In which I ask you to give money, and spread the word.

Donation Link! Mapping Inequality: Digitizing our Redlining History

As most people who would bother to read this probably know, in the past few years, I have gotten involved with trying to reform our broken system for regulating how housing is built, and how land use is managed more generally. Along the way, I got curious about whether I could dig up "redlining" maps for my area. I found the Mapping Inequality project, a collaboration among three universities in VA and MD, and I ended up emailing them, as well as emailing the local branch of the National Archives. We happen to have one right here in my town of San Bruno, which I was familiar with because they bought some Tesla PowerPacks a couple years back, and I was on the team that commissioned that equipment.

The answer to the original question of whether there might be redlining maps of San Bruno was "probably not" -- the pretty color-coded maps were only produced for about the 200 largest cities, and the academic team is pretty confident that anything from the Bay Area has already been captured. But the conversation kind of snowballed, because it turns out that there are hundreds of boxes of supporting documents sitting around in DC, and out in satellite NARA offices. The satellite offices may have some more maps -- the team says due to notes they've seen elsewhere they think in particular that Denver may have some, for cities in the middle of the country -- but just in general, digitizing all of these ancillary records, like parcel-level survey info and the surveyors' notes about neighborhoods, has immense value to historians and economists, and will allow for the Mapping Inequality tool to add stuff like outlines and pins where you'll be able to zoom down and see what the federal authorities had to say about your neighborhood, or even your specific plot of land.

There's a whole category of interesting records in there where they have interviews with the actual mortgage writing officials -- your pillar of the community, George Bailey types. They also have info on the total amounts distributed to them, and exactly what parcels they were connected to. I have some sample images from a box relating to the wealthy Naglee Park neighborhood of San Jose. We can basically see how federal money flowed through these finance companies, to particular (White) neighborhoods.

The existing data collection is already making an impact on public consciousness, and moving the needle on policy. New York is looking at redressing issues in the Buffalo mortgage market. The federal EPA and CalEPA are both looking at how the history of redlining connects to air quality and urban heat island issues today. We can't even anticipate all the ways historians and econometricians are going to extract useful insights from this collection.

We want to get all of this information out to the public, in a usable form, within a few years, instead of leaving it to molder in warehouses for another generation. Every year these papers are just sitting around, without being digitized and shared, they're at risk of getting lost in some kind of disaster, like the Universal film archive.

We've set an initial fundraising target of $21k, which will pay for upgrading scanning equipment at the NARA offices. In exchange, NARA will be prioritizing access for the Mapping Inequality team. If we raise more than the initial target, the academic team can easily absorb any plausible excess, to spend on research assistants' wages and travel costs over the next couple years. We've already raised about half the main goal from private requests to generous friends and family. So now it's time to try to make the campaign go viral. If you'd be willing to chip in to support, at whatever level you can afford, and broadcast widely to family and friends, it would be much appreciated.
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Dem Donkey

November 3, 2020 General Election

I read widely -- among California papers, I subscribe to the LATimes, SM Daily Journal, SJ Mercury, Sacramento Bee... Possibly some more I'm forgetting right now. A few friends and acquaintances also have interesting personal ballot guides: Mike Dunham, Mike Chen, Pete Stahl. I particularly recommend having a look at Mike Dunham's post, it includes recommendations that I support for various local races where we have two Dems competing. In particular, if you're in the State Senate district down in San Jose, where it's Ravel vs Cortese, please vote for Cortese. Ravel was an Obama administration official, but she's trended conservative since she left, and she's courting Republican votes by opposing Prop 15, and there's a really nasty independent expenditure campaign supporting her. (Which is ironic considering she was pretty good on the Federal Election Commission.)

President: Biden. He wasn't my first choice, but he's better than I expected. (Also, Trump is the worst president we've ever had and is responsible for the deaths of low-six-figures-and-rising Americans.)

House Rep: Speier. She's a Dem running against a Repub, and she's a great public servant.

State Senator: Becker. I've known him for more than a decade, volunteered for his 2010 campaign, and donated and walked a precinct for his 2020 campaign. He's well-versed on issues relating to the tech industry, clean energy and the environment, higher ed, and more. I'm glad he's finally going to be representing us. He's been running a series of events recently that touch on political issues but give voters the opportunity to learn from all kinds of experts. There was a great one last week with Dahlia Lithwick, the best reporter on the Supreme Court working today, and Kira Snyder, the screenwriter for The Handmaid's Tale. He's also been helping out other candidates for local offices who are in more competitive races.

Assembly: Mullin. Speaker Pro Tem Mullin is great. I'd love to see him elevated to take Rendon's Speaker post. (Or Buffy Wicks. That'd be some karma.)

San Mateo County Board of Education, Member, Trustee Area 4: Bonini. Although I don't feel strongly about it, the incumbent, Hsiao, seems great too. I've worked with Bonini directly in the past, on events out of our county Dem offices, and she has endorsements from a bunch of people I've worked with over the years, and whose judgment I trust. It kind of looks like the breakdown is that she's getting endorsements from local progressive activists, and Hsiao is getting more "establshment-y" endorsements, including some higher-level officeholders I like a lot (like Eshoo) who are probably endorsing because they think he's going to win anyways -- incumbents usually do -- and it can't hurt to bank a favor.

