Alix’s Voter Guide – California Ballot, November 2018

I don’t think I’ve ever been so eager for an election to come. I don’t know about you, but I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Watching the Kavanaugh proceedings made me want to scream, cry, and volunteer for women running for political office. If you feel the same, I strongly recommend getting in touch with SwingLeft and Indivisible, two groups that are working hard to take Congress back. You can phone bank, you can volunteer your time, you can donate, you can post their websites on social media. It’s not too late. Do it.

Jacky Rosen

Donate to Jacky Rosen for US Senate in Nevada, she is poised to beat (R) incumbent Dean Heller: https://www.rosenfornevada.com/

But just as important, please help make sure that everyone you know VOTES. Every single vote will matter in this election. The registration deadline in California is October 22, and the website with all the info you need is here. Call everyone you know in Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota and make sure they are voting for the Democratic candidates for Senate and Congress.

The theme of this November’s ballot is the #BlueWave that many of us are hoping for, and the efforts to keep it from happening. 44% of Californians are registered Democrat, 25% Republican, and 26% have indicated no party preference. Which makes the latter group very powerful, as you can see because you’re good at math. California is the center of the universe in November, as we are trying to flip 9 House seats here, including some very big name Republican incumbents (Devin Nunes, Tom McClintock, Dana Rohrabacher, Duncan Hunter). If we can topple these guys (and they are all guys), we can take down a President and his cronies.

The statewide candidate races are mostly snoozers, since most of the Democrats who made it into the general election have wide leads. As for the statewide ballot measures, there are only a few BFDs. Most of the propositions are about housing and infrastructure, and how to pay for them. Three of the measures are about how to manage discrete parts of the health care system in California. And one is about whether California should have permanent Daylight Savings Time. Yes really.

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 November 2018 San Francisco ballot can be found here.

US Senate – Dianne Feinstein
Governor – Gavin Newsom
Lt. Governor – Eleni Kounalakis
Secretary of State – Alex Padilla
Controller – Betty Yee
Treasurer – Fiona Ma
Attorney General – Xavier Becerra
Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara
Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond
Board of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Malia Cohen
CA Supreme Ct.– Kruger Yes, Corrigan No?
All Other Justices – Yes 

Prop 1 – Housing Assistance Programs – YES
Prop 2 – Housing for Mentally Ill – YES
Prop 3 –  Water Supply Sustainability – NO
Prop 4 – Children’s Hospitals – YES
Prop 5 –  Property Tax Transfers  – NO
Prop 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – NO NO NO
Prop 7 –  Change Daylight Savings – yes?
Prop 8 – Outpatient Dialysis Centers – NO
Prop 9 – [removed from the ballot]  
Prop 10 – Local Rent Control – YES
Prop 11 – Ambulance Workers’ Breaks – NO
Prop 12 – Farm Animal Confinement – YES

THE CANDIDATES

I’m not going to go into much detail for the candidates for statewide office, because you’ve heard it before. Each of the candidates I endorsed in the June election made it past the primary into the November election, so if you want more detail, please check out my June voter guide. Here is a brief update on what has happened since June.

US Senate – Dianne Feinstein

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 10.06.28 PMIn the June primary, Kevin De Leon squeaked his way into the general election with 12% of the vote against Dianne Feinstein, who beat the rest of a crowded field with 44%. It is theoretically possible for DeLeon to beat Feinstein in November, however, DeLeon is running to Feinstein’s left, and general elections tend to vote more moderate than primaries.* Moreover, progressives who have been watching the Kavanaugh hearings are happy enough with Feinstein given her role in attacking the nominee. She hasn’t pulled any punches with Kavanaugh or the old white men who control the Senate, IMO.

*Also: Prop 6 is going to pull conservative voters out of the woodwork in California. See my analysis of Prop 6 below.

Governor – Gavin Newsom

In the June election, Gavin Newsom (D) got 34% to John Cox’s (R) 25% and Antonio Villaraigosa’s (D) 13%. Newsom is facing Cox in November, and he’s hoping that the Blue Wave and Villaraigosa’s voters will put him over the top. It’s a good bet, although there’s a wild card in this race, and that’s the impact that Prop 6 will have in pulling conservative voters out to vote for Cox. (See below)

Lt. Governor – Eleni Kounalakis

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 10.58.10 PMNotably, this is one of the few races between two Democrats in November, and it’s a tossup. Eleni Kounalakis got 24% of the vote in June, to Ed Hernandez’s 20%. Given the energy and enthusiasm behind women candidates this fall (including my own!), my money is on Kounalakis.

