Big Ol Voter Guide – November 2012

Election Day is mere days away! I know. It’s hard to believe, because the presidential election has been going on for years. Years! We Californians might be sick of the election already, but just think of how miserable it must be to live in a swing state right now. In states like Virginia, Ohio and Missouri, the presidential campaigns are pouring millions of dollars into negative advertising. Now THOSE states can’t wait for the election to be over.

And so, I humbly submit to you, for your edification and enjoyment, my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the November 2012 election. It includes federal races, state propositions, the races for state legislature seats in San Francisco, as well as the SF city races and measures.

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

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a political attorney and a San Francisco progressive, whose passions include protecting and promoting 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 like long walks on the beach.

Go here for my guide to the San Francisco ballot.

Go here for my guide to the California ballot.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (San Francisco)

Friends! Following is my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the San Francisco ballot in the November 2012 election. It includes the Congressional and state legislature seats that represent our fair city, as well as the local races and measures.

There are some seriously crazy campaigns happening in San Francisco, particularly the District 5 Supervisor race and the school board race. The ballot measures reflect the financial dire straits of the City – four of them want to raise new revenues  for various worthy causes. None of the measures are too contentious – most of them are the result of legislative compromises that took place BEFORE they were placed on the ballot. Fascinating! Is it a new era of good feelings in City Hall? Maybe! I sure hope so.

My guide for the statewide California ballot is here.

Comments? Disagreements? Bring it!

SUMMARY:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi
Congressional District 12: Jackie Speier

State Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)
Assembly, Dist. 17: Tom Ammiano (East Side of SF)
Assembly, Dist. 19: Phil Ting (West Side of SF)

SF Board of Education:
Matt Haney, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rachel Norton, Sam Rodriguez
SF Community College Board:
Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson
BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
District 3 Supervisor: David Chiu
District 5 Supervisor: London Breed, John Rizzo, Thea Selby
District 7 Supervisor: FX Crowley, Norman Yee
District 9 Supervisor: David Campos
District 11 Supervisor: John Avalos

Measure A: YES (City College Parcel Tax)
Measure B: YES  (Parks Bond)
Measure C: YES (Affordable Housing Trust Fund)
Measure D: YES (Consolidated Elections)
Measure E: YES  (Gross Receipts Tax)
Measure F: NO! (Hetch Hetchy)
Measure G: YES (Corporate Personhood) 

FEDERAL RACES IN SAN FRANCISCO:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi (Most of SF)

First female Speaker of the House.  She is a fighter and a grandmother. She helped President Obama shepherd his health care reform legislation through the House. I am proud that she comes from my district.

Congressional District 12 : Jackie Speier (West side of SF, Peninsula)

Jackie is a hero of mine, she’s fearless. She has stood for banking reform, women’s health, and government accountability. Jackie rocks. And she will win re-election easily.

STATE OFFICES REPRESENTING SAN FRANCISCO:

Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)

Mark is a tireless advocate for his district, and in particular for the LGBT community, single-payer health care, drug policy reform, and for nightlife interests. I wonder how much he’s going to beat his Republican opponent by. 65 percentage points? 70?

Assembly, Dist. 17: Tom Ammiano (East Side of SF)

Tom is a hero of mine, a public servant for over three decades, a friend of Harvey Milk’s, and a champion of civil rights, public education, health care and marijuana policy reform.  His legislative accomplishments are too many to list here! I am proud to support him, and he has no opposition.

Assembly, Dist. 19: Phil Ting (West Side of SF)

Phil is a great Assessor, and has stood up to powerful interests in that capacity. His big issue is tax reform, and he’s stuck his neck out on reforming Prop. 13, which has enabled owners of commercial property to avoid paying their share. He also might be the nicest person in San Francisco politics, and a genuine, hard working guy. Phil’s opponent Michael Breyer (is very dorky and) hasn’t had much community support, because he hasn’t shown much interest in politics until he decided to run. Breyer has written himself huge checks to make up for it. (Meg Whitman, anyone?) C’mon, let’s make sure Phil beats this guy.

SAN FRANCISCO OFFICES:

Board of Education:

Matt Haney, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rachel Norton, Sam Rodriguez

The school board race has been a wild one… in large part because the teacher’s union is out for blood. Earlier this year, the school board was asked to vote on a controversial question: whether to skip seniority of certain teachers (and defy the union), or preserve the jobs of 70 lower-seniority teachers in a handful of underperforming schools.  All of the incumbents running for re-election this year voted to skip seniority (Wynns, Norton, Fewer). And so the union has sworn to defeat these incumbents, and they have asked the city’s leadership to stand with them. They have endorsed four newcomers, some of whom, I think, aren’t quite ready.

