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.

 

 

WHAT NOW?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally:

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

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

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

 

San Francisco Pocket Voter Guide is Here!

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

alix_pocket_bigolvoterguide

Design by Tim Paschke. Thanks Tim!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge you to vote for Scott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez, Jill Wynns

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mention: Shanell Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some fun facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power grab much?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No taxation without representation! Sort of. Vote yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop Q – Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote yes on RR!

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

Drumroll Please…

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

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

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

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

Ending on a High Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsors: Alix Rosenthal and Peter Gallotta

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

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

 

F-No, San Francisco! Vote No on the Short Term Rental Measure

Yes, the snarky Airbnb ad campaign was ill-conceived. However, don’t let it cloud your judgment about this ballot measure. I think Prop F should fail, and not for the reasons you’d expect.

Before we get into the merits of Prop F, I think it’s important to review the history.

In October of last year, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation that then-Supervisor David Chiu worked for two years to craft, regulating Airbnb and its competitors in order to restrict short-term rentals in the city. The new law was written in reaction to the dramatic effect that these companies are having on the city’s housing – both in rising rents and the number of units being taken off the permanent rental market. The law requires that hosts: (1) be permanent SF residents renting our their primary residence (i.e., no long distance landlords); (2) live on the property 275 days out of the year (limiting their short-term rentals to 90 days annually if they are renting out their entire house); (3) get a business license and register with the city; and (4) have at least $500,000 in commercial property insurance. As a part of the negotiations with the city over the Chiu legislation, Airbnb agreed to collect and pay the same taxes that hotels pay (called the Transit Occupancy Tax), which so far has amounted to $12 million.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.19.10 PMThere are folks who are unhappy with the Chiu legislation, saying it didn’t go far enough. It’s housing rights activists, landlords, labor including the hotel workers union, and owners of hotels who are threatened by the competition. These strange bedfellows – who usually don’t agree on much – put Prop F on the ballot.**

If Prop F passes, it would further restrict a short-term rental to 75 days out of the year (instead of 90), and the cap would apply to individual rooms rented, not just whole units. It would require Airbnb, its competitors, and their individual hosts to file reports with the city every three months. The law would prohibit the short-term rentals of in-law units and it would provide citizens with a private right of action to sue their neighbors if they suspect their neighbor is violating the law.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Airbnb user. I have been an occasional Airbnb guest since 2011, and I became a host in September. As a progressive who supports rent control and has many friends who have been evicted or priced out in the last year, I am sympathetic to the plight of folks who have been affected by the insane housing market in this city. But I also know a lot of people who are using the service as hosts, and in my experience – despite the ad campaign depicting a company replete with over-entitled tech bros – most hosts are just trying to survive in the city. They are making sacrifices to rent out rooms in their homes, to help pay the mortgage or to pay the bills between jobs.

To me, lowering the number of rental days from 90 to 75 would not be a big deal if it applied to entire units, but applying this cap to guest rooms is just wrong. If I am living in my house every day of the year, and just renting out a guest room whenever I need the extra cash, I shouldn’t be restricted to such a low number of days. I don’t oppose restricting the short-term rental of in-law units – the city should make it harder for property owners to remove these units from the permanent rental market. Reporting my hosting activities to the city every three months won’t be the end of the world, though this provision seems intended to make it harder for folks to use the service, and it will probably make some hosts quit. Requiring Airbnb and its competitors to report their user data is probably in violation of California’s new Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in City of Los Angeles v. Patel, and that provision would probably be struck down in court if the measure passes. The private right of action by neighbors? That scares me – encouraging neighbors to sue each other seems like a terrible idea.

I think the Chiu legislation should be given some time to do its thing; it has been in effect for less than a year. The law took years of meetings and public hearings and negotiations to arrive at something that most stakeholders could live with, and it has promise to solve the problems that short-term rentals have created. The Office of Short Term Rentals was just opened in July, and they started enforcing against scofflaw hosts in August, imposing a few hundred thousand dollars in fines already in just a few short months.

But the main reason I oppose this measure is this: Laws approved by ballot measure can only be amended by another ballot measure, making it nearly impossible to change it. And this is exactly the kind of law that needs to iterate over time. The products and services created by technology companies like Airbnb are constantly evolving – and the laws that regulate them need to be just as nimble. If Prop F passes, it sets these restrictions in stone, and the Board of Supervisors won’t be able to amend them. Any revision – no matter how small – will require another election cycle and another contentious and expensive battle for votes.

We should encourage the Board of Supervisors do its job: soliciting input from stakeholders and constituents, weighing the complicated elements of the law against the impacts they will have on the community. If you don’t like the way the current law is written, you should let your Supervisor know. Speak up, come to hearings, write emails, make calls. That’s the way it is supposed to work.

Please vote NO on F!

**Speaking of strange bedfellows, Senator Dianne Feinstein is not usually on the side of housing rights activists. So why does she support Prop F? It might have something to do with the 161-room hotel that she owns with her husband. Not saying, just saying.