What I’m thinking of voting for

So. There’s a 2018 California election. Recently got the official voter information guide, with its over 9000 props and candidates. I did this a few years ago and got some positive feedback, so this post is gonna have what I currently plan for voting for/against and why. Appreciate any feedback/comments.

Prop 1. Put on the ballot by the legislature, 4 billion in bonds for affordable housing and veterans housing. This one is a clear yes for me. Housing and affordable housing are critical issues in California, this will spend money addressing them as part of a wider approach that already passed the legislature. The only arguments against seem to be misdirections — “why is California doing THIS when prop 13 is so unfair and there are other approaches to the housing crisis”. “Prop 13 sucks” is true, and “we need EVEN MORE housing” is true, but neither is much of an argument against this prop which builds some but not enough housing. There has been no organized opposition to it (not a single group registered), and according to the records a total of $0 has been spent opposing it. (Why is this a prop? Because bonds are required to go in front of voters by the California constitution. What’s California’s debt situation in general right now? Around the average for the last 2.5 decades, regardless of whether this and all the other bonds on the ballot are approved or not.) Yes on 1.

Prop 2. Funds housing for people with mental illnesses via 2 billion in bonds. More housing is good — another yes from me. It’s also part of the big housing package like prop 1. Like with prop 1, there are no committees registered in opposition and no money spent opposing it by anybody. Heck, even the republicans in the CA legislature voted for it. So why is this a separate bond from prop 1 and why is it a prop at all? Because this one uses money from a tax passed by a previous proposition (Prop 63 in 2004) to fund the bond, so it needs a prop to change how it’s used. See, this is the kind of nonsense we have to do because of budgeting-by-proposition, since the legislature is literally not allowed to just make a damn budget even if everyone agrees on something. Ah well, rant unrelated, yes on 2.

Prop 3. Another bond prop, this one is put on the ballot by signatures and not by the legislature. Authorizes about 9 billion in bonds for infrastructure, mostly water-related and some environmental. State parks, watersheds, groundwater sustainability, water system infrastructure, etc… a total of 64 (!!!) different beneficiaries would get the money. (Full list at https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_3,_Water_Infrastructure_and_Watershed_Conservation_Bond_Initiative_(2018) ) No committees or money spent to oppose it, and the top donor in favor of it is a lovely-named group called “Ducks Unlimited”. But this raises some questions in my mind about why the proposition is what it is. There’s 64 beneficiaries and they’re listed by name in the prop — voters have no way of assessing whether those 64 specific organizations are good targets. The legislature didn’t get to go through a process to pick them. So where did they come from? Why these? Basically, as far as I can tell, the organizations getting the money sponsored the proposition… I don’t like it. Seems like a bunch of orgs saw the success of another water project bond prop a few years ago, and decided to get their own prop to get some sweet bond money. No on 3.

Prop 4, another bond prop from signatures. This one is 1.5 billion for construction/renovation of children’s hospitals. This isn’t the first of its kind — occasionally (last two in 2004 and 2008) CA hospitals go to the propositions to get money. No real opposition (the argument against is literally the same argument, copy-pasted, from the argument against prop 1, by the same guy), everyone seems to like this prop. I’d rather have it go way further and have the government just fund health care for all, but that’s not on the ballot so government giving some money to some hospitals would have to do. Unlike the prop 3 beneficiaries, there don’t seem to be allegations of corruption/pay to play, all the beneficiaries are as expected, Children’s hospitals. Yes on 4.

Prop 5. Not a bond prop! This prop expands prop 13 and makes more loopholes and ways for people to keep paying property tax on multimillion dollar homes as if they were unchanged in price since the 50s. Note that people can already transfer the low property taxes from one house to another of equal of lower value; this one means that someone could transfer the low price of one house to a pretend-low-for-tax-reasons price on a new house they bought for a lot more. Hell no on 5.

Prop 6. Repeals the a recent gas tax, and makes it so that IN ADDITION to a two-thirds majority in the legislature it ALSO takes another proposition to ever tax cars or gas. JFC what a terrible idea. California does NOT need every little thing the legislature does to go through a proposition. There’s already too many props. And of course, this prop repeals the tax and doesn’t mention what the tax pays for and is now unfunded, and of course doesn’t make any alternative funding source. Like that dog from the meme — “NO TAX! ONLY SPEND!” No on 6, so much no on 6.