I agree that seniority of teachers is very important. Without the principle of seniority (i.e., tenure), teachers could lose their jobs for political reasons and other arbitrary factors. But I also believe that throwing out all of the incumbents is short-sighted. Experience and institutional memory are essential on the school board, particularly when the public schools have made so many gains in the last few years.  There are four seats up this November: I have endorsed two of the incumbents, and two of the challengers.

Rachel Norton is one of those incumbents. She is thoughtful, 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 works very hard; she is particularly good at communicating what she’s doing, by way of newsletters and blogs. She has the support of the Democratic Party, the Chronicle, the Examiner AND the Bay Guardian as well as a myriad of others.

Sandy Fewer is a progressive stalwart on the school board. She was first elected four years ago, and since then she’s been focused on civil rights aspects of public education, including LGBT issues (including sensitivity training regarding transgender kids – which I think is awesome), adding ethnic studies to the high school curriculum, and advocating for students of color. Like Rachel, she has the endorsements of the Democratic Party, the Chronicle, the Examiner AND the Bay Guardian. That’s quite a coalition.

Matt Haney is the candidate I care the most about – 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 Executive Director of the UC Students Association. He’s garnered the endorsements of just about everybody – the Teachers Union, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, the Democratic Party, the Labor Council, and almost every elected official in town. He is the consensus candidate – everybody loves Matt. And so do I! Please vote for him.

Sam Rodriguez has deep roots in statewide politics, and also with the SF Parent Teachers Association, where he is the legislative director, and has worked closely with the School Board and other City officials in that capacity. He is also very very smart, and well versed in the issues the school district faces. He is focused on closing the gaps in academic performance between white students and students of color, and between high- and low-income students. Here are his endorsements.

Community College Board:

Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson

San Francisco Community College is totally screwed up. And it has been for years. It is near bankruptcy, they are on the brink of losing their accreditation, and in 2011 the former Chancellor and the former Chief Administrative Officer both pled guilty to felony misuse of public funds! For decades, the College Board enabled bad administrators, made horrible decisions about money, and ignored obvious problems. What’s worse, it feels like every election, the voters are asked to approve a new bond measure or parcel tax to “SAVE CITY COLLEGE!!!”… including in this very election. (See Measure A, below).

There are some serious, difficult changes that need to be made to save City College. Currently, CCSF functions as a traditional junior college, it teaches English as a second language to new immigrants, it serves as a job training center for tech and health-related industries, and it provides interesting noncredit courses in many fields.  But everyone agrees that CCSF can no longer fulfill all these roles. It needs to cut non-essential programs (no more basket-weaving classes for retirees), lay off teachers (I know, I know), reduce the number of campuses, and get back to the very basic purpose of a community college – to prepare students to transfer to four-year institutions.

This is why I am endorsing the four people who I think are smart, relatively new, and have fresh ideas to bring to the board. And I’m not supporting the one incumbent who has been on the board for decades, and who, IMO, has been part of the problem. This is one office where institutional memory is worthless.

Chris Jackson and Steve Ngo are incumbents, but they’ve each only served one term and I think we ought to give them a shot to turn the thing around. They have both been strong voices for reform. Jackson has argued for cutting administrators over teachers – and I agree with him. Ngo is a civil rights lawyer who has been particularly hard on CCSF administration for lack of accountability and transparency.

Rafael Mandelman and Amy Bacharach are the most qualified newcomers. Mandelman is an attorney, a really smart guy, and a progressive leader on the Democratic County Central Committee, on which I also serve. I consider Rafi an ally, and I trust him to make the hard decisions that need to be made. Bacharach understands the value of community college, because it enabled her to get her college degree, and ultimately her PhD. She is smart, progressive, and willing to make the tough calls, particularly in centralizing decision-making in CCSF’s administration.

BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

I adore Tom. He is a long-serving member of the BART Board, a passionate transit advocate, and Executive Director of Livable City, on whose board I used to serve. Livable City advocates for housing and transportation policies that discourage the use of cars and encourage the use of transit, as well as the walkability and bikeability of city streets. Tom is one of the smartest people I know; BART is lucky to have him.


District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
(Richmond)

Supervisor Mar is a level head on the Board of Supervisors, and his thoughtful demeanor is an important asset on the Board.  He has worked hard for the Richmond District, including revitalizing local small business corridors, and championing pedestrian safety efforts. He’s been a solid advocate for tenants and seniors. And I should also mention that he is a regular Burning Man participant and nightlife issues are important to him.  Eric is in a tough re-election fight, against an opponent with substantial corporate resources behind him. Please vote for Mar!