Point in Bonini's favor, she's chosen to emphasize the role of housing in school issues (both for teachers and students). Point against, she favors term limits. I want it to be easier for challengers to break through, but I want that to be through a clean money system and better local news coverage; term limits are one of those ideas that sounds intuitively good, but is in fact bad -- they enhance the power of lobbyists, contractors, and other outside players who can't be term limited, since those become the only people who have institutional memory. And, to put it in the simplest terms, do you think companies should fire every employee who reaches twelve years on the job, even if they've been doing a great job, and as an experienced hand they're able to train others and provide feedback to the org about how to improve the processes around them?

In any case, I'm bummed she's campaigned on that, but on net I'll still vote for her, and hope she just doesn't manage to implement that policy.

San Mateo County Community College District, Member, Governing Board, Trustee Area 3: Maurice Goodman. This race is between two incumbents because this went from at-large to districted, due to the stupid California Voting Rights Act rules. Dave Mandelkern actually also seems great, and it's a shame we can't keep both of them. But Maurice Goodman is the only current member who is a graduate of the district, and I think having his perspective on the board is valuable.

San Mateo Union High School District, Members, Governing Board (vote for two): Zuniga and Land. Basically I'm going with the Daily Journal, and with the stronger set of endorsements for these two, compared to Kaufman. (One interesting detail: Kaufman's endorsements include our extremely shady county Sheriff. If that dude were supporting me, I would not advertise it.)

San Bruno Park Elementary School District, Members, Governing Board (vote for two): Shea and Vander Lugt. I really appreciated Jennifer Blanco's advocacy for Prop 15, and for considering other options besides selling some of the district's land to a developer of SFH subdivisions. But to be honest, her style of engagement at both board meetings I've attended in person, and one I watched online, has been combative to the point of seeming counter-productive. It's one thing to fight for your principles, it's another to just pick fights. I've talked with Andriana extensively over the last couple years, and she's great. I don't know Bryan well, but I know two of his San Bruno Education Foundation colleagues -- both Andriana and one of the other members -- and they both speak highly of him.

City of San Bruno, Mayor: Medina. Rico has been doing a solid job in an incredibly difficult time, working with our excellent City Manager Jovan Grogan, without micro-managing -- he's not flashy, he just keeps things running. It's the kind of thing where you notice when people are failing at, but when they're succeeding, they recede into the background. Rico's relationships with with staff, and with various other County and State officials, have great value for our city. I have come to appreciate Linda Mason's willingness to question and sort through the details, but we get to keep her on Council even if she loses this race, and I don't believe this is the right time to move her to the Mayor's seat. Rico has been a steady voice, uniting the community. Even on issues where Linda deserves credit for pushing an issue onto the agenda, Rico has helped to unify the Council -- in particular, Linda (and Marty Medina, no relation to Rico) deserve great credit for pushing cannabis onto the agenda, but it was Rico that brokered the compromise of putting the tax authority onto the ballot this fall, which was a much easier lift for staff. This way voters have the chance to show that the Council has a mandate to move forwards. Salazar and Davis had been leaning against having anything for cannabis on the ballot this fall -- not necessarily against having legal cannabis in town entirely, but they didn't want to spend limited staff time on it. Rico found the option that worked for everyone. That ability to find the productive compromise is something I admire, and aspire to myself.

City of San Bruno, City Council (vote for two): Hamilton and Salazar. I have had tremendous difficulty coming to a decision on this. If we had an Approval ballot, I would vote for Hamilton, Salazar, Seymour, and Sarnecky. On the substance of policy, I align more closely with Stephen Seymour, than with Tom Hamilton or Michael Salazar. I get why the SMC Dems endorsed Stephen. (I probably align most closely with Jeremy Sarnecky, but I feel certain he's not going to win. And some of the issues he's prioritizing just aren't things that a City Councilmember has control or even much influence over. You need to know where the levers of power are, before you can grab hold of them. I hope he'll stay involved -- come to Council and School Board and County Supervisor meetings, learn how our local government works, maybe serve on one of the citizen commissions -- and run again in maybe four or six years.) Tom's approach to development issues is more conservative than mine. Salazar seems more cautious in general -- see the cannabis issue, or the fact that he's kinda backed off support for chartering (which I strongly favor). But in the places where I disagree with each of them, I appreciate that we can discuss why and I come away satisfied that they're at least taking my perspective seriously.

Prop 14: Yes. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is doing good work, and while stem cell research is not completely blocked for funding at the federal level anymore, it's still under-funded. And it just would be a shame to lose a productive research center. More from LAist.

Prop 15: YES, YES, FOR THE LOVE OF G*D YES. Do you love handing billions of dollars to giant corporations? Do you think it makes sense for identical properties right next door to each other to pay wildly different taxes, undermining competition and discouraging investment? If so, I guess you might be a No on this, but also, WAT? There is a massively funded scare campaign to convince you that the taxes raised by this will be passed through to small businesses and consumers. It is bullshit. If you believe that a Prop 15 tax increase will be passed through, what you are implicitly saying is that you believe that a large fraction of landlords out there are thinking, "Well, right now I could get away with raising rent by the equivalent of the Prop 15 tax hike, and that would not cause my land to sit empty for months, costing me more than the potential increased rent would gain. But I'm such a nice guy, I'll just let my tenants keep that money." Really? As Joe Biden would say: "Come on, man!"

Prop 16: Yes. The current policy of saying we can't take racial issues into account at all is unacceptable. You can't spend two centuries holding people's families back from accumulating wealth -- expropriating the fruits of their labor, via fraud or force -- and then pretend that by stopping that, everything's fine. (Not that we even actually have stopped that -- exclusionary zoning continues to perpetuate the effects of redlining, just under a purportedly non-racial cover.)