Prop 7. People say this proposition is “Switching to permanent daylight savings time”. But that’s actually illegal under federal law, so what the prop ACTUALLY does is allow the legislature to vote on switching to permanent Daylight Saving Time IF federal law is changed. So as of right now, this prop does nothing besides give some control back to the legislature in some hypothetical future case where it matters. The guy sponsoring it has already tried (twice, apparently) to get the legislature to move CA to standard-time-only and both failed, so I don’t see why he’s expecting more success with daylight-savings-time-only. So why is this a proposition right now? I’m voting no, because I really don’t like pointless propositions.

Prop 8. So we’ve had the propositions that are just straightforward and bad (5 and 6), and one that’s pointless (7), and now IMO we get to a sneaky underhanded bad one. This proposition requires dialysis clinics to refund to patients and insurers any charges beyond 115% of the cost of providing dialysis. What’s so sneaky and underhanded about that? Well, this one comes as part of a labor dispute between a labor organization and the big dialysis companies. So how does a 115%-of-cost price cap affect that dispute? I don’t get it, but it seems to, there’s claims that this whole thing is a bargaining chip in a labor dispute. That’s not a good use of a permanent amendment to the CA constitution! The yes campaign claims that putting a cap on prices relative to costs will lead Big Dialysis to spend more money on improving shitty dialysis clinics, but that doesn’t seem believable to me. And there’s arguments about whether the proposition properly measures costs — it even includes a provision where if that limit on price is found unconstitutional (because it forces clinics to charge less than their REAL costs) the cap would be raised, so clearly that’s been considered. It seems like a big mess, and one likely to depend on details, which are the worst in any proposition because they can’t be amended. And the worst-case if the details are wrong is actually pretty bad — it might lead to closures of dialysis clinics in areas of the state where the cost formula in this prop does not adequately represent real costs. No on 8.

Prop 9 is not on the ballot anymore, as it was deemed unconstitutional. It was the “split california into multiple states” prop.

Prop 10. Allows more rent control on new construction. I’m going with a definite no. California housing crisis is far past the point where rent control helps, even as a bandaid. The only thing that helps is building more housing, and Prop 10 does not do anything for that, it just makes it even harder for people to move. No on 10.

Prop 11 — allows EMTs/paramedics to be on call during paid breaks, and requires employers to provide them with additional training and mental health coverage. (In case the employee actually gets a call during a break, that break no longer counts and they have to get another one later). So this one has some interesting history. In 2016 the CA supreme court ruled that private security guards being required to be on-call during meal breaks violated labor law. People realized that would also apply to EMTs — and the authors of this prop claim that doesn’t make sense for the way the industry works. However, the legislature didn’t change the law because of disagreement on some details (does the change in law apply retroactively and preempt all lawsuits ongoing about it, and something about what interruptions to breaks would be allowed.) So now we have a proposition instead (and this one being a rare proposition that just changes a law rather than the constitution.). I’m kind of mixed on this one. On one hand, as written, the proposition is fine and might be a good idea. On the other hand, it massively fails the “why is this a proposition and not a law” check — it’s literally something the legislature should fix, they just couldn’t agree on details, and details are precisely the worst thing for a proposition to resolve. So… I guess I’m leaning No now, though since it makes changes that the legislature can override it’s probably not too bad.

Prop 12 — this one I spent a long time thinking about. It’s a proposition to change the rules for raising livestock, targeted to provide better conditions for the animals. The yes and no supporters are who you’d expect — SPCA/humane societies for yes, farmers for no. The yes argument mostly boils down to “animals need better conditions”. The No argument basically boils down to “We just had ANOTHER proposition about this just a few years ago, funded by the same people, we don’t need yet another rewriting of the rules”. I’m leaning no, for two main reasons. First is that after spending a lot of time reading arguments, I realised that the yes side doesn’t explain why the old rules are inadequate and how the new ones are better. There’s a lot of talk about how animals are in terrible conditions, but no description of how, precisely, the new rules would make it better, and why they weren’t written that way in the first place. The old rules had some guidelines for what cages were allowed, the new ones have some guidelines… what’s the difference, both in terms of quality of life for farm animals and in terms of cost to farmers? I can’t tell, and at the end of the day that means I should lean No. The second reason to vote no is that this prop tries to legislate nationwide behavior by California standards — “only animals raised to this standard can be sold in California, no matter where they were produced”. That kind of thing runs into a lot of difficulties — interstate commerce means congress and the supreme court can get involved. I just feel like there should be a high bar for when we want to do that kind of stuff, and I don’t think this prop meets it. So overall, leaning No on 12.

