Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, November 2018

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

Jacky Rosen

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

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

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

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

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

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve worked on more political campaigns than I can count, including my own, and I also like long walks on the beach.

My guide to the November 2018 San Francisco ballot is coming soon.

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

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

THE CANDIDATES

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

US Senate – Dianne Feinstein

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

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

Governor – Gavin Newsom

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

Lt. Governor – Eleni Kounalakis

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

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla

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

Controller – Betty Yee

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

Treasurer – Fiona Ma

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

Attorney General – Xavier Becerra

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

Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara

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

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond

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

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

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

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

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

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

STATE INITIATIVES

Prop 1 – Housing Assistance Programs – YES

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s opposing it: No official opposition

Prop 2  – Housing for People with Mental Illness – YES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s opposing it: No official opponents

Prop 3 –  Water Supply Sustainability – NO

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

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

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

* pun intended

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

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

Prop 4 – Children’s Hospitals – YES

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

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

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

Arguments against it:

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

Arguments for it:

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

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

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

Who’s opposing it: No official opponent

Prop 5-  Property Tax Transfers  – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – NO NO NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop 7 –  Change Daylight Savings – Yes?

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

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

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

Arguments in favor of Prop 7:

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

Arguments against Prop 7:

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

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

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

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

Prop 8 – Outpatient Dialysis Treatment – NO

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

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

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

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

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

Prop 9

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

Prop 10 – Costa-Hawkins Repeal – YES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arguments against Prop 10:

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

Arguments in favor of Prop 10:

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

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

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

Prop 11 – Ambulance Workers’ Work Breaks – NO

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

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

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

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

Support: American Medical Response; LA Times; Sacramento Bee

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

Prop 12 – Farm Animal Confinement – yes?

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

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

Beginning in 2020, Prop 12 would ban:

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

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

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

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

*understatement
** an even bigger understatement

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a single mom, a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include arts and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve worked on more political campaigns than I can count, including my own, and I also like long walks on the beach.

For my guide to the 2018 California candidates and measures, go here.
My printable one-pager with my ballot recommendations is here. Take a screen shot and take it with you to the polls!

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

U.S. Representative, District 12 – Pelosi

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

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

U.S. Representative, District 14 – Speier

Incumbent Jackie Speier has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17 – Chiu

Incumbent David Chiu has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 19 – Ting

Incumbent Phil Ting has no credible opposition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor – Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 8 – Mandelman

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

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

SF Proposition A – yes

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

SF Proposition B – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF Proposition E – YES

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

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

SF Proposition F – yes

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

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

SF Proposition G – yes

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

SF Proposition H – NO!

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

SF Proposition I – NO

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

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

 

 

San Francisco Pocket Voter Guide is Here!

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

alix_pocket_bigolvoterguide

Design by Tim Paschke. Thanks Tim!

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

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

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

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – June 2016

It’s a very short ballot for the June 7 election! This is a good thing, because the voters are so focused on the Presidential race that they might not notice that there are lots of other important decisions they need to make. These include the US Senate race to replace Barbara Boxer, the State Senate race in SF, a few ballot measures, and ME! I jokingly refer to myself as the lowest-ranking elected official in California, because I hold a seat on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. The DCCC election is every 4 years on the Democratic presidential primary ballot, and there are 14 seats up for grabs on the east side of SF, and 10 seats on the west side. More about that later.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney with a background in municipal law who currently works for small technology companies, and whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m Second Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

For those of you keeping track, it took exactly 2.75 bottle of rosé to help me write this guide. No, not in one sitting!

President – #DumpTrump
US Senate – Kamala Harris
US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi
US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier
State Senator, District 11 – Scott Wiener
State Assembly, AD-17 – David Chiu
State Assembly, AD-19 – Phil Ting
DCCC, AD-17 – East side of SF (in order of appearance on the ballot)
London Breed, Francis Tsang, Arlo Smith, Jill Wynns, Scott Wiener, Zoe Dunning, Malia Cohen, Tom Hsieh, Rafael Mandelman, Gary McCoy, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Rebecca Prozan, Alix Rosenthal (me!)
DCCC, AD-19 – West side of SF (in order of appearance on the ballot)
Keith Baraka, Mary Jung, Joel Engardio, Mark Farrell, Rachel Norton, Tom A. Hsieh, Emily Murase, Trevor McNeil, Kat Anderson, Marjan Philhour
Judge – Paul Henderson
State Prop 50 – Suspension of Legislators – No
SF Proposition A – SF Public Health & Safety Bond – Yes
SF Proposition B – Set-Aside for Park & Rec Department – Yes
SF Proposition C – Allowing for Increases in Affordable Housing Requirements – Yes
SF Proposition D – Investigations of All Police Shootings – YES!
SF Proposition E – Corrections to Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – Yes
Regional Measure AA – SF Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program – YES!

President – #DumpTrump

Chances are good you have already made your decision about Bernie versus Hillary. Maybe you’re already posting articles on Facebook claiming that your candidate’s opponent is corrupt or incompetent, or can’t win against Trump. So I’m not going to tell you how to vote on this one, only PLEASE PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE SUPPORT WHOMEVER THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY NOMINATES AGAINST DONALD TRUMP. The Donald has said that he wants to deport 11 million immigrants, he has a deplorable history of treating women badly, and his tax plan is a joke. He joyfully encourages violence at his rallies and enjoys the support of white supremacists. Even if you think the federal government is corrupt and incompetent, I beg you not to let a President Donald Trump pick the next several Supreme Court Justices or represent America to the world for the next four years.

