Monday, May 7, 2018

Endorsements for the June 2018 election in San Francisco, California

Gavin Newsom at his other job. Courtesy SF Chronicle
We should talk more broadly about politics in this country. Instead, most of our "political" discussions have deteriorated into the kind of name-calling you see between fans of rival sports teams.

This is why I give endorsements for every election. I tell you who/what I'm going to vote for and why. I encourage all of you who have any online forum -- Twitter, Instagram, whatever -- to also tell us how you're voting on local issues, rather than parrot national outrage posts that may have been written in Moscow.

In making city endorsements, I triangulated between the centrist San Francisco Chronicle and the leftist San Francisco Bay Guardian (click on the publication names to read their endorsements directly.) I want to salute Tim Redmond, longtime Guardian editor, for continuing to put in the hard work of interviewing candidates and carefully investigating ballot measures even though the print publication has ceased to be.

For state races I also read the endorsements of the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee; both are generally centrist publications. And I read various candidates' Wikipedia pages (some linked below), news stories about ballot propositions, etc.

Your first stop outside this post should be Voter's Edge California, a nonpolitical site which will show you what is on your specific ballot and where to find your polling place. In the November election that site will have lots of useful information provided by the candidates themselves, but as of this writing it's still a little sparse. That's a shame because many of the races will be decided in June.

I didn't write these endorsements as click bait, but I might as well start with my most surprising pick.

Kevin DeLeon
US Senator: Kevin DeLeon

At age 84, Dianne Feinstein is the oldest member of the Senate. Her age isn't a competence issue, but her views haven't evolved as California's have, and she has become unrepresentative of what Democrats here want. Example: she was a strong opponent of legal cannabis her entire career until LAST MONTH when it occurred to her that it's an election issue. In 2016 she said that her time on the state parole board convinced her that cannabis was a gateway drug and she campaigned against its legalization.

That's just one example. I could list others, but just take a look at this chart. Feinstein supports Donald Trump's agenda much more than she should: she is second of every Democrat in the Senate in oversupporting Trump.

Do you want a California Democratic Senator to support Trump's agenda? I do not.

DeLeon is easily the best of the many candidates who probably won't get the votes to replace her. The Southern California native was president of the State Senate for four years, and he authored important bills on renewable energy. Look through his positions; he represents current California political views. Feinstein does not.

US House, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

I'm not a huge fan of Pelosi remaining in the house party leadership role. Not only is she a great political tool for Republicans running for office, she says impeachment is off the table. What? Before Mueller's even done? But she has no credible local opposition for her House seat. At least with her in office San Francisco's representative will be powerful.

(Endorsements continue after the jump)

Governor: Gavin Newsom

Rarely do I get a chance to place a vote for wine. Newsom co-owns a wine shop and a winery. Wine is not the only issue in California politics, but when you look at the Democratic field, there isn't much to distinguish the leaders on most issues: they're all moderate-to-liberal. Newsom was OK as San Francisco mayor. He actually addressed homelessness, which most mayors (including his successor Ed Lee) hoped would go away if they didn't do anything. And he deserves credit for his early support of same-sex marriage, ordering city clerks to issue marriage licenses in 2004, without the backing of the state Democratic Party. Newsom took a lot of heat at the time, but he was on the right side of history.

Gayle McLaughlin
Lieutenant governor: Gayle McLaughlin

California's lieutenant governor doesn't have much to do: it's largely a ceremonial position. Two well-funded political outsiders, Jeff Bleich and Eleni Kounalakis, are trying to use it to get their first elected position. They have won over most of the state editorial boards, which is a statement about state senator Ed Hernandez, who leads in the polls. I'm voting for McLaughlin, who served two successful terms as Richmond's mayor and supports universal health care and free college tuition. She can't do anything about these issues from the lieutenant governor position, but her motivation seems more pure than that of Bleich and Kounalakis.

Secretary of state: Alex Padilla

This oddly named office is in charge of elections. Padilla has worked to increase turnout, but more importantly he is an MIT mechanical engineering graduate who understands the security threats of election hacking.

Controller: Betty Yee

The state's main accountant, an incumbent, has no credible opposition.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

Ma is a veteran political insider just jumping from one paid public sinecure to the next, but this is a good job for her. She's a CPA with master's degrees in taxation and business administration. On the state board of equalization she turned into a fiscal watchdog, which was an upset. She has no credible opposition.

