Why and How I Changed Paths

I was diagnosed with the mildest form of a rare autoimmune disorder in fall of 2017, the first symptoms of which had presented themselves at the end of that July. This was just over one year after my biological father had died and I’d suddenly become executor of his estate, and point person for all matters pertaining to cleaning out and selling his run-down and junk-filled little house.

I was prescribed a short dose of prednisone, a steroid which is highly effective at knocking disorders into submission, if not entirely into remission, but very hard on the body’s systems otherwise. I was a whirlwind of activity that fall—adding significant storage and worktable space to our home office most notably, but active on a great many projects in parallel—and the week of steroids only kicked that up a notch. The meds did their job and my symptoms abated. I felt a huge weight lift also as the estate officially closed and, with the scattering of his ashes, my duties as executor came to an end. I turned my attention with relief and eagerness to my own projects, and somewhere inside I began to give myself permission to stop scrambling so hard

Some of that slowing down was just plain stumbling. It was the fatigue of all the hard work I’d been doing and the shocks I’d been weathering, exacerbated by life under the Trump Administration. The anxiety brought on by the past few years—compounded by perimenopause and (though I didn’t understand it well then) the side effects of my medications for my disease—was showing its fraying edges.

Thanks to my years of practicing Discardia, my instincts in times of overwhelm and low mood are good. I began to create space around myself and turn my attention from that which drains me to that which restores my calm. I unfollowed a large amount of my Twitter list, already quite low, to tune my Twitterstream to a generally more positive mood. I returned to my love of games and began thinking about how to create happy, positive, calming games. But I was feeling very tired.

At the very end of December 2017 and in the first days of 2018 I began having symptoms of the more intense form of my autoimmune disorder and my life changed completely. Because my symptoms I had to change major aspects of my daily routine, even after I very rapidly got a confirmed diagnosis and began taking medication—twice the dose of steroids as before. Extreme sensitivity meant I had to change my wardrobe entirely, not only fabrics but the style and fit of clothes. Massive fatigue transformed me from a “these are the 30 things I want to do today, but here are the most important 10” person to a “it was a good day, I got 1 thing done” person. And increased anxiety and overwhelm (plus being on immunosuppressants) further limited my ability to participate in social and political life. The medications distorted my body over the months, bloating my torso and giving me ‘moonface’. But they did work to put the disorder into submission, possibly even remission entirely, though I won’t know until I fully taper off the medications.

And there’s the real challenge. Prednisone works great to knock disorders like mine into submission, but the hell it puts you through along the way is brutal, so you want to take it for as short a time and as low a dose as is possible while remaining effective. Other immunosuppressants like, the post-transplant medication Cellcept, can maintain that symptom suppression with milder side effects (for me mostly bloating and distortion of my lower torso, plus some fatigue). So as soon as my symptoms abated, I added Cellcept to my regimen and began the agonizingly slow process of tapering off prednisone.

You can’t just quit prednisone, you have to wind it down very, very slowly. And because—at the kind of peak dose I was on (40mg/day)—it says to your cortisol system, “Hey, I’ve got this, go take a vacation” you find that side effects continue to be life-disrupting for months and months. I dropped from 40mg a day to 30mg a day of prednisone on February 13, 2018, after taking that highest dose for just four weeks. My taper reached 20mg a day on March 27, 2018, and 10mg a day on May 12, 2018. But it’s that last part that is the most difficult to wean your body off of as you wait—and wait, and wait, and wait—for your cortisol system to wake up again. It’s May 24, 2019, and I am just next week hoping to bring my tapered dose down to 2mg a day.

Had I known then what I know now, I’d have done my taper differently instead of going too fast last summer and winding up needing to spend three months holding at 5mg a day. Now I taper ridiculously gradually by altering my dose within a week. I was at 3mg a day. Then after at least two weeks at that dose, I started taking 2mg instead every third day: 3/3/2. If that is giving me trouble at the end of the first week, I go back to 3mg a day for two weeks before I try it again. If it’s okay, then after two weeks of 3/3/2, I try 3/2/2. That’s where I am now and it’s going well. Next Wednesday I’ll begin a couple weeks of 2mg a day before I evaluate whether I can proceed to 2/2/1. Best case, which I’m learning is unlikely, I’ll be off prednisone in about three months.

Whenever I do finally break free of prednisone, I need to spend at least another month letting its influence leave my system before I can start to consider beginning my Cellcept taper. I’m hopeful (and pretty confident) that that is not nearly as rough a process. But even so, I can expect that the soonest I’ll be living without my body altered by these medications or the presence of this immune system disorder will be over a year from now.

