Alix’s Voter Guide – SF Ballot, November 2018

All we hear about in the news is the House and Senate races nationwide. Here in San Francisco, our House and Senate races are foregone conclusions, but that doesn’t mean that the election isn’t very important.

In SF, the elephant in the room is homelessness and housing. And Prop C is the most controversial measure on the ballot, promising to double the city’s spending on homelessness solutions. The candidates for Supervisor are battling over where housing should be built, and who has the best solutions to the problem. Homelessness is even an issue in the race for BART Board! It’s everywhere in this election.

An exciting school board race also underway. With 18 candidates to choose from, voters have their work cut out for them. And four Supervisor races are neck-and-neck! Election night is going to be very exciting this year.

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

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

My guide to the California measures and races can be found here.

US House (CA-12) – Nancy Pelosi
US House (CA-14) – Jackie Speier
Assembly, District 17 – David Chiu
Assembly, District 19 – Phil Ting
Assessor Recorder – Carmen Chu
Public Defender – Jeff Adachi
Supervisor, District 2 – Catherine Stefani
Supervisor, District 4 –Trevor McNeil
Supervisor, District 6 – (1) Matt Haney (2) Christine Johnson
Supervisor, District 8 – Rafael Mandelman
Supervisor, District 10 – Shamann Walton
BART Board, District 8 – Melanie Nutter
Community College Board – Thea Selby, John Rizzo, Victor Olivieri
Board of Education – Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga, Phil Kim
Proposition A – Seawall Earthquake Safety – YES
Proposition B – City Privacy Guidelines – NO
Proposition C – Tax on big business to fund homeless services – No
Proposition D – Cannabis Businesses Tax – NO
Proposition E – Arts and Cultural Allocation – Yes

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.43.03 PM.pngUS House (CA-12) – Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi received 69% of the vote in June, and her next opponent, Lisa Remmer (R) got 9%. Pelosi’s re-election is a lock, and so she’s spending all of her time making the Blue Wave a reality. Her “Red to Blue HQ” is rallying volunteers to phone bank for Democrats in swing districts. You may think it’s time for new leadership, and I respect that, but before you judge her too harshly, let’s see how well she does at winning back the House for Team Blue.

US House (CA-14) – Jackie Speier

Speier got 79% of the vote in June. She’s also a lock, and so she’s spending her time amplifying women’s voices and combating sexual violence on college campuses.

Assembly, District 17 – David Chiu

Chiu is running virtually unopposed, and he’s doing a fine job, so I won’t waste your time (or mine) with a lengthy analysis of his fine qualities.

Assembly, District 19 – Phil Ting

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Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu

Ting is running virtually unopposed.

Assessor Recorder – Carmen Chu

Chu is running virtually unopposed.

Public Defender – Jeff Adachi

Adachi is running unopposed.

Supervisor, District 2 – Catherine Stefani

Supervisor Catherine Stefani faces BART Director Nick Josefowitz and political newcomer Schuyler Hudak. In this district, which encompasses wealthy neighborhoods including Pacific Heights and the Marina, the top issues are homelessness and property crime. Stefani was appointed to the seat when her former boss, D2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, was appointed acting Mayor in the wake of Mayor Ed Lee’s sudden passing last year.

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Supervisor Stefani with Moms Demand Action

Stefani has by far the most experience in the district and in government, having served as a legislative aide for the previous two D2 Supervisors, and most recently as County Clerk. She’s the leader of the San Francisco chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was founded after the Sandy Hook massacre. She has recently called for an audit of the millions of tax dollars that are distributed to nonprofits serving the homeless, make sure our tax dollars are being well spent. I am supporting her because she has worked in the district for more than a decade, she knows its issues and its constituents, and she’s a fierce advocate for families and against gun violence.

Hudak is the founder of a documentary video startup who is campaigning as an outsider ready to bring change. I find her to be smart and well meaning, but her lack of experience in government disqualifies her, IMO.

Before running for BART Board, Josefowitz founded and ran a solar-energy company, and now he’s using his personal wealth to fund his campaign.  Josefowitz earned the Chronicle endorsement because he has demonstrated a commitment to taking on the housing crisis while he has been on the BART Board, pushing for higher density development along transit corridors. I supported Nick for BART Board, and I think he has some good ideas, but I’m supporting Stefani because of her leadership on gun violence and her vast experience in City Hall.

Supervisor, District 4 –Trevor McNeil

The three main candidates for D4 are community activist Gordon Mar, public school teacher Trevor McNeil and Jessica Ho, legislative aide to D4 Supervisor Katy Tang. In this district, which encompasses the Sunset, voters mostly care about public safety and preserving neighborhood character (which means opposing large scale development).

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Trevor McNeil and his family

Gordon Mar is the brother of former Supervisor Eric Mar, and is favored by the more progressive politicians in City Hall and democratic clubs. He’s a community organizer, and the co-founder and Executive Director of Jobs with Justice, a labor organization. The so-called moderates are divided between Trevor McNeil and Jessica Ho. Jessica has only lived in SF since March, when she moved here from LA to take the job in Supervisor Tang’s office. While Jessica Ho has more experience in city government than either McNeil or Mar, she’s only been in City Hall for 7 months.*

All three candidates want to build more housing, support homeless services, and increase the quality and reliability of the public transit system. In fact, their positions on the issues are pretty close to indistinguishable. However, McNeil is the only one who said he would support a homeless navigation center in the district if it were necessary. I worked with McNeil in Democratic Party leadership several years ago, and I can tell you he works harder than anyone I know. He has three kids under 4, has a full time teaching job, AND works relentlessly for liberal candidates and causes in his free time. Vote for Trevor.

*Edit: She also spent a year interning for the previous D4 Supervisor, but it doesn’t make her much more qualified, IMO.

Supervisor, District 6 – (1) Matt Haney (2) Christine Johnson

District 6 includes SoMa, the Tenderloin and Mission Bay — neighborhoods hit particularly hard by homelessness and rapid development. The person elected to this seat will need to be able to straddle the vastly different worlds of new money and relentless poverty.

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Matt Haney (photo: San Francisco Magazine)

Matt Haney, former President of the school board, is the real deal. He lives in the Tenderloin, he walks the walk, and he has spent the last several years getting to know the woes and triumphs of this multi-faceted district. When Matt was first elected to the Board of Education, he visited every public school so that he could meet the students, teachers and administrators. He has also co-founded #cut50 with Van Jones. Together they have worked to reform the criminal justice system.

Christine Johnson is an engineer, a former Planning Commissioner and a policy nerd with 14 years of experience in public finance. I have heard her speak a few times and I have been impressed with how much she understands about real estate development and the San Francisco budgeting process. She brings ideas to the campaign that are both bold and specific, down to the municipal code sections she would like to see amended.

Trauss is a housing activist who built YIMBY — “Yes in My Backyard” — into a national pro-housing development movement. I have respect for the bold work she has done to increase public awareness around the causes of the San Francisco housing crisis. However, she is a bomb thrower and I find her style to be abrasive and unproductive.

Supervisor, District 8  – Rafael Mandelman

Rafi is running virtually unopposed. He just won the seat in June.

Supervisor, District 10 – Shamann Walton

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Shamann Walton (photo: SF Chronicle)

District 10 includes Potrero Hill, Dogpatch, the Bayview, and Hunters Point. The latter two are some of the city’s poorest and most isolated neighborhoods. The district is seeing some of the city’s most rapid growth along the Third Street corridor and at the former site of Candlestick Park, though some of this development is plagued by a cleanup scandal at the Hunters Point Shipyard. The next D10 supervisor has a very big job ahead of them.

The main candidates in D10 are Shamann Walton, a school board member and the Executive Director for Young Community Developers, a workforce training nonprofit; Theo Ellington, former President of the Bayview Opera House board and former Director of Public Affairs for the Golden State Warriors; and Tony Kelly, theater director and Potrero Hill Democratic Club leader. All three are focused on making sure that new development includes enough benefits for the local community.

I like Theo Ellington, whom I met when he was working for the Golden State Warriors on their arena project. He’s smart and knows a lot about politics and real estate development. However, his youthful enthusiasm doesn’t make up for his relative inexperience in government.

This is Tony Kelly’s third run for Supervisor, and he doesn’t seem to have much traction in this campaign. To his credit, he has some bold ideas around housing, including vacancy control which penalizes owners of vacant residences. He also wants to increase MUNI funding while decreasing fare enforcement, seems contradictory to me.

Having served on the school board for several years, Shamann Walton has the most experience in pulling the levers of government to benefit the community. He has also worked in the Bayview neighborhood for decades, building workforce programs for young people in D10. Shamann has earned the endorsement of every member of the school board, 8 of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, including folks on both sides of the (progressive SF) aisle. This is a testament to his ability to work with everybody and get things done. Vote for Shamann.

BART Board (District 8) – Melanie Nutter

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Melanie Nutter

Melanie Nutter is a lifelong environmental advocate, and she is laser-focused on reliability and cleanliness of BART. She wants to enlist BART in taking an active role in getting homeless people out of BART stations and into city services.  And as the former Director of the city’s Department of the Environment, she is also eager to move BART closer to environmental sustainability. Melanie has the endorsements of the SF Chronicle, Mayor London Breed, Senator Scott Wiener, David Chiu, League of Conservation Voters, many democratic clubs, among others.

Jonathan Lyens is a super nice guy, who I’ve known through his work on the FDR Democratic Club. Blind since childhood, Jonathan has overcome tremendous obstacles and taken on tough fights his entire life. He is very well meaning, but doesn’t have much transit-related experience. He’s been endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party, many labor unions, and Supervisors Peskin, Fewer, Yee, Mandelman, and Ronen.

Janice Li has transportation policy credentials, having worked as a policy advocate and community organizer for the SF Bike Coalition. She has earned many progressive endorsements, including Supervisors Peskin, Fewer and Kim, and Assemblymember Phil Ting.

I am voting for Nutter because her many years of working in City Hall will make her a far more effective leader than Lyens or Li. Where her opponents are focused on discrete aspects of BART’s operations, Nutter has a much bigger picture perspective, demonstrated by her understanding of BART’s impact on the Bay Area’s housing crunch and the regional environment. Vote for Melanie.

Community College Board – Thea Selby, John Rizzo, Victor Olivieri

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Thea Selby

Three seats are up on the College Board, and the three incumbents holding those seats are running for re-election: Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila and John Rizzo. They have worked closely together to save City College from the myriad of problems it’s had in recent years, including the accreditation crisis.

John Rizzo, former President of the local Sierra Club chapter, has served the longest on the college board, and his institutional knowledge is critical because there is much more work to do to keep City College on track.  Thea Selby is passionate about public education. She is sharp as a tack, and she served as President of the Board when City College was re-accredited, which was no small feat. She’s also a mother of two, and she advocates for small businesses and public transit in her spare time. I honestly don’t know where she gets all her energy!

