Alix’s Voter Guide – SF Ballot, November 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

US House (CA-14) – Jackie Speier

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

Assembly, District 17 – David Chiu

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

Assembly, District 19 – Phil Ting

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Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu

Ting is running virtually unopposed.

Assessor Recorder – Carmen Chu

Chu is running virtually unopposed.

Public Defender – Jeff Adachi

Adachi is running unopposed.

Supervisor, District 2 – Catherine Stefani

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

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Supervisor Stefani with Moms Demand Action

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

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

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

Supervisor, District 4 –Trevor McNeil

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

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Trevor McNeil and his family

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

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

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

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

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

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Matt Haney (photo: San Francisco Magazine)

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

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

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

Supervisor, District 8  – Rafael Mandelman

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

Supervisor, District 10 – Shamann Walton

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Shamann Walton (photo: SF Chronicle)

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

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

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

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

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

BART Board (District 8) – Melanie Nutter

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Melanie Nutter

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

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

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

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

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

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Thea Selby

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

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

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

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

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

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Michelle Parker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alida Fisher and her family

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

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

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Monica Chinchilla

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

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

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Mia Satya: Badass

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

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

PROPOSITION A – SEAWALL EARTHQUAKE SAFETY – YES

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

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

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

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

Who opposes it: Libertarian Party of San Francisco

PROPOSITION B – CITY PRIVACY GUIDELINES – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who opposes it: SF Chronicle, SF Examiner

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo: San Francisco Business Times

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

Arguments in favor of Prop C:

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

Arguments against Prop C:

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

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

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

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

PROPOSITION D – CANNABIS BUSINESS TAX – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposition E – Arts and Cultural Allocation – Yes

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

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

The arguments in favor of Prop E:

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

The one really good argument against Prop E:

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

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

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

— President Barack Obama

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. Representative, District 12 – Pelosi

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

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

U.S. Representative, District 14 – Speier

Incumbent Jackie Speier has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17 – Chiu

Incumbent David Chiu has no credible opposition.

Member of the State Assembly, District 19 – Ting

Incumbent Phil Ting has no credible opposition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor – Breed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 8 – Mandelman

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

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

SF Proposition A – yes

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

SF Proposition B – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF Proposition E – YES

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

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

SF Proposition F – yes

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

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

SF Proposition G – yes

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

SF Proposition H – NO!

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

SF Proposition I – NO

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

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

 

 

Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, June 2018

Hello! Long time no talk. It’s been 19 months since the last election and it was nice to get some time off from campaign life.

There are some exciting decisions to be made in the upcoming election here in California. All of the statewide officers are up – Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, all the way down to the Board of Equalization. Senator Dianne Feinstein and every member of Congress and the state Assembly are up for election. Remember: this is a “Top Two” open primary, meaning all of the Republicans and Democrats appear on your ballot in June, and then the first and second place finishers – regardless of party – will move on to the November General Election.

Everyone in my world is predicting that 2018 is going to be another Year of the Woman: unprecedented numbers of women are running for office this year, and it’s about time. In the first election following Trump’s inauguration, the #metoo movement, and the women’s marches, I’d like to see some progress in making our government look more like America. Luckily, there are some great female candidates on the June ballot.

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

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

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

With that said, let’s dig in.

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang
Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis
Secretary of State – Padilla
Controller – Yee
Treasurer – Ma
Attorney General – Becerra
Insurance Commissioner  – Lara
Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen
U.S. Senator – Feinstein
State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond
Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 70 – No
Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes
Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!
Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Governor – Newsom, Eastin, or Chiang

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has a solid lead in this race, and so the June election is really just about seeing who will make it into the top two to face Newsom in the November election.

The other Democrats include Antonio Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles; John Chiang, the state treasurer; and Delaine Eastin, the former superintendent of public education. The two main Republican candidates are John Cox, a business executive endorsed by President Trump, and Travis Allen, a State Assembly member who has stayed in the race despite having been found to have sexually harassed a staffer. Ugh.  If you’re reading this voter guide, I can assume you won’t vote for a Trump supporter or a sexual harasser, so I won’t even bother analyzing Cox and Allen for you.

The Dems aren’t that far apart from each other on issues like the environment, education, universal preschool, housing and homelessness. They all (except for Villaraigosa) support universal health care and agree that high speed rail is a good idea, but are wary about how the state is going to pay for both of these very expensive initiatives.

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 9.53.17 PM.png

Delaine Eastin

Newsom has more experience, vision and charisma than the other candidates. As Lt. Governor, he has had a front row seat to the workings of the Capitol, and having served as SF Mayor, he is sympathetic to the plight of big cities, particularly on homelessness and housing issues. I had some problems with his work as Mayor (see: ending Halloween in the Castro), and I think his flip-flop on California’s high speed rail project is problematic. And he’s going to make it into the top two anyway, so let’s look at his opponents.

Having met John Chiang (pronounced “Chung”) on a number of occasions, I can tell you he is genuine, hard working, and wonky.  I really like him. He doesn’t have the star power of a Newsom or Villaraigosa, and that’s probably why his campaign isn’t attracting the high level donors and endorsers. Which is too bad, I think he’d make a great governor.

Villaraigosa has been focused on winning the Central Valley vote, visiting the region more times than the other candidates combined. I haven’t been hearing much about his campaign, but that’s because I live in SF, and it seems that Villaraigosa has conceded my vote to Newsom.

Delaine Eastin is the only female candidate in the race, and she is also smart and has some good ideas for California, but the last time she held elective office was 15 years ago, and voters probably don’t remember anything about her. All things being equal, I’ll vote for the qualified woman in the race, since only 6 states in the US have female governors, and um, it’s 2018.

Lieutenant Governor – Kounalakis

The main job of the lieutenant governor is being ready to serve as Governor should something terrible happen to him (yes, it has always been a him).  There are a few substantive roles the Lt. Gov. plays, though, such as UC Regent, Trustee for the California State University system, State Lands Commissioner and chair of the California Commission for Economic Development. Whoever holds the seat can also use the position as a bully pulpit, taking on whatever issues matter to them. It’s a pretty sweet gig, actually.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 9.57.55 PM

In this year’s election there are three viable Democratic candidates for the job, and you really can’t lose with whichever one you pick. Eleni Kounalakis was US Ambassador to Hungary, and while she has never held elected office, she has been a Democratic activist for many years, and she has amassed a pile of endorsements from people and organizations I personally care about (Senator Kamala Harris, women’s groups, etc.). She plans on using the Lt Governor’s office to draw attention to the equal pay and equal treatment of women in the workplace. Huzzah!

Jeff Bleich, the former US Ambassador to Australia, is also in the mix, with the endorsement of the Chronicle, Congresswoman Jackie Speier and a few others. Dr. Ed Hernandez is the only candidate who has electoral experience, having served in the State Assembly and the State Senate, and he has the endorsements of labor and many organizations.  Since I’d like to see more women in public office, and Kounalakis seems capable, I’m with her.

