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Endorsements for General Election, November 6, 2012

President: Barack Obama.

US Senator: Diane Feinstein. Sigh.

US Representative, District 14: Jackie Speier.

State Senator, SD 13: Jerry Hill. This is a repeat of the Primary ballot. I leaned to Jerry then. The Merc analysis of the debate between the two notes that one of the distinctions is that Jerry has been more supportive of high-speed rail (though still with restrictions). OTOH, he's also been more open to seeing housing development in the salt flats area; I'm not crazy about that, but we do need more housing, and he has at least said that he wants housing their limited, and still supports densification in the existing areas.

State Assembly, AD 22: Kevin Mullin, who's the only Dem running.

County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors, District 4: Shelly Masur. Another repeat from the Primary. I did seriously consider Warren Slocum, but I came down on the side of Masur then, and I do again now. Interestingly, the Merc, which is relatively conservative for the SF Bay Area, is endorsing Masur, who's probably the more progressive candidate.

County Board of Ed Member, Trustee Area 7: Joe Ross. I've met him -- he was a volunteer for the Becker campaign -- and I found him to be thoughtful, and good at active listening. He also has a more impressive list of endorsements, and more detail in his policy discussions.

San Mateo County Harbor District, Members, Board of Commissioners: Holsinger, Brennan, Parravano. Two of the six candidates didn't even bother to submit statements. Among the other four, three are incumbents; the one who isn't is Brennan. I'm going with the three who I think have the strongest set of endorsements and seem to make good, detailed statements, in the ballot pamphlet and to the League of Women Voters SmartVoter site.

Sequoia Healthcare District, Members, Board of Directors: Kane, Griffin. It's a "vote for two". There are three candidates. One is an anti-government kook who wants to dissolve the district and stop providing county medical services. I'm voting for the other two, both of whom seem fine.

Prop 30 and 38: YES and NO, respectively. This overcomes my default opposition to propositions because a tax hike require a two-thirds vote of the legislature and all the Republicans have signed the idiotic no-taxes-ever pledge; in order to just keep struggling along with our already straitjacketed budget, we need Prop 30. Both of these props involve imposing a temporary income tax hike. Prop 30 is only a hike on the top bracket (but also includes a small sales tax hike); 38 is much broader. 38 adds to the "ballot box budgeting" constraints faced by the legislature. Also, Prop 30 reverses some broad budget cuts (developmental services, fire, police, etc), whereas 38 only provides for schools. If both 30 and 38 pass the 50% threshhold, but Prop 38 gets more yes votes than 30, only 38 counts. So, I'm planning to vote YES on 30, NO on 38.

Prop 31: NO. Does some good things (better budgeting process in some ways -- I do like the idea of having the two-year time horizon), but some really bad things, like devolving a lot of powers to local governments in ways that will create complexity and redundancy, and putting in place a loophole-riddled Pay-As-You-Go rule that has been criticized by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (a non-partisan think-tank that I'm a fan of, and that more or less wrote the Congressional PAYGO rule that Dems have used since the '90s). PeteRates.com has a longer write-up on this. Interestingly, the CA Republicans want this measure, but some Tea Party groups oppose it; whereas the Dems and their various interest groups (Cal Federation of Teachers, Cal League of Conservation Voters, etc) are unified in opposition.

Prop 32: NO. This basically attacks the ability of unions to organize and spend money on state races, while not limiting many incorporated entities or PACs. Even groups that usually analyze elections without endorsing anything, like the League of Women Voters, are opposed.

Prop 33: NO. This is a re-run of the Mercury Insurance proposition we voted down a few years ago. It's an attempt to undermine the rules set up by the CA Insurance Commissioner, to let insurers gouge customers who have a lapse in coverage.

