Governor: Gavin Newsom
He’s been working well with Jerry Brown and is ideally positioned to carry on that work. The Governor of California is an internationally significant role—5th largest economy in the world—and Newsom can take the heat. I’d like to see someone less corporate-cosy in this role, but Newsom is vastly closer to what I’d want than John Cox!
Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis
Wish Bleich had made it this far because this role’s involvement in state environmental issues makes Kounalakis’ and Hernandez’ oil money in their campaign coffers leave me a little nervous about who has this seat on the California Coastal Commission. Also gets a seat on the University of California Board of Regents. Of these two, I’m going with Kounalakis because of endorsements by Vote Pro Choice, Emily’s List, and the election guide from bay area locals Edie Irons and Janet Cox.
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Easy choice here. Glad to have him keep fighting to protect our voting rights.
Controller: Betty T. Yee
Another easy one. Delighted to have her long experience with state financial matters continuing to serve us. Endorsed by MoveOn’s membership.
Treasurer: Fiona Ma
Sound financial background and has a seriously impressive endorsement list.
Attorney General: Xavier Becerra
Becerra has stepped in very well since being appointed by Governor Brown in January when Kamala Harris went to the U.S. Senate. He’s successfully managed legal challenges maintaining California values and policies against the Trump/Pence administration.
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
His opponent Steve Poizner’s got the experience, but Poizner’s anti-immigrant stance in his 2010 campaign (back when he was a Republican) took him off my list in the primary. Despite some compelling counter-arguments you should consider in the election guide from bay area locals Edie Irons and Janet Cox, I’m going with the Vote Pro Choice recommendation and voting for Lara.
Board of Equalization Member, District 2: Malia Cohen
Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Cohen’s goal for the position is to conduct any remaining business for the BoE as transparently as possible, while rebuilding relationships between remaining staff and county assessors. She can be very beneficial in transitioning the BoE to an improved role.
U.S. Senate: Dianne Feinstein
With a different administration in Washington, D.C., and another candidate that offset the potential loss of Feinstein’s experience and Senate rank, I might consider an alternative, but we are fighting for people’s lives against Trump/Pence and we need to keep her power working for us. Remember: if Dems take back the Senate, she will be the chair of the Judiciary Committee, a vital role during any impeachment proceedings in Congress. To my relief, Feinstein has moved left on some issues and has been a strong force for good in the Senate over the past year, so I’m not holding my nose here.
(I continue to oppose Kevin de León because of his lack of action against his former housemate, sexual harasser Tony Mendoza.)
U.S. Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
Again, we need this experienced, powerful woman continuing to fight for us at the national level.
More State Offices
State Assembly Member: David Chiu
Always a delight to vote for Chiu. He was great here in SF; he’s been great at the State level. He works hard and smart.
Judicial elections are bad. Judges should not be in the business of campaigning, raising money, and so forth; they should be appointed to life terms by the political branches, removable for cause. But here we are nonetheless. In California, justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, with periodic referenda on whether to “retain” them. Justices are almost always retained. Between 1934 and 1986, no justice ever failed his or her retention vote. In 1986, three justices of the Supreme Court were voted out (arguably) because of their principled opposition to the death penalty. No Justice has failed a retention vote since then.
So, vote yes on retaining appellate judges! The fact that there’s a vote at all is bad, but the least we can do is vote “yes.”
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California: Corrigan (no vote)
Corrigan dissented in the 2008 same-sex marriage case. In line with the above on whether we should even be voting on retention at all, I’m not voting No, but I am skipping this vote. I’m not a lawyer—I don’t know the grounds of her dissent (which may have been purely procedure-related rather than on the issue)—but that sure seems like a no-brainer she got wrong.
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California: Kruger YES
Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 1: Humes YES
Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 1: Margulies YES
Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 2: Richman YES
Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 2: Miller YES!
Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 3: Siggins YES
Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 4: Streeter YES!
Associate Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 4: Tucher YES
Presiding Justice Court of Appeal, District 1, Division 5: Jones YES
(Miller and Streeter get an exclamation point because people I trust respect them as smart, fair, and careful.)
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony K. Thurmond
Good endorsements and solid experience with budgeting and politics, both of which play a big part in the job. I particularly appreciate his commitment to quality public school education and teaching critical thinking rather than a “teach the test” approach. I believe he’ll do better than his opponent at laying a foundation for further improvements and adaptations of public education in coming decades.
Member, Community College Board: Selby, Rizzo, Oliveri
Four candidates running, of which we vote for three. The school emerged last year from a risk that it would lose its accreditation (over allowing its financial reserves to get dangerously low). It lost a lot of students while that threat loomed (and with them lost their state funding) and continues to lose students despite the Free City arrangement that offers no-cost classes to San Francisco residents (which expires at the end of this school year).
