Alix’s Voter Guide – San Francisco – November 2019

This one is a short ballot. I mean really short. Only 6 ballot measures and just a few candidate races with more than one contender. Incredibly, 7 out of 9 local races are either unopposed or virtually unopposed! Weird. Or is it? 

In the last few years, local politics has seemed less important to many of us. Given what is happening at the national level (see: a President who thinks he is above the law, the Democratic primary, the worsening gun violence crisis), it feels like arguments over zoning laws and homeless encampments are a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The planet is LITERALLY BURNING…every one of us may be homeless in a few decades.

This all makes me wonder if this short ballot and multiple uncontested races has something to do with our collective despondence about the national situation. Perhaps the political class in San Francisco is standing down because they would rather use their energy to battle a common enemy in the White House than fight each other over taxes.  …just kidding. it’s just an off-cycle election and the voter turnout is predicted to be an all-time low. Without big races at the top (e.g., Governor, President), off-cycle ballots are predictably short.

Before we continue, I should clarify that the opinions I express in this voter guide are my own, and should not be attributed to my employer, my adorable toddler, 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 mom, a liberal Democrat, an 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.

Here’s the summary, with detailed explanations below:

Prop A – Affordable Housing Bond – YES
Prop B – Minor Changes to the Aging and Adult Services Commission – YES
Prop C – Reversing the City’s new restrictions on flavored vaping products – NO NO NO
Prop D – Congestion Tax on Ridesharing Companies – YES
Prop E – Affordable Housing for Teachers and School Employees – YES
Prop F – Campaign Contributions and Campaign Ads – NO

Mayor – London Breed
Board of Supervisors, District 5 – Vallie Brown
City Attorney – Dennis Herrera
District Attorney – Suzy Loftus
Public Defender – Mano Raju
Sheriff – Paul Miyamoto
Treasurer – Jose Cisneros
School Board (one seat) – Jenny Lam
Community College Board (one seat) – Ivy Lee

MEASURES

Prop A – Affordable Housing Bond – YES

You already know this: the rising cost of housing in SF is squeezing out the middle class. Affordable housing is harder and harder to find, and it’s a contributing factor in our growing homelessness problem. Well…the city wants to build new affordable housing, and Prop A will enable the city to borrow $600 million by way of a general obligation bond.

In case you need a refresher on municipal funding mechanisms (ahem), here you go:

A general obligation bond:

  • Is a low-risk way for local governments to raise funds for projects like roads, parks, equipment, and bridges.
  • Imposes a new property tax on homeowners, to pay the bond back over time.
  • Needs 66.6% of the vote to pass, like any other tax in California
  • Must be spent on the specific projects listed in the bond, and always includes enforcement and transparency mechanisms to make sure the funds are being spent appropriately.

Prop A is the biggest housing bond in San Francisco history, and the city estimates that it will fund 2800 new housing units in the city.

It would impose a new tax of 1.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value – which means that if you are a homeowner, and your home is assessed at $1 million, you will pay $190 per year in property tax. However, your property taxes won’t actually go up – the bond is structured so that the new tax will only be imposed as old taxes expire, so your taxes will remain at 2006 levels even after Prop A passes. Win!

The revenue will be divided like this: $220 million to low income housing, $150 million for public housing, $150 million for senior housing, $60 million for middle income housing, and $20 million for educator housing. What is “middle income,” you ask? Up to $215,500 per year for a household of four. Oh, San Francisco.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 4.30.30 PM.png

As a homeowner, I don’t mind paying such a small amount for $600 million in new affordable housing in the city. I’m really hoping it will make a dent in our housing crisis. Unfortunately, the projects funded by Prop A will still have to face the ridiculous amount of red tape that all residential development projects do – and this Board of Supervisors is dead set against streamlining the process.

The folks who oppose Prop A are the same people who dislike taxes generally. OR they are worried that this measure doesn’t go far enough, since it will only build a few thousand units. I say: something is better than nothing, and as a homeowner, I’m happy to chip in.

Supporters include: Mayor Breed, the entire Board of Supervisors, the SF Chronicle, the SF Examiner, San Francisco Democratic Party, SPUR, SF Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, literally everyone across the political spectrum.

Opponents include: People who hate all taxes; Libertarian Party of San Francisco.

