Huge thanks to my pal Fred for his extensive work poring over all these details and good notes. That’s an above and beyond and huge lifesaver move in 2020. 🏆
President and Vice President: Joseph R. Biden & Kamala D. Harris
This is all hands on deck. We need every vote behind this team with the most progressive platform in Democratic Party history. Vote for democracy, vote for science-based policy that saves our lives and livelihood, vote for basic human decency. And—oh can you even remember what it’s like?—vote for the possibility of a dull news day.
United States Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi has served us very well in getting through four years of Trump/Pence/GOP policies without losing more ground than we have. Do I agree with her on everything? No. Is she as effective as anyone could be as Speaker of the House right now could be? Yes. Is there an obvious experienced next choice for Speaker of the House if she doesn’t remain in office? No. We need her insider savvy holding the line and taking the heat as we weather the next two years; they’ll be hard work no matter who is President. (Also, it gives the progressives we’ve elected time to build a little more seniority and have a little bit better chance of important committee positions in any upward shuffle.)
State Senator District 11: Scott Weiner
He’s committed to the hard, iterative work of good governance.
State Assembly Member District 17: David Chiu
Ever since his work for us here in San Francisco I’ve been impressed by Chiu. He is motivated to work for the common good, and has passed up other opportunities in order to devote himself to public service. I’m glad every time I can vote to keep him working for us.
Member Board of Education: Michelle Parker. (only vote one)
This is a complex system and it needs good administrators. Parker has experience with huge budgets and lots of experience in this area. The existing team has made some very questionable, non-data-driven, ideological decisions.
Member Community College Board: Shanell Williams, Alan Wong, (both endorsed by David Chiu whom I trust)
(Friend of friend says consider Aliya Chisti, Anita Martinez, Victor Olivieri, but I have no particular insight on them.)
BART Director District 9: (I’m skipping this one.)
Authorize Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research Initiative Statute
The federal funding ban was lifted in 2009, so the feds now spend over a billion dollars annually on this research, alongside billions annually in private sector funding; California does not need to be saddled with the interest debt on this.
15 YES YES YES
Increases Funding Sources For Public Schools, Community Colleges, And Local Government Services By Changing Tax Assessment Of Commercial And Industrial Property
Prop 13 in 1978 also largely froze assessments on commercial properties at 1976 levels as well as residential. This proposition will gradually over time get rid of that and bring California back in line with other states. This will raise a huge amount of much needed money (particularly for schools) and undo a huge drag on California.
Allows Diversity As A Factor In Public Employment, Education, And Contracting Decisions
Repeals Prop 209 from the late 1990s and allows state entities to use affirmative action. Because Prop 209 amended the state constitution, the only way to undo it is another ballot proposition. The state legislature, by more than 2/3rds majority, put this on the ballot. I’m strongly in favor of this one; we need affirmative action to overcome our legacy of systemic bias.
Restores Right To Vote After Completion Of Prison Term
Keeping people from voting after serving their time doesn’t help them reintegrate into society and become productive citizens again. This got on the ballot by legislative referral after passing with more than 2/3rds majority of both houses (because it has to be voted on as a change to the state constitution).
Amends California Constitution To Permit 17-Year-Olds To Vote In Primary And Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 By The Next General Election
This is a basic correction to a problem with only being able to vote in November on the remaining candidates without getting to vote in the primary in June on the full slate. There’s not going to be a big change in judgment between being 17 1/2 and 18. This is an easy yes.
Changes Certain Property Tax Rules
This changes a lot about “Prop 13” the old California property tax break. Currently (simplifying things) if you’re over 55, when you sell your house if you buy within the same county or one of a few special counties, you can take your low tax rate from your house with you to a new home of equal or lesser value and you can do this once. Proposition 19 makes some changes.
Good: You don’t have to stay in the same county (which may have become waaay less affordable thus “trapping” you in your old house) and can go anywhere in the whole state. It also closes the “Lebowski loophole” which allows someone who inherited from their parents to both keep the low tax rate while not actually living in the house.
Mixed: Changes to allow you to do it 3 times isn’t as good as “can only do again if driven out by disaster”, but it’s better than “if you already used this once and your neighborhood gets ravaged by a wildfire you’re out of luck”.
Bad: This doesn’t include any means testing to prevent folks who don’t need the help from abusing it.
