A 2016 Voting Guide for Thoughtful and Progressive Californians
Including Local Bay Area Elections
It has been a crazy election year: dramatic at times, ridiculous, and often infuriating. It has been a year in which millions have been extraordinarily inspired and utterly betrayed. We’ve had unexpected, refreshing moments of political truth-telling, and we’ve witnessed unexpected, mind-numbing lies in the corporate media.
So. Here we are, rolling into November, time for decisions. Below are my voting suggestions for this election, with local endorsements for the Bay Area, California. There are actually quite a few inspiring things to vote on here in the Golden State this year, and I’ve researched many of them.
In a separate piece today, I’ve summarized some of the explosive Wikileaks emails and shared independent media articles covering what the leaked emails tell us and why they’re important.
President of the United States. Yes, there’s this election. Maybe you’ve heard about it. I won’t write a ton more here. Suffice it to say, there is no reason for an informed, rational progressive to vote for anyone other than Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka. Jill Stein is a courageous, intelligent, and principled person who would make our country and planet better places. And since our flawed electoral system essentially disenfranchises us Californians from electing the president anyway, the logical thing to do is to send the message you want to send. For hard-headed strategists, there are Four Reasons Pragmatic Progressives are Supporting Jill Stein. For idealists considering the long game, This Election is the Perfect Storm for a Party: Jill Stein and the Green Party. And after all the Wikileaks, election fraud, and the corrupt behavior in Philadelphia (which I personally witnessed), we know that Nixonian Corruption in the DNC Makes It Time to Build a New Party. At the end of the day, you get to choose what your vote — your one most sacred message — communicates to this troubled democracy. You can send the message that you approve of a rigged primary and expansive collusion with the media and Wall Street banks. Or you can send a message that you want to expand world peace not war, call for genuine democracy rather than approve election fraud, urge aggressive action on climate change rather than build more pipelines, demand fair global trade rather than accept corporate rule via the TPP, and take a stand for racial and class justice down to the local level. I’m communicating with this troubled democracy by voting for Jill Stein.
State Measure 51 — State School Bond. Yes.
This is a massive bond issue that will, as bond measures generally do, give tons of taxpayer money to big banks and generally cost the people way more than necessary for the services it provides. This measure also is written in a way that gives way too much to real estate developers who increase suburban sprawl. There’s actually a lot wrong with this one, and it’s a close call. But all things considered, given that it will provide up to $8 billion to K-12 and community college construction and modernization, it’s worth supporting.
State Measure 52 — MediCal. Hospital fees to fund MediCal. Yes.
This measure continues funneling funds to MediCal from some fees paid by HMOs and large hospitals, and it raises the requirement to a two-thirds vote for the legislature to change it. It’s unusual to attempt to legislature-proof something like this, via ballot measure, but this is certainly worthwhile on balance.
State Measure 53 — Revenue Bonds. Require voter approval for revenue bonds. No.
Poorly worded measure here that attempts to prevent the state from issuing more bonds without voter approval. Nearly everyone in state government opposes this, as it would hinder future state initiatives.
Measure 54 — Text of Bills Online. Require publication of bills online before passage. Yes.
This requires laws in Sacramento to be online and open for public consultation for at least 72 hours being passed. While there is some concern this 72 hour period will enable more corporate lobbying time for important, emergency legislation, the benefits to deeper democracy far outweigh the potential costs.
Measure 55 — Health & Schools. Extend tax on the rich for better education and healthcare. Yes.
This is structured better than Measure 51, in that this directly uses small fees and progressive taxes to redistribute enormous corporate profits or personal income to help society as a whole. Everyone — rich and poor alike — benefit when society as a whole is fairer and when all people are healthier and better educated.
Measure 56 — Cigarettes. Tax cigarettes to fund healthcare. Yes.
