Jeremy’s 2016 Voter Guide for the June 7th California Primary and SF Election

I’ve written up my voter guide for the June 7th elections. Read the short version or the long version with more background information.

The Short Version

Offices

Party-Nominated Offices
President of the United States: Bernie Sanders

Voter-Nominated Offices
United States Senator: Kamala Harris
United States Representative: Preston Picus
State Senator: Scott Weiner
Member, State Assembly: David Chiu

Nonpartisan Offices
Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7: Victor Hwang

Other
Democratic County Central Committee: Alix Rosenthal, Arlo Hale Smith, Francis Tsang, Gary McCoy, Jill Wynns, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Malia Cohen, Rebecca Prozan, Scott Weiner, Tom Hsieh, Sr., Zoe Dunning.

Propositions

Prop X: Summary Title — My Vote [Confidence Level]

Prop A: Public Health and Safety Bond — Yes [6/10]
Prop B: Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund — Yes [7/10]
Prop C: Affordable Housing Requirements — No [8/10]
Prop D: Office of Citizen Complaints Investigations — Yes [6/10]
Prop E: Paid Sick Leave — Yes :[7/10]
Prop AA: San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program — Yes [6/10]

Prop 50: Suspension of Legislators. Legislative Constitutional Amendment — Yes [3/10]

One thing that is nice about the voter guide pamphlet is that they have a section at the start called “How to Vote.” It kind of reminds me of the part on the airplane where the flight attendant tells you how to buckle your seatbelt. But it’s important to show this part in the case you don’t know. And they also show you how to vote for a write-in.

Say instead of Cesar Chavez or Eleanor Roosevelt, you want John Hancock, you can very conveniently write him in!

Anyways, now on to everything else.


One important reminder. You can vote for the democratic candidates if you have listed “No Party Preference” as well.

Presidential Primary — Bernie Sanders

I’ve written extensively already about why I’m voting for Bernie Sanders for president, you can read more about that here:

I’ve also built a visualization tool to let you explore income inequality — and yes it really is that bad. You can try the tool here: thekeesh.com/whichpercent, it let’s you enter an income and show you what percentile it is and learn about the data around income inequality.

You can read the blog post explaining that here:

In summary, I think there are major issues around money in politics through lobbying and SuperPACs and the ability for an elite group to buy better laws. The United States has extreme income inequality, and needs a universal single-payer health care system. These are issues that Bernie Sanders is best on, and many other candidates fail to address.

Prop A: Public Health and Safety Bond — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

To protect public health and safety, improve community medical and mental health care services, earthquake safety, and emergency medical response; to seismically improve, and modernize neighborhood fire stations and vital public health and homeless service sites; to construct a seismically safe and improved San Francisco Fire Department ambulance deployment facility; and to pay related costs, shall the City and County of San Francisco issue $350,000,000 in general obligation bonds, subject to citizen oversight and regular audits?

As an overview is that this is a $350 million bond to improve a few things in the city. $272 million for seismic improvements and other improvements to the hospital and health centers. $58 million to improve fire stations and a seismically safer facility for ambulances, and $20 million to improve facilities for the homeless.

At a high level, improvements to hospital, mental health services, help for homeless seem like Good Things that the city should invest in. The proposition has support from many people. The only rebuttal, fittingly, comes from the Libertarian Party. Their argument is that it is still a big bond and the mandate of the bond is quite general and underspecified, which seems true. Most of the arguments in favor of the bond seem valid, that the hospital needs additional investment, that investing for the homeless is much needed.

There is an argument made several times by the proponents which seems a bit misleading which is the idea that it does this all “without additional taxes.” This seems misleading to me because it is suggesting that it is free or people don’t need to pay for it — but people are paying for it, just in a different way and down the line.

I will be voting Yes for this, though I have a number of questions because I think it’s a bit difficult to evaluate a $350 million bond in a few paragraphs. Here are some of my questions. I don’t have answers, but it does seem worth thinking about.

  • Is $350 million the right amount? How is it going to be spent more specifically? How will people know if this was effective?
  • Is $20 million on homelessness enough? Why is this on a bond instead of in the general budget?
  • At what point would the bond be too big? It feels like voting for a city bond on social measures and infrastructure investments you support is a Good Thing, but at some point the choice to keep making the bond bigger must be problematic. I just looked back at my November 2015 Voter Guide and saw we had another $310 million general obligation bond. I’m certainly not keeping track of the bonds, but it seems easy to vote yes and forget.

The rebuttal points out that the San Francisco budget is $9 billion dollars (unicorn x 9 !?!? if you can spend $9b what’s the valuation!?!), which I verified here. The Chronicle also points this out, and mentions that is $10,500 per resident, and “It’s about equal to the budget for the entire state of Nevada, which has more than three times the number of residents as San Francisco.” So… yeah. I’d still vote Yes for this but I think there are probably good arguments to be made that the city is not really run very well.

