The ‘Deep Slate: My November 2019 Voting Guide

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Whelp – it’s that time again. Voting season & while this isn’t a major OMG election (that’ll be in March & November of next year!) this one has some important stuff for the future of our City.

So let’s do this….

And remember: GO VOTE!

‘deep

.ps: Let’s continue the tradition: #votingstickerselfie AFTER YOU VOTE: Take a pic with your voting sticker on your nose & hashtag it as #votingstickerselfie! This helps people *see* how many folks are out there voting and will hopefully get them out there too. Peer pressure works. 😀 

.pps: If you…

  • Like what you read, please do let me know! Questions, criticisms, and comments are welcome!
  • Want to know where to vote, jump to the Extras below.
  • Want to get an email when I post the next ‘Deep Slate, just email me and say so!

.ppps: Oakland? or San Jose? check out the Extras section.

WHAT IS THIS?

Every San Francisco election cycle, I put out my “‘Deep Slate” voter guide, and this post is my guide for this election.

Here’s the format:

  1. The LIST: the no-frills list of my endorsements for this election.
  2. The DETAILS: the whys and wherefores of each endorsement. This is how I arrived at each position.
  3. My VALUES: a brief explanation of my values and sources, to provide context for my opinions.
  4. Sources: a collection of my sources and a tiny bit about how I arrive at my endorsements.
  5. Extras: If you want to know where to vote, or want to find older ‘Deep Slates, or some Oakland/San Jose stuff….

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

THANKS:

Thanks, as always, to the number of folks who have asked for my opinions. 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!

So without further preamble, let’s dive in! (damn, that was a lot of preamble)


THE LIST:

Note: If you just want this list as a handy, printable text version, just click here.

Also note: the more CAPITALS the stronger I feel about it – especially on ballot measures.

SAN FRANCISCO:

Mayor: london breed

City Attorney: DENNIS HERRERA

District Attorney: Chesa Boudin, Suzy Loftus

Public Defender: Manohar Raju

Sheriff: Meh

Treasurer: Jose Cisnero

Board of Education: Jenny Lam

Community College Board: Ivy Lee

Prop A: San Francisco Affordable Housing Bonds: YES

Prop B: Department of Disability and Aging Services: Charter Amendment Yes

Prop C: Overturn E-Cig legislation : NO NO NO

Prop D: Business Tax on Uber & Lyft: Yes

Prop E: Streamline Affordable Housing and Educator Housing on Public Land: YES

Prop F: Campaign Contributions and Campaign Advertisements: Yes

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

THE DETAILS:

Note: the more CAPITALS the stronger I feel about it – especially on ballot measures.

SAN FRANCISCO:

Mayor: london breed
Surprising no one, London Breed has been OK as mayor. She’s done some good things I can really get behind (i.e. pushed for significant Vision Zero improvements for bike & pedestrian safety, fast tracking projects that have languished for years) and she’s done some truly lame things (sided with Big Ag & the Trump administration in opposing measures to protect California’s rivers). But no one else qualified is running & she’s going to win. Sigh.

There’s no protest vote worth making here & I guess I do love the Valencia Street bike lanes, and her various pushes on Vision Zero. Sigh.

City Attorney: DENNIS HERRERA 
Dennis has been a long time champion of great stuff as City Attorney – every few years I get to say how great he is & give some examples of his first rate work on local issues of importance (gay marriage, protecting City College). Lately, he’s also taken to suing the Trump administration over various parts of their evil agenda (sanctuary city stuff comes to mind) – so what superlatives can I use now? He’s unopposed & fantastic. Done.

Herrera

This is the first time I’ve posted a picture of Dennis Herrera (why so squinty, Dennis!?)

District Attorney: Chesa Boudin, Suzy Loftus
What a race! This is the first time in 100 years that San Francisco has had a DA race without an incumbent, since our current DA is off to LA. We have really strong candidates at the top with Boudin & Loftus. Dautch is also a decent candidate, but the fact that he has the endorsement of the always-horrible Police Officer’s Association makes me skeptical. He’s not going to win anyway – this race has been dominated by Boudin & Loftus.