Secretary of State – Padilla

Incumbent Alex Padilla is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. He cleared the field because he has done a good job of modernizing the Secretary of State’s office, increasing voter registration and protecting voter rights.

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Controller – Yee

Incumbent Betty Yee is endorsed by everybody and is running virtually unopposed. She stuck her neck out for the state’s cannabis industry, long before it became legal for recreational purposes, and she has always been a fierce advocate for women’s rights and undocumented Californians. Vote for Betty.

Treasurer – Ma

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.03.32 PMFiona Ma is a CPA, a former member and chair of the state Board of Equalization, and she has the endorsement of everybody, including the California Democratic Party. She is supporting a bill to create a banking system for cannabis, which would allow the state to collect millions of dollars in additional tax revenue. Her work in rooting out nepotism and questionable accounting practices at the Board of Equalization has received widespread praise. Her main opponent is Vivek Viswanathan, who has never held public office, and he can’t seem to scrape many endorsements together.

Attorney General – Becerra

Two Democrats are the front runners in this race: Incumbent Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. Becerra was appointed Attorney General by Governor Brown to replace Kamala Harris when she was elected Senator. Dave Jones, who currently serves as Insurance Commissioner, is running a strong campaign against Becerra. And while the two Republican candidates are long shots, if Jones and Becerra split the Democratic vote, it’s possible that a Republican could make it into the top two if they unify the party.

Attorney General Becerra has made headlines for himself by suing the Trump administration on several fronts, most notably immigration. Jones is equally as aggressive, having served as a fierce consumer advocate as Insurance Commissioner. Both men have distinguished records, and share similar positions on the issues that matter to Democrats in California.

Jones is very smart and I’ve been impressed with his dedication to public service. After graduating with a law degree and a degree in public policy from Harvard, he worked at legal aid for years, and then three years in the Clinton Justice Department. Although… he is a white dude, and we don’t need any more of those in office. (Sorry white dudes, you’ve had your turn).

Insurance Commissioner  – Lara

One year ago, I wrote a column in the Examiner about what it would take to get single payer health care in California. The bill I wrote about – S.B. 562 – would have helped bring universal health care to our state, and its author, Senator Ricardo Lara, is now running for state Insurance Commissioner to stand up to insurance companies and continue his work on developing a single payer system. Which I think is WAY overdue (although it’s going to be very expensive).

Lara’s main opponent, businessman Steve Poizner, is a former Republican, now running as an independent. He previously served as Insurance Commissioner in 2006, and says he will concentrate on prosecuting insurance fraud (read: defending insurance companies against the little guy) and improving coverage for natural disasters. Poizner opposes universal health care.

Member, State Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Cohen

California’s Board of Equalization (BOE) is the only elected tax board in the country. The BOE oversees property taxation collected locally by county tax collectors, and sets “fair market value” of public utility property including buildings, land, structures, improvements, fixtures, and personal property.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.28.15 AMThis race is between two women: Supervisor Malia Cohen from San Francisco, and State Senator Cathleen Galgiani from Stockton.  Senator Galgiani chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and she is a moderate Central Valley Democrat. She comes from an agricultural region, and her perspective and her campaign promises are pro-farming and pro-business.

Malia Cohen is a progressive Democrat from the big city, she has a track record of taking on the special interests and big corporations (see: Big Soda and Big Tobacco). I know Malia personally, and I can tell you that she is smart, and she has integrity and a fearlessness that I admire. The Board of Equalization has faced serious allegations of misconduct, including misallocation of tax payers dollars, widespread nepotism, and questionable spending. Malia has the tenacity to root out the causes of these problems, and she will hold people accountable for them.

U.S. Senator – Feinstein

Many of Dianne Feinstein’s critics think that she is too stodgy and bipartisan. In August 2017 she called for patience with Trump saying that “he could be a good president.” (Gah!) After those comments, the backlash she felt was fierce, and it inspired State Senator Kevin DeLeon to file to run against her. DeLeon was hoping Senator Feinstein would retire or be weakened by the resurgence of progressive activists in the form of the Resistance movement.Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.06.28 PM

DeLeon’s candidacy clearly lit a fire under her because Feinstein has since become a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies. She is also a strong supporter of gun control laws and has introduced legislation to ban bump stocks. I think she is worth keeping around,  because she has a deep knowledge of the judiciary and international relations, and has seniority on key committees. But kudos to DeLeon for pulling Feinstein to the left and reminding her that California is, and must remain, at the front lines of the Resistance.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Thurmond

This race is between Assemblymember Tony Thurmond from the East Bay, and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive from Los Angeles.

Tuck is a former investment banker and a charter school advocate, and he ran against incumbent Tom Torlakson in 2014. As I said back then, I think charter schools threaten to drain the public school system of its high achieving students, leaving underperforming students in the dust. (See this great article by Paul Buchheit on the subject).

Thurmond is the real deal. He has served as a social worker helping foster kids, truants and the developmentally disabled. Unlike Tuck, he has held government positions for many years, on the school board and the city council in Richmond. As an elected member of the state Assembly, he has made improving public education his top priority. This experience will help him pull the levers of government to support the public schools, and get them the funding that they so desperately need.

Statewide Proposition 68 – Yes

This measure would authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects. For perspective, keep in mind that the state’s overall budget was $190.3 billion this year.

Given how hard climate change is already hitting our state (See: wildfires, floods, longer droughts, shrinking snowpack), this measure is critically important. Every single environmental organization in California supports it, as well as every major newspaper, and a few powerful Chambers of Commerce. The only serious opposition is from people who hate taxes generally. Vote yes.

Statewide Proposition 69 – Yes

Prop 69 is a Constitutional amendment requiring that all tax revenues from the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, enacted by the legislature last year, be dedicated for transportation-related purposes. This is a SUUUPER technical measure having to do with state budgeting, and the “Gann limit” of 1978, which determines how state and local budgets are calculated. You can dig into the details here, or you can just vote yes to make sure that the gas taxes you pay will not be diverted by future legislatures into other non-transportation related funds. Also, it has no formal opposition. 

Statewide Proposition 70 – No

Ballot measures like this make me so mad. They require a graduate degree to understand them, and they illustrate how broken our ballot measure system is. Prop 70 is a Constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the California State Legislature to use revenue from the State Air Resources Board’s auctioning or sale of greenhouse gas emissions allowances under the state’s cap-and-trade program, which vote would need to take place sometime in 2024 or later. Requiring a 2/3 majority in the state Legislature simply gives Republicans the power to decide how cap-and-trade funds are allocated.

Not sure why this is on the ballot now, except that Jerry Brown promised to put it on there and he’s about to retire. He is one of the very few supporters of the measure, and all of the environmental organizations have lined up against it. Vote no.

