Lee’s Nov. 8, 2016 San Francisco Voting Guide

This freaking ballot is so long, and I spent so much time going through it, that I thought I might as well write up my findings and share them with my friends.

Then I discovered that not all my friends are on Facebook. Imagine!

Then I discovered that even if you make a public Facebook post, if someone doesn’t have Facebook, they can’t see it.

So I made an account and I’m going to try to post it here.

Please understand that this is a personal guide, crossposted from Facebook. It is not an attempt to address all possible different political philosophies. Do look at my sources. If you consider those sources a valid basis for an argument, then maybe there’s something here for you. If you wouldn’t believe a word they say, then a different voting guide will better suit your needs.

Let’s go.


PART 1: THE PEOPLE

  1. President and Vice President

This election guide is delighted to believe that this is the year in which the United States elects its first female president, unsurprised that it would have to be someone as accomplished and amazing as Hillary Clinton, and proud and happy to recommend voting for her. It would also like to note that Tim Kaine is a surprisingly acceptable candidate for some random senator I’d never heard of.

2. United States Senator: Kamala Harris

Ms. Harris is endorsed by President Obama, VP Biden, retiring Senator Boxer (God I’m going to miss her), the California Democratic Party, the United Farm Workers, EMILY’s List, the Chronicle, and local LGBT organizations. Also, as CA Attorney General, she’s worked to address police violence. Loretta Sanchez is endorsed by the Libertarian Party of San Francisco and that’s about it. I hate to not recommend we send the first ever Latina to the U.S. Senate, but Kamala Harris is a better choice.

3. United States Representative: Nancy Pelosi

You know it, I know it, I don’t have all night to do this, let’s move on.

4. State Senator: Jane Kim

Honestly, both Kim and Weiner are good options. Kim is more progressive; Weiner is more pro-housing, introduced legislation to allow for the construction of more in-law units in his district, for example. But things being more or less equal, I’d rather 1) get more progressives into the government and 2) get more women into the government. Plus Weiner is for that dumb-ass soda tax, so screw him.

5. Member of the State Assembly: Phil Ting

The other guy isn’t even seriously running. Plus, Ting wrote the new legislation requiring that all single-occupancy restrooms in California be open to all genders. THANKS TO PHIL TING WE WILL ALL BE ABLE TO PEE FREELY. VOTE FOR HIM.

6. Judge of the Superior Court, Office №7: Victor Hwang or Paul Henderson

They both seem competent and fine. Henderson is maybe more vocal about transparency in the legal system. Hwang is maybe more progressive, but per the Guardian, he’s been an unreasonably aggressive prosecutor. Per Voter’s Edge, Hwang has way more endorsements — the Chron, the Guardian, the Examiner, David Campos, Phil Ting, Jane Kim, the Harvey Milk Club…like six times as many as Henderson; but Henderson’s endorsements include Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, and the San Francisco Democratic Party. Note that Mayor Ed Lee also endorses Henderson, so if you hate his guts, vote Hwang.

7. Member, Board of Education: Steven Cook; Matt Haney; Rachel Norton; Mark Sanchez

You vote for up to four. See the SF Bay Guardian page for explanations. Also endorsed by the SF Democrats, and the guys are endorsed by the Harvey Milk Club.

8. Member, Community College Board: Rafael Mandelman; Tom Temprano; Shanell Williams

You vote for up to four. Again, see the SF Bay Guardian’s explanations. See also the page for this race in the SF Voter’s Guide to see who got endorsed by who.

  1. BART Director: Gwyneth Borden

She’s currently the director of the SFMTA, she doesn’t own a car, and she understands why we need the bus-only red lanes. Before the SFMTA she was a pro-transit planning commissioner. Bevan Dufty on the other hand was a supervisor and head of the mayor’s office on homelessness. Competent guy it seems, but Borden knows transit: vote for the woman who rides the Mission buses.

  1. Member, Board of Supervisors: London Breed

If I had to pick one, which I guess I do. But again, it would probably also be fine to vote for Dean Preston. Breed is strongly pro-transit, launched not-for-profit CleanPowerSF which is meant to decrease SF’s reliance on fossil fuels, and supports subsidized affordable housing. On the other hand, Preston is a tenant lawyer and fights Ellis Act abuses. Either would probably be good for the city. This is the luxury of living in SF: getting to choose between two fairly decent candidates, at least in local races.


