The Pete Voter Guide and Official Endorsements, 2016

Direct democracy can be useful but California has proven that it generally devolves into a petty list of deceptively-worded questions and this year we have way, way too many for it to be useful.

So! In the spirit of democracy here’s everything that’s going to be on my City of San Diego ballot this year from the state through local levels and what I, in my capacity as an individual citizen, think of each one. I’m hoping this opens up a discussion so please feel free to chime in!

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE

Official guide, except on the internet and not in a 300-page pamphlet that got all jumbled up in your mailbox probably: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/

Nice independent guide: http://ballot.fyi/

Prop 51 — This one’s sneaky. On the surface, $9 billion in bonds for new school facilities seems like a good idea even if it’s a pretty big number. But! This would rework the process to benefit districts with shovel-ready building plans. Which districts are more likely to have staff or consultants ready to have plans ready for new buildings? Richer suburban districts, perhaps? And who will be left behind? Poorer urban districts having to resort to paperclips in the fuse boxes just to keep the lights on that can’t fathom getting a design consultant ready in time to claim their fair share of the funding, perhaps? Oh, and who’s funding it? Developers that are kinda bummed that they haven’t had as many sweet suburban schools to build lately and just want more contracts coming their way, perhaps? Oh no actually the construction industry is giving most of the financial support here so definitely.

California has a system that’s slow but is designed to ensure equity. This flips that whole thing over.

  • My vote: Nope, not buying it

Prop 52 — Hospitals keep getting matching funds from the feds if we approve this, which extends this hospital fee, guarantees it can’t be diverted away from Medi-Cal, and enshrines it in the state constitution, which means more money for health care that’s not coming out of the pockets of patients. This is good. Also the only group that opposed was a nurses’ union, which I understand was related to what hospitals do with the money they take in more so than taking in the money itself, but they decided not to oppose it anymore, soooo…

  • My vote: Yay health care money

Prop 53 — Remember how everybody in the Central Valley got really upset about high-speed rail cutting through a tiny sliver of their farmland? This is basically a direct result of that. This would force every major revenue bond issued by the state in excess of $2 billion to go up to a public vote. (And to think your ballot isn’t long enough already.) There are a lot of projects that have already received both direct public and governmental approval that would be impacted by this (like water supply projects) and most importantly it didn’t leave exemptions for any emergency public safety efforts, which is a great way to get the professional firefighter unions against you. I mean, we shouldn’t have to worry about that ever, it’s not like our state is a pile of dry brush built entirely on top of a fault line or anything.

  • My vote: Go away angry millionaire rancher that’s upset about a train

Prop 54 — Publish every bill going before the state legislature online for public review a minimum of 72 hours before any vote is held, plus record the vote so everybody can look at it on their own time. There’s some opposition to this because this could 1) give enough time to mobilize special interest lobbyists, and 2) isn’t really reflective of the legislative process, where bills are introduced months before any vote can happen and are often modified to deal with issues that arise much more recently prior to voting. I can see both sides but I think the benefit of greater public transparency wins out, personally. Especially if that transparency keeps this ballot from getting any longer.

  • My vote: Yes

Prop 55 — Back in 2012 we all voted to tax the rich more and give it to schools. That’s about to expire in 2018 but this would keep that going through 2030. Remember that a lot of the rich in California are weird startup workers in Silicon Valley that spend money on lawsuits against media organizations they don’t like and Oculus Rifts for their dogs, and a few angry lawyers in Orange County that will plant drugs in the car of a PTA volunteer because they misunderstood the context of the word “slow” once. They can spare a few bucks for public schools.

  • My vote: Tax the rich

Prop 56 — Increase the tax on cigarettes by another $2, and also apply it to e-cigarettes. Excise taxes like this are regressive and most people that would be subject to this would probably have this hit them pretty hard, but supposedly the money from the tax would be allocated primarily back to Medi-Cal, which primarily benefits the people that would be hit hardest by this, so (and this is a gross oversimplification) it’s a little like you’re chipping in extra toward your own healthcare with every pack you buy. If you guessed the major funding against this is coming from the tobacco companies you get a gold star.