District 3 Supervisor:  David Chiu
(North Beach, FiDi, Russian Hill, Union Square, Tenderloin)

Board President David Chiu was my first choice for Mayor last year. Why? He is a smart, effective leader for both District 3 and San Francisco. Government transparency is very important to him, and he’s the only member of the Board who is car-free. He’s been at the forefront of urban farming issues, as well as environmental legislation (banning the dumping of Yellow Pages on your doorstep! Yes!!). He has little serious opposition. Vote for David.

District 5 Supervisor: London Breed, John Rizzo, Thea Selby
(Haight, Cole Valley, Western Addition, Hayes Valley)

This race is an especially tough one for me, I have many friends and allies running for this seat. And in the last few weeks, this has become an INSANELY UNPREDICTABLE RACE. Julian Davis, formerly the consensus choice of many progressives, has lost all of his major endorsements after allegations surfaced that he behaved badly with several women and later threatened those women if they were to come forward. Incumbent Christina Olague wasn’t gaining traction in this über-progressive district because of her ties to (moderate) Mayor Ed Lee and Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak. But then she bucked the Mayor by voting to reinstate Ross Mirkarimi as Sheriff, and she scored points from progressive leadership, who now seem to be flocking to her side. Read what the Bay Guardian says about it here, fascinating stuff!

London Breed is the most compelling candidate in this race. She comes from the projects in District 5, where she watched her friends and classmates go to prison or die on the streets. And she’s a great success story – her day job is Director of the African American Art and Culture Complex, and she also serves as a Fire Commissioner. She is smart, fierce, and has been around City Hall long enough to know how to get things done. Which is why I’ve endorsed her. But she has not been as progressive as most of her potential constituents, and she has the support of many conservatives in town (like the Realtors Association and the Police Officers Assn.). District 5 is perhaps the most progressive district in SF, and so it’s important that the Supervisor representing it be a champion of the left.

In the past, London’s political patron was former Mayor Willie Brown, who fought bitterly with the progressive Board of Supervisors during his tenure. But Breed and Brown have had a very public falling out, and Brown has been actively working against her, shaming her contributors and convincing big supporters to reverse their endorsements. London is truly an independent candidate, and I am confident that she will remain so if she’s elected.

John Rizzo is also a good choice. John is a longtime environmental and progressive leader, having served as President of the local Sierra Club chapter and a reformer at the Community College Board. I am concerned that his campaign isn’t gaining much traction, the consensus among insiders being that John lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. He was also on the College Board for the last 6 years, during which time Community College has fallen apart. And while John has been a strong advocate for reform, six years is a long time to make little progress. But you can trust John to be a solid progressive vote for his district if he’s elected. He has the #1 endorsement of the Bay Guardian, perhaps the most influential endorsement in D5.

I am also supporting Thea Selby, a parent and small business owner from the Lower Haight. Thea is running a strong grassroots campaign, and despite her relative inexperience in local politics, has gained a lot of ground in the last few months, and has picked up a lot of great endorsements, like the Bay Guardian and the Examiner. Her politics are more progressive than London’s, and she has more money in the bank than John, so expect a last-minute surge from her.

District 7 Supervisor:  FX Crowley, Norman Yee
(Lake Merced, St. Francis Wood, Twin Peaks, West Portal)

Let’s face it – D7 is not a progressive district.  Historically, it has elected some of the most conservative politicians in San Francisco history. (This is relative, of course, since we’re all Democrats here in SF).  That said, two of the candidates in this race are reasonable guys (and yes, it’s all guys).

FX Crowley is a union leader and smart fellow who has lived his entire life on the West side of town. He served on the Public Utilities Commission, where he showed that he is a skeptic of public power and clean energy (Bad! Bad!). And he knows nothing about the issues I care about – supporting the nightlife economy and increasing the female presence in positions of real power in government. But I think he’ll be a thoughtful vote on budget issues, given his strong labor background.

Norman Yee is president of the school board and executive director of Wu Yee Children’s Services. He is soft spoken, circumspect, and has eight years of experience in city government. His campaign’s focus is improving the schools in D7, fiscal responsibility  (read: cutting the budget, which is outpacing revenue growth), and improving neighborhood resources like paved roads, street lighting, etc.. Not sure how he will spend more money on roads and lighting and parks when is cutting the budget, but whatever. Nice guy. Vote for Norman.

District 9 Supervisor:  David Campos
(Mission, Bernal Heights)

Supervisor Campos is unopposed, in large part because he is doing a great job for the Mission and progressive citywide efforts. I serve with him on the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the governing body of the SF Democratic Party, and in that capacity, he’s helped maintain our progressive conscience.  He is shrewd, reliable, and a prolific legislator.

