Thursday, October 30, 2008

the Kate Slate: November 4, 2008

The Kate Slate: November 4, 2008

Sorry to all the early voters who wanted this, um, early.

This is the longest ballot in my young voting career, and the most important historically election in my life. As you may know, for almost every election when I could vote, I have done a Kate Slate for the election, weighing in on each issue and candidate and the benefits and drawbacks.

I do this Slate for me, so that I can complete my ballot--which I do the easy way (absentee)--but I also do the Kate Slate for my pals who really do want to vote and be aware of the issues, but can't seem to find time for it with their rock-and-roll lifestyles. Hopefully you find this helpful, and I hope you pass it on to others who might find it handy.

Happy voting, my friends.

Let me know if you end up using my slate to help you with the ballot. It motivates me for the next election to hear from you.

love, love, love,

The most critical races you should know about, buried in the haystack (scroll down for the whole long ballot thing):

1A: YES:
High Speed Rail from SF to LA
4: NO:
Erodes women's choice by starting with women who can't vote
6: NO:
More criminalization of our youth
7: NO:
Actually bad for clean energy
8: NO:
Don't legislate discrimination in our state constitution
10: NO: No tax breaks for cars, period

Board of Supervisors, D1:
Eric Mar
Board of Supervisors, D3: David Chiu
Board of Supervisors, D11: John Avalos
K: NO so-called "decriminalization of prostitution": great idea, horrible way go about it. Read below! Reallly bad! Tell friends!
P: NO weakens oversight on transportation projects

(Now, the whole ballot...)

The People:

President: Mr. Obama + Mr. Biden

I am normally ambivalent about voting in the Presidential election since I have MAJOR criticisms of bipartisanship and the Electoral College process. But, I am excited about the larger sociological and historical implications of this race, and I am excited to be a part of it, even if I can see through the mythology of the man.

US Representative, D8: No vote, or Cindy Sheehan

Nancy Pelosi will win this seat. But, she is doing a crappy job both as Speaker of the House (how long have the Democrats, the country-wide been asking for a pull-out plan from Iraq?) and as a representative of us, her most important constituents. So, I will either opt to not vote, or vote for Cindy Sheehan, whose political platform is better aligned with San Franciscans. I just can't stand that Sheehan is using her son's death in Iraq as her main platform for running for the House. It should be a footnote not a platform. boo.

State Senator, D3: Mark Leno

Leno has been a pretty good San Francisco representative as a State Legislator, and I think he will be great representing us to congress.

State Assembly, D13:
Tom Ammiano

Tom represented the Mission and Bernal as a City Supervisor, and is termed out, and heading to state. He has been pretty damn good, so I am happy to vote for him for Assembly. Fun fact? He was the first city supervisor to ride on Bike to Work Day, my pet project at work.

Judge of the Superior Court:
Gerardo Sandoval

Another termed out progressive Supervisor. He is running against the incumbent who is a conservative Republican. Sandoval, I think, will be good.

Board of Education:
Fewer, Yee

You can vote for up to four, but I only found two that I felt sure about. I listened to interviews with all of them online (they were all an hour long! Took forever!), and these two were the only two that came across as qualified to be on the Board. Really sad, because Sanchez and Mar both left their seats on the School Board to run for other offices (Supervisor Seats D9 and D1, respectively) they may not win. Boo.

Sandra Lee Fewer is a super-active PTA mom, and has thoughtful ideas about improving San Francisco schools, and is endorsed by nearly everyone. Norman Yee is an incumbent who has been doing a good job. Other people aslo have been suggesting Lopez, but when I heard her interview, I wasn't convinced she would add value to the School Board. And, Kimberly Wicoff, who is another a favorite I have been seeing around, is neither a teacher nor parent, and I am not convinced that having an outsider perspective on the Board of Education is necessarily a good thing.

Community College Board:
Marks, Wolfe, Jackson

Another sad one wherein the number of seats to fill (four) is greater than the number of people qualified for the office (three). Marks is and incumbent who has helped overcome some of the recent scandals of the College Board. Wolfe and Jackson have fantastic credentials working in progressive politics, and have great ideas for making our Community Colleges more closely tied to the community and local highschools while implementing programs that would educate people in the most imporatant fields for our community and our region.

BART Director: Tom Radulovich

Tom works in my office, about 20 feet from me, and is the incumbent. We talk at length about BART (doesn't protest when I call it the BART-fart), and he listens and offers informative discussion on the issues I raise. He is fantastic. I totally adore him. Further, he is a human encyclopedia who has lots of academic information about transportation around the world, not just trains. Finally, I refer to him and me as "trainies" and he doesn't care. We want someone this smart making decisions about BART. Hey, Tom, that is a pretty good campaign slogan. Just kidding.