If we played a game of Monopoly, and for the first thirty turns, I randomly tossed you in jail every now and then, collected $300 when passing GO while you only got $100, and said you weren't allowed to buy the most desirable properties; and then after that said, "OK, starting now, we play by the same rules!" ... you would not think that was a fair game!

Yes, giving government the tools it needs to execute good policy may also mean it has the tools to execute bad policy. So elect good people to use the tools. Don't say that necessary tools can't be used by anyone at all.

To be 100% clear: Prop 209 is a f***ing abomination that was written with vile racist intent. It is a stain on our state, and absolutely must be repealed. I don't think it's going to be, this time, the polling is terrible. But someday.

Prop 17: Yes. After people have served their term, we want them re-integrated with their community. Voting in local elections is a pro-social behavior that builds ties to the community. Plus there's just a strong argument that continuing to punish people forever is fundamentally immoral. Notably, we have people who committed serious crimes in their youth, but who have come out truly reformed, who are on lifetime parole. Once people have served their time in prison, and they're out in the world re-integrating, they are citizens with full constitutional rights again. Treat them like it.

Prop 18: Yes. This has a similar logic. It lets 17-year olds who will turn 18 before the general election, vote in the primary. Getting high schoolers to start engaging with elections is a good thing. Also, a lot of our elections are effectively decided in the primary -- in the Bay Area, if one Dem and one Repub go through the jungle primary to the general election, the Dem is going to win with like 70% of the vote. So saying that an 18-year-old can vote on the fall ballot, without letting them vote on the primary ballot, is basically giving them no voice at all in those elections.

Prop 19: Yes. This (a) expands the ability of seniors to move to a new place while keeping their existing Prop 13 tax basis (on a purchase price up to the present value of their old place) and also expands that subsidy to people displaced by natural disasters; (b) makes up for that lost revenue by ending inheritance of tax basis unless you actually live in the house; and (c) dedicates the net revenue to fighting wildfires. I'm not a fan of the ballot box budgeting, but we know we're going to need that money for fires anyways, so I guess it's OK. And check out the graph that appears under the FAQ "Does Proposition 13 Reduce Property Turnover?" This, in a nutshell, is why I'm down with Prop 19. It's imperfect, it's not the kind of slam-dunk YES that Prop 15 is, but it's still a good thing. It will induce empty nesters in housing near good schools to move out and free that space up for younger families. (Or, once we win the fight over SB 1120's successor -- the same fight that's already been won in Minneapolis and Portland -- for some enterprising younger family to buy and then take a construction loan and convert to triplex or quadplex, and live in one unit while paying off the loan with income from the others.)

Prop 20: No. This is bullshit TUFFONCRIME! stuff. It's attempting to reverse good reforms that we previously adopted. We had past initiatives that made it somewhat easier for people to get out on parole, and that re-classified some minor drug crimes from felony to misdemeanor category. This reverses those sensible reforms. If you love mass incarceration, then I guess vote yes, but also, please re-think your priorities in life.

Prop 21: Yes. Although with some trepidation. I think overly restrictive rent control discourages housing production, and I think there's a good argument that we should give another few years for the effects of AB 1482 to work through the system. But the rent control that's allowed under this seems like it should still allow landlords to operate profitably, and it allows for vacancy control, which was not allowed under AB 1482. The vacancy control element mitigates against the tendency of landlords in rent control markets to engage in abusive practices to drive tenants out, to get a reset to market rate. My friend Alfred Twu has a detailed write-up, and has made the point that historically, it's not so much that rent control stops housing production, it's that stopping housing production leads to rent control, as the effects of housing inflation move up the income ladder until a strong majority want the protection of rent control. We need to produce a lot more housing at all income levels, regardless, but rent control can help protect low-income communities as we accelerate that process.

Prop 22: NO NO NO. And also, f*** Uber. A few giant companies have spent a ton of money on this (seriously, check out this infographic), as well as engaging in some dubiously legal practices around pushing the people that get income from them to advertise for them. The reality is that Prop 22 would create a legal landscape that's even better for Uber and their fellow giants than what existed before AB5. It would leave new competitors facing complicated regulations, but free up the big incumbents. AB5 was imperfect because it was passed kind of in a rush, in response to a CA Supreme Court ruling that, while correct in principle, didn't leave a lot of leeway for the enforcement schedule. There already was one round of revisions to AB5 in the legislature, and there would've been another this year if it hadn't been derailed by the pandemic. Unfortunately it looks like the giant app companies are on track to succeed at buying themselves an oligopoly, which sets an awful precedent.

Prop 23: No. I am very sympathetic to SEIU's effort to unionize dialysis clinic employees, but I think it's a really bad idea to do medical regulation via ballot measure. If we need to revise it later, we'd have to go back to the ballot.

Prop 24: No. This is about adopting some privacy standards for social media platforms. It's less evil than Prop 22, but it's another case where it looks to me like this will advantage big incumbents over new entrants. We should do this kind of thing via the legislature, not the ballot.