- Davila is the current board president and is pushing for more robust vocational and certificate training. That she missed 10 deadlines to file required disclosures for campaign finances and conflicts of interest since joining the board in 2014 is rather concerning and, given the other candidates, that makes her the one I don’t vote for.
- Selby and Rizzo are on board and are both pushing to make Free City permanent (as is Davila) and to build a Performing Arts and Education Center. Selby is pushing a public transit pass for students and Rizzo is pushing building some student and teacher housing.
- Oliveri is the newcomer and has some smart-sounding structural suggestions to make things more fiscally sustainable. See http://www.sfexaminer.com/ccsf-board-hopeful-challenges-three-incumbents-november-election/
City and County Offices
Member, Board of Education (choose up to 3): John Trasviña
There are 7 seats on the board, of which 3 are open this year. No incumbents are running. Hot issues are: whether/how to change school assignment system (currently a lottery which is not working as intended to prevent school segregation); how to house/support teachers in this expensive city; and whether to offer algebra in the 8th grade (con: it raises achievement gap as up to half of students of color failed in 8th and had to retake in 9th grade, where now only 10% have to retake with it introduced in 9th. pro: its unfair to hold back students who are ready for it in 8th grade and force them to squeeze 5 years of math into 4 years of school so that they can get Calculus in before college and not be at disadvantage on college applications. Here’s a good article for more on the con side: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/06/13/a-bold-effort-to-de-track-algebra-shows.html and another general article here: https://www.thebaycitybeacon.com/politics/squaring-the-circle-eighth-grade-algebra-and-the-school-board/article_5baaac8e-cb2c-11e8-b048-dbcd72b52bba.html )
The first issue was slightly sidelined in late September by two leading members of the current board introducing a resolution to abolish the district’s school assignment system: https://www.kqed.org/news/11693522/two-s-f-school-board-commissioners-to-introduce-resolution-ending-lottery-system
I don’t have a horse in this race, not being the parent of a student in SF’s system and will only be voting for that one candidate I found particularly compelling in my research, but I can identify candidates not worth considering for you if you’re diving into these turbulent waters:
- Zhao: withdrew too late to remove from ballot (also made transphobic and anti-LGBTQ comments, which is totally unacceptable given the many kids in SF schools who identify as such).
- Kangas: not a serious candidate; hasn’t responded to issue questionnaires. Also, and this makes me wonder if he also works as a cab driver (and recently transported me), according to one of the folks at the event Joe attended, he keeps calling one of the public school system legal team with concerns and info about the Kennedy assassination. Moving riiiiight along…
- House: also no serious response to questionnaires about his issue position and takes no stance.
- Thompson: little info available.
- Satya: little info available, wants to keep algebra out of 8th grade.
One last comment: the endorsements for this board which you’ll see on various Democratic-affiliated mailers listing a wide variety of elected positions are indicative of the clubbiness of the very local party. These recommendations sometimes seem to be a lot more about “I know you from your long-time activity with our party” and a lot less about the issues or the skills this person is bringing to this particular role. Remember that local positions like school boards are often a candidate’s first experience with elected office; this is great for bringing representation up from the grassroots and growing a person’s skills, but can also be exploited by political parties to move loyalists up to higher offices. If I were a parent, I’d be making damn sure my school board members were there because they care about that work, not planning to spend their time with their eye on the next stepping stone up.
1: Housing Assistance Bond YES
An easy Yes. California needs to make affordable housing a priority. Every major paper and group supports this, other than the Republicans and tax-haters. Also, this is a legislatively referred bond measure, which means it was approved by the state legislature, which is required to refer bonds over $300,000 to the voters, which means it’d be approved already if not for that rule. (Further note in its favor, when I looked up “who is Gary Wesley”, the author of the lone argument against this proposition in the sample ballot, the first result is an LA Times article, “The Lone Dissenter Rides Again”, from 1986. This guy just has a 40—FORTY!—year hobby of writing ‘No’ responses.)
2: Bonds for Housing for Mentally Ill YES
Another easy Yes. This has background relating to past conflict over whether 2004 Prop 63’s funds should be used for housing. The legislature put this year’s Prop 2 on the ballot for the voters to confirm that creating housing for people with severe mental illness is compatible with the intent of Prop 63. Since there’s definitely a huge interrelationship between homelessness and mental illness, this more holistic approach makes good sense. (The opponents fear that people other than the long-term severely mentally ill could be given housing with these funds and that that would overall reduce resources for treatment, but the opponents also seem to be generally opposed to bonds.)
