A 2018 Voting Guide for Thoughtful and Progressive Californians
Focused on the Bay Area
It’s that magical time of the year when the air gets chilly and we’re formally asked our opinion about our government. If you’re living in California — in the Bay Area in particular — I offer up my take on this election’s races below. Further down, below my recommendations, I offer some thoughts on the degraded state of our politics and media.
If you strongly support one of the two corporate political parties and also primarily follow the corresponding news media (New York Times, NPR, MSNBC for Democrats; FOX News, Wall Street Journal, talk radio for Republicans), you might find my writings and endorsements surprising or disappointing, as I increasingly see both parties and both sets of news organizations as corrupt, militaristic, and authoritarian (and occasionally helpful).
Or perhaps that will make my take on things particularly interesting to you.
One other thing: There’s no way to know whether your vote will count. Sorry! I desperately wish it were otherwise. But both major political parties have ensured this continues to be the case, and worsens, while blaming each other for it. I’ve researched this extensively and this is the biggest problem we face right now as a society as it prevents us from addressing nearly every other issue. I write more about this problematic state of affairs at the end of this piece. Please inform yourself about the dysfunctional state of our elections and vote counting, and the ways that its covered up.
Still, VOTE! Voting remains essential. More on that too down below.
It’s another long ballot for Californians. This list is organized from statewide to Bay Area to local east bay races.
SENATE — I recommend a vote for Kevin DeLeon here. I very much would have preferred that a strong progressive reached the November ballot, but hey, Alex Padilla is Secretary of State, he counts the votes, in secret, and he’s as establishment as they come. So we’ll never know who really won the June primary. Nevertheless, DeLeon is at least for single-payer healthcare and appears to honestly care about the environment, which is far more than can be said of the pro-war, pro-Orwellian-surveillance-state Dianne Feinstein, who is perhaps the quintessential wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing that defines the modern Democratic Party at the national level. With her millions and her jets and her mansions, and with her support for wars and surveillance, it’s hard to pick a more conservative or corrupt Democrat than Feinstein (although there is competition), and it’s high time we send someone new to DC.
CONGRESS, DIST 13 — Someone to really vote for here! Laura Wells, a strong people’s candidate, no-corporate-money, Green Party-endorsed candidate, actually reached the November ballot despite the new “top two” system that generally prevents anyone not a Republican or Democrat from running in November. Barbara Lee is certainly not awful, particularly when compared with most incumbents in DC, but she represents one of the nation’s truly progressive district and should be doing much more. This is the time to send her a message that she can and must be doing more, and the way to do it is with a vote for a strong progressive challenger like Wells. Lee didn’t endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016 despite her constituents’ preferences, but she will certainly win again here. A vote for Laura Wells eloquently communicates that we’re paying attention and we want more from her.
GOVERNOR — No endorsement here unfortunately. I watched Gavin Newsom rise through San Francisco politics and don’t trust him at all. He cheated Matt Gonzalez and a powerful progressive movement in SF countless times and took corporate money while cleverly adopting a few progressive ideas of his opponents after he had opposed them, then called them his own. The elephant John Cox is worse, at least on stated policy positions, so I can’t make a recommendation.
SECRETARY OF STATE — Anybody but Alex Padilla, who has refused at every turn to make our voting systems more transparent and who presided over the 2016 theft of the state primary. See this exhaustive article I wrote in 2016 for more on this. Padilla has made zero changes since that rigged affair, so one can only assume he thinks it went exactly according to plan. So while I hesitate mightily to endorse a Republican for Secretary of State, given the voter suppression several Republican Secretaries of State have undertaken around the country over the past decade, Padilla is now a known enemy of democracy and anything new is worth a try. I’ll be voting with reservations for Mark Meuser.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT — Vote for Tony Thurmond, who is significantly better than the tendentious Marshall Tuck.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES — Vote to keep Carol Corrigan and Leondra Kruger. Neither is particularly progressive but they’re both decent, we could do worse, and we could do with less politicizing of the judiciary at this point.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DIST 15 — Great choice here in Jovanka Beckles, a people’s candidate and solid progressive.