My life has been radically changed for multiple years. My fatigue and anxiety forced me to bring my world to a standstill; to stop the ride so I could get off and evaluate things. And that evaluation and this experience have brought me new skills (meditation and acceptance, most valuably) and clarified priorities. I am not the same person I was, and for all the difficulty, I feel good about who I am now.

Even if I had my old energy and health back this instant, I would not resume the life I had before. I am closer to center than I was and I like that. I continue to work to regain my strength and vigor, but for new priorities. I feel that I am standing in the early morning sun beside a large field, shovel in hand and ready to continue the slow, satisfying work of turning the earth for a garden.

Redefining the Generations

GenX, the cultural generation I consider myself part of, wasn’t defined for decades. We were just “post-Boomers” or worse, and subject to the same derogatory attitude which has pervaded many headline references to “Millennials”.

But here’s the thing, what even is a “Millennial”? As Pew Research Center defines it, Generation X ended with kids born in 1980. Various lines have been drawn to create a subsequent group, sometimes weakly referred to as “Post-Millennial” or “Generation Y”. But those ‘damn you kids and your selfies and avocado toast’ articles tend to lump everyone under age 40 all together.

The concept of a generational cohort is fuzzy—history draws with blurry lines—but it is useful and points to the forces of cultural change. The breakpoints between the generations indicate our sense of when significant change occurred. We can use someone’s personal connectedness to that marker as a way of measuring how much they will “belong” to that generation. For example, my cousin is only two months older than I am, but because our different life paths (nurse vs. all the many hats I’ve worn) led us to different levels of engagement with internet culture and technology, I think she’s more like a Baby Boomer and I’m more typically Generation X.

So what are the breakpoints we need to be paying attention to after the end of the Baby Boomer generation? To my thinking, GenX is “early years in or after the tumult of ‘the 60s’ but before the fall of the USSR”, thus growing up in the shadow of potential nuclear annihilation plus the political disillusionment from assassinations and Watergate. GenXers were (at oldest) 3 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated—a major cultural pivot point—and experienced their formative childhood years in an era when the same worldwide sociopolitical framework the Baby Boomers experienced was being seriously challenged but had not yet transformed.

I disagree with Pew and think GenX should end two years later, in 1982. I draw the line there because it’s the pivot point when the home computer begins to arise. A kid born in 1982 is fairly likely to reach high school without a home computer or an internet connection (1997: 36.6% and 18% of households respectively). A kid born a year later is part of the rapid wave of both those numbers climbing fast.

The big cultural dividers of the generations after GenX are “doesn’t remember the world before the World Wide Web” and “doesn’t remember the world before pervasive smartphones”. (I am using ‘smartphone’ here as shorthand for ‘pocket-sized computer connected to the internet constantly at hand’.)

Note that this generational signifier shifts from being geopolitical or tied to birthrate, and is instead tied to probability of access to technology. It is thus bound up with economic class and other factors of privilege such as race. That observation goes a long way toward explaining why polling by age group is unlikely to be sufficient to predict probable behavior. Generational boundaries are becoming blurrier with increased lifespan, more personal choice over childbearing, and a host of other changes enabling individuals to self-select their group. That said, there are overall cultural trends which make it still useful to discuss generational cohorts.

If the cohort which Pew calls Millennials and I will call the Computer Generation starts in 1983, where does it end? I could pin it purely based on the rise of the smartphone, but there is another big change to take into account. What else makes the current generation distinct? I think it is growing up under the shadow of impending climate catastrophe, plus the cultural disillusionment of the recognition of how America is tangled up with white supremacy. Climate warnings have been raised repeatedly for decades and it is tough to identify a turning point, so when did the American conversation about race begin to change in the 21st century? Jay Smooth’s vitally important video “How to Tell Someone They Sound Racist” from the summer of 2008 is a good indicator of when it was all over the media (accelerated by Barack Obama’s consideration and nomination as the Democratic candidate). If the generation after the Computer Generation is about 3 years old when that pivot point hits, that would start them in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina.

The Computer Generation 1983 to 2004 then. And after them, our current generation, which I call The Awoken Generation begins in 2005.

We should look back as well as ahead, because there are some similar problems with lumping cohorts together and ignoring major pivots in earlier generational breaks. The term “Silent Generation” for those who survived the Great Depression and formed the core of the major social changes of the 1950s and 1960s is particularly bizarre. The Civil Rights Movement and Rock & Roll weren’t ‘silent’, and it’s unfair to label an entire generation with an epithet about not speaking up against McCarthyism.