That said, Eleni has less experience in government than her opponent. And she comes from a wealthy family who has given gobs of money to Democrats over the years (which *might* have something to do with why she was appointed ambassador). Nothing wrong with being wealthy, I just want to know that she is doing her homework and willing to work hard, and that she shares my values. My research and my sources say that these things are true. Also, the job of Lieutenant Governor is a nothingburger, so the stakes are low, IMO.

Secretary of State – Alex Padilla

In the June election, Democrat Alex Padilla won 53% of the vote against Republican Mark Meuser (who?), who garnered only 31%. Since Padilla already has a majority of the state behind him, his victory in November isn’t in doubt. Which is good, now he can spend his time fixing the DMV voter registration debacle.

Controller – Betty Yee

In June, Betty earned 62% of the vote against Republican Konstantinos Roditis. Because Betty already has a majority of votes, she is a shoo-in.

Treasurer – Fiona Ma

Board of Equalization Member Fiona Ma (D) won 45% of the vote in June, beating Republican Greg Conlon by 24 points. It would be nearly impossible for him to overcome Ma’s lead in November.

Attorney General – Xavier Becerra

Incumbent Xavier Becerra (D) won the primary with 46% in June, and his next opponent is Steven Bailey (R), who came in with only 25%. The June primary was a three-way race between these two and Dave Jones, who is also a Democrat, so it’s fair to assume that most of Jones’ voters will swing to Becerra in the November election. 46 + 15 = 61. Becerra wins because math.

Insurance Commissioner – Ricardo Lara

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.01.06 PM.pngIf Democrat Ricardo Lara wins, he’ll be the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in California. But he’s got a tough fight ahead of him. Lara received 40.5% of the vote in June to (Republican-until-recently) Steve Poizner’s 41%, so it’s neck and neck. Poizner has an edge because he has held the office before (2007-11) and has lots of name recognition statewide. He’s also gotten some big endorsements recently, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. However, the 3rd place finisher in June was a Democrat (Asif Mahmood – 13%), so it’s likely that his votes add to Lara’s total, not Poizner’s. It might be a squeaker. See my June voter guide for why I think Lara should win.

Superintendent of Public Instruction – Tony Thurmond

In the June primary, Democrat Marshall Tuck won 37% of the vote to Democrat Tony Thurmond’s 36%. This one is too close to call. See my June voter guide for why I recommend Thurmond.

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.28.15 AMBoard of Equalization (Dist. 2) – Malia Cohen

Malia Cohen ran away with the June election, earning 39% of the vote, compared to Republican Mark Burns (27%) and conservative Democrat Cathleen Galgani (26%). Cohen will beat Burns, because most of Galgani’s votes will go to Cohen.

CA Supreme Court Justices – Yes on Kruger, No on Corrigan?

Nobody ever pays attention to state Supreme Court elections, because they are weird and the candidates don’t campaign. Justices are first appointed by the Governor, and then they have to be approved by the voters – with a yes or no vote – at the first gubernatorial election after their appointment. If approved, they get to stay on the court, and they are put forward for another confirmation vote every 12 years. Nobody runs against them, and justices generally don’t campaign for their seats, so it’s hard to know anything about these people unless you are an attorney who appears before the Supreme Court.

Leondra Kruger and Carol Corrigan are the two justices up for election in November. Kruger was appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 and this is her first election to confirm the appointment. She is the second African-American woman to serve on the state Supreme Court, and she is doing a fine job by all accounts. Corrigan was appointed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. She was retained by voters in 2006, so this is her second election. The one thing you should know about Corrigan is that she dissented from the historic 2008 California Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in this state. She wrote that the court shouldn’t interfere with a vote of the people (the “vote of the people” in this case was the abhorrent Prop 8 that outlawed gay marriage). This doesn’t necessarily mean that she has something against gay people. And it also doesn’t necessarily mean that you should vote down a Supreme Court Justice on the basis of a single decision, out of hundreds of decisions under her belt. But, you know, knowledge is power.

All Other Justices – Yes

I don’t actually have an opinion on each of these races, and I honestly don’t think they should be on the ballot. No one is campaigning for or against these judges, so I think it doesn’t even matter how you vote.