Statewide Proposition 71 – Yes

Today, when a ballot measure is approved by the voters in California, it goes into effect the day after the election. That’s nuts, because the Secretary of State doesn’t even certify that the election results are valid until a month after the election takes place. In very close elections, a ballot measure could go into effect before all the ballots are counted! A yes vote on Prop 70 will correct this problem, moving the effective date of ballot propositions from the day after election day to the fifth day after the election results are certified. This one is easy. There is no formal opposition.

Statewide Proposition 72- YES!!

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.09.58 PMCalifornia is facing some very serious water shortages in its future, and capturing rainwater is one way homeowners are going to start solving the problem. Prop 72 is a Constitutional amendment that will make it easier for Californians to install rainwater capture systems by eliminating a tax penalty for their installation. (Or rather, by enabling the state legislature to exempt them from taxes, same same). All of the major newspapers support Prop 72, as well as the Democratic Party and many major environmental organizations. There is no formal opposition.

Regional Measure 3 – Yes

Eek. Living in the Bay Area is expensive enough. Raising the Bay Bridge and Richmond Bridge tolls by $3 (over six years) will be painful for most commuters. However, this money will go toward a very good cause – funding the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan, including a $4.5 billion slate of transportation projects. And if it gets more people off the bridges and onto public transit, that will be a very good outcome. I say vote yes.

 

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San Francisco Pocket Voter Guide is Here!

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

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Design by Tim Paschke. Thanks Tim!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge you to vote for Scott.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions: Mark Sanchez, Jill Wynns

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mention: Shanell Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some fun facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power grab much?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No taxation without representation! Sort of. Vote yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop Q – Prohibit Tents on Sidewalks – NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote yes on RR!

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

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – California Measures (Nov 2016)

That’s it. I’ve had it. With 17 measures statewide, and 25 in San Francisco, this ballot is way too long, and has too many questions on it that require serious research and thought. I’ve decided I’m founding a new fake organization called Democrats Opposed to Overlong Ballots (DOOB) which opposes all measures that clutter our mailboxes and our ballots in each election.

I have several friends who just vote no on everything to protest how long the ballot is. And there’s evidence that measures on long ballots are 5% less likely to pass because of voter fatigue. But here’s the thing: you really shouldn’t just vote no on all of them. This ballot is asking you to decide some BFD issues, such as legalizing recreational marijuana, increasing the cigarette tax, eliminating the death penalty, restrictions on guns and the porn industry, and trying children as adults in criminal court. Since you’re reading this, it means you’re interested in learning about what you’re voting on, so you’re probably not one of those “no on everything” people, so kudos to you. (Now post this on your FB page and help everyone else be informed, K?) 😉

I’ve researched and grumbled and pondered each measure on this ballot, and I’ve adopted a new template to make your decisions easy. In this voter guide, I give you a summary of the measure, my analysis, a list of its main supporters and opponents, and whether this is a decision that has to be made by ballot.

Without further ado, I submit to you my thoughts on the California measures.* In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a liberal Democrat attorney and a government nerd, whose passions include defending nightlife and culture, getting more women elected to public office, and protecting our environment for future generations. I’ve been involved in politics for as long as I can remember, I’ve been to Burning Man enough times to know that the world doesn’t revolve around it, and I also like long walks on the beach.

For the San Francisco candidates and measures, go here.

For the cute pocket guide version that is easy to take to the polls, go here. (If you’re not in SF, you can ignore the SF races and measures on the pocket guide)

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

First the summary:

Prop 51 – $9 billion in bonds for education and schools – YES
Prop 52 – Voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program – yes?
Prop 53 – Projects that cost more than $2 billion – NO
Prop 54 – Bills must be posted on the internet for 72 hours – YES
Prop 55 – Continue income tax on incomes over $250,000 – YES
Prop 56 – Increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack – YES
Prop 57 – Felons convicted of non-violent crimes – YES
Prop 58 – Bilingual education in public schools – YES
Prop 59 – State’s position on Citizens United – YES
Prop 60 – Require the use of condoms in pornographic films – NO!
Prop 61 – Prescription drug price regulations – YES
Prop 62/66 – Repeal the death penalty (YES!) or execute faster? (NO!)
Prop 63 – Background checks for ammunition purchases – YES!
Prop 64 – Legalization of adult use of marijuana – YES!
Prop 65 (NO) & 67 (YES) – Banning plastic grocery bags

And here’s the complete analysis:

Proposition 51 – $9 billion in bonds for education and schools – YES

It’s a shame this exciting ballot starts with such an unsexy topic. But it’s an important one. Prop 51 would allow the state to take a $9 billion loan out for school construction projects. Most of the money will go towards upgrading public K-12 schools, with $2 billion to go toward community colleges.

It’s been 10 years since the last statewide school bond measure, and the schools are outdated and crumbling. YES – it is INFURIATING that this is the way we have to fund our educational system, bond measure by bond measure, but that’s the subject of a much larger conversation about how the state pays for things, and how the voters in 1978 severely restricted state tax revenues by passing Prop 13, how set-asides cause structural budget deficits, etc. Another time, over a glass of rosé, screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-41-53-pmperhaps. 😉

It is also annoying that this $9 billion bond will cost the state $500 million per year over the next 35 years. That’s $8.6 billion in interest! Which is almost the size of the original loan itself. Ick.

That said, I’m not sure what other choice we have, given how starved our state is for tax revenues. (Yes! Even in a booming economy) It’s clear California needs a complete overhaul of its tax system. But that’s a huge undertaking and not likely to happen soon. In the meantime, we approve bond measures like this one to make sure that our kids have structurally sound places to learn.

Prop 51 will likely pass. It has wide-ranging support, from the two major parties, all of the educational and business communities, unions, etc. The yes side has raised over $9 million, while the opposition hasn’t raised a dime. Jerry Brown is the only politician in California openly opposing 51, and he says it’s because 51 is a boondoggle for construction firms who want to build all the new infrastructure.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. General obligation bonds like this one must be approved by the voters, since it is a loan that taxpayers have to pay back over time.

Supporters: State politicians on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party AND the Democratic Party, all of the educational organizations and chambers of commerce, teachers groups, the state PTA, building and construction trade unions, every school district in the state, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Governor Jerry Brown, the Libertarian Party and taxpayers’ rights orgs, LA Times.

Proposition 52 – Voter approval of changes to the hospital fee – yes?

This is a complicated one, but to summarize: this measure wiscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-46-04-pmll make it so that the legislature can’t divert funds from an obscure hospital fee program away from Medi-Cal patients (poor people).

Here’s the background: California receives federal funds to help pay for health care services for poor people, and it has to match those funds with an equal amount of its own money. In 2009, the state government created a program imposing a fee on hospitals to help the state obtain these matching funds. The fee revenues were supposed to go towards the medical care for poor people, but apparently the state legislature has started to divert some of those monies to the state’s general fund. If the initiative is approved, it will add language to the state Constitution to require voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program to make it harder for the legislature to divert these funds away from poor families. AND it requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to make any changes to the hospital fee program.