Prop 25: Yes. This is a little weird, because usually with a proposition, if you pass it, you have to do any future amendments also via the ballot. In this case, what's on the ballot is, basically, "Should we keep what the legislature passed?" The legislature passed SB 10, which abolished cash bail in favor of a risk assessment system. Now, as it happens, I was a beta reader for a few chapters of Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction. I am very familiar with how algorithmic risk assessment can conceal reinforcement of racist policies. However, after going back and forth on this for a while, reading endorsements and analyses on both sides, I went and asked the smartest criminal justice reform advocate I know, Lara Bazelon. She came down on the side of a Yes vote -- SB 10 is imperfect, but but (a) it's still better than where we are, (b) allowing the bail bondsmen to kill it will both encourage corporate attempts to buy laws and prevent us from getting another shot at killing cash bail for at least a decade, maybe two, and (c) once the bail bond industry in CA is shut down, and its lobbyists go away, it will be MUCH easier to negotiate the further needed reforms.

City of San Bruno Measure X: Yes. Raises our Transient Occupancy Tax (i.e. hotel tax) to parity with our neighbors.

City of San Bruno Measure S: Yes. Creates city authority for cannabis taxation.

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Measure RR: Yes! Save Caltrain! If we do not pass this, Caltrain is at risk of needing to be entirely mothballed, and if that happens, it will be a multi-year process to get it back. In normal times, Caltrain accomodates the equivalent of an extra two lanes of traffic from each side of 101. Coming out of the pandemic with no Caltrain would be an absolute nightmare for commuters, and would set us back at least five years on moving toward our goals with electrification and service improvements.
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Onineko Nisshoku, ~7/1/2018 - 10/10/2020


Nisshoku was born in a household with a cat hoarding problem. We have photos of him visiting our yard from as early as October of last year (see Plymouth's Rainstation Rescues album), and I had seen him and his siblings in the front yard of the house earlier than that. Eventually the hoarders were evicted, many of his kin were confiscated by the local PHS/SPCA, and he was left on the street. When we realized they were gone and there were several cats left with nobody taking care of them, we did our best to get everyone fixed, vaccinated, and re-settled. We caught seven cats, and our understanding is there were a few more, a Siamese with some kittens, who were caught by a different neighbor and just turned in to PHS.

The first month or so that we were feeding him he gained back some weight that he had lost with no steady source of food -- though that still left him at like 6.5 pounds. But after that he started to lose energy and spend more time sleeping. He still was happy to see us bring food, and would do these little jump-headbutts against your hand or knee, but he was clearly a bit slower than the other three cats who visit us regularly. Eventually he developed an eye infection, and we noticed him having a wet cough. When I took him to the vet, they concluded that he had some really bad health condition -- we're still not sure what the underlying issue was, most likely either lymphoma, or feline infectious peritonitis. (FIP is caused by an interaction of a genetic issue with a common cold type coronavirus. There's actually an experimental drug that was already undergoing testing for FIP, which has been pulled into trials for Covid-19, because the mechanism of action is similar, causing fluid to leak from blood vessels.)

We brought him indoors for a couple of weeks to treat the eye, hoping that keeping him away from the bad air quality would also help his lungs. Unfortunately it was difficult having him as an indoor cat, because if we didn't physically pick him up and put him in the litter about every two hours, he would pee in random places, which meant at night he had to be locked in the bathroom with absorbent pads. He did seem to get better for a bit. The eye infection cleared out. He was left with some cloudiness in his cornea, but he was able to focus with both eyes again. He was able to jump up on the counter to go after food, and he came and explored the bedroom and jumped up with me while I was working on the bed. When the air quality got better, we moved him back outside to an enclosure -- the little gazebo we used to use to have connected to a cat door, so Hoshi and Tsuki could sit outdoors at our house in San Mateo. He seemed to like being able to at least watch the birds and sniff the air. We were still concerned if we just let him out, when we needed to medicate him twice a day, he might start hiding from us at the medication times.

Unfortunately a few days ago he lost interest in food, and began rapidly declining. Two nights ago when we came out to try to bring him some food, and apply appetite stimulant to his ear, he came out of the enclosure and crawled right into my lap, whereas usually to give him medicine I'd had to grab him. (Although once the medicine was over, he was generally content to sit there, take a treat or two, and get pets and warmth.) He hung out there while his brother Gesshoku and their friend Taiyō wove circles around me begging for kibbles.

We kept him one more night inside the gazebo, because he was in no condition to protect himself from raccoons, and there seemed better than the bathroom. We let him out yesterday morning, and tried again to offer some food. He took a couple licks, but then toddled off through a hole in the fence. We were worried he might just go hide in a bush and expire, or get himself in trouble with a dog, but he came back in the afternoon and hung out in the yard for the rest of the day. Around 9:30pm when I went out to bring wet food, I found him collapsed just below the step outside the back door, unable to raise his head. I figured if he'd dragged himself there, maybe he was associating getting inside with being safer. We brought him in and tucked him into a basket with some towels, to keep him warm and as comfortable as we could. Eventually we put the basket in bed between us. He passed away some time after 1:30am -- Plymouth woke up to use the restroom in the small hours and realized he'd gone.

He was a sweet tiny thing, and made an excellent lapcat once he got over his feral spookiness. I wish he'd had more time. We've wondered if we should've just let him out earlier, but we did our best with the information we had. We'd been hoping that the treatment would buy him a few extra healthy months. At least he got to take one more lap around his territory, and then spent his final hours somewhere warm and safe.

Three Kitties

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Dem Donkey

Endorsements for March 3, 2020 Primary Election

President: Elizabeth Warren. In the end, after much hesitation, I voted for the person who I think would make the best president. Polling has her right on the cusp of cracking 15% state-wide, and with several other candidates far below that (including Buttigieg and Klobuchar), I'm hopeful that some people who had been thinking of voting for them will swing to her and push her over. If we have a brokered convention, there's a real possibility she could come out on top. I would put money on the proposition that if you held a national Dem Primary with Range ballots or with a ranked system evaluated by a Condorcet method, she would win.