  • My vote: A not-particularly-strong yes but a yes nonetheless

Prop 57 — Allows for consideration of parole and early release for certain non-violent felons by corrections authorities. This does not bust down a hole in the wall of every state prison to allow rapists and mass murders to run free. Also, the State of California is under federal order to reduce our prison population, so we were going to have to let some people go anyway, so this is all things considered a very reasonable way to do that. This places the determination of whether juveniles are tried in juvenile court or as adults with judges instead of prosecutors, which would be a significant improvement. Plus rehabilitation beats the hell out of incarceration and most of the people jailed are disproportionately from minority communities and most of these people, if they were of greater financial means, would have been able to afford legal representation that likely would have reduced many of these charges to misdemeanors, so maybe we should stop fetishizing prisons. I dunno, it’s a thought.

  • My vote: Yes

Prop 58— Undoes the previous California ballot initiative equivalent of “SPEAK ENGLISH OR GET OUT GRRRRR” and lets school districts make their own judgment calls on how best to teach English to second-language learners and to even open up the possibility of foreign language immersion education in public schools. Fun fact: The official opposition is only listed as “KeepEnglish.org”, so.

  • My vote: Hell yeah

Prop 59 — For starters, this literally does nothing. It’s an advisory question and it’s kind of a waste of space on the ballot in that regard and most of the opposition to this is just about how dumb statewide advisory questions are when the ballot is already so damn long. I mean, look at this post.

That said, it asks whether you, the esteemed voter, thinks Citizens United is bad and just kind of nudges the state to do something, anything to overturn it, probably by proposing a federal Constitutional amendment or something but that’s not made clear here so whatever.

  • My vote: Corporations aren’t people but I am and this ballot is long and this is stupid so fine, yeah, I agree, leave me alone

Prop 60 — Condoms required in porn anywhere in the state, yay or nay. A yes vote says condoms are good, a no vote says let counties and cities (or barring that, the industry itself) regulate this whole thing. LA voted yes on this a few years ago but now it’s the state’s turn. The “no” side claims the support of both major parties and a lot of groups like the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, who, y’know, have a bit of a stake in the STD issue.

  • My vote: I am a pure human being that is only tangentially aware of the existence of pornography and its various sins but this seems to go overboard and the experts say it’s bad so No

Prop 61 — This one’s hard. This would force the state from buying prescription drugs for any more than what the federal VA pays. The VA gets some pretty sweet discounts because who wants to price gouge veterans? (I mean a lot of people of low moral character probably would, but not in public, at least.) The Yes side says the drug companies are price-gouging us already, but the No side says this would just make the drug companies jack the prices for veterans to make up for their loss of profit. Also this really impacts very few people directly since Medi-Cal programs and private insurance aren’t involved here. It’s been described as a game of chess, since nobody knows how the drug companies will respond, and it’ll probably end badly if this will work out for us now because every other state might try to do the same thing and then everybody gets the same high price in the end. Bernie’s for it though, but, man, I’m not sure that’s really the hill to die on.

  • My vote: I still have literally no idea but I’m probably more sympathetic to Yes

Prop 62 BUT ALSO Prop 66 — The great part about ballot initiatives is sometimes you get two things at the same time that address the same thing. What happens if they do the opposite but they both pass? The one with the most votes wins. Seriously. It’s ridiculous.

  • Prop 62 repeals the death penalty and replaces it with life without parole, plus when inmates are used for labor (another story altogether) more of their tiny, far-below-minimum-wage paycheck goes to restitution for victims. I’ve got a solid moral position since I don’t think it’s the function of government to determine who lives or dies (lol remember the outrage over the Obamacare “death panels” from the right? Good times) but if you can stomach that, the death penalty process — thanks to state-funded appeals processes, the requirement for solitary confinement, and the staffing that whole thing supports — is damn expensive and this saves money the state can use for things like Not Killing People.
  • Prop 66 says to hell with that, we can just save money by killing people faster! Speed up the appeals process, shuffle people around, whatever, just get ’em out of here. Also when slav — er, inmates used for labor get paid, yet more money goes back to restitution. But again, wages are so low that it’s really inconsequential.
  • My votes: Hell yeah 62, hell no 66

Prop 63— Guns! This thinks they are Bad! Requires a DoJ background check to buy ammo, and makes anybody with large-capacity magazines get rid of them. If you are a normal decent gun owner this isn’t a big deal whatsoever. If you’re a sociopath that’s convinced Hillary and Obama are going to rig this election and institute Sharia Law and Trump needs you and the boys to get the militia together to seize the courthouse or whatever to stop them, this will affect you.

