Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, June 2018

Hello! Long time no talk. It’s been 19 months since the last election and it was nice to get some time off from campaign life.

There are some exciting decisions to be made in the upcoming election here in California. All of the statewide officers are up – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, all the way down to the Board of Equalization. Senator Dianne Feinstein and every member of Congress and the state Assembly are up for election. Remember: this is a “Top Two” open primary, meaning all of the Republicans and Democrats appear on your ballot in June, and then the first and second place finishers – regardless of party – will move on to the November General Election.

Everyone in my world is predicting that 2018 is going to be another Year of the Woman: unprecedented numbers of women are running for office this year, and it’s about time. In the first election following Trump’s inauguration, the #metoo movement, and the women’s marches, I’d like to see some progress in making our government look more like America. Luckily, there are some great female candidates on the June ballot.

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 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 2018 San Francisco candidates and measures is here.
My printable one-pager with my ballot recommendations is here. Take a screen shot and take it with you to the polls!

With that said, let’s dig in.

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang
Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis
Secretary of State – Padilla
Controller – Yee
Treasurer – Ma
Attorney General – Becerra
Insurance Commissioner  – Lara
Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen
U.S. Senator – Feinstein
State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond
Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 70 – No
Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!
Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has a solid lead in this race, and so the June election is really just about seeing who will make it into the top two to face Newsom in the November election.

The other Democrats include Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles; John Chiang, the state treasurer; and Delaine Eastin, the former superintendent of public education. The two main Republican candidates are John Cox, a business executive endorsed by President Trump, and Travis Allen, a State Assembly member who has stayed in the race despite having been found to have sexually harassed a staffer. Ugh.  If you’re reading this voter guide, I can assume you won’t vote for a Trump supporter or a sexual harasser, so I won’t even bother analyzing Cox and Allen for you.

The Dems aren’t that far apart from each other on issues like the environment, education, universal preschool, housing and homelessness. They all (except for Villaraigosa) support universal health care and agree that high speed rail is a good idea, but are wary about how the state is going to pay for both of these very expensive initiatives.

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Delaine Eastin

Newsom has more experience, vision and charisma than the other candidates. As Lt. Governor, he has had a front row seat to the workings of the Capitol, and having served as SF Mayor, he is sympathetic to the plight of big cities, particularly on homelessness and housing issues. I had some problems with his work as Mayor (see: ending Halloween in the Castro), and I think his flip-flop on California’s high speed rail project is problematic. And he’s going to make it into the top two anyway, so let’s look at his opponents.

Having met John Chiang (pronounced “Chung”) on a number of occasions, I can tell you he is genuine, hard working, and wonky.  I really like him. He doesn’t have the star power of a Newsom or Villaraigosa, and that’s probably why his campaign isn’t attracting the high level donors and endorsers. Which is too bad, I think he’d make a great governor.

Villaraigosa has been focused on winning the Central Valley vote, visiting the region more times than the other candidates combined. I haven’t been hearing much about his campaign, but that’s because I live in SF, and it seems that Villaraigosa has conceded my vote to Newsom.

Delaine Eastin is the only female candidate in the race, and she is also smart and has some good ideas for California, but the last time she held elective office was 15 years ago, and voters probably don’t remember anything about her. All things being equal, I’ll vote for the qualified woman in the race, since only 6 states in the US have female governors, and um, it’s 2018.

Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis

The main job of the lieutenant governor is being ready to serve as Governor should something terrible happen to him (yes, it has always been a him).  There are a few substantive roles the Lt. Gov. plays, though, such as UC Regent, Trustee for the California State University system, State Lands Commissioner and chair of the California Commission for Economic Development. Whoever holds the seat can also use the position as a bully pulpit, taking on whatever issues matter to them. It’s a pretty sweet gig, actually.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 9.57.55 PM

In this year’s election there are three viable Democratic candidates for the job, and you really can’t lose with whichever one you pick. Eleni Kounalakis was US Ambassador to Hungary, and while she has never held elected office, she has been a Democratic activist for many years, and she has amassed a pile of endorsements from people and organizations I personally care about (Senator Kamala Harris, women’s groups, etc.). She plans on using the Lt Governor’s office to draw attention to the equal pay and equal treatment of women in the workplace. Huzzah!