US Senate – Kamala Harris

Future Governor Kamala Devi Harris

Attorney General Kamala Devi Harris

When you look at your ballot, you’ll notice that it lists all 34 candidates vying to replace Barbara Boxer in the US Senate, including Republicans, Democrats, independents, and all the third parties too. This is because in 2010 California adopted the “Top Two” primary system for state and federal offices, which eliminated party primaries for these candidates. Top Two pits all candidates regardless of party affiliation against one another in “preliminary” elections (in June) with the two highest vote getters advancing to the general election (in November), even if those candidates come from the same party.

You might find it interesting to note that 44% of California voters are registered Democrats, 29% are registered Republicans, 21% have no stated party preference, and the remaining 6% is divided among the smaller parties. This is why Democrats dominate California’s statewide elections, and it would be highly unlikely that a Republican wins Boxer’s Senate seat. In fact, both of the Top Two candidates who will advance to the November election will almost certainly be Democrats.

Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are the two candidates who have been getting the most press in this election, and the most likely to advance to November, based on polling data. Harris is my choice – she is the former District Attorney of San Francisco and has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage. She also brings a fresh perspective to the office, as she is the first African American, the first Indian American, and the first woman to serve as the state’s top cop.

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

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

US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi

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

US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier

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

State Senator, District 11 – Scott Wiener

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.03.30 AMOver the years I have worked closely with Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, who are running against each other for Mark Leno’s Senate seat. (Leno is termed out). Both candidates have their merits, and it pains me to have to choose one over the other.

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

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

Also: keep in mind that because of California’s Top Two primary system (see above), Scott and Jane will face each other again in November because they are the only two (viable) candidates in the race. I know, weird.

State Assembly, AD-17 – David Chiu

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

State Assembly, AD-19 – Phil Ting

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

Democratic County Central Committee – Vote for me! And also these other awesome people.

There are three levels of the Democratic Party: the DNC, which is the national organization that endorses presidential candidates (i.e. Bernie or Hillary), the state parties (which endorse candidates for Governor, US Senate, etc. in each state), and then there are the local parties. The Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) is the governing body of the local Democratic Party, and I currently serve as its Second Vice Chair here in San Francisco. The DCCC endorses candidates in local races, charters Democratic Clubs, registers new voters, and takes positions on issues of local and statewide importance.

The DCCC race happens every four years, and you have to be a registered Democrat to vote in my race. (To check your voter registration, go here) And it’s a crazylondon election this time – there are 39 candidates in my district, and many of them are current or former elected officials who have more name recognition than I do. And some of them have no interest in participating in the critical party-building activities that the DCCC does. (Can you see former Congressman John Burton volunteering at naturalization ceremonies to register new voters? I think not). Which is a shame. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the party will fall apart if all of these famous folks get elected, because there will be no one left to do the work.

I have been a lifelong Democrat, and have been active in countless campaigns at the local, statewide and federal levels, as candidate, treasurer, fundraiser and counsel. As the DCCC’s Second Vice Chair, I am responsible for running the party’s endorsement process for every election. I have worked hard to recruit and train Democratic women to run for office, including serving as a trainer for the Emerge Program, and running a slate of women candidates for DCCC in 2012. In my 6 years on the DCCC, I have dedicated considerable time and energy to the party, and I enjoy the work! I would be honored to continue it for another four years.

progress demsIn the 17th Assembly District (east side of San Francisco), I am running with a slate of folks who are also ready to roll up their sleeves: London Breed, Francis Tsang, Arlo Smith, Jill Wynns, Scott Wiener, Zoe Dunning, Malia Cohen, Tom Hsieh, Gary McCoy, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Rebecca Prozan, and ME! I’m dead last on the ballot. And even though he’s not on my slate, please cast your 14th vote for Rafael Mandelman, because he’s a good Democrat and has worked hard for the party for 10 years.

In the 19th Assembly District (west side of San Francisco), please vote for Keith Baraka, Mary Jung, Joel Engardio, Mark Farrell, Rachel Norton, Tom A. Hsieh, Emily Murase, Trevor McNeil, Kat Anderson, and Marjan Philhour (in that order of appearance on the ballot).

If you want to know more about all of these candidates, check out the Progress Slate’s website.

Judge – Paul Henderson

Three smart and competent candidates are running for this judicial seat: Paul Henderson, Victor Hwang and Sigrid Irias. Irias is a civil litigator and a past president of the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association. Hwang is a civil rights attorney with both criminal and civil law experience who also serves on the San Francisco Police Commission. Henderson is a former Deputy District Attorney who has dedicated his career to public service and currently works in the Mayor’s Office on criminal justice issues.

A funny thing has happened in this race. The two leading candidates – Hwang and Henderson – have become aligned with the candidates in the State Senate race, and their fates will probably rise and fall with those candidates. Supervisor Jane Kim has endorsed Victor Hwang, who is generally thought to be the more progressive candidate, and is engaged to marry a legislative aide of Kim’s. Supervisor Scott Wiener supports Paul Henderson, with whom he has worked for many years, and both men have served on the board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

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Paul Henderson

When the DCCC had to decide on a candidate to endorse, it was a tough call for me because all three candidates are highly qualified. But I am impressed with the number of high powered endorsements that Henderson has been able to earn, and I agree with him that the bench needs to reflect the diversity of the community it serves. Henderson is a black gay man – a constituency that is underrepresented on the bench generally. Given what is happening with the criminal justice system’s unfair treatment of black men nationwide, I think we should put more progressive black men on the bench to help insure that this demographic receives fair treatment from the courts. Vote for Henderson.

