Auros (auros) wrote,

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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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