Jeff Bleich, the former US Ambassador to Australia, is also in the mix, with the endorsement of the Chronicle, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and a few others. Dr. Ed Hernandez is the only candidate who has electoral experience, having served in the State Assembly and the State Senate, and he has the endorsements of labor and many organizations.  Since I’d like to see more women in public office, and Kounalakis seems capable, I’m with her.

Secretary of State – Padilla

Incumbent Alex Padilla is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. He cleared the field because he has done a good job of modernizing the Secretary of State’s office, increasing voter registration and protecting voter rights.

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Controller – Yee

Incumbent Betty Yee is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. She stuck her neck out for the state’s cannabis industry, long before it became legal for recreational purposes, and she has always been a fierce advocate for women’s rights and undocumented Californians. Vote for Betty.

Treasurer – Ma

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.03.32 PMFiona Ma is a CPA, a former member and chair of the state Board of Equalization, and she has the endorsement of everybody, including the California Democratic Party. She is supporting a bill to create a banking system for cannabis, which would allow the state to collect millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. Her work in rooting out nepotism and questionable accounting practices at the Board of Equalization has received widespread praise. Her main opponent is Vivek Viswanathan, who has never held public office, and he can’t seem to scrape many endorsements together.

Attorney General – Becerra

Two Democrats are the front runners in this race: Incumbent Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. Becerra was appointed Attorney General by Governor Brown to replace Kamala Harris when she was elected Senator. Dave Jones, who currently serves as Insurance Commissioner, is running a strong campaign against Becerra. And while the two Republican candidates are long shots, if Jones and Becerra split the Democratic vote, it’s possible that a Republican could make it into the top two if they unify the party.

Attorney General Becerra has made headlines for himself by suing the Trump administration on several fronts, most notably immigration. Jones is equally as aggressive, having served as a fierce consumer advocate as Insurance Commissioner. Both men have distinguished records, and share similar positions on the issues that matter to Democrats in California.

Jones is very smart and I’ve been impressed with his dedication to public service. After graduating with a law degree and a degree in public policy from Harvard, he worked at legal aid for years, and then three years in the Clinton Justice Department. Although… he is a white dude, and we don’t need any more of those in office. (Sorry white dudes, you’ve had your turn).

Insurance Commissioner  – Lara

One year ago, I wrote a column in the Examiner about what it would take to get single payer health care in California. The bill I wrote about – S.B. 562 – would have helped bring universal health care to our state, and its author, Senator Ricardo Lara, is now running for state Insurance Commissioner to stand up to insurance companies and continue his work on developing a single payer system. Which I think is WAY overdue (although it’s going to be very expensive).

Lara’s main opponent, businessman Steve Poizner, is a former Republican, now running as an independent. He previously served as Insurance Commissioner in 2006, and says he will concentrate on prosecuting insurance fraud (read: defending insurance companies against the little guy) and improving coverage for natural disasters. Poizner opposes universal health care.

Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen

California’s Board of Equalization (BOE) is the only elected tax board in the country. The BOE oversees property taxation collected locally by county tax collectors, and sets “fair market value” of public utility property including buildings, land, structures, improvements, fixtures, and personal property.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.28.15 AMThis race is between two women: Supervisor Malia Cohen from San Francisco, and State Senator Cathleen Galgiani from Stockton.  Senator Galgiani chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and she is a moderate Central Valley Democrat. She comes from an agricultural region, and her perspective and her campaign promises are pro-farming and pro-business.

Malia Cohen is a progressive Democrat from the big city, she has a track record of taking on the special interests and big corporations (see: Big Soda and Big Tobacco). I know Malia personally, and I can tell you that she is smart, and she has integrity and a fearlessness that I admire. The Board of Equalization has faced serious allegations of misconduct, including misallocation of tax payers dollars, widespread nepotism, and questionable spending. Malia has the tenacity to root out the causes of these problems, and she will hold people accountable for them.