 

p.s. If no candidate wins at least 51 percent of the vote in June, the top two vote-getters will face each other in November.

State Proposition 50 – Suspension of Legislators – No

2014 was an extremely bad year for the California Senate: Senator Wright (D-Inglewood) was convicted of voter fraud and perjury for lying to voters about living in his district; Senator Calderon (D-Montebello) was charged with tax fraud, accepting bribes and money laundering; and Senator Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested on suspicion of soliciting bribes, arms-trafficking and racketeering. The Senate voted to suspend these guys, though they continued to draw a paycheck and receive benefits until their cases were resolved because the current rules don’t allow the Senate to suspend its own members without pay.

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Former Senator Leland Yee is serving time for corruption

Proposition 50 is a reaction to this episode. If it passes, it would explicitly authorize the Legislature to suspend members without pay on a two-thirds vote.

Now I’m not saying that criminals should keep getting paid their full salaries, but I do have concerns about the potential abuses of this law. In the American criminal justice system, a person charged with a crime (even a politician!) is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. This is why I think we should not allow a legislator’s colleagues to suspend them without pay until their case is resolved.

Moreover, I worry that the law could be used for nefarious political purposes against a legislator who is unpopular among his or her colleagues. The ballot measure doesn’t set any standard for what transgressions would justify suspension, and there’s no mechanism to ensure that it would be applied consistently. Eek.

I also wonder whether this is really a problem that needs solving. Before 2014, the Senate had never once suspended one of their members, and they haven’t since. State Senators make $90,000 a year (!), and so we’re not talking about a huge amount of savings for the state budget. I say vote no.

SF Proposition A – SF Public Health & Safety Bond – Yes!

Proposition A would increase the City’s debt by $350 million through issuing general obligation bonds and increasing property taxes to repay the debt. Or rather – it was designed to MAINTAIN the current level of property taxes because this measure will only replace bonds that are retiring this year. So homeowners won’t notice the difference in their property taxes if Prop A passes. Very smart.

The money would be spent like this:

  • $272 million:Renovation, expansion, and earthquake safety enhancement for fire safety and healthcare facilities, including General Hospital and the Department of Public Health.
  • $58 million:The construction of a larger and more modern city ambulance center and the repair and modernization of fire stations.
  • $20 million:Improving homeless care facilities.

Prop A was proposed by the Mayor, and 10 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors have endorsed it, along with the Chronicle and the San Francisco Democratic Party. From what I can tell, the only people who oppose it are libertarians and people who generally hate taxes.

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Will this building be safe if the Big One hits?

I suppose if you’re a homeowner you’ll do the math and figure out how much your property tax bill would decrease if this measure fails (e.g., $90 per year for a $1 million home). If you’re a renter, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t vote for it, since technically it won’t cost you anything (unless you buy a home in San Francisco in the next 19 years, heh).

Personally, I think it goes without saying that if there are ANY buildings in SF that need to be seismically sound, it’s our fire stations and hospitals. What happens when the Big One hits?? We need our first responders to survive it. Right? What happens if we DON’T approve Prop A? I’m afraid to ask.

Also: given the raging debate about SF’s growing tent cities and why we aren’t doing more to house our homeless population, it would also seem like a no-brainer to put more money into homeless care facilities. Vote yes.

SF Proposition B – Set-Aside for Park & Rec Dept – Yes

It used to be that the parks in San Francisco were better funded. In the year 2000, the city allocated 2.1% of the General Fund to the Rec & Park Department. That percentage has declined steadily over time, and in 2016 that percentage has dwindled to 1.2% (which = $64 million, FYI). That means less money for the parks and playgrounds, and it’s why the Department has been forced to get creative with its funding sources. (See vendors inside city parks. Remember Chicken John’s puke-in in 2011? I do. Ew.)

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Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park

What this ALSO means is, the parks that get the most love are the ones that are revenue-generating (think golf courses, Golden Gate Park, Kezar Stadium). And the ones that don’t generate revenue – like parks and rec centers in poor neighborhoods – are often neglected.

Prop B is sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell. It is the first ballot measure that would make the Rec & Park Department look at disparities in funding and service levels in low-income neighborhoods, and provide equitable funding for parks and playgrounds for every neighborhood in the city. I think that’s great!

Prop B would also require a minimum level of funding every year for city parks – set at $64 million, with a $3 million increase every year for ten years (unless the city experiences a deficit of $200 million or more). This is what we call a “set-aside” and I usually vote against set-asides because we already have too many in the city budget, tying the hands of the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors every year when they are making decisions about the city’s funding priorities.

But on rare occasion, it is necessary to institutionalize a priority into the city budget. This feels like one of those times. City government has shown its willingness – year after year – to continue to squeeze revenue out of our parks, in a way that leads to vast disparities in funding priorities. Nine members of the Board support the measure – as if to say “please tie our hands.” I’m voting yes.

SF Proposition C – Allowing for Increases in Affordable Housing Requirements – YES

This is by far the most complicated measure on the ballot, so bear with me.