3: Water Bonds YES
Opposed in the sample ballot by people who LOVE dams. Damn, do they love dams. And they hate taxes. Hello, Central Solano supporters of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who’ve been messing up California since Prop 13 in the 1970s. Though I’ve seen some general concerns flying around about oversight on this that started to lean me toward a No, I was flipped back to a Yes by Janet Cox’s full-throated endorsement. Decades of experience with California environmental and water policy? I’m listening!
4: Bonds to Improve Children’s Hospitals YES
On the one hand this would definitely save lives (both the kids who receive access to better care and through increased earthquake safety), on the other hand this proposition did not go through the legislative budget process and will need to be repaid with interest. But on a whole bunch of little tiny hands, including many that are poor, brown, or undocumented, recall that children’s hospitals treat seriously ill children regardless of their ability to pay. Plus I tend to support bonds because they put money out into the state economy now and make good things happen sooner rather than later. I say Yes. (Opposed by Gary Wesley! Everybody drink!)
5: Prop 13 Portability NO NO NO!
Prop 13, passed in 1978, required that property taxes be based on the assessed value of the home when it was last sold, not on its market value. And that value goes up only at the overall rate of inflation (under 2% a year) not based on increases in the fair market value of the home. Thus folks who bought a home a long time ago pay a LOT less than their current share of taxes in their area. To solve the problem of (mostly older) people having a disincentive to move to a smaller, cheaper home and having to pay more property taxes than before, in Prop 60 passed allowing homeowners over 55 to carry over the assessed value of their old home to a new home, so long as they buy the new one for less than they sold the old one for.
So what’s this new Prop trying to do? Allow home buyers over 55 to keep their old, low assessed value even if they buy a more expensive house (with the delta between the two being paid at the new rate). And if they bought a less expensive house they’d pay even less than under the currently biased deal. AND it removes the limits on how many times they can transfer the taxable value. (And removes some other limitations.)
Who does this hurt? County governments, who will face a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars. And we have seen what already-squeezed local budgets mean for parks and libraries; this would be grim.
And the realtors who are the main ones funding this? In this economy? They do not need a damn handout of a bunch of new business as those with the most resources flip around the real estate market. This proposition will not help solve California’s affordable housing crisis and will probably make things worse. Vote No on tax breaks for up-sizing, while acknowledging that, yes, this is going to make life more complex for some older folks in areas which have seen massive rises in home prices.
6: Gas Tax Repeal NO NO NO
No way am I supporting this attempt to eliminate vital state transportation funding. Guess who is pushing this? It’s our old foes the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, along with various other Republicans. And they’re attempting to kill this funding with no plan for what to do instead to make these vital functions work. Hella no.
7: Allow the Legislature to Change (or Eliminate) Daylight Saving Time YES (oh thank goodness YES)
Yes! It’s here at last! Your opportunity to get the ball rolling on ending the need to change your clocks twice a year and have your sleep messed with! Federal law says states can opt out of DST, but in 1949 California, in the bill that established DST, said it can only be changed by a vote of the people. This would change that and allow the legislature to change it with a two-thirds vote. The initiative process is not the best way to decide the ideal solution; let’s put the legislature on the job of deciding if we should go with DST year-round or with standard time year round, and with that decision eliminate having to change our clocks. (Opponents say “oo, but this’ll put us out of sync with other states that still have DST and be confusing”; I say the writing is on the wall for DST and somebody has to start the dominos falling.)
8: Cap Profits of for-profit outpatient kidney dialysis centers NO
I’m going to point you again at Edie Irons and Janet Cox’s compelling argument for why this issue is too complex to be solved with the initiative system. The risks of this causing patients to lose access to nearby (for-profit) dialysis centers that keep them alive, while not solving the sub-standard conditions in centers with problems are too big a risk to be worth supporting this measure.
9: Removed from ballot. Skip!
10: Repeal Costa-Hawkins restrictions on rent control YES
Costa-Hawkins is a 1995 law that restricted cities’ ability to enact or expand rent control. As Edie Irons and Janet Cox say: “Passing Prop 10 does not create any new rent control laws. It just allows an incredibly important debate to happen in cities around the state, and hopefully some common-sense legislation will be passed where it’s most needed.” Huge number of groups I trust are supporting this and I am a fan of rent control as a backstop against housing being pay-to-play.
Even in San Francisco, with its rent control protections, there has been a wave of people driven out of the city by rising costs every tech boom; we need to make it possible for people who aren’t getting rich on the latest boom and who don’t own a home to keep their (rented) homes as times change around them. Forcing people with fewer resources to uproot their lives every time the hot light of gentrification shines where they live only increases inequality. (Now, should we have income tests for rent control to weight things differently for folks who do have resources? Yes, and that’s the kind of fine-tuning to rent control which I think will start coming out of these incredibly important debates to come.)