Xavier Becerra
Attorney general: Xavier Becerra

Since being appointed to replace Kamala Harris, Becerra has fought the Trump administration's most reactionary moves with multiple lawsuits. We want more of that. His main opponent, Dave Jones, has been a good state insurance commissioner for eight years and would also probably be fine in this job, but I see no reason to remove the thorn named Becerra.

Insurance commissioner: Steve Poizner

Poizner had this job from 2007 to 2011 and was very good at it. Politically he's out of step with modern California -- he ran a disgusting anti-immigrant campaign for governor in 2010 -- but politics aren't that important in this job, which mainly requires fighting insurance fraud and standing up to insurance companies. This is the one major race for which the Guardian says nothing at all, which is telling: even though it hates his politics, it can't support his opponent, a political novice.

Superintendent of public instruction: Marshall Tuck

This has become an issues race between Tuck, a charter schools expert, and Tony Thurmond, a teachers' union supporter. If you think teachers' unions want what's best for California students, vote for Thurmond.
Malia Cohen

California board of equalization, district 2: Malia Cohen

This board should be abolished. It's just a high-paid job for termed-out politicians. Malia Cohen was meh as a San Francisco supervisor, but somebody will win. The reason I'm taking her over Catherine Gagliani is regional, as Gagliani is a state senator from San Joaquin County.

State assembly, district 17: David Chiu

Chiu is the incumbent. He hasn't accomplished much in the assembly, but his nominal opponent couldn't even be bothered to give information to Smart Voter.

San Francisco County Superior Court judges: Andrew Y.S. Cheng, Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee, Jeffrey S. Ross, Curtis Karnow

Judges should not have to run for re-election. The judicial system should be above and beyond electoral politics. Most lawyers understand this, so it's rare to see contested elections except in cases of egregious misconduct. That's the not the case here. Four members of the Public Defender's office are running against incumbents. They are not arguing that the incumbents are bad judges; just that they believe more former public defenders should be judges. I will never vote against an incumbent judge based on that reasoning, which is a very slippery slope toward courtroom verdicts being decided by electoral politics.

San Francisco Supervisor, District 8: Rafael Mandelman

Mandelman is an archetypal progressive who might shift the balance of power on the Board of Supes to the left. This might be an important check on the likely new mayor (see below), but that's not why I'm voting for him. Jeff Sheehy, appointed to fill the seat after Scott Wiener went to the state senate, simply isn't very good. It's noteworthy that both the Chronicle and Guardian think Sheehy doesn't really want the job.
Mark Leno

San Francisco Mayor: Mark Leno

It's a dream throwdown in an era of identity politics: an African-American woman scorned vs. an Asian-American woman smeared vs. a gay man ignored.

London Breed is going to win this office because she has a great narrative. She grew up in public housing in the city. She became president of the board of supervisors and, when mayor Ed Lee died suddenly, briefly became our first black woman mayor. Liberals on the board didn't want her to have the advantage of incumbency in running for the permanent mayoral job, so they ousted her. She's the candidate most supported by developers and big business, and that candidate always wins, plus she's going to get sympathy votes from some people on the left because of the mayoral ouster. She isn't actually liberal for San Francisco and she hasn't actually done much in office, but it won't matter.

It's a shame because Leno is one of the best politicians to come out of San Francisco in the last two decades. Take a look at the list of measures he has authored in the state legislature, including universal health care, an airline passenger bill of rights, and a smartphone kill switch bill. In a different year, against different opposition, Leno would win easily and be a great mayor. He's by far the best candidate: a thoughtful progressive with a track record of working with both allies and opponents to get things done.

Ranked choice voting allows you to pick two candidates, and my second choice will be Jane Kim. Also a former president of the Board of Supes, Kim has usually been the most progressive of the three main candidates, though she has the Twitter tax break as a major black mark. The Chronicle, which reliably endorsed the real estate developers' candidate (Breed) as it always does, is worried enough about Kim to prepare a hit piece on her that has not run as I'm assembling this. It's worth reading Kim's post (here) about the Chronicle interview.

San Francisco proposition A: Yes

This measure allows the city to float bonds to finance clean energy projects. Sure.

San Francisco proposition B: Yes

Appointed city commission and board members would have to step down to run for electoral office. It's a good idea that will prevent nakedly ambitious people from seeking commission seats as stepping stones, and get us better governance.