Brigitte Davila has been on the College Board for the last 4 years and currently serves as its President. Though she has some high profile endorsements, my sense is that her heart’s not in this campaign. Her website is outdated, and doesn’t say what she wants to do with the next four years if she wins. She’s endorsed by the SF Chronicle; the SF Democratic Party; the Labor Council; and Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Kim, Yee, Mandelman, Ronen and Cohen.

One challenger has emerged – Victor Olivieri – and he has earned a surprising number of powerful endorsements including people who don’t normally endorse in such a down-ballot race: Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, State Controller Betty Yee, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson among many others. Olivieri is young and ambitious. He has a detailed plan for City College, and his website is slick – which tells me that he may be using this race as a stepping stone for higher office. In any case, he has impressed me so far, and he is the one to watch in this race.

Board of Education – Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga, Phil Kim

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Michelle Parker

Three of the seven seats on the school board are up for election, with one incumbent (very recently appointed by the mayor) on the ballot. 18 candidates are vying for the positions, and I’m impressed with the quality of the candidates this year! There are parents, teachers, school counselors, and youth advocates, and they all have unique perspectives on how to make the public schools better.  I’m not going to analyze every single one of their candidacies – there are so many of them! – but I’ll tell you about the ones getting the most ink. I’m endorsing Michelle Parker, Faauuga Moliga and Phil Kim for the reasons below.

The main issues this year are (1) the elimination of algebra classes in 8th grade, (2) the always-controversial school assignment (lottery) system, and (3) how to manage the district’s $890 million budget, which is strapped by skyrocketing pension costs.

Michelle Parker is one of the most qualified candidates ever to run for school board. She is a parent of three public school students with a long track record of leadership as a parent advocate. She has worked with thousands of parents over the past ten years – as District PTA president, in facilitating community meetings, and in leading efforts to organize parents as a co-founder of Parent PAC. She has served on an array of education advisory committees at the state and local level. I have found her to be knowledgeable and level headed — and prepared to hit the ground running if she is elected. Parker is focused on individualizing student’s educations – bringing back 8th grade algebra and gifted & talented programs; and attracting and retaining educators. Her top endorsers are Mayor London Breed; SF Chronicle; Senator Scott Wiener;  Assemblymembers David Chiu and Phil Ting; and Supervisors Stefani, Tang, Brown, and Safai.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 7.56.50 PM.pngFaauuga Moliga is a school social worker and parent. Mayor Breed appointed him to the school board in October to fill the seat of Hydra Mendoza, who moved away. Moliga is the first Pacific Islander member of the school board, representing a community impacted by high poverty and incarceration rates, and low college readiness. His campaign focuses on the opportunity gap for students of all demographics, as well as supporting the well-being of students and families through mental health services. His main endorsers are the SF Teachers Union; organized labor; Mayor London Breed; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Mandelman, Fewer, Ronen, Safai, Peskin and Yee.

Phil Kim is a science teacher and has served on several statewide committees that examine and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in California. He has a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Administration, and a passion for social justice curricula that are developed in partnership with parents and families. I met him at a cocktail party a few weeks ago, and I was impressed with how well he answered my barrage of questions about how to improve the public schools in San Francisco.

Although he works at a charter school (KIPP Academy), he tells me he opposes the proliferation of charter schools in San Francisco.  He advocates for more accountability and oversight of charter schools, and he distances himself from the politics of Marshall Tuck, Betsy DeVos and others who think that charter schools should replace public schools. He thinks that charter schools can play an important but niche role in a public school system, but that the public schools should always remain primary. I agree with him on these points, and I think that his unique perspective would be valuable on the school board. Phil’s major endorsers are  SF Chronicle, State Senator Scott Wiener, City College Trustee Alex Randolph.

Li Miao Lovett is legit. She’s an academic counselor, and has worked in public education for 20 years. Her focus is on making sure immigrant families and poor families have access to resources, ensuring the social-emotional development of all children, and programs that support children of working parents and those with special needs. She is endorsed by the progressive side of town, including the teachers union; Democratic Party; organized labor; progressive elected officials including Assemblymember Phil Ting, Supervisors Fewer, Peskin, Yee, Mandelman, Ronen; School Board member Matt Haney.

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Alida Fisher and her family

Alida Fisher is a public school parent and education consultant.  She has a unique perspective because of her experiences as a foster parent and (white) adoptive mother of African-American children. To say she is an involved parent is an understatement. Fisher is a parent mentor with Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, a member of several advisory committees to the Board of Education, and Chair of the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. She is endorsed by the SF Chronicle.

John Trasviña is the former dean of USF law school, and he also served as Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development under Obama. He went to public school in San Francisco when he was a kid, but doesn’t otherwise have much of a connection to the public school system. Given his decades of political involvement, it seems pretty clear to me that this office would be a stepping stone for him… though that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a good school board member. He has a lot of powerful endorsements because of his work in immigrant rights and housing over the years, including a mix of both progressives and moderates: Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi,  SF Democratic Party Chair David Campos, Assembly Members David Chiu and Phil Ting, Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma, DA George Gascon, Supervisor Katy Tang.

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Monica Chinchilla

Monica Chinchilla is a parent and a community organizer. In 2016 she was the campaign manager for the Proposition V (Soda Tax) campaign in San Francisco, which won despite overwhelming opposition from Big Soda. Her community organizing work has centered around fighting for resources and policy changes that positively impact the Latino and and African-American communities in San Francisco. Chinchilla’s main endorsers are Mayor London Breed; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; School Board members Shamann Walton and Mark Sanchez; Former Mayor Art Agnos; several labor unions.

Gabriela Lopez is a fourth grade teacher who has worked in public schools for 10 years. She has a master’s degree in education and has spent much of her career designing arts-based professional development for educators. Her priorities are improving the classroom environment with smaller class sizes and access to arts programming, supporting students’ different learning needs and expanding special education, and supporting teachers through higher salaries and access to housing. She has been endorsed by the SF Examiner, San Francisco Berniecrats; Supervisors Fewer, Kim, and Ronen; School board members Mark Sanchez and Matt Haney.

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Mia Satya: Badass

Mia Satya has an inspirational personal story. As a young trans woman growing up in rural Texas, she was relentlessly bullied. After moving to California, she struggled with homelessness, discrimination and violence but made a career of working with youth, at an afterschool program and various programs for homeless youth. She’s been a community organizer advocating for racial, economic, and gender justice, and is an effective advocate for youth facing multiple barriers to success. She has been endorsed by the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club; Supervisors Mandelman and Kim; School Board Member Matt Haney, and City College Trustees Thea Selby, Shanell Williams, Tom Temprano, and Ivy Lee

Alison Collins is a mother of twins and a community organizer. She has a master’s degree in education, and worked for the Oakland school district in the past as an administrator. She has initiated campaigns to improve park safety and playground facilities. Her website says she “speaks out on parent rights and holding district leaders accountable,” however, I have also heard from a few sources that her style of advocacy is abrasive and unproductive. She must be doing something right, though, because she has an impressive list of endorsers (from the progressive side of town): San Francisco Democratic Party; the teachers union; the San Francisco Labor Council; the SF Examiner; Supervisors Cohen, Fewer, Peskin, Brown, Kim, Yee, Mandelman and Ronen.

PROPOSITION A – SEAWALL EARTHQUAKE SAFETY – YES

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.01.50 PM.pngIf you’ve taken a walk or bike ride along the Embarcadero, you have seen the crumbling concrete and dilapidated piers along San Francisco’s waterfront. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, and it’s also a threat to public safety.  Ponder this: scientists predict that the sea level will rise three feet in the next 30 years, and that the Bay Area will see another earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or larger sometime in the same 30-year span. You can see why the repair of San Francisco seawall is more urgent than ever.

Proposition A is a $425 million bond that will pay for repairs to the Embarcadero seawall, which protects $100 billion in property and infrastructure that are currently at risk.  Earthquakes and sea level rise are no joke, and as climate change brings more severe weather, high tides and flooding will put more strain on the wall. Repairing the seawall is also critical for the SF economy; San Francisco’s waterfront draws 24 million tourists every year.

The Proposition requires a two-thirds majority to pass, and pretty much everyone has endorsed it. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Who supports it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner, Mayor London Breed and every member of the Board of Supervisors, Lt Governor Gavin Newsom, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, State Senator Scott Wiener, Assembly Member David Chiu, Assembly Member Phil Ting, building and construction trades, every member of the Port Commission (duh!) San Francisco Democratic Party, environmental groups including the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters

Who opposes it: Libertarian Party of San Francisco

PROPOSITION B – CITY PRIVACY GUIDELINES – NO

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.03.53 PM.pngData privacy is the hottest topic in government this year after data breaches at Facebook and other companies revealed how tech companies use consumer information. Proposition B is a non-binding resolution asking the city to set privacy standards for companies who do business in San Francisco. The idea is an appealing one, because everyone agrees that consumers should have more control over their data, and if SF – the capitol of tech – sets a high bar, the rest of the nation might follow.

Specifically, the authors of Proposition B want to give you more control over how your personal information – including your sexual orientation, race, national origin, or religious affiliation – is used and shared. They want to regulate how your information is being handed over to law enforcement, third party advertisers, or other private special interests. And they want you to have more control over the use of your location data. These are all appealing goals, and I don’t disagree with any of them. However, I think that a San Francisco privacy law is unnecessary because it’s duplicative of a new California law, and from the perspective of the businesses, a patchwork of city-by-city privacy laws is a nightmare to comply with.

In 2016 the European Union enacted GDPR, a landmark law that grants European consumers far more control over the use of their data. And in June of this year California also enacted its own privacy law mirroring many of the GDPR’s provisions. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will give consumers the right to know all data collected by a business on you; the right to say no to the sale of your information; the right to delete your data; and the right to know the business or commercial purpose of collecting your information, as well as the categories of third parties with whom your data is shared.*

Opponents of Prop B are focused on a tacked-on provision that would allow changes to City Hall’s transparency laws. It would give lawmakers more control over what the public can now access about meetings and public records, and this makes journalists, voting rights groups and good government groups very nervous. I agree with them that maintaining public access to government information is critical to keep public officials accountable for their actions.

* Note: I lead the compliance team at a tech company, and I’m working to get our CCPA compliance plan together before it goes into effect in 2020.

Who supports it: Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Jane Kim, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin (sponsor of the measure), Hillary Ronen, Norman Yee

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner

PROPOSITION C – TAX ON BIG BUSINESS TO FUND HOMELESS SERVICES – NO

This was a tough one for me, and there are smart and thoughtful people on both sides of this measure. I’ll do my best to summarize the pros and cons, so that you can make your own decision.

Prop C will authorize the city to fund housing and homelessness services by enacting a new tax on medium-to-large businesses in San Francisco at the following rates:

  • 0.175 percent to 0.69 percent on gross receipts (revenues) for businesses with over $50 million in annual revenue, or
  • 5 percent of payroll expense for certain businesses with over $1 billion in annual revenues and administrative offices in San Francisco.