Prop B – Minor Changes to the Aging and Adult Services Commission – YES

Prop B is a technical measure that no one opposes, so I won’t waste your time on it. The measure will rename several city agencies that coordinate services for seniors and people with disabilities, changing the Department of Aging and Adult Services to the Department of Disability and Aging Services. The commission that oversees that department would similarly become the Disability and Aging Services Commission. The idea is that adding the word “disability” to their names will clarify what the agencies do, so that folks with disabilities will know where to go when they are seeking help from the city. The measure will also require the commission to include a person with a disability, a veteran and a senior. Makes sense to me!

Supporters: Mayor Breed and the entire Board of Supervisors; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; SPUR

Opponents: No one.

Prop C – Reversing the City’s new restrictions on flavored vaping products – NOOO!

Prop C is one of the wildest ballot measures in San Francisco history, and I really hope it fails.

The measure was placed on the ballot by Juul, San Francisco-based e-cigarette manufacturer, in order to reverse a new ordinance banning vaping products in San Francisco. The campaign is totally sleazy, if you ask me, because it is intentionally confusing.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.10.55 PM.png

Prop C would impose new restrictions on vaping like limiting how many devices and cartridges can be purchased at a time, prohibiting their sale to anyone under the age of 21, and banning the marketing of vaping products to minors.  Keep in mind that most of these rules already exist as to tobacco products, so they are really a red herring.  More important, this complex set of regulations would permanently legalize the sale of vaping products in San Francisco. Because it’s a ballot measure, it can’t be modified by the Board of Supervisors. Ugh.

But here’s the sleazy part: the campaign ads made it sound like Prop C would impose NEW restrictions on vaping that would protect children from the addictive habit. However, the whole purpose of the measure is to overturn the new vaping ordinance so that e-cigarettes could continue to be sold in San Francisco. Incidentally, Juul has been under fire nationwide for marketing their flavored tobacco products to teens.

Juul put Prop C on the ballot, and then spent $10+ million on the campaign… and then on September 30, in a shocking reversal, they announced they were withdrawing their support. Juul got a new CEO, who apparently (has a conscience and) re-evaluated the company’s political activities. So now the measure is in this weird purgatory where it has qualified for the ballot, and lots of people have seen their misleading campaign ads, and plan to vote for it, and yet its sponsor isn’t supporting it any more.

I feel like I should also mention the recent news about vaping, including more than 1000 incidents of illness and a few deaths. Most of those vaping-related injuries have been associated with THC-containing products bought from underground sources, though the scientific community is still investigating. Prop C is only about tobacco products produced by major e-cigarette distributors.

And while vaping tobacco products might not be the cause of serious injuries and deaths in the news, it is not the panacea for smokers that Juul and the Prop C campaign claim. It makes me sad how many friends I have who are addicted to vaping – and they all think it’s safer than smoking cigarettes, despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary.  Juul’s claim that vaping is a healthy alternative to smoking isn’t supported by any legitimate medical authority, and they have gotten the company into trouble with regulators.

Here’s the strongest case I have against Prop C: the regulation of vaping has no business being in a ballot measure.  A ballot measure is a blunt instrument: it can’t be amended except by another ballot measure, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. Measures aren’t intended for nuanced and complicated subjects like this one, particularly since this issue continues to evolve as the medical profession learns about the relative safety of vaping. These proposed rules shouldn’t be permanent and hard to amend – quite the opposite – they should be written by the Board of Supervisors, and iterated over time, and also subject to public input and scrutiny.

Anyhoo, I hope this is enough information for you to vote against Prop C. Even if you think that sales of vaping products should be allowed in San Francisco, and the new ordinance should be overturned, this measure is not the way to do it. Vote no.

Supporters: Coalition for Reasonable Vaping Regulation (i.e., Juul); Neighborhood Grocers

Opponents: Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg; SF Democratic Party; SPUR; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; D10 Supervisor Shamann Walton; San Francisco Kids vs. Big Tobacco (“a coalition of doctors, parents, and community groups protecting youth from flavored tobacco products and addiction, sponsored by nonprofit health organizations.”)

Prop D – Congestion Tax on Ridesharing Companies – YES 

Prop D will impose a new tax on Uber and Lyft rides you take within San Francisco. You’ll pay an additional 3.25% on solo rides in gas vehicles and a 1.5% tax on shared rides or rides in electric vehicles. The measure will authorize the city to issue tax bonds up to $300 million to be spent on improving bus and train services, as well as pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure like protected bike lanes. The bonds will be paid back using the new tax revenues.

