The ‘Deep Slate: November 2015 Edition


Note: if you don’t want to read my blather & just want to know my recommendations: Here’s just the LIST. But, the blather really is the best part, so you can understand what I think & decide how you may agree/disagree. But you should agree 🙂

[Ed. Note: One of the things I liked most about last year’s ‘DeepSlate (perhaps the best ever) was that I got it out early, which gave people time to get back to me with critiques of my choices. I was hoping to do the same this year – especially since this election has fewer items… but alas no. This has been one of the most stressful years I can remember (for a variety of reasons) and on top of it all we have a newborn baby! So needless to say I’m exhausted & WAAAAY behind the eightball on everything. I’m lucky to be able to post this before the election at the rate I’m going 🙂 I better get typing before I fall asleep! So….
.ps If you like what you read, please do let me know! Also questions, criticisms, comments welcome!
.pps Every year, I get a smattering of “hey don’t forget to email me your slate” folks, some of who I forget to mail 🙁 So I’ve started an email list for the ‘DeepSlate so that I don’t forget these folks.  If you want me to put you on it, just let me know.  I promise I won’t spam you (less than 10 emails a year methinks).  Or you can always just check back on my blog.]
.pps: Let’s start a new tradition:#votingstickerselfie AFTER YOU VOTE: Take a pic with your voting sticker on your nose & hashtag it as #votingstickerselfie!

Before anything else, the most important thing: WHERE YOU CAN VOTE: You can find your polling place in SF HERE or for the rest of CA HERE.

ABOUT THIS SLATE: Every San Francisco election cycle, I put out my “‘Deep Slate”: my endorsements for that election. If you know who I am, you know how I skew, but regardless, I recommend you read the “MY VALUES” section below to understand where I’m coming from. THE LIST section is just the no-frills list of how I’ll be voting (for printing!) & THE DETAILS section is the longer explanation of how I arrived at each vote.

I believe I’ve been doing the ‘Deep Slate since sometime in the ‘90s. You can read all the ones I’ve saved by clicking here – it get’s a bit dicey because before 2012, they were email only (not blog posts), so I’ve posted the email versions I could find.


Thanks, as always, 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.
And big props to my lovely wife, for proofreading this and also for being so supportive of all my meetings & involvements!


The format of the slate is simple:

  1. THE LIST: the simple list of my endorsements for this election
  2. THE DETAILS: the whys and wherefors of each endorsement.
  3. MY VALUES: a brief explanation of my values and sources, to help make sense of my opinions.
  4. Other Sources: a collection of other resources & ballot slates put together by friends or organizations that I value.

Also note that a few days after the election, you can come back & check the RESULTS by clicking here.


The key is as follows:


City Attorney:  DENNIS HERRARA
District Attorney: George Gascon
Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Community College Board: Wendy Aragon
Board of Supervisors, District 3: AARON PESKIN

Prop. B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees: YES
Prop. C: Badly Designed Lobbyist Reforms: NO
Prop. D: Misson Rock Development: No
Prop. E: Requirements For Public Meetings: NO NO NO
Prop. F: Short Term Residential Rentals: no
Prop. G: MISLEADING Disclosures Regarding Renewable Energy: NO NO NO
Prop. H: Defining Clean, Green, and Renewable Energy: YES YES YES
Prop. I: Suspension of Market-Rate Development in the Mission District: NO
Prop. J: Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund: Yes
Prop. K: Surplus Public Lands: Yes

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



Ed Lee actually makes me miss Gavin Newsom. While I really didn’t like Gavin’s all-shine-no-substance policies, at least you got the sense that he believed in something. Ed Lee doesn’t even have that going for him and keeps doing bad things because he believes it to be popular (two that come to mind: torpedoing funding for Muni by killing Sunday parking meters & now his threatened Bike Yield Law veto).

That being said, none of the challengers are qualified to be mayor either, and none of them stand a chance regardless.

I would have told you to vote for Broke Ass Stuart, who I genuinely like, but he wrote this stupid post about “why we should litter” that still rankles a year later. But I’ll be voting for him anyway, because I like his spirit in all this. Plus (politics aside!) he’s always shown me the love. 

I’m a big fan of Dennis Herrara. He’s really smart, has fought (& won) a lot of really good fights and, from what I’ve heard, runs his office professionally and thoughtfully. This bit from the Guardian sizes it up really well:

Herrera gets, and deserves, much credit for his work to legalize same-sex marriage. But’s he done much more. His lawsuit against the accreditors who tried to shut down City College was a major reason the school is still open – and the accrediting commission is now on the hot seat and might be dismantled. He has gone after bad landlords. He has taken on Pacific Gas and Electric Co. And he has, as much as anyone who ever held that office tried to make sure that local government operates openly and honestly.