So back to technology. I think about conversations I’ve had with my mother, her mother, and her mother’s father. He was born in the last decade of the 19th century and lived into the last decade of the 20th. I recall talking with his daughter, my grandmother, about all the technologies he and she witnessed transforming from innovations to everyday essentials within their lifetimes. Among these the telephone, the automobile, the radio, and the television stand out as extremely culturally significant. (You can see the growth of those along with other household technologies in the “Consumption Spreads Faster Today” chart from the New York Times.) If we want to peg a one-third of households tipping point for these as I did for home computers above (starting our cohort three years before it), we might see generational groups as follows: 1918–1929 (tv, electricity, auto, radio); 1930–1948 (the Great Depression and WWII, radio and the refrigerator); 1949–1965 (TV and the clothes washer).

So, bringing it all together, and filling in a little at the start:

The Breakthrough Generation born ?1880s?–1903
Electricity, the internal combustion engine, sanitation systems, photography, and the airplane all were realized in the late 19th century and the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk took place at the end of 1903. What a time to be alive! Anything is possible!

The Suffrage Generation born 1904–1917
This cohort grew up during the fight for the rights of women and workers, surrounded by the optimistic trends of the generations on either side of them but in a world full of disasters, massacres, bigotry, and military expansionism.

The Modern Generation born 1918–1929
The 1920s and 1930s saw massive change in American households and their connection to the rest of the world. Sometime around 1925 over a third of them had a car, and by 1929 between 35-40% of households had a radio. In this same period, and several years ahead of automobile purchases, the telephone and electricity reached around a third of households. This is also the generation that saw the conversion of a craft-based economy into a mass-market one.

The Survivor Generation born 1930–1948
1933, as one of the worst years of the the Great Depression, is a key pivot point because those hard years massively impacted people’s access to technology. Take a look at the telephone and automobile adoption rates in the NY Times chart linked above to see the impact. Until after World War II, only the inexpensive radio and (in the early 1940s) the life-transforming refrigerator could break through and grow in adoption rates by a large percentage of American households. Many of the later portion of this cohort, who experienced the impact of the Great Depression less directly, and the countercultural elements of the next generation might together be termed The Breakaways for their role in instigating social change in the 1950s and 1960s. (Thanks to my Mum for her suggestion of that name and the reminder of voices raised in protest and song.)

The TV Boom Generation born 1949–1964
There’s a reason the 1950s are associated with television; household ownership of TVs in the U.S. rose from 9% to 90% in that decade, with a big chunk of the growth occurring in the first two years. By 1952, a third of U.S. homes had TV. [Tons of charts on this history can be found, unsurprisingly, on tvhistory.tv] The impact of the shared culture of television in this generation’s lifetime cannot be ignored; even the atypical Americans of this cohort who watched relatively little felt its effects throughout their daily lives. (And that remains true today for a large percentage of Americans, even those more likely to focus on online activities.) The clothes washer deserves a shout-out in changing domestic life for this generation’s childhood too, reaching about half of households by the end of the period.

Generation X born 1965–1982
Kids of this generation had their early years in or after the tumult of ‘the 60s’ but before the fall of the USSR. They grew up in the shadow of potential nuclear annihilation and the political disillusionment from assassinations and Watergate. The younger part of this cohort likely was further shaken by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. For all that, they often had very free childhoods with space and time for imagination and play.

The Computer Generation born 1983–2004
This cohort is likely to have grown up in a household with a home computer and unlikely to remember much about the world before the World Wide Web. The Cold War was over before they could understand the concept and even the youngest had a good chance of getting well into middle school before the magnitude of global warming’s impacts was inescapably evident. For them, school shootings like Columbine in 1999 and the endlessly repeated footage of the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack in 2001 are more likely to be the source of their childhood nightmares.

The Awoken Generation born 2005–?
The current generation doesn’t remember a world before people had pocket-sized computers connected to the internet constantly at hand. They don’t remember a world when mass shootings weren’t a regular occurrence in the United States. They don’t remember a world that isn’t experiencing climate change and the various types of natural disasters it amplifies. They’re going to start coming of age soon, but we don’t have to wait until then to hear them beginning to raise their voices in protest of the world we’ve brought them into. It is a good, righteous anger.


WOTICETT companies: worker-owned, tapered-investment, compensation-equal, tapered-time

I’ve been thinking about economic systems and the huge problems with the way we handle work, employment, pay, and profit in the United States. Another way is possible.

The model of work I am here envisioning recognizes that:

• Sustainable societies are built on sustainable economies which are built on sustainable lives of the workers in them.

• Personal time is the key finite resource, not an abstract like money.
(If worker time is treated as the resource of greatest availability, workers are exploited.)