Measures like this make me so mad! It’s so complicated that you really have to do your research to understand it, and nobody has the time to dive deep (except me, of course). Isn’t this why we elect a legislature to represent us? To make decisions like this? Argh. And if it passes, it adds ONE MORE THING to the long list of matters that can only be decided by the voters. Thus, it will make future ballots even longer. BUT – the whole reason why this is on the ballot is because the legislature has shown that it can’t be trusted with decisions like this. Frustrating!

SO – If you hate ballot measures generally, and think we should be forcing the legislature to do its job in other ways other than ballot measures, this is a good one to vote against. But if you want to make sure more money is spent on poor people’s access to health care, hold your nose and vote yes. I’m holding my nose.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. Because it is a constitutional amendment, it has to go to the voters. But did it have to be a constitutional amendment? Probably not.

Supporters: The initiative was developed by the California Hospital Association, and supporters include the Democratic Party; the Republican Party; most elected members of the state legislature; advocates for children, teachers, seniors and families; hundreds of hospitals and health care organizations; LA Times; SF Chronicle

Opponent: The only opponent on record is the Libertarian Party of California. (By the way, the Libertarian Party has 0.6% of the total registered voters in California. So their endorsement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.)

Proposition 53 – Projects that cost more than $2 billion – NO

Wealthy farmer and food producer Dino Cortopassi, age 78, is really pissed off. Which is why he put Prop 53 on the ballot and is spending $4.5 million of his own money on the campaign to get it passed. He says he’s doing it because he wants to make it harder for the state to take on new debt. But most people agree he just wants to kill one of Governor Jerry Brown’s pet projects.

Prop 53 would require statewide voter approval of any government project to be financed with more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Allow me to explain for a moment: Not all bonds have to be approved by the voters, only “general obligation bonds” which are basically loans that taxpayers have to screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-48-05-pmrepay (like the one in Prop 51, above). Then there are “state revenue bonds” that don’t require voter approval because they are basically loans that are paid back by a project’s users, like when the bridge tolls were jacked up to pay for the new Bay Bridge.

Prop 53 would require ALL state bonds over $2 billion to be approved by the voters. That’s right! Your ballot just keeps getting longer. Grrrrrr.

In reality, bonds that are valued at $2+ billion are extremely rare. But we do have two major projects pending in California that are threatened by Prop 53, and they are the $64 billion Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail project (LOVE! SF to LA in under 2 hours!) and the $17 billion twin water tunnels in the delta. And these are Governor Brown’s two big legacy projects, so he takes this ballot measure as a personal affront.

And Dino Cortopassi? Is a wealthy farmer. And he hates those tunnels. They will siphon fresh water from the Sacramento River and send it to Central and Southern California. So that’s what this is really about. As it stands, the twin water tunnels will be paid for over time by ratepayers in Southern California who will benefit from the project. And unless Prop 53 passes, it won’t be subject to a vote of the public.

There’s a reason why state revenue bonds aren’t subjected to voter approval, and that’s because they only benefit a portion of the population. Unlike general obligation bonds, the entire state isn’t affected by these projects, and so the entire state doesn’t weigh in on them. Prop 53 could potentially give the entire state’s voters the power to veto local projects, and I think that’s just silly.

I personally think that it’s dumb to create yet another category of things that has to be decided by the voters. My fake organization Democrats Opposed to Overlong Ballots (DOOB) would absolutely oppose it, because it will make California ballots even longer in the future. Vote no.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. Because it is a Constitutional Amendment, it has to go to the voters. But did it have to be a constitutional amendment? Probably, because it is imposing a new voter approval requirement.

Supporters: Dino Cortopassi, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, 22 taxpayers rights groups

Opponents: Governor Jerry Brown, Democratic Party, NAACP, League of Conservation Voters, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, farmers organizations, League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, firefighters and sheriffs groups, hospital groups, water agencies, chambers of commerce, about a hundred labor unions, SF Chronicle, LA Times

Proposition 54 – Bills must be posted on the internet for 72 hours – YES

Prop 54 would prohibit the state legislature from passing any bill until it has been in print and published on the Internet for 72 hours prior to the vote. It will also require public legislative meetings to be recorded, and make them available to the public for at least 20 years.

This measure is happeniscreen-shot-2016-10-13-at-10-49-31-pmng because of yet another rich guy with a bee in his bonnet. Conservative Charles Munger, Jr. is the son of billionaire Charles Munger, Sr., and he happens to be an experimental physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center with a thing for government reform. He joined forces with good government group Common Cause to propose Prop 54, and has poured $10.5 million of his own money into the measure.

Local governments have a 72-hour notice requirement, and I’ve often wondered why the state government doesn’t have the same. I think it’s a good thing for citizens to have advance notice of the decisions that its government is making. Keeps politicians accountable, and it makes legislation better by allowing more opportunity for input.

Opponents argue that requiring 72 hours notice will make it harder for government to act nimbly when necessary. But Prop 54 will prevent shenanigans when the legislature doesn’t want to give the public an opportunity to weigh in. It will also stop the practice of “gutting and amending” which my political nerds know is the way that legislators take a bill that’s already on the agenda and replace – at the last minute – every single word of the bill, often with no relationship whatsoever to the original legislation, so that they can avoid having to go through the lengthy deliberative process.

Transparency in government is a good thing. Vote yes.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes, because it’s a Constitutional amendment, and because the legislature would never vote for a measure to limit its own power.

Supporters: Republican Party, LA Times, SF Chronicle, good government groups such as the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, League of California Cities, a few dozen pro-business groups including chambers of commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

Opponents: California Labor Federation, LA Times, Democratic Party (and only, IMO, because they control the legislature right now. If the GOP had a majority, you better believe they would want this measure to limit their power).

Proposition 55 – Continue income tax on incomes over $250,000 – YES

In 2012, California voters raised the personal income tax rate on individuals making $250k or more, and on couples making $500k or more (top 1% of all earners in CA). It was called Prop 30, and at the time Governor Brown promised it was a temporary tax and said, “…to the extent that I have anything to do with it, will remain temporary.” It was sold as a way to restore funding cuts that were made to schools during the recession.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-23-38-pm

This tax is set to expire in 2019. And once it does, the state will face a drop in revenue of $4.3 billion, according to Brown administration estimates. The gap will be even larger if California’s economy takes another dive.

Prop 55 – proposed by unions and education advocates – would extend the Prop 30 tax until the year 2030. 89% of these tax revenues will be allocated specifically to K-12 schools and 11% to California Community Colleges, with some strict accountability measures to ensure that the money is being spent where it should be. Supporters say that if we don’t approve Prop 55, we are likely to see cuts to schools because of California’s screwed up budget process.

