Big Ol’ Voter Guide – June 2016

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

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

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

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

President – #DumpTrump

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

US Senate – Kamala Harris

Future Governor Kamala Devi Harris

Attorney General Kamala Devi Harris

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

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

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

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

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

US Congress, District 12 – Nancy Pelosi

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

US Congress, District 14 – Jackie Speier

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

State Senator, District 11 – Scott Wiener

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

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

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

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

State Assembly, AD-17 – David Chiu

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

State Assembly, AD-19 – Phil Ting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judge – Paul Henderson

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

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

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Paul Henderson

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


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

State Proposition 50 – Suspension of Legislators – No

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

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Former Senator Leland Yee is serving time for corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

The money would be spent like this:

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

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

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Will this building be safe if the Big One hits?

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

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

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

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

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

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Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prop C Sponsors, Supervisors Kim and Peskin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF Proposition D – Investigations of All Police Shootings – YESSSSSS

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

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Prop D Sponsor, Supervisor Malia Cohen

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

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

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

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

SF Proposition E – Amending Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – Yes

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

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

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

Regional Measure AA – San Francisco Bay Improvements – Yes!

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

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

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

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




Reform the DCCC!

Friends –

My proposal to reform the San Francisco Democratic Party is coming back to the DCCC at our meeting tomorrow, April 13.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the survival of the party hangs in the balance. There are 21 current and former elected officials running for the DCCC in this election (for 24 seats), and these folks have little time to do important work such as registering new voters, chartering Democratic clubs, and running the endorsements process.  If we don’t expand the party to include more grassroots members, there will be no one serving on the DCCC to do this important party-building work. Besides, there are 60 candidates running for these seats – let’s widen the tent and let more of them serve!

I have refined my proposal to make sure it accommodates many of the members’ concerns. The current draft will: (1) make the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors ex officio members; (2) grandfather in Supervisors Mar, Campos, Cohen and Wiener, who are currently members of the DCCC, allowing them to serve full four-year terms instead of becoming ex officios; (3) creating seven new seats on the DCCC (4 in AD 17, 3 in AD 19); (4) making the changes effective after the June election takes place; and (5) filling all vacancies with the next highest vote getters in the June election.

For my fellow political nerds out there, here’s the text of the proposed bylaws change:

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsor:  Alix Rosenthal

Attachment A

Proposed Bylaws Amendment

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



  1. Ex Officio members shall consist of the following:
    A. Any Democrat who is elected or otherwise designated to serve, or who is serving in the following elected offices representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part: (1) Assemblyperson (2) State Senator (3)  Congressperson (4) United States Senator  (5) Mayor (6)  Members of the Board of Supervisors  (7)  State Constitutional Officers


Section 1:  MEMBERSHIP


  1. Elected Members from Assembly Districts representing the City and County of San Francisco in whole or in part. The number of Elected Members and specific Assembly Districts are determined by provisions of the California Elections Code, California State District lines, and Federal Census data as follows: 17 members elected in the 17th Assembly District, and 13 members elected in the 19th Assembly District. This Section 1(a)(1) takes effect after the June 2016 election is certified.

Attachment B

Proposed Amendment to Policies & Procedures Manual

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


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

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

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

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

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

1.2 After the June election results are certified, and Bylaws Article II, Section 1(a)(1) becomes effective to create 7 new seats on the SFDCCC, those seats will be filled with the next highest vote getters in their respective races, after the vacancies in Section §1.1 herein are filled.


1.2  If at the June 2016 election, members are elected to the SFDCCC who currently serve on the Board of Supervisors and who will be ineligible to run for re-election to the Board of Supervisors in 2016 or 2018 those members will not automatically become ex officiomembers, but may choose to remain as independently elected members in order to serve a 4-year term on the SFDCCC. If any such member chooses to remain as an independently-elected member, and their membership status does not change, no vacancy will be created.




DCCC Proposal in the SF Chronicle

SF Chronicle Columnist Chuck Nevius gave a bit of ink to my proposal to reform the DCCC. neviusHe writes:

Give me a D, give me a triple C: There was a time when San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee was a good place for newcomers to politics to dip a toe into the political process and build some credibility.

Not this year. Some of the biggest names in local politics are in the race for the June 8 election. That includes every sitting Board of Supervisors member except Katy Tang and John Avalos.

“What we’ve learned,” says DCCC Treasurer Tom Hsieh, “is that if you have a name you tend to win. If the ballot went forward today, we could have nine of 11 supervisors on the DCCC.”

That’s not to mention three school board members, two community college board members, one former state Assembly member and two former supervisors. And don’t forget California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. For a 24-person committee, that’s a lot of big names.

Naturally, there’s been a lot of complaining that the fix is in and that newly elected Supervisor Aaron Peskin is trying to pull a fast one by stocking the DCCC with progressives. And there’s also concern from members like Alix Rosenthal that “without grassroots activists there will be nobody to do the actual work. These people will show up at meetings and that’s it.”

It sounds like another of those circular debates that ends up with two sides yelling, “I’m not, you are!” for days. But in a surprisingly thoughtful moment, Rosenthal has come up with a good compromise.