MEASURE 1 — YES. Giving earmarked funds to real estate developers for housing for veterans. Why not fund the building of this housing directly instead of filtering the billions through investment banks and real estate developers? We could a lot more bang for $4B if this were structured more fairly, and if it didn’t promise billions in interest to big banks, but it’s hard to oppose a housing bill at this point.
MEASURE 2 — NO. Giving money to real estate developers for housing for people with mental illness. Ok, we need to draw the line here actually. This not only filters the money through developers and gives a huge chunk to big banks, like Measure 1 above, this one could actually make things worse by removing funding from Prop 63 (already passed to address this same issue), a measure which on balance provides much better legislation for housing for mental health. We need to stick with the status quo in this case unfortunately.
MEASURE 3 — NO. Nice-sounding but corrupt-looking water and wildlife bonds. We’ve passed countless water bonds over the past two decades. This one is for special projects not covered by the others, but it’s such a basket case of small and miscellaneous projects it looks for the whole world like an attempt by rich people to have the state pay for their dreamy giant boondoggles or smaller pet projects they want but can’t afford. Not well-written, reject this one.
MEASURE 4 — NO. Sell bonds to fund private children’s hospitals. This is a tough call, as it sounds beneficent. Children’s hospitals should be funded, certainly, but not like this, selling bonds to rich investors and entrenching us further in a broken healthcare system that is too expensive and provides care that is unforgivably poor. We should send this back and demand a strategy more in line with a transition to single-payer Medicare for All, which incidentally now polls with Republicans as well as with Democrats and is opposed really only by the giant healthcare corporations. Single-payer would fund children’s hospitals affordably and as a matter of course.
MEASURE 5 — NO. Property tax transfer for wealthy seniors. Basically enables wealthy older folks to avoid or minimize the transfer taxes they currently pay when buying or selling homes. Discounts already exist if they’re attempting to move into a smaller place on shrinking income. This would primarily help the wealthy and isn’t needed.
MEASURE 6 — NO. Repeal gas taxes and vehicle transfer fees. It would be great to have fewer regressive taxes —such as sales taxes and gas taxes — that hit poor people the hardest, but with transportation funding dwindling, repealing this would be devastating to transit funding and road repair. Plus, gas taxes encourage the accelerating and exciting transition to electric vehicles, something we should be doing urgently now that the technology has arrived. (Go test drive a Chevy Bolt if you haven’t yet. You’ll enjoy it and your carbon footprint will thank you.)
MEASURE 7 — YES. Cancel Daylight Savings Time changes. There’s always one wildcard, nonpartisan measure on the ballot, and here we have this year’s. This one is about personal taste and has little to do with politics. Do you prefer to have more daylight in the morning, or more daylight in the evening, or do you prefer that we change at two points throughout the year (the current plan) to maximize daylight at different times? If this passes, it would free us to choose to go to permanent Daylight Savings or to permanent Standard Time, although choosing to go to permanent Daylight Savings would require additional congressional approval. This is a question of personal taste; for me, I prefer more daylight in the evening as it’s a time that (nearly) everyone is awake, and will (I imagine) reduce Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I’ll be voting yes to free us to continue the conversation on this.
MEASURE 8 — YES! Limit charges by Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Now this is what I’m talking about — transitional legislation that limits the obscene profits corporations are sucking from us all for healthcare and that sets us on our way to Medicare for All. This will help patients pay more manageable costs for their care while still allowing the corporations some profit — but not the 350 percent they take on average now. Vote YES here.
MEASURE 10 — YES!! YES!! YES!! Repeal Costa-Hawkins. About time! This is the single most important measure for making housing affordable in California. Costa-Hawkins passed in 1995 and was a giant gift to real estate developers and large landlords as it prevented rent control on new buildings and outlawed “vacancy control,” which is the gold standard for rent control as it removes the incentive to pester and evict tenants. Passing this bill would allow cities like Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and others to establish truly fair rent control that, for instance, would apply to all buildings, include vacancy control, and cap rent increases to a reasonable amount that would allow landlords to maintain and improve their buildings without evicting residents. Definitely vote YES on this one.