Opponents say, “But Jerry, you promised this tax would be temporary!” They point to California’s $2.7 billion budget surplus, arguing that we can afford to pay for education without extending this tax. (As I understand it, though, a big chunk of this surplus is going toward the state’s rainy day fund).

As I’ve said before, we need comprehensive tax reform to solve the state’s structural budget issues (don’t get me started on Prop 13!). And in the meantime, we keep passing smaller fixes like this one to stop the bleeding. At what point do we rip the band-aid off and force our legislators to come up with a better way of paying for critical government services? Are they even capable of it? Ugh.

That’s why I’m torn on this one. But I have decided to support it for this one reason: California’s schools went from being the best in the country to among the worst in just a few short decades. This is because we lack the funding or the political will to make education a priority. It’s shameful. So let’s pass Prop 55, make the wealthiest 1% pay a little bit more, send the money to the schools. AND ALSO push for comprehensive tax reform to fix this problem once and for all. Stop using the public schools as a political football in every election.

Does it need to be on the ballot? No. The legislature could pass this bill, but it would require a 2/3 vote and they lack the political will to make it happen.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer John Chiang, Democratic Party, League of Women Voters, California Medical Association, hospital and health organizations, school groups, Firefighters Union, Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee, San Jose Mercury News

Opponents: Republican and Libertarian Parties, taxpayers rights groups, LA Times, San Diego Union Tribune, SF Chronicle.

Proposition 56 – Increase the cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack – YES

This measure will make it more expensive to smoke by enacting a $2-per-pack tax, bringing the total cigarette tax in California to $2.87. Most of the revenues – estimated at $1 billion/year – will go toward Medi-Cal (state sponsored health care for poor people).

And because I have many friends who vape, I looked it up: Prop 56 will also increase taxes on e-cigarette products that contain nicotine by “an equivalent amount.” I couldn’t find an exact figure, but it looks like the state Board of Equalization will set the amount if the measure passes. (E-cigarette devices are not included in this tax, just the nicotine.)screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-25-28-pm

Prop 56 promises to help save thousands of lives from smoking-related illness. I don’t smoke, but I have lots of friends who do, and they have all struggled with quitting. They know smoking could shorten their lifespans, and about 10% of Californians are in the same boat. I’m all about the so-called “sin taxes” on those sins that I don’t commit myself. Kidding! Sort of.

Raising cigarette taxes has been proven to reduce smoking, says the New York Times and health experts. In New York where the cigarette tax is a whopping $4.35 per pack, every time the tax is increased, more smokers quit. Incidentally, California currently has the lowest cigarette tax in the country, New York’s is the highest, and three other states (Colorado, North Dakota and Missouri) are also considering increases this November.

For me, this one is about the children. With every 10% increase in the price of cigarettes, the number of kids who start to smoke goes down by 6 or 7%. Prop 56’s proposed tax represents about a 30% increase, thus about 20% fewer kids will start smoking if it passes. Which makes it a no-brainer for me. (Sorry friends who vape.)

Tobacco companies are spending over $55 million to defeat it, and the only other people opposed to it are the Republican and Libertarian parties (of course), and anti-tax organizations. The folks supporting it comprise a broad spectrum of health organizations and environmental groups, immigrant and gay rights groups, education groups and children’s advocates, even chambers of commerce and unions, all of the big California newspapers.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes, it’s a constitutional amendment, so it has to go to the voters. It repeals previous requirements in the constitution regarding tobacco taxes.

Supporters: American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Democratic Party, environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, California Medical Association, California Dental Association, dozens of health organizations and environmental groups, immigrant and gay rights groups, education groups and children’s advocates, chambers of commerce and unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Tobacco companies, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association.

Proposition 57 – Felons convicted of non-violent crimes – YES

Oh, Jerry Brown. When he was governor 40 years ago, he signed a crime bill that made criminal sentences longer and eliminated “good behavior” credit for prisoners. Now that he’s governor again, he admits that law was a failure and placed Prop 57 on the ballot to reverse it.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-27-27-pm

In related news, California is facing serious prison overcrowding and health care problems. In 2011, the US Supreme Court held that the state’s prison situation constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the US Constitution, and in 2014 it was mandated by a federal court to reduce its prison population dramatically.

Prop 57 would do two things: (1) It would allow the state parole board to release non-violent inmates who have served their full sentence for their primary offense, but are still in jail because of “enhancements” to their sentence that were within the court’s discretion based on prior or related offenses. These prisoners could receive credit for behaving well and for participating in school programs or drug rehab. (2) It would allow judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. This will probably mean fewer children are tried in adult courts.

As of the beginning of 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons that could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57 (or about 1,300 each year according to the Brown administration). This one is likely to pass: Supporters have outraised the “No” campaign almost 32-to-1, and it’s polling well. If you think children shouldn’t be tried as adults except for the most heinous crimes, and if you think that prisoners should be incentivized to improve themselves, vote yes.

The opponents are the people you would expect: Republicans and law enforcement types (cops, prosecutors, sheriffs). The supporters include Democrats, teachers, nurses, other labor unions. But two supporters will come as a surprise: LA Police Chief Charlie Beck and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – who apparently has become a vocal advocate for prison reform. (Who knew?)

Does this have to be on the ballot? Yes. It’s a constitutional amendment, so it has to be approved by the voters.

Supporters: Democratic Party, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, Newt Gingrich, LA Police Chief Charlie Beck, the President of the Chief Probation Officers of California Mark Bonini, ACLU, SF Chronicle, LA Times, Sacramento Bee, teachers, nurses, other labor unions.

Opponents: Republican Party, District Attorneys, police chiefs, sheriffs, crime victims groups.

Proposition 58 – Bilingual education in public schools – YES

In 1998, California was a different place. That year, the voters approved Prop 227, which required that all public school instruction be conducted in English. Republican Pete Wilson was Governor at the time, and he had been elected on an anti-immigrant platform.

Today, California is more diverse than it was 18 years ago, as 43% of all public school kids speak a language other than English in their homes. Experience has shown that Engliyes-on-58sh learners in bilingual classes attain higher levels of academic achievement. And more parents (regardless of national origin) are asking for more language immersion options in schools.

Prop 58 would eliminate the English-only requirement. If it passes, public schools can teach English learners in any way that their community feels is appropriate, so long as English proficiency is achieved. It returns local control to the schools on language matters.

There’s some disagreement about whether forcing English learners into English-only immersion classes has actually worked. The San Jose Mercury News wrote “In just five years after its passage, the English proficiency of limited-English students tripled.” On the other hand, the LA Times argued that bilingual education could lead to even better outcomes if it is done right. That said, California is a huge state, and every school district is different. It would seem to me that returning this issue to local control is the best formula for success.

