The ‘Deep Slate: November 2012 Edition

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[Ed. Note: After years of the ‘Deep Slate being email only, I’ve moved it to my blog as well as email. You can find all the online ones here]

  1. You can find your polling place in SF HERE or for the rest of CA HERE.
  2. You can print just the LIST (all the better to take to the polls) from HERE.

Thanks again to the number of folks who have asked me for my opinions. I know I say it every time but it is quite true: I really am honored by your interest.

Sorry this has taken so long, but as usual, I’m doing the best I can under the relentless pressure of October (Work deadlines! Halloween costume! election stuff!).

If you like it, please do let me know! Also questions, criticisms, comments welcome!

GO VOTE! ‘deep —–

The format of this post is simple:

  1. The LIST: The simple list of my endorsements for this election
  2. The DETAILS: The whys and wherefores of each endorsement.
  3. My VALUES: A brief explanation of my values and sources, to help make sense of my opinions.

THE LIST:

The key is as follows:

US: President: Barack Obama US Senate: Dianne Feinstein Congress: Nancy Pelosi

CA: Assembly D13: Tom Ammiano Assembly D19: Phil Ting State Senate D11: MARK LENO BART Board D9: TOM RADULOVICH

Prop. 30: Temporary Sales Tax & Progressive Income Tax for Schools: YES YES YES Prop. 31: Budget and Legislative “Reforms”: No Prop. 32: Unfair Limits to Political Spending: NO NO NO Prop. 33: Changing Insurance Rates to Benefit Insurance Companies: No* Prop. 34: Replace the Death Penalty with Life w/o Parole: YES YES YES Prop. 35: Deeply Flawed Human Trafficking Legislation: NO Prop. 36: Improve Three Strikes Law: YES YES YES Prop. 37: Require Labeling for GMO Foods: YES Prop. 38: Raise Income Taxes for Education: Yes Prop. 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses: Yes* Prop. 40: Support Redistricting Decisions: Yes*

SF: Board of Supervisors D1: Eric Mar D3: David Chiu D5: 1. John Rizzo 2. Christina Olague D7: Norman Yee D9: David Campos D11: John Avalos

Community College Board Chris Jackson Rafael Mandelman Steven Ngo Amy Bacharach

Board of Education Sandra Fewer Jill Wynns Rachel Norton Matt Haney

Prop. A: City College Parcel Tax: YES Prop. B: Parks Bond: Yes Prop. C: Affordable Housing Trust Fund: YES YES YES Prop. D: Consolidate Off-Year Elections: Yes Prop. E: Gross Receipts Tax: Yes Prop. F: Hetch Hetchy and Water Study: YES Prop. G: Corporations Are Not People: YES

Read on for the details of why I’m recommending the above…


THE DETAILS:

US: President: Barack Obama

I was about to write that if need to tell you this, please stop reading now, because this is a waste of time. But upon further reflection, I think I probably have various friends who are pretty disappointed with President Obama & think “Why does it matter? They all suck.” I hear you. And I’m pretty disappointed with President Obama, too*. I think he has the intellect and ability for greatness, but isn’t leading as strongly as we (or the planet) needs. But if you think there is little value in voting for him over Romney, please consider that you probably felt the same way with Bush v. Gore in 2000 & look how that worked out. A really bad President can do global damage. You know what I mean – now please go vote.

*Climate Change: I realize that much of the US population STILL isn’t ready to deal with this seriously, but that is what great leaders do: they LEAD they’re people to where they need to go. Civil Liberties: the Obama administration has been pretty horrible on a lot of this stuff. It’s really shocking and disturbing.

US Senate: Dianne Feinstein I have no great love of DiFi. But, she has no serious challengers and we need a Dem majority in the Senate. Suck it up.

Congress: Nancy Pelosi I’m moderately OK with Nancy – she’s not the greatest, but I think she’s a capable leader for the Dems and has been a big part of keeping the Dem machine moving in the face of Republilunacy.

CA: Assembly D13: Tom Ammiano Tom has already done a great job in the State Assembly (his work on medical marijuana comes to mind) & I look forward to much more good legislation coming from his office. Go Tom Go!

Assembly D19: Phil Ting Phil will make a good addition to our Assembly & really represent good solid progressive values in Sacramento. I’ve always been impressed with his willingness to push for fixing some of the MANY problems with Prop 13 and though that is an uphill slog, sending him to the statehouse would be a good start.

State Senate D11: MARK LENO I’m an unabashed Mark Leno fan, his latest triumph being that he has finally succeeded in making headway on dealing with the disaster that was Governor Schwarzenneger $4-billion-shoot-CA-in-the-kneecap repeal of the vehicle license Fee. Mark has always struck me with his ability to hold to his principles while making real dialog with all sides of an issue. MARK FOR SENATE!!