MEASURE 11 — NO. Force ambulance/emergency paramedics and employees to remain on call during breaks and more. This is a money and power grab by the largest private ambulance operator, American Medical Response, who wants to force harder labor conditions on its employees by exempting them from special “security guard” labor standards.
MEASURE 12 — YES YES YES!! Limit extreme farm animal confinement. Good for animals, good for the eggs and meat eaten by humans, and good for the planet, this should be a no-brainer. In fact it should go further, but for now, limiting the most ridiculously cruel factory farming (even if it will cost some farmers more) is a great start and will likely start a trend that will sweep the country.
AC TRANSIT DIRECTOR, AT LARGE — Dollene Jones, a former bus operator with tons of experience and at the very least, better than the incumbent.
AC TRANSIT DIRECTOR, WARD 4 — Nicholas Harvey, an enthusiastic entrepreneur with interest and knowledge in how to improve our problem-plagued bus system. He deserves a chance.
ALAMEDA COUNTY ASSESSOR — Vote for Phong La. Marginally better than the conflicted Jim Johnson.
BART DIRECTOR, DIST 4 — Barely supporting Rob Raburn while still waiting for him to be the progressive he seemed to be when he was director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition long ago.
BART DIRECTOR, DIST 6 — Recommending Anu Natarajan, a veteran Fremont City Council member with good urban planning experience and progressive ideas.
MEASURE E — YES. Parcel tax to fund college education. A regressive tax, not the best way to fund social services (especially at a time of such growing wealth and income disparity), but on balance it will be better if this passes and continues funding for local east bay community colleges.
MEASURE F — NO. A half cent sales tax. This would raise $5 million or so that would go to the Alameda City government without restriction. Sales taxes are inherently regressive, hitting poor people hardest, and it’s insufficiently clear who the beneficiaries of this tax would be. If the city needs the money, they can come up with fairer and more specific ways to raise it. Send this one back.
MEASURE G — YES. Bonds to fund community colleges. Similar to E, above, this isn’t perfect but will help local east bay colleges stay afloat and attempt needed construction and capital projects.
MEASURE K — NO! NO! NO! Weak rent control. Wow, I can’t remember seeing this many misleading and deceptive mailers for any political race. Big real estate companies really really really don’t want Alameda to have Bay Area-style rent control any time soon for fear it would cut into the millions in profits they hope to make buying up Alameda’s increasingly prized water-front properties, evicting current residents, and pumping rents through the roof. Vote “No” to protect the possibility of fair rent control in Alameda — and to protest the avalanche of deceptive $%# landing in our mailboxes!
MEASURE FF — NO. Funds for fighting wildfires in local parks. While I generally vote for anything that promises to improve the great parks of the Bay Area, this one raises money to mitigate against wildfires using outmoded methods — clear-cutting and herbicides. Statewide wisdom is clearly evolving towards other methods to reduce the harm of wildfires, such as defensible space around homes and allowing non-dangerous burns to proceed. And clearcutting damages ecosystems that we need to be as healthy as possible as climate change is unfortunately now upon us. Let’s send this one back and ask for a more modern, ecological, and thoughtful approach.
MAYOR — A highly contested race here in my hometown. Two good candidates, one not quite as good, and it’s really a shame we don’t yet have Ranked Choice Voting for this race, as SF, Berkeley, and Oakland do for their mayoral races. RCV encourages coalition building and reduces negative campaigning. Alameda should institute it soon. I will be voting to reelect Trish Spencer, with reservations, but if I could rank my choices I would actually put her second and Frank Matarrese first. I don’t understand Spencer’s support for Measure K (and I don’t much like F either), but over the years I’ve found her to be an exemplary mayor in including everyone she can in the political process and endeavoring to bring transparency to city government. I prefer Matarrese’s style and environmental credentials, but in the end I prefer them both to the third candidate, Marilyn Ashcraft, whom I find personable but too close to the firefighter and police unions and to large developers, and without RCV I think Spencer has a better chance of winning that Matarrese.
