with over $1 billion in annual revenues and administrative offices in San Francisco.

If passed, Prop C will establish the Our City, Our Home Fund, which will go toward permanent housing (50%), mental health services for homeless individuals (25%), homelessness prevention (15%), and short-term shelters (10%). The San Francisco Controller’s office says that the new tax would generate new tax revenue of approximately $250 million to $300 million annually beginning in 2019. In the interest of full disclosure, I work for one of the 400 companies that will be subject to the tax if Prop C passes.

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Photo: San Francisco Business Times

Prop C is the hottest topic on the San Francisco ballot. Progressives and homelessness organizations are rallying for it, framing it as a matter of social justice. Centrist politicians and business groups contend it is potentially a job-killer, it’s way more money than the city needs, and what’s needed are more creative solutions along with a better accounting of money already being spent. My objections to it are technical, namely, that a ballot measure is not the right way to solve this problem, because it locks in the spending requirements in perpetuity, which is a terrible way to run a government program.

Arguments in favor of Prop C:

  1. It’s about damn time! Homelessness is by far the city’s biggest problem, and it’s getting worse. Thousands of people sleep on the streets every night, and thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless. It’s inhumane and appalling that we are letting human beings continue to live in such horrific conditions. Plus, it’s hurting tourism and retail sales. SF is seeing fewer visitors because of the shocking number of people on the streets.
  2. San Francisco is the city of love, and it should live up to its nickname. The big companies that are based here were attracted here in part because of the compassion and progressive ethics San Francisco is known for. Getting people off the streets will make San Francisco a better place to live for everyone.
  3. The city spends $300 million per year on homeless services and it’s clearly not enough. Doubling this amount will make a huge dent in the homeless problem. Prop C funds will pay for housing for at least 5,000 people, 1,000 new emergency shelter beds and mental health programs for hundreds of people in dire straits. For years now, our elected leaders have tried to solve the issue, but have yet to commit the resources necessary to adequately address this complex problem.
  4. Big companies can afford it. SF is an incredibly rich city with some very successful businesses, and they can afford to make San Francisco better in exchange for their success here. Moreover, the companies that created all the jobs in San Francisco are actually contributing to the homeless problem, by causing the insane housing demand in the city, driving housing prices up. They should pay to solve the problem.

Arguments against Prop C:

  1. Homelessness shouldn’t be solved by ballot measure! You’ve heard me say it before: a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s a terrible way to make government decisions. Prop C will lock in existing funding levels and direct new spending, making the city’s homelessness spending nearly impossible to change. The city’s intractable homeless problem requires a multi-faceted, nuanced approach that HAS TO be able to iterate over time. Let’s find a better way to secure more funding for homeless programs, and make sure that the money is spent appropriately. To me, this is a very strong case against Prop C.
  2. Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.12.23 PM.pngIt’s too much money for homelessness relative to other spending. Prop C secures $682 million for the Department of Homelessness. For comparison, that’s 3x the budget of Rec and Park ($231 million), 7x the budget of the Department of Emergency Management ($95 million), 4x the budget of Libraries ($160 million), and nearly 3x the budget of the Sheriff’s Department, which includes the jails ($249 million). Moreover, if Prop 2 (2018) on the California ballot passes, SF is poised to receive another $100 million per year for homelessness programs. Senator Scott Wiener also recently secured $30 million from the state budget for homeless youth programs. Does SF need $812 million per year for the homeless?! No.
  3. It’s more money than SF needs. San Francisco is actually doing a lot right now to solve the homeless problem, as evidenced by: (1) the growing numbers of navigation centers around the city; (2) the planned opening of a city-sponsored drug injection center; (3) new conservatorship rules to allow the city to help the homeless mentally ill; (4) Mayor Breed’s initiative to build 1000 new shelter beds; and (5) the securing of $30 million for homeless youth programs from the state budget this year. While still bad, the problem has actually gotten much better this year because the city is willing to take risks, and find more efficient ways to use its existing budget.
  4. Prop C doesn’t contain a sunset provision. Meaning, it goes on forever! This is just unreasonable and shortsighted. I can understand the argument that we need to spend a lot of money up front to solve the intractable homeless problem. But once we’ve solved it, and everyone has housing, these programs won’t cost as much, year-over-year, right?
  5. Money is not the cure-all to end homelessness. While our city’s homelessness spending has more than tripled over nearly two decades, the number of people experiencing homelessness on our streets has remained the same at about 7,000. This shows that money alone won’t solve the problem. There is nothing in Prop. C about enforcing laws against street tents, aggressive panhandling, or compelling treatment on people with grave mental illness. (On the other hand, there is nothing in Prop C that prevents city government from separately enacting and enforcing these laws.)
  6. Big companies will leave San Francisco, and the local economy will suffer. I work for one of the companies that will be subject to this new tax, and I don’t buy the argument that companies will leave. Every time a new tax is threatened against big business, the Chamber of Commerce cries wolf, and then companies never actually move away. San Francisco is still San Francisco, and it’s a lot easier to recruit top talent when you’re based here. In fact, solving the homelessness crisis will make SF even more appealing for companies and workers to move here. A report by the city’s economist found that Proposition C’s “impacts are small in the context of the city’s job market and economy, equal to a 0.1% difference, on average, over 20 years.”
  7. SF will lose jobs if Prop C passes. Because Prop C includes a payroll-based tax, it penalizes companies for the salaries they pay here in San Francisco, so it does incentivize them to move some jobs elsewhere – jobs like customer support, engineering, communications, finance and other functions that can be done remotely. While it’s unlikely that entire companies will move away, I do think that companies will stop hiring for certain kinds of positions here if the tax is imposed. (Given the insane demand for housing, maybe SF can afford to lose a few jobs?)
  8. The tax is convoluted, leading to unfair results like smaller companies paying way more than huge companies. This article in the Chronicle does a good job of explaining why some smaller companies will bear an unfair tax burden, and why the structure of the tax can lead to higher prices for everything in SF. It includes an illustration as to how a single transaction could be taxed three times under Prop C. Companies that have big revenues but small (or non-existent) profits like Lyft and Uber will be especially F’ed under Prop C because a gross receipts tax is charged on their total revenue, not on their margins.
  9. Increasing our spending on homelessness will draw more homeless people to San Francisco. The data just don’t bear this argument out. Most homeless San Franciscans became homeless IN San Francisco, and generally speaking, poor people stay where their support network is located. In any case, the way housing is allocated by the city is by giving long term residents priority, so the Prop C money won’t go to people who relocate here.
  10. Prop C is a blank check, and the city is going to waste the money. San Francisco has been working to make its existing investment in homeless services more efficient and effective. But a huge infusion of Prop. C money would relieve pressure on city bureaucracy to identify and eliminate spending that isn’t working. The measure doesn’t include any mechanism for tracking spending, and it doesn’t include any performance requirements. There will be no way to know whether the agencies who receive the funds are using them wisely. Having worked in city government, I have seen the waste and inefficiency first hand, so this argument is very persuasive to me.
  11. Prop C is an abuse of the initiative process. When the authors of Prop C were writing it, they didn’t include the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, or the companies who will be impacted, and that will lead to bad law THAT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO MODIFY WITHOUT ANOTHER BALLOT MEASURE. In the words of state senator Scott Weiner, “Prop C is… a massive tax increase – the largest tax increase in San Francisco history – yet the people who drafted Prop C did not engage a broad set of stakeholders. They didn’t even work with our Mayor. Prop C isn’t how government should work. A tax increase of this magnitude should engage a broad array of stakeholders in crafting the tax’s size, sources, and uses. That didn’t happen here. The voters should reject Prop C and allow for a true stakeholder process to determine the best approach to addressing our needs around homelessness.” I totally agree. Prop C is a blunt instrument, and what we need is a more holistic, nuanced approach to solving the problem.