CHESA AUGUST SF wColumns4259c4b0 9ee6 4c9d b8cd 54cdccd9e66cSL19 Suzy Loftus Field Headshot

The good news is they both bring a wealth of experience and some great qualifications to the race. Chesa Boudin’s story is remarkable: he’s the child of incarcerated parents & a public defender. He’s clearly on a mission to address mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex from the DA’s office of a major American city. For that I’m interested.

Loftus brings both experience and competence to the race, including some particularly laudable work addressing use-of-force rules in the wake of San Francisco’s infamous Mario Woods shooting. She seems honestly committed to serious police reforms — albeit significantly more moderate than Boudin.

I do have some questions about some of Boudin’s notions of how to decriminalize various misdemeanors & yet still solve San Francisco quality of life issues (like the rampant car breakins & bike thefts). But as truly problematic those issues are, I think the baseline inequities in our criminal justice system matter more.

Boudin 1, Loftus 2.  Either way I expect we’ll get a good DA out of the deal, but let’s try for someone who pushes the envelope.

Public Defender: Manohar Raju
Former PD Jeff Adachi was almost universally highly regarded & after his untimely death, one of his able assistants, Manohar Raju was appointed. He is also widely respected & running unopposed. Easy.

Sheriff: Meh
Former Sheriff Vicki Hennessey is retiring after a several problematic years. The Sheriff’s office, once a credit to our law enforcement system, has backslid into a disturbing & troubled enterprise: serveral deputies have been accused of running a “fight club” in the jail, misconduct cases have exploded, and overuse of force is increasingly an issue. Sadly, the only person running, Paul Miyamoto, seems to be more of the same at best. The more I read, the more I *don’t* recommend voting for him. 

 

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Here is where we take a break to observe my family Halloween costume: MOANA! I’m Tamatoa the Glam Crab of course!

Treasurer: Jose Cisneros
Cisneros has been a great City Treasurer. An unglamorous job at best, he’s managed to make the most of it, with initiatives to take on predatory pay-day lenders and his Financial Justice Project, which investigates the impact of fines and fees on those living in poverty. Great stuff.

The only slam on him I’ve heard is from the League of Pissed Off Voters, who point out that he’s putting too much of SF’s money into Wall Street megabanks. This is a valid complaint, especially since so many of these banks are funding Big Oil & by extension climate change. That being said, I’m not sure it’s fair to take him to task for using the same banks that most cities do, until he’s been pushed to do better. We MUST do better & we should be pushing Cisneros to do better here too.

Board of Education: Jenny Lam
Eminently qualified & running to keep her existing seat — she was appointed by Breed to fill a vacancy on the school board. It’s a bit lame that she’s also the Mayor’s education advisor (so much for checks & balances) but she’s doing a creditable job by all accounts & is unopposed. 🤷🏽‍♂️

Community College Board: Ivy Lee
A lot of people are excited by Lee’s candidacy for Community College – she was an author of the Free City College effort, and is a long time civil rights attorney working on immigrant rights & human trafficking. She was also appointed & is running to retain her seat. Easy.

 

48466685476 01f889da4d wSupervisor District 5: Vallie Brown
This is the other big race of this election, pitting incumbent Supervisor Vallie Brown (who was appointed by London Breed to fill the seat she vacated when she became mayor) and Dean Preston, the tenant’s rights activist who ran against Breed in her last election.

Dean Preston is the darling of the City’s progressive block and a Democratic Socialist a la Bernie Sanders. He’s spent many, many, years working on tenants right’s issues & would be an interesting and dynamic progressive Supervisor.

Vallie Brown is a long time Supervisor’s aide in D5, first under Ross Mirkarimi. She’s worked diligently on numerous issues near & dear to my heart, such as the plastic bag ban and CleanPowerSF. She’s very experienced at City Hall & capable of getting good things done.

There’s knocks against both of them: Preston is inexperienced as a legislator & some of his positions on important issues come across as half-baked. Brown was involved in a nasty eviction from property she owned and the evidence strongly suggests she was pretty heartless about it.