If passed, Prop C will establish the Our City, Our Home Fund, which will go toward permanent housing (50%), mental health services for homeless individuals (25%), homelessness prevention (15%), and short-term shelters (10%). The San Francisco Controller’s office says that the new tax would generate new tax revenue of approximately $250 million to $300 million annually beginning in 2019. In the interest of full disclosure, I work for one of the 400 companies that will be subject to the tax if Prop C passes.

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Photo: San Francisco Business Times

Prop C is the hottest topic on the San Francisco ballot. Progressives and homelessness organizations are rallying for it, framing it as a matter of social justice. Centrist politicians and business groups contend it is potentially a job-killer, it’s way more money than the city needs, and what’s needed are more creative solutions along with a better accounting of money already being spent. My objections to it are technical, namely, that a ballot measure is not the right way to solve this problem, because it locks in the spending requirements in perpetuity, which is a terrible way to run a government program.

Arguments in favor of Prop C:

  1. It’s about damn time! Homelessness is by far the city’s biggest problem, and it’s getting worse. Thousands of people sleep on the streets every night, and thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless. It’s inhumane and appalling that we are letting human beings continue to live in such horrific conditions. Plus, it’s hurting tourism and retail sales. SF is seeing fewer visitors because of the shocking number of people on the streets.
  2. San Francisco is the city of love, and it should live up to its nickname. The big companies that are based here were attracted here in part because of the compassion and progressive ethics San Francisco is known for. Getting people off the streets will make San Francisco a better place to live for everyone.
  3. The city spends $300 million per year on homeless services and it’s clearly not enough. Doubling this amount will make a huge dent in the homeless problem. Prop C funds will pay for housing for at least 5,000 people, 1,000 new emergency shelter beds and mental health programs for hundreds of people in dire straits. For years now, our elected leaders have tried to solve the issue, but have yet to commit the resources necessary to adequately address this complex problem.
  4. Big companies can afford it. SF is an incredibly rich city with some very successful businesses, and they can afford to make San Francisco better in exchange for their success here. Moreover, the companies that created all the jobs in San Francisco are actually contributing to the homeless problem, by causing the insane housing demand in the city, driving housing prices up. They should pay to solve the problem.

Arguments against Prop C:

  1. Homelessness shouldn’t be solved by ballot measure! You’ve heard me say it before: a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s a terrible way to make government decisions. Prop C will lock in existing funding levels and direct new spending, making the city’s homelessness spending nearly impossible to change. The city’s intractable homeless problem requires a multi-faceted, nuanced approach that HAS TO be able to iterate over time. Let’s find a better way to secure more funding for homeless programs, and make sure that the money is spent appropriately. To me, this is a very strong case against Prop C.
  2. Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.12.23 PM.pngIt’s too much money for homelessness relative to other spending. Prop C secures $682 million for the Department of Homelessness. For comparison, that’s 3x the budget of Rec and Park ($231 million), 7x the budget of the Department of Emergency Management ($95 million), 4x the budget of Libraries ($160 million), and nearly 3x the budget of the Sheriff’s Department, which includes the jails ($249 million). Moreover, if Prop 2 (2018) on the California ballot passes, SF is poised to receive another $100 million per year for homelessness programs. Senator Scott Wiener also recently secured $30 million from the state budget for homeless youth programs. Does SF need $812 million per year for the homeless?! No.
  3. It’s more money than SF needs. San Francisco is actually doing a lot right now to solve the homeless problem, as evidenced by: (1) the growing numbers of navigation centers around the city; (2) the planned opening of a city-sponsored drug injection center; (3) new conservatorship rules to allow the city to help the homeless mentally ill; (4) Mayor Breed’s initiative to build 1000 new shelter beds; and (5) the securing of $30 million for homeless youth programs from the state budget this year. While still bad, the problem has actually gotten much better this year because the city is willing to take risks, and find more efficient ways to use its existing budget.
  4. Prop C doesn’t contain a sunset provision. Meaning, it goes on forever! This is just unreasonable and shortsighted. I can understand the argument that we need to spend a lot of money up front to solve the intractable homeless problem. But once we’ve solved it, and everyone has housing, these programs won’t cost as much, year-over-year, right?
  5. Money is not the cure-all to end homelessness. While our city’s homelessness spending has more than tripled over nearly two decades, the number of people experiencing homelessness on our streets has remained the same at about 7,000. This shows that money alone won’t solve the problem. There is nothing in Prop. C about enforcing laws against street tents, aggressive panhandling, or compelling treatment on people with grave mental illness. (On the other hand, there is nothing in Prop C that prevents city government from separately enacting and enforcing these laws.)
  6. Big companies will leave San Francisco, and the local economy will suffer. I work for one of the companies that will be subject to this new tax, and I don’t buy the argument that companies will leave. Every time a new tax is threatened against big business, the Chamber of Commerce cries wolf, and then companies never actually move away. San Francisco is still San Francisco, and it’s a lot easier to recruit top talent when you’re based here. In fact, solving the homelessness crisis will make SF even more appealing for companies and workers to move here. A report by the city’s economist found that Proposition C’s “impacts are small in the context of the city’s job market and economy, equal to a 0.1% difference, on average, over 20 years.”
  7. SF will lose jobs if Prop C passes. Because Prop C includes a payroll-based tax, it penalizes companies for the salaries they pay here in San Francisco, so it does incentivize them to move some jobs elsewhere – jobs like customer support, engineering, communications, finance and other functions that can be done remotely. While it’s unlikely that entire companies will move away, I do think that companies will stop hiring for certain kinds of positions here if the tax is imposed. (Given the insane demand for housing, maybe SF can afford to lose a few jobs?)
  8. The tax is convoluted, leading to unfair results like smaller companies paying way more than huge companies. This article in the Chronicle does a good job of explaining why some smaller companies will bear an unfair tax burden, and why the structure of the tax can lead to higher prices for everything in SF. It includes an illustration as to how a single transaction could be taxed three times under Prop C. Companies that have big revenues but small (or non-existent) profits like Lyft and Uber will be especially F’ed under Prop C because a gross receipts tax is charged on their total revenue, not on their margins.
  9. Increasing our spending on homelessness will draw more homeless people to San Francisco. The data just don’t bear this argument out. Most homeless San Franciscans became homeless IN San Francisco, and generally speaking, poor people stay where their support network is located. In any case, the way housing is allocated by the city is by giving long term residents priority, so the Prop C money won’t go to people who relocate here.
  10. Prop C is a blank check, and the city is going to waste the money. San Francisco has been working to make its existing investment in homeless services more efficient and effective. But a huge infusion of Prop. C money would relieve pressure on city bureaucracy to identify and eliminate spending that isn’t working. The measure doesn’t include any mechanism for tracking spending, and it doesn’t include any performance requirements. There will be no way to know whether the agencies who receive the funds are using them wisely. Having worked in city government, I have seen the waste and inefficiency first hand, so this argument is very persuasive to me.
  11. Prop C is an abuse of the initiative process. When the authors of Prop C were writing it, they didn’t include the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, or the companies who will be impacted, and that will lead to bad law THAT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO MODIFY WITHOUT ANOTHER BALLOT MEASURE. In the words of state senator Scott Weiner, “Prop C is… a massive tax increase – the largest tax increase in San Francisco history – yet the people who drafted Prop C did not engage a broad set of stakeholders. They didn’t even work with our Mayor. Prop C isn’t how government should work. A tax increase of this magnitude should engage a broad array of stakeholders in crafting the tax’s size, sources, and uses. That didn’t happen here. The voters should reject Prop C and allow for a true stakeholder process to determine the best approach to addressing our needs around homelessness.” I totally agree. Prop C is a blunt instrument, and what we need is a more holistic, nuanced approach to solving the problem.

After researching the $!@# out of this measure, I am voting against it. But it was a tough call because I recognize that more needs to be done to solve this problem. If Prop C passes, I hope that the companies that would have been subject to the tax will make big donations to homeless programs with proven track records, and come to the table to help the city solve this problem for good.

Who supports it: SF Examiner; Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi; Congresswoman Jackie Speier; Assemblymember Phil Ting; Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Vallie Brown, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Rafael Mandelman, and Hillary Ronen; Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; Comedian Chris Rock (huh?); San Francisco Democratic Party; Affordable Housing Alliance; Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods; GLIDE church; St. Anthony’s; SF teachers union; Mental Health Association of San Francisco; SPUR; San Francisco Tenants Union; San Francisco Board of Education; Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club; Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle; Mayor London Breed; Lt Governor Gavin Newsom; State Senator Scott Weiner; Assemblymember David Chiu; police and firefighters unions; Chamber of Commerce; small business community, Supervisors Katy Tang and Catherin Stefani; Laborers union; Hotel Council; Edwin M. Lee Democratic Club; Chinese American Democratic Club; City Democratic Club.

PROPOSITION D – CANNABIS BUSINESS TAX – NO

Prop D would place a new tax on cannabis businesses based on their gross receipts (revenues). It would exempt their first $500K in revenue, and any revenue generated up to $1M would be taxed at an additional 2.5%. Revenue greater than $1M would be taxed at an additional 5%.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.14.41 PM.pngBeginning in 2021, the money collected from the tax would go into the general fund, so the city can spend it however it wishes. The city controller predicts proceeds of $2 million to $4 million at first, growing to as much as $16 million in three years.

The main argument against Prop D is that taxing marijuana products will – surprise! – make them more expensive to buy. And that will drive more consumers to buying it on the black market. The illegal market doesn’t pay taxes, and they also don’t have to test their products for quality or safety. They can also mistreat workers and damage the environment with impunity. All these things together make their products much cheaper.

By contrast, legal cannabis operators abide by the laws imposed on other businesses in California. They have to get permits; pay banks transaction fees; pay the business income tax, excise tax, and sales taxes; hire accountants and attorneys and an HR department; obtain workers comp insurance; require sexual harassment training for employees; yada yada yada. You can see how it adds up.

On the other hand, the proponents of Prop D, however, say that the new tax will help the city put illegal operators out of business, with increased building inspections, permit processing and legal action against non-compliant companies. They claim it will also go toward education of the citizenry about cannabis dispensaries, since there is still a lot of opposition to placing new dispensaries in most neighborhoods.  However, since the revenues of Prop D will go into the General Fund, there is no requirement that they will be spent on these things. I’d be more persuaded to support Prop D if the money was required to be spent on enforcement and education.

As a person whose job title includes the word “compliance,” I am generally supportive of companies who make an effort to obey the law, and I think that we ought to give the legitimate cannabis companies a break. I can’t imagine the stress of running a marijuana business out in the open these days, given that it is still illegal under federal law, and that the Jeff Sessions Department of Justice is just dying to make an example of California.