U.S. Senator – Feinstein

Many of Dianne Feinstein’s critics think that she is too stodgy and bipartisan. In August 2017 she called for patience with Trump saying that “he could be a good president.” (Gah!) After those comments, the backlash she felt was fierce, and it inspired State Senator Kevin DeLeon to file to run against her. DeLeon was hoping Senator Feinstein would retire or be weakened by the resurgence of progressive activists in the form of the Resistance movement.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.06.28 PM

DeLeon’s candidacy clearly lit a fire under her because Feinstein has since become a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies. She is also a strong supporter of gun control laws and has introduced legislation to ban bump stocks. I think she is worth keeping around,  because she has a deep knowledge of the judiciary and international relations, and has seniority on key committees. But kudos to DeLeon for pulling Feinstein to the left and reminding her that California is, and must remain, at the front lines of the Resistance.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond

This race is between Assemblymember Tony Thurmond from the East Bay, and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive from Los Angeles.

Tuck is a former investment banker and a charter school advocate, and he ran against incumbent Tom Torlakson in 2014. As I said back then, I think charter schools threaten to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by Paul Buchheit on the subject).

Thurmond is the real deal. He has served as a social worker helping foster kids, truants and the developmentally disabled. Unlike Tuck, he has held government positions for many years, on the school board and the city council in Richmond. As an elected member of the state Assembly, he has made improving public education his top priority. This experience will help him pull the levers of government to support the public schools, and get them the funding that they so desperately need.

Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes

This measure would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects. For perspective, keep in mind that the state’s overall budget was $190.3 billion this year.

Given how hard climate change is already hitting our state (See: wildfires, floods, longer droughts, shrinking snowpack), this measure is critically important. Every single environmental organization in California supports it, as well as every major newspaper, and a few powerful Chambers of Commerce. The only serious opposition is from people who hate taxes generally. Vote yes.

Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes

Prop 69 is a Constitutional amendment requiring that all tax revenues from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, enacted by the legislature last year, be dedicated for transportation-related purposes. This is a SUUUPER technical measure having to do with state budgeting, and the “Gann limit” of 1978, which determines how state and local budgets are calculated. You can dig into the details here, or you can just vote yes to make sure that the gas taxes you pay will not be diverted by future legislatures into other non-transportation related funds. Also, it has no formal opposition. 

Statewide Proposition 70 – No

Ballot measures like this make me so mad. They require a graduate degree to understand them, and they illustrate how broken our ballot measure system is. Prop 70 is a Constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the California State Legislature to use revenue from the State Air Resources Board’s auctioning or sale of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, which vote would need to take place sometime in 2024 or later. Requiring a 2/3 majority in the state Legislature simply gives Republicans the power to decide how cap-and-trade funds are allocated.

Not sure why this is on the ballot now, except that Jerry Brown promised to put it on there and he’s about to retire. He is one of the very few supporters of the measure, and all of the environmental organizations have lined up against it. Vote no.

Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes

Today, when a ballot measure is approved by the voters in California, it goes into effect the day after the election. That’s nuts, because the Secretary of State doesn’t even certify that the election results are valid until a month after the election takes place. In very close elections, a ballot measure could go into effect before all the ballots are counted! A yes vote on Prop 70 will correct this problem, moving the effective date of ballot propositions from the day after election day to the fifth day after the election results are certified. This one is easy. There is no formal opposition.

Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.09.58 PMCalifornia is facing some very serious water shortages in its future, and capturing rainwater is one way homeowners are going to start solving the problem. Prop 72 is a Constitutional amendment that will make it easier for Californians to install rainwater capture systems by eliminating a tax penalty for their installation. (Or rather, by enabling the state legislature to exempt them from taxes, same same). All of the major newspapers support Prop 72, as well as the Democratic Party and many major environmental organizations. There is no formal opposition.

Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Eek. Living in the Bay Area is expensive enough. Raising the Bay Bridge and Richmond Bridge tolls by $3 (over six years) will be painful for most commuters. However, this money will go toward a very good cause – funding the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan, including a $4.5 billion slate of transportation projects. And if it gets more people off the bridges and onto public transit, that will be a very good outcome. I say vote yes.

 

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Big Ol’ Voter Guide for California – November 2014

This ballot is a long one, but I have great news. You’ve already voted for a lot of these same people once this year (WHAA? Yes). Let’s review, shall we?

California has adopted the “top two” open primary system of electing our state officers and legislators, which means that: (1) in the June election, voters chose among candidates of all parties, not just the party they are registered in; and (2) the top two candidates, regardless of party, advanced to the general election in November. So if you’re like me, you’re voting in November for all the same people you voted for in June in the State Assembly and statewide officer races. (Surprise! They are all Democrats.) You can find them all in my June voter guide. But not to worry, I’ve included my explanations here too.

There is also some REALLLLLY interesting and important stuff in the propositions. So pay attention.

This is my guide for the statewide candidates and ballot measures in the November 2014 election. The guide specific to San Francisco is posted here.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. This time, I put my recommendations in order of how each race or measure appears on the ballot. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in real estate and land use, whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Click here for more information on your voter registration and what your ballot looks like.

California Statewide Offices

Jerry Brown for Governor
Gavin Newsom for Lieutenant Governor
Alex Padilla for Secretary of State
Betty Yee for Controller
John Chiang for Treasurer
Kamala Harris for Attorney General
Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner
Fiona Ma for Board of Equalization, District 2

Judiciary
Approve all of the Supreme Court Justices and Justices of the Court of Appeal

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson

State Measures
Yes on Prop 1, Water Bonds
Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund
Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation
NO NO NO on Prop 46, Random Drug Testing of All Doctors, Increasing Malpractice Damages Cap
YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification
Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE OFFICES

Linda Ronstadt’s ex-boyfriend

Governor: Jerry Brown

Remember when Jerry Brown ran for Governor four years ago, when the economy was in the tank and nobody else wanted the job? Think about how far we’ve come. Governor Brown can’t take ALL the credit for the vastly improved economy, but he can take credit for having turned around some of the state’s structural budget deficits. Today he has a 60% approval rating, and during his term, California went from a $25 billion budget deficit to a $4.2 billion projected budget surplus, in no small part due to the tax measure that Brown pushed for in 2012.

His opponent Neel Kashkari is a Republican former banker with marginal support. He is running a very strange campaign, in that he’s trying to win over voters who oppose Brown from both the left AND the right. He is arguing that Brown hasn’t done enough for the poor, for schools, or for jobs. But these arguments ring hollow to me, given the numbers I cited above. Brown is doing a fine job, let’s keep him.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

Newsom’s hair looks exactly the same in every single picture taken of him ever.

I kind of feel bad for Gavin Newsom. The Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have much to do other than fill in when the Governor is absent or incapacitated. He sits on the State Lands Commission and the UC Board of Regents, and these can be powerful places to be – but very boring places for someone like Newsom, who likes to be the star of the show. But Newsom has been able to use his office to draw attention to important issues like drug policy reform. He has called for ending the war on drugs, calling it “nothing more than a war on communities of color and on the poor.” (Tell it, brother!). I’m happy to support him again.

His opponent is political consultant (and former chair of the California Republican Party) Ron Nehring from San Diego. Field Polls have Newsom ahead by a landslide, and Newsom has ten times the amount of money in the bank, so this campaign is all but over. I was listening to Nehring on KQED radio the other day, and his campaign motto seems to be, glumly, “Everyone deserves to have an opponent.” Aw. Sad.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

padilla

You wouldn’t guess this charming fellow is an MIT-trained nerd.

Senator Alex Padilla is a Democrat. His opponent Pete Peterson is a Republican. Is that enough for me? Yeah probably. But in case you’re interested, here’s more detail.