  • My vote: Yes please

Prop 64— Weed! It’s not just for people with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, or occasional trouble sleeping sometimes like that one time two weeks ago that’s serious right yeah okay cool. Legalizes it for recreational use for anybody over the age of 21. Taxes it. Will make the state serious $$$. (More money to do things like fix our crumbling bridges, says the guy driving an electric car that currently doesn’t regularly pay any fuel taxes. But I digress.) Still safer than alcohol, as proven by everybody ever.

Prop 65 BUT ALSO Prop 67 — Plastic bags! It’s like Props 62 and 66 again except it’s not about killing people this time. (That I know of.) If you were wondering who went through the trouble of putting all of this on the ballot, surprise, it’s the plastic grocery bag industry.

  • Prop 65 asks what to do with a fee currently charged on plastic grocery bags. Right now stores keep it, a yes on this would direct it to an environmental fund that doesn’t exist yet. But!! If both this and Prop 67 pass, and 65 passes with more votes, this might overrule Prop 67 and not actually ban plastic bags at all.
  • Prop 67 is an outright yes or no to banning plastic bags — yes gets rid of plastic grocery bags, no keeps ’em. (Unless your city or county has decided otherwise.) The legislature passed a plastic bag ban in 2014 and now it has proceeded to The People to decide whether the ban stays or goes.
  • My vote: I’m still a little bit of a hippie so yes on 67 and no on 65 because 65 is just there to screw with things.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Official guide (PDF with links): http://www.sdvote.com/content/dam/rov/en/election/E110816_local_props_labels.pdf

Great independent guide: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/politics/ultimate-guide-local-ballot-measures/

Measure A — This is a new half-cent sales tax that SANDAG (the San Diego Association of Governments, which is best viewed as the wallet for regional infrastructure projects) is asking for. This will be in addition to TransNet, the last half-cent sales tax. This will go above and beyond the meager amount we get from the federal and state governments for projects that’ll help shore up our infrastructure, in particular transit, roads, and open space conservation. SANDAG will hold on to a lot of it and either spend it on projects themselves (like they’re doing with the Blue Line trolley extension up to UCSD with TransNet), dish it out to regional transit operators to spend as they please (which, man, we could have a nation-leading transit system if we weren’t so constrained, plus it’d make my job even cooler), and allocate a bunch back to cities for their own projects like filling potholes.

The U-T just came out against it saying we’ll fix this with autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles! Autonomous vehicles that still drive on the roads and create congestion and cause additional wear and tear, instead of high-priority transit projects that can be efficient and effective enough to get people out of their cars and further support denser development around those transit lines and hubs so transit, bikes, and walking even become objectively superior to driving! What the hell!! Autonomous vehicles?!?

Measure B — This is one of those special interest run-arounds. The short version is a developer bought land north of Escondido, came up with a plan for it, took it to the County, and the County’s planners said “man, this is a lot of housing in an environmentally sensitive area, plus this is textbook sprawl as it is and it’s just going to make freeway congestion worse. Could you fix a few things?” and the developer freaked out. The advantage for the developer is that by taking this to the ballot, they get to skirt all those pesky CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) regulations requiring them to prove that this won’t irreparably screw everything up and ultimately allows them to just blast propaganda around the county by saying “HEY GUYS DON’T YOU NEED MORE HOUSING” even though the answer from everybody so far has been “Yeah, but we sure as hell don’t need it up there, make the cities denser or something.”

  • My vote: No, because this is a slap in the face of good regional planning and we’re going to turn into Dallas if we keep this up. Don’t let us turn into Dallas.

SAN DIEGO CITY

Measure C — Build the Chargers a new stadium by raising the hotel tax. Dean Spanos is rich and he doesn’t care about San Diego (see also: shacking up with the Raiders (ew) in Carson (ewwww)) and it’s been repeatedly proven across the country that any economic benefits new stadiums may bring are grossly overstated. Also I’m still not totally sure they know they can’t use eminent domain on the MTS bus yard that it’s supposed to be built on because MTS is a higher-level governmental agency than the City and their support comes with conditions (read: build MTS a new bus yard at a site of MTS’s choosing [PDF]).