Who supports it: SF Bay Guardian; Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; Supervisors Norman Yee, Katy Tang, Catherine Stefani and Vallie Brown

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner; SF Chamber of Commerce; Supervisors Hillary Ronen, and Jane Kim; State Senator Scott Wiener; Board of Equalization member (and soon-to-be State Treasurer) Fiona Ma

Proposition E – Arts and Cultural Allocation – Yes

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 8.49.18 PM.pngSan Francisco charges a 14% bed tax on hotels, B&Bs, and Airbnb hosts, and it brings in about in $370 million per year.  Prop E would take an 8% slice of this tax revenue and dedicate it to arts and cultural organizations and projects in the city, boosting the city’s arts budget from $22 million per year (2018) to $35 million by 2022. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

Prop E is about to make me a hypocrite. I like this measure because I support the arts and want to see them flourish in the city. I hate this measure because it’s a set-aside, and budgeting by ballot box is no way to run a government.  Sigh.

The arguments in favor of Prop E:

  • Yay for the arts!
  • Prop E won’t increase any taxes, it merely redistributes the existing tax that is mostly paid by tourists.
  • The proposition will benefit a diverse and dynamic part of the city’s economy and personality.
  • Prop E reflects the original intent of the city’s hotel tax, which was created with a portion dedicated to the arts and culture because they help drive tourism. Prop E merely restores the original set-aside.
  • “The housing crisis and the affordability challenges that we face here in San Francisco mean that we are losing the lifeblood of cultural bearers and artists that make San Francisco the community we love.” – Rachel Lastimosa, arts and culture administrator of the city’s Filipino cultural district.

The one really good argument against Prop E:

  • Prop E IS A G&^%*#* SET-ASIDE. It would reduce budget flexibility by locking in the arts funding by way of ballot measure, which – say it with me – can’t be repealed or amended, except by another ballot measure, blah blah blah, and is a terrible way to run a government. When the city faces a downturn, and needs those Prop E funds for, say, recovery from a catastrophic earthquake/tsunami, or building its own militia to defend its water supply from invaders… it will be nearly impossible to do so.

I will close with a quotation that explains why I am voting yes on Prop E.

“The arts are what makes life worth living. You’ve got food, you’ve got shelter, yeah. But the things that make you laugh, make you cry, make you connect – make you love are communicated through the arts. They aren’t extras.”

— President Barack Obama

Who supports it: SF Chronicle; Mayor London Breed; Supervisors Katy Tang and Aaron Peskin; Tom Decaigny, director of cultural affairs, San Francisco Arts Commission; Hotel Council of San Francisco; United Educators of San Francisco; San Francisco Arts Education Project; San Franciscans for the Arts

Who opposes it: SF Examiner; Libertarian Party of San Francisco

Thanks for reading! If you found my voter guide useful, please share it on social media and consider donating here to support my writing habit. Thank you!  My guide to the California measures and races can be found here.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Representative, District 12 – Pelosi

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

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

U.S. Representative, District 14 – Speier

Incumbent Jackie Speier has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17 – Chiu

Incumbent David Chiu has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 19 – Ting

Incumbent Phil Ting has no credible opposition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor – Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 8 – Mandelman

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

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

SF Proposition A – yes

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

SF Proposition B – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF Proposition E – YES

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

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

SF Proposition F – yes

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

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

SF Proposition G – yes

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

SF Proposition H – NO!

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

SF Proposition I – NO

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

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

 

 

Big Ol’ Voter Guide for San Francisco – November 2014

vote image 1Hi friends –

Yes, it’s a long ballot. But as I’ve mentioned before, you’ve already voted for a lot of these same people once this year (Because of California’s top two system, look it up).

Also, many of the local candidates are unopposed or virtually unopposed. Blah. There is some really interesting and important stuff in the propositions, both locally and statewide. There’s an exciting school board race, with WAY TOO MANY great candidates. (I never get to write that! Too many great candidates! Yay us.)

This is the guide to the San Francisco election. The California guide is posted here.

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

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

Federal Offices
Nancy Pelosi for U.S. House of Representatives, District 12
David Chiu
Jackie Speier for U.S. House of Representatives, District 14

State Assembly
David Chiu, District 17 (East Side of SF)
Phil Ting, District 19 (West Side of SF)

Judiciary 
Carol Kingsley For Superior Court, Office 20

San Francisco Board of Education
Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase, Shamann Walton
Also: Hydra Mendoza, Stevon Cook and Mark Murphy.

Community College Board
Four-year terms: Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila, John Rizzo
Two-year term: Amy Bacharach

BART Board, District 8
Nick Josefowitz

SF Citywide Offices
Carmen Chu for Assessor/Recorder
Jeff Adachi for Public Defender

Local Measures
Yes on Prop A, Transportation Bond
Yes on Prop B, Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth
Yes on Prop C, Children’s Fund
Yes on Prop D, Retiree Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency Employees
YES YES YES on Prop E, Soda Tax
Yes on Prop F, Pier 70 Development
Yes on Prop G, Anti-Speculation Tax
Yes on Prop H? – Hating on Artificial Turf in Golden Gate Park
No on Prop I? – Supporting New Artificial Turf Soccer Fields in Golden Gate Park
Yes on Prop J, Minimum Wage Increase to $15/hr by July 2018
Yes on Prop K Additional Affordable Housing Policy
NO NO NO on Prop L, Transportation Priorities Policy Statement

San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Mark Farrell for District 2 Supervisor
Katy Tang for District 4 Supervisor
Jane Kim for District 6 Supervisor
Scott Wiener for District 8 Supervisor
Malia Cohen for District 10 Supervisor

FEDERAL OFFICES

US Congress, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

Remember: Nancy represents one of the most progressive districts in the country, and conservatives nationwide are constantly vilifying her based on her “San Francisco values.” And yet, not only has Pelosi refused to be marginalized, but she has earned the support of enough of her colleagues to become the most powerful woman in Congress. A remarkable feat indeed.

Her accomplishments In 21 years in the House of Representatives are far too many to list here. She has stood up for reproductive rights, immigrants, women, and the poor. She fought hard to protect the social safety net when the Republicans in Congress proposed their dramatic spending cuts in 2013 and eventually shut down the government. 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. (Wait – who says she’s not progressive enough?) If the Democratic Party takes Congress back in this election (which is unlikely), Pelosi will be Speaker again. And wouldn’t that be sweet.

US Congress, District 14: Jackie Speier

jackie-speierI love 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 after the San Bruno explosion, and recently 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 ASSEMBLY

Assembly, District 17: David Chiu

This is a funny race. The two leading candidates are both named David, they both went to Harvard, they both serve on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They have an almost identical voting record. They both also serve on the board of the San Francisco Democratic Party with me, and so I know them both well, and consider them both friends. If you voted in the June election, you’ve already made your choice between David Campos and David Chiu. Because of a quirk in California’s top two voting system, these two candidates are up against each other one more time.

Both Davids would be progressive leaders in the state legislature. But I believe that Chiu will be a more effective advocate for legislation that reflects our San Francisco values. As the President of the Board of Supervisors, Chiu has proven to be adept at shepherding legislation and forging compromise, which skills are especially necessary in a state legislature populated with folks from all over this strange state. (For example, there’s THIS GUY. Yeah. Whoah.)

Campos is openly gay, like the two men who most recently held this seat, Tom Ammiano and Mark Leno. Campos and his supporters claim that the seat should be held by someone who identifies as LGBT. I disagree – no seat in the legislature should be a “gay seat” or an “Asian seat” or “fixie riding tech bro” seat. The candidate who can best represent all of the district’s constituencies should win. Period.

If you know me, you know that I have always been an advocate for getting more women (and especially mothers!) in public office. Women are generally underrepresented in leadership positions, and it’s important to include women’s voices in the decisions that affect all of us. But to propose that a specific seat is a “woman’s seat” would be ludicrous. There certainly aren’t enough LGBT folks in the state legislature (there are 8 including Ammiano, which is 7% of the total members), however, we have made considerable progress on this front in recent years. The current Assembly Speaker is an out lesbian and the previous Speaker was a gay man.

I do think it’s really gross that some well-funded haters have been sending out mail trying to connect Campos with Ross Mirkarimi’s domestic violence issues. Specifically, they claim that Campos’ vote against removing Ross from office makes him unqualified to serve in the Assembly. Regardless of your feelings about Mirkarimi, this argument is laughable. I don’t think that a person’s entire 6-year voting record should or can be boiled down to a single vote.

Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting

I really like Phil Ting. Suuuuuper nice guy, and also good at what he does. Ting represents the west side of San Francisco, which is considerably more conservative than the side I live in. And yet he’s been a consistent vote for legislation supported by San Franciscans citywide. He has pushed for closing the Prop 13 loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes; he has promoted the building of separated bike lanes statewide, making biking safer and easier; and he has pushed for BART to reform its safety procedures. He is also virtually unopposed.

JUDICIARY

Carol Kingsley For Superior Court, Office 20

This was a tough decision for me. Both Carol Kingsley and Daniel Flores are strong candidates for this office. When the San Francisco Democratic Party interviewed each of them at our endorsement meeting in March, I was impressed with both. They would bring very different qualities to the bench.

Daniel Flores is a defense and civil rights lawyer with 13 years of experience and an impressive list of endorsers from all over the San Francisco political spectrum. He is a courtroom litigator with experience in big firms and his own practice, representing clients ranging from businesses to tenants fighting against their landlords. In the Democratic Party endorsement process, he was not afraid to declare his views on a wide range of political subjects, which made me wonder about both his judgment and his ability to be impartial.

Carol Kingsley is an attorney of 25 years who’s specialized as a mediator, skilled at sifting through disputes and convincing parties to cooperate. She is a crusader for stricter gun laws, since her husband and eight others were slain in the 1993 killing spree at 101 California. Given that she has twice the experience of Flores, and given that women are still under-represented on the bench, I’m going with Kingsley. She is endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle, SFWPC, former City Attorney Louise Renne, and many other judges and community leaders.

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF EDUCATION

I’ll say it again: TOO MANY GREAT CANDIDATES! In this election, I’m endorsing Trevor McNeil, Emily Murase, and Shamann Walton for the reasons below. But incumbent Hydra Mendoza has done a fine job on the School Board, and Stevon Cook and Mark Murphy would be excellent additions to the board as well.

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. Trevor currently teaches 7th grade with the San Mateo-Foster City School District. Previously he was a substitute, tutor, and paraprofessional at San Francisco Unified, teaching in almost every neighborhood in our city.  I have worked with him for two years on the DCCC. He’s passionate about his students and about education policy, and he works very, very hard. He’s also a conciliator, which is needed on the school board, as there is considerable tension right now between the teachers union and the school board. I’m hoping that Trevor will help bring the two sides together. His long list of endorsers is here.

Emily Murase

Emily is a parent of two girls in the SF public schools and an alumna. She has worked hard on anti-bullying initiatives, reforming the school meals program, supporting foreign language and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, and the new Common Core Standards. Her day job is as the Executive Director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, and so she brings a feminist perspective to the board, which I appreciate.

San Francisco schools get a bad rap. Several years ago, school quality was a disaster, and families were leaving SF in droves because of it. (Now they leave because of housing prices, but I digress). Our public schools have dramatically improved in recent years, the district’s budget is in the black, and construction projects are coming in on time and under budget. (!) This is in part due to the cohesion of the current School Board, of which Emily Murase serves as the President. She has an impressive list of endorsers, and she deserves another term.