Peterson, an academic at Pepperdine University, has some interesting ideas. He has suggested that politicians’ salaries be based on the number of campaign promises they are able to keep. (Ha! Yeah. Right.) He has proposed a ban on all fundraising activities by state legislators and statewide officeholders while the legislature in is session, thus leveling the playing field for candidates who are running against incumbents. Hmm. I kind of like that idea, actually.

But I like Padilla because he has been a prolific (and liberal) legislator in the State Senate, authoring bills on a wide range of issues including local prosecution of military sexual assault, criminalizing the mislabeling of seafood, and improving campaign communication disclosures. Remarkably, he is also an MIT-trained engineer who is both charismatic and charming (!). If elected, he promises to modernize the technology used by the Secretary of State’s office (‘bout time!) to make it easier to open a business and to register to vote. Given his background, he is just the guy to tackle this pressing matter.

Controller: Betty Yee

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Betty Yee speaks for me

I can’t say enough good things about Betty Yee…she is genuine and smart, tough and effective, and she has far more  financial experience than her opponent. She is a lifelong public servant, having worked in financial-related offices in state government before running for the Board of Equalization, on which she now serves. On the BoE, she has used her position to fight for tax equity for same-sex couples, she has advocated for the legalization of recreational marijuana (think of the tax revenues!), and she has adhered to the highest of ethical standards (for example, she rejected campaign contributions form the tobacco industry). The Controller’s primary responsibility is to track and control the disbursement of the state of California’s money, and so having an unimpeachable ethical record is important.

Her opponent Republican Ashley Swearingen is the mayor of Fresno, and is widely considered to be a rising star in her party. Her only relevant experience is turning Fresno’s financial ship around, and she did so by cutting city jobs and forcing public employees to pay more of their pension contributions. (If you know me, you know these things make me wince). Fresno is not California, and I don’t think she’s ready for prime time.

Treasurer: John Chiang

Mathlete John Chiang

The Treasurer is the state’s banker, the officer who is responsible for managing the state’s investments, including state employee pension funds. Who better to serve as our next Treasurer than the person who has done a great job as the state’s Controller for the last 8 years? As Controller, he made a name for himself by enforcing a constitutional requirement holding that legislators would not be paid if they failed to pass a balanced budget by June 15, 2011. During the Great Recession, as California teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, Chiang helped to keep the state functioning and paying its bills. He also helped balance the budget by identifying $6 billion in waste that was made available for more productive purposes. Also: he was a high school mathlete (I ❤ nerds!), and he is virtually unopposed.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

Future Governor Kamala Devi Harris

Future Governor Harris

Incumbent Kamala Harris is also virtually unopposed, so I’ll keep it brief: Kamala is a rockstar. She has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage in California. She is 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. I am proud that she comes from San Francisco, and I hope she runs for Governor in four years.

Her opponent is Republican Ron Gold, whose campaign is focused on legalizing recreational marijuana (Yes! And he’s a Republican!). I’m all for it, but Gold doesn’t have a chance – he got only 12% of the vote in the June primary. But his campaign seems to have softened Harris’ stance on the issue. Which is a good thing.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones – I can’t think of a single snarky thing to say about him.

Dave Jones is earnest and hard working, and he’s done some great things with his first four years as Insurance Commissioner. He has required health insurance companies to use no more than 20 percent of premiums on profits and administrative costs, and he has secured strict regulations on life insurance companies to prevent them from withholding benefits improperly. Recently, Jones held hearings on the insurance practices of ride-sharing companies to make sure that they are adequately insured to protect both their drivers and the general public. Jones’ Republican opponent, State Senator Ted Gaines, actually wants to decrease oversight of the insurance industry. Um, no. And no.

Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma

Fiona Ma no longer hates raves

Fiona Ma represented the west side of San Francisco on the Board of Supervisors and in the State Assembly for many years. She and I have disagreed on some policy issues, including a bill she wrote in 2010 that would have banned large-scale electronic music events in California. But she did write some great legislation in the Assembly, including a bill that would have required more employers to provide paid sick leave and one that banned toxic chemicals in plastics and children’s toys. She is a good fit for the Board of Equalization, which is the state’s main taxing body. She is a certified public accountant, and would bring her financial experience to that role. She is virtually unopposed, and she deserves your vote.