STATE INITIATIVES

Prop 1 – Housing Assistance Programs – YES

If approved, Prop 1 will issue $4 billion in bonds for existing housing programs, including $1.5 billion for multifamily housing programs for low-income Californians, $1 billion for veterans home loans, $450 million for urban infill projects (like building housing on vacant parking lots) and transit-oriented housing projects, $300 million for farmworker housing, and $300 million for manufactured and mobile homes.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.04.22 PM.pngProp 1 is a general obligation bond. As a refresher, general obligation bonds are essentially loans that the state takes out and then repays with interest over time. The bonds are repaid from the state’s General Fund, and that’s why they have to be approved by the voters. The General Fund also pays for essential services like health care, road repairs, and law enforcement, so we want to be careful about how we’re obligating it to other purposes.

Prop 1 was part of a bigger legislative package that was passed in August 2017. The measure was designed to increase housing production and lower housing costs, and the legislature voted nearly unanimously to put it on the ballot. If it passes, it won’t create any new housing programs, it will merely fund existing housing programs that have been proven to be successful.

I don’t need to tell you that California is in a housing crisis. It’s a statewide problem, and it needs a statewide solution. Investing more public funds toward building new affordable housing is a good start, however we also need streamlined regulations and incentives to build more housing in areas that can accommodate higher density (ahem, SF). And those are in the works. But in the meantime, passing Prop 1 is an important piece of the puzzle.

Who’s supporting it: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (who contributed $250k); affordable housing groups; disability rights groups; building and construction trade unions; silicon valley business leaders.

Who’s opposing it: No official opposition

Prop 2  – Housing for People with Mental Illness – YES

Before we discuss Prop 2, let’s talk about set-asides.

A set-aside is a law that requires a specific funding source to pay for a specific program, SETTING the revenue stream ASIDE from the normal budgeting process. When a set-aside is created by ballot measure, the only way to change it is by another ballot measure – GAH! – which is a horrible way to govern.* I generally oppose set-asides because they tie the hands of future legislatures and they make it extremely difficult to adjust an annual budget according to the state’s changing needs.  There are literally dozens of set-asides that have been approved by previous generations of voters that we are dealing with today. Which brings me to Prop 2.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.31.48 PM.pngProp 2 is not a set-aside. But it does AMEND a previously approved set-aside (Prop 63) to make its funding more flexible. Prop 2 is a technical measure that merely allows the state government to use revenue from the existing “millionaire’s tax” for homelessness prevention.

Prop 63 (Mental Health Services Act, a.k.a. the “millionaire’s tax”) was approved in 2004. It’s a 1% income tax on people who make more than $1 million per year, requiring that the revenues go toward mental health services. Prop 2 (2018) will expand the use of this tax revenue so that it can go toward supportive housing for folks with mental health issues that put them at risk for homelessness. San Francisco would get about $100 million from the new revenue stream, because a significant portion of homeless San Franciscans have mental health issues.

Prop. 2 is a good idea. It affects only a modest slice of the Prop 63 revenue, and it is entirely consistent with the purpose of the original ballot measure. And cities desperately need the money to create more supportive housing for Californians with mental health problems. Vote yes.

*See also: Props C and Prop E on the SF ballot

Who’s supporting it: CA American College of Emergency Physicians; CA Labor Federation; CA Police Chiefs Association; CA State Firefighters’ Association; Habitat for Humanity; League of California Cities; League of Women Voters; National Alliance on Mental Illness CA

Who’s opposing it: No official opponents

Prop 3 –  Water Supply Sustainability – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.22.53 PM.pngOn its surface, Prop 3 seems like a good idea. It would issue nearly $9 billion in bonds for water-related infrastructure and environmental projects, including groundwater supplies and storage, dam repairs, watershed and fisheries improvements, and habitat protection and restoration. Who doesn’t love all of those things? Especially in the Trump era, when the federal government is wiping out all the programs that support water sustainability.

What’s fishy* about this measure is that it was funded in part by the very people and organizations that will receive a portion of the bond money.  A few newspapers have called it a “pay-to-play” scheme, since it includes giveaways to some of the same special interests who qualified it for the ballot. I have supported previous water bonds that came before the voters in CA, but those measures were crafted in an impartial way by lawmakers or citizen committees. By contrast, Prop 3 did not go through the legislative process, and its $430 million in annual spending commitments over the next four decades will not need to go through the annual budgeting cycle to ensure that the funds are going where the voters intended. So there is not enough accountability for how the money will be spent.