She proposed that the elected supervisors automatically get a place, called an “ex officio” seat, just like state senators, Assembly members and U.S. senators and representatives. Rosenthal’s measure would then add 12 seats, 11 for the supervisors and one for the mayor, so there would be a chance for less-experienced politicians.

The measure was proposed last week and despite needing a two-thirds majority, it fell just one vote short. Rosenthal says she’s bringing it back.

“Who knew a volunteer position could be so exciting?” Hsieh said.

The entire column may be found here.

Endorsed by Senator Mark Leno!

Mark_Leno_at_2010_NCCBF_Grand_Parade_2010-04-18_4I am thrilled to announce that my campaign has been endorsed by California State Senator Mark Leno! I have a deep respect for Senator Leno – he and I share a passion for preserving nightlife culture, protecting the environment, and promoting marriage equality.

Recently he has announced legislation that would protect bees in California from harmful pesticides. Check it out.

His endorsement means a lot to me. Thank you, Senator!

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2015

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


Yikes! Really?

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

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

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

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

Mayor: Ed Lee

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

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

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

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

Sheriff: Vicki Hennessey

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

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

Community College Board: Alex Randolph

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

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

District 3 Supervisor: Julie Christensen

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

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

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

Prop A: Affordable Housing Bond – YES!

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

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

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

Prop C: Expand Lobbyist Ordinance – NO

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

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

Prop D: Mission Rock – YES!

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

Prop E: Remote Testimony in Public Meetings – NOOOOOO!

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

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

Rush Limbaugh wants you to vote for Prop E

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop I: Mission Housing Moratorium – YES!

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.37.56 PM

Boundaries of the Proposed Mission Moratorium

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

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

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

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

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

Prop J: Legacy Businesses – Yes

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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





The Anti-Anti-Vaxxer Legislation

It’s inconceivable to me that we are in this mess. Childhood vaccines in the United States have been proven, over the course of decades, to be a safe and effective method for eradicating certain diseases. Some of these diseases – polio, smallpox, whooping cough – are truly horrible illnesses that you wouldn’t wish on your worst frenemy.

And yet thousands of California families are choosing to forego or delay giving their children their shots. In most states, children without the full complement of vaccinations are not allowed to enroll in school. But in California, parents can enroll their unvaccinated children if they file a form stating their “personal belief” against vaccines. This “personal belief exemption” is why thousands of school age children are not fully vaccinated, and why hundreds of Americans have contracted the measles this year after coming into contact with them.

State Senator Richard Pan has authored a bill that would Anti-vaxxeliminate the personal belief exemption in California, and I have written the below resolution for the San Francisco Democratic Party supporting both this legislation and the notion that personal belief exemptions have got to go.

The meeting at which it will be considered will be held at 7pm on Wednesday, March 25 at the Milton Marks Auditorium, 455 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco. Join us!

Resolution of the San Francisco Democratic Party
Calling for the Elimination of the Personal Belief Exemption for Vaccinations

WHEREAS, vaccinations have global, state, and local public health benefits and are an evidence-based and effective method for controlling and even eradicating preventable diseases. State laws mandate that children be immunized before attending school in all states; however, twenty-one states, including California, currently allow personal belief exemptions from those laws. More than a quarter of the schools in California have measles immunization rates that fall below the 92-94% that the Centers for Disease Control claims is necessary to maintain “herd immunity,” and recent outbreaks of the measles in California have highlighted for many Californians the necessity of vaccinating school-age children. Many children and adults are unable to receive vaccinations due to their own compromised immune systems, due to cancer or immune-suppressant medications, and these people’s lives are at risk when they come into contact with these diseases; and

WHEREAS, studies show that vaccination rates are inversely correlated with ease of obtaining an exemption – when, in 2014, California required parents to obtain a doctor’s note to opt out of vaccinating, the overall opt-out rate dipped from 3.15 percent to 2.54 percent, an indication that increasing the stringency of the personal belief exemption requirements positively impacts public health; and

WHEREAS, State Senator Richard Pan, along with co-authors Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, introduced Senate Bill 277, which will require that only children who have been immunized for specific diseases, including measles, be admitted to school in California;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party supports the elimination of the personal belief exemption for the vaccination of school-age children in order to benefit public health by reducing and eliminating preventable infectious diseases and to protect those who are medically unable to be vaccinated; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the San Francisco Democratic Party supports Senate Bill 277 repealing the personal belief exemption for vaccines.

Sponsors: Alix Rosenthal, Scott Wiener, Hene Kelly, Leah Pimentel, Kelly Dwyer

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
(1) Ross Mirkarimi

Proposition A (School Bonds): YES
Proposition B (Street Repaving and Street Safety Bonds):
Proposition C (Pension Reform – Consensus Proposition):
Proposition D (Pension Reform – Adachi Proposition):
Proposition E (Reforming the Initiative Ordinance Process):
Proposition F (Campaign Consultant Ordinance):
Proposition G (Sales Tax):
Proposition H (School District Student Assignment):


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):

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.