The City Charter has affordable housing requirements for real estate developments that have 25 or more housing units in them. These developers can either make 12% of their units “affordable,” or pay a fee to the city, or build new affordable units offsite.*

Because these requirements are in the Charter, the only way to change them is to go back to the voters for another Charter amendment, which is an expensive and cumbersome process. Almost everyone agrees that the current requirements are too low, and many developments in process have already agreed to affordable (aka “inclusionary”) housing standards that are higher than 12%.

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Prop C Sponsors, Supervisors Kim and Peskin

Rather than coming to the voters with a new number that’s higher than 12%, the authors of Prop C propose that we take it out of the Charter altogether. Prop C would authorize the Board of Supervisors to change affordable housing requirements by ordinance. Their argument is that with the rapidly changing housing needs of the city, the affordable housing requirements need to be more nimble, to change over time.

AND – here’s the key – Prop C provides that until the Board of Supervisors takes further action, the affordable housing requirement for new developments would go up to 25%, and Prop C would increase the off-site fee and the off-site units required if the developer doesn’t want to build on-site affordable units.**

This would make San Francisco’s inclusionary housing percentage the highest in the nation. Boston is at 13%, San Jose requires 15%, and New York requires that 20% of units be affordable in exchange for making the building much larger than otherwise permitted. Note, however, that there are developments in SF that have agreed to much higher affordable percentages. For example, the new development on the Giants parking lot agreed to 40% affordable. (!) But they did this at least in part because it will be built on City land, and since it’s on the waterfront the project is subject to much more scrutiny.

When they first heard about Prop C, the developers with projects in the pipeline screamed… as you would expect. And they argued that their inclusionary housing percentage shouldn’t change, since they have already made critical decisions about their projects based on the numbers that were in place when they first applied to the city for their approvals. SO – as a compromise, Prop C’s sponsors – Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim – agreed to grandfather in these developers to the old requirements, in exchange for their support of Prop C. (Clever!)

Pro-development activists claim that 25% is way too high, that it will make building new housing too expensive, that development in San Francisco will screech to a halt. That’s the same argument that developers make every time a new requirement is placed on them that will cost them money, so I am not convinced.

I also agree with Prop C’s sponsors that affordable housing requirements should come out of the Charter. 25% affordable seems a little high to me, but this number was determined after many months of conversation and compromise, and it has earned the support of both the Mayor (who is pro-development) and every member of the Board of Supervisors, and that’s saying something. So I say vote yes.

*A rental unit counts as “affordable” if it is affordable to households earning up to 55% of the area median income. A unit for sale counts toward these requirements if it is affordable to households earning up to 90% of the area median income.

**If you want to learn more about the definition of “affordability,” why Area Median Income matters, and what the in-lieu fees are, go here.

SF Proposition D – Investigations of All Police Shootings – YESSSSSS

You have heard the names Alex Nieto, Mario Woods, Luis Gongora: black and Hispanic men who have been shot and killed by the SFPD in the last 2 years. Their deaths have given rise to a vocal and passionate #BlackLivesMatter movement in San Francisco. They are protesting every major city event, and five of their members are on a hunger strike.
But Nieto, Woods and Gongora aren’t the only people shot by cops in our city. In the last five years, 31 police shootings occurred, and complaints were filed with the City for eight of them.

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Prop D Sponsor, Supervisor Malia Cohen

The Office of Citizens Complaints (OCC) is the City Hall department that investigates complaints against police officers. OCC is not allowed to look into an incident if no one files a complaint, and this is where Prop D comes in: it would require them to investigate every single incident in SF in which a police officer kills or physically injures someone by firing a gun.

This measure is a good idea for several reasons. Officers are trained to avoid firing their weapons, and this measure will provide further reason for hesitation. If a cop knows that she will be investigated for using her gun – no matter what – she is less likely to use it in the first place. Moreover, an investigation by OCC is usually highly political, and if the office is required to investigate every single incident, it will have the political cover it needs to do its job.

The City Controller said Prop D could require the City to hire additional investigators to serve in the OCC, but estimated a “minimal effect on the cost of government.” The budget for the entire office was about $5 million in 2015-2016 and had 17 investigators on staff.

This measure was proposed by Supervisor Malia Cohen who represents the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods, and has dealt with more than her fair share of shootings in her district. Kudos to her for having the courage to propose it. Vote yes!

SF Proposition E – Amending Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – Yes

I won’t spend much of your time on this measure, because it’s just a legislative fix that no one opposes. No really! Not a single person signed up to write a ballot argument against Prop E in the voter handbook. I have never seen that happen before.

In 2006, San Francisco voters adopted the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (PSLO), which requires employers to provide hourly employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked in San Francisco. Then, in 2015, the state legislature passed a similar law that does not override the PSLO and in some ways provides broader protections for employees. Employers have to comply with both the PSLO and the state law, which are slightly different from each other. What a pain.

Prop E would just amend the PSLO to make it so that: (1) employers don’t have to deal with separate compliance requirements, and (2) in the future, if there are changes to the state or federal law that provide broader protections to employees, the Board of Supervisors could amend the PSLO to adopt those provisions without having to go back to the voters. Makes perfect sense. Vote yes.

Regional Measure AA – San Francisco Bay Improvements – Yes!