PART 2: THE STATE PROPOSITIONS

Okay, just briefly before we begin: your regularly scheduled reminder that direct democracy is horseshit. Making these decisions in a rational manner is what representative democracy is for. Yes I am aware that when legislators legislate the process is always to some degree corrupt. It is still better than this pathetic attempt to get a vastly uninformed electorate — and I include myself in this, and I do the best I can, and it is not enough — to somehow pin the tail of reasonable decisions on the donkey of complicated governance questions. No matter how I try I still end up feeling a horse’s ass. Nonetheless this is the price of living in California, so let’s get to it.

51: School bonds: YES

Endorsed by almost everyone. It’s been 8 years since the last statewide bond measure was passed. CA schools are desperately underfunded, especially community colleges. In an ideal world, we’d fund them through taxation without going into debt, but in an ideal world this entire election guide would be so different, so just vote Yes on 51.

52: State fees on hospitals: YES

This is one of those stupid inside baseball things that it makes no sense to get the general public to vote on. Short version: it extends an existing statute rather than imposing something new, it allows California to continue getting matching Federal funds for uninsured patients, it provides a lot of funds for public hospitals. The only opponents of this one are the Libertarian party, because, you know, people paying for each other’s health.

53: Revenue bond statewide voter approval: NO

Do you like this sort of thing? Do you like spending your early November evenings trying to figure out a morass of obfuscated conflicts instead of allowing the people who you elected to do it, to do it? Would you like every freaking piece of infrastructure in the state to have to go through this process because Dino Cortopassi, yes that one guy, objects to public works? NO YOU DON’T SO DON’T VOTE FOR THIS.

54: Legislation and proceedings: NO

You can’t strikethrough text on Medium.com, so I am going to delete my previous tepid Yes endorsement. Upon further examination, this is a $10 million initiative almost solely funded by GOP billionaire Charles T. Munger, Jr. to make it easier for special interests to pressure politicians on votes. They got me on this one!

55: Tax extension: YES

Oh my god, yes. Taxing the richest 2% to pay for the schools and healthcare our state needs is exactly what we should be doing instead of going into more debt, so, Yes.

56: Cigarette tax: NO

It’s going to pass, I know I’m spitting into the wind on this one, but vote No anyway. It’s regressive, it’s nanny-state, it’s classist, sin taxes are immoral. Vote NO.

57: Earlier parole: YES

This is a gimme. California’s prisons are miserably overcrowded, this will help. It’s early parole for nonviolent felons only. Also it requires a judge to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult, not just a prosecutor. Can you believe it’s up to the prosecutor right now? Seriously, ease up on the carceral state at least a smidge, vote Yes.

58: Multilingual education: YES

Because of our awful proposition system, this is needed to repeal the cruel and hideous Proposition 227 of 1998, which basically made it illegal for CA schools to teach kids who weren’t fluent in English. Fight immigrant hate, vote Yes on 58.

59: Corporation political spending: NO

Okay, this sounds good, because it calls on California’s elected officials to “use all of their constitutional authority” to overturn Citizens United, the corporations-are-people campaign contribution decision. Here’s the catch: California’s elected officials have no constitutional authority to overturn Citizens United. If you would consider it stupid and embarrassing to be required to vote on whether our elected officials should reduce the national debt by training unicorns to barf gold bricks, this is roughly the same thing. I like fairy tales but they have no place on our ballot, reject this nonsense entirely.

60: Adult films health requirements: NO. Seriously, NO.

Opposed by the California Democratic, Republican, AND Libertarian parties. Also the Mercury-News, the Chronicle, the Guardian, the Sacramento Bee, the East Bay Times, the Harvey Milk Club, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. I don’t know what Michael Weinstein has against sex workers, but I resent having the entire California electorate being used in this petty and baseless campaign against them.

61: State prescription drug purchases: NO

Again, inside baseball that should not be getting voted on by people who don’t understand the weird complexities of governmental drug price negotiations, and in that group I certainly include myself. But since we have to, vote No for a few reasons. One, there isn’t a clear reason to vote Yes: it’s not clear whether this will actually reduce drug prices. Two, patient advocate groups like Project Inform and the Treatment Action Group, as well as the Veterans’ Administration, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California Medical Association, are against it on the grounds of it being poorly conceived and possibly unimplementable. Worst case, it results in raised drug prices for veterans.

62: Death penalty repeal: YES

Here’s my confession: I am not, a priori, necessarily 100% against the death penalty. I just don’t feel I have a coherent philosophical position on the matter. That being said, I think it’s pretty clear that in our non-ideal world, the death penalty is a horror visited on the people at the bottom of every systemic power inequality: on poor people, on mentally disabled or ill people, on people of color. Sometimes bigotry isn’t even why we can’t have nice things; sometimes it’s why we can’t have really morally dubious and kind of awful things. We clearly can’t be trusted with the death penalty, so let’s get rid of it.