After researching the $!@# out of this measure, I am voting against it. But it was a tough call because I recognize that more needs to be done to solve this problem. If Prop C passes, I hope that the companies that would have been subject to the tax will make big donations to homeless programs with proven track records, and come to the table to help the city solve this problem for good.

Who supports it: SF Examiner; Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi; Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Assemblymember Phil Ting; Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Vallie Brown, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Rafael Mandelman, and Hillary Ronen; Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; Comedian Chris Rock (huh?); San Francisco Democratic Party; Affordable Housing Alliance; Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods; GLIDE church; St. Anthony’s; SF teachers union; Mental Health Association of San Francisco; SPUR; San Francisco Tenants Union; San Francisco Board of Education; Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club; Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle; Mayor London Breed; Lt Governor Gavin Newsom; State Senator Scott Weiner; Assemblymember David Chiu; police and firefighters unions; Chamber of Commerce; small business community, Supervisors Katy Tang and Catherin Stefani; Laborers union; Hotel Council; Edwin M. Lee Democratic Club; Chinese American Democratic Club; City Democratic Club.

PROPOSITION D – CANNABIS BUSINESS TAX – NO

Prop D would place a new tax on cannabis businesses based on their gross receipts (revenues). It would exempt their first $500K in revenue, and any revenue generated up to $1M would be taxed at an additional 2.5%. Revenue greater than $1M would be taxed at an additional 5%.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.14.41 PM.pngBeginning in 2021, the money collected from the tax would go into the general fund, so the city can spend it however it wishes. The city controller predicts proceeds of $2 million to $4 million at first, growing to as much as $16 million in three years.

The main argument against Prop D is that taxing marijuana products will – surprise! – make them more expensive to buy. And that will drive more consumers to buying it on the black market. The illegal market doesn’t pay taxes, and they also don’t have to test their products for quality or safety. They can also mistreat workers and damage the environment with impunity. All these things together make their products much cheaper.

By contrast, legal cannabis operators abide by the laws imposed on other businesses in California. They have to get permits; pay banks transaction fees; pay the business income tax, excise tax, and sales taxes; hire accountants and attorneys and an HR department; obtain workers comp insurance; require sexual harassment training for employees; yada yada yada. You can see how it adds up.

On the other hand, the proponents of Prop D, however, say that the new tax will help the city put illegal operators out of business, with increased building inspections, permit processing and legal action against non-compliant companies. They claim it will also go toward education of the citizenry about cannabis dispensaries, since there is still a lot of opposition to placing new dispensaries in most neighborhoods.  However, since the revenues of Prop D will go into the General Fund, there is no requirement that they will be spent on these things. I’d be more persuaded to support Prop D if the money was required to be spent on enforcement and education.

As a person whose job title includes the word “compliance,” I am generally supportive of companies who make an effort to obey the law, and I think that we ought to give the legitimate cannabis companies a break. I can’t imagine the stress of running a marijuana business out in the open these days, given that it is still illegal under federal law, and that the Jeff Sessions Department of Justice is just dying to make an example of California.

Who supports it: SF Bay Guardian; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Norman Yee, Katy Tang, Catherine Stefani and Vallie Brown

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner; SF Chamber of Commerce; Supervisors Hillary Ronen, and Jane Kim; State Senator Scott Wiener; Board of Equalization member (and soon-to-be State Treasurer) Fiona Ma

Proposition E – Arts and Cultural Allocation – Yes

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.49.18 PM.pngSan Francisco charges a 14% bed tax on hotels, B&Bs, and Airbnb hosts, and it brings in about in $370 million per year.  Prop E would take an 8% slice of this tax revenue and dedicate it to arts and cultural organizations and projects in the city, boosting the city’s arts budget from $22 million per year (2018) to $35 million by 2022. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

Prop E is about to make me a hypocrite. I like this measure because I support the arts and want to see them flourish in the city. I hate this measure because it’s a set-aside, and budgeting by ballot box is no way to run a government.  Sigh.

The arguments in favor of Prop E:

  • Yay for the arts!
  • Prop E won’t increase any taxes, it merely redistributes the existing tax that is mostly paid by tourists.
  • The proposition will benefit a diverse and dynamic part of the city’s economy and personality.
  • Prop E reflects the original intent of the city’s hotel tax, which was created with a portion dedicated to the arts and culture because they help drive tourism. Prop E merely restores the original set-aside.
  • “The housing crisis and the affordability challenges that we face here in San Francisco mean that we are losing the lifeblood of cultural bearers and artists that make San Francisco the community we love.” – Rachel Lastimosa, arts and culture administrator of the city’s Filipino cultural district.

The one really good argument against Prop E:

  • Prop E IS A G&^%*#* SET-ASIDE. It would reduce budget flexibility by locking in the arts funding by way of ballot measure, which – say it with me – can’t be repealed or amended, except by another ballot measure, blah blah blah, and is a terrible way to run a government. When the city faces a downturn, and needs those Prop E funds for, say, recovery from a catastrophic earthquake/tsunami, or building its own militia to defend its water supply from invaders… it will be nearly impossible to do so.

I will close with a quotation that explains why I am voting yes on Prop E.

“The arts are what makes life worth living. You’ve got food, you’ve got shelter, yeah. But the things that make you laugh, make you cry, make you connect – make you love are communicated through the arts. They aren’t extras.”

— President Barack Obama

Who supports it: SF Chronicle; Mayor London Breed; Supervisors Katy Tang and Aaron Peskin; Tom Decaigny, director of cultural affairs, San Francisco Arts Commission; Hotel Council of San Francisco; United Educators of San Francisco; San Francisco Arts Education Project; San Franciscans for the Arts

Who opposes it: SF Examiner; Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Thanks for reading! If you found my voter guide useful, please share it on social media and consider donating here to support my writing habit. Thank you!  My guide to the California measures and races can be found here.

 

Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, November 2018

I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager for an election to come. I don’t know about you, but I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Watching the Kavanaugh proceedings made me want to scream, cry, and volunteer for women running for political office. If you feel the same, I strongly recommend getting in touch with SwingLeft and Indivisible, two groups that are working hard to take Congress back. You can phone bank, you can volunteer your time, you can donate, you can post their websites on social media. It’s not too late. Do it.

Jacky Rosen

Donate to Jacky Rosen for US Senate in Nevada, she is poised to beat (R) incumbent Dean Heller: https://www.rosenfornevada.com/

But just as important, please help make sure that everyone you know VOTES. Every single vote will matter in this election. The registration deadline in California is October 22, and the website with all the info you need is here. Call everyone you know in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota and make sure they are voting for the Democratic candidates for Senate and Congress.