There are good reasons to vote for both of them. But for me, Brown’s environmental record is the difference. Here’s what we said with our endorsement at the SF League of Conservation Voters:

She has a consistent track record on local issues and has shown a willingness to listen, and we find that she makes smart, thoughtful decisions. Since her appointment last year, Brown worked on several environmental issues, including expansion of the plastic bag ban, energy use reporting for large residential buildings, and renewable energy mandates for large commercial buildings. Most recently, she introduced legislation to end natural gas use in municipal buildings.

(.ps It’s a ranked choice vote & there are several candidates, but really this race is just between these two & so I didn’t bother to rank.)

Yes+on+AProp A: San Francisco Affordable Housing Bonds: YES
This is simple. Sell bonds to get as much money as we can for affordable housing without triggering a difficult fight. The good news is that $600 million will make a good dent in our affordable housing crisis. The only knock is that it doesn’t go far enough. Because it would necessitate a property tax hike and would therefore have to pass a 2/3 vote. So let’s get this done. If you want details on what the spending would go for, see the SF League of Conservation Voter’s break down of Prop A & its companion Prop E.

Prop B: Yes: Department of Disability and Aging Services: Charter Amendment
This is simple, reasonable and technical. It turns out that a lot of people with disabilities don’t access our City’s disability services because they don’t know about them. Why? Because the department that oversees those services is currently called the “Department of Aging and Adult Services.” This fixes that & also makes sure the commission overseeing the department includes a person with a disability, a veteran and a senior.

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Prop C: Overturn E-Cig legislation: NO NO NO

Welcome to the slime & drama in this election cycle. This measure is simple if tricky: Juul put it on the ballot to dismantle our city’s shiny new flavored e-cigarrette (the kind that are marketed to kids) ban, by portraying this as more comprehensive legislation. IT’S A SHAM. Here’s part of the SF League of Conservation Voters write up:

Prop C would upend existing San Francisco ordinances temporarily banning e-cigarette sales in San Francisco until the FDA issues an order authorizing it. Buried in the text of the initiative are several provisions that would protect Big Tobacco giants such as Juul, including provisions that would overrule public health legislation, raise consumer privacy concerns, weaken existing laws on its products, and limit enforcement action that can be taken against those who sell to children. Further, attorneys and advocates who have reviewed the legal language of Prop C have found that the measure “could strip the SF Board of Supervisors of its authority to pass e-cigarette-related legislation,” as well as “gut the city’s current ban on flavored tobacco products that have made [e-cigarette use] popular among teens,” while “other provisions are already essentially the law,” making them unnecessary.

So Juul & e-cig manufacturers have been pouring tons of money into this — you’ve seen the ads. On the other side, former New York Mayor (& progressive cause sugar daddy) Bloomberg has poured money in to oppose C, making for a high profile battle. But then Juul backed out when they got a new CEO, probably because they are facing increasing national scrutiny (and more e-cig deaths) and have decided it’s not a great time to look as evil as they have become.*

Vote NO NO NO.

*Evidently they really did start out as a way to help smokers quit, until the founders realized there was a gold mine to be made.

Prop D: Business Tax on Uber & Lyft: Yes
Many, many people take Uber & Lyft… but sadly very few people seem to notice the carbon pollution, traffic congestion, and bike & pedestrian hazards they cause our City. To make matters worse, these companies are regulated at the state level so San Francisco has limited ability to affect change. We had to get special permision from the state government to even begin regulating them — and unfortunately, this was the best we could do. Supervisor Aaron Peskin set out to impose a much more significant gross-receipts tax on all Uber & Lyft’s income, but after negotiating, compromised to this much smaller business tax per-ride in SF. Presumably this was to forestall a heavily funded attack from Uber/Lyft. In exchange, they are funding this teeny tiny tax. (Nice logo… but they shouldn’t say it’s going to reduce traffic – it’s really too small to make a dent.)
Yes+on+D Muni+Vertical+LRG
It will raise $30-$35 million (a relatively tiny amount compared to the vast impacts these companies have) that will go directly to Muni…. which desperately needs it. Sigh. It’s better than nothing; it seems to be the best we can do for now; and all the major bike, pedestrian & transit advocates in the CIty agree.