BART Board D9: TOM RADULOVICH Full disclosure: Political: I’m the treasurer of his campaign; Personal: Tom is one of my best friends and like a brother to me (sometimes a very annoying one :-) ). That all being said, on a purely political/policy level: Tom is one of the most principled people I know, and the best policy mind I know. Even if I didn’t know him as well as I do, I’d endorse him with great excitement. His work at BART over the last 2 terms has been literally exemplary & frankly we are lucky he is running again. TOM!!!

Prop. 30: Temporary Sales Tax & Progressive Income Tax for Schools: YES YES YES

A compromise measure put up by Brown to balance our budget, basically if we don’t agree to increase taxes on top wager earners in CA and increase the sales tax (temporarily) on everyone, we are basically agreeing that we should cut state spending, mostly to schools and community colleges by $6 billion. I’m not a big fan of the sales tax increase part (because it is a regressive tax: it tends to hurt lower income folks more than it bothers high income folks), but I am a BIG fan of asking higher income folks to pay more in taxes…

Prop. 31: Budget and Legislative “Reforms”: No

A smorgasbord of changes to the horribly awful CA budgeting process, that would probably make things MORE horribly awful. This is a textbook example of why complex policy decisions should NOT be put into a ballot measure – because if they are wrong, it is REALLY hard to change them (you need another ballot measure), any of these changes that could be good, could probably be done legislatively anyway, where it is much easier to tweak them. I agree with the CA League of Conservation Voters, who say this is bad news.

Prop. 32: Unfair Limits to Political Spending: NO NO NO

This one is sneaky and really EVIL. Brought to you by (among others) the billionaire Republican Koch Bothers, this wolf-in-sheep’s clothing is an attempt to decimate the ability of labor unions to donate to political campaigns, leaving the playing field to the corporations and mega-rich. As someone who would love to see the $$$$ drained from our problematic political system, the appeal is obvious if you don’t realize this measure is about unilaterally disarming the left, and not the right. SO. EVIL. VOTE NO!

Prop. 33: Changing Insurance Rates to Benefit Insurance Companies: No*

Simple and bald-faced attempt to trick California’s voters into raising insurance rates. It adds a “continuous coverage discount” for people who keep their auto-insurance by adding a surcharge to everyone else. Who benefits? Mostly the insurance companies funding this measure. Ugh. No.

Prop. 34: Replace the Death Penalty with Life w/o Parole: YES YES YES

Repeal the Death penalty in CA & replace it with Life w/o Parole. I won’t bother to make the case why the Death Penalty is wrong & evil (it says the state is perfect, and it is largely racist) but I will simply say the Death Penalty is incredibly expensive and problematic (in addition to being morally reprehensible): since the Death Penalty was restored in California in 1978, we have spent $4 billion to kill 13 people. Mind boggling.

Prop. 35: Deeply Flawed Human Trafficking Legislation: NO

On a quick read through this sounds like a good one: “Human Trafficking is BAD – more laws to make it stop!”. But the deviltry is once again in the details. This law basically expands the definition of human trafficking in problematic ways esp. by confusing the issue of human trafficking with sex offenses. This means that both sets of laws (dealing with human trafficking and sex offenses will get confused and will lead to problematic legal tie ups: for example it could ensnare children of sex workers as beneficiaries of human trafficking & force them to register as sex offenders. This is really badly done. Senator Leno is working on legislation that would be much better – wait for that.

Prop. 36: Improve Three Strikes Law: YES YES YES

The CA Three Strikes law has been a disaster for California, swelling our prisons (destroying our budget) and destroying the lives of petty criminals by making small offenses into long-term sentences: anyone convicted of three felonies, no matter how nonviolent, automatically gets at least 25 years. This is madness. A saner version would only activate this sentencing if the third strike was a violent or serious offense. This legislation does that. Simple. YES.

Prop. 37: Require Labeling for GMO Foods: YES

It is only right that people know what is in their food and GMO foods are no different. I do have some reservations about this because I think GMO foods might become an important part of a sustainable future & some of this campaign feels like it feeds on the hysteria around these foods. I want more science & less hysteria, but regardless of that: people have the right to know what is in what they eat and decide for themselves.

Prop. 38: Raise Income Taxes for Education: Yes

This is another classic badly written piece of legislation, but unlike most, it tips the scales into “a good thing” in my book. This raises income taxes on everyone to increase funding for schools. The poor don’t really need more income tax, but at least it is a graduated scale, and we desperately need more educational funding in CA, so I’ll give it a yes. Another problem is that if both this and Prop 30 win, the one with more votes goes into effect. 30 is better, so please vote for both at the very least.