This proposition has a very long name: “SF Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program” – and it’s an easy one to endorse, so I’ll keep it brief.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.30.46 AMThis measure proposes a $12 parcel tax – to be paid by every property owner in the nine counties that touch the San Francisco Bay – to raise approximately $25 million annually for the next twenty years. The money will go towards protecting and restoring the Bay by reducing trash, pollution and harmful toxins; improving water quality; restoring habitat for fish, birds and wildlife; protecting communities from floods; and increasing shoreline public access. Plus – the $25 million program could help attract even more federal and state funding for these projects! For $12 a year?? Done. Is there anyone who opposes it? Nope. Well, OK, there are people who hate both taxes and the environment. But if you have read this voter guide all the way to the end, then chances are good you are not one of those people. 😉

Unfortunately, because it’s a special tax it is subject to two-thirds approval in all 9 Bay Area counties. Eek. San Francisco and Alameda will pass it for sure, but they will have to carry the other counties with them. Fingers crossed. Vote yes!

For more about my candidacy for the DCCC, please check out the rest of my website or my Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2015

There’s a theme to this year’s election: this CITY’S INSANE HOUSING MARKET! Yes, I’m shouting, it’s that serious. Friends of mine and yours are losing their homes. Others are stuck in rent-controlled apartments they can’t afford to leave. And just TRY moving here from somewhere else, if you don’t work for some hot new tech company that pays you well. And then…there’s this guy.

Yikes!

Yikes! Really?

There’s lots of finger pointing… at greedy landlords, Airbnb, Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors, too much rent control, not enough rent control, tech companies, the Ellis Act, Google buses, the $725 cocktail. This November’s ballot attempts to place the blame on some of the folks on this list.

Three out of 11 measures (A, D, and K) hope to enable building more housing, most of which is affordable, two (I and J) are aimed at slowing the rate of gentrification, and one (Prop F) hopes to further restrict short term rentals in the city. Some are good, some are very very bad. I put a lot of thought into these endorsements, and if you know me, you may be surprised by a few.

Without further ado, I submit to you my Big Ol’ Voter Guide. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a progressive attorney with a background in municipal law who currently works for a few mobile app companies (one small, one very small), whose passions include protecting and promoting San Francisco’s nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m Second Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I also like long walks on the beach.

Mayor: Ed Lee
City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
District Attorney: George Gascon
Sheriff: Vicki Hennessey
Community College Board: Alex Randolph
District 3 Supervisor: Julie Christensen
Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond – YES!
Prop B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees – YES!
Prop C: Expand Lobbyist Ordinance – NO
Prop D: Mission Rock – YES!
Prop E: Remote Testimony in Public Meetings –NOOOOO!
Prop F: Restricting Short Term Rentals – F-NO!
Props G/H: Clean Energy – NO on G, YES on H
Prop I: Mission Housing Moratorium – YES!
Prop J: Legacy Businesses – Yes
Prop K: Affordable Housing on City’s Surplus Property – YES!

Mayor: Ed Lee

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.11.17 AMBroke-Ass Stuart is a friend of mine, and I’ve donated to his mayoral campaign. His candidacy is a performance art piece that gives voice to widespread frustration with the direction the city has headed in recent years. The city’s ever-widening economic divide and the scary housing market are making it impossible for young folks and the middle class to survive here. BUT: (1) calling attention to this doesn’t mean Stuart has the know-how to run a city with a $9 billion budget (Sorry, Stuart!); and (2) the city’s economic trajectory is not Ed Lee’s fault. Just as the mustachioed mayor can’t legitimately take credit for the dramatic increase in property tax revenues and record low unemployment, he also can’t be blamed for the housing crunch or for $4 toast. The mayor is, frankly, not powerful enough to control the economy in either direction. The rent is too damn high because too many damn people want to live here. And it takes a lot longer to build a hundred new housing units than it does for a tech company to create a hundred new jobs.

And hey, Lee is doing a fine job with the meager amount of power he does wield. He is working to alleviate the affordable housing crisis (see: Prop A – his affordable housing bond, and Prop K – his effort to build affordable housing on city-owned property) and he is showing leadership on keeping families and the middle class in SF (see: universal pre-school and improving economic opportunities for women). He has 26 years of experience in city government, he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves, and he has appointed women to the most important jobs in city government (which I just love, of course). Personally, I think the folks who actively oppose him need someone to blame for the outrageous cost of…well, everything.

City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
District Attorney: George Gascon

I’m not going to waste your time on these races, because all three of these folks are unopposed. And each of them is doing a decent job. Let’s reflect on that for a minute: In San Francisco, where every public figure, movement, real estate development, legislation and stop sign placement has opposition, these three candidates don’t. To me, that’s saying something.

Sheriff: Vicki Hennessey

This was a hard one for me. Ross Mirkarimi has been a friend of mine for many years, and by most measures, he’s been a solid Sheriff. He is a strong advocate for progressive prison reform: from health care rights for prisoners, to improving recidivism rates through education, to stopping the gouging of inmates for the cost of personal phone calls (which has garnered national attention). But his successes have been overshadowed by the accusations that he engaged in domestic abuse against his wife Eliana early in his term. Eliana has always denied those charges and she has fought hard to defend him. However, Ross did plead guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment for his actions, and earlier this year, he had his driver license suspended for failing to report an auto accident to the DMV. He has also taken heat for Sheriff deputies who were promoting fights among prisoners, and the accidental patient death at SF General that his deputies might have been able to prevent. Even just last week, it was reported that a deputy challenged Mirkarimi’s ability to take a firearms exam given his misdemeanor conviction. These distractions, I think, are preventing him from getting more done and they have affected morale in the department.