Jane Kim
San Francisco proposition C: No

I'm with the Chronicle on this. This bill, supported by Jane Kim, would increase the tax on commercial rent in the city to fund universal child care. The problem is that if the tax base drops -- and remember, we are in a boom time in a cyclical industry -- the requirements of the universal child care entitlement would still exist.

San Francisco proposition D: No

Props C & D are, like the infamous state Proposition 13, the main reason why we shouldn't enact taxation policy at the ballot box. D is a slightly lower-tax version of C that would send the additional tax revenue toward housing and homeless services. If both bills pass, the one that gets more votes wins. These propositions are a shadow version of the mayoral race: Kim authored C, so London Breed is supporting D. It's hard to think of a worse reason to decide tax policy than an identity-politics mayoral election. Vote no on both.

San Francisco proposition E: Yes

San Francisco banned flavored tobacco and the tobacco industry responded by getting this referendum on the ballot. Flavored tobacco is designed to get kids hooked on nicotine. The tobacco industry is calling this "Prohibition." Bullshit. I write about wine; I know about Prohibition. Nobody is banning cigarettes, and if you want to go buy minty-tasting cancer sticks in a neighboring city, go for it. Stand up to the tobacco industry. Vote yes.

San Francisco proposition F: Yes

This would provide a city-paid attorney for every tenant facing eviction. Landlords have been using unfair and sometimes illegal methods to evict tenants for more than 20 years and that has changed the character of the city. The Guardian claims that 70 percent of the people living on the streets of San Francisco used to have a home here. This bill is too late for them, but not for other renters who pay their bills on time until a landlord decides they have to go for greater profits. That happens far too often. Simple access to a lawyer for tenants will ensure landlords comply with the law.

San Francisco proposition G: Yes

This annual parcel tax of $298 would be used to raise teachers' salaries. Because of proposition 13, the property tax rate can't be raised, so this is the necessary alternative.
The guy who took this got tased

San Francisco proposition H: No

The police union put this on the ballot over the objections of the police chief and the police commissioners. It would force the latter to provide tasers to cops. Raise your hand if you believe cops aren't going to use them at one of this city's 300 annual protest marches. Now, keep your hands raised if you believe none of the tased people will sue the city and win, costing us millions. Do I see any hands? Hey, somebody tase that guy!

San Francisco proposition I: No

This silly bill would discourage the city from trying to attract sports teams. It's an apology to Oakland for stealing the Warriors. I am sorry that the Warriors aren't staying in Oakland, but this bill is too late to do anything about it, and moreover, what if some day the 49ers want to come back?

California proposition 68: Yes

This allows the state to sell bonds for projects including parks, flood protection and waterway improvements.

California proposition 69: Yes

Last year the legislature passed a 12 cents per gallon gas tax with the money earmarked for transportation projects. The anti-tax crowd is complaining about it and says the money will disappear into other projects. This measure simply says money earmarked for transportation will be spent on transportation. It shouldn't be necessary, but I'm not going to vote against it, and neither should you. Consider the alternative.

California proposition 70: No

The state has a cap-and-trade program to raise money from major polluters that can be used for environmental projects. This nefarious proposition is an attempt to undermine it by requiring a 2/3 vote of the legislature to spend that money, which will allow a minority to keep that money from ever being spent. Every legitimate environmental group is against it.

California proposition 71: Yes

A procedural bill that requires the state's final vote to be certified before a ballot proposition can take effect. This could save the state a lot of legal fees in a close election.

California proposition 72: Yes

An odd facet of current property tax law penalizes property owners for installing rainwater recovery systems, which our drought-prone state could use more of. Solar panel owners don't have to pay more taxes because of higher assessments; neither should rainwater recovery system owners.

Bonus proposition: Napa County Measure C

The most interesting item on the ballot anywhere in California, this bill would limit vineyard growth in Napa County and was once supported by the main wine organizations but is now opposed by them. I'm not going to take a position because I don't live in Napa County, and I'm not going to tell people there what to do. But I will tell you this: like the Agricultural Preserve bill and the Winery Definition Ordinance, this measure will help define the future of Napa County. If you live in Napa County, read up on it and vote.

I have turned off comments on this post. I encourage you to write your own endorsement post(s).
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