63: Guns and ammo: YES

Requires background checks to buy ammunition; more importantly, by current law felons and domestic abusers are not allowed to own guns, but this proposition actually establishes procedures for enforcing those laws. Maybe we should have those!

64: Marijuana legalization: SWEET JESUS, YES

Well for the love of sanity, let’s end Prohibition.

65: Plastic bags legality obfuscation nonsense: NO

There’s a real plastic bags measure on the ballot: it’s measure 67. 65 was put on the ballot by Formosa Plastics, Superbag, etc. to confuse the issue. Simply vote No on this and move on.

66: Death penalty enforcement: NO

This is the opposite of 62, it’s like, kill people faster. What a bad idea.

67: Ban on single-use plastic bags: YES

San Francisco already has this ban, and it’s fine. I mean, by “ban” it means that if you really need a plastic bag the store charges you $0.10, and we contribute a little less to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, so vote Yes.


PART 3: THE LOCAL PROPOSITIONS

Why is there more of this nonsense. Okay. Let’s do this. Just for San Francisco, this time. Everyone else, as you were.

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SCHOOL PROPOSITIONS

A: School Bonds: YES

SFUSD enrollment is rising. The schools badly need the money, and San Francisco badly needs to stop making people leave the city when they have kids. The bonds are backed by a property tax, which is quite appropriate for San Francisco. This is a good idea.

B: City College Parcel Tax: YES

It’s not a new tax, it’s the re-authorization of an existing and fairly minor parcel tax. City College needs the money, and we need to be investing in education.

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CITY AND COUNTY PROPOSITIONS

C: Affordable housing loans: YES

ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE THINGS WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO VOTE ON. This is not an additional tax, this is not an additional bond, this is about allowing the city to use already existing revenue that was already earmarked for seismic safety to use it for seismic safety in a particular way, specifically for subsidized housing. There is no reason not to vote for this.

D: Vacancy appointments: NO

Basically if the mayor appoints someone to fill a vacancy in a local elected office, this prevents them from later running for it. Why do I care? This is dumb and should not be wasting my time.

E: Street trees: YES

In 2014 the SF Dept. of Public Works transferred responsibility for maintenance of and liability for street trees to owners of property next to those trees. This is dumb. They are public trees, they should be maintained by the public. Property owners are cutting down trees they don’t want to be responsible for and the quality of the urban forest is declining. Vote Yes, literally every single Supervisor voted to put this on the ballot, SPUR is for it, it’s a good idea.

F: Allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local elections: YES

Let’s shoehorn in a few more years of sober voting before 21.

G: Department of Police Accountability: YES

Why, it might be a good idea for our police force to have some accountability. This sounds like one of those meaningless feel-good measures but it actually has some procedural teeth.

H: Public Advocate: NO

This is a stupid and expensive attempt to add more bureaucracy to our local government.

I: Dignity Fund: NO…probably

This is a tough one. It’s a set-aside. The cause is good — supporting seniors and adults with disabilities — but there are so MANY important things for SF to be spending its money on. Do I feel competent to say that specifically this much money should go to seniors and not, say, the homeless, or public health, or hungry kids, or etc.? I do not, so I am not voting for this set-aside.

J: Homelessness and Transportation: NO…probably

See above.

K: General sales tax: YES. Or NO. You decide.

Sales taxes are regressive, but San Francisco’s sales taxes are lower than surrounding counties: this would actually make them more standard, and it’s not like we couldn’t use the money. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be nice if there were *something* cheaper about living in the City?

L: MUNI oversight: NO

See prop H. Would you like MUNI to be even worse? No? Don’t vote for this.

M: Housing and Development Commission: NO, NO OH MY GOD NO

I work for an affordable housing design firm. We do almost no work in San Francisco because it’s so insanely difficult to build here. What if we added ANOTHER layer of bureaucracy to make it even harder to add any of the additional housing we need?

N: Non-citizen voting in school board elections: YES

Anyone who actually cares enough to want to vote in school board elections, bring them on board.

O: Office development in Candlestick Point: YES

This is a complicated one, but basically there’s a development contract for Hunters Point-Candlestick Point that mandates that offices, homes, parks & community spaces be built together. So if we want the additional 12,000 new units of housing built (HINT: WE DO) we should allow the office space to be built. SPUR and YIMBY endorse this one.

P: Making it harder to build affordable housing in San Francisco: NO

You know that game we used to play when we were kids where you would grab the hands of a smaller kid and hit them with their own hands and go “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?” When we had the kiddos, we discovered that babies have no motor control. You can just watch them and go “Why are you hitting yourself?” without ever touching them. It’s a lot like caring about housing in San Francisco.