Restricts Parole For Certain Offenses Currently Considered To Be Non-Violent, Authorizes Felony Sentences For Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only As Misdemeanors
Creates the ability for prosecutors to charge some property misdemeanors as felonies in a rather unpredictable way. No. Along with other harsher changes, this also alarmingly creates a mandatory DNA database for certain misdemeanors. Hell no! And this seems rife with risk for racial bias. Extra sprinkles of no on top.
Expands Local Governments’ Authority To Enact Rent Control On Residential Property
I’m a soft no here. This broadens rent control ability, but we already have statewide rent control options, so communities that want it, have it, thus this will mostly impact places like San Francisco, where I’m doubtful it will have a positive impact.
Exempts App-Based Transportation And Delivery Companies From Providing Employee Benefits To Certain Drivers
This is not something that should be decided as a ballot issue rather than in the legislature, particularly when the very interested corporate parties are able to throw $100m+ in advertising to get it to go the way they want. The 2019 legislation this is a reaction to, AB5, was bad, but this NOT the way to fix it.
Establishes State Requirements For Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Requires On-Site Medical Professional
Creates a non-medically-based medical recommendation. This does not create good health outcomes. (This proposition is shameful; it’s a battle between the highly profitable kidney dialysis industry and labor. The ballot initiative process is not the way to make staffing decisions.)
Amends Consumer Privacy Laws
This is not a “are you pro-privacy or not” proposition, it’s about “do you want to do this in one difficult-to-adjust ballot proposition with some possibly iffy details (a yes vote) or do you want to handle this through the legislature in a more careful and adjustable way (a no vote)?” Vote NO.
Referendum On Law That Replaced Money Bail With System Based On Public Safety And Flight Risk
Cash bail as a system generally results in ‘if you have money you won’t have to stay in jail, and if you don’t have money you do’. This is a challenge (funded by the bail bonds industry) to SB10, the abolition of cash bail, which was passed by the legislature. The problem with SB10 is that at the last minute a lot of power was given to judges in the form of ‘risk assessment’ which made the NAACP and other anti-cash-bail organizations pull their support of SB10. The good thing about SB10 is that it has built in things like requiring a re-evaluation of whether this is resulting in more people being kept in jail than before (e.g. from overharsh risk assessment). A yes vote on 25 approves SB10 and abolishes cash bail in California! (A no would throw it out and returns us to cash bail status quo. I think the problems with SB10 are greatly outweighed by the benefits of getting rid of cash bail and I don’t think industries should be able to buy their way out of legislation they don’t like.
San Francisco Measures
Health And Homelessness, Parks, And Streets Bond
Easy yes. This is just a grouping of municipal bond measures—which in SF replace old bonds that are being retired, so they don’t raise anyone’s property taxes—planned for several upcoming years to provide economic stimulus now and help address the homelessness crisis. Put on ballot by Mayor Breed and a unanimous vote of Board of Supervisors, so it’s the same channels as a normal municipal bond measure. YES.
Department of Sanitation And Streets, Sanitation And Streets Commission, And Public Works Commission
Weirdly SF doesn’t have a separate department that manages street cleaning and this would create it. This splits that out from the Dept. of Public Works and adds oversight commissions (needed after a corruption scandal with prior head of DPW). It increases costs and makes our big city government bigger, but maybe it will help. Less direct influence of the mayor, more of the Board of Supes, so that’s mostly good? The Board of Supes wants it. A weak yes.
Removing Citizenship Requirements For Members Of City Bodies
San Francisco has over 100 commissions, policy boards, and other advisory groups. This changes membership requirement from “registered to vote in SF” to “of legal voting age and a resident”, allowing non-citizens to serve. SF is a huge immigrant city and always has been; this permits our approximately 13% non-citizen population to serve. Representing over 10% of San Franciscan opinion in city bodies makes complete sense and this measure is not opposed by anyone credible.
Placed on ballot by unanimous vote of Board of Supes and has to be on ballot because it’s a charter amendment. No one credible is opposing it.
Placed on ballot by unanimous vote of Board of Supes and has to be on ballot because it’s a charter amendment. Main opposition is unsurprisingly the SF Police Officers Association. If you think probably the Police Commission and elected officials are better at determining good staffing levels than a fixed minimum number picked in 1994, you should vote Yes.
