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.

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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.