Vicki Hennessey is a former Chief Deputy Sheriff with several decades of experience. She ran the department while Mirkarimi was fighting domestic violence charges, and has avoided involvement in any scandal. I have worked with her since 2001 when I was on the Elections Commission and she did a good job at designing a ballot custody system. She has the support of lots of folks, and I sincerely hope that she will use the Sheriff’s office to continue the kinds of progressive reforms that her two predecessors have worked so hard to achieve.

Community College Board: Alex Randolph

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.12.38 AMAlex Randolph was appointed in April to fill an open seat on the College Board, and he is running to defend the appointment against two challengers: Tom Temprano and Wendy Aragon. All three have credited community college with giving them a leg up, although Randolph is the candidate with the most experience and insight to solve CCSF’s accreditation and enrollment problems. He wants CCSF to staff up the class registration process, which would help with the dramatic decline in enrollment, and he has also identified several places where CCSF could upgrade the technology it uses, to start solving its problems on a larger scale.

I met Alex Randolph when he was the campaign manager for my opponent in my ill-fated Supervisor race nine years ago. Back then, he was young and scrappy, and I was impressed by his willingness to work hard, even though it was against me. He has an impressive list of endorsements, including a majority of both the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Education.

District 3 Supervisor: Julie Christensen

Christensen is smart and competent, and she is working hard on stopping evictions, promoting neighborhood safety and improving transit. Her opponent is a former ally of mine, but we’ve parted ways politically for several reasons. For those reasons and more, see my endorsement in a separate blog post.

It's safe to say this housing is not affordable.

It’s safe to say this housing is not affordable.

Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond – YES!

If this bond is approved, $350 million will go toward building low- and middle-income units, and to rehab the city’s public housing. It also includes down payment assistance for teachers and middle-income folks. There is no reason not to vote for this measure! Housing prices are ridiculously high, and it costs a lot of money to build new units in the city. The entire city family has coalesced behind this bond measure.

Prop B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees – YES!

Prop B would allow every city employee who becomes a parent to have the time to bond with their newborn. I’m not sure why this needs to be a ballot measure – perhaps the proponents want to make sure it’s hard to repeal? But it’s a no brainer to me – city government is the largest employer in San Francisco, it should absolutely serve as a model for family-friendly policies.

Prop C: Expand Lobbyist Ordinance – NO

Some pieces of legislation are better for the ballot, and some are better for the legislative process at the Board of Supervisors. Laws approved by ballot measure can only be amended by another ballot measure, making it nearly impossible to change it – it basically sets a law in stone. Laws that go through the Board, by contrast, can be improved by the public input of many stakeholders, and can be able to be amended over time, as time passes and circumstances change. Prop C should have been brought to the Board, and that is why I am opposing it.

Prop C is well meaning. It promises to daylight the activities of anyone engaged in direct or indirect lobbying, public outreach, research, reports on city activities, advertising, etc., requiring them to register and pay a $500 fee and submit monthly reports on their activities. It casts a wide net that catches all kinds of nonprofits and community organizations whose activities don’t warrant this kind of scrutiny. This law should be presented to the Board and subjected to public input, so that the Board can determine exactly which kinds of organizations should be registering, and which ones shouldn’t.

Prop D: Mission Rock – YES!

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.14.37 AM“Mission Rock” is code for “Giants Parking Lot A.” The Giants have been planning a mixed-use development on their parking lot for years, but it is currently zoned for open space. And after Prop B was passed in 2013, any waterfront development that seeks to increase height limits has to go to the voters. So – if the Giants want to build anything taller than a maintenance shed, they have to ask the City’s voters to give their consent. To the Giants’ credit, they did a good job of soliciting input from lots of stakeholders: neighbors, planners, community groups… and what has resulted is a great project. It includes 1500 new housing units (33% of which would be in the price range of low- and middle-income residents), 8 acres of parks and open space, and a retail center with shops and restaurants. Almost everyone supports it – even the staunchest of opponents to waterfront development. I’m looking forward to seeing it built.

Prop E: Remote Testimony in Public Meetings – NOOOOOO!

If approved, Proposition E would require that public meetings, testimony and comments all be made accessible through electronic and pre-recorded means. It also requires that any pre-recorded public testimony and live, remote public commentary be played at the meeting. Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t love public participation in the democratic process?

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

If you’ve been to a commission or board meeting at City Hall, you know that this measure would be a complete disaster. In my opinion, it would allow interest groups to jam up meetings that are already jammed up by folks who show up by the dozens to read the SAME. TALKING. POINTS. FROM A SCRIPT. OVER AND OVER. FOR HOURS. Don’t get me wrong – public comment is extremely important, and can often be persuasive to legislators who are on the fence. But to require that every video and email that gets sent to the City be played in its entirety would open the process up for abuse. And would be a catastrophic waste of time.

Moreover, this law would require that public testimony – from ANYWHERE in the world – be played live at the meeting. This means that every time Rush Limbaugh disagrees with legislation at the Board of Supervisors, he can tell his listeners to send thousands of emails, voice recordings and videos to City Hall. And City Hall will be required to play them. In their entirety. And because this is a ballot measure, the law will be very difficult to repeal, it might take a year or more to do it. ICK. Please vote NO.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 3.19.10 PMProp F: Restricting Short Term Rentals – F-NO!