The state fiscal analyst said the bond would generate about $8.4 billion in interest over a 40-year period, meaning the bond would cost the state a total of $17.3 billion. Eek. Vote no.

* pun intended

Who’s supporting it: Fresno Bee; Farmers, growers and agricultural associations; Dozens of environmental groups; 90+ water agencies; US Senator Dianne Feinstein; Gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R); Candidate for Treasurer Fiona Ma (D); Congressman John Garamendi (D); California Labor Federation

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle; Mercury News; Sacramento Bee; Sierra Club of CA; Friends of the River; League of Women Voters of California; Save The American River Association; Southern California Watershed Alliance

Prop 4 – Children’s Hospitals – YES

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.08.00 PM.pngCalifornia has 13 regional children’s hospitals that provide specialized care to children and young adults up to age 21 who are suffering from serious and life-threatening diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell disease, cancer, and cystic fibrosis.  Prop 4 is a $1.5 billion general obligation bond that will support the construction, expansion, renovation, and equipping of these children’s hospitals. They promise to use the money to acquire the latest technology and life-saving medical equipment.

The question for voters is, not whether this is a worthy cause (it clearly is!), but whether we should keep supporting these hospitals’ capital needs through general obligation bonds.

The interest on this bond would be $1.4 billion over 35 years, bringing the total cost of the bond to $2.9 billion. While this sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually quite small as far as state bonds go. (Compare it to, for example, Props 1 and 3). Bonds are paid off via the general fund, which cuts into money for other programs serving children (and everyone else).

Arguments against it:

  • This is the third general obligation bond for children’s hospitals in the past 14 years. Isn’t there a better way to pay for these important resources? A dedicated tax for children’s hospitals would be cheaper in the long run, because it wouldn’t involve paying so much in interest. (But new taxes are way harder to get approved.)
  • The initiative process is the wrong place to set budget priorities and encumber state government with repayment obligations that will make it harder to fund education, public safety and other programs in lean times.

Arguments for it:

  • From everything I’ve read, the spending on previous hospital bonds has been responsible, and I have every reason to believe the money from this bond will be spent appropriately.
  • These hospitals take in children from poor families for often subpar government reimbursement, so they deserve a boost.
  • This money will make a difference. Children’s hospitals are on the cutting edge of pediatric research; they perform 97 percent of pediatric organ transplants and 96 percent of all pediatric heart surgeries; and they oversee 76 percent of all pediatric cancer treatments, according to the California Hospital Association.

Who would not want the best for their children when they face a dire medical condition? I’m voting yes.

Who’s supporting it: SF Chronicle, LA Times, Mercury News, East Bay Times, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, Gavin Newsom, Alex Padilla, CA Democratic Party, California Hospital Assn, CA Medical Assn.

Who’s opposing it: No official opponent

Prop 5-  Property Tax Transfers  – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.09.44 PM.pngOn its face, this seems like a good idea: making it easier for homebuyers who are older or disabled to transfer their existing tax assessments, so that they don’t have to pay higher taxes on their new home.

Prop 5 (2018) would amend Proposition 13 (1978) to allow homebuyers who are age 55 or older or severely disabled to transfer the tax-assessed value from their prior home to their new home, no matter (a) the new home’s market value; (b) the new home’s location in the state; or (c) the number of moves. Keep in mind, though, that homebuyers over 55 years of age are already eligible to transfer their tax assessments from their prior home if the new home’s market value is equal to or less than the prior home’s value and once in their lifetimes. So –empty nesters who want to downsize are able to keep their lower tax base on their new (smaller, cheaper) home.

This means that Prop 5 would only help folks who are buying a more expensive home than their original home, or who are moving for a second, third or fourth time after the age of 55.  Basically, it helps the wealthy who don’t want to pay more in taxes if they get a fancier home, and it will cost cities and counties $2 billion in lost revenue to pay for things like public safety and housing the homeless.  Meanwhile, younger, first-time home buyers with less income will face higher housing prices, and renters will have an even harder time becoming homeowners.

The California Association of Realtors developed the ballot initiative and filed to get it on the ballot, basically to enrich themselves. The newspapers who support the measure wrote endorsements that read like backhanded compliments:

Orange County Register:  “While it’s true this reform will benefit many wealthier Californians, the tens of thousands of moves estimated by the legislative analyst to result from Prop. 5 is sure to free up critically needed housing stock.“

San Diego Union-Tribune: “The sponsors of Proposition 5 — real estate agents — came up with the measure to pad their pockets. But it’s actually a smart idea that will both give older people more flexibility with their lives and introduce liquidity to a housing market that could badly use it.”