You may be surprised to learn that the measure is funded by Lyft and Uber, whose businesses will almost certainly suffer once the new tax is approved.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.13.40 PM.pngProp D was introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who worked with Uber and Lyft to settle on the tax rate in exchange for their support for the measure. In my day job, I work for Lyft, and I am proud to support the measure because I think public transit and traffic safety in San Francisco desperately need improvement. As a Lyft employee, I’m a *little* nervous about what the new tax will do to our business in San Francisco. But the average cost of a ride will go up by less than a dollar, so I’m hoping most Lyft and Uber users will barely notice the change. The added cost to solo rides will almost certainly push some users into shared rides (which are less expensive), which is a very good thing. Shared rides help ease congestion by making each car trip more efficient, ultimately getting more cars off the road. The most price-sensitive users will probably use transit, bikes and scooters more, and that will also help in making traffic more bearable in the city.

Some opponents of Prop D argue that the proposed tax isn’t high enough. Others argue that this measure simply makes living in San Francisco more expensive, since public transit isn’t a viable alternative for many people. They also point to the City Controller’s report, which estimates that Prop D will lead to a $25 million loss in San Francisco’s gross domestic product over 20 years and a reduction of 190 total jobs over 20 years. In my opinion, these are small sacrifices to make to improve public safety and transit, but also to reduce driving and encourage other modes of travel.

Supporters: Lyft, Uber, SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, San Francisco Democratic Party, San Francisco Labor Council, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Transit Riders, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco, and California Alliance for Retired Americans

Opponents: People who hate taxes; San Francisco Republican Party

Prop E – Affordable Housing for Teachers and School Employees – YES

Prop E is a complicated measure, but here’s the gist: it would make it easier and faster to build housing for educators and projects that are 100% affordable housing. It will do this by changing zoning codes and approvals, allowing this housing on public land, and shortening the time it takes for the city bureaucracy to review development plans.Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.16.17 PM.png

That last part is key: accelerating review times will help make it easier for these much-needed housing units to actually get built. The common complaint from real estate developers in San Francisco is that it takes too damn long to get anything approved in this city. And the longer it takes, the more expensive a project becomes. And when you’re trying to develop housing with very low profit margins (like affordable housing), even the smallest delays can kill projects that everyone agrees are needed.

In my voter guides, I am always griping about how ballot measures are a terrible way to run a government. My chief complaint is that ballot measures are permanent – you usually can’t amend a ballot measure except with another ballot measure, which is a long and expensive process. Prop E cleverly sidesteps this problem by enabling future amendments by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Supervisors. I love this, and wish more measures did the same.

By the way, if you want to nerd out on the definition of “affordable housing” and “educator housing,” in Prop E, here you go:

  • 100% affordable housing projects must serve households with an average income of 80% of the area median income (AMI). AMI is defined as $98,500 for a household of 2, and $123,150 for a household of 4. (See table below for sample incomes.) Such projects may allow households making up to 120% of AMI.
  • Educator housing projects require that at least one employee of the San Francisco Unified School District or the San Francisco Community College District lives in each unit. Projects must serve an average household income of 100% of AMI.

graph.pngSource: SPUR

I am supporting Prop E because I think the city needs to do everything it can to keep its middle class from fleeing. Building more affordable housing and teacher housing is a good step in that direction. That said, teachers and people within the affordable housing range are not the only workers who need housing, and I think Prop E should have gone further to help solve a larger range of housing needs.

Opponents of Prop E say that this issue could have been addressed legislatively and did not need to be on the ballot. They argue that the streamlined process may not actually work in practice, because most development projects still need to go through an onerous environmental review required by state law (DOH!). Finally, they argue that housing projects that are 100% affordable usually don’t pencil out for the developer, and this measure doesn’t do enough to incentivize builders to actually put these kinds of projects together.

That last argument is a doozy. I do worry that this measure doesn’t go far enough to make sure affordable housing actually gets built. But it’s worth a shot, given the severity of the city’s affordability crisis. The Association of Bay Area Governments determined that San Francisco needs to build 29,000 new housing units to keep up with housing demand through 2022, and that more than half of those need to be very low, low, or moderate income units. Yikes. We are very far away from that goal today, with few affordable housing projects in the pipeline.