F YES YES YES
Business Tax Overhaul
SPUR has a big explainer on this, but tl;dr Repeal of the Payroll Tax and an Increase in Gross Receipts Tax Rates, Targeted Relief for Certain Industries and Small Businesses. Imperfect but better than how it is now, bringing good changes at a critical time. Also if it doesn’t pass, the city is going to have lay off hundreds of workers and reduce services. Placed on ballot by unanimous vote of Board of Supes and has to be on ballot because it’s a tax measure.
Youth Voting In Local Elections
This is an expansion of suffrage to 16 and 17 year olds (approx 3% of registered voters if ALL of them registered). I am supporting it because greater engagement in municipal issues is a good thing, and because we are a heavily climate-change-impacted city, I think younger people need a bigger voice. Yay for practical civics lessons, yay for representation. Placed on ballot by unanimous vote of Board of Supes and has to be on ballot because it amends the city charter.
Neighborhood Commercial Districts And City Permitting
Permitting for small businesses in SF is pretty bad and the Board of Supes hasn’t agreed on a plan to solve it, so Mayor Breed brought this to the ballot. Opposition is led by those opposed to the mayor and to business interests generally, along with some residents near commercial zones worried about noise and traffic. Change is definitely needed and this is better than the nothing offered as an alternative.
Real Estate Tax Transfer
Increases property transfer tax rate on commercial and residential property valued over $10 million (basically apartment buildings and office buildings). Property owners who sell to the city are exempt and those who sell to nonprofits would pay less. Most other California cities have a flat rate rather than graduated like SF and this would increase SF’s already much higher rate than most surrounding Bay Area cities. SF voted to increase this tax rate in 2008, 2010, and 2016. This measure was brought to the ballot by my district supervisor, Dean Preston, (with whom I am deeply underwhelmed overall), but it sure seems likely to reduce new apartment construction. Preston has introduced a non-enforceable resolution to use money from this for rent abatements and city-owned affordable housing, but Measure I seems likely to reduce high-density housing overall—and SF desperately needs high-density housing. If this measure was targeted only at commercial real estate, maybe, but as it has a strong risk of disincentivizing high-density housing development, I say NO.
Parcel Tax For San Francisco Unified School District
This is a do-over for a June 2018 measure that passed but got challenged. The 2018 measure seems likely to eventually come out in favor of the city, but this will both slightly lower parcel taxes and clear up the legal wrangle. Entirely reasonable.
Affordable Housing Authorization
Holy crap yes. This is just an authorization for SF to create up to 10,000 units of subsidized affordable housing, something required be on the ballot because of Article 34 of the California Constitution. This measure is not the funding, that might be the dubious Measure I, but if we get this authorization on the books, we won’t have to wait when the city has the budget for it. Unanimously supported by the Board of Supes.
Business Tax Based On Comparison Of Top Executive’s Pay To Employees’ Pay
Imposes an additional gross receipts tax (starting in 2022) on companies in which the compensation of the highest-paid managerial employee—ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD—is more than $2.7 million and at least 100 times more than the median compensation of its employees based in San Francisco. It’s the anywhere in the world part that’s key. Would likely apply to huge retailers, grocers, and hotel chains. The surcharge is so small it’s not likely to change corporate location choices, falls on large multinational corporations, and is estimated to generate between $60-140 million annually for the city’s general fund. (And it’s revenue generation that’s not a sales tax mostly impacting those with fewer resources.) Yes.
Caltrain Sales Tax
Not the ideal way to fund this—given that sales taxes impact the poor more than the rich and a lot of Caltrain riders are doin’ fine—but better than raising fares and pushing people away from mass transit.
Member, Board of Supervisors, District 5: Vallie Brown (1), Daniel L. Landry (2)
There are plenty of us in District 5 who are both progressives AND would prefer someone other than Dean Preston as our supervisor. We remember how well London Breed served us as district supervisor, how she was twice elected to lead the Board of Supes which had previously been divisive to the point of impairing its ability to serve, and we remember how Dean Preston, a white man and self-described progressive, decided that he should try to remove a highly competent and effective female woman of color representative from her position. Fortunately he failed and we’re able to have Breed’s practical talents as mayor to help keep San Francisco one of the safest places in the US to be during this pandemic. Now we’ve had a chance to see these supposedly better skills Preston was trying to replace her (and then Vallie Brown) with, and he ain’t all that. Let’s get someone in this role who has more focus on positive results for our neighborhood than on the next step in their political career.