District Attorney: George Gascon
Not a huge fan, but on the other hand he is unopposed and he did good work with Prop 47 last year (sentencing reform!). Also the SF Bike Coalition says he has done good stuff on Vision Zero (the effort to reduce traffic related deaths and injuries to 0 by 2024) – so I’m in.

Ross is a strongly principled person. I agree with him on so many policy issues and was a big fan of his as a Supervisor where he did a lot of great things.

That being said, you can’t talk about his candidacy without talking about the domestic trouble that exploded onto the scene when he first came to office and the train-wreck political theater it became. Do I know what really happened? No. Do I believe that Ross has had bad anger management skills, at least in the past. I really wish it weren’t true, but yeah, I do. But in the end, the person who seems to believe in him the most is his wife, and in the end, if it is good enough for her, it is good enough for me.

As a Sheriff he’s done a lot of GREAT stuff, especially in his jail-as-education-centers stuff. That is fantastic and gets lost beneath the political theater. I’m big on Ross. SF will be better if he wins.

Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Jose Cisneros has done some really good work on various issues, such as forcing AirBnB to pay hotel taxes (which seems just right regardless how you feel about AirBnB) & dealing with the outrageous scourge of check-cashing shops (predatory high-interest rates on poor folks!).

Community College Board: Wendy Aragon
I like Wendy – the Sierra Club put it well:

Wendy Aragon has championed CleanPowerSF, environmental justice, and workforce-training. She has pledged to reduce City College’s carbon footprint by upgrading facilities, subsidizing student transit passes, and developing surplus College property as 100-percent-affordable housing.

Board of Supervisors, D3: AARON PESKIN
I’m a big fan of Aaron Peskin. He’s really smart, cares deeply about issues I really care about (especially environmental ones, affordable housing, etc), is a really brilliant political tactician, and is a strong leader. While he’s not perfect – sometimes he doesn’t play well with others and can be a cantankerous bastard when he wants to – his last tenure on the Board was marked by strong leadership and really strong policy making. I really think the BoS could use Aaron back.

My only problem with this plan to float $310 million for affordable housing is that it is years (decades!) late and waaaaaaaay too little. We need a lot more affordable housing and we’ve needed it for decades. JUST YES.

Prop. B: Paid Parental Leave for City Employees: YES
As a new parent, I’m critically aware of how big a difference my employers’ generous (by US standards) family leave policies have made in my life. Here’s a chance to have SF once again serve as a model for the nation on expanding parental leave benefits. YES.

Prop. C: Badly Designed Lobbyist Reforms: NO
This proposition would increase transparency about the money spent to influence city government decisions. That is a good thing. Actually a very good thing, but there’s a rub: this measure requires the same of private individuals and non-profits. Requiring the “little guys” to comply with the same complex requirements will likely silence them, driving up the cost and risk to play. There are some good ideas here, but really this is badly written & should have been done at the Board of Supervisors (where it can be fixed or adjusted easily.). NO.

Prop. D: Misson Rock Development: No
I’m a little torn on Prop D, the SF Giants’ development plan for the Mission Rock area of the waterfront. While it has some good sustainability features, and has incorporated a lot of community input, and is building 40% affordable housing which is significantly more than the 33% required, at the end of the day, it is building a 10 story parking garage on Public Trust waterfront land – that is to say land that is expressly supposed to be for the public good or maritime uses.  A 10 story parking deck, blocking the view of the Bay, is too much for me. No.

Prop. E: Requirements For Public Meetings: NO NO NO
This is one of those dangerously bad ideas masquerading as “open government”. This measure tries to make SF government public meetings more accessible (a laudable goal), but is chock full of really bad ideas. Some, like the requirement that anyone in the world could submit comments via the internet to be listened to in the meeting, would swell already lengthy meetings dramatically (anyone on Fox could filibuster the Board of Supes – hooray!). While others, like the requirement for meetings to be “time certain” (an understandable wish) are simply untenable without shortening discussion, even when it is required.

This is just a whole bunch of dumb, under a veneer of “government access”. NO

Prop. F: Short Term Residential Rentals: no
This one kills me. I’m super conflicted, because I believe this is bad legislation attempting to solve a really serious problem. The fact that I’m starting to agree with the corporate interest-bankrolled side (thanks, AirBnB, you fuckers) and not doing right by San Francisco, makes my skin crawl. And yet, here I am.