Supervisor Races:
Since I live in D9 wherein 3 great candidates are running, I opted not to make an endorsement. Mark Sanchez I know personally and was endorsed by the SFBC, and likely will be good, based on the work he has done on the School Board, but potentially Eric Quezada may have more practical experience otherwise (and others say Campos). But either way, it isn't the D9 race that is going to have an impact on the Board of Supervisors. It is 1, 3, and 11 that are really critical, because if progressives are not in those seats, it really doesn't matter who gets the D9 seat because they won't have the progressive votes to get the legislation that they want passed, and for each of those races, there is only one good progressive candidate in all of those districts: Eric Mar (D1), David Chiu (D3), and John Avalos (D11).

(The Issues: The BIGGER the yes or no, the stronger I feel.)

State of the State

1A - Safe, reliable high-speed passenger train bond act -YES

Woot! High speed rail from San Francisco to LA! YES, BABY! Need I say more?

2 - Standards for confining farm animals - Yes

Gives until 2015 for farmers to have more humane conditions for their animals--which is targets towards chickens. I think that when we treat our food well, it treats us well, and when we don't, it doesn't, be it animal, mineral or vegetable. So, I am all for elevating the standard for food animals to one that is at least at my own minimum standard when I shop for my breakfast eggs.

3 - Children's Hospital Bond Act - no

Put on the ballot by UCSF and private hospitals, this is a Bond Act -- which is credit the city pays back with interest -- and fund construction, not health care, for specific hospitals. I don't like how it directs public money to construction under the sneaky guise of Children's Hospitals for these few specific hospitals. Seems sneaky.

4 - Waiting period and parental notification before termination of minor's pregnancy - NO

This is an anti-human rights and anti-choice measure that targets a woman's right choice for our youngest women who are too young to vote for their own rights. Vote no.

5 - Nonviolent drug offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation - YES

This hopes to break the cycle of drug addicts going through the justice system over and over by providing real rehabilitation for drug offenses, over jail time. Should save money, and maybe even lives. Probably won't resolve the jusice system's issues around drug offenders, but should help. Rehabilitation is better than retribution.

6 - Police and law enforcement funding - NO

A creepy measure that would lower the age that youth could be tried as adults from 16 down to 14 for fairly petty crimes (such as stealing cars and selling meth--seriously, we aren't talking about captial crimes here). Criminalizes youth, and especially targets crimes more prevalent among inner city youth. Hell no.

7 - Renewable Energy Generation - NO

A measure put on the ballot by an oil tycoon from Texas who is recently interested in wind energy. Nice idea in theory0, but would erode our state's current progress towards renewable energy. Predictably, most clean energy folks are against this one.

8 - Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry - NO

First, let's not put anything stupid or discriminatory in our state constitution. Second, let's actually, really start having civil rights for all people. Vote NO.

9 - Criminal Justice System. Victim's Rights. Parole - NO

Makes it more difficult for prisoners to gain parole and lengthens the time before they can be up for parole the next time, after it is denied, and removes a cap on the number of family members a victim can have at a parole hearing. These changes under the law would be expensive and supports the retributive model of criminal justice doesn't work.

10 - Alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy - NO

Gives dumb tax breaks to people who buy so-called "green cars" (hybrids, et al). Did you know more emissions are released in the manufacture of a car--be it standard or hybrid or whatever--than its life on the road? So we actually shouldn't buy new cars at all.

And, the reason why our transportation infrastructure is so unlivable and car centric is because we are a car culture and accommodate the car above all other transporation options when it is the worst transportation option for the public (not healthy, not clean). Whether cars are green, or any other color, they should not be subsidized and supported by our government.

And our goverment should be investing in bike, ped, and rail infrastructure! UGH. Vote NO.

11 - Redistricting - YES

Changes the authority of who gets to do the gerrymandering (one of my favorite 8th grade history vocabulary words when I was a teacher) from elected officials (hello, political bias) to a commission made up of people who are selected based on meeting a set of criteria written to decrease political bias (they cannot be affiliated with a politico or lobbyist group).

12 - Veterans Bond Act of 2008 - No

Makes a federal issue - benefits for Veterans - a costly State bond. NO.

Let's Go Local:

A - San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center Earthquake Safety Bonds, 2008 - YES

The San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is THE ONLY Trauma Center in San Francisco! (Can you believe that? In a major city, only one trauma center?!) Since it is in need of earthquake retrofitting, we need to fix it. Say yes on this one, so they don't close it down, and don't worry, it will stay open during retrofitting, just in case you need it.

B - Establishing Affordable Housing Fund - no

I know people are going to kick my ass for saying this because this issue is about affordable housing, which I TOTALLY support, but this proposition actually is a budget set aside, requiring annually, 2.5% of the City budget from property taxes to go specifically to an affordable housing fund.

While I think it is a great idea to spend a portion of the city budget on affordable housing, I am almost always against goverment set asides. I think that it is problematic to require a static, guaranteed percentage of the budget for a specific purpose. We elect officials to manage the budget and adjust that budget for the changing needs of the city. If blocks of that money is frozen to be used for specific purposes, our elected officials cannot adjust the budget for the ebb and flow of our city's needs.