Prop. 39: Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses: Yes*

I’ll admit to knowing almost nothing about this one. The conventional wisdom amongst organizations I like is that this closes a loophole in state law that allows multi-state corporations operating in California to shield themselves from taxes, depriving our broke-ass state of much needed cash – to the tune of $1 billion a year. Ok. I’m in. Yes.

Prop. 40: Support Redistricting Decisions: Yes*

Ok, this is another one that I went with the consensus of groups I trust. Basically back in 2008 we created a non-partisan redistricting commission to redraw the State Senate districts & they did. Now some folks are annoyed with their choices and are trying to have the results, which seem generally fair, rescinded, costing us all time and expensive for dubious motives. Vote Yes to to uphold the redistricting that has been done.

SF: Board of Supervisors D1: Eric Mar

Eric Mar has been a solid progressive vote on the School Board for years and on the Board of Supervisors for one term. While I wish he would push for more and be more of a leader in addition to being a good vote most of the time, his bona-fides in my book are just that: great biking support, great enviro support & transit, and a good sane guy. His opponent is spending insane (& record breaking I’m told) amounts of downtown money, trying to remove the progressive block on the Board of Supervisors. Vote for Eric if you’re in D1.

D3: David Chiu If you live in D3, you’ve been lucky to have David Chiu as your supervisor. David is a friend a really good environmental leader on the Board. He’s championed really good legislation (yellow pages opt-in) and has lead on a lot of important fights. Many have criticized the fact that he sometimes compromises too quickly and tries to hard to please rather than lead, and while those are valid criticisms, he is a really good supe and I expect even more from him in his next term.

D5: 1. John Rizzo 2. Christina Olague

If you haven’t been following it, the D5 races has turned into quite the political/scandal drama. You can read all about it in the Guardian or the SF Weekly, but the important thing is that there are 3 major candidates with real progressive credentials running for one Supervisor seat at the center of progressive politics in SF. And all 3 of them have real knocks against them. The easiest to dismiss, now, is Julian Davis. I hate to say this because he’s a friend, but he’s the center of the scandal and has shown truly horrible judgment that demonstrates he isn’t the right kind of person to be Supervisor. John Rizzo is also a friend and is an environmentalists’ environmentalist, but is a long shot for winning and has been tough to work with in the past. He seems to have learned a lot about playing well with others from serving on the Community College Board, so he’s my first choice pick for supervisor. Christina Olague is the current incumbent and was appointed by Mayor Lee. There is a LOT to like about Christina – she’s smart, fiery, and independent but she’s also a bit disorganized (which makes me question her ability to get things done) and I don’t trust some of her alliances (Willie Brown?). The fact is, she is likely to win & so I hope she proves me wrong in her next term & becomes the superstar legislator she is capable of being.

D7: Norman Yee

D7 is one of the districts in San Francisco where progressive values go to die (environmentalism, populism v. corporatism, tenants rights, neighborhoods vs. downtown). Previous Supervisor Sean Elsbernd was no different, almost always voting against things I held dear – but we now have a chance to elect someone who is likely to be much better, judging from his history at the School Board. Norman Yee is the only candidate in that race who I think is worth endorsing.

D9: David Campos

David, in addition to being a really great supervisor is unopposed (ok I think there is a write in candidate now) – but vote for him. I know I will.

D11: John Avalos

John is a really great supervisor and running unopposed. I’d vote for him in a heartbeat if I lived in D11.

Community College Board

The accreditation train-wreck that is Community College threatens this really really important SF institution. Rafael Mandelman is a friend and exactly the kind of thoughtful, smart leader we need to turn this around. Chris Jackson, Steven Ngo and Amy Bacharach are consensus picks of people I trust.

Amy Bacharach Chris Jackson Rafael Mandelman Steven Ngo

Board of Education

The Board of Education has made great strides over the last several years to really turn things around at the San Francisco Unified School District. For that reason alone, I’m endorsing the 3 incumbents Fewer, Wynns, and Norton. Additionally, I am endorsing Matt Haney – he’s a political up-and-comer who is somewhat unproven but smart and dedicated.

Sandra Fewer Matt Haney Rachel Norton Jill Wynns

Prop. A: City College Parcel Tax: YES

City College is struggling mightily because it’s underfunded (and poorly run) – so more money would be a huge help. Adding a small $80 parcel tax to each house in the City seems more than fair.

Prop. B: Parks Bond: Yes

Of all the local issues on the ballot, this one is the one I have spent the most time discussing and debating with other folks. In the end it comes down to a simple two questions for me: Do our parks and recreational facilities need more money? Were the funds from the last such Parks bond well spent? The answer to both of those questions is “yes.” Opponents raise the incredibly valid point that the current Recreation & Parks management is misguided at best, and corrupt at worst – but honestly I think that is a separate issue, because this same management has done well by the previous parks bond.