Shamann Walton

I met Shamann the first time he ran for the Board of Education two years ago, and I was very impressed. I’m enthusiastically supporting him because he’s a native San Franciscan who has long worked with students through workforce and mentorship programs, mostly in the Bayview, giving him a unique perspective on the needs of students, particularly students of color. He’s young, he’s smart, he’s a parent, and he has boundless energy and passion for the schools.

The four most important endorsements in this race are the teachers union, the SF Democratic Party, the Chronicle and the Bay Guardian – and Shamann is the only candidate with all four. In fact, he seems to be the only candidate that everyone seems to agree on, including the Mayor, every member of the Board of Supervisors, five members of the School Board, and many others.

Hydra Mendoza

If I had a fourth vote, incumbent Hydra Mendoza would get it. She works hard on important issues like improving access to technology in the public schools, improving academic standards, and increasing parent engagement. I have enjoyed working with her over the years. She is a close ally of the Mayor’s – her day job is as the Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Education – which can be either good or bad depending on the issue. But the reason why she didn’t get a top-three endorsement from me is because she waited until the filing deadline to decide whether she wanted to run for re-election, and this tells me that her passion for serving on the school board is waning.

Stevon Cook

Stevon is a third-generation San Franciscan and resident of the Bayview. He has a few key endorsements, including the teachers union, Assemblymember (and former School Board member) Tom Ammiano and the Bay Guardian. One of his campaign issues is teacher retention, recognizing that SFUSD often loses many qualified teachers in their first five years on the job. It’s an important issue for the School Board to tackle. I like Stevon, and I hope he runs again if he doesn’t win this time around.

 

Mark Murphy

Mark is married to a San Francisco public school teacher and he also has many years of involvement in the public schools. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the Community Advisory Committee of an annual $50 million public fund that benefits the school district. He also has a civil rights background, having served for 5 years on the Human Rights Commission’s LGBT Advisory Committee, where he worked on an LGBT anti-discrimination program in the public schools. He has tutored students, and has been involved in multiple committees and political organizations. And also: super nice guy.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD

Why would you POSSIBLY run for a seat on the Community College Board, which is the least powerful place to be in elective office in San Francisco? The board – which is normally responsible for setting policy for City College – is now powerless, after being replaced last year by Special Trustee Bob Agrella as part of the district’s battle to retain its accreditation. And – the board might not even exist in a few years if the accreditation is lost. I think each of the 10 candidates is nuts for even running.

But! City College is a vital institution in San Francisco, and I am glad to see that so many people are passionate about its revival. Really. In this election, there are four seats up: three four-year terms, and one two-year term to replace Chris Jackson, who resigned in the middle of his term. For the four-year terms I am supporting Thea Selby, Brigitte Davila, and John Rizzo. For the two-year term, I am endorsing Amy Bacharach.

Brigitte Davila

Brigitte is one of the few candidates running for the college board with experience as a teacher. For over 20 years, she was a professor at San Francisco State University, which is where many City College students transfer. She is also a community college success story. As the first in her family to seek higher education, she worked her way up from community college in LA County to undergraduate and graduate degrees from Berkeley. For these reasons, her perspective on the board would be a valuable one.

Thea Selby

Thea-Selby_Emerge-AmericaI am convinced that Thea doesn’t sleep. She runs her own business, she is an active parent of two kids, she is a passionate advocate for transit, and she’s involved in numerous community and small business groups. I have been impressed with her work as chair of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and also when she ran for Supervisor in District 5 in 2012.

Thea is the consensus choice for the College Board, having earned a broad range of endorsements from the City College teachers union and United Educators, to the Bay Guardian, the SF Democratic Party, and many more. A neighborhood and small business advocate, she was a solid candidate when she ran for District 5 supervisor in 2012, and she’s learned a lot since then. She will bring a level head to the College Board, and so I enthusiastically support her.

John Rizzo

rizzoJohn is an incumbent on the College Board, and that stacks the deck against him because the accreditation debacle has happened under his watch. However, John is the one incumbent I’m supporting, because he has shown himself to be a reformer, he has worked hard to fight the corruption and mismanagement at City College. As President of the board, he increased the frequency of Board meetings from monthly to weekly, and urged the Board to bring in auditors to identify problems and recommend solutions. I believe his is a critical voice in fighting dis-accreditation.

 

Amy Bacharach

I supported Amy when she ran for College Board two years ago, and I am proud to support her again. Bacharach 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.

 

BART BOARD, DISTRICT 8
Nick Josefowitz

This one was an easy one for me. Nick is a solar energy entrepreneur who has put together a strong and well-funded challenge to James Fang, the only Republican holding elective office in San Francisco. I am a little embarrassed for both of the candidates, as this race has gotten very nasty in recent weeks. In mailers sent in mid-October, Fang accuses Josefowitz of being a carpet bagger who couldn’t even get the endorsement of his own party, and Josefowitz accuses Fang of being one of the five most corrupt politicians in San Francisco history. The truth is, for the first time, Fang actually is at serious risk of losing re-election, and upstart Josefowitz smells blood in the water, and this has caused them both to behave badly.

Fang earned the support of (the extremely powerful) SEIU Local 1021 when he walked a picket line with BART workers last year. To me, it seemed like a craven political tactic, and it essentially neutralized some of Fang’s biggest political enemies. Fang also has a lot of support from SF’s old guard: Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, Ed Lee, Jeff Adachi, and many others. But I’m guessing this has more to do with Fang’s longevity in office: he has been friends with all these people for a few decades now, and has probably supported all of their campaigns. This is the power of incumbency.

But Fang’s no friend of mine, and I think the BART board needs new blood. BART has serious problems – broken escalators, closed bathrooms, dirty trains, broken promises for transit-friendly development – and Fang doesn’t have good answers for why the BART Board hasn’t solved any of them. Josefowitz has energy, ideas, and a fresh perspective. He is focused on improving the rider experience, and making the system more sustainable, accountable, and innovative. He has the endorsement of the Chronicle, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, BART Director Tom Radulovich, several Supervisors and many others.

SF CITYWIDE OFFICES

Carmen Chu for Assessor/Recorder
 and Jeff Adachi for Public Defender. Both are unopposed, and both are doing a great job by all accounts.

The Assessor-Recorder assesses property values for tax purposes and brings in about one-third of the city’s General Fund revenue. Carmen has done a fine job of standing up to commercial property owners who have sought reassessments. She is smart and professional and she runs the office well. Also – did I mention she’s unopposed?

Jeff Adachi has been Public Defender since 2003. His clients and staff love him. He founded the Reentry Council to help coordinate the delivery of jobs, education, and substance abuse treatment to folks who have been released from prison or jail to help them make a fresh start. Also – did I mention he’s unopposed?

LOCAL MEASURES

Yes on Prop A, Transportation Bond


The SF transit system is at a breaking point. This measure will authorize the city to issue $500 million in general obligation bonds to fund transportation infrastructure projects, like safety, circulation, streetscaping, and Muni’s many years of deferred maintenance needs. The measure was carefully crafted so that it benefits motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. It needs a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

Opponents include Retired Judge Quentin Kopp and taxpayers organizations. They call it a “blank check,” saying that it doesn’t restore past Muni cuts and there isn’t proper oversight over how the money is spent. But I don’t buy it. Everyone else – and I do mean everyone – supports it: elected officials, media organizations, advocacy groups. The transit projects funded by Prop A will improve traffic flow for buses, cars, and bicycles; improve MUNI reliability and decrease travel times; improve emergency response times; make the city’s streets and sidewalks safer and more accessible for pedestrians and people with disabilities; and separate bicyclists from car traffic to make it safer for everyone. Because the bonds will replace previous bonds as they expire, the measure will not raise tax rates. No brainer.

Yes on Prop B, Adjusting Transportation Funding for Population Growth


If approved, Prop B would amend the City Charter to require the city to increase the base contribution to the Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) by a percentage equal to the city’s annual population increase. Without it, the city would continue to provide a minimum funding amount to the SFMTA based on a percentage of the city’s overall revenue and not tied to the city’s population.

What a great idea! As the city continues to grow, our transportation infrastructure is straining under its existing infrastructure and funding sources. Muni’s operating costs go up along with its ridership, and so tying transit funding to population growth makes perfect sense.

The reason why this is on the ballot is because city leaders had promised to put a local increase in the vehicle license fee on this ballot. But when the Mayor backed out, Supervisor Wiener and five of his colleagues responded with Prop B – which contains a provision allowing the Mayor to repeal this set-aside if and when voters approve a local VLF increase.

Yes on Prop C, Children’s Fund

Prop C will extend the city’s Children’s Fund and Public Education Enrichment Fund for the next 25 years, dividing the city’s general Rainy Day Reserve into a City Rainy Day Reserve and a School Rainy Day Reserve. Much of the money from the two funds renewed by this measure goes towards supporting public schools and public school programs.

Set-asides like this one make me nervous, because they tend to tie the hands of legislators in the careful and complicated balancing act that is the city’s annual budget process. But I am supporting this one because it is the culmination of two years of work by a grassroots coalition of youth service providers. And the youth programs — including preschool programs, art and music curriculum in schools, and violence prevention programs — have been proven to work. The measure has a broad range of support, and no organized opposition.

Yes on Prop D, Retiree Benefits for Former Redevelopment Agency Employees

This one is a bit complicated, and also doesn’t apply to very many people. It closes a loophole to allow for a small number of City employees to be eligible for retirement benefits.

In 2012, Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated in California, and in San Francisco, most Redevelopment Agency employees were transferred over to City departments. The City Charter provides that City employees hired on or before January 2009 are eligible for retiree benefits after five years of service. This measure amends the City Charter to allow former Redevelopment Agency staff who were hired before January 2009, and who have become City employees, to be eligible for the same retirement benefits as other City employees. (Employees hired on or after January 2009 are required to work 20 years before they are eligible for retiree health benefits.)

This measure was unanimously placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, and it only applies to about 50 people. The Controller’s Office estimates that it will only cost the City about $75,000 over many years. It sounds fair to me, and honestly it’s such a minor issue that I don’t think it’s worth wringing our collective hands over it.

YES YES YES on Prop E, Soda Tax – cut obesity in SF!

This measure would impose a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on “sugary beverages” in San Francisco, the proceeds from which would go towards nutrition, physical activity, and health programs in public schools, parks, and elsewhere in the city. It is estimated to bring in revenue of about $31 million per year, and it is primarily aimed at decreasing the consumption of these sugary drinks. It needs a 2/3 supermajority to pass.

The soda companies have spent MILLIONS of dollars fighting this measure. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so much mail from a single campaign! And that’s saying a lot. (Ahem, PG&E). That’s because if it passes in San Francisco, it will likely serve as a turning point in the fight against obesity and diabetes nationwide. Many other jurisdictions have tried to pass similar laws, to no avail – the soda companies have always succeeded in beating them back.