The San Francisco Examiner wrote, “While far from a magic bullet, [Prop E] could save precious money and time and make some projects more likely to come to fruition.” I agree.

Supporters: Mayor London Breed, the entire Board of Supervisors, SPUR, SF Democratic Party, SF Examiner, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Prop F – Campaign Contributions and Campaign Ads – NO

Prop F is about two issues: (1) tightening up campaign contribution rules to make it harder for private companies and law firms to influence the Mayor, Supervisors and City Attorney in land use matters; and (2) giving voters more information about who is funding certain kinds of political ads. Both are superwonky issues, so bear with me.

Issue #1: Prop F would specifically prohibit campaign contributions from LLCs and law firms, and ban contributions to members of the Board of Supervisors, Mayor and City Attorney, and any candidates for those offices, from any person with land use matters before the City. This seems a little silly to me. Campaign contributions for these offices are already capped at $500, and citywide candidates need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to compete in their races. So I sincerely doubt that any candidate for public office is going to be swayed by such a small dollar amount.

Issue #2 is more interesting to me – changing the disclosure requirements in campaign ads.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.22.24 PM.png

During election season, you see campaign advertisements and mailers from PACs. The small print on those ads say something like, “Paid for by the Committee to Promote Avocado Toast.”  The problem with this disclaimer is that the “committee” is designed to hide the names of its funding sources, so you might be shocked to learn that its funding comes from people who actually HATE avocado toast. Presumably, if you knew the funding sources, you would view the ad with some skepticism, right? “This campaign mailer is trying to mislead me about the nutritional value of this delicious brunch entrée!” you would declare, hypothetically.

That’s the idea behind the new advertising rules in Prop F.  The measure will require campaigns and PACs to prominently disclose the name and dollar amount contributed by the top donors contributing $5,000 or more toward campaign ads. This applies to campaign websites, print materials (flyers, posters, mass mailings, etc.), radio and TV ads. Notably, Prop F does NOT apply to digital or online ads, which, um, is where all campaigns are headed. This, to me, is a very serious flaw (and tells me that Prop F’s authors are out of touch).

Prop F will make it easier for voters to follow the money. This is important in an environment where PAC spending is on the rise (thanks, Citizens United!).  However, if you read my voter guides, you know that I think ballot measures are a terrible way to make complicated policy decisions like this. Complex laws should be written with input from experts, and iterated over time, so that they can adjust to changing circumstances. Measures, by contrast, are set in stone once they are passed. They often aren’t vetted by the right stakeholders, and they can’t be amended except by another ballot measure, which is a time-consuming and expensive process.

While transparency in campaign advertisements is a good idea, Prop F isn’t the way to do it. Campaign finance issues are just too nuanced to be governed by ballot measure. Let’s make the Board of Supervisors do its job, and pass an ordinance that they can go back and adjust over time.

Supporters: Supervisors Yee, Mar, Haney, Fewer, Walton, Ronen, Brown and Mandelman; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; SF Tenants Union; SF Labor Council

Opponents: SPUR; SF Chronicle; SF Republican Party

CANDIDATES

Mayor – London Breed

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.25.33 PM.pngMayor London Breed was first elected in June 2018 after Mayor Ed Lee died suddenly in December of the previous year. Breed is virtually unopposed, meaning, the candidates running against her don’t have the money or name recognition to be viable. And none of the big names in SF politics chose to run against Breed this time around, which says a lot about her strength and her ability to neutralize her opponents. I think the political class decided to give her a pass in this election because she was only sworn in 15 months ago.

Board of Supervisors, District 5 – Vallie Brown

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.26.53 PM.pngThis one is fascinating – it’s a highly contested race between two candidates who are hard to distinguish politically, so the contest is boiling down to the candidates’ personalities and experience.

Incumbent Supervisor Vallie Brown was appointed by Mayor Breed to fill her old Supervisor seat this year. Brown started in politics as a neighborhood activist, and has worked in the District 5 Supervisor’s office for more than a decade. Because of her work in the community, she knows the district inside and out. In her short time as Supervisor, she’s been focused on solving homelessness, affordable housing, improving Muni, and gender and equity issues.  She’s terrific at constituent services, and she’s adept at forging compromise between the warring factions inside city hall.

Brown was an interesting choice for Mayor Breed because their politics aren’t always aligned. Supervisor Brown has split with the Mayor on some important issues – notably Prop C, the homelessness measure that passed in the 2018 election, which would raise $300 million in taxes from the city’s largest businesses to fund homeless services.