 

JUDICIARY

Approve All Of The Supreme Court Justices And Justices Of The Court Of Appeal


Does it even matter which one is which? No. No it does not.

Your ballot includes an entire page asking you to ratify judges you’ve never heard of. Save yourself the headache and just vote yes on all of them.

Justices of the State Supreme Court and the State Courts of Appeal must run for “retention” in the first gubernatorial election after they are appointed and then every 12 years. In these elections, voters are asked to ratify them with a yes or no vote, there is no competition. And since the state started its system of retention elections in 1934, justices have been rejected only once – in 1986, when three Supreme Court Justices were thrown out for ruling against the death penalty.

In this election, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of public outrage threatening the ouster of any of these folks. And I couldn’t find any particularly interesting dirt on any of them. So they are all going to win by large margins, perhaps because they should.

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION – TOM TORLAKSON

Tom Torlakson is busy thinking about ways to improve public schools

Incumbent Tom Torlakson and his main opponent, Marshall Tuck, have very different visions of how to improve public schools in California. A former teacher himself, Torlakson champions teachers and their unions, dislikes the nation’s growing reliance on standardized tests, and advocates for more funding.

An investment banker by trade, Tuck is an advocate for charter schools and for changing the seniority rules for teachers. Personally, I think privatization will serve to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by my friend Paul Buchheit on the subject.)

On the other hand, it’s clear that the current regime isn’t working for our kids, and I’m sensitive to the argument that the teacher tenure system is broken. But if you ask me, the major problem facing the school system is the lack of funding; California ranks 48th in the United States in school spending! Ridiculous! And sad. It’s clear that Torlakson will be a more effective advocate for more funding, and is a better choice for this reason alone.


STATE MEASURES

Yes on Prop 1, Water Bond

This complicated measure will authorize $7.12 billion in new general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects, such as public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, water supply management and conveyance, wastewater treatment, drought relief, emergency water supplies, and ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration.

The environmental groups can’t agree on this one. The Sierra Club went with no endorsement, other big environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy support it because of the funding it provides for ecological restoration. The Center for Biological Diversity opposes it because $2.7 billion will go toward dam projects with possible environmental consequences.

It’s tough call, but I support Prop 1 because California is in a severe drought, and this solution is better then no action at all. The measure will not raise taxes, it merely reallocates money from unused bonds to invest in critical projects. Folks from across the political aisle agree: Democrats, Republicans, farmers, and some environmentalists. I think it’s worth a shot.

Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund


Proposition 2 is highly technical, so bear with me. It’s a constitutional amendment that would change the state’s existing requirements for its rainy day fund, and it would create a Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA). If approved, it would require the state Controller to deposit annually in to the rainy day fund 1.5% of all general fund revenues and significantly more of the state’s capital gains tax revenues. Deposits would be made starting no later than October 2015, and would continue until the rainy day fund balance reaches an amount equal to 10% of all general fund revenues. For the first 15 years, the rainy day payments would be split in two, with 50% going towards the state’s liabilities, like pensions and loans. In case you’re worried about future lean years, there’s a relief valve so that the payments can decrease if the Governor declares a budget emergency.

Prop 2 seems like a common sense fiscal reform to me, and I’m delighted that our economy is doing so well that we can have a real conversation about saving for the future. It’s about time that we start thinking long term about protecting vital services during an economic bust. If you’ve lived in California for more than a few years, you know that the public schools and social services are held hostage with every budget cycle, and this measure will insulate them a bit from the ups and downs.

Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation

Prop 45 will require health insurance companies to get any rate changes approved by the state Insurance Commissioner before taking effect. It also requires for more transparency in rate changes, including public notices and hearings. Finally, it prohibits health, auto, and homeowners insurers from determining policy eligibility or rates based on lack of prior coverage or credit history.