The theme of this November’s ballot is the #BlueWave that many of us are hoping for, and the efforts to keep it from happening. 44% of Californians are registered Democrat, 25% Republican, and 26% have indicated no party preference. Which makes the latter group very powerful, as you can see because you’re good at math. California is the center of the universe in November, as we are trying to flip 9 House seats here, including some very big name Republican incumbents (Devin Nunes, Tom McClintock, Dana Rohrabacher, Duncan Hunter). If we can topple these guys (and they are all guys), we can take down a President and his cronies.

The statewide candidate races are mostly snoozers, since most of the Democrats who made it into the general election have wide leads. As for the statewide ballot measures, there are only a few BFDs. Most of the propositions are about housing and infrastructure, and how to pay for them. Three of the measures are about how to manage discrete parts of the health care system in California. And one is about whether California should have permanent Daylight Savings Time. Yes really.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my baby girl, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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.

My guide to the November 2018 San Francisco ballot can be found here.

US Senate – Dianne Feinstein
Governor – Gavin Newsom
Lt. Governor – Eleni Kounalakis
Secretary of State – Alex Padilla
Controller – Betty Yee
Treasurer – Fiona Ma
Attorney General – Xavier Becerra
Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond
Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Malia Cohen
CA Supreme Ct.– Kruger Yes, Corrigan No?
All Other Justices – Yes 

Prop 1 – Housing Assistance Programs – YES
Prop 2 – Housing for Mentally Ill – YES
Prop 3 –  Water Supply Sustainability – NO
Prop 4 – Children’s Hospitals – YES
Prop 5 –  Property Tax Transfers  – NO
Prop 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – NO NO NO
Prop 7 –  Change Daylight Savings – yes?
Prop 8 – Outpatient Dialysis Centers – NO
Prop 9 – [removed from the ballot]  
Prop 10 – Local Rent Control – YES
Prop 11 – Ambulance Workers’ Breaks – NO
Prop 12 – Farm Animal Confinement – YES

THE CANDIDATES

I’m not going to go into much detail for the candidates for statewide office, because you’ve heard it before. Each of the candidates I endorsed in the June election made it past the primary into the November election, so if you want more detail, please check out my June voter guide. Here is a brief update on what has happened since June.

US Senate – Dianne Feinstein

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.06.28 PMIn the June primary, Kevin De Leon squeaked his way into the general election with 12% of the vote against Dianne Feinstein, who beat the rest of a crowded field with 44%. It is theoretically possible for DeLeon to beat Feinstein in November, however, DeLeon is running to Feinstein’s left, and general elections tend to vote more moderate than primaries.* Moreover, progressives who have been watching the Kavanaugh hearings are happy enough with Feinstein given her role in attacking the nominee. She hasn’t pulled any punches with Kavanaugh or the old white men who control the Senate, IMO.

*Also: Prop 6 is going to pull conservative voters out of the woodwork in California. See my analysis of Prop 6 below.

Governor – Gavin Newsom

In the June election, Gavin Newsom (D) got 34% to John Cox’s (R) 25% and Antonio Villaraigosa’s (D) 13%. Newsom is facing Cox in November, and he’s hoping that the Blue Wave and Villaraigosa’s voters will put him over the top. It’s a good bet, although there’s a wild card in this race, and that’s the impact that Prop 6 will have in pulling conservative voters out to vote for Cox. (See below)

Lt. Governor – Eleni Kounalakis

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 10.58.10 PMNotably, this is one of the few races between two Democrats in November, and it’s a tossup. Eleni Kounalakis got 24% of the vote in June, to Ed Hernandez’s 20%. Given the energy and enthusiasm behind women candidates this fall (including my own!), my money is on Kounalakis.

That said, Eleni has less experience in government than her opponent. And she comes from a wealthy family who has given gobs of money to Democrats over the years (which *might* have something to do with why she was appointed ambassador). Nothing wrong with being wealthy, I just want to know that she is doing her homework and willing to work hard, and that she shares my values. My research and my sources say that these things are true. Also, the job of Lieutenant Governor is a nothingburger, so the stakes are low, IMO.

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla

In the June election, Democrat Alex Padilla won 53% of the vote against Republican Mark Meuser (who?), who garnered only 31%. Since Padilla already has a majority of the state behind him, his victory in November isn’t in doubt. Which is good, now he can spend his time fixing the DMV voter registration debacle.

Controller – Betty Yee

In June, Betty earned 62% of the vote against Republican Konstantinos Roditis. Because Betty already has a majority of votes, she is a shoo-in.

Treasurer – Fiona Ma

Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma (D) won 45% of the vote in June, beating Republican Greg Conlon by 24 points. It would be nearly impossible for him to overcome Ma’s lead in November.

Attorney General – Xavier Becerra

Incumbent Xavier Becerra (D) won the primary with 46% in June, and his next opponent is Steven Bailey (R), who came in with only 25%. The June primary was a three-way race between these two and Dave Jones, who is also a Democrat, so it’s fair to assume that most of Jones’ voters will swing to Becerra in the November election. 46 + 15 = 61. Becerra wins because math.

Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.01.06 PM.pngIf Democrat Ricardo Lara wins, he’ll be the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California. But he’s got a tough fight ahead of him. Lara received 40.5% of the vote in June to (Republican-until-recently) Steve Poizner’s 41%, so it’s neck and neck. Poizner has an edge because he has held the office before (2007-11) and has lots of name recognition statewide. He’s also gotten some big endorsements recently, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. However, the 3rd place finisher in June was a Democrat (Asif Mahmood – 13%), so it’s likely that his votes add to Lara’s total, not Poizner’s. It might be a squeaker. See my June voter guide for why I think Lara should win.

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond

In the June primary, Democrat Marshall Tuck won 37% of the vote to Democrat Tony Thurmond’s 36%. This one is too close to call. See my June voter guide for why I recommend Thurmond.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.28.15 AMBoard of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Malia Cohen

Malia Cohen ran away with the June election, earning 39% of the vote, compared to Republican Mark Burns (27%) and conservative Democrat Cathleen Galgani (26%). Cohen will beat Burns, because most of Galgani’s votes will go to Cohen.

CA Supreme Court Justices – Yes on Kruger, No on Corrigan?

Nobody ever pays attention to state Supreme Court elections, because they are weird and the candidates don’t campaign. Justices are first appointed by the Governor, and then they have to be approved by the voters – with a yes or no vote – at the first gubernatorial election after their appointment. If approved, they get to stay on the court, and they are put forward for another confirmation vote every 12 years. Nobody runs against them, and justices generally don’t campaign for their seats, so it’s hard to know anything about these people unless you are an attorney who appears before the Supreme Court.

Leondra Kruger and Carol Corrigan are the two justices up for election in November. Kruger was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 and this is her first election to confirm the appointment. She is the second African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, and she is doing a fine job by all accounts. Corrigan was appointed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. She was retained by voters in 2006, so this is her second election. The one thing you should know about Corrigan is that she dissented from the historic 2008 California Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in this state. She wrote that the court shouldn’t interfere with a vote of the people (the “vote of the people” in this case was the abhorrent Prop 8 that outlawed gay marriage). This doesn’t necessarily mean that she has something against gay people. And it also doesn’t necessarily mean that you should vote down a Supreme Court Justice on the basis of a single decision, out of hundreds of decisions under her belt. But, you know, knowledge is power.

All Other Justices – Yes

I don’t actually have an opinion on each of these races, and I honestly don’t think they should be on the ballot. No one is campaigning for or against these judges, so I think it doesn’t even matter how you vote.