This has worked everywhere it’s been tried to reduce social and personal harm from tobacco products. California’s tax on cigarettes is actually relatively low. Raising it and using proceeds for harm reduction is not just the right idea here, this should be the model we use for all harmful (but popular) substances.
Measure 57 — More parole. Allow parole for nonviolent offenders, juvenile sentencing for juveniles. Yes.
This is sensible reform to laws that too aggressively try juveniles as adults, and that are too restrictive on parole for nonviolent offenders. State prisons are mandated to cut populations, and this does it in a sane and relatively fair way.
Measure 58 — English in Schools. Multilingual learning as well as English proficiency. Yes.
While there are some studies that show benefits to fluency that come from more interaction between speakers and learners of English in schools, there are more significant benefits to allowing children to have some culture-specific education.
Measure 59 — Overturn Citizens Utd. State to urge amendment to overturn. YES!
Anyone paying attention to politics in 2016 knows that we badly need to reduce corporate money in politics. This measure, while partly symbolic, helps us get there. Perhaps the dominant political issue of our time is the power corporations wield over our society. Starting with an obscure 1888 Supreme Court ruling that deemed corporations “persons” for the sake of constitutional protection, right up to today with rulings like Citizens Utd equating money with political speech, corporations have utilized the formidable power our democracy grants to people without having the real concerns that actual people have, like raising children, going on vacations, serving on juries, going to jail if they break the law, needing clean water to drink and air to breathe, etc. The beauty of this measure is that it doesn’t only petition a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens Utd; it also declares corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. They aren’t, and it isn’t. Democracy is priceless. Vote yes.
Measure 60 — Condoms in porn. Require prophylactic use in adult film.
This is the bizarre one on the ballot. There’s always one. On the surface it sounds like a good idea — common sense — to require condoms. But it turns out no one really wants this change. The industry, studios, and actors all oppose this as they suggest the industry will be forced underground and to other states and countries, when now only two states — California and New Hampshire — have legal, regulated adult film industries.
Measure 61 — Medication Costs. State to pay less for prescription drugs.
Keep your eye on this gem. An obvious idea: Prevent the state from paying more for prescription drugs than paid by the Dept of Veteran Affairs — a federal office known for negotiating prices. This has Bernie Sanders written all over it. Not only is it something he would think of, but he has supported it passionately. He chaired the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is very familiar with how they negotiate drug prices. This will help patients throughout the state pay less for drugs; this will help the state itself pay less for drugs; and this will set a precedent for the rest of the country. Of course it will be loudly, loudly opposed by the big pharmaceutical corporations, so watch out for giant colorful smear posters to arrive in your mailbox regularly. Vote Yes.
Measure 62 — End death penalty. Replace with life without parole. YES!
There are so many reasons to abolish the death penalty: logical, financial, philosophical, and spiritual reasons. For me, for the sake of this voting guide, it comes down to one single belief: our government shouldn’t be in the business of killing people. All problems flow from that. This is a rare chance to vote for something truly meaningful. Vote Yes.
Measure 63 — Ammunition. Forbid large ammunition magazines. No.
This sounds like a good idea — no one needs large ammunition magazines or assault weapons in today’s America — and the country would be better if they didn’t exist. But this prohibition was already signed into law as SB 1446, and this new measure has a huge loophole — active and retired law enforcement officers are exempted, even for their personal weapons. Why do retired police need large magazines or assault weapons any more than anyone else? In a year in which police have repeatedly abused their license to kill, where black and brown people have been callously shot with impunity by trigger-happy police, we need to send a message that #BlackLivesMatter, that police do not get some special lifetime right to outgun and kill. Vote in solidarity: No.
Measure 64 — Pot. Legalize marijuana for people over 21. YES.
Prohibition doesn’t work. The time has come to end the insanity and allow adult recreational use of marijuana. Much as with Meas. 56, above, the right way to deal with social harm that comes from the use of popular (but harmful) substances is to regulate and tax, and use tax proceeds to reduce harm. Study after study, of course, finds abuse of marijuana is generally less harmful than abuse of alcohol or tobacco, but in all cases the truth remains: regulate rather than prohibit. Additional benefits will be a significant reduction in organized crime, gang activity, and Mexican cartel power, as there will be one less thing for criminals to control and fight over.