• Extractive capitalism is built on an unrealistic model of eternal growth and payment of ever-growing returns to investors. This is inherently unsustainable as it continually removes value from companies and their workers. Alternatively, worker ownership retains value within the company and among workers, and as a by-product strengthens local economies, which usually helps with long-term company success.

• Investment is still needed to start companies, though, so the initial extractive return on investment must be tapered to allow the company to become sustainable. One possibility: companies start with 52% worker-ownership, 48% investor ownership. Every three years 1% of investor ownership shifts to worker-ownership (dividends shifting to compensation, usually to new workers as the company grows). After 16 years the company is 100% worker-owned.

• Every human deserves dignity in their work and an equal opportunity for time away from work. Early attempts to legislate this fundamental right gave us the weekend and a cap on workday length. The next step is to pry apart compensation from hours labored; we live in a time of great prosperity and there is enough to go around if we divide it equitably. Therefore, this model assumes that the total company amount of compensation to workers is divided evenly among them so that all have at least a livable wage. There are no tiers of pay. All worker-owners benefit from company success or feel the squeeze equally when the business or economy is struggling.

• The minimum time a worker has to spend at work in a given week is the distinguishing difference between workers at different levels. An entry level worker commits 35 hours a week to the company. As they grow in experience and efficiency, this time tapers down. Every two years worked with the company reduces the minimum hours required by 1 hour. Every eighth year this drops an extra hour. Thus, after six years with the company, a worker’s minimum hours are 32. After eight years, they are 30. After sixteen years with the company, a worker only needs to work half-days (or however it makes sense to allocate their 25 hours). After thirty-two years, they’re involved a couple days a week. After forty-eight years, just 5 hours a week. This is enough for their wealth of experience to still benefit the business and for them to still be engaged in public life, but at a level that respects their reduced energy for work at their age. After fifty-six years as a worker, they have no further obligation and pensions kick in.

• Workers moving from one job to another will enter at a time level reflective of their experience with that kind of work AND the age of the new company. For example, a worker who has 20 years experience leaves to join a 10 year old company and instead of working their old minimum of 23 hours a week, they will work a minimum of 29 because the new company is still growing and everyone there works that many hours.

• Workers are incentivized to remain with a company and help it grow because switching to a new, younger company will generally mean committing more hours of time per week and delaying their pension (unless they subsequently switch to a more established company and are able to negotiate recognition of all their experience).

• Workers are incentivized to be more efficient (because they want to work only their minimum hours) and companies are incentivized to right-size their business to match their market (because they want to keep worker compensation good while those workers put in just the minimum hours).

• Some businesses will be more profitable than others as economic factors fluctuate. Their worker-owners will decide how to use those profits, either applying them to the company for improvements or growth, sharing them out to the current worker-owners, or adding new worker-owners to diffuse the compensation across more people (enabling further profit or growth and possibly allowing all worker-owners to commit below minimum weekly hours, thus realizing the benefits of long-term employment sooner).

A common pattern which might emerge under the WOTICETT model is that of workers of medium experience temporarily becoming involved in two companies (or double roles at one company) to increase their resources before dropping back to just one when they become parents or need to be more available for elder care.

For example, Chris started work young and joined a company at age 17. At age 27, with ten years experience and working 29 hours a week, Chris gets invited to participate in a friend’s new company. The first couple years are intense, working 64 hours a week, but then that number begins to drop until at age 37, Chris is working a total of 52 hours a week (23 hours a week at the first company and 29 hours a week at the friend’s company).

Chris’s partner, Devin, is five years younger. Devin helped care for child siblings when young and didn’t join a company until age 22. Now, at age 32, Devin is working 29 hours a week. Thanks to the resources they’ve built up through Chris’s decade of double pay, the couple has enormous flexibility should they decide to have children.

They might choose that Devin will become a full-time parent. In that case, when their kid is ten years old, Chris will be 47 and working 40 hours a week (17 hours a week at one job and 23 at the other), and Devin will be 42 and fully available for parenting and life admin tasks.

Or maybe after all those years of double work, Chris becomes the full-time parent. Then when the kid is ten years old, Chris at age 47 is fully available and Devin at age 42 is working 23 hours a week. They’re living on one income instead of two, but they have a lot of free time to make living cheaper more possible.

Or if they carry on as they had been, when the kid is ten, Chris at age 47 is working 40 hours a week (17 hours a week at one job and 23 at the other), and Devin at age 42 is working 23 hours a week. They still have three incomes and though they still probably need some assistance with childcare, they do have considerable family time.