And that’s all. I guess all together I’m saying Yes on 1, 2, 4, Leaning No on 11 and 12, and Hell No on 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10. (And voting LMAO on 9. You can’t, you know, split a state into more states by a statewide proposition.)

I guess I need to figure out the rest of my ballot, too.

Well, first the easy ones. Newsom for Governor, Betty Yee for Controller, Padilla for Secretary of State, Lara for Insurance Commissioner, Fiona Ma for treasurer, Xavier Becerra for AG, Cohen for Board of Equalization, Jackie Speier for my representative, Mullin for state assemblymember. Where there is a Dem vs Rep contest, I’m voting straight party line, anyone who still identifies as Republican today is saying a lot of very negative things about themselves. None of those people have a scandal in their past that would be disqualifying. So that’s easy.

Now the tough ones. Senate — Kevin De Leon vs Dianne Feinstein. Ohhh boy I don’t know who to vote here. Feinstein hasn’t been the most progressive of senators, but she’s voted well on everything substantial and she responds to pressure from constituents. But she’s not much of an opposition to Trump, she’s still treating Republicans as reasonable people she disagrees with instead of, well, the threat to the country that they are. And by the end of her next term, she’d be *91*. People’s minds and bodies are heading out at that age, and besides, I don’t much like a senate made of octogenarians. Kevin de Leon seems to be an aggressive get-things-done politician, and is clearly intending to be as progressive as he can possibly get, and has backed it up with state-level legislation during his time in the state legislature. But he has in his past a maybe-scandal — while he was leading the state senate, there were allegations that he didn’t handle sexual harassment claims against senator Mendoza as well as he should have (though he himself has not been accused of any misconduct, and after pressure allowed outside attorneys to run the investigation). As far as I can tell, the main argument is that he should have known and done something earlier. I think at the end of the day my vote here won’t change that Feinstein is going to win, but I think I’m voting for de Leon here. Maybe I’ll regret that if he himself turns out to be an abusive creep, but so far there haven’t been allegations of that, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Next down, Leutenant Governor. Ed Hernandez vs Eleni Kounalakis. This one could have been a tough choice. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t. Housing is the biggest issue facing California. Kounalakis puts this as her top priority, whereas Hernandez does not list it in his top three. Sold. Kounalakis for Lt. Governor. No scandals around to change the obvious calculus.

Next, Superintendent of public schools. This is a weird one. The “big” difference between the two candidates is charter schools — Tuck is more positive about them than Thurmond is. Both say the election shouldn’t be about charter schools, but because that’s the most salient difference of opinion between them, that in fact is what the election is about. They also differ in their background — Thurmond has much more experience with the political side of the job, whereas Tuck administered charter schools, and apparently was good at it (though that’s sometimes in debate because measuring school performance is hard). I don’t know, man. I guess Tuck? I like his proposal of free college for teachers as an incentive, and he seemed to have more concrete ideas for how to improve things based on the interview I read. He wants to shut down low-performing charters quicker and a ban on all for-profit charters, which seem reasonable. There’s some claims that he’s a secret right-winger, but that doesn’t seem to be true, he was endorsed by Obama’s secretary of education and the claims that he’s in Betsy Devos’s camp are as far as I can tell totally false. So I guess Tuck is what I’m going with for now.

Next up are some justices. They’re not competing with each other, just yes/no votes whether to keep them.

James Humes — Appointed by Brown a few years back, first openly gay judge in some area. No scandals or controversies or complaints as far as I can find. Voting yes.

Sandra Margulies — Appointed by Gray Davis back in ’02. No scandals or allegations of any kind that I could find. Voting yes.