The City’s studies show that short term rentals in San Francisco (such as AirBnB & VRBO) are decimating the City’s rental stock. For example, in my neighborhood, The Mission, 30% of available units are being rented out to short-term tenants. 30%! In the midst of a housing crisis that is especially bad on renters!* That’s just unacceptable, and makes me want to vote for anything that MAY help, like Prop F. 

The problem is that I’m not sure that Prop F gets it right. By enshrining this questionable law as a ballot measure, we won’t be able to fix flaws unless we also do it at the ballot. This kinda of complex policy making has no business being done at the ballot, which is simple yes/no & then set in stone.

The good news is that the Board of Supervisors has passed legislation to make things better. The bad news is that it is weak and practically unenforceable. The good news is that it can get improved by a simple Board of Supervisors vote and get right the things that this legislation gets wrong! The bad news is that that probably won’t happen, especially if AirBnB pours enough money into this Prop to squash it. It makes my head hurt.

So I’m conflicted, but in the end, this really should not be done at the ballot & I have to believe that the Board of Supervisors will eventually fix this properly (especially if Aaron Peskin is back on the Board)

*Note that not everyone is using AirBnB badly, there are certainly many hosts who are simply renting additional rooms in their own houses. But the numbers suggest that the majority (2/3) of short term rentals are complete units, presumably units that would otherwise be on the long-term rental market. So no.

Prop. G: MISLEADING Disclosures Regarding Renewable Energy: NO NO NO

Prop. H: Defining Clean, Green, and Renewable Energy: YES YES YES
I’m going to cover G & H together as they really are about the same thing. And I’m just going to quote what I wrote for the SF League of Conservation Voters, because I put it best there:

The two competing ballot measures Proposition G & H are both about the same thing: Controlling how “Clean Energy” is defined for purposes of the upcoming CleanPowerSF power system.

Prop G is sponsored by PG&E’s union and is an attempt to force the CleanPowerSF system into a more restrictive & disingenuous definition of clean power, and to limit what sources CleanPowerSF can use, all to advantage PG&E’s own dirtier power distribution. Why? To limit loss of customers from PG&E to CleanPowerSF.

Prop H is the competing ballot measure, placed on the ballot by Supervisors London Breed, John Avalos, Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen to protect CleanPowerSF. Prop H reverts the definition of clean power back to the state standard & allows for more sources, though it sets City policy to prefer locally generated sources.

Please Join the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters & the Sierra Club & Vote NO on G and YES on H!

Prop. I: Suspension of Market-Rate Development in the Mission District: NO
Like Prop F, this is one I wanted to like because the problem is very very real and is critical in San Francisco. This measure is an attempt to stem the rapid gentrification of the Mission (something I’m arguably a part of*), something that definitely needs to be addressed and as soon as possible.

The problem is, I believe Prop I is likely to make the situation worse.

Again, I’ll just quote what I wrote for the SFLCV:

No issue in San Francisco seems more acute than our current housing crisis, and to be sure it is an environmental issue. Vibrant, socioeconomically, diverse cities are the best way to prevent suburban sprawl and its attendant environmental problems such as resource-intensive living and habitat destruction. Unfortunately, cities across the country are facing similar problems of housing demand outstripping housing supply.

Proposition I is a well-meaning attempt to address part of this crisis in the Mission district, one of the San Francisco neighborhoods most affected. Long term residents and businesses in the Mission are dealing with a dramatic increase in property values which is, in turn, leading to a high number of evictions and a rapidly changing neighborhood character. Prop I would establish an 18 month moratorium on housing projects that do not contain 100% affordable housing (with possibility of a 1 year extension). In that time, the City would be required to come up with a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan which would propose ways to help the Mission reach 50% affordable on new construction going forward.

While we strongly believe more must be done to address San Francisco’s housing crisis and the affordability issues it creates, we believe Prop I will likely not improve much and will more likely cause greater harm. By stalling new housing construction, even for luxury units, without addressing demand, Prop I will most likely cause the already sky-high value of existing housing stock to increase, fueling still more speculation, and more evictions. While it is critical to build more affordable housing in San Francisco, and in particular to the Mission, Prop I does nothing to actually address the issue of creating more affordable housing.

In addition to this measure’s practical limitations, we also dislike the fact that this is essentially ballot-box planning. However much we may agree with the intentions behind the measure, to protect the City’s affordability, socio-economic diversity, and character, we urge you to vote No on Proposition I.

Prop. J: Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund
Prop J would establish a Legacy Business Fund that would seek to help preserve business that have a) been around for 30 years and b) contribute to San Francisco’s identity and character. These business would receive funds (per employee) from the City general fund & would also get help establishing long-term leases. This is an attempt to help small business & non-profits that have been around for a long time stay in San Francisco.