Study after study links soda consumption with diabetes and obesity rates, increasing health care costs. Especially in poorer communities. In fact, a Harvard study has found that the per person cost of obesity is similar to the cost of smoking. YES – this is another nanny state law wagging its finger at people making bad decisions for themselves. And yes – it’s a regressive tax, meaning it hurts poor people the most. But I think it’s fine for the government to help solve this problem by discouraging unhealthy behaviors.

And it’s also a tactic been proven to work – Mexico approved a more modest version of this law last year, and preliminary results show that consumption of taxed sugary drinks were down 10 percent compared with the previous year. And if we can all do something to improve the public’s health – and save the state the cost of treating rampant obesity and diabetes – then it’s worth a shot. Don’t let Big Soda buy your vote. Vote yes.

Yes on Prop F, Pier 70 development 


Everyone loves Prop F. Even the people who normally oppose every real estate development proposal in San Francisco. Seriously. Environmental groups, the Bay Guardian, former Mayor Art Agnos, neighborhood organizations near the project…everyone.

Proposition F would authorize the $100 million redevelopment of Pier 70 in the Dogpatch. The proposed plan would renovate and rehabilitate three historical buildings occupying 28 acres of pier space in order to create residences, office space, and buildings for retailers, artists and manufacturers. It includes nine acres of new parks! It requires voter approval because it seeks to increase the height limits on Pier 70 from 40 feet to 90 feet, a process that requires a ballot measure. (Remember Prop B from the June 2014 ballot? Yep. This is the first measure to be required under that new law).

The reason why no one opposes it is because the developer, Forest City, put the project together only after significant community input. They have shown themselves to be responsive to the neighborhood and the city’s political interests.

Yes on Prop G, Anti-Speculation Tax

If approved, Proposition G would impose an additional transfer tax on the sale or transfer of multi-unit properties that have been owned for less than five years. The idea is to make it much more expensive for real estate speculators to buy and flip large apartment buildings after evicting the entire building, thus contributing to the City’s eviction epidemic and housing crisis.

Prop G would levy a 24 percent tax if a property is flipped with a year of purchase or 14 percent within five years. It doesn’t apply to single-family homes and large apartment complexes – only to medium-size multi-unit buildings that are often the targets of speculation.

The opponents of this measure are realtors and small property owners who, frankly, don’t want their profits limited. They have dumped more than $1 million into the race, claiming that this tax will drive up rents, that it is hurting small property owners. I don’t buy it. I think it is most likely to prevent people from selling properties quickly after they buy them, and it will likely mean that fewer San Franciscans will lose their homes. And that’s a good thing.

Yes on Prop H and No on I? – Artificial Turf in Golden Gate Park


Prop H and I are both about the Recreation and Park Department’s proposal to renovate the soccer fields near Beach Chalet, to convert the grass to artificial turf, and to install new stadium lights. The plan has been in the works for six years, and has received the approval of both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. But there are some neighbors and environmentalists who oppose the plan, and that’s why there are competing measures on the ballot.

Prop H will prevent the proposal from happening, and it was placed on the ballot by the individuals who oppose the project. Prop I will enable the new fields project, and it was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors. If both measures receive more than 50 percent approval, the one with the most votes will be enacted.

This is a really hard one for me. I voted No on H and Yes on I at the Democratic Party endorsements, and I was prepared to recommend the same in this voter guide. The grass field that is there now is underused, and the proposed improvements are estimated to double the public’s use of the area. And adding nighttime lights will make this location more useable for everybody. The opponents of this project have had their concerns heard and vetted over the last six years and multiple government hearings, and I feel like six years is long enough for public debate. Supervisor Eric Mar (Richmond District) is a champion of families in his district and he supports the fields project.

However, I am sensitive to the argument that artificial turf and stadium lights could have unintended consequences for the environment. And I have recently learned something scary about this project – that there may be serious health consequences of using “crumb rubber” as a play surface for children, and no one has studied the question. The artificial turf is made of ground up tires, composed of carcinogens and chemicals including benzene (a nasty solvent), carbon black and lead. The national media is starting to take note of clusters of lymphoma and leukemia among soccer goalies who play on these fields. Sixty professional soccer players have sued FIFA over its decision to use artificial turf for the Women’s World Cup because of cancer concerns. Moreover, most of the people using these fields are young – and children’s bodies are growing and developing, so their bodies are more susceptible than adults to chemical exposures. The evidence is anecdotal at this point, but until we know more about the health consequences of playing on artificial turf, I can’t endorse the city’s proposal.

Yes on Prop J, Minimum Wage Increase to $15/hr by July 2018


Prop J will raise the minimum wage in San Francisco to $15 per hour by 2018 from the current rate of $10.78 per hour. It was spearheaded by Mayor Ed Lee and referred to the ballot by the Board of Supervisors as a compromise between labor and business interests.

A full time job paying $15 per hour results in a salary of $31,000. I think it’s fair to say that anyone working a minimum wage job – either before or after Prop J passes – can’t afford to live in this city, which is terrible. Economic disparity is a major problem in San Francisco, and it just feels right that we should raise our minimum wage. Labor unions, the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor support Prop J, and small business owners groups generally oppose it.

Yes on Prop K Additional Affordable Housing Policy

Prop K would establish a new City policy to help construct or rehabilitate at least 30,000 homes, the majority of which would be affordable for middle-class and low-income households – and to secure adequate funding to achieve that goal. It asks the Board of Supervisors to hold an annual hearing on progress toward the City’s housing goals and work with the Mayor to accomplish them.

I hate non-binding policy measures, they are usually a waste of time. There are no consequences if the goals of the policy aren’t met! Blah. When Supervisor Jane Kim originally wrote this measure, it was binding legislation that would have slowed down market-rate housing development by forcing additional studies and hearings when affordable units fell below 30% of total housing production. But then she was attacked by developers and the Mayor’s office, and it became a much more complicated battle that she didn’t want fight (the same year she is running for re-election). That said, I say yes – vote for it. At the very least it is drawing attention to the affordable housing crisis. In fact, I can’t imagine what it would say about this city’s priorities if it was voted down.

NO NO NO on Prop L, Transportation Priorities Policy Statement, which will make congestion insanely worse in SF

Prop L is horrible, just horrible. It’s the product of whiny motorists who don’t understand how transportation policy works.

If approved, the measure would establish a City policy that would prohibit the city from: (1) charging parking meter fees on Sundays and holidays, or outside the hours of 9am-5pm; (2) putting new meters in neighborhoods without consent from the affected residents and businesses; and (3) increasing parking garage, meter or ticket rates for at least five years, with increases tied to the CPI after that. The measure would also require the city to enforce traffic laws equally for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Thankfully, it is not binding legislation and it wouldn’t directly change any city laws. But it’s still a terrible idea for several reasons.

Balancing the interests of cyclist, pedestrians and motorists is extremely difficult, and something that I think the city actually does a decent job of. The city is rapidly growing, and this means that there are more cars on the street, and more congestion and safety problems. We absolutely have to improve our public transportation system to get people out of their cars to make congestion better for everyone. This measure would essentially make it city policy to divert Muni funding to build more parking lots and give residents veto power over new parking controls in their neighborhoods. This would only make things much worse. I know that everyone hates parking meters – but they help the city manage and encourage parking turnover, especially in commercial areas.  Diverting Muni funding and taking parking policy decisions out of the hands of the City’s transportation experts is the opposite of what we should do to solve our city’s transportation problems.

SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Mark Farrell For District 2 Supervisor


District 2 (Marina, Pacific Heights, Sea Cliff) is of the wealthiest and most conservative districts in the city. And while I’ve disagreed with incumbent Mark Farrell on some issues, he has proven to be a smart and effective, humble and accessible. He has worked hard to address homelessness, and he has done a decent job as chair of the Board’s Budget Committee.

 

Katy Tang For District 4 Supervisor

Tang votes with the more conservative forces in City Hall because she represents one of the more conservative districts in town. But! She knows the neighborhood very well, having been raised there, and having served as an aide in that district for years. She is focused the neighborhood’s needs, such as public transportation and public safety. She is a smart, level head in City Hall. She should be re-elected.

Jane Kim for District 6 Supervisor


Jane has been an effective Supervisor who hasn’t shied away from controversial topics that she knew might anger her base. And for that she has my respect. She also represents a tough district – it includes one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city (Tenderloin), as well as some of its most influential technology companies (Twitter, Autodesk), and fastest growing neighborhoods (China Basin, Mission Bay).

Jane has worked hard on affordable housing issues, pedestrian safety, homeless services. She sponsored the controversial Twitter tax break that has been credited with feeding the tech boom in San Francisco, and blamed for the housing crisis and gentrification. She is a prolific legislator and also works very hard for her district’s needs (and micro-needs). She deserves a second term.

Scott Wiener for District 8 Supervisor


Scott has grown on me. I supported one of his opponents four years ago, but since then I have had the pleasure of working closely with Scott, both at the Board of Supervisors and on the DCCC, where we both serve as elected members. Scott has been a forceful advocate for improving public transportation, for protecting San Francisco’s nightlife options, and for finding the funding for numerous community projects like the badly-needed Dolores Park renovation. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s doing a fine job for the district, and he is the strongest leader on nightlife issues the City has seen in a long while. Several candidates are running against him, but none appear to have gained any traction. However, if you really care about letting the naked guys in the Castro run free, you should vote for George Davis, whose sole platform is repealing Scott’s 2012 legislation banning nudity in public.

 

Malia Cohen for District 10 Supervisor

Malia is the only incumbent running for re-election this year with serious opposition. And I kind of feel bad for her – the district she represents is the most diverse in the city. From Potrero Hill to the Bayview, to Dogpatch, Viz Valley and Mission Bay – the district includes rich, poor, new, old, and every ethnic group. In a single day, she will visit the family of a shooting victim, cut the ribbon on a new restaurant on Third Street, and participate in negotiations over a new large-scale real estate development. She’s done a good job of balancing all of these diverse interests, her accomplishments are many, and I think she’s earned a second term.

I don’t dislike like her opponent Tony Kelly. Nice guy, and his heart is in the right place. However, he put out a mailer a few weeks ago saying that Malia is just too darn pretty to be Supervisor – and I thought that was just weird and vaguely sexist. And questions were raised earlier this year about Tony’s financial stewardship of a nonprofit he ran, including a $200,000 loan from the City that his company never repaid. I think Malia deserves re-election, but I’d like to see what Tony can do in four years.

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2011

If you’re like me, you’ve been getting piles and PILES of mailers from the campaigns in the upcoming San Francisco election.  I even got two of the same flyer in one day!  It’s over the top.

Why is this happening? Two reasons: (1) All three candidate races (Mayor, District Attorney, and Sheriff) are competitive, boasting several strong candidates for each office; and (2) San Francisco has a robust public financing program, which has pumped several million dollars into the campaigns, so that they can spend more money on things like, uh, mailers.