James Richman — Appointed by the Governator back in ’06. That’s not optimal but I couldn’t find any scandals or concrete reasons to vote no, so I guess yes here too.

Marla Miller — Appointed by Brown a few years back, no scandals that I could find. Yes.

Peter John Siggins — Appointed by Brown last year, and by the Governator in ’05. No scandals or controversies or idiotic rulings that I could find. So Yes.

Alison M. Tucher — Appointed by Brown in 2013. No scandals or controversies that I could find. Yes.

Jon B. Streeter — Appointed by Brown in 2014. I can find nothing but good stuff about this guy. Yes.

Barbara Jones — couldn’t find anything, yes

Carol A. Corrigan — Huh. She was one of the dissenting justices in the supreme court decision that allowed gay marriage in California. Maybe prior to the last few years I would have bought the arguments about how it was a procedural decision, etc etc… but not after what’s going on with justices nationwide. Voting No.

Leondra Kruger — just appointed, no scandals, voting yes.

OK, now I’ve got super-local stuff. A trustee of the San Mateo County Board of Education — Picking between Susan Alvaro and Brandon Kwan. Alvaro is a long-time incumbent. Kwan seems to be a challenger. Alvaro seems to be well-regarded, couldn’t find anything negative. Wasn’t able to find anything indicating that Kwan would be good at the job — he has some ideas, but nothing to indicate he’s actually good at implementing them, and he’s leaving his previous position on a city council after just one two-year term, which seems like a bit of a red flag for me. Local politics shouldn’t be like tech where you switch jobs every two years to move up. Sticking with the incumbent Alvaro here.

Ok, next I have to pick 3 of 6 candidates for the Belmont-Redwood Shores school district board of trustees.

Rahila Passi seems good, worked in education-related things for a few years, got buy-in from a variety of people/organizations I support. Incumbent.

Same for Suvarna Bhopale.

Hongling Su — I can’t find any particularly good reason to vote for him, all I can find about him is his blog and stuff about how he’s a PM at Oracle, which doesn’t exactly translate to a school board.

Shaunna K. Solorzano — Not a good candidate as far as I can tell. Doesn’t have relevant experience (being a parent is not sufficient), and her listed priorities do not inspire confidence

April Northrup — has endorsement of the Belmont/redwood shores faculty association. That’s pretty good.

Amy Koo — also got endorsed by faculty association. Incumbent.

This is a tough choice. All of the incumbents seem good, and Northrup as a challenger seems promising. I can’t find anything online that would sway me too much, and the challenger didn’t identify why she thinks she’d do a better job. I guess I’ll vote for the three incumbents — Passi, Bhopale, Koo.

City Council of Belmont — I’ve got to choose 3 of 4 candidates, so just one doesn’t make it. Warren Lieberman, Charles Stone, Julia Mates, Deniz Marie Bolbol. Easy choice. Bolbol has among her top 3 priorities “Stop Over Development” and nobody else does. She’s anti-housing, so I’m going with the other three (Lieberman, Stone, Mates) unless I can find a compelling reason otherwise. Googling them shows no outstanding scandals, so Lieberman, Stone, Mates get my vote.

Commissioners for San Mateo Harbor District, I need to pick 2 of 4. This is a tough one because I just don’t know the issues relevant to this position.

Nancy Reyering — has had sustained ethics complaints against her in the past, so that’s a negative. I looked into them a bit and they seemed kind of minor, but I really don’t have much to go on in this race.

Henry Sutter — seems like a good guy and is endorsed by the San Mateo County democrats. Couldn’t find anything scandalous in his past.

Sepi Richardson — Seems extremely experienced in local government. Also has endorsement from prominent Democrats. Couldn’t find anything negative.

Ed Larenas — Also couldn’t find anything negative. good experience as previous harbor commissioner, and calls himself a scientist.

Man, I really can’t tell. Google has nothing for minor local candidates like this. I guess I’ll go with Ed Larenas, as the incumbent and with a background I like. Then I have to choose between Sutter and Richardson. I guess Richardson’s experience is more relevant to this kind of office, so I’ll go with her. Larenas and Richardson for San Mateo Harbor District Commissioners.