Original text from before I was sure who I was going to vote for: I love Liz Warren and wish I could wave a magic wand and make her president. But it's not clear at this point she'll hit the level of support to win any delegates in CA, in which case a vote for her just disappears into a black hole. I also am concerned about polling that suggests she performs more poorly in swing states against Trump than some other candidates. Most likely if it looks like a race between Sanders and some moderate-lane candidate, I'll go for Sanders. (I definitely prefer Sanders over Biden. I'm persuaded that Sanders would've been the better choice in 2016, given the map and the post-mortem polling, and nominating Biden seems like a re-run of that choice, but possibly even worse. I'm more torn with respect to Buttigieg or Klobuchar. The question is whether you believe Sanders raises the Dem vote tally more by having some dedicated supporters who won't vote, or more importantly canvass, for anyone else; versus whether you think he inspires enough fear to bring out marginal Republicans who might stay home if the Dem is a moderate. And honestly, I have no clue, and I don't believe anyone else does either. In the absence of certainty about that, I figure vote for the person who I think will at least fight harder for policies I like, even if I think he's being dishonest about the chance of winning. *shrug* I think Buttigieg at least has some of Warren's acumen about how to use whatever tools come to hand to advance good policy, so I'm maybe open to swinging to him. He has other weaknesses, though, that I'm sure any engaged reader is aware of.)

San Mateo County Democratic Party Central Committee, Supervisor District 1: Akers, Evans, Lang, Burruto. I've known Burruto for ages. The other three are recommended to me by various activist friends, and have good endorsements (e.g. from Jackie Speier or Dave Pine).

US Rep: Speier. She's been a solid congresswoman.

State Senator: Masur or Becker. I actually haven't marked this down yet, and I'm offering a split endorsement. I'll add, also, that Lieber and Brownrigg are also both smart, hard-working, and have good values; either would be a good State Senator, I just believe Shelly or Josh would be better. Josh Becker understands Silicon Valley in a way that nobody representing us in Sacramento does, or ever has. He would be a strong voice for smart tech policy, including on the side of effective regulation of some of the excesses. He also has been a trustee of UC Merced since its founding, and would be a voice for the UC system, which has historically been one of the forces that built the California economy, including the tech sector. He's spoken about how a good rail link between Merced and the Bay Area could help our tech and biotech companies build new offices that could recruit STEM graduates from Merced, helping to reduce the demand-side pressure on housing in the Bay Area, and create a new economic cluster in an area that has been struggling over the last few decades. Masur, on the other hand, has more depth of knowledge on the primary school system, and, more importantly for me, she's the only candidate in the race with the backbone to be publicly right about the housing crisis. Shelly was one member of a group from the California League of Cities that hammered out revisions to SB50, including allowing cities to be fully exempt from its rules if they can show that they have a plan in place to produce equivalent numbers of units at the various levels of affordability, and are making progress on that plan -- I believe that represents the ideal. My first choice would be for our cities to produce adequate housing, on their own terms, with local control over the details. (Fun fact: the Courage Campaign Progressive Voter Guide made the same endorsement.)

State Assembly: Mullin. Incumbent, nobody else serious is running.

Member, Board of Supervisors, 1st District: Pine. He's the only candidate running, and he's a great guy. I just talked with him at a meeting of our local school board last week.

Prop 13: Yes. This is primarily about issuing a bond, with the pool of funds coming from it being made available to schools in the form of matching funds; poorer districts get to come up with a smaller portion of the funds. Pete Stahl makes a strong case for it. The arguments against this are mostly just the typical Jarvis anti-tax BS. There is one more interesting thread of argument, typified by the SM Daily Journal's anti-endorsement -- the detail that they single out is that Prop 13 temporarily (until 2026) limits impact fees that can be imposed on multi-family projects, especially those near transit. (It fully eliminates those fees for projects within half a mile of major transit stops -- rail, ferry, and buses that run above a certain frequency. It also knocks 20% off impact fees for all multi-family projects in other locations, as compared to other types of residence, such as new single-family home subdivisions.) The argument here is that it gives money to schools with one hand, while taking it away with the other. However the consensus of experts on the CA school system, including the excellent Tony Thurmond, whom we elected as the State Superintendent in 2018, is that the amount of the reduction is small relative to the bond. From my perspective, cutting the cost of building transit-oriented development (from 3- and 4-plexes up to apartments), relative to building more more SFHs, is a good thing. And nothing in the law prevents cities from negotiating public benefit payments (such as the $10M that was on offer with the recent controversial Mills Park Plaza project) and then handing off part of that to the local schools. The other complaint about it is that it pushes a preference for union labor. I consider this a feature, not a bug. The thing that Dave Pine came to speak about at the school board the other day was on an issue where San Bruno Park was adopting a similar measure. Mr. Pine was there to report on the fact that when he had served with the San Mateo Union High School district, they had adopted a similar rule, and while it was contentious at the time, they actually experienced lower long-run costs because labor quality matters -- they basically never had problems with sub-par construction requiring re-work.

Measure L (School Bond): Yes. The arguments on this are basically the standard-issue left/right arguments. If you agree that investing in school infrastructure is needed, you should probably vote yes. The Daily Journal notes that the San Mateo Union High School District hasn't issued a new bond for a full decade.
Auros Face from wedding

November 6, 2018 General Election

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Auros Face from wedding

June 5, 2018 Primary Election

Sources consulted include Party endorsements and newspaper endorsements:

Also the candidate statements in the voter guide, and candidate websites, and I used VotersEdge a bit to look at fundraising info.