Got it. So this measure will help make rich people richer, and it will create more demand AND supply for homes in California, probably driving home prices even higher. This is why most newspapers in the state oppose it, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “What makes this proposition all the more galling is the fact that this is the group of Californians who least deserve another tax break. They’re already reaping the benefit of rock-bottom property taxes and they’ve had the opportunity to build up equity in their homes. Meanwhile, their younger counterparts in California, who would bear the brunt of service cuts under Prop. 5, increasingly find homeownership out of reach. There’s nothing in Prop. 5 that would alter this calculus, and it should go down in flames.”

Support: Orange County Register, SD Union-Tribune, Calif Association of Realtors, CA Chamber of Commerce

Oppose: SF Chronicle, Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, California Teachers Union, Assembly member David Chiu

Prop 6 – Gas Tax Repeal – NO NO NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.11.49 PM.pngProp 6 is very bad. If passed, it will repeal the gas tax increases and vehicle fees that were enacted in 2017, AND make it much harder for California to impose gas taxes and vehicle fees in the future.

This measure is the big daddy of them all this year. Progressives are lined up against it, conservatives are all in for it, and Republicans hope it gets their voters excited to turn out this November. Prop 6 is bad for Gavin Newsom for Governor, it is bad for the progressive measures on this ballot, and very bad for the Blue Wave we are all hoping will take back more House seats from the GOP. The measure is funded by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, gubernatorial candidate John Cox and the rest of the GOP leadership in Congress. Isn’t that all you need to know?

By the way, it is generally very hard to increase a tax in California. You need a two-thirds vote of both the state Senate and state Assembly, which usually means getting Republicans on board with it, and you need a signature of the Governor. Proposition 6 would make this process even harder by creating the additional step of voter approval to impose, increase, or extend fuel taxes or vehicle fees.

Here’s the background: The 2017 gas tax (a.k.a. The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017), increased fuel prices by $0.12 per gallon, and it is expected to generate an estimated $52.4 billion in revenue between 2017 and 2027. You may remember that just a few months ago, voters approved Proposition 69, which required the legislature to spend RRAA revenue on transportation-related purposes. The money is going towards repairing roads, fixing bridges, bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects (yay!) and other infrastructure.

Opponents of Prop 6 say that this measure will hurt job creation and the state’s economy; it will stop roads from being fixed and worsen congestion. As Governor Brown said, “I can’t believe the proponents of this ballot measure really want Californians to keep driving on lousy roads and dangerous bridges. Taking billions of dollars a year from road maintenance and repair borders on insanity.” Vote no.

Who’s supporting it: Orange County Register; Speaker of the U.S. House Paul Ryan (R); U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R); Congressman Devin Nunes (R); gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R); California Republican Party

Who’s opposing it: LA Times; SF Chronicle; Sacramento Bee; Mercury News; Governor Jerry Brown (D); California Democratic Party; California Chamber of Commerce; California Bicycle Coalition

Prop 7 –  Change Daylight Savings – Yes?

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.21.35 PM.pngI’m mad at you, Prop 7. Here I am, researching the pros and cons of daylight savings time, when I could be phone banking for Jacky Rosen for Senate, or painting my daughter’s toenails. Seriously, though, this one has to go down as one of the silliest ballot measures on record.

Prop 7, if approved, will authorize the state legislature to provide for permanent Daylight Savings Time if the federal government allows it. That means, IF PROP 7 PASSES, in order for us to have permanent daylight savings, BOTH the federal government AND the state legislature have to approve it, the latter by a two-thirds vote. The reason why this has to be a ballot measure is because we need to repeal Prop 12 (1949) which established Daylight Savings Time in the first place, and – say it with me – a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure.

As it stands, California cannot adopt permanent Daylight Savings Time without an act of Congress. In 2016, the California State Legislature asked the President and Congress to pass a law that would allow California to adopt year-round DST. Their response? <crickets>

Arguments in favor of Prop 7:

  • Time changes are bad for your health. University medical studies in 2012 found that the risk of heart attacks increases by 10% in the two days following a time change. In 2016, further research revealed that stroke risks increase 8% when we change our clocks. For cancer patients the stroke risk increases 25% and for people over age 65 stroke risk goes up 20%. All because we disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Time changes are bad for the children. Ask any parent – kids get all out of whack when their sleep patterns are disrupted.
  • Time changes increase energy consumption. Changing our clocks twice a year increases our use of electricity, and the amount of fuel we use in our cars. I read that changing to permanent DST would save consumers an estimated $434 million.
  • Time changes are so passé. 68% of all the countries in the world have stopped changing their clocks.