11: Prohibits real breaks for ambulance drivers NO
Are we kidding? First responders need to be rested and alert to do their incredibly challenging work and, no, they aren’t ignoring calls while they take a Candy Crush break. This law, which was proposed by ambulance companies, is opposed by labor. If they don’t have enough staffing, they need to hire some more drivers; jobs are good.
12: Specifying cage sizes for livestock YES
Does one square foot of space per chicken create a happy chicken? No. Is it better than there not being a minimum size? Hell yes!
As Edie Irons and Janet Cox suggest, educating yourself about the conditions of the animals who make up the products you buy seems like a better way for an individual to influence animal welfare than voting no on a proposition because it doesn’t go far enough in the right direction.
City and County Propositions:
A: Waterfront Seawall Safety Bonds YES
Critical infrastructure for something that is only going to become astronomically more costly the longer we wait. Only on ballot because the amount exceeds what the city can pay for out of regular operating funds. SPUR, YIMBY, SFBike, League of Pissed Off Voters all support. (Who’s opposed? The Libertarians, whose motto seems to be “I wouldn’t pay a tax for lifeguards if my own mother was drowning.”)
B: City Privacy Guidelines (skip it)
Non-binding guideline that doesn’t actually change anything. It also overlaps with the recently enacted California Consumer Privacy Act, a real, binding, state-wide privacy measure that goes into effect in 2020. No reason for this feel-good thing that doesn’t affect the real world to be on the ballot.
C: Gross Receipts Tax for Homelessness YES
This measure would impose an additional tax on individuals and businesses in San Francisco that earn more than $50 million in gross receipts (total income) per year in order to fund homelessness services and housing. The money raised would nearly double the funds currently spent to address homelessness, and at least half the funds would go to housing people and keeping them housed (rather than to temporary shelters and services). Those who are opposed are concerned about oversight on how the money is spent, but even less-than-perfect allocation of funds is necessary. This is a crisis and a big move like this is the kind of game-changer we need. Also (as was pointed out at the ballot discussion Joe attended), unless fixed, homelessness is probably going to drive away more businesses than this tax will.
Wealth inequality is what is causing people to fall through the safety net. I’ve lived through multiple booms in this city and the crazier the tech wages and fancy condos get, the more people I see suffering on the street. This is an equitable way to address the problem.
(Who is opposing C? Republicans, Libertarians, Katy Tang, realtors, business organizations.)
D: Big-Business Cannabis and Ecommerce By Non-SF-Based Companies taxes YES
Neighboring cities like Berkeley and Oakland already have imposed taxes on cannabis businesses. The money raised is intended to assist the city with cannabis-related costs and programs. And the tax doesn’t go into effect until 2021. And it gives the Board of Supervisors the ability to amend the tax to respond to changing conditions. A tax on ecommerce sites that are making more than $500K a year in San Francisco seems like a reasonable thing to level the playing field for local merchants.
(Who opposes D? Republicans and Libertarians, who hate all taxes.)
E: Hotel Tax Set-aside for the Arts YES
This doesn’t change the hotel tax rate, it just dictates that 8% of that money instead of going into the city’s General Fund, would go to arts related projects.
Con: It’s an end-run to get a budget increase for those things, basically. Forced set-asides for non-essentials which tie the hands of the Board of Supervisors when designing yearly budgets seem counter to the overall goal of representative democracy.
Pro: The Hotel Tax has always been associated with funding for the arts since it was established in 1961. This is just restoring funding which has been diverted over the years.
This has nearly unanimous support from SF elected officials, arts and community organizations, and even the hotels. Having sat through Board of Supervisors meeting where desperate art organizations were begging to retain a fraction of their funding in leaner years, I’m a Yes.
More City and County Offices
Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu
A solid public servant doing really good work for us. Let’s keep her at it.
Public Defender: Jeff Adachi
Sure. I’ve had points of disagreement with him over the years, but he does fine as public defender and his work with reforming the money bail system in SF is great.
As usual the Sample Ballot booklet has tons of other useful info tucked in between things. A few highlights:
– inside cover: Important Dates including early voting hours at City Hall which began October 9th and weekend voting which begins October 27th and 28th (I love my city!)
– page 5 When and Where to vote
– page 6-8 How to mark your ballot and do ranked-choice voting
– page 35 Ways to share your subject matter expertise and best thinking to help transform this city
– page 40 Info on being a Poll Worker on election day
– page 73 an actually great FAQ
– page 93 Voter Bill of Rights
– page 118 an actually useful index
– Page 119-120 Ballot Worksheet
– Back cover Vote-by-Mail application
Particularly helpful in my thinking this time around:
– conversation with my wise partner, Joe Gratz, and the info he shared from a gathering of friends which he attended to discuss ballot propositions
– this voter guide from Edie Irons and Janet Cox https://edieirons.ca/nov-2018-voter-guide/