The ‘Deep Slate: November 2011 Edition

[Ed. Note: 10/31/2015: This “post” was originally an email I sent to my friends on 11/07/2011. I have posted it today in 2015, and backdated for archival/search purposes]

(my apologies if you get this multiple times & if you don’t want to get this type of stuff from me, just let me know)

Hey folks –

SORRY IN ADVANCE if this is choppy, I’m under big work pressure & so what you’re seeing is the best I can do 🙂

Usually, I write two emails for the ‘Deep Slate, one for just the simple list of my voting recommendations & another which is the detailed “whys & wherefores” , however for Tuesday’s election that won’t be necessary. The two bits will fit in this handy email 🙂 I’ve included the boilerplate “who I am section” at the bottom for those of you who are receiving this who don’t know me.

Please feel free to forward this far & wide….
To find your polling place:

The key is as follows:
• the more UPPERCASE – the more strongly I feel
• exclamation = don’t get me started!
• * = I don’t know a lot about it & went with the Guardian or California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV)


1) David Chiu
2) John Avalos
3) Dennis Herrera

District Attorney:
1) David Onek*
2) Sharmin Bock*


A: YES – Repair & Modernize Schools
B: no – Street Repair Bond
C: yes – Consensus Pension Reform
D: no – Adachi’s City Pension Reform
E: no – Weiner’s Ballot Measure Oversight
F: Yes – Oversight of Political Consultants
G: Yes – Maintain the Sales Tax


Mayor: Chiu, Avalos, Herrara

I love San Francisco, it’s a tremendous City despite it’s aversion to having a good mayor. Ed Lee might be be the best mayor we’ve had since I’ve been paying attention & I think his greatest plus as mayor is that he probably actually cares whether the City works. That’s a low bar. The problem with Ed Lee is that he has been surrounded (and put in place) by the current powers that be at City Hall, that is to say, the Willie Brown / Gavin Newsom administration power structure. Willie was a remarkably effective Mayor who knew how to get things done, but he used that power only to enrich the people he cared about. Gavin was a press-conference-driven feel-good-do-nothing Mayor who accomplished…. umm… probably something. He was a better Mayor than Willie in that he was not so corrupt. Great. In a remarkable bit of political maneuvering (his strong suit), Willie Brown and Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak got City Administrator Ed Lee into the Mayor’s office as their last bid to hold onto power, and it looks to be working: it is quite likely that Ed Lee will be our next mayor.

Well, the good news is that Ed is well respected personally, and seems to like bikes. Other than that, I fear four more years of lame.

Luckily, his election isn’t a done deal – while he holds a lead in the polls, he doesn’t have a majority & since this is our first ranked-choice Mayoral election (YAY!!!!), the contenders have a shot. Better yet, I’d be pretty psyched to have any of my #1, #2, #3 as Mayor & indeed it is hard to pick any one of them over the others – all have big pluses and several minuses in my book. But all of them would be really good choices for Mayor I think.
1) David Chiu – David is a friend and I think a great deal of his instincts and his intellect. He’s a hard worker, sensible, and committed to making progress on issues that I care deeply about. Of all of them, I give him the slight edge in having the right combo of demeanor, intelligence, drive, and sanity to make a good mayor.
2) John Avalos – Is an excellent vote on the Board of Supervisors on progressive issues and most environmental ones. He is the darling of all my progressive friends. I think he, more than even David, would bring change to City Hall.
3) Dennis Herrera – Dennis has often impressed me with his smarts, his candor, and his independent thinking. He has been a great City Attorney. He also brings managerial skill that I think is critical in an office like the Mayor’s (and one of the many glaring weaknesses of the Newsom administration.)

District Attorney: Onek & Bock
I honestly haven’t been following this one closely enough to make a good responsible recommendation, that being said, the consensus amongst people I trust is that both David Onek & Sharmin Bock would be excellent choices.

Ross is a friend and someone I respect, and while on the Board, has been one of the best environmental Supervisors in recent memory. I was a little surprised when he chose to run for Supervisor, but that was only because I think of him as environmentalist first & forget his long standing work and interest in criminal justice and justice reform. While I’ve heard valid criticisms of his personal style, I find that they are related to the fact that he is remarkably passionate about issues that mean a great deal to me, so he always has my vote. Vote for Ross.