Prop B: Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund — Yes

Confidence: 7/10

Shall the City amend the Charter to extend the Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund until 2046 and give the Recreation and Park Department each year a minimum baseline amount from the General Fund in addition to the Fund set-aside of 2 and 1/2 cents for each $100 of assessed property value?

So there is this Park Fund which takes some of the money from property taxes and gives to to maintain the parks. This fund expires in 2031. So we’re getting ahead of the game and extending this to 2046 (or … 30 years in the future). The other part of this is adjusting the money that goes to maintain the parks. Essentially it seems to me like this is a reshuffling of the budget to give more towards maintaining the parks. I’m not quite sure where it is coming from or what is getting cut. It seems like a good idea to support the parks. Everyone supports it in the voter guide, except for … the Libertarian Party. They will point out that San Francisco’s budget has almost doubled in the last 10 years.

Prop C: Affordable Housing Requirements — No

Confidence: 8/10

Shall the City amend the Charter to increase affordable housing requirements for private developers of new market-rate housing projects of 25 or more units until the Board of Supervisors passes an ordinance changing those requirements and also authorize the Board of Supervisors to change affordable housing requirements by ordinance?

Ok, so this is a complicated one.

The intentions sound good and I agree with the intentions. I think it’s a bad policy.

What’s interesting is that at a surface level this seems like an obvious “Yes” vote, all the regular people support it, and the only voter guide opposition is from a crazy person. However, there are actually lots of people advocating strongly for the other side. In researching more I was surprised that SFBARF and SFYIMBY didn’t get paragraphs in the guide.

The idea of this proposition is to raise the percentage of housing units that are affordable or increase the fees paid by housing developers. The idea is that this will cause a higher rate of affordable units. The problem is, that this will very likely cause a fewer number of affordable units and higher prices in general, so it will have the opposite of the intended effect. This is because it is dis-incentivizing building and San Francisco needs to do everything possible to incentivize it.

San Francisco is right now really badly failing an Economics 101 course with housing. The supply of housing is low. Very low. The demand for housing is high. Very high. People are getting priced out. So, you need to increase the supply of housing — or, you need to build more housing.

This is essentially the platform of many “pro-housing” or pro-development groups like SFYIMBY (SF Yes in My Backyard) and others. They were recently profiled in the New York Times. I pretty much agree with their platform which you can find here: http://www.sfyimby.org/platform/. Essentially the platform is “Build More Housing.”

The problem is that right now with San Francisco housing policy, everyone loses. Really. Long time residents are evicted or priced out, people can’t afford to live in the city, new residents are vilified, and the technology industry blamed as the source of these problems. Actually, it’s just absolutely horrible housing policy. The only person that is winning is property owners.

People like me (who work in technology-related industries) are often blamed as the source of the problem. It actually doesn’t need to be the case that just by living here you are pushing others out. That is not an immutable fact. If San Francisco doesn’t build anything, then that is the result. But actually the city could build more and keep it more affordable.

So, now go and read the report by the SF Controller, from the Office of Economic Analysis. The actual city economists predict the effects that I am writing about! You can read their report, or see it at the end of my post.

A few interesting quotes.

However, resources for affordable housing is not the only relevant metric of housing affordability. The loss of market-rate housing harms affordability for all income groups — especially those for which no affordable housing subsidy is provided.

then later.

The illustration below shows that 1,000 new units would, under current legislation, be required to include 120 affordable (BMR) units. Under the proposed legislation, the number of market-rate units would fall by 231, but the number of affordable units would rise. As shown below, the net effect would be somewhat lower housing prices for low income households, and although higher prices overall.

So the problem here is that on the whole, there is likely to be more displacement with these policies advocating for affordable housing. If there are higher prices overall the fundamentals that are wrong with this housing market have certainly not been altered, and arguably are worse.

SFYIMBY and SFBARF summarize their argument here and draw out a diagram here as well:

Prop C is the proposal to increase the percent of required below market rate units in new construction from 12% to 25%. SFBARF and SFYIMBY are recommending you vote No on C because increasing the inclusionary rate will reduce the overall amount of housing built by 13.5% and increase displacement by 4%.

This is a bad policy. This is a problem that certainly needs to be addressed. I’ll try to write about this more in a future post, but for me this is a clear no vote.

Prop D: Office of Citizen Complaints Investigations — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

Shall the Office of Citizen Complaints investigate any incident occurring within the City in which a San Francisco police officer fires a gun killing or physically injuring someone?

What this seems to do is require the Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate whenever a police officer fires a gun and injures or kills someone. It seems that now these investigations are not done. I think what this is advocating for makes sense, especially given the recent problems with police violence. I think this is a yes vote.

Prop E: Paid Sick Leave — Yes

Confidence: 7/10

Shall the City amend the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to parallel broader state law provisions without reducing the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance’s coverage and allow employees to use paid sick leave hours for the broader purposes authorized by state law?

It seems like here there were some technicalities that made the local sick leave laws different than the state sick leave laws. This means that employees can now start accruing sick days immediately instead of 90 days in, which matches the California state law. I don’t know why this is something that needs to be voted on by the whole city. Seems like a Yes vote.