Arguments against Prop 7:

  • No chance it will happen. If progressive California wants it, the (petty) Republican federal government won’t give it to us.
  • Permanent DST threatens public safety. Severin Borenstein, a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, said, “Permanent DST would likely lead to more pedestrian accidents on winter mornings as more adults and children venture out in darkness.”
  • Really? With so many other critical issues facing this state — homelessness, sea level rise, transportation infrastructure – Prop 7 is a waste of time.

I really don’t care how you vote on this one. I’ll probably vote yes, because of the children and the cancer patients. But really, who cares?

Who’s supporting it: Congressman Kansen Chu (D); Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle; Sacramento Bee; State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson

Prop 8 – Outpatient Dialysis Treatment – NO

This is another ridiculous one that shouldn’t be on the ballot, IMO. Prop 8, if passed, would limit the profits of kidney dialysis clinics by requiring them to issue refunds for revenue above 115% of the costs of direct patient care and healthcare improvements. Have your eyes glazed over yet? Yeah me too. Seems kind of crazy that voters would be asked to make such a technical decision regarding an issue that affects only a small minority of Californians.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.24.59 PM.pngIf you’re thinking there must be a salacious back story here, you’d be right. SEIU-UHW West, a labor union, is in a fight with the state’s two largest dialysis businesses DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care. SEIU has been trying to organize the workers at these clinics since 2016 without success, and they claim that the employers have been retaliating against pro-union employees. So SEIU is using its muscle in trying to obtain from the ballot box what it could not achieve through other processes.

Even though I usually side with unions, I’m certain that this is not the kind of thing that should be regulated by ballot measure. As you know, a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s no way to govern a state. Super detailed, highly technical laws should NEVER be passed by ballot measure because they usually need adjusting over time, and that can’t happen if they are approved by voters. Moreover, if this measure passes, and dialysis clinics start going out of business, it jeopardizes access to care for patients in California who need dialysis treatments to stay alive.  SEIU should make its case in court, or with the legislature, or the National Labor Relations Board, anywhere but the ballot box.

Who’s supporting it: SEIU-UHW; CA Public Employees’ Retirement System; CA Labor Federation

Who’s opposing it: SF Chronicle, LA Times, and EVERY SINGLE NEWSPAPER in the state; The American Nurses Association (California), California Medical Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, California Chapter, National Kidney Foundation and patient advocates

Prop 9

Wait a minute – why isn’t there a Prop 9? This was the initiative to split California into three different states. It was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court in July because they found it to be an illegal constitutional amendment.

Prop 10 – Costa-Hawkins Repeal – YES

This might be the most controversial issue on the statewide ballot this year, and there are reasonable people on both sides. Prop 10 would overturn a 23-year old law limiting the use of rent control in California (1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act), letting cities decide whether they want to enact rent control.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.27.06 PM.pngFor as long as I’ve been involved in politics in San Francisco, repealing Costa-Hawkins has been the holy grail of progressive housing policy. Costa-Hawkins exempts properties built in 1995 or later from rent control, and it also prevents cities with pre-existing rent control laws from extending them to newer units. San Francisco’s ordinance, for example, remains limited to housing built before 1980. And Costa-Hawkins exempts single-family homes from rent control while guaranteeing property owners the right to raise rents to market value when units are vacated.

The people who oppose Prop 10 (and thus, also oppose rent control) include landlords, real estate developers, and realtors. They argue that rent control makes the current housing crisis worse, because it disincentivizes developers from building new rental housing, since it limits their profits. They also argue that rent control messes with market forces in a way that leaves some residents holding the bag.

Here’s what they say: Because rent-controlled tenants pay lower rent, other tenants in the same building will pay even more so that the landlord can recoup their investment. As a former tenant AND landlord I can explain why this argument is total BS. Landlords will charge as much as the market will bear, period. If one tenant is rent controlled and another is not, the landlord will charge as much as they can on the non-rent-controlled unit. How much a landlord charges in rent is not relative to all of the units they own; it is only about making as much money as the market will allow them to make.