Q: Tents on the sidewalk: NO

This is not quite as gross as it sounds. It’s not strictly a law against setting up tents on the sidewalk, because San Francisco ALREADY has a law allowing officers to remove tents on the sidewalk, thank you Sit/Lie Ordinance of 2010. Supposedly this proposition requires the city to provide shelter for people whose tents it confiscates, but since it doesn’t magically make that shelter available, it’s just another incoherent attempt at making it illegal to be poor and stay alive in the city. Oh, and Mark Farrell and Scott Weiner proposed it, which is another reason to vote Jane Kim for state senator.

R: Neighborhood Crime Unit: NO

At best this is another random set-aside to be voted on by people who don’t understand the situation: how on earth should I know what percentage of the police force should be doing what job? Vote yes on Prop G, the police accountability one, and get a competent agency to weigh in on this sort of thing instead.

S: Hotel tax allocation: NO

Enough with the goddamn set-asides.

T: Lobbyist contributions: NO

We all want more transparency and less lobbyist influence in government, but this seems like pointless flailing in that direction. Please understand that under CURRENT law lobbyist gifts to a city officer are limited to $25 a year. There is also already an Ethics Commission that they have to file disclosures with. This just adds some bureaucracy layers; there’s no point, and it shouldn’t have been a ballot initiative anyway.

U: Affordable housing requirements: NO

SPUR is against this. YIMBY is against this. SFHAC is against this. It’s an effort to allow landlords to collect more rent: there is no reason to vote for this.

V: Soda tax: NO

I’m going to quote myself from the comments to Part 1 of this, back on Facebook:

1) it’s a sin tax! I hate sin taxes! Our understandings of both sin and health are so primitive and stupid it is cruel and oppressive to base actual laws on them, and 2) like all sin taxes, it’s so condescending and othering, in this case so classist: are we taxing my $4.95 salted caramel mocha? WHY NO WE ARE NOT. Plus consumption taxes are inherently regressive! If we need revenue, let us tax, but can we do it thoughtfully? Failing that, can we slap a big ol’ tax on putting stupid propositions on the ballot, instead of taxing GROCERIES? …I literally did buy myself a salted caramel mocha this morning for Treat Yo’Self day, and it was 160 calories. That’s not lean protein in there, either. A can of Coke, for comparison, is 150 calories. Sin taxing the one and not the other is ideologically incoherent if you ignore the underlying logic of sin taxes, which is *always* taxing what the other person does, not what the people with political power do. (A good reference: Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do, by Peter McWilliams.) This is not right.

For a rebuttal, go see ED’s comments on that post: basically,

While sin taxes can be problematic, I think of this (like I think of cigarette taxes) as a strong nudge of behavior, which I philosophically believe is a reasonable activity of gov’t.

W: Mansion tax: YES

This is a tax on the selling of, not the maintaining of, very-high-end residential and big commercial properties, things with a sale price of more than $5 million. Here’s the tricky bit: San Francisco is working on a goal of free tuition for City College, and that is what this tax is meant to fund. However, taxes meant to fund a specific thing require a 2/3 majority vote, whereas general fund taxes only need a simple majority vote. So there is no language in the measure about what the taxes are for: you just have to know that its supporters intend it for free City College tuition. Check out http://www.fairsharesf.org/. Of course, as an opponent of explicit set-asides, I consider this kind of a good thing?

X: PDR Space: NO, NO, NO

See http://www.sfhac.org/why-sfhac-opposes-prop-x/. This is another badly written initiative by the San Francisco Trash-Strewn Vacant Storefront Preservation Society* to PREVENT BUILDING HOUSING by reserving inappropriate types of spaces for functions that won’t be able to actually use them, so they will stand empty. And once in place, it can only be changed by another ballot measure. STOP HITTING YOURSELF, SAN FRANCISCO.

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DISTRICT PROPOSITION

RR: BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief: YES, I DON’T WANT TO DIE

I am literally going to die in an earthquake if you don’t vote BART some goddamn money to upgrade their tunnels. Look at this: http://abc7news.com/traffic/auditor-bart-needs-$96-billion-of-voter-approved-funding/686680/ Here, I’ll give you the pull quote: “The state auditor says BART’s infrastructure is 40-years-old and “at, or close to, the end of its useful life.’” You don’t want me to die, do you? I don’t want to die. I have small children who need me. Please vote Yes for BART.

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*Hat tip to Nathan Mehl!

And that’s it! Happy voting! See you next time!