Prop AA: San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program — Yes

Confidence: 6/10

San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program. To protect San Francisco Bay for future generations by reducing trash, pollution and harmful toxins, improving water quality, restoring habitat for fish, birds and wildlife, protecting communities from floods, and increasing shoreline public access, shall the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority authorize a parcel tax of $12 per year, raising approximately $25 million annually for twenty years with independent citizen oversight, audits, and all funds staying local?

This creates a parcel tax (or a specific property tax) to help improve certain environmental things. This will be used to reduce trash, improve water quality, improve habitats and more. This seems like a good way to invest. Again, I don’t know why this is a proposition, but seems like a Yes vote.

Prop 50: Suspension of Legislators. Legislative Constitutional Amendment — Yes

Confidence: 3/10

Authorizes Legislature to suspend Members, including without salary and benefits. Prohibits suspended Members from using powers of office or legislative resources. Provides suspension may end on specified date or by vote of Member’s house. Fiscal Impact: No effect on state spending in most years. Minor state savings in some years.

The backstory and law on this one are a bit confusing. It seems that state lawmakers could be suspended on criminal offenses but still get paid. This is meant to correct that. I’m not sure though what else is behind this and am still looking for a better explanation.

US Senate: Kamala Harris

I should know more about this one, but I don’t yet. It seems the main front runners are Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez, and so far from my research it seems Kamala Harris is the better choice.

US House: Preston Picus

Preston is a teacher challenging Nancy Pelosi for the US House of Representatives. I hadn’t heard of him before researching the candidates, but the issues he advocates for are very much in line with many of the Bernie Sanders issues around money in politics.

State Senator: Scott Weiner

So Jane Kim and Scott Weiner are running for State Senator. Kim is in the Voter Guide and Weiner isn’t, though he is on the ballot. I’ve read about both of their positions and I don’t think I really agree with either of them, though they both have strengths in different areas. This is really a tough one and I think they both have good issues. I’d encourage you to read their websites here:

Scott Weiner: http://www.scottwiener.com/
Jane Kim: http://janekim.org/

Bernie Sanders supports Jane Kim which is a big plus, but taking a look at their positions I think Scott Weiner has a better approach towards housing, which I think is one of the key local/state legislative issues. Weiner has strong ideas on housing and transportation, but Kim also seems to be a good pick. I think these are two strong candidates but I’m going to vote for Scott Weiner.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7: Victor Hwang

There’s a few people running for judge, it seems. There’s Paul Henderson and Victor Hwang and they both seem qualified. Interestingly, they both say that Mayor Ed Lee supports them. I guess then he wins either way. I’m voting for Victor Hwang. You can read others’ views here.

State Assembly: David Chiu

Right now he is the only Democrat on the ballot.

Democratic County Central Committee

So there is this weird other vote, that I am still trying to figure out exactly what it is. This committee seems to decide who gets the official Democratic party endorsement. I don’t know enough about the people running and there are 39 people on the ballot and it is hard to find information about them. However, I’ve found two “slates” advocating for a group of them. These seem to divide along housing policy lines (I’m sure they have many other viewpoints but this is one major dividing line).

Here is one from SFYIMBY http://www.sfyimby.org/slate/

Here’s another from the Leage of Pissed Off Voters http://www.theleaguesf.org/#dccc

I’ll be voting for the SFYIMBY slate: Alix Rosenthal, Arlo Hale Smith, Francis Tsang, Gary McCoy, Jill Wynns, Joshua Arce, Leah Pimentel, Malia Cohen, Rebecca Prozan, Scott Weiner, Tom Hsieh, Sr., Zoe Dunning.

This is the other one (I’m not voting this one).

So that’s the guide!

Thanks for reading, and please take a look at the resources below or let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter at jkeesh. Please remember to vote this Tuesday, June 7th!

Resources

SF Online Voter Guide: http://voterguide.sfelections.org/en

Voter Guide as a PDF http://sfgov.org/elections/sites/default/files/Documents/ElectionsArchives/2016/June/2016J_VIP_EN.pdf

Ballot Worksheet (one page to write all your preferences)
http://docdro.id/cRTW6fB

SF Budget Executive Summary http://sfmayor.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentID=501

SF Chronicle article on SF $9b budget
http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/A-city-with-an-8-96-billion-budget-should-be-6311442.php

SFYIMBY in NYtimes http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/business/economy/san-francisco-housing-tech-boom-sf-barf.html?_r=0

View a Sample Democratic Ballot Here

California Voter Guide http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

California Voter Guide as PDF http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2016/primary/en/pdf/complete-vig.pdf

Pissed Off Voters Voter Guide http://www.theleaguesf.org/

Kim vs Weiner http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Jane-Kim-Scott-Wiener-in-District-11-state-7391296.php

Weiner in Chronical http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Chronicle-recommends-Scott-Wiener-for-Senate-7396467.php

Bernie Supports Kim http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article79541097.html

SF Controller Presentation