Prop 34: YES. Ends the death penalty, and commutes all outstanding death penalties to a true life without parole sentence. It takes a bunch of the savings and grants the money to local law enforcement for the first four years of implementation, dedicated to bringing down the unsolved rate on rapes and murders. PeteRates again has a good write-up on this topic, if you're not already familiar with all of the serious problems. Even if you don't oppose the idea of state-sanctioned execution to begin with, we simply can't guarantee that everybody executed is actually guilty, and if you screw that up it's not something you can make right. And in the service of this monstrous system, we waste huge amounts of money going through all the appeals, dragging the process out for years. A life-without-parole sentence would provide more finality, sooner, at a lower cost. I'm not crazy about the ballot-box budgeting thing, but it's time limited; so it sends money to an area that does need funding currently, without locking it in forever.

Prop 35: NO. This proposition does not overcome my default presumption against propositions. Human trafficking is already illegal, and if it needs to be penalized more, the legislature should deal with that. Legislators love looking tough on crime. If this is important, they can deal with it. It's also worth noting that the way this ballot measure is written, it has some really weird effects; for instance, anyone who "benefits" from prostitution -- such as a parent, child, or roommate of somebody who engages in prostitution who has part of their rent paid by the prostitute's income -- could be classified as a sex offender.

Prop 36: YES. Scales back the Three Strikes law, requiring the third strike to be violent. It's a little weird that if your record is "murder, murder, non-violent theft", you don't get automatic life, while if your record is "murder, non-violent theft, murder", you do. But, I'm generally in favor of scaling back the three-strikes law, and since it was initially put in place by proposition, we can only scale it back this way.

Prop 37: Waffling. I'm in favor of GMO labelling in general. Not for any health reasons -- I don't think there's any reason to think the types of GMOs that go into the human food supply are dangerous -- but because of their role in industrial monoculture, and because of the ugly way that patent law has been misapplied to the field of bioengineering. I'm really not happy about doing this from the ballot box; if we ever want to edit it we have to go back to the ballot box again. a_steep_hill, in comments, below, makes some arguments in favor, and I also saw some reasonable-seeming materials in favor in Whole Foods today. Christa also ended up arguing the YES side the other day, before flying off to MD, basically just because the anti campaign has been so over-the-top. There's a reasonable argument to be made, but they're not making that, they're taking their corporate millions and spending it on pure irrational fear-mongering.

Prop 39: YES. Back in 2008, when the financial crisis was crashing tax revenues, Arnold bridged a late-year budget gap by using "revenue accelerators" -- in which some taxes got collected early, without collecting more tax overall. As a price for agreeing to this, the Republicans who came over and allowed that budget demanded some new tax loopholes, including one that made it easier for out-of-state companies with substantial revenue in CA to avoid paying taxes on that revenue. This closes that loophole, restoring the pre-'08 rules. This will bring in $1B per year. For the first five years, it takes about half of that and spends it on a green energy grant program. Again, I'd prefer skipping the ballot-box budgeting thing, but it's time-limited, and looks like a reasonably good program.

Prop 40: YES. If this measure gets a "no", there would be state and county spending totalling about $1M to re-draw the State Senate districts, again. Republicans put this on the ballot in the hopes of getting a more favorable map, but then dropped their campaign b/c the courts basically told them they couldn't have such a map until at least 2014, and the new map would be more or less the same to what we currently have.

San Mateo Measure A: YES. Raises the sales tax (sigh) to restore funding for some really critical services (like 911 dispatch).

San Mateo Measure B: YES. Changes from electing all five county supervisors in county-wide at-large elections, to actually using the districts. Cuts the number of constituents for a supervisor from ~300k down to ~60k; this would theoretically make campaigns cheaper, less dependent on high-profile endorsements, and make it more possible to keep in contact with more constituents. We're the only county that currently does things this way, and regardless of the fate of Measure B, the at-large system may be struck down by the courts as diluting the vote of our Latino and Asian-American communities. I don't feel strongly about the at-large versus district-based elections question, but I mildly lean towards districts, and we may as well save the litigation costs.

San Mateo Measure C: YES. Takes the Controller / Auditor job and makes it an appointed position, rather than elected. It's a specialized position that requires a specific skill set. The supervisors believe the controller should be selected through a hiring process that lets them review those skills. Nobody's bothering to oppose this measure.
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