Board Members for the mid peninsula water district, I need to pick 3 of 4, so one guy doesn’t get in.

Dave Warden — seems like a good guy with a lot of experience in local government, couldn’t find any scandals.

Brian Schmidt — lots of experience with water resources and conservation, couldn’t find any scandals.

Albert Stuebing — the incumbent. I could find basically nothing else about him.

Kirk Wheeler — this guy didn’t even have a candidate statement or priorities that I could find.

Well, I guess Wheeler’s the odd one out for literally not submitting a candidate statement, so I know literally nothing about him, and the other three seem decent. Warden, Schmidt, and Stuebing it is.

And lastly, Board Member for Zone A, Sequoia Healthcare District, I need to pick just one. Jesus F christ, all three of the candidates describe themselves as “Retired (X)”. Michael Garb the Retired Nonprofit CEO, Arthur Faro the Retired Hospital Administrator, and Art Keisel the Retired Business Executive. That does not inspire confidence. The defining issue for candidates for this district is whether the district should exist at all — it was originally created to administer Sequoia Hospital, but that was sold off on ’96 and now it funds a bunch of nonprofit health care stuff. Apparently, currently the makeup of the board is 4–3 in favor of people voting to keep it. Based on what I’ve seen, the “keep the district” people are better. The original “dissolve the district guy”, Jack Hickey, is the kind of guy who just kept running for offices until he won something — ran for governor, senator, representative, apparently 18 other slots until he won this one, some as a Republican and some as a Libertarian, and apparently doesn’t actually do the job and just spends his time advocating that the district should dissolve. The keep-the-district folks make a good case for how they fund a variety of health care services, such as school nurses, mental health clinicians, various grants. I’m on the keep-the-district side. I’d rather have single-payer healthcare than this nonsense, but hey, I’ll take what government funding of health care I can find. With that, that leaves two of the candidates — Michael Garb and Arthur Faro. Arthur Faro has some controversy with whether his seat is legitimate, since just last cycle the district got split up into zones and so Faro is in the same zone as another board member. Michael Garb is the kind of guy who puts “Restore Civility to Board Meetings” in his goals and has an endorsement from his daughter on his webpage. Jesus. Motherfucking. Christ. I guess I have to vote for Garb, because he’s at least putting forth an effort — he’s got a candidate page and everything, setting forth priorities and goals, which is more than I can say for the other two candidates. So Michael Garb it is. FML.

And now, even more local propositions!

City of Belmont Measure CC and measure WW. Measures to change the City Clerk and City Treasurer to be appointed instead of elected offices. I’m voting yes on these. Seeing how impossible it has been for me to try and evaluate who’s a good candidate for the local offices just above — it’s freaking impossible for voters here to make an informed choice. It’s just ridiculous. Those positions are not ideological, they need to be selected with a job interview instead of a campaign. (As pointed out by the “yes” campaign, right now the only requirements to be treasurer of the city is to be over 18, to be a registered voter in the city, and to win an election. I think I’d rather have my city’s treasurer be an experienced accountant, or whatever the right background for a treasurer is.)

City of Belmont measure KK — a 12% hotel (and airbnb) tax to finance various things (parks, police, road repair, unrestricted general revenue). This measure updates the language so it counts airbnb markup, since the previous hotel tax law was from the 70s and didn’t count it, and raises the rate from 10 to 12% which apparently matches surrounding cities. Seems eminently reasonable to me. The No arguments are from the same people who put No arguments on the previous prop, and who now seem to be libertarians making the case that “Taxes are immoral”. Opposition isn’t from the hotel owners. Seems eminently reasonable to me, voting yes.

San Mateo County Transit District measure W — an 0.5% sales tax for 30 years to fund road construction, repair, public transportation, and various congestion-relieving strategies. Makes sense to me. The housing crisis is making everyone commute for crazy distances. So there’s a lot of strain on transport infrastructure, which costs money. The “No” side is asking why do we need this tax if we just recently had one just like it. The answer is because of the scope of the housing crisis, which then transforms into a transportation crisis. (You know, cities, you could just build more housing and then the same tax rates would just cover more people and bring in more money… just sayin.) But absent that, yes on W.

And I’m done for another two years.