Measure 65 — Bags #1. Charge for carryout bags at groceries to benefit organizations. No.
This is a crafty and deceitful one. The language sounds good — sell carryout bags in groceries and send the proceeds to government organizations and environmental nonprofits. But the real intent here of the Plastic corporations who bankrolled this is to get groceries to oppose the plastic bag bans, such as Measure 67 (below). By forcing groceries to sell bags but then send every cent of proceeds to the government, the Plastic corporations think they can get us back to the bad old days of millions of plastic bags flooding our lands and waterways.
Measure 66 — Prevent Death Sentence Appeals. Rework and accelerate death row. NO.
Most people on death row weren’t able to afford attorneys and had to rely on overworked court-appointed defenders. The appeal process is about the only recourse that wrongly-convicted people have to attempt to avoid being wrongly killed by the government. It would be “cruel and unusual” to eliminate or restrict the right to appeal. Vote for Meas. 62, above, to end the death penalty, then there’s no need to even listen to sponsors of this abhorrent “Kill Em Quicker” bill, as we save the most money and time by simply doing the right thing and not carrying out capital punishment at all.
Measure 67 — Bags #2. Ban single-use plastic bags. Yes.
Studies show these bans work where they’ve been implemented, which is now in many parts of the Bay Area. The East Bay Times, for instance, found that San Jose saw trash go down by 59% on city streets, 89% in storm drains, and 60% in creeks. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We don’t need plastic single-use bags anymore, and we certainly don’t need the millions of them piling up and polluting our streets, rivers, and oceans. Vote yes on 67, no on 65.
US Senator Loretta Sanchez (D) v Kamala Harris (D) — Because of the undemocratic Prop 14, passed in 2010, we now have top-two elections, and we have races like this, where you have to choose between two members of the same party. Could this be a further power grab by the DNC? Could be, my friend, could be. At any rate, we have Sanchez and Harris, both fairly typical Democrats in overall policy. They both sound a bit more progressive than they are. I’ve personally watched Kamala Harris climb from SF District Attorney up to Attorney General, making many deals with people I don’t trust, and I don’t trust her much either, but she’s the better alternative here, slightly better on genuine progressive issues. Vote Kamala Harris.
Prop A1 — Affordable Housing. Alameda County. This will help somewhat with nearly intractable issue of housing for homeless, veterans, seniors, and disabled. Yes.
Prop B1 — Schools. Alameda City. Continue $.32/sqft tax, not to exceed $8k. This shouldn’t have the maximum, as that’s a regressive flaw that disproportionately taxes small properties and homeowners more than giant big box retailers, etc. But I’ll be voting Yes.
Prop C1 — AC Transit Tax. Keep taking $8/parcel in a tax for AC transit. AC Transit needs to break through to a new level of service and infrastructure. This isn’t much, but helps. Vote Yes.
Prop RR — BART Bond. New $3.5B BART bond, to replace cars and tracks and increase (slightly) service. Yes.
State Senate (9th Dist) — Nancy Skinner (D) vs Sandre Swanson (D) Another top two contest here between two Democrats jockeying for position in our (nearly) one-party state. This one’s a tossup, as both are reasonably liberal but neither is a true progressive. Swanson brings more labor experience and more experience with urban issues facing Oakland, and he would be the first African American elected to the State Senate from Northern California in decades. Skinner brings more energy to education, climate change, and renewable energy, and is, on balance, a bit more progressive across the board. I’m giving a slight edge here to her. Vote Nancy Skinner.
