Ending on a High Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsors: Alix Rosenthal and Peter Gallotta

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

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

 

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!

 

 

 

Are you registered? Are you sure?

To vote in my DCCC race, you need to be a registered Democrat. Makes sense, right? The DCCC is the governing body of the local Democratic Party, and only Democrats can choose their own leadership. vote image 1

It’s also just a good idea to check your registration to make sure your contact information is current. It would be really horrible to show up on Election Day and not be able to vote.

If you live in San Francisco, you can check your voter registration status here. <- This handy link will also tell you where your polling place is, and what your ballot will look like. Neat!

And if you need to change your registration, you can do that here any time before May 23 to vote in the June 7 election.

Voting is sexy!

I’m Running!

For the last 6 years, I have had the distinct pleasure of serving on San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the leadership of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I am excited to announce that I’m running for another term.

Alix & Elliott

My nephew Elliott helped me file my paperwork.

I am one of the party’s hardest working activists. I balanced the party’s books as the DCCC’s Treasurer and have been running the party’s endorsement process for the last four years as its Second Vice Chair.
In 2012, I organized female candidates and helped get them elected, resulting in gender parity on the DCCC. I have taken a stand against bullying tactics in City Hall and have called the media’s attention to the absence of mothers in elective office. I wrote resolutions calling for progressive reforms such as overturning Citizens United and eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccinations.
Bringing the party together to forge creative solutions to its most vexing problems is my passion and what I am best at on the DCCC. However, this is going to be my toughest race yet since I am running in a crowded field against well-funded candidates. This is why I need your help.
Thanks for your support, and I’m looking forward to keeping you updated from the campaign trail.

Shaking Up the Party

I have just proposed a radical change to the San Francisco Democratic Party.

It used to be that running for the SF Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) was a great way to learn how to run for office. You’d raise ten thousand dollars, get a few endorsements, get your friends to register Democrat and vote for you, and you could win.

Burton

California Democratic Party Chair John Burton and I file our paperwork together.

In the last decade, however, we’ve seen a dismaying trend: with every election, an increasing number of elected officials in San Francisco are running for – and winning – seats on the DCCC. In this election, out of 24 seats, 9 members of the Board of Supervisors (and counting) have filed to run, along with 3 School Board members, 2 Community College Board members, one former State Assembly Member and 2 former Supervisors. Today, Chair of the California Democratic Party John Burton filed. That’s a lot of political juice in one race.

But why do so many heavy hitters want a spot on the party’s board? Because the Democratic Party is the most important endorsement in town, and each of these officials want a say in it. Most of them want to make sure that they secure the party’s endorsement for their own races, or for those of their allies. And – just as important – running for DCCC allows candidates for city offices to get around campaign contribution limits, because they can raise an unlimited amount of money in their DCCC races, and from unrestricted sources.

Each of the current or former elected officials running in June will likely win, because of their existing name recognition and fundraising base. This means there’s less room on the DCCC for party activists who have never held another elective office (like me!). At least forty of us are running in the June election. We have an abundance of Democrats who want to serve the party.

While everyone in local politics admits that this is a problem, very few want to tell our elected officials that they can’t or shouldn’t run for the DCCC. As party leaders, I personally think they should have a say in the Democratic Party’s decisions. And yet we should also make room for the dozens of grassroots activists who want to serve on the DCCC.

To that end, I’ve proposed a bylaws amendment that will radically change the party makeup (text below). It would make the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors each ex officio members of the DCCC, with full voting rights, without needing to run for their seats. This will free up 9 seats for grassroots activists to serve the party. It’s already caused a stir on social media and in the press.

If you want to participate in the conversation, come to our meeting on Wednesday March 16 at 7pm, Milton Marks Auditorium in the State Building, 455 Golden Gate Avenue. I guarantee it’ll be a fascinating debate. For political junkies like me, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party

Amending the Party’s Bylaws and its Policies & Procedure Manual to Add the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor as Ex Officio Members

WHEREAS, the Bylaws of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (SFDCCC) and its Policies & Procedures Manual allow for registered Democrats who hold state and federal offices who reside in San Francisco to serve as ex officio members of the SFDCCC. These members currently include State Senator Leno, State Assembly members Ting and Chiu, US Senator Feinstein, Congresswomen Pelosi and Speier, and Board of Equalization Member Ma. These members have the same voting rights as a member who is independently elected to the SFDCCC.

WHEREAS, the races for seats on the SFDCCCC have become as competitive as those for any other elective office in San Francisco, in part because current and former elected officials run for – and hold – these seats. This means that the number of DCCC seats available for party activists who have never held another office, and who have the time and energy to dedicate to the party’s activities, is shrinking.