STATE INITIATIVES

Prop 1 – Housing Assistance Programs – YES

If approved, Prop 1 will issue $4 billion in bonds for existing housing programs, including $1.5 billion for multifamily housing programs for low-income Californians, $1 billion for veterans home loans, $450 million for urban infill projects (like building housing on vacant parking lots) and transit-oriented housing projects, $300 million for farmworker housing, and $300 million for manufactured and mobile homes.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.04.22 PM.pngProp 1 is a general obligation bond. As a refresher, general obligation bonds are essentially loans that the state takes out and then repays with interest over time. The bonds are repaid from the state’s General Fund, and that’s why they have to be approved by the voters. The General Fund also pays for essential services like health care, road repairs, and law enforcement, so we want to be careful about how we’re obligating it to other purposes.

Prop 1 was part of a bigger legislative package that was passed in August 2017. The measure was designed to increase housing production and lower housing costs, and the legislature voted nearly unanimously to put it on the ballot. If it passes, it won’t create any new housing programs, it will merely fund existing housing programs that have been proven to be successful.

I don’t need to tell you that California is in a housing crisis. It’s a statewide problem, and it needs a statewide solution. Investing more public funds toward building new affordable housing is a good start, however we also need streamlined regulations and incentives to build more housing in areas that can accommodate higher density (ahem, SF). And those are in the works. But in the meantime, passing Prop 1 is an important piece of the puzzle.

Who’s supporting it: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (who contributed $250k); affordable housing groups; disability rights groups; building and construction trade unions; silicon valley business leaders.

Who’s opposing it: No official opposition

Prop 2  – Housing for People with Mental Illness – YES

Before we discuss Prop 2, let’s talk about set-asides.

A set-aside is a law that requires a specific funding source to pay for a specific program, SETTING the revenue stream ASIDE from the normal budgeting process. When a set-aside is created by ballot measure, the only way to change it is by another ballot measure – GAH! – which is a horrible way to govern.* I generally oppose set-asides because they tie the hands of future legislatures and they make it extremely difficult to adjust an annual budget according to the state’s changing needs.  There are literally dozens of set-asides that have been approved by previous generations of voters that we are dealing with today. Which brings me to Prop 2.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.31.48 PM.pngProp 2 is not a set-aside. But it does AMEND a previously approved set-aside (Prop 63) to make its funding more flexible. Prop 2 is a technical measure that merely allows the state government to use revenue from the existing “millionaire’s tax” for homelessness prevention.

Prop 63 (Mental Health Services Act, a.k.a. the “millionaire’s tax”) was approved in 2004. It’s a 1% income tax on people who make more than $1 million per year, requiring that the revenues go toward mental health services. Prop 2 (2018) will expand the use of this tax revenue so that it can go toward supportive housing for folks with mental health issues that put them at risk for homelessness. San Francisco would get about $100 million from the new revenue stream, because a significant portion of homeless San Franciscans have mental health issues.

Prop. 2 is a good idea. It affects only a modest slice of the Prop 63 revenue, and it is entirely consistent with the purpose of the original ballot measure. And cities desperately need the money to create more supportive housing for Californians with mental health problems. Vote yes.

*See also: Props C and Prop E on the SF ballot

Who’s supporting it: CA American College of Emergency Physicians; CA Labor Federation; CA Police Chiefs Association; CA State Firefighters’ Association; Habitat for Humanity; League of California Cities; League of Women Voters; National Alliance on Mental Illness CA

Who’s opposing it: No official opponents

Prop 3 –  Water Supply Sustainability – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.22.53 PM.pngOn its surface, Prop 3 seems like a good idea. It would issue nearly $9 billion in bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects, including groundwater supplies and storage, dam repairs, watershed and fisheries improvements, and habitat protection and restoration. Who doesn’t love all of those things? Especially in the Trump era, when the federal government is wiping out all the programs that support water sustainability.

What’s fishy* about this measure is that it was funded in part by the very people and organizations that will receive a portion of the bond money.  A few newspapers have called it a “pay-to-play” scheme, since it includes giveaways to some of the same special interests who qualified it for the ballot. I have supported previous water bonds that came before the voters in CA, but those measures were crafted in an impartial way by lawmakers or citizen committees. By contrast, Prop 3 did not go through the legislative process, and its $430 million in annual spending commitments over the next four decades will not need to go through the annual budgeting cycle to ensure that the funds are going where the voters intended. So there is not enough accountability for how the money will be spent.

The state fiscal analyst said the bond would generate about $8.4 billion in interest over a 40-year period, meaning the bond would cost the state a total of $17.3 billion. Eek. Vote no.

* pun intended

Who’s supporting it: Fresno Bee; Farmers, growers and agricultural associations; Dozens of environmental groups; 90+ water agencies; US Senator Dianne Feinstein; Gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R); Candidate for Treasurer Fiona Ma (D); Congressman John Garamendi (D); California Labor Federation

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle; Mercury News; Sacramento Bee; Sierra Club of CA; Friends of the River; League of Women Voters of California; Save The American River Association; Southern California Watershed Alliance

Prop 4 – Children’s Hospitals – YES

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.08.00 PM.pngCalifornia has 13 regional children’s hospitals that provide specialized care to children and young adults up to age 21 who are suffering from serious and life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.  Prop 4 is a $1.5 billion general obligation bond that will support the construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of these children’s hospitals. They promise to use the money to acquire the latest technology and life-saving medical equipment.

The question for voters is, not whether this is a worthy cause (it clearly is!), but whether we should keep supporting these hospitals’ capital needs through general obligation bonds.

The interest on this bond would be $1.4 billion over 35 years, bringing the total cost of the bond to $2.9 billion. While this sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually quite small as far as state bonds go. (Compare it to, for example, Props 1 and 3). Bonds are paid off via the general fund, which cuts into money for other programs serving children (and everyone else).

Arguments against it:

  • This is the third general obligation bond for children’s hospitals in the past 14 years. Isn’t there a better way to pay for these important resources? A dedicated tax for children’s hospitals would be cheaper in the long run, because it wouldn’t involve paying so much in interest. (But new taxes are way harder to get approved.)
  • The initiative process is the wrong place to set budget priorities and encumber state government with repayment obligations that will make it harder to fund education, public safety and other programs in lean times.

Arguments for it:

  • From everything I’ve read, the spending on previous hospital bonds has been responsible, and I have every reason to believe the money from this bond will be spent appropriately.
  • These hospitals take in children from poor families for often subpar government reimbursement, so they deserve a boost.
  • This money will make a difference. Children’s hospitals are on the cutting edge of pediatric research; they perform 97 percent of pediatric organ transplants and 96 percent of all pediatric heart surgeries; and they oversee 76 percent of all pediatric cancer treatments, according to the California Hospital Association.

Who would not want the best for their children when they face a dire medical condition? I’m voting yes.

Who’s supporting it: SF Chronicle, LA Times, Mercury News, East Bay Times, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, Gavin Newsom, Alex Padilla, CA Democratic Party, California Hospital Assn, CA Medical Assn.

Who’s opposing it: No official opponent

Prop 5-  Property Tax Transfers  – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.09.44 PM.pngOn its face, this seems like a good idea: making it easier for homebuyers who are older or disabled to transfer their existing tax assessments, so that they don’t have to pay higher taxes on their new home.