The initial amount of money involved is relatively small (about $4 million) & the City has ample means to control how the program grows (or not), so I say Yes.

Prop. K: Surplus Public Lands: Yes
This one is a no brainer. One of the many hard things about building low-income & affordable housing in San Francisco is the lack of affordable land to build it on. Prop K addresses this by ensuring that when the City sells off surplus property it owns to housing developers, at least one third of the housing units built on the site will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households. Yes.


I recommend reading all of this (it won’t take that long!) to understand how I think. That way you’ll have a sense of how to asses my recommendations for yourself.

  • I’m basically an idealist, an optimist, and a humanist.
  • My opinions come from my experience in local politics over the past 20 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 three 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 (tenant’s rights, ethnic and socio-economic diversity, populism vs. corporatism.)
  • I try to be aware of my biases, here are few that come to mind: 
    • Poorer before richer when considering fairness issues: it’s best if something is fair, but if someone has to get screwed, make it the rich person – because society always favors the richer.
    • The more money a local campaign has, the more questions that should be asked of it: If a campaign has a lot of expensive media ads, mailers, and etc – why? It might be fine, but the more money, the more questions as to why.
  • In some of these races it is a matter of picking between flawed options…
  • Ballot measures are REALLY a bad way to govern. Most things done in ballot measures SHOULD be done in the normal legislature, where they are easier to fix if they turn out wrong: A ballot initiative can only be fixed or changed by another ballot initiative, whereas something done at the Board of Supervisors, for example, can be fixed by any subsequent Board vote. Another problem is that complex issues have to be boiled 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 of bad ideas can be made to sound like good sense in a ballot initiative because the devil is often in the details. Also note that these measures often fall into a grey area – there is usually 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.

Other Sources:

Here are some other slates & resources I liked reading while I was writing this:

  • Ballotopedia: This is a great resource! A wiki for ballots & elections! I donated & maybe you should too!
  • SF League of Conservation Voters Of course, most of my local votes are based on interviews and discussions at the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters. Thanks everyone on the Board with me!
  • SF Bay Guardian: Yeah – the SFBG is back for endorsements. I have so much respect for the SFBG’s voice in SF politics, even if sometimes they get a little crazy left, I can always respect where they are coming from and why. I hope they stick around!
  • Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter: I really always like reading the Sierra Club’s SF Bay Chapter’s endorsements – we’re usually in sync!
  • Alix Rosenthal’s slate: My friend Alix Rosenthal’s slate – she’s on the SF’s Democratic Central Committee.
  • Pissed Off Voter Guide: I’ve never liked their name (who can sustain angry for so long!), but I like hearing what they have to say.
  • SF Chronicle: I often disagree with the Chronicle, but I still appreciate reading their endorsements.
  • SPUR: I really like SPUR’s endorsements whether I agree or not, for their attention to detail in their policy analysis, so I like to check them out.

* I moved to the Mission almost 20 years ago, because I loved it’s ethnic and socio-economic diversity, it’s character, and it’s cultural richness. I’ve tried hard to put a lot back into it. I like to think I do my part in giving back to the community I’m part of.↩

2 thoughts on “The ‘Deep Slate: November 2015 Edition

  1. Points for admitting that you’re against F and I and your reasons why, especially in a hypersensitive political climate where anyone who goes against the current cause célèbre gets treated like they all of a sudden became Donald Trump.

    Also agree with you on your Stuart position. I want to like the guy and he’s done a great job of branding himself as the down-and-out-struggling-proletariat-artist-with-a-soul shtick, right down to his uniform where he’s always wearing a tie. All the broke people I know dress like Haight St crusty punks but Stuart always looks like he just traveled through time from the 1920’s with his 35 cents paycheck from selling newspapers, ready to paint the town red. I always liked that about him and want to like the guy, but he keeps on opening his mouth and that just gets him detention on my shit list. Kinda like Chicken John. What is it about San Francisco politics that attracts these oddball characters than rub you the wrong way even when you’re trying to give them your vote?

  2. Thanks ‘Deep!

    There are two points about G & H that I think are really important for people to understand:

    1. The Prop G definition would prevent CleanPowerSF from calling residential rooftop solar (excess power that people like you sell back to the grid) “clean” – but PG&E would still be allowed to call that same power “clean” for the purposes of their own competing clean power program! This is the clearest example of why Prop G is misleading and evil.

    2. After the Board of Supes introduced Prop H, both sides negotiated and the Prop G backers agreed to support Prop H instead. So no one is supporting Prop G anymore, but it couldn’t be removed from the ballot and still has potential to do bad things if it gets significant votes. This is why it’s really important to say NO on G and YES on H.

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