David will probably be running for Tom Ammiano’s Assembly seat in a few years against Scott Weiner, District 8 Supervisor. People are already taking sides in this race, and so David needs to do really well in his (unopposed) re-election bid to demonstrate his support in the district. Vote for David!

District 11 Supervisor:  John Avalos
(Outer Mission, Ingleside, Excelsior)

Supervisor Avalos is also unopposed, because he is doing a good job and he is unbeatable.  John first ran for Supervisor after working for Chris Daly for many years. He had a reputation for being understated and trustworthy, but not the most fierce of progressive leaders. In the last few years, though, he has come into his own as a forceful leader of the progressive movement, and came close to winning the Mayor’s race in 2011.

Avalos has written some groundbreaking laws, including the local hire legislation, which would have required City’s construction contractors to hire at least 25 percent local residents for city jobs. Nightlife businesses didn’t like his alcohol tax idea – which would have imposed a fee of about 5 cents to a standard cocktail – and would have generated more than $15 million in revenue per year to go towards medical services for alcohol-related accidents and diseases. His bill was vetoed by (bar and winery owner) Mayor Gavin Newsom.  While I don’t like taxing nightlife businesses, I do like that John is thinking creatively about generating new revenues for our cash-strapped city.

SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES:

Measure A: YES

City College Parcel Tax

“SAVE CITY COLLEGE!” – How many times have we heard that line?  It seems like we’re asked to approve a new City College bond measure or parcel tax in every election. And every year, City College is in direr and direr straits. (Is “direr” even a word?)  Prop A, if approved, will add $79 to everyone’s property taxes (regardless of property value).

See my endorsements for College Board above for more background on how f’ed up City College is. But here’s the thing – City College is an important asset. It would be tragic for its 90,000 (!!!) students if it disappeared. And the biggest problem CCSF faces is its lack of resources. Prop A would generate $16 million per year in new revenue for CCSF… which won’t prevent all the cuts they need to make, but it will slow the bleeding. Vote yes!

p.s. Only property owners pay this tax – if you’re a tenant, there’s really no reason to vote against it unless you oppose taxes generally.

Measure B: YES

Parks Bond

Who doesn’t love parks? And who doesn’t agree that the parks in San Francisco have fallen into disrepair? If you own a dog or have kids – or enjoy renegade dance parties (wink, wink) – you know what I’m talking about. It’s bad.

To be fair, it’s not the city’s fault that the parks are such a mess. Massive budget deficits and loss of funding from the state have forced city officials to make some tough choices. And when faced with the decision of keeping the jobs of teachers and firefighters, versus maintaining the city’s parks and roadways, they have generally chosen the former. And so, here we are: with facilities that are crumbling and even unsafe in some cases.

Some people see Prop B as a referendum on Rec & Park’s recent decisions to increase revenue by renting out portions of our open spaces and charging new fees.  There are passionate folks on both sides of that issue whom I respect very much. But that’s not what this is about.

Prop B is a general obligation bond that will allow the city to borrow $195 million for park, open space and recreation facilities mostly in underserved neighborhoods.  It needs a 2/3 majority to pass. And just about everyone supports it: the Mayor, every member of the Board of Supervisors, the Chronicle AND the Bay Guardian. Please vote yes. Do it for the children. And the renegades.

Measure C: YES

Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Everyone agrees that it is nearly impossible to find affordable housing in San Francisco. And Prop C attacks this problem from several different directions. It will create a new trust fund to: (1) create, acquire and rehabilitate modestly priced housing in San Francisco; and (2) promote affordable home ownership programs in the city. It will also authorize the development of 30,000 new affordable housing units.

Affordable housing advocates were at the table when this measure was written, as were real estate developers, and they ended up compromising on a few things. For example, it includes a provision that will codify (and lower) the amount of “affordable” housing a private developer is required to build when constructing private market-rate residences. Developers say that they need this certainty in order to make their projects pencil out.

Note that Prop C includes no new taxes, which means that the fund will come entirely from the City’s general fund (which is what pays for all other city services). This is a risky move, since the trust fund hopes to spend $1.5 billion over the next 30 years, without raising any new taxes to cover it. Yikes.

But $1.5 billion is a heck of a lot of money! I’m happy city leaders are finally ready to dedicate significant resources to solving the housing problem. But to do so, they need your vote. Vote yes.

Measure D: YES

Consolidated Elections 

This measure is simple: it will change the election cycle so that the City Attorney and Treasurer will be elected on the same ballot as the Mayor, Sheriff, Assessor and District Attorney, beginning in 2015. Currently, City Attorney and Treasurer are on a ballot all by themselves, with the next election to be held in November 2013. If Prop D passes, the City Attorney and Treasurer will serve a 2-year term, and then those seats will be up again in November 2015.