A: YES – Repair & Modernize Schools
This is a no brainer. We have a lot of schools in dire need of repair, upgrade & modernization.

B: no – Street Repair Bond
This one kills me. It would raise MUCH MUCH MUCH needed funds to repair our crumbling streets. It is sooo very necessary to do. The rub is that it goes about doing it irresponsibly – we are basically borrowing money to pay for our basic city services, because we have been too lame to do things right. Grr. I could accept that if only there was some part of this measure that acknowledged that this should not be done this way, and that would prevent this in the future. But there isn’t.

Worse still the folks behind this measure ran largely the same one a few years back and it failed to pass. Rather than improve it with regards to fiscal irresponsibility critique, they are just running it again. Lame.

If it passes, we’ll have money to do a lot of very needed things, including some bike & ped improvements, but I still can’t get behind it. No.

C: yes – Consensus Pension Reform
D: no – Adachi’s City Pension Reform

Pension Reform. Really boring, really tricky, really really important. The fundamental issue is this: Part of the tacit “contract” of working for the public sector is that you won’t get paid as well, but you’ll be taken care of with a good pension plan. This seems critical to attracting good, talented folks to work for the City – a very important endeavor. That being said, San Francisco, and much of the public sector, has a real crisis in that the pension investments that we have relied on have tanked with the rest of the economy. This has left SF having to devote more and more of it’s badly limited funds paying pension benefits. So the two ballot measures are competing efforts save money by restructuring how much people get in their pensions, how they buy in, and what exact benefits they get.

C is the “consensus” meausre in that it was hammered out between Mayor Lee, the Board of Supervisors, the unions & and representatives of business (the Chamber of Commerce). The other, is the brainchild of Public Defender Jeff Adachi. While perhaps well intentioned (although perhaps politically intentioned more than anything else), Adachi’s measure was done with little input from the effected parties & is pretty unpopular with City staff. In the end, I’m going with C for process reasons.

E: no – Weiner’s Ballot Measure Oversight
I’m tempted to vote yes on this, because I’m so fed up with the Ballot Initiative system. (see “Ballot measures are REALLY a bad way to govern.” at the end of this message). That being said I worry Scott’s measure is the kind of reform that causes more trouble than it solves. By placing controls on the most reviewed ballot measures (those proposed by the Board of Supervisors), this measure will probably spur more non-board measures which are much less reviewed and more likely to be problematic. The whole ballot measure system is flawed and needs to be reworked, but, I worry this will have worse consequences if it passes.

F: Yes – Oversight of Political Consultants
Political consultants in SF have a lot clout & there is a LOT of money in SF politics and it is, as usual, problematic. This law is a mixed bag of reforms – making the rules clearer and simpler, and allows the Ethics Commission to oversee the rules rather than having to change them at the ballot box. Many on my side of the fence have taken issue with the fact that making this measure allow the un-elected Ethics Commission change the ethics rules is undemocratic (which is true) but on the other hand the ethics rules are often byzantine and arcane and trip up the little guys (like me!) rather than the big corporate types who can afford lawyers. I think having the Ethics commission be able to fix them quickly and easily is probably for the better. Yes on F

G: Yes – Maintain the Sales Tax
Earlier this year, the state legislature let our temporary 1% sales tax expire – but since we are rolling in cash this isn’t a problem. Oh wait – we *aren’t rolling in cash* so we desperately need this money for City programs. Sales taxes are lame because they are regressive (they hit the poor harder than the rich) but this is a small one & it means a big deal to the City – so YES.

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. Any questions or flames can, of course, be addressed to me….
Ok – so to figure out how to value (or devalue :-)) my opinions you should know the following:

• My opinions come from my experience in local politics over the past 16 years & the tons of candidate interviews I’ve done with the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters (SFLCV) & the SF Bicycle Coalition & all the lobbying I’ve done at City Hall, etc etc…. As you know 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.
• I’m President of the San Francisco League of Conservation Voters & on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. While my views are definitely shaped by my activities in these organizations, my endorsements do NOT represent their views.
• I’m basically an idealist, an optimist, and a humanist.
• 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) below are taken from compiling what the California League of Conservation Voters, 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 to why I think ballot measures suck….

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