I am a homeowner. If I ever want to rent my home out in the future, it is in my financial interest to keep Costa-Hawkins in place and to oppose Prop 10. However, I bear witness every day to the housing crisis in San Francisco, and I have watched too many of my friends move out of the city because they can no longer afford it. San Francisco is losing its economic and cultural diversity, and that is only going to stop if we do more to limit the skyrocketing rents.

I agree with the proponents of Prop 10: Costa-Hawkins should be repealed because rent control is a local issue. California is facing an unprecedented housing crisis, and local governments should be able to determine whether rent control is a tool they want to use to prevent homelessness and limit the rising cost of housing in their regions. As our current crisis has demonstrated, the marketplace can’t handle providing shelter to everyone who needs it.

Arguments against Prop 10:

  • The solution to the housing crisis is to build more housing, not to cap rents.
  • Rent control doesn’t work. Much like tarriffs, rent control enjoys popular appeal despite its nearly universal rejection by economists. Let market forces take care of rental pricing.
  • Rent control’s benefits accrue to those renters who occupy the controlled units, at the expense of property owners and of other tenants.
  • For a state with a crushing housing deficit, rent control tends to reduce the quality and quantity of rental housing, the construction and maintenance of which is discouraged by price caps.

Arguments in favor of Prop 10:

  • Return rent policy to local control. Each city has its own challenges and needs the flexibility to adopt its own remedies. The Sacramento Bee says, “It no longer makes sense to tie the hands of local officials in dealing with this crisis, especially when they’re also being left to deal with the financial and humanitarian consequences of rising homelessness.”
  • Landlords suck. Entire communities are being wiped out while Wall Street landlords rake in the cash.
  • Costa-Hawkins has undermined the state’s ability to protect our residents from being displaced, especially the most vulnerable, due to skyrocketing rent increases.
  • Housing is a human right, something that everyone needs and deserves. It is not just another commodity that should be bought and sold and rented without limits.

Support: Tenants rights groups; California Democratic Party; ACLU; Democratic Socialists of America and other Berniecrats; teachers, nurses, and service workers unions; LA Times; Sacramento Bee; AIDS Healthcare Foundation; Coalition for Affordable Housing; SF Board of Supervisors

Oppose:  Landlords, realtors, and real estate developers; BOTH gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R); SF Chronicle; Fresno Bee, Mercury News

Prop 11 – Ambulance Workers’ Work Breaks – NO

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.29.15 PM.pngProposition 11 is yet another highly technical measure that has no business being on the ballot. It would allow ambulance providers to require workers to remain on-call during paid breaks. And just like Prop 8, it’s here because of a bitter dispute between a union and an employer.

American Medical Response, a major employer of ambulance workers, put Prop 11 on the ballot to settle a fight with its employees. In 2017, a bill that would have resolved the issue – AB263– passed in the Assembly but stalled in the state Senate. AB263 spelled out that employees could be required to monitor radios, cell phones and other communications devices during their breaks and could be required to answer an emergency call.

I’m not even going to dignify this measure with a detailed analysis of ambulance-related working conditions, because I don’t think it’s fair to ask the voters to weigh into this kind of decision.

As with Prop 8 above, I’m a no vote because this is not the kind of thing that should be regulated by ballot measure. I’m getting tired of saying it – a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by another ballot measure, and that’s no way to govern a state. Super detailed, highly technical laws should NEVER be passed by proposition for this reason. AMR should make its case in the legislature, with all parties at the table to negotiate and compromise. Get out of my ballot box!

Support: American Medical Response; LA Times; Sacramento Bee

Oppose: SF Chronicle; CA Teachers Association; State Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D)

Prop 12 – Farm Animal Confinement – yes?

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 11.30.13 PM.pngProp 12, if passed, would ban the sale of meat and eggs from calves raised for veal, pregnant pigs, and egg-laying hens confined in areas below a specific number of square feet.  Again, this is a highly technical measure – why is this even on the ballot? Because it makes a necessary amendment to a previous ballot measure. And a ballot measure can only be amended or repealed by ballot measure. GRRR. When will it all end? We need to overhaul our initiative process.*

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 2, which banned the confinement of these animals in a manner that did not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Prop 2 did not provide specific square feet when defining confinement. To correct this, the Humane Society, the original sponsor of Prop 2 (2008), put Prop 12 on the ballot this year.