There will be political ramifications to this measure. It will mean that anyone holding one of these offices would have to give up their seat in order to run for another one. For example, City Attorney Dennis Herrera ran for Mayor last year, and he lost – but because his position is elected on a different cycle, he kept his job as City Attorney. Once Measure D passes, Herrera would have to give up his job as City Attorney to run for Mayor, since you can’t run for two offices in the same election.

As a potential future candidate for one of these offices (ahem), I do worry that some of these races will get lost in the shuffle if they are all on the same ballot. It’s hard enough for the Sheriff and DA candidates to get voters’ attention during the Mayor’s race. It will be even harder when two more offices are added to the mix.

But the arguments in favor of the measure are compelling. Consolidating the ballots will be more economical for the City. Off-year elections have lower turnout, so putting them on the same ballot will mean that more voters participate in the selection of these officers.  (Political junkies know that increasing turnout for these races will affect the outcomes, since higher-turnout elections tend to lead to more progressive results). The Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, and the entire Board of Supervisors support Measure D. Vote yes.

Measure E: YES

Gross Receipt Tax

This measure will change the way San Francisco taxes businesses. I’m about to throw out a bunch of numbers, so bear with me.

Currently, the city taxes companies with more than $250,000 in annual payroll; these businesses (about 10% of SF companies) pay the city 1.5% of their entire payroll expense. Measure E will phase out the city’s current payroll tax and replace it with a gross receipts tax that will apply only to businesses with more than $1 million in annual gross receipts. (As a small business owner, this is a big relief to me!)  Generally, businesses with higher gross receipts would pay higher rates; the rates would range from 0.075% to 0.650%. It is estimated that this will result in $28.5 million more a year in revenue to the city.

The city really, really needs this new revenue. And guess what? Everyone from the Chamber of Commerce, to the Labor Council, to the high tech industry, to the super-lefty Supervisors like this measure. It’s a compromise that is a long time in coming, since a GRT seems more fair, and payroll taxes tend to punish job creation. Vote yes on E.

Measure F: NO!

Future of Hetch Hetchy

F-No! Get it? Hee hee. Makes me giggle every time.

The official title of this measure is “Water Sustainability & Environmental Restoration Planning Act of 2012.” It’s a silly and misleading title. It should be called the “Obliteration of San Francisco’s Water Supply Act of 2012.”

The proponents of this measure want San Francisco to spend $8 million to study what it will take to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to restore it to its natural state. “But wait!” you say. “I love Hetch Hetchy water! It is delicious and clean!” Yes. And 2.6 million residents and businesses in the Bay Area rely on it.  It is preposterous to propose that we drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir given California’s struggles with water supply and the millions (billions?) of dollars in investment that SF has made into the infrastructure it takes to deliver it.  And oh yeah, the dam generates 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of clean, hydroelectric energy each year. Thus reducing the city’s reliance on dirty energy sources.

And where is that $8 million for the study going to come from? Is the city going to close a clinic or lay off a few dozen firefighters? F-No! This is ridiculous idea. Vote no on F.

Measure G: YES

Corporate Personhood

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a firestorm with its Citizens United decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. It reaffirmed the notion of “corporate personhood” – the idea that corporations have the same rights as people.

Since then, cities and counties all over the country have passed resolutions opposing this decision, and urging Congress to overturn Citizens United. I find it totally outrageous that the Court rested its decision on the First Amendment, the very amendment where the most essential of human rights are affirmed.

Prop G is a non-binding policy declaration. I think most non-binding resolutions are silly and a waste of time. But the one in Prop G is important – in fact, I wrote a similar resolution for the SF Democratic Party that was approved unanimously. San Francisco should join the hundreds of other cities and counties (and political parties) in sending the message that money is not speech, corporations are not people, and it’s time for the citizenry to stand up to the overwhelming influence that big money interests have over elections at every level. Vote yes on G.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (California)

Friends! Below is my Big Ol’ Voter Guide for the California November 2012 election. It includes the federal races and state propositions on the statewide ballot.

Here in California, there are some fascinating and groundbreaking issues we’ve been asked to vote on, particularly in the criminal justice realm. There are lots of proposed new taxes and government reform measures, and many new laws proposed by millionaires and billionares fed up with state government and/or setting themselves up for running for statewide office.

My guide for the San Francisco ballot is here.

Enjoy!