In those three scenarios, when the kid is twenty, Chris is 57 and Devin is 52, and they’re either:

  • working 27 hours a week (10 at one job and 17 at the other) and not committed to company work, respectively, and living on two incomes;
  • not committed to company work and working 17 hours a week, respectively, and living on one income;
  • working 27 and 17 hours a week, respectively, and living on three incomes.

All of these scenarios—along with the variants in which Chris drops back down to just one job or where one of them returns to work when the kid is 15 or 20 years old—are vastly more appealing than the average options most families are facing today.

They become even more appealing as we roll out the scenarios into later years of life. At ages 67 and 62, Chris and Devin are either:

  • working 14 hours a week (4 at one job and 10 at the other) and not committed to company work, respectively, and living on two incomes;
  • not committed to company work and working 10 hours a week, respectively, and living on one income;
  • working 14 and 10 hours a week, respectively, and living on three incomes.

At ages 73 and 68, they are either:

  • working 7 hours a week (pensioned at one job and 7 at the other) and not committed to company work, respectively, and living on two incomes (or one income plus whatever level a pension is set at);
  • not committed to company work and working 7 hours a week, respectively, and living on one income;
  • working 7 hours a week, each, and living on three incomes (or two incomes plus whatever level a pension is set at).

At ages 83 and 78, they are either:

  • pensioned from two jobs and not committed to company work, respectively, and living on two incomes (or two times whatever level a pension is set at);
  • not committed to company work and pensioned, respectively, and living on one income (or whatever level a pension is set at);
  • pensioned from two jobs and pensioned, respectively, and living on three incomes (or three times whatever level a pension is set at).

That is a healthier life than most have now.

Would a model like this require some major changes from how things currently work? Yes. Is it realistically possible? Absolutely.

The current model has been staggering along for decades with a few exploiters buying IMAX screens for their superyachts (or whatever that decade’s equivalent of gross excess happens to be) while an alarming percentage of people struggle and suffer, working three jobs to be able to pay for childcare.

If we can limp along with this broken system, we can certainly afford a different one which, even if not ideal, lifts millions of people up to vastly better lives.

Election Slate June 2018

This is a primary election, meaning for the races I’ve marked with an asterisk below we’re choosing candidates to decide between in November. California has an open primary, meaning we choose among all the options (regardless of party affiliation) and the top two go to the November ballot. Primary elections can seem less important, but they are actually when we have the greatest opportunity to create political change.

State Offices

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.

Lieutenant Governor*: Jeff Bleich

This role’s involvement in state environmental issues puts Bleich in front for me. Kounalakis and Hernandez both have too much oil money in their campaign coffers to make me want them in that seat on the California Coastal Commission. Also, Bleich has served on the board of trustees of California State University, including a year as chairman, so he’s ready for the seat on the University of California Board of Regents.

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.

Treasurer*: Fiona Ma

Sound financial background and has a seriously impressive endorsement list.

Attorney General*: Xavier Becerra

Both current Attorney General Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones would be good in this position. Becerra has stepped in well since being appointed by Governor Brown in January when Kamala Harris went to the U.S. Senate. Jones did a great job protecting consumer interests without driving insurance companies out of the California market as Insurance Commissioner, and has more experience running a state agency. Given the amount of legal challenges to come while maintaining California values and policies against the Trump/Pence administration, I’m going to stick with the jockey currently doing fine on the horse.

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) takes him off the list. Lara’s political experience gives him the edge over Asif Mahmood.

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.

Federal Offices

U.S. Senate*: Dianne Feinstein

With a different administration in Washington, D.C., and another candidate that offset the losses 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. 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.

U.S. Representative, District 12*: Nancy Pelosi

Again, we need this experienced, powerful woman continuing to fight for us at the national level. If you don’t want to vote for Pelosi—and I admit she has significant issues particularly around privacy protections and internet freedom—my next choice would be Shahid Buttar. (I continue to oppose Kevin de León because of his lack of action against his former housemate, sexual harasser Tony Mendoza.)

One More State Office

State Assembly Member, District 17*: David Chiu

Love this guy and always delighted to vote for him. He works hard and smart.

City and County Offices

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #4: Andrew Y.S. Cheng

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #7: Curtis Karnow

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #9: Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #11: Jeffrey S. Ross

We need to support our existing judges against this bizarre power grab by the public defender’s office. When as eclectic a group as Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, London Breed, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Angela Alioto, Scott Weiner, David Chiu, Dennis Herrera, all 50 SF Superior Court Judges, the SF Police Officers Association, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the SF Republican Party, and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy all agree on an issue (endorsing these four) you know something weird is going on with the other side.

Superintendent of Public Instruction*: Tony K. Thurmond

Good endorsements and solid experience.