 

Yes+on+EProp E: Streamline Affordable Housing and Educator Housing on Public Land: YES
Prop E addresses the city’s affordable housing crisis for mid-income residents and working families, especially teachers. Prop E would allow 100% affordable and educator housing to be built on public land – particularly land owned by the school district and City College. It would also streamline approvals for such projects, and works hand in hand with Prop A (above) which would provide funding. YES!

Sunlight+on+Dark+Money+imageProp F: Campaign Contributions and Campaign Advertisements: YES
A classic example of a mostly good thing that probably shouldn’t be on the ballot. The biggest & most important thing this law does is awesome: it requires shadowy Political Action Committees (that pour big bucks into local elections) to report who their major donors are! But SPUR, the only organization I value that is against this, has smartly pointed out that this could be done by a vote at the SF Ethics Commission. And as I’ve said a bunch – ballot measures are a horrible way to govern, especially technical policy details, like this one. But in the end – the positives outweigh the negatives, so let’s get this done.

UPDATE: I just got more information & am changing my recommendation to YES:  It turns out that Peter Keane, former ethics commissioner, tried to pass this at the commission. It failed by one vote. Supervisor Aaron Peskin tried to pass it at the Board of Supervisors. It failed there by one vote. We need to get this done at the ballot.

 

 

MY VALUES:

Recommend reading (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 23 years: as long-time President and board member of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters (SFLCV) as well as 13+ years on the board of SF Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), I’ve done hundreds of candidate interviews & lobbying at City Hall.
  • 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 & 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 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 a REALLY 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: You have to use a another ballot initiative to change or fix something that became law by a ballot measure, whereas the legislature can amend or fix any of their laws whenever they want.
    • 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 bad ideas can sound good in a ballot initiative because the devil is often in the details. 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 San Francisco issues, so state issues are a little greyer for me unless I say otherwise. Thus, for state stuff, I try to do a lot of reading and research from the sources listed below & anything else I can find.
  • Just like you, some of my opinions come from listening to those I trust, or tend to trust. Organizations like the ones listed as “bedrock” below 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…

Sources:

My best sources are personal experiences, and interviews and lobbying I’ve done with the SFLCV & the SFBC. But the limits of this are pretty obvious. I have very little direct experience with state issues, so below are some of the sources I use & a bit on how I arrive at my endorsements.

The first source for SF stuff is the official SF Voter guide. I like to read the pro and con arguments and also note who is writing them, as that often tells you at least as much as what they say. Also the analysis & explanations are critical. Dig in!

Ballotopedia: A wiki for ballots & elections! This is an incredible resource! I donated & maybe you should too!

Some of my bedrock sources are:

I also always check the SF Chronicle‘s endorsements & write ups. I usually don’t like their bias – I don’t trust them much on local stuff (they tend to be more conservative than me), but I like to hear them out, especially on state level stuff.

I also really like reading these two slates:

Both are great, and I appreciate that they wear their biases on their sleeves. The SFBG is super progressive & occasionally rabidly so, but I tend to share a lot of their values & appreciate what they bring to the table. SPUR is decidedly centrist and good-governmenty. I particularly enjoy their commitment to sound policy, their clarity of thought, and their thorough write ups – I’d love to have the time and energy to do a slate as well as they do!

Another great slate is the one done by The League of Pissed Off Voters. I’ve never liked their name (who can sustain angry for so long!), but I like hearing what they have to say. They run the risk of getting mean-spirited and absolutist, but they do their work.

Finally, several of my friends do slates I really appreciate & there are a few others I check as well, when I find them:

  • Ballot.fyi I first found this in 2016, and it is excellent! I hope they keep doing it.
  • Kate Slate: My friend Kate McCarthy does a good job each election.
  • Alix Rosenthal’s slate: My friend Alix Rosenthal’s slate is always really, really well done.

Extras:

Where To Vote:

If you need to know WHERE YOU CAN VOTE: You can find your polling place HERE.

Oakland & San Jose:

So, I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of Oakland or San Jose politics (If you have sites you like, please put ’em in the comments!) but the always thoughtful & thorough SPUR folks do SF, Oakland, and San Jose. See my thoughts on SPUR’s biases above.

 

Older ‘Deep Slates:

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 gets a bit dicey because before 2012, they were email only (not blog posts), so I’ve posted the email versions I could find.

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