Prop 5 (2018) would amend Proposition 13 (1978) to allow homebuyers who are age 55 or older or severely disabled to transfer the tax-assessed value from their prior home to their new home, no matter (a) the new home’s market value; (b) the new home’s location in the state; or (c) the number of moves. Keep in mind, though, that homebuyers over 55 years of age are already eligible to transfer their tax assessments from their prior home if the new home’s market value is equal to or less than the prior home’s value and once in their lifetimes. So –empty nesters who want to downsize are able to keep their lower tax base on their new (smaller, cheaper) home.

This means that Prop 5 would only help folks who are buying a more expensive home than their original home, or who are moving for a second, third or fourth time after the age of 55.  Basically, it helps the wealthy who don’t want to pay more in taxes if they get a fancier home, and it will cost cities and counties $2 billion in lost revenue to pay for things like public safety and housing the homeless.  Meanwhile, younger, first-time home buyers with less income will face higher housing prices, and renters will have an even harder time becoming homeowners.

The California Association of Realtors developed the ballot initiative and filed to get it on the ballot, basically to enrich themselves. The newspapers who support the measure wrote endorsements that read like backhanded compliments:

Orange County Register:  “While it’s true this reform will benefit many wealthier Californians, the tens of thousands of moves estimated by the legislative analyst to result from Prop. 5 is sure to free up critically needed housing stock.“

San Diego Union-Tribune: “The sponsors of Proposition 5 — real estate agents — came up with the measure to pad their pockets. But it’s actually a smart idea that will both give older people more flexibility with their lives and introduce liquidity to a housing market that could badly use it.”

Got it. So this measure will help make rich people richer, and it will create more demand AND supply for homes in California, probably driving home prices even higher. This is why most newspapers in the state oppose it, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “What makes this proposition all the more galling is the fact that this is the group of Californians who least deserve another tax break. They’re already reaping the benefit of rock-bottom property taxes and they’ve had the opportunity to build up equity in their homes. Meanwhile, their younger counterparts in California, who would bear the brunt of service cuts under Prop. 5, increasingly find homeownership out of reach. There’s nothing in Prop. 5 that would alter this calculus, and it should go down in flames.”

Support: Orange County Register, SD Union-Tribune, Calif Association of Realtors, CA Chamber of Commerce

Oppose: SF Chronicle, Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, California Teachers Union, Assembly member David Chiu

Prop 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – NO NO NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.11.49 PM.pngProp 6 is very bad. If passed, it will repeal the gas tax increases and vehicle fees that were enacted in 2017, AND make it much harder for California to impose gas taxes and vehicle fees in the future.

This measure is the big daddy of them all this year. Progressives are lined up against it, conservatives are all in for it, and Republicans hope it gets their voters excited to turn out this November. Prop 6 is bad for Gavin Newsom for Governor, it is bad for the progressive measures on this ballot, and very bad for the Blue Wave we are all hoping will take back more House seats from the GOP. The measure is funded by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, gubernatorial candidate John Cox and the rest of the GOP leadership in Congress. Isn’t that all you need to know?

By the way, it is generally very hard to increase a tax in California. You need a two-thirds vote of both the state Senate and state Assembly, which usually means getting Republicans on board with it, and you need a signature of the Governor. Proposition 6 would make this process even harder by creating the additional step of voter approval to impose, increase, or extend fuel taxes or vehicle fees.

Here’s the background: The 2017 gas tax (a.k.a. The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017), increased fuel prices by $0.12 per gallon, and it is expected to generate an estimated $52.4 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2027. You may remember that just a few months ago, voters approved Proposition 69, which required the legislature to spend RRAA revenue on transportation-related purposes. The money is going towards repairing roads, fixing bridges, bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects (yay!) and other infrastructure.

Opponents of Prop 6 say that this measure will hurt job creation and the state’s economy; it will stop roads from being fixed and worsen congestion. As Governor Brown said, “I can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.” Vote no.

Who’s supporting it: Orange County Register; Speaker of the U.S. House Paul Ryan (R); U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R); Congressman Devin Nunes (R); gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R); California Republican Party

Who’s opposing it: LA Times; SF Chronicle; Sacramento Bee; Mercury News; Governor Jerry Brown (D); California Democratic Party; California Chamber of Commerce; California Bicycle Coalition

Prop 7 –  Change Daylight Savings – Yes?

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.21.35 PM.pngI’m mad at you, Prop 7. Here I am, researching the pros and cons of daylight savings time, when I could be phone banking for Jacky Rosen for Senate, or painting my daughter’s toenails. Seriously, though, this one has to go down as one of the silliest ballot measures on record.

Prop 7, if approved, will authorize the state legislature to provide for permanent Daylight Savings Time if the federal government allows it. That means, IF PROP 7 PASSES, in order for us to have permanent daylight savings, BOTH the federal government AND the state legislature have to approve it, the latter by a two-thirds vote. The reason why this has to be a ballot measure is because we need to repeal Prop 12 (1949) which established Daylight Savings Time in the first place, and – say it with me – a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure.

As it stands, California cannot adopt permanent Daylight Savings Time without an act of Congress. In 2016, the California State Legislature asked the President and Congress to pass a law that would allow California to adopt year-round DST. Their response? <crickets>

Arguments in favor of Prop 7:

  • Time changes are bad for your health. University medical studies in 2012 found that the risk of heart attacks increases by 10% in the two days following a time change. In 2016, further research revealed that stroke risks increase 8% when we change our clocks. For cancer patients the stroke risk increases 25% and for people over age 65 stroke risk goes up 20%. All because we disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Time changes are bad for the children. Ask any parent – kids get all out of whack when their sleep patterns are disrupted.
  • Time changes increase energy consumption. Changing our clocks twice a year increases our use of electricity, and the amount of fuel we use in our cars. I read that changing to permanent DST would save consumers an estimated $434 million.
  • Time changes are so passé. 68% of all the countries in the world have stopped changing their clocks.

Arguments against Prop 7:

  • No chance it will happen. If progressive California wants it, the (petty) Republican federal government won’t give it to us.
  • Permanent DST threatens public safety. Severin Borenstein, a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, said, “Permanent DST would likely lead to more pedestrian accidents on winter mornings as more adults and children venture out in darkness.”
  • Really? With so many other critical issues facing this state — homelessness, sea level rise, transportation infrastructure – Prop 7 is a waste of time.

I really don’t care how you vote on this one. I’ll probably vote yes, because of the children and the cancer patients. But really, who cares?

Who’s supporting it: Congressman Kansen Chu (D); Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle; Sacramento Bee; State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson

Prop 8 – Outpatient Dialysis Treatment – NO

This is another ridiculous one that shouldn’t be on the ballot, IMO. Prop 8, if passed, would limit the profits of kidney dialysis clinics by requiring them to issue refunds for revenue above 115% of the costs of direct patient care and healthcare improvements. Have your eyes glazed over yet? Yeah me too. Seems kind of crazy that voters would be asked to make such a technical decision regarding an issue that affects only a small minority of Californians.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.24.59 PM.pngIf you’re thinking there must be a salacious back story here, you’d be right. SEIU-UHW West, a labor union, is in a fight with the state’s two largest dialysis businesses DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care. SEIU has been trying to organize the workers at these clinics since 2016 without success, and they claim that the employers have been retaliating against pro-union employees. So SEIU is using its muscle in trying to obtain from the ballot box what it could not achieve through other processes.