SUMMARY:

President: Barack Obama
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

Prop 30: YES (Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts)
Prop 31: NO (Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms)
Prop 32: OH HELL NO! (Political Spending Limits)
Prop 33: NO (New Car Insurance Rating Factor)
Prop 34: OH HELL YES! (Death Penalty)
Prop 35: NO? (Sex Trafficking)
Prop 36: YES (Modifications to Three Strikes Law)
Prop 37: YES (Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods)
Prop 38: YES (New Tax for Education)
Prop 39: YES (Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses)
Prop 40: YES? (Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts)

FEDERAL

President: Barack Obama

I’ve said it before: he’s been awful to medical marijuana interests, particularly here in California.  But I think history will remember him as one of the best presidents we’ve ever had.  I am happy to support him again because he is pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-gay marriage, pro-stem cell research, and he was able to achieve health care reform. His opponent is doing everything he can to alienate women and the middle class… which, together, last I checked, are the majority of voters in the United States.  Romney IS the 1%. And as if THAT wasn’t enough, I have three words for you: Supreme Court Appointments.

US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

Dianne is more conservative than I’d like her to be. She’s in favor of the death penalty, and opposes medical marijuana. But she’s a fierce advocate for abortion rights and the environment, and it was her 2011 legislation that would have granted federal rights and benefits to legally married same-sex couples by repealing the hateful Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Feinstein’s Republican opponent doesn’t have a chance.

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Prop 30: YES

Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts

Governor Brown put this on the ballot; it’s a merger of his two previous (failed) tax measures. This one is a simple tax increase that will expire in 2019, and will bring in $6 billion per year. Which, by the way, is a drop in the bucket – the state’s total budget is about $120 billion.

It raises taxes on people with incomes of more than $250,000, and it also increases the state sales tax by ¼ of a penny. I generally don’t like sales taxes because they are regressive, meaning they tend to hurt poor people more than the rich. But the increase in income tax for the higher brackets balances it out for me – the rich can afford to pay a bit more, in order to make sure that the state doesn’t take a nosedive. If this measure fails, it triggers $6 billion in cuts to schools and other essential services.

It’s supported by Governor Brown, teachers, Democrats, and the League of Women Voters. It is opposed by anti-tax groups and the Republican Party. Vote yes.

ALSO: See Prop 38 below. If 38 wins by more votes than 30, then 30 will not take effect. And the $6 billion in trigger cuts will take effect. OUCH!

Prop 31: NO

Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms

This measure includes lots of complicated legislative reforms, including moving the state budget to a two-year cycle (good), giving local governments more money and autonomy (good), giving governors unilateral authority to make cuts during years with budget deficits (bad), and requiring new state programs to be tied to specific funding sources (bad).

Supporters include the Republican Party and a group called California Forward. Opponents include the Democratic Party, the California League of Conservation Voters, and the California Federation of Teachers.

I’m always wary of ballot measures that try to make complicated changes to the way the legislature does business.  Because ballot measures can only be amended by future  ballot measures. And THAT, frankly, is one of the reasons why state government is so f*&%ed up – because so much of the way government is run can ONLY be changed by a vote of the people. Government should be much more nimble than that – the Legislature should be able to respond to problems and popular will without having to go to the ballot every time. This is NOT the way to govern a state. Rant over. Vote no on 31.

Prop 32: OH HELL NO!

Political Spending Limits

This measure is deceptive and evil. It purports to limit campaign contributions by corporations and unions equally. But it really just cuts unions off at the knees, by preventing them from using payroll deductions to fund their political activities.

Prop 32 claims to equally limit the ability of unions, corporations and government contractors from using payroll deductions. BUT – while payroll deductions are the main source of funding for unions, very few corporations or government contractors actually deduct money from their employees’ paychecks for political activities. Corporations have many other sources of funds for their political activities. Profits, for example.

Prop 32 also claims to ban union and corporate contributions to political candidates. I’m a political attorney, and I can tell you that restrictions on corporate contributions are almost pointless. Corporate interests can always funnel contributions through PACs or through individual contributions by their officers and shareholders.  It seems pretty clear to me that this measure is a cynical attempt to eviscerate labor unions, which are the only way that certain constituencies – like teachers, nurses, and farm workers – have a voice in government. Please vote no.

Prop 33: NO

New Car Insurance Rating Factor

This measure penalizes those who haven’t maintained continuous insurance coverage – namely, poor people, recent immigrants, anyone who spends significant time abroad, and those who go car-free for a while to ride a bike, walk, or use public transit or car-sharing services. All of these folks would pay considerably higher rates when they return to driving. Ridiculous! We shouldn’t be penalizing people who give up driving for a while, we should be thanking them for doing their part to save us from global warming. Vote no.

p.s. George Joseph, billionaire founder of Mercury Insurance, admits to having placed this measure on the ballot in order to raise rates on the newly insured. At least he’s honest about it.

Prop 34: OH HELL YES!