The main reason I oppose this measure is the same reason I oppose Prop C (above): Laws approved by ballot measure are nearly impossible to change. And this is exactly the kind of law that needs to iterate over time. The products and services created by technology companies like Airbnb are constantly evolving – and the laws that regulate them need to be just as nimble. If Prop F passes, it sets these restrictions in stone, and the Board of Supervisors won’t be able to amend them. Any revision – no matter how small – will require another election cycle and another contentious and expensive battle for votes. For a detailed explanation of the merits and flaws of this complicated legislation, see my separate blog post about Prop F.

Prop G/H: Clean Energy – NO on G, YES on H

Here’s the inside scoop on these two measures that you probably won’t hear from anyone else. The City has created a program called CleanPowerSF that will give city residents and businesses the option to buy power from renewable sources, such as wind or solar power. This program will be taking customers away from PG&E, and so the company (or rather, the electrical workers union) put Prop G on the ballot in order to make it harder for the city to market this new program. The measure would prevent the city from calling large portions of the energy produced by CleanPowerSF as “clean” or “renewable.” Yep, it is kinda evil.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.17.07 AMAfter Prop G qualified for the ballot, Supervisor London Breed sprang into action, crafting Prop H as a compromise measure, using the same definitions of “clean energy” and “renewable energy” as those used by state law. CleanPowerSF is happy because the new law will allow the city to call more of the energy it produces, “clean.” Consumers win because the city is forced to be accurate in its marketing of the program, in describing the percentage of types of renewable energy to be supplied.

In fact, Prop H was so well crafted (good work, Supervisor!) that PG&E (oops, I mean the electrical workers union) has withdrawn its support for its own measure, and has agreed to throw its weight behind Prop H. That’s why – you may have noticed – there is no “Yes on G” campaign, and everyone in town has endorsed H. Vote NO on G and YES on H. And then go to www.cleanpowersf.org to sign up for the program.

Prop I: Mission Housing Moratorium – YES!

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Boundaries of the Proposed Mission Moratorium

If approved, Prop I would establish a temporary, 18-month prohibition on the construction of any housing project larger than five units in the Mission neighborhood, roughly bounded to the west by Guerrero Street, to the south by Cesar Chavez Street, to the east by Potrero Avenue, and to the north by U.S. Route 101. Projects that include only 100% affordable units are exempt from the moratorium.

Yes, it’s true: the law of supply and demand tells us that stopping the building of housing is not the way to alleviate the housing crunch. However, this moratorium is not about solving the housing crisis. It’s about saving the Mission from losing its essential character, and about slowing the pace of change so that the neighborhood isn’t swallowed by the city’s insatiable appetite for development.

There are lots of good reasons to support this moratorium. The Mission has suffered the most profound effects of the housing crisis because every new tech worker moving to the city wants to live there. The speed of development there is especially intense, and has led to an unprecedented number of evictions and displacement. Walk down Valencia Street, and you will have to agree that the neighborhood looks nothing like it did even a few years ago. Moreover, when buildings are demolished, and new market-rate condos are built, the change is irreversible; the new buildings are designed to last for 50-100 years. Slowing this process down by 18 months – so that the city can be more deliberate in planning what the neighborhood should look like in 10, 20, 50 years – is a very good idea. It is a brief little window of time in the big picture. And finally, the amount of real estate we’re talking about is a small portion of the city. There are other places in the city where market-rate housing can be developed in the next few years.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.31.51 AMMy only hesitation about Prop I is that it would have the consequence of delaying the Armory’s plans to turn its Drill Court space, recently fitted with a new floor and sound-proofing, into a full-time concert and event venue. The city needs more event venues of this size! But under Prop I, new permits of all kinds, including changes of use like the Armory’s, would be halted for 18 months. It’s a shame the Armory’s plans are caught up in this measure – but it would only be until mid-2017, so on balance, it’s a temporary sacrifice worth making.

It won’t surprise you to learn that landlords, developers, realtors, and construction trade unions oppose Prop I, along with the more moderate elected officials in town. Prop I supporters include an interesting combination of folks who don’t always agree, such as tenant groups; black, Asian and Latino groups; labor unions; teachers; environmental organizations; neighborhood political clubs from all over the city; and women’s organizations. I’m a homeowner and a real estate attorney, and I generally like development. And yet I side with the “yes” folks. Let’s give the Mission a breather.

Prop J: Legacy Businesses – Yes

As I have mentioned several times before, the city is changing very very rapidly. Neighborhood businesses give the city its character, and the ones that have been around the longest are disappearing quickly due to rising rents and the pressure from gentrification. Prop J, if approved, will establish small grants for these “legacy businesses” that have existed for more than 30 years and can show significant contribution to San Francisco’s identity and character. Eligible businesses will receive $500 for each of their full-time employees, and property owners leasing to these legacy businesses will be given a small grant ($4.50 per square foot) if they provide the business with a 10-year lease. (Aw! Isn’t that nice.)

The City Controller says this measure will cost the city about $3.7 million in the current fiscal year if fully funded. And the cost to the city could increase every year, reaching somewhere between $51 million and $94 million annually within 25 years. (Yikes! That’s a lot of money.) However – and this is critical – the actual costs of this proposition will depend on the number of businesses added to the “legacy list” and the budget approved each year by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. Prop J would not legally require any amount of the annual budget to go towards the fund.