Have you seen lots of TV ads about this measure? Yeah, the insurance companies are freaking out about this one. Prop 45 seeks to place controls on rising insurance costs so that consumers will stop getting ripped off by insurance companies.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones sponsored the measure, and its supporters include Senators Feinstein and Boxer, consumer watchdog groups, NOW, the California Democratic Party, teachers and nurses unions.

Opponents include the California Republican Party, Nancy Pelosi (!), insurance companies, medical organizations, and business groups. They claim that Prop 45 is an attack on Obamacare and that it’s not necessary because Covered California already negotiates insurance rates and benefits on behalf of consumers. It’s true that Prop 45 would give the Insurance Commissioner the right to reject a premium increase by one of Covered California’s approved providers – but what’s the harm in adding safeguards against higher rates? I don’t buy the argument, and I don’t trust insurance companies.

NO NO NO on Prop 46, Random Drug Testing of Doctors, Increasing Malpractice Damages Cap


This measure does three things: (1) it increases the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering in medical malpractice claims from $250,000 to over $1 million; (2) it requires the random drug testing of all doctors and requires the medical board to suspend all doctors with positive tests; and (3) requires health care practitioners to consult a state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances.

I don’t have a problem with increasing the “pain and suffering” damages cap; in fact, it’s been 40 years since the current cap was established, and increasing it is probably warranted. Creating a statewide prescription drug history database makes me a little itchy – there will be people with access to this database who are not medical professionals and this measure hasn’t thought through the patient privacy issues.

But the main reason why I oppose this measure is…RANDOM DRUG TESTING OF ALL DOCTORS?? Really? C’mon. A dermatologist can lose her medical license because she smokes a joint on the occasional weekend? That’s just not right. I’m not aware that rampant drug use by doctors is a big problem. And who says that the state medical board isn’t already doing a decent job of disciplining doctors who are impaired on the job? The measure doesn’t say what kinds of drugs would be tested or how, or what kinds of penalties would apply.

The measure’s proponents just seem to be demonizing doctors here. They should come back to us with a measure that only increases the pain and suffering cap – that’s a measure I would support. Over 500 state and community organizations oppose Prop 46 – including labor unions, business organizations, the ACLU, women’s rights groups and Planned Parenthood. Please vote no.

YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification


This state jails far too many people for nonviolent property and drug crimes. Period.

Prop 47 will reduce the classification of most “nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes” from a felony to a misdemeanor, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent crime. The measure would require misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the personal use of most illegal drugs, and for shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing a bad check, where the value of the property or check does not exceed $950. It will also permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the above offenses, making about 10,000 inmates eligible for re-sentencing.

Our state’s prison system is overcrowded, and so this measure is way overdue. I also think it’s fundamentally unfair to put someone in prison for possession of small amounts of drugs or bouncing a check; we need to rebalance our criminal justice system so that it prioritizes violent and dangerous crimes. Prop 47 will save the state millions of dollars a year, and put that money towards treating mental illness and drug addiction, fund anti-truancy programs in K-12 schools, and help victims of crime recover from their trauma. The measure is sponsored by SF District Attorney George Gascon, and supported by the ACLU, the California Democratic Party, Newt Gingrich (really?! yes), labor unions, and many victims groups. It is opposed by Senator Feinstein, police officers groups and district attorneys.

Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

This measure affirms compacts negotiated by Governor Brown and ratified by all stakeholders to allow the North Fork Tribe to establish an off-reservation casino in Madera County, splitting revenues between the North Fork and the Wiyot tribes. Proponents say that it will create thousands of jobs, promote tribal self-sufficiency, avoid an alternative development plan in environmentally sensitive areas, and generate business opportunities and economic growth. Opponents say that gambling is a bad thing for California, that this measure is a slippery slope that will cause an avalanche of off-reservation casino projects. I don’t have a moral objection to gambling, and the slippery slope argument rings hollow to me, so I don’t see a reason to oppose this measure.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – California & SF 2010

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

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

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

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

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

CALIFORNIA BALLOT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SAN FRANCISCO BALLOT: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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