It’s likely to pass, since supporters have raised $1.1 million, and the opponents haven’t put a campaign together. Vote yes.

Does it have to be on the ballot? Yes. The only way to repeal a ballot measure (Prop 227) is by another ballot measure.

Supporters: Democratic Party, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom, 4 members of Congress and 34 members of the state legislature, California Teachers Association, dozens of teachers and immigrant groups, school administrators, chambers of commerce, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Republican and Libertarian Parties

Proposition 59 – State’s position on Citizens United – YES

When the US Supreme Court decided Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission in 2010, many of us knew it would be catastrophic. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2012.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-30-40-pm

Citizens United held that political spending is protected under the First Amendment, and it allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political activity. The decision has opened a flood of political spending by wealthy donors, giving them an unfair amount of influence over elections, and it has allowed them to do it anonymously! Boo.

To overturn Citizens United, you either need a future Supreme Court decision to reverse the decision (which is actually possible with a few Clinton appointees); or a constitutional amendment, which is huge undertaking in that it requires Congress to propose the change and at least 38 states to approve it, one by one.

Prop 59 is a non-binding measure that urges state leaders to “use their authority” to start the Constitutional amendment process. There is only a tiny campaign supporting it, and no official campaign opposing it. The folks supporting it say that we need to send a message to Congress (and future Supreme Court justices?) that it’s a terrible decision. That anonymous corporate contributions are eroding our democracy.

And the official ballot arguments against it say that it’s non-binding AF, so why bother? Stop adding advisory measures on an already too-crowded ballot. This argument resonates with me (42 measures on this ballot!! Argh)

But I do agree that Citizens United is making our political system more corrupt than it already is. It’s a message worth sending to Congress, that this state won’t stand for it. Vote yes?

Does this have to be on the ballot? Nope. Doesn’t even do anything if it passes.

Supporters: Bernie Sanders, Democratic Party, good government groups, teachers and nurses unions, SF Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee

Opponents: Some Republican state legislators, LA Times, SD Union Tribune

Proposition 60 – Require the use of condoms in pornographic films – NO

There are some controversial items on the ballot this fall, but nothing as juicy as this one. Prop 60 is pitting gay leaders against gay leaders, AIDS activists against AIDS activists, and doctors against doctors. If it passes, Prop 60 will require porn actors to wear condoms while filming, and provide proof that they have done so. (ew)

It creates a right for any California citizen to sue the porn producers, workers or actors if they think a condom isn’t used. (Yay! California needs more lawsuits! said no one ever). And finally, it requires the legal names and addresses of the film producers to be public, even if the producer is also an actor who goes by a pseudonym to protect themselves from stalkers and weirdos and anti-porn crusaders.

“But wait,” you ask, “doesn’t California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) already require condom use during sex in pornographic films?” That’s right, but it only enforces the law when complaints are filed, which is almost never. (A lot of heavy breathing on THAT non-existent hscreen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-34-55-pmotline…the one where you report your outrage over a scene in a porno where you’re pretty sure there was intercourse and a condom wasn’t used).

Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, put Prop 60 on the ballot with the hope that it would make the condom rule enforced more often. Weinstein’s argument is simple: no one should have to risk their life on the job, and that is what we are asking porn actors to do when they don’t use condoms.

But I think he (over)shot his wad. By requiring the involvement of Cal/OSHA in the filming of every movie, insisting on medical inspections, and revealing the names and identities of the people involved, it clearly poses serious worker privacy issues. Opponents claim that the adult film industry already does a lot to minimize disease transmission, including frequent testing. And they may be right that this measure is going to send the porn industry to Nevada, or worse – underground – where there will be even less worker protection.

Creating a right to sue the filmmakers – by any private citizen! – is scary and will lead to frivolous lawsuits by maladjusted people. Even if these lawsuits are baseless, defendants will need to spend time and money getting rid of them.

Porn or no, it seems to me that workplace health and safety regulations are the kind of thing that shouldn’t become law by way of the ballot box. They need to go through the iterative process of the legislature or another state agency, so that they can be adjusted over time. If California approves this measure, it will be (set in stone? firm? hard? inflexible? I can’t think of the right word) until another well-endowed campaign comes along to change it. And as you know, I’m all about cleaning up the box. I mean the ballot.

And there’s something that bothers me about Prop 60, it feels like an anti-porn measure masquerading as a pro-actor law. The author didn’t consult the industry when he wrote it, and the effect it will have will be to drive some porn producers out of business or out of the state. As my friend Gil Silberman so eloquently said, “There is absolutely no reason why this law is needed, it is to AIDS what voter ID laws are to political corruption, it advances an unrelated agenda by promising to solve a problem that does not exist.”

A lot of people I respect are on the “No” side of this one: Columnist Dan Savage and his Courage Campaign (see “It Gets Better”), State Senator Mark Leno, and many gay rights and AIDS advocacy groups. I’m voting no too.

Does this have to be on the ballot? NO! In fact, it really shouldn’t be.

Supporters: Michael Weinstein and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Academy of Preventive Medicine, American Sexual Health Association

Opponents: Dan Savage, Sen. Mark Leno, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Courage campaign, Equality California, SF AIDS Foundation, San Francisco Medical Society, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC), LA Times, SF Chronicle

Proposition 61 – Prescription drug price regulations – YES

When drug maker Mylan increased the price of the Epi-Pen by 548% this year, it only verified what we already know, that drug companies are evil. Or rather, that drug companies can set prices to whatever they think the market will bear, and hospitals and patients have no choice but to pay. And if you don’t have health insurance that covers a medication you need, you are totally screwed.

And how does Pfizer explain the $5 Viagra pill that you bought over the counter in Canada because it would cost you (or your insurance company) ten times more here in the States? I think you know the answer. Some countries, and some government agencies, are able to negotiate much lower prices withprop-61 drug companies because they provide care for large populations, and thus they have a lot of bargaining power. (See: why a single payer system would control costs)

And then there’s the fact that California spent $3.8 billion last year on prescription drugs for people covered by state health programs. This figure – along with the wild variability in drug prices – is the reason why many politicians are wondering aloud: what would happen if we forced Big Pharma to be more transparent about the prices they set?

Thus: Prop 61, which hopes to do just that. It says that California public agencies will pay no more for prescription drugs than what the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs pays, the thought being that the VA provides care for so many people (9 million), it pays a lot less money to drug manufacturers than does the state or the average consumer.

The politics of this measure are weird. The drug companies have been able to hire the very best lobbyists and campaign consultants, and Democratic Party activists up and down the state. They have even intimidated the state Democratic Party into not taking a position on it.

The author is Michael Weinstein – yes, the same guy from the condom measure (Prop 60) – and he is not very popular in progressive circles these days. It seems that some people are opposing this measure just because he wrote it. Also: there are veterans who worry that Prop 61 will mean that their drug prices will go up, which is a valid concern since the drug companies have actually threatened it. (See? Evil!).