State Sen (11th) — Jane Kim (D) vs Scott Wiener (D) Along with with State Measure 61 (above), the other thing Bernie Sanders has been campaigning for in the Bay Area this month is Jane Kim, a genuine progressive and a civil rights attorney seeking her first election to the state office. She’s taking on an establishment candidate in Scott Wiener, and she absolutely deserves your vote and support and perhaps even a donation. Vote for the great Jane Kim.
State Assembly (15th) — Tony Thurmond (D) vs Claire Chiara (R) Not much to say here. Thurmond is the incumbent and isn’t facing much competition from Chiara here. Tony Thurmond.
State Assembly (18th) — Rob Bonta (D) vs Slonsky Breault (R) I spent ten hot minutes with Rob Bonta, as he’s my State Rep, at a coffeehouse during his “cafe time,” and found him to be intelligent and articulate, but not nearly progressive enough (yet) to represent fairly this area of Oakland and Alameda. He didn’t endorse Sanders and wasn’t particularly clear why, vaguely mentioning guns without really knowing Sanders position on gun reform. He’s made a few strides in the right direction during his term, however, and he’s better than Breault, so vote Rob Bonta.
US Representative (12th) — Preston Picus (D) vs Nancy Pelosi (D) In order for this democracy of ours to work (if it ever will), we need true progressives to represent the few truly progressive districts of our country. Picus is a true Sanders-style Progressive who deserves everyone’s support. Pelosi is no progressive — she passes for a lukewarm liberal in comparison to Congress of course — but if it weren’t for her deeply entrenched family connections she would have lost this seat years ago and someone much more progressive would be representing the great city by the bay. Vote for democracy and for sustainability and for the 99%, vote for Preston Picus.
US Rep (14th) — Jackie Speier (D) vs Angel Cardenas (R) Not much of a contest here. The decent Speier is in a safe seat. Trivia fact: She actually survived the Jonestown massacre in Guyana. No doubt she’ll be fine with or without your vote.
US Rep (13th) — Sue Caro (R) vs Barbara Lee (D) Well, Barbara Lee. She’s my representative in Congress and out there in the wilds of Washington DC, she passes just fine as a progressive. If I weren’t watching her so closely, I’d probably like her a lot. I was a big fan of her lone, courageous vote against the war in Afghanistan. I won’t get into the reasons I’m not her biggest fan, but I do question her role in the progressive movement if she didn’t have the courage to endorse Bernie. Nonetheless, I will vote for Barbara Lee.
That’s the big stuff. The following is some important littler stuff, a selection of local city offices and measures that I’m watching. I‘ll just mention them briefly.
OAKLAND / ALAMEDA CITY
Alameda School Board — Pick 3: Williams, Dailey, Hettich, Harris, Popalardo, Mckereghan.
I’m voting for Dailey, McKereghan, and Williams.
Alameda City Council — Pick 2: Vella, Daysog, Roloff, Ashcraft, Tam.
You’d think we’d have some great candidates here, but I don’t see anyone amazing, so I’m voting for the newbies, Roloff and Vella, to give some new energy a chance on the board.
Alameda Auditor — Kearney vs. Mcmahon
Close one here, but I’m staying with the incumbent, Kearney.
Alameda Treasurer — Kennedy vs. Bratzler
Not significant competition here. I’m voting for Kennedy.
K1 — AMP Money Transfer to City. Keep taking $3.7M from AMP & giving to city. No.
While this has been a great agreement for the city for years, at this point AMP has a better record of moving to renewable energy than does the city council, and I would prefer AMP gets to keep their money and use it to build a sustainable microgrid for the island and encourage more solar and wind energy in the city.
L1 — City-written Rent Control This is “Less” Rent Control. No.
M1 — Tenant-written Rent Control This is “More” Rent Control. Yes.