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Onineko Hoshi, ~9/20/2002 - 6/3/2017


A role model for procrastinators everywhere, Hoshi was sloth incarnate. She wanted nothing more than to eat, sleep, occasionally get petted and groomed, and watch the day roll by from a comfortable pillow. It's possible she was just as clever as her mastermind sister, but simply couldn't be bothered to get into mischief -- all that effort was beneath her dignity.

Pretty Hoshi

She had been chronically ill with some mild bowel inflammation and diabetic symptoms, over the last two years, but that seemed to be under control with a daily oral steroid. She died very suddenly today -- keeled over on her side and lay there panting, was rushed to the nearest emergency vet, managed to get up for a bit and act normal briefly, but then relapsed and died. The vet thought it was most likely a stroke.

Hoshi lolls in the well of legs while Tsuki looks on

I will miss my sessile pudge-a-puss. She was a most excellent bedwarmer.

Sleepy Hoshi
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Auros Face from wedding

Nov 8, 2016 General Election Ballot

President: Hillary Clinton. For all the obvious reasons.

Senator: Kamala Harris. Running against another Dem, Loretta Sanchez. Kamala is more progressive, less predictable, and more charismatic. I can picture her ending up as the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi in the Senate, leading a Democratic majority a decade from now.

U.S. House of Representatives: Jackie Speier. Running against a Republican.

State Senate: Jerry Hill. Running against a Republican.

State Assembly: Kevin Mullin. Running against a Republican.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office Number 7: Sean Dabel. Running unopposed.

Board Members, Sequoia Healthcare District. Kane and Griffin. The other two candidates are running to abolish the healthcare district. They no longer run Sequoia Hospital, having passed that off to the Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West. But having read about what the board is working on, I don't believe it should be abolished.

Commissioners, San Mateo County Harbor District, 4-Year Terms: Kiraly, Brennan, Mooney. There are four candidates running, and you can vote for three. The incumbents are Kiraly, Brennan, and Mattusch, and although the SM Daily Journal ended up endorsing them, and honestly none of them seem objectionable, Mattusch seems to have the least to say about any kind of actual goals. Mooney is proposing a couple of significant ideas that seem worth pursuing: First, exploring adding a ferry stop at Werder Pier, which could reduce the traffic nightmare on Hillsdale entering Foster City; instead of heading up 101, FC residents could take a ferry. Some folks that currently commute west across the bridge could ride across and then take a bus to CalTrain or a SamTrans connection at Hillsdale station. It's already right on the path of planned service between SF and RWC, and depending on the seismic situation, you might be able to stick a two or three story parking structure in the vacant lot between Bridgeview Park and the businesses on Beach Park. And second, cutting much of the lower parking lot at Pillar Point Harbor to turn that area into more of a pedestrian oriented public square. I've been to that harbor plenty of times (there's a well-known Ingress Portal on the breakwater), and there's never been a shortage of parking in the upper lots, plus there's room to expand the upper lot back toward Cabrillo Hwy to make up for what's taken out of the lower area. Using more of the actual waterfront for tourism and commerce seems like a good idea. I suspect given the incumbency and the endorsements, Mooney won't win, anyways, but I hope the commissioners will consider what he had to say.

Commissioner, San Mateo County Harbor District, 2-Year Term: Larenas. He seems to have more expertise on water issues, and his opponent Rogers isn't saying anything that seems particularly compelling.

For reference, here are various sources we read over in the course of evaluating the propositions: LA Times, SJ Mercury News, SF Chronicle, SF Bay Guardian, and Pete Stahl's writeup (including following various source links).

Prop 51, School Construction Bonds: NO, although we were torn on this. Usually school bonds would be an easy yes. I'll just excerpt the Merc here:

This started in 1998, when voters approved the first of four statewide bond measures totaling $40 billion for K-12 through community college construction. Those bonds won’t be paid off until 2044. This year, they’ll cost the state $2.7 billion in principal and interest, 2 percent of the general fund.

The rules say that as long as the state has bond money available, local districts can’t require developers to pay more than half the cost of additional classrooms their new homes require. Now that the bond money has all been spent, developers want voters to replenish the kitty with Prop. 51 and keep the old rules in place until 2020. This would save them money but it would add $500 million annually to state debt payments.

Prop. 51 also would continue doling out school bond money primarily on a first-come, first-served basis rather than helping the neediest districts.

The legislature needs to stand up to developers, and send a new bond measure to the ballot ASAP that strips out the ability for housing developers to externalize costs of their projects -- it's not like new housing will become unprofitable under those circumstances, especially in wealthier neighborhoods -- and it needs to institute reforms to ensure that the bond program funds the districts that need the help, rather than having the grant program gamed by wealthier districts that can hire consultants to help them apply for the grants. Even if the legislature needs to call a special election next spring (maybe make it all mail-in ballots?) for a better program, then fine, we can spend a few million to get $9B in bonds spent more appropriately.

Pete Stahl, and both SF papers, came down saying YES, and I found it difficult to decide, but I'm going to hope that the Dems in the legislature, and Governor Brown, will get a new bond measure out fast.