Even though I usually side with unions, I’m certain that this is not the kind of thing that should be regulated by ballot measure. As you know, a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s no way to govern a state. Super detailed, highly technical laws should NEVER be passed by ballot measure because they usually need adjusting over time, and that can’t happen if they are approved by voters. Moreover, if this measure passes, and dialysis clinics start going out of business, it jeopardizes access to care for patients in California who need dialysis treatments to stay alive.  SEIU should make its case in court, or with the legislature, or the National Labor Relations Board, anywhere but the ballot box.

Who’s supporting it: SEIU-UHW; CA Public Employees’ Retirement System; CA Labor Federation

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle, LA Times, and EVERY SINGLE NEWSPAPER in the state; The American Nurses Association (California), California Medical Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, California Chapter, National Kidney Foundation and patient advocates

Prop 9

Wait a minute – why isn’t there a Prop 9? This was the initiative to split California into three different states. It was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court in July because they found it to be an illegal constitutional amendment.

Prop 10 – Costa-Hawkins Repeal – YES

This might be the most controversial issue on the statewide ballot this year, and there are reasonable people on both sides. Prop 10 would overturn a 23-year old law limiting the use of rent control in California (1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act), letting cities decide whether they want to enact rent control.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.27.06 PM.pngFor as long as I’ve been involved in politics in San Francisco, repealing Costa-Hawkins has been the holy grail of progressive housing policy. Costa-Hawkins exempts properties built in 1995 or later from rent control, and it also prevents cities with pre-existing rent control laws from extending them to newer units. San Francisco’s ordinance, for example, remains limited to housing built before 1980. And Costa-Hawkins exempts single-family homes from rent control while guaranteeing property owners the right to raise rents to market value when units are vacated.

The people who oppose Prop 10 (and thus, also oppose rent control) include landlords, real estate developers, and realtors. They argue that rent control makes the current housing crisis worse, because it disincentivizes developers from building new rental housing, since it limits their profits. They also argue that rent control messes with market forces in a way that leaves some residents holding the bag.

Here’s what they say: Because rent-controlled tenants pay lower rent, other tenants in the same building will pay even more so that the landlord can recoup their investment. As a former tenant AND landlord I can explain why this argument is total BS. Landlords will charge as much as the market will bear, period. If one tenant is rent controlled and another is not, the landlord will charge as much as they can on the non-rent-controlled unit. How much a landlord charges in rent is not relative to all of the units they own; it is only about making as much money as the market will allow them to make.

I am a homeowner. If I ever want to rent my home out in the future, it is in my financial interest to keep Costa-Hawkins in place and to oppose Prop 10. However, I bear witness every day to the housing crisis in San Francisco, and I have watched too many of my friends move out of the city because they can no longer afford it. San Francisco is losing its economic and cultural diversity, and that is only going to stop if we do more to limit the skyrocketing rents.

I agree with the proponents of Prop 10: Costa-Hawkins should be repealed because rent control is a local issue. California is facing an unprecedented housing crisis, and local governments should be able to determine whether rent control is a tool they want to use to prevent homelessness and limit the rising cost of housing in their regions. As our current crisis has demonstrated, the marketplace can’t handle providing shelter to everyone who needs it.

Arguments against Prop 10:

  • The solution to the housing crisis is to build more housing, not to cap rents.
  • Rent control doesn’t work. Much like tarriffs, rent control enjoys popular appeal despite its nearly universal rejection by economists. Let market forces take care of rental pricing.
  • Rent control’s benefits accrue to those renters who occupy the controlled units, at the expense of property owners and of other tenants.
  • For a state with a crushing housing deficit, rent control tends to reduce the quality and quantity of rental housing, the construction and maintenance of which is discouraged by price caps.

Arguments in favor of Prop 10:

  • Return rent policy to local control. Each city has its own challenges and needs the flexibility to adopt its own remedies. The Sacramento Bee says, “It no longer makes sense to tie the hands of local officials in dealing with this crisis, especially when they’re also being left to deal with the financial and humanitarian consequences of rising homelessness.”
  • Landlords suck. Entire communities are being wiped out while Wall Street landlords rake in the cash.
  • Costa-Hawkins has undermined the state’s ability to protect our residents from being displaced, especially the most vulnerable, due to skyrocketing rent increases.
  • Housing is a human right, something that everyone needs and deserves. It is not just another commodity that should be bought and sold and rented without limits.

Support: Tenants rights groups; California Democratic Party; ACLU; Democratic Socialists of America and other Berniecrats; teachers, nurses, and service workers unions; LA Times; Sacramento Bee; AIDS Healthcare Foundation; Coalition for Affordable Housing; SF Board of Supervisors

Oppose:  Landlords, realtors, and real estate developers; BOTH gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R); SF Chronicle; Fresno Bee, Mercury News

Prop 11 – Ambulance Workers’ Work Breaks – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.29.15 PM.pngProposition 11 is yet another highly technical measure that has no business being on the ballot. It would allow ambulance providers to require workers to remain on-call during paid breaks. And just like Prop 8, it’s here because of a bitter dispute between a union and an employer.

American Medical Response, a major employer of ambulance workers, put Prop 11 on the ballot to settle a fight with its employees. In 2017, a bill that would have resolved the issue – AB263– passed in the Assembly but stalled in the state Senate. AB263 spelled out that employees could be required to monitor radios, cell phones and other communications devices during their breaks and could be required to answer an emergency call.

I’m not even going to dignify this measure with a detailed analysis of ambulance-related working conditions, because I don’t think it’s fair to ask the voters to weigh into this kind of decision.

As with Prop 8 above, I’m a no vote because this is not the kind of thing that should be regulated by ballot measure. I’m getting tired of saying it – a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s no way to govern a state. Super detailed, highly technical laws should NEVER be passed by proposition for this reason. AMR should make its case in the legislature, with all parties at the table to negotiate and compromise. Get out of my ballot box!

Support: American Medical Response; LA Times; Sacramento Bee

Oppose: SF Chronicle; CA Teachers Association; State Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D)

Prop 12 – Farm Animal Confinement – yes?

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.30.13 PM.pngProp 12, if passed, would ban the sale of meat and eggs from calves raised for veal, pregnant pigs, and egg-laying hens confined in areas below a specific number of square feet.  Again, this is a highly technical measure – why is this even on the ballot? Because it makes a necessary amendment to a previous ballot measure. And a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by ballot measure. GRRR. When will it all end? We need to overhaul our initiative process.*

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, which banned the confinement of these animals in a manner that did not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Prop 2 did not provide specific square feet when defining confinement. To correct this, the Humane Society, the original sponsor of Prop 2 (2008), put Prop 12 on the ballot this year.

Beginning in 2020, Prop 12 would ban:

  • whole veal meat from a calf that was confined in an area with less than 43 square feet of usable floor space per calf;
  • whole pork meat from a pregnant pig or the immediate offspring of a pig that was confined in an area with less than 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig; and
  • eggs from a hen (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl) that was confined in an area with less than 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen. Beginning in 2021, all hens will be “cage free.”

Prop 12 (2018) also provides for stricter enforcement requirements, and makes the state Agriculture Department responsible for the measure’s implementation. The previous law did not authorize a specific government agency to enforce it, which meant that there was very little action taken against violators of the law.