Mayor: London Breed (first choice), Mark Leno (second choice), (no third choice)

You can read my whole statement on why I support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco (and why Mark Leno’s my second choice and I do not support Jane Kim), but the short version is:

London Breed is rational and resourceful in her approach to civic leadership. A very capable administrator, she comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. This has been particularly visible in her work on housing, which is the most pressing issue in San Francisco. Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. She governed well as Acting Mayor after Ed Lee’s sudden death, and will be an excellent mayor.

State Propositions

68: Yes

Authorizes Bonds Funding Parks, Natural Resources Protection, Climate Adaptation, Water Quality and Supply, and Flood Protection

California should apply its economic strength to protect and strengthen its resources, particularly its water resources. This is supported by a very wide range of groups from the Nature Conservancy to the American Lung Association in California to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As the Sacramento Bee put it, it’s a reasonable ask.

It’s opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Republican party, and others who think bond debt is a terrible thing.

69: Yes

Requires That Certain New Transportation Revenues Be Used for Transportation Purposes

This locks funds already approved into use on transportation. Basically a tidying up proposition. It seems to just be opposed by a few legislators (who perhaps don’t want to be thus locked into where those funds go) or by those who wish that the gas tax generating the funds didn’t exist.

70: No

Requires Legislative Supermajority Vote Approving Use of Cap-And-Trade Reserve Fund

This is a Republican and oil-industry-backed attempt to make it harder for this already established fund to be spent for its legislated purpose—reducing climate pollution. Some Republicans backing this proposition are particularly hoping to stall high-speed rail projects.

71: Yes

Sets Effective Date for Ballot Measures

This is a super smart change to explicitly rule that measures become effective five days after the Secretary of State certifies the election results. As it is now, it could be argued that they take effect the day after the election, but we have too many ballots by mail and provisional ballots to be certain of all election results that night. Rather than risk having to implement and then roll something back when an election result wasn’t what was predicted, this eliminates the problem.

72: Yes

Permits Legislature to Exclude Newly Constructed Rain-Capture Systems from Property-Tax Reassessment Requirement

This is a great change to incentivize property owners to add these rainwater gathering systems to their buildings, giving them the same tax protections as solar panels, fire sprinklers, disabled access and other improvements. Because it removes a tax penalty it requires voter approval.

Regional Measure

3: Yes

We need these infrastructure improvements to address the gap between Bay Area transit and highway needs and our current reality, let alone the demands on these systems from the tens of thousands of new residents expected to come to the area in the next twenty years. This measure has broad support across a variety of interested organizations and elected officials, and is primarily opposed by regularly-appearing Sample Ballot arguments character Dr. Terence Faulkner and some guy who owns a stamp and coin company.

(One neat thing about the sample ballot this time is the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan this measure would approve is included beginning on page 54. This plan will do a LOT.)

City and County Propositions:

A: Yes

Public Utilities Revenue Bonds

This is a good bond plan to provide for continuing upgrades to the way San Francisco gets its power. It allows us to take advantage of technological advances, ensure we’re using cleaner sources and reducing our carbon emissions, and protect against damage to these systems from earthquakes or other disasters. This is unsurprisingly opposed by the Libertarians who just don’t like us to all pitch in and buy ourselves nice things like sustainability together. It is also opposed by Angela Alioto and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce who think it gives the PUC too much power, even though all projects would also require approval by the mayor and a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors.

B: Yes

Prohibiting Appointed Commissioners from Running for Office

Apparently this has been the unofficial ethical rule for 40 years, since Mayor Moscone’s administration, and this codifies it. The point of it is to keep people who are seeking endorsements in a campaign from conflict of interest when those potential endorsers appear before their commission. The only opposition statements in the sample ballot were from our ol’ pal Dr. Terence Faulkner, though YIMBY Action opposes on the tenuous grounds that having to give up their commission position when running for office would deter commissioners from ever running and thus lower the quality of candidates.

C: No

Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Child Care and Education

My heart does not bleed for the Building Owners & Managers Association of San Francisco, nor for Shorenstein Realty Services, nor the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, all of which are providing funding in opposition to this measure. And of course the Libertarians and Republicans hate it because it is spending money on collective goods.

However there is one reason you would want to vote ‘No’ on C: the same tax is in question for Measures C and D, so only the one with the most votes would get funded, assuming both win. As important as child care and education is, housing is an even more vital issue in San Francisco. To ensure Measure D’s success, I recommend a ‘No’ on C.