Brown’s main competitor, Dean Preston, made his political debut three years ago when he ran against then-Supervisor Breed. Preston is the founder of Tenants Together, a statewide renters’ rights group. He’s a Democratic Socialist and Bernie bro. He has argued that Brown isn’t aggressive enough on housing and homelessness issues. He has never held elective office, and it shows; his proposals on how to build new housing and enable free Muni are completely unworkable.

I’m supporting Vallie because I find her to be thoughtful and pragmatic. She cares a lot about the district, and has no ambition beyond Supervisor, which is refreshing. She prefers to get things done over getting publicity for herself. Frankly, in today’s political environment I think we need more workhorses (and fewer show ponies) in political office.

Supporters of Vallie Brown: Mayor Breed; US Senator Dianne Feinstein; Senator Scott Wiener; Supervisors Yee, Fewer, Stefani, Walton & Safai; SF Chronicle; SF Examiner; SF Democratic Party; League of Conservation Voters; VoteProChoice; and many more.

Supporters of Dean Preston: Former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano; Former State Senator Mark Leno; Supervisors Mar, Peskin, Haney, Ronen & Mandelman; Tenants Union; Sierra Club; Teachers Union; and many more.

City Attorney – Dennis Herrera

Dennis Herrera is unopposed. He was first elected in 2001, and this will be his 6th term of office. The election of Donald Trump has breathed new life into this veteran politician – Dennis seems to be enjoying suing the White House at every turn for its cruel and unconstitutional policies. Go get ‘em, Dennis!

District Attorney – Suzy Loftus!!

This is an electrifying race between Suzy Loftus and Chesa Boudin, who couldn’t be more different from each other. They agree on many social justice issues, including reforming the police department and the criminal justice system, but the similarities stop there.

Two other candidates in this race – Nancy Tung and Leif Dautch  – aren’t getting as much attention. Tung is a Deputy DA who is the most tough-on-crime candidate in the race. Her key endorsements come from other prosecutors and some retired judges. Dautch is a Deputy Attorney General and former President of the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Commission, who has the endorsements of State Treasurer Fiona Ma as well as a few local Democratic clubs.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.32.38 PM

Photo Credit: Rick Gerharter

Loftus was recently called the “front runner” by the SF Chronicle, in part because she has the backing of the SF Democratic Party, and most elected officials and Democratic clubs in town. She is a former Deputy District Attorney and President of the Police Commission, who has worked in criminal justice her entire career. She has an impressive resumé, and she has also rolled up her sleeves in the community to help children in Bayview-Hunters Point deal with the trauma of violence and adversity. She’s a mother of three, and has a progressive approach to policing. Loftus is committed to criminal justice reform and she is focused on quality of life crimes that San Franciscans desperately want addressed. A former prosecutor, she is campaigning on putting more law enforcement resources into stopping the car break-in epidemic, holding perpetrators of sexual violence accountable, and working to rebuild the community’s trust in the police force.

Chesa Boudin is a public defender who is running a pro-reform, anti-police campaign. He is intimately familiar with the criminal justice system, as his parents were convicted when he was 14 months old for participating in the murders of two police officers and a security guard. He is legit, in that he is well educated and brings the perspectives of the accused and the convicted to his campaign. He wants to hold police officers accountable when they commit crimes, and he wants to deprioritize misdemeanors.

I’m all for reforming the criminal justice system – it is racist and classist and backward. However, there are crimes that must be prosecuted – both felonies AND misdemeanors. The city has a property crime epidemic – my own apartment was burglarized twice this year – so I think it’s irresponsible for Boudin to declare that misdemeanor crimes won’t be taken as seriously if he is elected. I worry that it will lead to even more lawlessness on our streets.

Recent polls show that the race is neck-and-neck. Boudin has the backing of some big names in entertainment including Danny Glover, Michael Franti, and John Legend. Because of his national connections, including Bernie Sanders, he’s been able to raise money from many out-of-state sources. His local support comes from the more progressive faction of City Hall, including the SF Tenants Union, several labor unions, 5 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, and the League of Pissed Off Voters.

By contrast, Loftus’s endorsements come from across the political spectrum, and include Governor Gavin Newsom, Senators Feinstein and Harris, and 8 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, as well as the SF Chronicle AND the SF Examiner. (Your math is right: 3 of the Supervisors dual endorsed).

