The ‘Deep Slate: November 2013 Edition

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[Ed. Note: After years of the ‘Deep Slate being email only, last year I 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.

I’m really sorry I haven’t gotten to this sooner, but well, as usual October was busy & I’ve just had too much on my plate. And honestly, this election, while important is a snoozer. There is nothing I feel really excited about but nonetheless there are important things there. So let’s just do this, shall we.

As today *IS* election day, I hope you go vote & remember that polls are open until 8pm and you can also vote at City Hall, regardless of your polling place!

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




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 key is as follows:

San Francisco Elections:

Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Board of Supervisors D4: Katy Tang

Prop. A: Retiree Health Care Trust Fund: Yes*
Prop. B: 8 Washington Street Initiative: NO
Prop. C: 8 Washington Street Referendum: No
Prop. D: Prescription Drug Purchasing: Yes*

If you want these as a handy, printable list, just click here.

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


San Francisco Elections:

Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Board of Supervisors D4: Katy Tang

As all of these candidates are unopposed (or practically so) and thus there’s not much that needs to be said. I will however add that Jose Cisneros has done some really good work as Treasurer on various issues such as dealing with the outrageous scourge of check-cashing shops (predatory high-interest rates on poor folks!), and Dennis Herrara has been a GREAT City Attorney – I really think highly of him.

Prop. A: Retiree Health Care Trust Fund: Yes*

This is the closest thing to something I’m excited about on this ballot & honestly it is a snoozer. That being said, it really is important and worth supporting. In a nutshell, our City’s spending on retiree health care benefits is a time bomb that threatens to blow a catastrophic hole in our City’s finances. It is also a bit of a political hot-button issue.

A few years back, the City wisely set up a trust fund to pay into to help defuse the crisis. The idea is that City agencies pay into the fund & it can only be used for future retiree benefits.  The big win of the pool is that the money is designated for use starting in 2020, so in the mean time it can be invested and grown.  This means that the City can significantly defray the benefits costs by taking from the trust fund pool, rather than having to pay the benefits entirely from the City budget. GOOD THING. This measure makes the controls over those funds tighter in obvious ways & is supported by pretty much everyone. Get on it.

Prop. B: 8 Washington Street—Initiative: No

A bad precedent (ballot box planning!) on TOP of a bad project. See details below (under C) but even if you like the project, I think you should vote NO on B.

Prop. C: 8 Washington Street—Referendum: No

The 8 Washington project will build a luxury condo high-rise near the Embarcadero Center buildings downtown, across from the waterfront. If either of the two measures pass, the development will go forward.

Proposition B (paid for by the developer) would give the developer the entirety of the deal he seeks, without as much discretionary review by the City. Such BAD policy – even if you like the project.

Proposition C (placed on the ballot by opponents) is a referendum on the allowance for this project to be taller than the currently allowed height limits for waterfront construction. While it is true that this is taller than current limits, the relevant part of the project is not really taller than the older buildings nearby (the huge Embarcadero Center buildings) and so this whole “wall on the waterfront” business feels really disingenuous – even if, like me, you dislike the project.

There has been a lot of hype at the end of the day and BIG money spent by both sides & I’m not very impressed with either of the popular pro or con arguments. But in the end, this is a bad project on environmental grounds (it needlessly adds WAAY too many cars to what is our BEST transit neighborhood) & it is opposed by all the environmental players in town. Vote NO on both. (and if you do like the project for whatever reason, at least vote No on B & Yes on C, so that it can move forward, but with reasonable City oversight.) For a more details, read what I wrote for the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters here – or watch our 2 minute video here!

Prop. D: Prescription Drug Purchasing: Yes*

This is largely a declaration of policy that the City should really put its weight behind efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs that the City purchases. As a declaration of policy it is non-binding and mostly serves to raise the profile of the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs. It also directs the City to directly engage in negotiations with drug manufacturers in order to obtain better prices. This sort of makes sense, except that, as SPUR points out, it might backfire if we negotiate ourselves rather than as part of even larger group purchasing organizations that we are part of. But all in all this is harmless, and raising the prominence of issue has some real merit, so Yes.


  • I’m basically an idealist, an optimist, and a humanist.
  • My opinions come from my experience in local politics over the past 18 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…

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