A very contentious local issue, as rampant rent hikes have been decimating longtime city residents, sending them by the hundreds packing for other parts of the Bay Area or farther away. As new homeowners, and potential landlords someday, my wife and I had to think about this carefully. The city-written version has quite a few concessions to large landlords and doesn’t do enough really to preserve current tenants. The tenant-written version almost goes too far, as it regulates single home rentals nearly the same as massive profit-driven 25-unit apartment buildings, and contains muscular eviction protections. I would have preferred a few more exemptions to M1 for small landlords, but on balance, M1 is the legislation that will better preserve Alameda’s hometown character while also providing affordable housing in the dynamic (and sometimes insane) Bay Area housing world.
Judge, Office #1 — Barbara Thomas vs Scott Jackson
Vote for the smarter and better-qualified Scott Jackson.
AC Transit Director (At Large) — Chris Peeples vs Dollene Jones
Peeples has been around a long time, doesn’t own a car, and rides the bus everyday. He’s decent. But we need new blood at AC Transit, we need to move more swiftly to electric buses and improve scheduling and bunching. Jones is a 26-year AC Transit driver and has shown passion and interest in reform. Dollene Jones.
East Bay Parks Director (Ward 2)
Here I recommend going with Dee Rosario.
East Bay Parks Director (Ward 4)
I’m going with the young Daniel Chesmore, who brings youth, energy, and perspective as an LGBT person of color, to the parks commission.
SAN FRANCISCO CITY
A — New Schools. Yes
B — City College $20 parcel tax. Yes
C — Affordable Housing. Yes
D — Special Elections for vacant seats Yes
E — City streets, sidewalks, and trees Yes
F — 16yo vote in city elections! Yes
G — Police oversight already Yes
H — Office of public advocate Yes
I — Help seniors and adults w disabilities Yes
J — Homelessness & Transit plan No
This gives the mayor too much power over homelessness and other social service budgets.
K — Sales tax for special interests No
Connected to J (above) and won’t be any good.
L — Supes oversee SFMTA YES
It’s about time.
M — Housing and Development commission for supes Yes
Mayor is too conservative for this role
N — Noncitizen parents to vote in schoolboard races Yes
This is fair if they’re parents with children in the schools.
O — Candlestick and Hunters Pt redevelopment No
Why not more recreational or public benefit development here? Seems like a land grab.
P — Competitive bidding for Affordable Housing No
Won’t help and poorly written.
Q — Prohibit tents on sidewalks No
R — Neighborhood crime gestapo No
S — Hotels and food taxes for Moscone Ctr Yes
T — Restrict campaign contributions YES
U — Real estate developers define ‘affordable’ No
V — Put tax on sugar beverages Yes
W — Tax properties over $5M Yes
X — Preserve industrial arts, biz, and community spaces in soma Yes
D1 Supervisor — Sandra Lee Fewer
D3 Supervisor — Aaron Peskin
D5 Supervisor — Dean Preston
D7 Supervisor — Norman Yee
D9 Supervisor — Hillary Ronen
D11 Supervisor — Rank: #1 Francisco Herrera, #2 Kim Alvarenga
School Board — Mark Sanchez and Matt Haney
College Board — Rafael Mandelman, Tom Temprano, Shanell Williams
Superior Court Judge — Victor Hwang
Just giving a random shout out to:
Measure Z — Ban Fracking YES!
Despite the two corporate presidential candidates’ head-in-the-sand positions, we do need to end fracking, shale gas extraction, and burning of coal now, this year, to get on track to fight climate change. There is a movement sweeping the country to ban fracking, and it’s important. Fracking pollutes vast quantities of water, causes earthquakes, and releases methane and other greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Join the movement if you’re in Monterey Co.
Well, that’s what I’ve got. Those are my suggestions. Vote how you see fit. It remains crucial to vote, despite evidence of fraud in many states. If your vote is counted fairly, you’re helping elect progressive candidates and issues; if your vote isn’t counted fairly, you’re providing another piece of evidence.
And regardless of how you vote — and who wins — we all need to do more than vote. Envision the world you want for all of us, think globally, and act locally. That is the peaceful revolution.
Thank you for reading.