Beginning in 2020, Prop 12 would ban:

  • whole veal meat from a calf that was confined in an area with less than 43 square feet of usable floor space per calf;
  • whole pork meat from a pregnant pig or the immediate offspring of a pig that was confined in an area with less than 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig; and
  • eggs from a hen (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl) that was confined in an area with less than 1 square foot of usable floor space per hen. Beginning in 2021, all hens will be “cage free.”

Prop 12 (2018) also provides for stricter enforcement requirements, and makes the state Agriculture Department responsible for the measure’s implementation. The previous law did not authorize a specific government agency to enforce it, which meant that there was very little action taken against violators of the law.

Opponents of Prop 12 say that the ballot box is not the place to regulate such details of California agriculture. And I would generally agree with such a statement. However, such details have already been regulated by ballot measure (Prop 2), so we’re stuck. If Prop 12 fails, then Prop 2 continues to exist without proper enforcement or even a definition of what inhumane confinement means, and the animals Prop 2 was designed to protect remain in deplorable conditions. However, if Prop 12 succeeds, we’ll be codifying specific provisions of a law that we won’t be able to modify without another ballot measure. Ugh. In an ideal world, we’d repeal Prop 2 entirely and force the legislature to write a comprehensive law about the treatment of animals. But this is not an ideal world.**

This is a tough one for me, because my belief that technical laws shouldn’t be approved by ballot is in conflict with my conviction that animals should be treated more humanely. I also suspect that the reason why Prop 2 happened in the first place is because the legislature didn’t have the backbone to pass a law that farmers and food producers oppose. So I’m a yes.

*understatement
** an even bigger understatement

Who’s supporting it: Prevent Cruelty California, Humane Society

Who’s opposing it: Egg, sheep and pig farmers; SF Chronicle. Notably, the Humane Farming Association (HFA), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Friends of Animals – animal rights organizations – oppose it because it’s not strong enough.

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 SF measures and candidates may be found here.

 

 

Big Ol Voter Guide – November 2012

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

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

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

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

Go here for my guide to the San Francisco ballot.

Go here for my guide to the California ballot.

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

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

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

My guide for the statewide California ballot is here.

Comments? Disagreements? Bring it!

SUMMARY:

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL RACES IN SAN FRANCISCO:

Congressional District 8: Nancy Pelosi (Most of SF)

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

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

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

STATE OFFICES REPRESENTING SAN FRANCISCO:

Senator, Dist. 11: Mark Leno (SF)

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

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

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

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

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

SAN FRANCISCO OFFICES:

Board of Education:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community College Board:

Amy Bacharach, Steve Ngo, Rafael Mandelman, Chris Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

BART Board, District 9: Tom Radulovich

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


District 1 Supervisor: Eric Mar
(Richmond)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES:

Measure A: YES

City College Parcel Tax

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

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

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

Measure B: YES

Parks Bond

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

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

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

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

Measure C: YES

Affordable Housing Trust Fund

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

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

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

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

Measure D: YES

Consolidated Elections 

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

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

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

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

Measure E: YES

Gross Receipt Tax

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

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

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

Measure F: NO!

Future of Hetch Hetchy

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

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

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

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

Measure G: YES

Corporate Personhood

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

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

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

Big Ol’ Voter Guide – November 2012 (California)

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

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

My guide for the San Francisco ballot is here.

Enjoy!

SUMMARY:

President: Barack Obama
US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

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

FEDERAL

President: Barack Obama

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

US Senator: Dianne Feinstein

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

STATE PROPOSITIONS

Prop 30: YES

Temporary Tax Increases To Prevent Deep Cuts

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

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

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

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

Prop 31: NO

Two-Year State Budget Cycle and Other Reforms

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

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

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

Prop 32: OH HELL NO!

Political Spending Limits

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

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

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

Prop 33: NO

New Car Insurance Rating Factor

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

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

Prop 34: OH HELL YES!

Death Penalty

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

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

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

Prop 35: NO?

Sex Trafficking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prop 36: YES

Modifications to Three Strikes Law

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

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

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

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

This is a good one. Vote yes on 36.

Prop 37: YES

Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is power. Vote yes on 37.

Prop 38: YES

New Tax for Education

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

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

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

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

Prop 39: YES

Closing a Loophole on Out-of-State Businesses

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

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

Prop 40: YES?

Affirming Redistricted Senate Districts

This measure is ridiculous.

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

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

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