That’s right. The drug companies are ACTUALLY ARGUING that Prop 61 will hurt veterans because the companies will be “forced” to increase the VA’s drug prices. But it is completely within their control as to whether to increase those prices! Poor Pfizer, I guess a 42% profit margin isn’t quite high enough. Greedy bastards.

And there are many labor unions and political groups that aren’t usually allies of Big Pharma opposing this measure. Here’s my hypothesis: The drug industry has spent over $87 million on the campaign so far (yikes!), and they are spending it in ways that smell a lot like bribery. I’ve seen this before*…they hire progressive activists all over the state to help with “getting out the vote” and surprise! These progressive clubs now oppose the measure, toeing the party line that it will hurt veterans.

The LA Times makes a good point, that the drug pricing problem should really be handled at the federal level. But that’s not a good enough reason to vote no on this measure. If you agree with me that Big Pharma shouldn’t be able to buy its way out of this one, vote YES.

*See also Measure V in San Francisco, and Big Soda’s efforts to derail the local soda tax.

Does it need to be on the ballot? Nope. The legislature could approve this bill. But it’s here because the legislature hasn’t been able to stand up to the powerful drug lobby.

Supporters: Bernie Sanders, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, AARP, California Nurses Association, civil rights activists Dolores Huerta and Al Sharpton

Opponents: All the pharmaceutical companies, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, NAACP, a dozen medical organizations, 2 dozen veterans groups, anti-tax advocacy orgs, chambers of commerce, unions.

Proposition 62 (YES!) & 66 (NO!) – Repeal the death penalty, or execute faster?

Here’s why I don’t support the death penalty: It is applied unequally to defendants depending on their skin color; the likelihood of executing an innocent person is shockingly high; and the state can’t find a way to administer it that isn’t cruel and unusual. Besides, if what we want is retribution for the most heinous of crimes, a lifetime in prison would seem to be a far worse fate than death, IMO.

And here’s why it’s on the ballot in November: our capital punishment system is in crisis. California has more prisoners on death row than any other state: 747 humans. And yet we haven’t put anyone to death since 2006, because the state’s lethal injection protocol is legally questionable, and the government has been unable to find a legal source for the fatal drugs it uses. These death row inmates are in legal limbo, costing the state billions of dollars. Far more of them have died of natural causes or suicide than by execution.

On this November ballot, we have the chance to eliminate the death penalty in California, by voting yes on Prop 62. If 62 passes, it would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment. And it would require screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-13-32-pmprisoners sentenced to the maximum punishment to work and pay restitution to victims’ families. Even though these prisoners will live longer in prison, the state will actually SAVE money since it will no longer be paying lawyers and courts to deal with the lengthy and inefficient appeals process.

Prop 66, on the other hand, was put on the ballot by pro-death penalty folks who wanted to kill Prop 62. It would keep the death penalty in place and speed up legal challenges to death sentences, so that the entire appeals process would be completed within 5 years of the original conviction. Death penalty appeals are notorious for dragging on for years, and costing the taxpayers a lot of money. There’s a reason for this, though, which is that if that state is going to execute someone, we better be damn sure that person is guilty, by allowing defendants to exhaust every possible legal option. So speeding up death penalty appeals makes it LESS likely, not more, that justice will be served. (I personally think that Prop 66 will be found unconstitutional for due process reasons, but I digress)

Between 62 and 66, the measure that passes with more votes, wins, and the other becomes void.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, the whole death penalty question may soon be resolved, since I think it’s only a matter of time before the US Supreme Court rules that capital punishment is unconstitutional. Moreover, even if Prop 66 prevails, the state will continue to struggle to secure a legal source for the lethal injections. (If you have time, listen to this amazing podcast about how people are executed).

Yes on 62, NO on 66.

Do these measures need to be on the ballot? Nope! The legislature could take this hot-button issue on, but it doesn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Supporters of 62/Opponents of 66: Gavin Newsom, Bernie Sanders, Mark Leno, Democratic Party, NAACP, ACLU, Amnesty International, criminal defense attorneys groups, California Labor Federation, teachers and nurses unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle, religious groups, Van Jones, Dolores Huerta, an unusual number of celebrities.

Opponents of 62/Supporters of 66: Former Governor Pete Wilson, Republican Party, law enforcement officials and unions, district attorneys, and some high profile crime victims.

Proposition 63- Background checks for ammunition purchases – yes

Every time there’s a mass shooting in America, we collectively shed tears and shake our heads. “Something must be done!” we cry, and then we move on with our lives and nothing is done. Prop 63 – authored by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom – is an attempt to do something about gun violence in California.

screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-20-31-pmIt’s a complicated measure, but here’s the gist: If you believe that ammunition sales should be regulated and that we should get guns out of the hands of convicted felons, you will vote yes on Prop 63. If you believe that there are already too many restrictions on gun rights in California, you will vote no.

Here are the problems that proponents say this measure attempts to solve:

  1. Gun sales are regulated with background checks for buyers and licenses for gun dealers. But there isn’t a similar regulation for ammunition, and a person who acquires a gun illegally can buy ammunition freely. Prop 63 will control ammunition sales the same way that guns are regulated, thus making it harder for someone who possesses a gun illegally to actually use it.
  2. The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the assault rifle, which uses high capacity ammunition magazines. Prop 63 would ban these magazines in California to make it harder for these guns to be used to kill large numbers of people.
  3. Newsom says there are an estimated 34,000 guns, including an estimated 1,000 assault weapons, in the hands of people who are not legally allowed to own them in California (felons and the mentally ill). Under the current laws, there is no way to locate these guns or hold these folks accountable. To solve this problem, Prop 63 would: (a) require gun owners to report lost and stolen guns to law enforcement; (b) create a process for convicted felons to turn in their guns, and certify that they have done so; and (c) make stealing a gun a felony (How is this not already the law?! Currently it’s a $150 infraction. What the actual fuck.)

Yeah, yeah, Newsom is using this measure to elevate his profile and raise money for his campaign for Governor. And yeah, this is a bill that the legislature could have approved without going to the voters (and in fact, it did approve some portions of it). My fake organization DOOB would absolutely oppose it, but this time I would disagree with them. I, for one, am sick of inaction by our government on gun violence, and I’m impressed with Newsom’s leadership on the issue.

The NRA is right about a few things: if this passes, it will be tied up in the courts for a while, because the “second amendment people” have already teed up their constitutional challenge. And it’s true that if Prop 63 is enacted, people will just go to Nevada to buy ammo without a background check. But we have to keep chipping away at this problem, and California has always been a leader in legislative innovation. Maybe other states will follow our lead when more of them become affected by mass shootings. Enough is enough. Yes on 63.