So…it’s really a symbolic gesture. But it could be a useful tool that city leaders can use to give a hand to neighborhood businesses that are contributors to the essential character of this fine city. Since it doesn’t actually commit the funds, I say, why not? Let’s give it a shot and let the Board and the Mayor duke it out later over how much money they are willing to put into it.

Prop K: Affordable Housing on City’s Surplus Property – YES!

By now you are sick of hearing about the city’s housing crisis. But hey! This is the last measure on the ballot, and it’s about housing. And it’s a good one.

Yep.

Don’t click on this image so that you can see the detail. Don’t do it.

 

One of the main reasons why it’s so hard to build affordable housing in the city is because the underlying land costs are so high that these projects just don’t pencil out for private developers. So! Enter Prop K, which attacks the shortage of affordable housing in the city by encouraging the development of below-market-rate units on surplus property already owned by the city. That’s right, it doesn’t matter how much the underlying property is worth, because the city already owns it and can do whatever it wants with it, like handing it over to affordable housing developers to build units that non-millionaires can afford.

Specifically, Prop K prioritizes the use of all surplus property to build housing for a range of households from those who are homeless or who make less than $51,000 per year (55% of area median income), to those with incomes up to $112,000 per year (120% of area median income). For projects of more than 200 units, some housing would be available for households earning up to $140,000 per year (150% of area median income). Everyone agrees that the city needs more housing for regular people and working class folks. And I do mean everyone, including both the Examiner and the Chronicle. The only people who oppose this measure are Chicken John and the people who hate taxes generally. Yes on K!

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please vote NO on F!

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

San Francisco: Vote for Christensen for District 3 Supervisor

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Supervisor Julie Christensen

In January, Julie Christensen was appointed to D3 Supervisor by Mayor Lee to fill the vacancy left by David Chiu when he was elected to the State Assembly. Christensen is smart and competent, and she is working hard on stopping evictions, promoting neighborhood safety and improving transit. Her opponent, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, is running for his old seat. He is one of the sharpest minds in SF politics, a prolific legislator, and a ruthless competitor.

Until August of this year, I was genuinely torn – I had a good relationship with each of them, and had good reasons to support them both. But on August 12, the San Francisco Democratic Party was making its endorsement decision, and as a voting member, I needed to make a very difficult choice.

I have spent much of my political career recruiting and supporting women in public office, and I think Supervisor Christensen has the potential to do great things. Peskin is a former mentor of mine; he recruited me to run for the SF Democratic Party board and supported me in my first two races. But in 2012, our interests diverged. I worked hard to get more women elected to the DCCC and he worked hard to undermine my efforts. I understand his perspective – to him, political posture was more important than a candidate’s gender, and many of the female candidates on my slate failed Aaron’s ideological test.

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A fundraiser for the 2012 women’s slate

The main reason why I worked so hard to elect more women is because I thought it would change the tenor at City Hall. If you’ve been watching local politics, you will remember how toxic that environment was just a few years ago. Policy debates often disintegrated into shouting matches and personal attacks, and Aaron was one of the main culprits. My hope – my bet – was that bringing more women to the table would moderate the tone, and maybe more good things could be accomplished.

When it came time for me to vote in the Democratic Party endorsement, I met with each candidate twice. I considered their positions on the issues, their effectiveness as Supervisor, their relative abilities to run a strong campaign, and my personal relationships with them. Both candidates made strong cases for my vote, and they each had several politically influential people call me as well. The folks who called me for Julie emphasized her accomplishments and her qualities as a leader. The people who called me for Aaron told me that I should side with him because he was going to win, and that I didn’t want to cross him. He himself told me that he would “remember it” if I voted for his opponent. It sounded to me like a threat.

I don’t respond well to threats, and fear does not seem like the right reason to vote for someone. And then, a local progressive activist/journalist – who is a close ally of Peskin’s – published some highly sensitive information about me in order to influence my vote. The article attempted to connect me to Ron Conway, the venture capitalist bogeyman of the left, who is working hard to support Christensen. The Conway connection was laughable, but the personal information that was published was truly embarrassing for me. It was clearly an effort to shame me into voting for Aaron, and it had the opposite effect. I won’t be bullied. I voted for Christensen.sellout

The DCCC endorsement went to Christensen, and mine was one of the deciding votes. After the meeting – as if on cue – I received a few dozen angry messages and threats*, including the image to the right that was posted on Twitter. Former Supervisor Chris Daly warned me on my Facebook page, saying “Beware the wrath of Peskin.” That’s right, he substantiated every argument I’ve been making. [If you’re interested, here’s Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevius’s take on the matter.]

This nastiness is exactly why I ran the women’s slate in the 2012 DCCC race, and why I ran for office myself. Today, women comprise 5 out of 11 seats on the Board of Supervisors and the most acrimonious members are gone. We have also achieved gender parity at the DCCC, and Peskin is no longer a member. And I must say, both the Board and the Democratic Party are more pleasant, productive and collaborative places to work. Ask anyone who serves on these bodies.**

All of the news coverage about this race is about Aaron’s personality, and here’s why: the candidates are actually not that different from each other on the issues, but their styles couldn’t be more distinct. If you agree with me that scorched-earth tactics and threats are not the way to do the people’s business, vote for Julie Christensen.

* All from men, go figure

** Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly nasty female leaders out there; we can all think of a few. I recognize that this theory is an over-generalization about gender.