D: Yes

Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Housing and Homelessness Services

Housing affordability is the critical issue in San Francisco. This will help. It imposes an additional 1.7% tax on some of those benefitting most from SF’s current boom times and uses the funds to help those hardest hit right now. There are specific cut outs so it doesn’t apply to leases to businesses doing PDR (production, distribution, repair), retail goods and services direct to consumers, arts/entertainment, or certain non-profit organizations. 45% of revenue goes to housing homeless, 35% to acquiring or rehabilitating rent-controlled apartments to protect from displacement and to create permanently affordable homes for middle-income households; 10% similarly for SRO (single-room occupancy) and extremely low and very low income people; 10% for permanent rent subsidies to extremely low income seniors in income-restricted developments. The measure has wide support including endorsement from YIMBY Action. This is opposed by an intense supporter of Measure C and by Angela Alioto because she doesn’t want to “throw money at various pieces of the problem”.

E: Yes

Prohibiting Tobacco Retailers from Selling Flavored Tobacco Products

Candy-flavored tobacco and smoking products are bad for public health, and that costs us all. Even if you don’t care about kids getting addicted early with these products, vote no to keep us all from bearing the cost of another generation’s cancer care. When you get yet another glossy mailer opposing this measure with “funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company” in the disclosure box, you know they’ve got a big corporate profit incentive to work against our public health. This measure is opposed also by retailers who say they vigorously enforce the existing age 21 sales limit, but come on; does anyone remember high school? The smoker kids could always score smokes when they wanted them. Oh and the Libertarians are against it because it’s gonna be like the War on Drugs all over again!! Only about flavored vape smoke, I guess.

F: Yes

City-Funded Legal Representation for Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits

The San Francisco Apartment Association in their big argument against this say only 1,657 of 172,000 rent-controlled apartment tenants faced eviction in 2017-2018. When we look at the costs of homelessness, that’s a whole lot of households potentially at risk of displacement because they lacked the resources to fight an unjust eviction. (Yes, some evictions will be reasonable, but we know not all.) The supporters of this measure counter that its been 40,000 tenants facing eviction in five years and over two-thirds of them were without legal representation. From years of observation, I trust the housing advocates and community organizations in San Francisco more than the landlords. In addition to that from big landlords, this measure is also opposed by the Republicans.

Note that there is a version of this legislation already in progress with the Board of Supervisors, so a lot of the ground work has already been done (going back to work done by then-Supervisor David Chiu) and implementing it should go pretty smoothly.

G: Yes

Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District

With property values rising in San Francisco, a parcel tax is a super smart way to raise revenue for increasing teacher salaries and benefits, adding staffing, and other improvements to education resources. The measure exempts parcels which are the primary residence of a senior citizen owner. We need to be able to attract and retain educators, and they deserve a wage that gives them a fighting chance of living near their work. This is opposed by the Libertarians because spending money bad.

H: No

Policy for the Use of Tasers by San Francisco Police Officers

This is not a vote on the use of Tasers, that’s already been going through a very thoughtful year-long process. This is an attempt by the Police Officers Association to set policy for Tasers which subsequently can’t be altered by the Police Commission or the Police Department. The POA shouldn’t be permitted to overrule the police chief, current and former police commissioners, and the San Francisco district attorney. Specifically, they shouldn’t be permitted to eliminate the requirement that police use de-escalation techniques before Tasers are used on people. As YIMBY Action notes, “Police Chief Bill Scott himself called it the ‘antithesis’ of community-oriented policing as recommended by the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama.”

This measure is very widely opposed, both within law enforcement and among elected officials, and within the communities that keep a critical eye on law enforcement such as the ACLU and homeless and mental health advocates.

I: No

Relocation of Professional Sports Teams

This is a bizarre measure apparently attempting to stop the Warriors move to SF because it would be rude to Oakland to steal them. Dude, that ship has sailed. Vote No on this waste of ballot space and our collective mental energies.

As usual the Sample Ballot booklet has tons of other useful info tucked in between things. A few highlights:

– Page 89 Voter Bill of Rights

– Page 125 Info on being a Poll Worker on election day

– Page 155 an actually useful index

– Page 156 Ballot Worksheet

– Back cover Vote-by-Mail application

 

Why I Support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco

The greatest impact on the character of this city in the decades to come is going to be who can live here. Getting our housing and affordability crisis under control is essential to keeping San Francisco a  community which reflects our inclusive values.

London Breed has made tackling these interconnected problems central to her platform. She’s already been working on the issues for years and wisely puts her emphasis on making incremental positive change happen sooner rather than later.

Having housing at a wide range of costs isn’t an abstract ideal; I see the benefit of diverse housing in my immediate neighborhood of Hayes Valley. I live half a block from public housing in Breed’s district. Nice housing; good neighbors. There is also new low-income housing being built half a block the other side of my home and that is very welcome to me too. Having affordable housing here means people who work here can live here. We need working class opportunity within San Francisco to keep the city healthy and vibrant!