Despite this colossal waste of trees, and despite the dramatic claims in those mailers about what will happen if certain campaigns win or lose, this is actually a relatively tame election. Why? Because polarizing figures are out of the picture (I mean you, Gavin Newsom and Chris Daly).  And because the candidates for each office are relatively good-natured, competent leaders, with their hearts in the right place and with some great ideas for governance.

Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly some candidates who are MUCH better than others, with a lot more relevant experience and better priorities, IMO.  In the pages below, I offer my thoughts and suggestions, explanations and advice.  I expect to get some heat for many of the choices I’ve made below, particularly in the Mayor’s race. I say: bring it! If you disagree with me, please comment below.  I love to hear opposing opinions (so long as they are not personal attacks), and other readers will appreciate it too. And if you find this guide useful, please post it on your Facebook page, or email it to your friends and frenemies.

If you want to compare this voter guide with other endorsing organizations, I strongly recommend checking out DemDash. It’s a site that allows you to compare easily various endorsements of groups like democratic clubs, newspapers, and political parties.

At the top is a brief summary, and below you can find more detailed explanations of my endorsements.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an attorney who specializes in municipal law, elections and entertainment law, and a San Francisco progressive whose passions include preserving and promoting nightlife and culture, fighting for economic and social justice, and getting more women elected to office.  I like to boast that I’m the lowest ranking elected official in California, having been elected last year to the governing body of the San Francisco Democratic Party. And I also like long walks on the beach.

Before we begin, I should also mention that I serve as counsel for two of the campaigns I endorse below (Sharmin Bock for District Attorney and Yes on Proposition G), though my support of each of those campaigns predated the campaigns hiring me to do their legal work.  I have not been paid for any aspect of this voter guide.

With those caveats, here are my choices for the November San Francisco election.

Mayor: (1) David Chiu (2) John Avalos (3) Dennis Herrera
District Attorney:
(1) Sharmin Bock (2) David Onek
Sheriff:
(1) Ross Mirkarimi

Proposition A (School Bonds): YES
Proposition B (Street Repaving and Street Safety Bonds):
YES
Proposition C (Pension Reform – Consensus Proposition):
YES
Proposition D (Pension Reform – Adachi Proposition):
NO
Proposition E (Reforming the Initiative Ordinance Process):
YES
Proposition F (Campaign Consultant Ordinance):
NO
Proposition G (Sales Tax):
YES
Proposition H (School District Student Assignment):
NO

MAYOR:

It’s confusing… what do you do when there isn’t a polarizing character in the San Francisco Mayor’s race? Incumbent Mayor Ed Lee is widely considered to be the front-runner. He’s a competent manager with a disarming mustache and many years of experience in city government.  He has also brought openness and a sense of humor to the office. However, he has a serious problem keeping his promises, some of his supporters have been accused of election fraud, and most agree that he takes direction from Willie Brown and Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak.  But he’s no wine mogul who sleeps with his employees, marries B-list actresses and hates the little people.  Ahem. That said, there are several better candidates for Mayor in this race, so why settle for Mr. Not-a-Douche?

But first, can we talk for a second about Joanna Rees? She’s not going to win, but I feel like saying a few words about her candidacy. Rees is the least qualified person on the ballot. She’s Meg Whitman – a lifelong Republican (until recently) who has shown no interest in government until she decided to run. Managing a city with a multi-billion dollar budget and with complicated and unique problems requires a leader with experience in those same problems. We’re talking about complex civil service rules, transparency requirements unique to public officials, public contracting laws, the intricate budgeting process, understanding the nuance of negotiating a legislative agenda… it’s going to take Rees all four years of her term just to get up to speed on these things. Please don’t vote for her.

My choices are (1) David Chiu (2) John Avalos (3) Dennis Herrera. These guys are the most qualified candidates to be Mayor because of their experience, progressive ideals, and ability to cut through the bureaucracy and get things done.

#1 – David Chiu

Chiu is a pragmatist, a progressive, and a really smart guy. He serves as the President of the Board of Supervisors and on the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) with me.  He doesn’t own a car, he rides his bike to City Hall every day, and environmental initiatives are his highest priority.  David has been a great friend to the women’s political organizations in SF, having carried legislation for them for many years. He has made urban agriculture and funding for public art two of his highest priorities. (Yay for public art and urban farming!) At my urging, he came to Burning Man this year for a brief visit, and he loved it; he’s already planning to come to the desert on his own in 2012.

David is an independent thinker, and he often finds himself as the swing vote in Board of Supervisors decisions, because his politics are somewhere in the middle of the Board’s.  This Board, keep in mind, ranges from super-lefty Democrat to moderate Democrat. (That’s right, every single member of the Board votes blue.)

David has been endorsed by the Chronicle (#1), the League of Conservation Voters (#1), the Bicycle Coalition (#2), many labor unions, San Francisco Arts Democratic Club (#3), Supervisors Mar, Kim and Cohen, four members of the school board, among many others.

David caught some heat from the left for supporting Ed Lee’s appointment to complete Newsom’s term as Mayor (See: “It’s on like Donkey Kong!”), and it is probably his biggest regret in his tenure on the Board.  He and Lee were friends for many years, and when the Board was considering appointing Lee as interim Mayor, Lee promised Chiu and others on the Board that he would only serve as a caretaker for the remaining year; that he would not run for a full term. Lee’s decision to renege on this promise was a personal and political betrayal.

I support David because I trust him to do the right thing, because he is great at finding practical solutions to complex problems, and because he is focused on government accountability.  (Here’s his Blueprint for San Francisco if you want to know more about his vision.) And besides, I’d really like for the next Mayor to be a Burner. ; )  Please vote for David as your #1 choice.

#2 – John Avalos.

My second choice for Mayor is John Avalos. This guy tops Ed Lee on the facial-hair-and-likeability index.  He’s also very smart, and he’s got some exciting ideas for San Francisco’s future. He will bring a progressive reform agenda to the Mayor’s office; he understands the plight of the poor, working class families, and small business. He’s also been a vocal supporter of the Occupy movement, staying up with them until 4am on the night the police were supposed to raid the camp. John is the 99%.

Something else I love: John’s life partner Karen Zapata is at the front and center of his campaign. She’s a teacher and activist, his partner in every sense of the word.  John and Karen are raising two kids in the Excelsior, one with special needs. They live and breathe the life of a working family in San Francisco.

John is the most lefty candidate in the race. He serves on DCCC with me and on the Board of Supervisors, representing the oft-neglected District 11 (Excelsior, Ingleside, Outer Mission).  As the progressive thought leader on the Board, Avalos has been a strong voice for bicycling and livable streets, for tenants and labor unions, for urban agriculture, and for a vibrant arts community.  And you have to see his rad bike video.

John has an impressive list of endorsements: San Francisco Democratic Party (#1), the SF Bicycle Coalition (#1) Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club (#1) San Francisco Bay Guardian (#1), League of Pissed Off Voters (#1), Dog PAC (#1), SF Arts Democratic Club (#2), Sierra Club (#2), League of Conservation Voters (#3), Assembly member Tom Ammiano, and many labor unions. This many lefties can’t be wrong! Vote for Avalos #2.

#3 – Dennis Herrera.

It can’t be easy to run for Mayor as City Attorney, particularly when you are running against half of your clients in City government, but Dennis is doing a good job of navigating the ethical minefields. Dennis is known to be a good manager, a top notch City Attorney, and an innovator in government. Part of me doesn’t want to endorse him because I’d really like for him to stay on as City Attorney.

He is endorsed by many of the organizations I care about, including San Francisco Women’s Political Committee (#1), SF Arts Democratic Club (#1), San Francisco Labor Council (#1), League of Conservation Voters (#2), San Francisco Democratic Party (#2), San Francisco Bay Guardian (#2), Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club (#2), and many, many more.

Dennis walks the walk. He has won all of those endorsements because of his many years in the trenches fighting for each of the constituencies that these groups represent, from women (see: battling the Bush administration over abortion records), to environmentalists (see: suing to shut down polluting power plant). And he has worked tirelessly to make marriage equality a reality in California. Vote for Dennis.

District Attorney: (1) Sharmin Bock (2) David Onek

Incumbent George Gascon made a good police chief. He has decades of experience, he brought professionalism to the SFPD, he is very personable, and has a long history of standing up for immigrants in the criminal justice system. But he is a bad fit for District Attorney.

When then-Mayor Newsom appointing Gascon as District Attorney, it had the intended effect: it surprised the political elite and frustrated his adversaries. We all wondered, “Does he have a law degree? Did he pass the bar? Has he ever practiced law?” It was very confusing. [The answers are yes, yes, and no]. The switch to DA created all kinds of conflicts of interest, particularly in police misconduct cases. Can we trust that the former police chief is going to aggressively prosecute misconduct cases? Will he be transparent about accusations made against his former colleagues? Is he going to be an objective judge of the credibility of officers who testify in cases brought by the DA’s office? Absolutely not. The fox is guarding the henhouse.

#1 – Sharmin Bock.

My choice is Sharmin Bock.  A career prosecutor, Bock has spent decades working on crimes against women and children, she has extensive experience managing several divisions within the DA’s Office in Alameda County.  This point bears repeating: Sharmin has 22 years of experience prosecuting crimes and managing other prosecutors. She is the only candidate in this race with this kind of experience.

Sharmin has an extraordinary 95% conviction rate in felony cases brought to trial.  She has led the way in focusing public attention on and prosecuting the purchase of children for sex. Though she has good working relationships with police officers, she believes it is vital that the DA and the police be entirely independent of one another so that the public can be assured of police transparency and accountability.

Sharmin has been endorsed by lots of people and organizations I care about, including the Sierra Club, SF Women’s Political Committee, Bay Area Lawyers For Individual Freedom (BALIF), African American Democratic Club, EMILY’s List, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club (#2), SF Democratic Party (#2), San Francisco Bay Guardian (#2), SF Arts Democratic Club (#2), SF League of Conservation Voters (#2), San Francisco League of Young Voters (#2), Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Supervisors Cohen, Mar and Mirkarimi.  For more about her campaign, go here. Please vote for Sharmin!

#2 – David Onek

Like Gascon, Onek has also never prosecuted a case. He is a progressive and a smart guy who has made a career of thinking about criminal justice issues.  Onek understands that the criminal justice system is broken, and that the entire system needs to change.  It bothers me that he has no experience working as a prosecutor, but he would be a better DA than the incumbent.

Onek’s endorsement list is long and impressive, and includes dozens of law enforcement professionals, elected officials and organizations, including outgoing Sheriff Mike Hennessey; Assemblymember Tom Ammiano; Supervisors Chiu, Avalos, Chu, and Mar; six members of the school board, the SF Democratic Party, the California Police Chiefs Association, SF Bay Guardian, several unions, SF League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, SF Young Democrats, SF League of Young Voters, SF Arts Democratic Club.