Prop 52, Extend Medi-Cal Hospital Fee: YES. Pete calls the tax in Prop 52 an "accounting gimmick", which seems inappropriate. Prop 52 taxes more expensive / exclusive private hospitals, and routes the money right back into hospitals, but not necessarily the same ones that pay the tax. It's a redistributive scheme that moves money toward Californians who are poor enough to qualify for Medi-Cal. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to fund the program, but it's not ridiculous, and not a gimmick. (There's a gimmicky part where the structure of the tax helps draw in extra dollars of subsidy from the federal Medicaid program, but that doesn't look to me like it's the only function, and even if you call it a gimmick, it seems to be within the rules that Congress has set.) Pete also suggests that as a form of ballot-box budgeting, the Prop 52 rule would constrain where the state could make cuts in the budget, in a crisis. But the options on the table are either to continue the private hospital tax (and continue spending the money on MediCal), or to let the tax expire, in which case that money will not be available for more flexible spending anyways. The papers are unanimous in endorsing the former option. I agree.

Prop 53, Public Vote on Revenue Bonds: NO. This is an effort by an anti-government crank to make it harder to fund infrastructure projects (particularly aimed at the high-speed rail project).

Prop 54, Legislative Transparency: YES. Requires bill texts to be available online for three days before final vote. (Also requires print-outs, which is unfortunate.) The rule can be suspended if the Governor declares a state of emergency and two thirds of the legislature agrees that an issue requires speedy resolution. Although this is another proposition funded by a guy with a bit of reputation as an anti-government crank, it also has the stamp of approval of Common Cause, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters.

Prop 55, Extend Tax on High Income: YES. Prop 30 (temporarily) created three new tax brackets at very high incomes. You can see the details here. The highest bracket added an additional 3% on income over $1M, bumping the rate from 10.3% to 13.3%. Opponents of the measure in 2012 predicted it would cause wealthy people to flee the state. In case you haven't noticed, that has not happened. Making the more-progressive tax structure permanent is entirely reasonable.

Prop 56, Tobacco Tax: YES. Currently CA's tobacco tax ($0.87 per pack) is lower than those in OR ($1.32), NV ($1.80), or AZ ($2.00). After this hike, it will be higher, at $2.87, but still in a comparable ballpark, and still much lower than states like NY ($4.35) that have serious problems with people bringing in cigs from a nearby lower-tax market. Plus we don't have anything like the situation where NYC is directly adjacent to New Jersey; all of our big metro areas are a LONG drive from neighboring jurisdictions, and we already have customs inspectors on our border because of the ag industry.

Prop 57, Parole and Juvenile Justice Reform: YES. Takes the decision on whether to prosecute juveniles in the juvie system or as adults out of the hands of prosecutors; and allows non-violent felons to start applying for parole on the basis of the time determined under their actual conviction, without observing the "enhancements" that were added on during the tuffoncrime! era. (If they don't get paroled, their full term would include the enhancements.)

Prop 58, Allow Bilingual Education: YES. Back in 1998, during the same era that brought us the anti-immigrant prop 187, CA voters decided to make it much harder to give students a full bilingual education experience, instead pushing them into English immersion (in parallel with taking English classes). These days, plenty of white parents like the idea of sending their kids to bilingual schools -- Mandarin and English, Spanish and English, etc -- where they can work in a mix of English and something else, all day, in every class. Plenty of research suggests this is good for everyone, especially immigrant students who need to keep learning math, civics, etc, while also picking up English. Prop 58 pushes more control and flexibility to local school districts to implement these types of programs where they see fit.

Prop 59, Non-Binding Resolution to Condemn Citizens United: ABSTAIN. This measure exhorts the legislature to do something about Citizens United and corporate personhood more generally. I don't feel like voting against it, because I basically agree with the intention behind it, but I also refuse to vote for it, because it's bullshit. It has no effect whatsoever, and shouldn't be on the ballot. The folks who put it on the ballot are wasting their time, and ours.

Prop 60, Condoms in Porn: NO. It looks like this measure would allow random citizens to use nuisance lawsuits alleging lack of condoms in porn videos to get access to the identity of performers. If some random couple -- monogamous, fluid bonded partners -- made some amateur porn, and then that was released (possibly without consent) onto a commercial "tube site", and some acquaintance found it, the acquaintance could use the threat of a $70k fine under the condom law to harass, intimidate, or blackmail the couple. It's just generally a big pile of awful.

Prop 61, Limit Prescription Drug Prices Paid by State: NO. This law would say that state agencies may not offer a higher price for a drug than is paid by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. It doesn't do anything to get CA collaborating with the VA on drug bargaining (and it's not obvious that's a sensible pool -- the VA serves a very different population than that served by CA's public health programs). The best you can say for it is that it somewhat resembles the famous strategy for winning the driving game "chicken" -- unbolt your steering wheel and very visibly toss it out the window. Since pharmacorps would know that CA agencies can't pay more than the VA price, they'd have to consider the CA market in bargaining with the VA, and if they want to sell into the CA market at all they'd just have to accept that price. The thing is, it's not clear to me that the size of the CA health program market is so huge that companies would be afraid to just walk away. Maybe if this were a national thing, with many or all states agreeing to join with the VA to form, effectively, a federal bargaining pool of the kind we OUGHT to have under Medicare Part D (but don't because the Bushies wanted to lavish goodies on their pharma lobbyist buddies). But this law would likely mean a bunch of drugs -- particularly those that are important to populations dis-similar from the VA (read: children, women) -- would simply vanish from CA public clinics and hospitals.