Prop. C: Affordable Housing Trust Fund: YES

This measure is good progressive public policy masquerading as…. good progressive public policy. Since the State government abolished the Redevelopment Agency, State funds that would have been set aside for affordable housing are now being sent to San Francisco’s General Fund. This measure would allocate these funds from the General Fund for their original intended purpose – building affordable housing in San Francisco, with improvements to the laws regarding how such housing is built to boot. YES. Definitely.

Prop. D: Consolidate Off-Year Elections: Yes

Fairly simple streamlining: two city offices are run in off-year elections when nothing else is up – which is inefficient. This just fixes the charter to bunch them in with other elections, saving $. Do it.

Prop. E: Gross Receipts Tax: Yes

SF used to have a system by which businesses were taxed on their gross receipts or on their payroll, depending on which was higher. This system has been changed through threat of lawsuit from big business and various legislative actions, and we now have a payroll only tax. This measure would phase out the payroll tax & reinstate the the gross receipts tax in a way that should raise about the same amount of money. The argument goes that by taxing payroll, we are providing a disincentive to hiring more workers, and thus a gross-receipts tax is a better way to stimulate job creation. Ok. Yes.*

Prop. F: Hetch Hetchy and Water Study: YES

This is a fascinating measure, and another one I’ve spent a lot of time discussing and debating. In the end it does 2 things: has the City spend $8 million into looking at how we *could* replace the Hetch Hetchy dam and still meet our water and power needs. It is not by any stretch a plan to do that, but just a study. So why spend $8 million to do so? Well, because regardless of how we feel about draining Hetch Hetchy (there are great pro and con reasons) – studying alternatives is REALLY useful, especially since San Francisco does an embarrassingly bad job at water recycling (FAR worse than LA & San Diego) because we just rely on Hetch Hetchy. This study would help us start figuring out how to manage our water resources more wisely, regardless of any question about Hetch Hetchy. We could really use such a study and $8 million is not an outlandish amount for such an effort. YES.

Prop. G: Corporations Are Not People: YES

This is a policy statement that has no effect other than a declaration by San Francisco corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings and should be subject to political spending limits. After the debacle of the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling at the Supreme Court, the US has enshrined the notion that corporations are people and have protected rights for free speech even though they can often outspend actual humans on a vast scale. The danger this presents to our democracy is vast. Though this measure doesn’t accomplish much by way of legislation, it is what we can do, and hopefully can be part of building a movement to change this dangerous idea.

MY VALUES:

  • I’m basically an idealist, an optimist, and a humanist.
  • My opinions come from my experience in local politics over the past 17 years & the tons of candidate interviews I’ve done as President of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters (SFLCV) & on the Board of Directors of the SF Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) & all the lobbying I’ve done at City Hall, etc etc…
  • I don’t get a dime for this, I’m a software engineer by day and a political activist in my spare time.
  • The 3 biggest “norths” of my political compass are environmentalism, social justice issues & good government (reform type) issues.
  • While my views are definitely shaped by my activities in the SFLCV & the SFBC, my endorsements do NOT represent the views of either of those organizations.
  • I use the term “progressive” a lot as something I value. In SF, that has historically meant a combination of classical liberal Democratic politics (equity (social, gender, racial), diversity, a sense that government can & should play an important role in solving society’s problems) plus environmental values (sustainability, long-term systematic thinking ) and neighborhood level populism (tenants rights, ethnic and socio-economic diversity, populism vs. corporatism.)
  • In some of these races it is a matter of picking between flawed options…
  • Ballot measures are REALLY a bad way to govern. Most of the things done in ballot measures SHOULD be done in the normal legislature, where they are easier to fix if they turn out wrong. Another problem is that you have to boil complex issues down to yes/no votes – which rarely is a good idea. But this is what we have, so keep in mind that some good ideas make bad ballot propositions & a lot bad ideas can be made to be sound like good sense in ballot initiative form because the devil is often in the details. And also note that these measures are often grey – there is often a lot of balancing going on…
  • 90% of my experience & knowledge is about local issues – so understand that state issues are a little greyer for me unless I say otherwise. Thus, some of the endorsements (as marked) above are taken from compiling what the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV), the SF Bay Guardian, and the Sierra Club have had to say.
  • Just like you, some of my opinions come from listening to those I trust, or tend to trust, organizations like the ones listed above get more credence as well as politicians I support and believe in. Obviously this is dicey, nothing beats first hand knowledge and analysis, but that just gets us back to why I think ballot measures suck…

7 thoughts on “The ‘Deep Slate: November 2012 Edition

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