Death Penalty

I oppose the death penalty, and I have been waiting for much of my adult life for California to abolish it. And you probably already know how you feel about the death penalty, so I shouldn’t spend too much time trying to convince you. But here’s what I got:

  1. DNA evidence has exonerated 18 death row inmates in the U.S… The flaws in the criminal justice system are so deep that we are unable to guarantee that California isn’t executing innocent people.
  2. Most other industrialized nations have abolished the death penalty.
  3. There is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime.
  4. The state has spent about $4 billion to implement the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1978, and it has only executed 13 people. You do the math.
  5. The death penalty is imposed on black and brown defendants far more often than white defendants who are accused of the same crime.

California is often the national leader in big-ticket ballot measures like this one. If California abolishes the death penalty, I think you’ll see many states follow suit. And the world will start to become a more humane place. PLEASE vote yes on 34.

Prop 35: NO?

Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is an abomination. And far more common than you’d expect. My dear friend Sharmin Bock – who has spent much of her career fighting the trafficking of innocents for the sex trade – helped write this measure, and I have a lot of respect for her and her work. But I’m torn. Here are my thoughts:

– Prop. 35 would rewrite the section in California’s Penal Code that defines human trafficking, and impose harsher sentences on those found guilty. (OK! Let’s do it).

– It would require convicted traffickers to register as sex offenders (Sure! Sounds good).

– It would require that all registered sex offenders turn over their Internet usernames and passwords to the government. (Wait, what??)

I’ve always been skeptical of sex offender registration, since I know that you can be considered a sex offender of you are convicted of public urination, public nudity, consensual sex between teenagers, consensual prostitution. And it’s nearly impossible to get yourself off of the registry upon a showing of rehabilitation or years of lawful behavior. See what the Human Rights Watch says about it.

So while human trafficking is a serious problem, the proponents of this measure haven’t made the case that existing laws don’t go far enough.  And I don’t think the sex offender registry should be expanded to require ALL registered sex offenders to hand over all of their internet usernames and passwords. That’s just going too far. It would expand the state’s ability to violate the privacy of consensual sex workers and teenage streakers. And that’s just not right.

P.s. The Bay Guardian says that Senator Mark Leno is working on legislation that will address trafficking without the problems in Prop. 35. Reason enough to vote no on 35.

p.p.s. Facebook millionaire (And failed Attorney General candidate) Chris Kelly put this one on the ballot, watch for his next statewide campaign for public office.

Prop 36: YES

Modifications to Three Strikes Law

Think of Jean Valjean of Les Miserables. The dude spent decades in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and his plight – and the unfairness of his punishment – inspired one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century.

Today in California, anyone convicted of three felonies, no matter how nonviolent or small, must serve 25 years to life. It’s not fair. Even the original proponents of the “Three Strikes” law admit that it has had unintended consequences. Prop 36 would reform the three strikes law to require that the third strike be violent or serious. And it would allow current convicts to appeal their sentences if their third strike was a relatively minor crime.

Did I mention that our state prisons are overcrowded, and we spend $47,000 a year for every inmate in California?  Prop 36 would save the state at least $70 million annually, and some of that money would go toward solving violent crimes.

Supporters include District Attorneys from big cities, the Democratic Party and the NAACP. Opponents include the Republican Party, the State Sherriff’s Association, the State District Attorneys Association, California Peace Officers Association, and a few victims rights groups.

This is a good one. Vote yes on 36.

Prop 37: YES

Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

This measure mandates that food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled — as it is in at least 50 countries worldwide, and in much of the industrialized world.

A big proportion of the food Californians eat has GMOs in it. And while the scientific community can’t agree on whether and to what extent GMOs are bad for you, it can’t hurt to have a better idea of what you’re putting in your mouth.

BUT – my friends in the biotech industry remind me that there is a lot of genetically modified food that even foodies love. Like pluots, purple cauliflower, tangelos… if Prop 37 passes, these foods will be labeled. Don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean that they are bad for you, just that they are genetic hybrids.

The NO campaign is being funded by chemical companies and food processors, Big Agriculture and the Republican Party. The Yes campaign is composed of consumer groups, public health organizations, environmentalists, Democrats. Who do YOU want to align yourself with?

Knowledge is power. Vote yes on 37.

Prop 38: YES

New Tax for Education

This one increases taxes on everyone who makes more than $7300 per year. This means you! But – it’s a sliding scale, so that the wealthiest pay a higher percentage increase (0.4% for lowest individual earners to 2.2% for those earning over $2.5 million).

The majority of the estimated $10 billion a year in new revenue will go to public school districts and early childhood development programs.  We all know that schools need the help: California now has the largest class sizes in the nation. Since 2008, the state has cut school budgets by $20 billion.