CITY COUNCIL — Vote for two. A contested race here, and I recommend John Knox White and Robert Matz, who come in on opposite ends of the experience spectrum. Knox White is a longtime Planning Board veteran with a solid record on social justice and public transit issues — and I vote for him with some enthusiasm. Matz is brand new to politics, has a fresh take on things, advocates some positions I’m less convinced about and that are not fully fleshed out, and I vote for him more from a lack of other good options. The other candidates include Jim Oddie, who is somewhat progressive but clearly played dirty politics along with Malia Vella in pressuring — and then ousting — our competent former city manager Jill Keimach and then tried to cover it up by lying about it. Oddie still refuses to allow the recording of his conversations with Keimach to be made public, so one must assume the worst about him. Tony Daysog and Stewart Chen unfortunately aren’t progressive and aren’t strong choices.
SCHOOL BOARD — Vote for two. Gary Lym is a solid parent activist on the council who pays attention to everything and has fiscal training he brings to the table. I’ll also be voting for Kevin Jordan, who is a progressive and a former teacher, and while he hasn’t really campaigned much and is inexperienced, I prefer new blood at this point over incumbent Anne McKereghan, a weak council member who rarely seems to take positions of her own, and Mia Bonta, who is the wife of our centrist Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and whose candidacy appears so overly well-funded it looks like either she sees the office as an entitlement or it’s a power grab by her husband; either way, no need to have a second Bonta in power here on our little island until we see a bit more to like from the first one.
MAYOR — I’m not following all of the Oakland races, but given its wonderfully progressive adoption of Ranked Choice Voting, I always follow the mayor’s race. There are a ton of great candidates, so don’t vote for Libby Schaaf at all as we can do so much better. You get to rank your choices, and here’s how I’d vote:
1. Pamela Price — Outspoken and progressive candidate for district attorney, would make a great mayor to restore justice to Oakland policing and law enforcement.
2. Saied Karamooz — Really solid business and community-organizing and green credentials. Great candidate.
3. Cat Brooks — Another really good choice here.
AUDITOR — Courtney Ruby
A quick note of recommendation on some important local Oakland measures:
MEASURE V — YES
MEASURE W — YES
MEASURE X — YES
MEASURE Y — YES
MEASURE Z — YES
Didn’t have time to go into Berkeley or San Francisco as I normally like to do, but here are a few recommendations on Berkeley measures:
MEASURE O — YES
MEASURE P — YES
MEASURE Q — YES
MEASURE R — YES
That’s it — all I have this time around. I wasn’t able to research all the candidates or measures that I like to this time around, given my new little son and busy day job, but hopefully this is helpful.
Now Go Vote! Yes, we need verifiable election technology or paper ballots, but for now, still vote. You’re either participating directly in democracy today if your vote counts, or you’re providing evidence for future lawsuits as we take our democracy back. So vote. Keep up the habit. Democracy and election integrity movements are growing all across the country despite the media and parties’ efforts to stifle and distract.
Please do learn about the deep problems with our current election system if you’re up to the important patriotic task of understanding the truth about the way our votes are (not) counted. Suffice it to say, the real issues have nothing to do with Russians (the Democrat distraction) or voters voting twice (the Republican distraction) and everything to do with simple corruption and lack of rights around voting. We need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote to all and guaranteeing that that vote is counted fairly. Today no such right exists and anything less will be gamed by those in power (or blamed wrongly on Russians or ‘voter impersonation’). We need to demand today secure, verifiable voting systems. Open source software or paper ballots or transparent blockchain are all real solutions available today. Everything else — vote by mail, vote early, touchscreen, optical scan, punch card — it’s all blackbox voting, where one of two well-connected private corporations writes secret software that counts the votes in a way we’re not allowed to audit. What could go wrong? So much already has.
I also highly recommend balancing your media consumption with independent and foreign media these days. The Obama administration actually legalized propaganda in this country a few years ago, so it’s gone from a major problem to perhaps the defining issue of our time. I find that Telesur and RT are particularly helpful — they serve the role for Americans that American media serves for people in China. I also find Caitlin Johnstone’s daily articles quite powerful for balancing the daily mainstream American media hysteria.
I hope this has been helpful. Now Go Vote!