  • My vote: Hell no, don’t subsidize a billionaire.

Measure D — This is a really over-complicated way to shuffle around funding for downtown projects by increasing the hotel tax and then allowing deductions to fund the tourism marketing district and then to fund any kind of other convention center expansion or stadium but it also has a lot of weird restrictions and forks over the convention center’s administration to the hotel owners? The Voice of San Diego has a piece on it that’s pretty good but I still don’t know what problem this supposedly solves except that it raises hotel taxes and gives seems to give hotels more free reign. While it has a lot of admirable goals in its language there’s still enough to give me pause, in particular the commitment to zone for a stadium downtown where it would be a planning disaster.

  • My vote: Leaning no

Measure E — The “man we really should make sure we can get rid of whoever our next Bob Filner is” City Charter amendment. I don’t think anybody has come out saying this is a bad idea yet.

  • My vote: Sure

Measure F— Shorten the probation period for Deputy City Attorneys. This doesn’t look unreasonable.

  • My vote: Yeah, alright

Measure G — Some updating of titles, but mostly mandatory reviews of any officer-involved shootings and deaths while in custody. Most things I’m seeing here bring more involvement and transparency into the process and give the review board greater authority.

  • My vote: Accountability is good

Measure H— Bring government procurement into the 21st century. Procurement is generally a nightmare and if this does what it says it does this should cut back on the red tape.

  • My vote: I can dig it

Measure I — The “evict San Diego High from what is technically Balboa Park even though it’s on the other side of the 5” measure. The story apparently goes that SDUSD had a limited amount of time to use this land and they should have been planning an out, but really, where the hell is the school going to go, they have a campus here already, leave the kids alone. A yes vote lets ’em stick around, a no vote tells them to pack up and find more land… Somewhere? Where the hell is there room for a high school around the current site now?

  • My vote: Yeah, it’s still a public use, it’s not like we’re just letting Dean Spanos do whatever with it OH WAIT

Measure J — The “reshuffle park money” measure. Take money from Mission Bay Park’s leases, use it to help out other parks around the city a little more.

  • My vote: Sure, there are a lot of parks in less affluent areas that could probably stand to see additional investment

Measure K — Hey did you know that many San Diego elections can be decided if a candidate wins an absolute majority in the June primary election? Like, for example, how Kevin Faulconer won over 50 percent of the vote in June so he’s mayor for the next four years and nobody voting in November, who could reasonably expect to have an opportunity to weigh in, can vote on that? Doesn’t that seem really dumb? This fixes that.

  • My vote: Yes, please

Measure L — Hey did you also know that citizens’ initiatives and referenda like these also appear on the June ballot and that if you still consider the June election just to be ~worthless primaries~ (which, lol, no) that you’re completely missing a chance to vote on these? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to make sure the most people possible (say, at the election that *always* has the highest annual turnout) have an opportunity to weigh in? This fixes that.

  • My vote: This is good

Measure M— The City has to ask for authorization to provide rent-controlled low-income housing at the ballot box. There have been statistically sound assessments saying we’ll need about five times the amount of rent-controlled low-income housing [PDF] by 2020. This authorizes the city to increase that cap to meet that need. Apart from just being a good and moral thing to do, if you’d like to keep the number of homeless people in San Diego from increasing, perhaps we should make it easier for them to keep a roof over their heads in the first place.

No argument was filed against this measure with the City Clerk and both one of the most left-leaning councilpersons and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce support this so I don’t even know where to start if you think this is a bad idea.

  • My vote: Definitely yes

Measure N— If California says weed is cool and fun for everybody (over the age of 21 anyway) with Prop 64, let’s go ahead and tax that and add it to the general fund. Medical marijuana is exempt. The entire “no” argument is a bunch of hand-wringing that seems to ignore the controls Prop 64 will create that the City has no authority over so it’s pretty dumb. If you’re fretting about where the money’s going maybe pay attention to the next City budget process instead?

  • My vote: Yup
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