Breed has been involved in helping make good construction projects like these new ones happen. And she’s been a voice for neighbors fighting for a mix of affordable units being added in market-rate construction.

She’s rational and resourceful in her approach. She comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. Despite her deep personal understanding of the issues of housing and income inequality—she grew up here in public housing—she doesn’t sacrifice decent actions we can take now for future pipe-dreams that don’t have the funding or political will to put into reality. Her pragmatism pays off.

All her life experience and the empathy it has rooted in her is something we progressives can leverage if we don’t isolate her by demanding unachievable perfect solutions. I do not believe a fast, uncompromising solution is available on preserving income diversity in San Francisco, but I do think we can turn this behemoth of a ship in a better direction with many smaller, smarter moves. That kind of problem-solving is in Breed’s wheelhouse.

She has a strong base in many San Francisco communities thanks to her working class roots, her direct activity building community resources, and her commitment to housing and tenant dignity (which celebrates and continues the very best of Mayor Ed Lee’s life work).

Another strength of London Breed is that she is a deeply democratically-chosen candidate. Our district elected her soundly defeating an incumbent mayoral appointee. Since then she has twice been chosen unanimously as President of the Board of Supervisors by her peers. Neighborhood support is how we got her strong, skillful representation in office. Her performance is how she's demonstrated the wisdom of that choice.

When the city could have been thrown into crisis at Mayor Lee’s death, she calmly and competently bridged the gap. She skips the drama and focuses on good administration of this challenging city.

That down-to-earth focus on what needs to get done will give us a mayor who spares us from unnecessary distractions during 2018 and 2019 when there is so much else for the people of San Francisco to be focused on changing at the national level. Her even keel will give us a stable foundation from which to support progressive change across the country.

 

Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. I am very proud to support her competence as Mayor in June’s election; no “identity politics” required. Yes, she’s a San Francisco native, from a working-class background, and a woman of color—and those are assets much needed in office—but more importantly, she is very good at governing this city. THAT is why I support London Breed as Mayor.

 

 

 

Breed’s statement “An Affordable City for ALL of Us

 

Her campaign website http://www.londonformayor.com/

 

 

 

A couple additional thoughts:

– Why not Leno?

Mark Leno, like Scott Weiner, has already moved on to a larger stage—and that’s a great thing. They’ve done vital, good work at the state level, which we should want them to continue in whatever form they can. Our goal as progressives over the next few years is to bring in a wave of newly elected progressive candidates; we need experienced hands to help them be effective. Leno’s potential as a mentor able to help wherever needed is significant. The more effective the left is, the stronger our message and our tactics are against the fear-mongering and authoritarianism of the GOP.

I’ve lived in Breed’s district in 2002 through 2003, and since 2007. Between, I lived in the Castro so I’ve familiarity with Leno too. I like his work and think he’d be fine as mayor, but I find Breed’s city-level focus likely to achieve better results, sooner, and more consistently.

 

 

– Why not Kim?

Jane Kim’s willingness in the “Sunday Night Shakeup” to hand power to the most conservative member of the Board of Supervisors in hopes of improving her shot at mayor demonstrated clearly that she is not the person for the job. We need a capable administrator who is focused on civic service, not a backroom wheeler dealer focused on growing her own political power.

I once supported Kim (first in her run for Board of Education in 2004), but her positions in recent years have become so rigid as to render her incapable of making the project and policy deals which will create a more sustainable, diverse community here.

I’ve been a San Francisco area resident my whole life. I grew up in the east bay, went to college in Santa Cruz, and lived in the south bay for 12 years before moving to San Francisco in early 2002. As a member of the early Web community I have watched San Francisco react to the various waves of tech boom and bust, with a particular eye to how it impacted building and rental inventory in the city, both commercial and residential.

San Francisco is going to continue to feel the strong pressure of the economic force of corporate interests, and to continue to need to resist the extractive goals of their short-term profit cycles. At the same time. San Francisco will increasingly feel the impacts of climate change, both on the local and wider, particularly statewide, levels. Meeting these challenges is going to require smart planning to create sustainable economies and infrastructure for the future.

What we build, what we incentivize the building of, is going to make or break our city in the century ahead. Jane Kim’s position on the Mission Moratorium was troubling to me for its lack of engagement with these issues. Her attempts to spin State Senatorial opponent Scott Weiner as a corporate tool do a tremendous disservice to his work. Jane Kim has become more focused on political maneuvering than actual positive change. I’m seriously disappointed in her arc as a public servant.

This post also appears on Medium.

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