WHEREAS, the members of the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor, as leaders within the local Democratic Party, should each have a voice in the party’s decisions. Giving them each an ex officio membership in the SFDCCC will give them that voice, and will free up several seats for party activists who do not currently hold another elective office. The SFDCCC Bylaws provide that no ex officio member may also hold an elected seat on the SFDCCC.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party hereby amends Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws and Article XI, Section 1 of its Policies & Procedures Manual to add the Mayor of San Francisco and the Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as ex officio members of the SFDCCC if they are registered Democrats, as more specifically provided in Attachment A and Attachment B hereto; and hereby corrects Article II, Section 1(a)(2) of its Bylaws to add US Senator to the list of ex officio members of the SFDCCC as more specifically provided in Attachment A hereto.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution will become effective upon the date that the results of the June 2016 election are certified.

Sponsor:  Alix Rosenthal

 

Attachment A

Proposed Bylaws Amendment

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

Article II: MEMBERSHIP

Section 1: MEMBERSHIP

a. SFDCCC MEMBERSHIP

  1. Ex Officio members shall consist of the following:
    A. Any Democrat who is elected or otherwise designated to serve, or who is serving in the following elected offices representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part:
    i. Assemblyperson
    ii. State Senator
    iii. Congressperson
    iv. United States Senator
    v. Mayor
    vi. Members of the Board of Supervisors

 

 

Attachment B

Proposed Amendment to Policies & Procedures Manual

New language appears in bold underline. Deleted language appears in bold strikethrough.

ARTICLE XI. MEMBERSHIP CATEGORY AND MEMBER LIST POLICY

1.0 The SFDCCC has three types of members. These are elected members, ex officio members and associate members.

a) The elected members are those members elected by the registered Democrats in the member’s Assembly District (AD). They are voting members of the SFDCCC.

b) Ex officio members are elected public office holders from the Democratic Party who are the current members of the California Assembly and State Senate representing San Francisco, U.S. Congressional Representatives from San Francisco, andS. Senators who reside in San Francisco, Mayor of San Francisco, and members of the Board of Supervisors. Ex officio members may each send a designated representative in place of attending the SFDCCC meeting personally. Ex officio members exercise the right to vote, or, in their place, their representatives have that right.

c) Associate members are the chairs or presidents of each of the chartered San Francisco Democratic clubs. Each club has one associate member. The associate member may participate in discussion but does not vote.

1.1 The Mayor and the members of the Board of Supervisors will become ex officio members after the results of the June 2016 election are certified. If this change in membership status creates vacancies on the SFDCCC, the Chair will appoint to those seats the top vote getters in their respective races, in the order of the June 2016 election results. For example, if members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 4 out of the 14 seats in AD-17 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election. If members of the Board of Supervisors are elected to 2 out of the 10 seats in AD-19 in the June 2016 election, the Chair must appoint to those seats the candidates who came in 11th and 12th place in that Assembly District in the June 2016 election.

 

 

 

San Francisco: Vote for Christensen for District 3 Supervisor

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 12.00.43 PM

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.

SFW12_001_v3

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.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide for California – November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Statewide Offices

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

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

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson

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

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE OFFICES

Linda Ronstadt’s ex-boyfriend

Governor: Jerry Brown

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

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

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom

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

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

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

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

padilla

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

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

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

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

Controller: Betty Yee

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Betty Yee speaks for me

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

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

Treasurer: John Chiang

Mathlete John Chiang

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

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

Future Governor Kamala Devi Harris

Future Governor Harris

Incumbent Kamala Harris is also virtually unopposed, so I’ll keep it brief: Kamala is a rockstar. She has been a powerful advocate for consumers and privacy protections, prisoner anti-recidivism programs, victims of mortgage fraud, and same sex marriage in California. She is also brings a fresh perspective to the office, as she is the first African American, the first Indian American, and the first woman to serve as the state’s top cop. I am proud that she comes from San Francisco, and I hope she runs for Governor in four years.

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

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

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

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

Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma

Fiona Ma no longer hates raves

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

 

JUDICIARY

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


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

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

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

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

SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION – TOM TORLAKSON

Tom Torlakson is busy thinking about ways to improve public schools

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

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

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


STATE MEASURES

Yes on Prop 1, Water Bond

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

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

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

Yes on Prop 2, Rainy Day Fund


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

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

Yes on Prop 45, Health Insurance Rate Regulation

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

YES YES YES on Prop 47, Misdemeanor Offense Classification


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

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

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

Yes on Prop 48, Off-Reservation Indian Gaming Compacts

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