Billionaire Molly Munger put this one on the ballot, without much input from the legislature or the experts, so it’s got some holes in it. It’s a big middle finger to Sacramento, because it funnels the revenues directly to school districts; the legislature can’t touch them. And the Governor was pretty peeved when this one qualified for the ballot because it makes both his measure (Prop 30) and this one more likely to lose. And it includes a poison pill:  If Proposition 38 wins by more votes than 30, then 30 won’t take effect, and vice versa.

I’d like to see either one pass, it doesn’t matter to me, because the schools need serious help. Vote yes on 38. Think of the children.

Prop 39: YES

Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses

This measure would close a loophole that has allowed out-of-state companies avoid paying taxes in California. If Prop 39 passes, it will require all companies to use in-state sales as the basis for the taxes they pay. It will bring in $1 billion in revenue, a large portion of which will go toward clean energy projects.

This one seems like a no-brainer to me. It only affects out-of-state businesses and not California-based companies or California residents. It removes the incentive for companies to locate their employees or facilities out of state. And it has the support of just about everybody – unions, chambers of commerce, big business, environmentalists, teachers, Democrats and Republicans alike. Vote yes.

Prop 40: YES?

Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts

This measure is ridiculous.

The non-partisan Citizen Redistricting Commission was established by ballot measure in 2008, and was charged with re-drawing state Senate and Assembly jurisdictional boundaries. It was created, in large part, because state legislators used to draw their own jurisdictional lines (and surprise! They always made sure that their own seats were safe).

The CRC was charged with re-drawing the state jurisdictional lines in a way that was fair. But the lines drawn for the Senate districts were challenged in court, and the state Supreme Court rejected that challenge. So the litigants wrote this measure asking the voters to reject the Senate district lines. As if the voters know enough about the complicated demographic and regional details to know what the hell we are looking at!

Voting NO means that the lines will be re-drawn by a judicial panel, and YES means the lines will stand. I say vote yes. There’s no evidence that a judicial panel is going to do a better job than the CRC. I hate ballot measures that waste our collective time.

SF Democratic Party to Consider Citizens United Resolution

Today is the second anniversary of the historic Citizens United decision by the United States Supreme Court. That decision granted corporations unprecedented influence in democratic elections while permitting them to hide their involvement, thereby threatening the voices of the electorate and the very foundation of democracy.

Members of both houses of Congress have introduced amendments to the United States Constitution that would overturn the decision in Citizens United, and limit corporate influence over federal, state and local elections.  A movement is building. More than 100 Occupy protests took place yesterday in opposition to the decision. Dozens of jurisdictions and party organizations nationwide have begun to call for this appalling decision to be overturned and for the abolition of corporate personhood.

I find it outrageous that corporations have been given First Amendment rights, but not the obligations of a civil society. Until we can draft a corporation into the military, or charge it with murder, it should not be afforded the rights of persons under the constitution.

I have written the following resolution for consideration by the San Francisco Democratic Party, to be considered at its meeting this afternoon:

RESOLUTION OF THE SAN FRANCISCO DEMOCRATIC PARTY DECLARING ITS OPPOSITION TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’S DECISION IN CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION AND SUPPORTING A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED

WHEREAS, free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self-governance; and

WHEREAS, in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, the United States Supreme Court rolled back federal restrictions on corporate spending in the electoral process, allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, candidate selection and policy decisions; and

WHEREAS, the Citizens United decision granted corporations unprecedented influence in democratic elections while permitting them to hide their involvement, thereby threatening the voices of the electorate and the foundation of democracy; and

WHEREAS, the Citizens United decision may supersede state and local efforts to regulate corporate activity in their campaign finance laws; and

WHEREAS, corporations have used the “rights” bestowed upon them by the courts to overturn democratically enacted laws that were passed at municipal, state and federal levels to curb corporate abuse, thereby impairing local governments’ ability to protect their citizens against corporate harms to the environment, to health, to workers, to independent businesses, to local and regional economies; and

WHEREAS, members of both houses of the United States Congress have introduced proposed amendments to the United States Constitution that would overturn the decision in Citizens United, and limit corporate influence over federal, state and local elections; now therefore be it

RESOLVED: that the San Francisco Democratic Party hereby declares its opposition to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED: that the San Francisco Democratic Party calls on Congress to approve an amendment to the United States Constitution that would overturn the decision in Citizens United, limit corporate influence over federal, state and local elections, and abolish corporate personhood; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED: that the San Francisco Democratic Party calls on other communities and jurisdictions to join in this action by passing similar resolutions.

UPDATE as of 6pm, January 21: The San Francisco Democratic Party approved the resolution at its meeting this afternoon and forwarded it to the state party for its consideration.

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.