Does the have to be on the ballot? Nope. Some of it has already been approved by the legislature. Getting it approved by the voters just makes it a lot harder to repeal.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Democratic Party, a ton of Mayors and City Council members from all over the state, SF Sheriff Vicki Hennessey and other law enforcement officials from progressive counties, anti-violence groups, physicians organizations, LGBT organizations, League of Women Voters, teachers and nurses unions, LA Times, SF Chronicle.

Opponents: The NRA, California Police Chiefs Association, Sheriffs in Republican counties, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, Jews Can Shoot (families of Holocaust victims who, understandably, want to arm themselves)

Proposition 64 – Legalization of adult use of marijuana – YES!

I’ll be brief because this one is going to pass, and it’s unlikely that any reader of mine believes that the war on drugs has been a worthwhile endeavor.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-16-23-pm

Prop 64 (The Adult Use of Marijuana Act) will legalize marijuana under state law, for recreational use by adults 21 or older. It will restrict where it can be sold and consumed, and who can sell it. It will tax the stuff and provide for a licensing structure, as well as industry standards for marijuana products (much like FDA approval of pharmaceuticals). It will rake in between $300 million to over $1 billion (With a B!) in tax revenues every year.

The new law will reduce the state’s criminal justice costs by tens of millions of dollars annually. And here’s the best part: it would make everyone in prison today for a marijuana-related crime eligible for resentencing or release. YESSSSSSS.

It’s about time we end prohibition in this state.* It’s about time we tax pot, and provide industry standards to benefit consumers (what IS in the stuff we are smoking, anyway?). It’s about time we stop imprisoning people for possessing small amounts of a drug that is far less dangerous to society than alcohol or prescription opiates.

The people I know who oppose this initiative are: (1) pro-law enforcement types who hate drugs, and (2) small pot farmers or distributors who are worried that Big Agriculture is going to come in and wipe them out with their huge resources and their strict cultivation standards. The latter group was able to write in a provision that would limit licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years, and reserve a number of licenses for small-scale and artisan cultivators.

The measure isn’t perfect, for sure, it has some holes in it that many in the industry have identified. But the hope is that these holes will be fixed by regulation in the coming months. Prop 64 is a HUGE step in the right direction. Please vote yes.

*NOTE: If 64 passes, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law. Enforcement of marijuana crimes in states where it is legal is no longer a high priority of the federal government (under Obama), but of course the future of enforcement will depend on the outcome of the presidential election in November. Recreational pot is already legal in Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington. It’s on the ballot this fall in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada. Smells like momentum, doesn’t it?

Does it need to be on the ballot? Nope! The legislature could have (and should have?) taken up this controversial issue, but like ammunition sales and the death penalty, it was too scared to touch it.

Supporters: Gavin Newsom, the CA Democratic Party, NAACP, ACLU, CA Medical Association, Drug Policy Alliance, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Opponents: Law enforcement officials, Senator Feinstein (really, Dianne?), Sacramento Bee, and the CA Republican Party

Proposition 65 (NO) & 67 (YES) – Banning plastic grocery bags

These two measures are confusing, and they are a cynical ploy by the plastic bag companies to frustrate you and make you vote no on both of them. But if California does vote no on both of them, a lot of hard work by environmental groups and the state legislature will go out the window. Lemme splain…

A few years ago, the state legislature passed a law that bans plastic bags (SB 270), and that requires grocers to charge at least 10 cents for every paper bag they give to customers. In a deal cut with the grocers to get their support for the ban, the bag fee goes to the grocers. This really pissed off the plastic bag industry, which then put both Prop 65 and 67 on the ballot.

Prop 67 asks the voters to approve or reject the statewide ban, which hasn’t yet taken effect. It only applies to those localities in California that don’t already have their own ban. San Francisco has had a ban since 2007, so if Prop 67 passes, nothing will change here.screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-37-45-pm

Prop 65 would punish the grocers for supporting the plastic bag ban, by taking the bag fee and send it instead to a special fund to support environmental projects. Very sneaky, plastic bag barons! That one is perfectly designed to confuse the voters and undermine the bargain that was struck to make SB 270 possible.

If you look below at the Supporters/Opponents of the measures, you might be surprised to see that the environmental groups are generally opposing Prop 65. They see right through the ploy, and say that the two measures are designed to frustrate the voters into voting “no” on both. The Surfrider Foundation and Californians Against Waste, for example, advocated for SB 270 for years, and they are upholding the legislative deal that they helped to cut.

Still with me? Here’s how the results could play out:

  1. If voters approve 67 and reject 65, then the bag ban will take effect, and the bag fee would go to the store owners. In localities with their own plastic bag bans, nothing would change.
  2. If voters reject 67 and approve 65, then the statewide ban will not take effect, and cities and counties with local bans can continue to use funds as currently set up or they can opt to direct the money to the new special environmental fund. Revenue from any future statewide ban would go toward the environmental fund.
  3. If voters pass both measures, then the bag ban will go into effect statewide, and whichever measure has more “yes” votes will determine where the money goes.
  4. If voters reject both measures, then no statewide ban goes into effect, and there will be no restrictions on revenues from future bans similar to SB 270. Localities with existing bans keep doing what they’ve been doing.

Show the plastic bag companies that you’re smarter than they thought. Vote No on 65, Yes on 67.

Does it need to be on the ballot? NO and GRRRRR! The legislature DID pass this law, and the ballot measures are an endeavor by the plastic bag companies to gum up what the legislature has already passed.

Supporters of 65: Republican Party, plastic bag manufacturers

Opponents of 65: League of Women Voters, Surfrider Foundation, California Nurses Association, Californians Against Waste, LA Times, SF Chronicle

Supporters of 67: Jerry Brown, Bernie Sanders, Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, Democratic Party, Tom Steyer, good government groups such as the League of Women Voters, California Labor Federation, NAACP, LA Times, SF Chronicle, every environmental group in the state including the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Nature Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, Audubon Society.

Opponents of 67: Plastic bag manufacturers, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Libertarian Party

Thanks for reading all the way through! If you found my voter guide helpful, please throw a few dollars in the jar to support my voter guide writing habit. Thanks!

Drumroll Please…

17 statewide measures. 25 San Francisco measures. 18 races for local, state and federal office. The ballot for the November 2016 election in San Francisco is ridiculously long.

faded-colors-vote-sign-on-a-weathered-gray-plywoodAnd there are some Very Important Decisions to be made, such as eliminating the death penalty, decriminalizing marijuana use, and creating a new citywide elected position in San Francisco. California is poised to elect and African- and  Indian-American woman to the US Senate (Go Kamala!), and the city looks to the voters (again!) to decide what to do about its housing and homelessness problems.

And with the Presidential race on the ballot, we can expect a record turnout, and a high level of interest in each of these things. This is very exciting for political nerds like me. Democracy! Yay.

I’ll be writing my voter guide again, and I’ve got to start it early. Now accepting donations of Clif Bars and dry rosé from Provence to fuel this endeavor.