Prop 62, Repeal Death Penalty: YES. Do I really have to discuss this in depth? In a universe where it were possible to determine with true certainty who was responsible for a spectacularly heinous crime, I might be willing to consider a death penalty. We do not live in that universe.

Prop 66, Reduce Barriers to Capital Punishment: NO. Covered out of order because it obviously related to 62. This seems to be an effort of death penalty proponents to say, "Hey, if you object to the death penalty because it costs so much to prosecute capital cases, let's streamline that process." For those of us who object on the grounds that the death penalty is imposed in a discriminatory fashion and sweeps up innocent people, "let's have the state murder people more efficiently!" sounds like a terrible idea.

Prop 63, Gun and Ammunition Sales: YES. Makes limitations on gun rights stick -- for those not allowed to buy new guns due to a domestic violence issue, a felony conviction, a mental health issue, etc, they now would also need to turn licensed firearms over to a trustee (which could simply be a non-banned friend) until the limitation expires. We also get a measure to crack down on straw purchasers. Currently, a straw purchaser will claim that the gun must have been lost or stolen; Prop 63 says that you have a legal obligation to report a missing gun, five days after you reasonably should have noticed its absence. I'm a little leery of the vagueness of this language, but I have trouble imagining prosecutors using it against, say, somebody who keeps their gun in a safe for months at a time, only occasionally taking it out to go to a shooting range, who had their gun stolen and didn't notice for a month. The law is clearly aimed at the straw purchase problem. A prosecutor who went after somebody who was in a gray area on whether they reasonably should've noticed a missing firearm would get crucified by the NRA, and liberal civil rights folks would have no interest in defending them. (The proposition also includes a provision to allow the legislature to make tweaks consistent with the intent of the law using a 55% majority, so the legislature could choose to clarify this measure later.)

Prop 64, Marijuana Legalization: YES. Colorado and Washington both seem to be doing OK.

Prop 65 and Prop 67, Grocery Bags: NO on 65, YES on 67. This pair of propositions is confusing.

The legislature passed a ban on plastic grocery bags. The plastic bag industry concocted a scheme to try to kill the ban. Prop 67 puts the legislature's ban up as a referendum -- vote YES to affirm the ban, NO to repeal it. But here's the diabolical part: Prop 65 deals with paper bag surcharges charged in stores. It pulls revenue from those charges and routes the money to environmental programs. I probably like what the money would be spent on, but (a) it's a fairly trivial amount of money, (b) I'm OK with the stores simply passing their cost to buy the paper bags on to the consumer, and (c) most importantly, Prop 65 and 67 are explicitly written to be mutually exclusive. So if both pass, but 65 gets more votes, it will spike 67 and kill the plastic bag ban. And since stores would then be able to charge for plastic bags (and keep the money), but would not be able to keep money they charge for paper bags, they'd actually be incentivized to use more plastic bags.

San Mateo County Measure K, Extend Existing Half-Cent Sales Tax: YES. This tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2023. "What's the rush?" you might ask. The county wants to lock it in through 2043, so that they can issue 30 year bonds with clear backing from that revenue, which will help ensure that we get a better risk rating on the bonds and pay less interest for them. And if we really decide we don't need the money, five or eight years from now, we can always repeal the tax then. Or maybe we find something other than sales taxes, and shift the revenue structure. But for the near term, taking advantage of the rate environment, and getting some new 30-year bonds out ASAP to fund infrastructure repair and expansion, is a very good idea.

City of San Mateo Measure L, Fire Service Consolidation: YES. Removes a mandate in the City Charter that prevents the city from consolidating management of fire services with neighboring cities. San Mateo, Foster City, and Belmont would like to collaborate on fire service. This sounds like a totally reasonable thing to do. It just happens to be illegal, so we're fixing that. Nobody even bothered to file arguments against this measure.

City of San Mateo Measure Q, Rent Control: NO. I find the No on Q campaign kind of icky and borderline dishonest, and I think the folks who submitted Measure Q are well-intentioned, but fundamentally I don't believe "rent control" will make rents in San Mateo more affordable. It will just set up a hostile relationship where landlords will see long-term tenancy as a risk to their income, and will have a strong incentive to defer any maintenance or improvements until tenants paying market-lagging rates move out. The only solution to the Bay Area housing crisis is to build more housing. Introducing rent control will make building rental units a less attractive investment, aggravating existing problems and creating new ones. (And yes, I'm aware this is somewhat in tension with my take on Prop 51. I value multiple things, and sometimes those things are in conflict with each other. Asking developers to pay for the actual costs their development will impose on the city and county is reasonable; asking them to shoulder hard-to-quantify long-term risks to rental income from a rent-control process that will be run by a board that appears to be dubiously accountable seems much less-so.)
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Dem Donkey


President: Hillary. Turns out Martin isn't even on the ballot for CA, he dropped out before it was finalized; I briefly considered writing in Elizabeth Warren, ended up just going with Hillary.

Central Committee:
Fel Amistad
Alexis Lewis
Nancy Yarbrough
Clifford Robbins
Shikha B. Hamilton

One of the incumbents didn't bother to put anything in with VoterEdge, and can't be found by googling. The rest of the incumbents seem fine (have good endorsements, reasonable statements, etc). Fel Amistad seems like the best of the three new challengers (currently serving in a position appointed by the governor, strong resumé, etc).

Senate: Kamala

House: Jackie

State Senate: Jerry

Assembly: Kevin

Prop 50: Yes. This doesn't seem controversial.

AA: Yes. I like the Bay.
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