Opponents of Prop 12 say that the ballot box is not the place to regulate such details of California agriculture. And I would generally agree with such a statement. However, such details have already been regulated by ballot measure (Prop 2), so we’re stuck. If Prop 12 fails, then Prop 2 continues to exist without proper enforcement or even a definition of what inhumane confinement means, and the animals Prop 2 was designed to protect remain in deplorable conditions. However, if Prop 12 succeeds, we’ll be codifying specific provisions of a law that we won’t be able to modify without another ballot measure. Ugh. In an ideal world, we’d repeal Prop 2 entirely and force the legislature to write a comprehensive law about the treatment of animals. But this is not an ideal world.**

This is a tough one for me, because my belief that technical laws shouldn’t be approved by ballot is in conflict with my conviction that animals should be treated more humanely. I also suspect that the reason why Prop 2 happened in the first place is because the legislature didn’t have the backbone to pass a law that farmers and food producers oppose. So I’m a yes.

*understatement
** an even bigger understatement

Who’s supporting it: Prevent Cruelty California, Humane Society

Who’s opposing it: Egg, sheep and pig farmers; SF Chronicle. Notably, the Humane Farming Association (HFA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Friends of Animals – animal rights organizations – oppose it because it’s not strong enough.

Thanks for reading! If you found my voter guide useful, please share it on social media and consider donating here to support my writing habit. Thank you!

My guide to the SF measures and candidates may be found here.

 

 

Alix’s Voter Guide – San Francisco Ballot, June 2018

Hello! Here in SF, we have an electrifying Mayor’s race among three main contenders to complete the term of Mayor Ed Lee, who passed away suddenly earlier this year. London Breed, Jane Kim and Mark Leno are fighting for the honor of tackling some of the city’s most intractable problems like affordable housing and homeless encampments.

Before we begin, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my baby girl, or any of the many Democratic clubs I belong to. Please send all hate mail to me at info (at) votealix.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts 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 guide to the 2018 California candidates and measures, go here.
My printable one-pager with my ballot recommendations is here. Take a screen shot and take it with you to the polls!

U.S. Representative, District 12 – Pelosi
U.S. Representative, District 14 – Speier
State Assembly, District 17 – Chiu
State Assembly, District 19 – Ting
Superior Court Judge 4: – Andrew Cheng
Superior Court Judge 7 – Curtis Karnow
Superior Court Judge 9: – Cynthia Ming-mei Lee
Superior Court Judge 11: – Jeffrey Ross
Mayor – Breed
Supervisor, District 8 – Mandelman
Prop A – yes
Prop B – NO
Prop C – no position
Prop D – yes
Prop E – YES!
Prop F – yes
Prop G – yes
Prop H – NO!
Prop I – NO

U.S. Representative, District 12 – Pelosi

Incumbent Nancy Pelosi has never had a credible challenger for her Congressional seat. This year, she has several challengers who say they represent the Resistance, and they argue that it’s time for a new generation of leaders in the Democratic Party. I agree that it’s time to shake things up, and I like to see these candidates using their campaigns to keep Pelosi honest. But Pelosi has been a powerful advocate for progressive values in a very conservative House of Representatives. This is not the year to topple the most powerful woman in Congress who is spending all her time wrestling the House back from Republican control.

If you want to register a protest vote, Shahid Buttar is (a friend of mine and) a solid progressive candidate. He’s an attorney, a musician, and a grass roots organizer, most recently at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can check his campaign out here.

U.S. Representative, District 14 – Speier

Incumbent Jackie Speier has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17 – Chiu

Incumbent David Chiu has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 19 – Ting

Incumbent Phil Ting has no credible opposition.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.28.47 PM.png

Judges of the Superior Court
Seat 4: Andrew Cheng
Seat 7: Curtis Karnow
Seat 9: Cynthia Ming-mei Lee
Seat 11: Jeffrey Ross 

For the first time in a long time, we have an exciting judges race. Four public defenders are attempting to take down four incumbent Superior Court judges. The four incumbents are Andrew Cheng (Seat 4), Curtis Karnow (Seat 7), Cynthia Ming-mei Lee (Seat 9), and Jeffrey Ross (Seat 11). All four of them were appointed by Republican governors, but all four judges are registered Democrats and don’t have particularly conservative reputations.

Four public defenders, Phoenix Streets (Seat 4), Maria Evangelista (seat 7) Kwixuan Maloof (seat 9), and Niki Solis (seat 11) say that they are running because the system is failing their clients, who are criminal defendants. And I agree with them on one point: the racial and economic inequality that pervades our criminal justice system is inexcusable, and must be changed.  However, I haven’t been convinced that replacing these judges will have the impact that they are looking for.

Side note: I have never understood why judges have to stand for re-election. Running for office is kind of the antithesis of serving as a judge, a job where you need to avoid bias and any hint of favoritism. So to ask them to defend their records in the highly charged world of electoral politics, and raise money, and ask voters for their support, seems really unfair to me. It provides sitting judges with the wrong kind of incentives, to let political considerations enter the decisions they make.

If it matters to you, the consensus among the political class (both left and right) is to re-elect the judges. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have endorsed the incumbents, as well as all of the newspapers in town, 30 past presidents of the SF Bar Association, and about a hundred criminal defense attorneys and Superior Court judges. This doesn’t mean they (and I) think the justice system doesn’t need reform, it just means that there are more effective ways to do it. I hope the challengers will consider running for the Board of Supervisors or the state legislature, where they can have a deeper impact on the criminal justice system as a whole.

Mayor – Breed

I’m voting for Board of Supervisors President London Breed. I can tell you from personal experience, there is a culture of toxic masculinity in San Francisco City Hall, and London is one of the few women who has stood up to this culture without fear.london

The main criticism I hear about London is that she is controlled by “billionaires,” which (a) is insulting, sexist and racist, and (b) could not be farther from the truth. I have never heard of a white male candidate being accused of being controlled by ANYONE, so please think about where that accusation is coming from. Yes, she has been great at raising money for her campaign, and she has some powerful people behind her. But to me, that speaks to the strength of her candidacy, and doesn’t mean she is “controlled” by these powerful folks who are donating and volunteering for her campaign.  And if you have ever met London, you know that she has a mind of her own; she is unbought and unbossed.

London is the very definition of a self-made woman. She was raised by her grandmother in the public housing projects of the Western Addition. Her brother is in prison, and many of her childhood friends were killed by gun violence. She worked very hard in her district to get where she is, and has not forgotten her roots. Unlike her opponents, she has supported getting more women and diverse voices in public office. Voting for London is what it feels like to slap the patriarchy right across the face.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.24.33 PM.pngFormer State Senator Mark Leno is a strong candidate for Mayor, as he was a solid legislator, both at the Board of Supervisors and in the State Senate. However, I have been profoundly disappointed in the negativity coming out of his campaign in recent months. I have known Mark for years, and I have been surprised to see how low he has been willing to stoop when the polls started showing him losing the race.  If you’ve seen the ads, you know what I’m talking about.

I am not supporting Jane Kim because it is hard to trust her political positions. She once supported the tech industry creating jobs in San Francisco, authoring the so-called Twitter tax break to lure companies to the mid-Market area. Now she helps lead the anti-tech protests, and hopes that she can capitalize on the left’s resentment of tech companies, calling Google buses “rolling gated communities.”