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.28.25 PM.pngA funny thing happened a few weeks ago – DA George Gascon surprised all of City Hall by resigning his office before the end of his term, leaving a vacancy for the Mayor to fill. Mayor Breed appointed Loftus, her endorsed candidate, causing quite a brouhaha. The Mayor was in a pickle – the DA’s office needed someone at the helm for the last 3 months of the year, and the Mayor knew appointing Loftus would be controversial. But if she didn’t appoint her, it would imply that she didn’t have enough confidence in Suzy’s ability to win. Both Loftus and Breed were criticized for the appointment by the far left, and yet it doesn’t give Suzy any advantage in this race whatsoever. It’s too late to change her ballot designation to “incumbent,” and it only gives Loftus additional work to do while running for the office. Ultimately, the appointment probably did more harm to Suzy’s campaign than good.

Regardless, I’m voting for Loftus because I think San Francisco needs a DA who will tackle our public safety challenges with both courage AND compassion. There is no doubt that the criminal justice system is broken, but I’d rather hire a mom with prosecutorial experience over a public defender who wants to prioritize reform over safety.

I’d like to add that Suzy is a just a badass. She is raising three young children in San Francisco, while taking care of her mom AND running for office at the same time. (And I think parenting one toddler is hard!) Suzy is one of the hardest working people I have ever met, and I trust her with solving some of the city’s most intractable problems.

Supporters of Suzy Loftus: SF Chronicle; Bay Area Reporter; Governor Gavin Newsom; Senators Feinstein and Harris; SF Democratic Party; Civil Rights Leader Dolores Huerta; Supervisors Yee, Mandelman, Brown, Stefani, Walton, Safai, Mar, Haney; SF Bicycle Coalition; SF Janitors Union Local 87

Supporters of Chesa Boudin: Senator Bernie Sanders; Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club;  League of Pissed Off Voters; San Francisco Green Party; Teachers Union; Former State Senator Mark Leno; Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Mar, Haney, and Ronen

Public Defender – Mano Raju

Mano Raju was appointed by Mayor London Breed after the sudden death of Jeff Adachi earlier this year. Raju was one of Adachi’s chief deputies, and is well liked by the office. He is unopposed.

Sheriff – Paul Miyamoto

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.30.28 PM

Credit: Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner

Paul Miyamoto has served in the Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years, and has served on the command staffs of three sheriffs.  He has run for Sheriff before, against Ross Mirkarimi in 2011. This time, there is a good chance he will win…because he is the only candidate in the race. He’s been endorsed by the outgoing Sheriff Vicki Hennessey, Mayor Breed, and just about everyone else.

Treasurer – Jose Cisneros

Jose Cisneros was first elected Treasurer in 2005, after being appointed by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 to fill a vacancy. He is doing a fine job by all accounts, and he is unopposed this time around.

School Board (one seat) – Jenny Lam

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.34.49 PM.pngThere are three candidates for this seat, but Jenny Lam is the one. She was appointed by Mayor Breed in January to replace Matt Haney who was elected to the Board of Supervisors. Her day job is Mayor Breed’s education advisor, and she previously worked at Education SuperHighway, a San Francisco nonprofit working to bring high-speed internet to classrooms nationwide. Her two challengers have little connection to education, and haven’t put together viable campaigns. Because of this, Lam has been endorsed by literally everybody.  I am voting for her.

SF Community College Board (one seat) – Ivy Lee is unopposed

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 10.36.13 PM.pngIvy is unopposed, but I will still say a few nice things about her. She is a City Hall veteran, as she worked for many years as a Board of Supervisors aide to both Supervisors Norman Yee and Jane Kim. She was appointed to the College Board by Mayor Breed In 2018 to fill a vacancy. No one is running against her, at least in part because she has the chops – she was an architect of the Free City College program, and she has fought to stabilize City College and improve the education environment for the 63,000 students the college serves. I’m voting for her.

Ivy’s endorsements are here.

As always, I welcome your input in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter. Tell me why I’m wrong! I love a good debate.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Pocket Voter Guide is Here!

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

alix_pocket_bigolvoterguide

Design by Tim Paschke. Thanks Tim!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge you to vote for Scott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez, Jill Wynns

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mention: Shanell Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some fun facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power grab much?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No taxation without representation! Sort of. Vote yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop Q – Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote yes on RR!