Sheriff: (1) Ross Mirkarimi

Retiring Sheriff Mike Hennessey has done a great job. He’s been Sheriff for over 30 years, and has implemented many innovative reforms to the City’s jail system, such as creating the country’s first charter high school within the jails.  He has handled evictions in a humane way, he has held his deputies to a high standard of behavior, and he has done great work in reducing recidivism and providing alternatives to incarceration.

Hennessey has endorsed Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi to replace him as Sheriff. The two have much in common; both are progressives and reformers. They both think outside the box when it comes to how law enforcement can prevent crime and reduce recidivism, not just penalize criminals. Ross is the candidate best situated to carry Hennessey’s legacy forward.

What’s interesting about Mike Hennessey is that he had no law enforcement experience going into the job; he was a civil rights attorney before being elected. By contrast, Mirkarimi has extensive law enforcement experience, having graduated from the Police Academy, where he was president of his class, and having worked as an investigator in the DA’s office for nearly a decade.

Ross represents a district with many crime-related challenges (Western Addition, Haight, Fillmore) and he has spent much of his tenure on the Board of Supervisors focused on public safety issues. He personally appeared at every homicide scene, pushed for community policing and for organizing the community around crime — and he delivered the first veto override of Mayor Newsom’s career over forcing the police to use foot patrols in high crime neighborhoods.

Ross is endorsed by just about everybody: Sierra Club, San Francisco Democratic Party, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, SF Tenants Union, San Francisco Women’s Political Committee, San Francisco Arts Democratic Club, San Francisco for Democracy, African American Democratic Club, Latino Democratic Club, San Francisco Young Democrats, League of Pissed Off Voters, San Francisco Labor Council, Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymembers Fiona Ma and Tom Ammiano, Supervisors Mar, Kim, Campos, Avalos.  For more about his candidacy, go here. Please vote for Ross!

Proposition A (School Bond): YES

Yes, I know. It seems like we are asked to approve a school bond in every single election. Why? Because California’s budget process is bleeding schools to death, and this is really the only way local school districts are able to make capital improvements. Sad.

The $531 million new bond will go towards upgrading the seismic safety of 50 of 140 schools in the district, and it will require homeowners to pay about $21 per $100,000 of assessed value every year until the bond is paid off.  If you are not a homeowner, frankly you have nothing to lose in voting yes. You don’t have to pay for it, and the money will improve these schools significantly. I’m a (child-free) homeowner, and I’m voting yes because improving school quality in San Francisco makes it easier for families to stay here, it improves my property value, and because $21 is a small price to pay for seismically safer school facilities. Every member of the school board signed the ballot argument for this one, and it has been endorsed by just about everybody I care about. Vote YES.

Proposition B (Street Repaving and Street Safety Bond): YES

If you ride a bike or a scooter, you know that pavement quality in the City is horrible and dangerous. If Prop B passes, the new $248 million bond will accelerate major streetscape enhancements for biking, walking, and transit. It will make it easier to obtain grants from federal, state, and local agencies, and it will fund other badly needed infrastructure work. The Bike Coalition supports it, and so do I.

But one thing bothers me: City streets are supposed to be maintained by the general fund as a part of the City’s normal maintenance budget. Paying for this by way of a bond sets a really bad precedent. However, the City’s financial situation is dire, and delaying street repair can lead to exponentially higher costs down the road (not to mention the safety hazards), and so all things considered, the city will be worse off if B fails.  Vote YES.

Proposition C (Pension Reform – Consensus Measure): YES
Proposition D (Pension Reform – Adachi Measure):
NO

Everyone agrees: San Francisco’s pension liability is a huge cause for concern.  While pension costs are rapidly increasing, the investment funds that support them are being decimated by the economy.  By 2013, the Department of Human Resources estimates that pensions are going to constitute 52% of the City’s payroll expenses. And according to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco owes $4.476 billion in pensions to its employees but can only afford to pay three-quarters of that cost. Yikes!

How did we get into this mess? Because during the fat years, city management offered increasingly better and better retirement options and benefits to city workers to improve the quality of employees they could attract, and to make the unions happy. The promise to a new city employee was: Take a pay cut to come work for the public sector now, and we’ll take care of you after you retire. I know, I was one of these public employees who took that deal.

Then, the City’s pension investment fund took a $4 billion hit in 2008, and the City was forced to start contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to pension costs using its annual revenues that pay for basic services such as police, fire, parks and roads. So here we are. With battling pension reform measures that we need to decide between.

Propositions C and D present voters with two different pension reform options. If both propositions receive a majority vote, the one with the most votes will go into effect.

Prop C is called the “consensus” measure because it was the product of a collaborative effort by Mayor Lee, the Labor Council AND the Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Supervisors. It requires all City workers to pay a higher percentage of their salary into their own pensions – 2.3% to 12.5%, depending on the type of job and the City’s future investment successes. It also requires recent and future employees to contribute a percentage of their salaries into their retirement health plan.

Proposition D, by contrast, was written by Public Defender Jeff Adachi with little or no input from the City’s managers or organized labor. It will save the city $50 million more a year than Proposition C. It will require a higher contribution percentage across the board, and it will set a $140,000 cap on the total annual pension payout to any employee. Prop D does not address how the city handles health care for retired workers.

Labor strongly opposes D, and it will be a much more difficult burden to bear for most public employees, who have already taken many hits in recent years, including cuts to pay and benefits, and increases in workloads as the City has been laying off workers. Believe me, it is very difficult to be a public employee in the current environment. Please vote YES on C and No on D.

Proposition E (Reforming the Initiative Ordinance Process): YES

The ballot measure system is seriously flawed.  If the voters approve a law by ballot measure, that law can’t be amended except by going back to the voters.  This makes it nearly impossible to amend the law in many cases, and burdensome on voters who shouldn’t have to vote on a law every time it needs tweaking.

Because of the way the ballot measure system is set up, the City’s municipal code is a patchwork including dozens of crazy unworkable (and sometimes unenforceable) laws.  Prop E is an important reform to the way in which voters can make law, and coming from a person whose job it is to interpret the municipal code, I tell you this measure is a breath of fresh air.

If it is approved, Prop E will make the following changes:

  • For the first three years after a measure is approved, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will not be able to amend it.
  • In years four to seven after the law is passed, the Board will be able to amend or repeal a measure with a 2/3 vote.
  • After seven years, the measure will be amendable or repealable by a simple majority vote of the Board of Supervisors.

Prop E does not apply to any past voter-approved measures. It will only apply, if it is approved, to ballot measures adopted in the future. Sometimes laws have unintended consequences that need fixing, or they need a little tweaking to make them more workable. This law allows the Board of Supes to do the fixing and tweaking, and to remove provisions ruled illegal or unenforceable by the courts.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, SPUR (the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association), and the Chronicle support Prop E. It is opposed by the San Francisco Democratic Party, the Bay Guardian, Supervisor John Avalos and former Ethics Commissioner Eileen Hansen. They each say that Supervisor Wiener, the measure’s sponsor, hasn’t provided an adequate explanation as to why the law is needed, and that the democratic process is fine the way it is.  I disagree! This reform is a modest and thoughtful one, and it includes protections against abuse by future lawmakers. I suspect that much of the opposition is due to political biases against Supervisor Wiener, and due to fears that he has a particular law or laws in mind that he wants to change. Sup. Wiener is a former Deputy City Attorney, and I’ve spoken with him at length about his motivations – I think he genuinely wants to make the Municipal Code easier to use.

Reduce the size of future ballots, and allow City government to operate more efficiently.  Please vote yes on E.

Proposition F (Campaign Consultant Ordinance): No?

Prop F asks you whether you want to modify the law that sets reporting rules for local political consultants.  The San Francisco Ethics Commission, which is in charge of administering rules governing political consultants, asked for the changes.

Under the existing law, consultants are required to register if they earn $1,000 or more a year on political consulting (which is nothing, IMO). Under Prop F, that threshold would be raised $5,000 in annual consulting income (which is still very low). These changes are fine by me because it really won’t change the number of people registering as consultants. However, the new law would also allow the Ethics Commission to make any other changes it wants in the future.  In the words of Supervisor Wiener, the measure’s sponsor, “We don’t want to have to go back to voters and ask whether consultants should file every month or every three months.”  Sounds good, except that I’m not so sure the Ethics Commission can be trusted – it is not elected, but appointed by the very elected officials who would probably do away with the registration law if they had the chance. Unlike Prop E, this measure doesn’t include the same safeguards in exchange for taking away the voters’ power to make amend this law.

Prop F is supported by Supervisor Wiener, SPUR, and the Chamber of Commerce.  Environmental groups and lefty organizations like the Sierra Club, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the San Francisco Democratic Party oppose it. So does Assembly member Tom Ammiano, who drafted the original law.

I’m all for streamlining government (see Prop E above), but I think this measure goes a little too far.

Proposition G (Sales Tax): YES

The next few paragraphs are very dry and involve math, so bear with me.

At the beginning of the year, the sales tax in SF was 9.5%.  It is now 8.5% because state lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether to extend a 1% temporary sales tax that expired June 30. Letting that 1% expire means less money coming from Sacramento for cities and counties.  (If you haven’t been paying attention, in the last few years the state government has been starving city and county governments by imposing new fees on them and refusing to pass along monies that the localities used to depend on for basic services).

So the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors put Prop G on the ballot to increase the local sales tax rate by 0.5% to make up some of that revenue loss – and it will pump approximately $60 million back into the City’s general fund. The sponsors say the money will go toward public safety, children’s services and programs for seniors.  AND – if Sacramento acts to raise the California sales tax by 1% sometime before November 30, or by 0.75% by January 2016, this new local sales tax hike will be scrapped. If it’s not scrapped, the increase will expire after 10 years.

The City needs the money really badly. And the new tax doesn’t even take us back to where it was earlier this year. Yes, OK, it’s regressive – meaning, poor people are hurt more by this tax than the rich.  But I honestly don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference to people’s pocketbooks – if it passes, it will add 5 cents to your next $10 purchase.  And $60 million WILL make a big difference to the services that the City is able to provide. Vote yes.

Proposition H (School District Student Assignment): NO

Prop H is based on a fallacy: that every San Francisco family wants their kid to go to the school that is closest to their home. If Prop H is approved, it will become an official policy of the City of San Francisco to encourage the school district to give the highest priority to assigning each student to the school closest to where they live. And I understand the premise: that families are leaving SF in large numbers because their kids are being bused across town.  And yet proximity is only one of many factors in a family’s school choice, and this premise ignores the many complicated factors that go into school preferences.

The teachers union and every member of the school board oppose Prop H, and for good reason: this measure only helps those families who live in neighborhoods with good schools. And it punishes those who live in poor neighborhoods and/or near underperforming schools.  Moreover, there are lots of different kinds of schools to choose from, depending on your child’s interests and abilities. Even if you live near a “good” school, you still might want your kid to go somewhere else. As if that weren’t enough, the measure is badly written, and will encourage school reassignments to happen in the middle of the school year if it passes. Prop H is just a bad idea all around. Please vote NO.