Every year, Kim opposed efforts at the Board of Supervisors to get more street cleaning into the city budget, and she supported legislation to allow homeless encampments to remain on the sidewalk. During her campaign for Mayor, however, she has learned that voters want the streets to be cleaned, and she has changed her tune. She is now pressing for legislation that will provide $2.5 million outside the normal budget process to fund citywide street cleaning. (IMO, helping the homeless get permanent supportive housing is an even more important goal… cleaning the streets is a band-aid over a much bigger problem.)

Most important to me, though, is that Jane has never been involved in getting more women and diverse voices in public office. As someone who has worked most of my life to elect more women, I find this inexcusable. Jane Kim is only about Jane Kim.

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 8 – Mandelman

I like incumbent Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, he is a nice guy, and well meaning. But he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly that one needs to serve as Supervisor. The Chronicle editorial board put it this way: “At several points, [Sheehy] expressed doubts about his desire for the office and a disdain for politics generally. It was almost as if Sheehy were tacitly asking us to do him a favor by endorsing his opponent.”Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.16.12 PM

Rafael Mandelman, by contrast, has the drive and the tenacity to be a great Supervisor. He is a smart fellow, a good human and has done what I failed to do when I ran for District 8 Supervisor: he has unified all sides of San Francisco’s political world to support his candidacy. I don’t agree with all of his positions, but he has the resilience and the smarts to be a great Supervisor for District 8. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has knocked on every single door in the district. Vote for Rafi!

SF Proposition A – yes

Prop A will allow the public utilities commission (PUC) to issue revenue bonds and build new power facilities that deliver clean energy (and NOT be fossil fuel or nuclear-power based power). This measure will help the city fund new energy technologies like solar power and electric vehicle charging stations, while helping the city meet its sustainable energy goals. All the good guys are for it: environmental groups, progressive political groups.

SF Proposition B – NO

Prop B will require members of boards and commissions to resign their seats upon running for local or state office. It was a policy of Mayor Willie Brown’s to require city commissioners to resign if they decided to run for office. This was a shrewd political move – it meant that the Mayor wouldn’t be tarnished with the silly things that his own appointees would say as candidates. But there was also a virtuous reason for it, namely, that candidates for office shouldn’t be able to use their commission seat to earn press attention or prop up their political campaigns. That said, serving as a Commissioner is a great way to learn the ropes of City Hall before you run for office. I think Prop B is a cynical political move by the folks who currently hold power and don’t want commissioners running against them for their seats. And that’s anti-democratic. 

SF Props C & D – yes on D, no position on Prop C

Both Prop C and Prop D impose new gross receipts taxes on commercial leases to be paid by landlords. Prop C imposes a 1% tax on the total rent paid for warehouse space, and 3.5% of total rent paid for other commercial properties. The revenues from Prop C (approx. $146 million a year) would go toward childcare and early education programs. Great idea, right?

With a baby girl at home, and a new appreciation for how hard it is to care for a baby while working full time, I want the city to put more resources in to early childhood education and child care. I want my daughter’s future public school classmates to have all of the advantages that she has.

Prop D imposes a new 1.7% tax on landlords to fund low-income and medium-income housing and homelessness services (approx. $70 million per year). Also a great idea, right?

Homelessness and affordable housing are the biggest and most urgent challenges the city faces right now. There are families on the street whose very lives are on the edge. I can’t say this is more important than early childhood education, but it certainly feels more urgent at this moment in the city’s history.Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.18.57 PM.png

But we do have to decide between them because both measures can’t win. Prop D includes “poison pill” language stating that the one that wins with more votes will cancel the other out. And the math is a little confusing. Prop C requires a simple majority vote to win (50%+1). Prop D requires a two-thirds supermajority vote for approval. If both measures receive enough votes to win, the measure with the most votes will win (most likely Prop D, since reaching a supermajority is a pretty high hurdle to overcome). Of course, if neither meets their own threshold, neither wins.

If it matters to you, the more progressive elected officials and organizations are supporting Prop C, and the more moderate folks are supporting Prop D. Nobody, except the Republican Party, is opposing both. I am definitely voting for D, although I might vote yes on both. The Chronicle makes a good argument against C in that it’s irresponsible to tie the funding such an important program (early childhood care and education) to such a volatile funding source. The city should find another way to fund childhood education programs.

SF Proposition E – YES

Prop E will ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in SF.  I think I have received about 100 mailers against this measure. The tobacco industry REALLY doesn’t want it to pass.

I know my friends who vape will have a hard time with this one, but I think it’s an easy yes. Tobacco is gross, addictive and deadly. And candy-flavored tobacco is the gateway tobacco product for kids. If you look at who is lining up for and against this one, you’ll agree with me: On the one hand, we have the tobacco companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads and billboards to convince you to vote against it. On the other hand, we have every health organization, children and youth advocacy groups, every major Mayoral candidate and all but one member of the Board of Supervisors. Whose side are you on?

SF Proposition F – yes

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.20.52 PM.pngIf you are a renter in San Francisco, you know what it feels like to have housing insecurity. In the last decade, the volatility of the housing market has been terrifying for many of us. Prop F promises an important safeguard against unfair evictions: It will require the city to provide legal representation for any residential tenant facing an eviction lawsuit. It won’t solve the housing crisis, but it will prevent some folks who can’t afford an attorney from losing their homes.

The cost will be significant. Depending on the number of cases and other factors, the program would increase the City’s program costs by between approximately $4.2 million and approximately $5.6 million annually, and this amount would be likely to grow in future years. That’s a lot of money, but only a fraction of the city’s annual $9 billion budget.

SF Proposition G – yes

Prop G is an annual parcel tax of $298 per parcel of taxable real property in the city intended to fund educators’ salaries, staffing, professional development, and technology. This state WAY underfunds its public schools, so I am always going to say yes to new taxes for this important cause. If you’re a renter, then you don’t even pay the new tax, so there’s no reason to vote no. And if you’re a homeowner, you want to vote yes because good schools help maintain high property values.  Oh and also it’s just a good thing to do for the world. Think of the children.

SF Proposition H – NO!

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 4.22.04 PM.pngThis one is confusing, so bear with me.  Prop H was put on the ballot by the police officers’ union because it was frustrated by the city’s unwillingness to enact a policy allowing cops to use tasers. Since then, the Police Commission did enact a taser policy, thus rendering Prop H moot.  The proponents of Prop H still want it to pass, though, because they want it to be codified into law that can only be repealed by the voters, which I think is a terrible idea. This is exactly the kind of law that needs to be decided by representatives in city government (i.e., police commission or the board of supervisors), so that they can amend it or repeal it if tasers turn out to be a bad idea (which I personally think they are).  If Prop H passes, it will undermine the ability of the Police Department and the Commission to set law enforcement policy. Just about everybody agrees that Prop H is terrible, including all of the major candidates for Mayor, the Police Chief (!!), the District Attorney AND the Public Defender, the ACLU and every local newspaper.

SF Proposition I – NO

Come on, now. Prop I basically asks voters to say that they don’t want the Warriors to move to SF. It’s non-binding, and is designed to stick a finger in the eye of Warriors ownership. IMO, it’s totally pointless because there is nothing that can stop the move. The Warriors arena is already being built at 16th and 3rd in the Dogpatch neighborhood, and I, for one, am excited that SF is finally going to get a large concert venue inside city limits. Did the City of Oakland put this on the San Francisco ballot? Can they even do that?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to hearing what you think in the comments below.