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

Big Ol Voter Guide – November 2012

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

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

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

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a political attorney and a San Francisco progressive, whose passions include protecting and promoting nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and bringing more public art to cities around the world. I’m a Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and I like long walks on the beach.

Go here for my guide to the San Francisco ballot.

Go here for my guide to the California ballot.

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

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

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

My guide for the statewide California ballot is here.

Comments? Disagreements? Bring it!

SUMMARY:

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL RACES IN SAN FRANCISCO:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi (Most of SF)

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

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

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

STATE OFFICES REPRESENTING SAN FRANCISCO:

Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)

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

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

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

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

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

SAN FRANCISCO OFFICES:

Board of Education:

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

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

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

Rachel Norton is one of those incumbents. She is thoughtful, level-headed and knowledgeable. She has two kids in public school, one with special needs, and so she’s highly motivated to find workable solutions for students and parents. And she works very hard; she is particularly good at communicating what she’s doing, by way of newsletters and blogs. She has the support of the Democratic Party, the Chronicle, the Examiner AND the Bay Guardian as well as a myriad of others.

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

Matt Haney is the candidate I care the most about – he is one of the smartest people in local politics, and cares more about education policy than anyone I know. He has a joint JD-MA degree from Stanford in law and education, and his day job is Executive Director of the UC Students Association. He’s garnered the endorsements of just about everybody – the Teachers Union, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, the Democratic Party, the Labor Council, and almost every elected official in town. He is the consensus candidate – everybody loves Matt. And so do I! Please vote for him.

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

Community College Board:

Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

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


District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
(Richmond)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES:

Measure A: YES

City College Parcel Tax

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

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

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

Measure B: YES

Parks Bond

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

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

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

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

Measure C: YES

Affordable Housing Trust Fund

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

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

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

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

Measure D: YES

Consolidated Elections 

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

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

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

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

Measure E: YES

Gross Receipt Tax

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

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

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

Measure F: NO!

Future of Hetch Hetchy

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

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

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

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

Measure G: YES

Corporate Personhood

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

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

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

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (California)

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

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

My guide for the San Francisco ballot is here.

Enjoy!

SUMMARY:

President: Barack Obama
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

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

FEDERAL

President: Barack Obama

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

US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

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

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Prop 30: YES

Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts

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

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

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

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

Prop 31: NO

Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms

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

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

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

Prop 32: OH HELL NO!

Political Spending Limits

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

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

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

Prop 33: NO

New Car Insurance Rating Factor

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

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

Prop 34: OH HELL YES!

Death Penalty

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

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

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

Prop 35: NO?

Sex Trafficking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop 36: YES

Modifications to Three Strikes Law

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

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

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

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

This is a good one. Vote yes on 36.

Prop 37: YES

Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is power. Vote yes on 37.

Prop 38: YES

New Tax for Education

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

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

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

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

Prop 39: YES

Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses

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

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

Prop 40: YES?

Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts

This measure is ridiculous.

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

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

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

Why Your Vote Will Count Even More in June

The upcoming election on June 5 *might just be*
the lowest turnout election in San Francisco history. Why?

Because the only things on the San Francisco ballot are a few sure things, a small number of ballot measures, and the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC).

The sure things include the Democratic Party nominations of President Obama, once-and-future Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Assembly member Tom Ammiano (Go Tom!), and many other uncontested races. (Yawn)

The two San Francisco measures probably won’t energize voters. One could change the way the City’s waste management contract is awarded, and one is a policy statement regarding the funding of Coit Tower. Uh huh. We’re not talking about marriage equality or the right to choose, which are the kind of issues that get San Franciscans all riled up.

There are 6 statewide ballot measures, some of which seem really interesting to government nerds like me, such as Governor Brown’s tax measure (good), a measure that fiddles with term limits (good), and the so-called “Paycheck Protection Act,” which is a direct attack on public employee unions (very, very bad). I am hoping that these measures draw people out to vote, but I am not optimistic.

So this is where you come in.  The turnout is going to be so low, that a handful of votes can actually determine the outcome of this election! It means that your vote will actually mean a whole lot to those of us who are running campaigns. How exciting for you!

I hope to see you at the polls.

p.s. Not sure if you’re registered? Check here. Want to re-register as a Democrat so you can vote for me? Go here. Thank you!