Now, with that said, our fine city has already allocated from property taxes 2.5% for Parks and Rec and 3% for the Children's Fund, and 2.5% for the Library Preservation Fund, so does Affordable Housing deserve 2.5%? I would say yes, but since we have already started allocating percentages here and there for specific projects, it doesn't take long until 100% has been frozen for specific needs when we realize we needed more flexibility than we gave our city. Sadly, I say no to prop B.

C - Prohibiting City Employees from Serving on Charter Boards and Commissions - NO

The City is one of the largest employers in SF, and (hopefully) those employees are some of our city's brightest and most engaged citizens. Why limit their participation on Boards and Commissions wherein we need their expertise? While I think this is supposed to respond to crony-ism, it is a wrongheaded way to respond to it.

D - Financing Pier 70 Waterfront District Development Plan upon Board of Supervisors' Approval - yes

I think this PLAN is worth supporting. Basically, Pier 70 houses a) the oldest shipyard on the west coast, and b) the ONLY ship repair yard on the west coast now. Crazy. But it is also mostly uninhabitable, historic buildings, and the Pier is not generating any money from property taxes to restore the buildings, so the other option is just to tear them down. If this is approved, the Port has to prove that this is true to the Board of Supervisors, and then the Supervisors can vote that the Port can borrow money from the City for restoration development in Pier 70 once the Board of Supervisors approves a redevelopment plan. Vote Yes, then lobby your Supervisor for your dream Pier 70.

E - Changing the Number of Signatures Required to Recall City Officials - YES

This just increases the number of signatures required for a recall to the percentages the state requires for recalls. Look. If your supervisor is doing a crappy job, and the will of the voters desperately needs to be overturned after the Supervisor was elected, you will get the needed signatures to recall said supervisor. Seriously, the George W. Sewer Plant made it on the ballot, didn't it?

F - Holding All Scheduled City Elections Only in Even-Numbered Years - no

There are a lot of reasons for and against this issue that are pretty reasonable. The idea is to shift the City elections to even-numbered years to coincide with the Presidential election. In the end, the City would save money, as would everyone else who throws monies into campaigns, individuals and lobbyist groups alike.

But, seeing this election from the roots of the grass-level, the attention on local issues and races is but a hushed whisper in the cacophony of the presidential race. More people may show up to the voting booth in a presidential election year, but more people aren't necessarily showing up to the voting booth well-educated on the local issues on election day.

And with a ballot this long? I don't think we are improving the quality of our democracy or our elections with this measure, even if we save some cash. I think keeping our wacky schedule, something every other major city (save DC) in the US does, is just fine. Find another way to increase voter turnout.

G - Allowing Retirement System Credit for Unpaid Parental Leave - no

Basically, this allows some city workers who took unpaid parental leave back in the day to literally buy the time they weren't working (at their expense, of course) to make up for their years of service to apply to their retirement, allowing them to retire earlier, as if they didn't take that unpaid parental leave back in the day. My initial instinct is to say yes, since they were taking parental leave and all and they are paying for it. But, buying retirement benefits that other people work for seems problematic, and allowing this exception for a small group of people seems like a slippery slope.

It doesn't resolve the issues of female and male parity in the workplace which some proponents say it does. And, no other types of leave--medical or not, save for military leave, is not treated the same way, so it isn't really fair. Finally, I don't want City employees to put benefits changes on the ballot every election when they can do this through legislation with the Board of Supervisors.

H -
Changing revenue bond authority to pay for public utility facilities - yes

This ballot initiative basically authorizes a study on the municipalization of power in San Francisco with goals aimed towards renewable energy, and authorizes the Board of Supervisors to issue revenue bonds to invest in utilities. I think the study is wise, and really should be done to find out how SF could use renewable energy.

While some people are worried about giving the authority to issue revenue bonds for utilities, I think our Board of Supervisors were elected to work for the will of the people. While that may seem idealistic, San Francisco is not a city asleep. Could you imagine the scandal if the did not? Did you see what happened to McGoldrick when his constituents disagreed with him on an issue far less divisive than energy? Hello, recall campaign! And if we don't authorize our Supervisors to make any decisions, why are we paying them to work for us?

I -
Creating the Office of an Independent Rate Payer Advocate - no

Oh man, this creates another job to fund at City Hall when there is already the
SF Public Utilities Commission's Rate Fairness Board that is overseen by the Board of Supervisors. What are the Board of Supervisors doing at City Hall if they need to create an office to do their due oversight? Ridiculous.

J - Creating a Historic Preservation Commission - no

This basically creates a Historic Preservation Commission to replace the
Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (which is an advisory board for the Planning Commission). This new Commission could go over the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors on concerns of historic preservation. That would be kind of a drag that they would go over the Planning Commission's head because our Planning Commission is supposed to evaluate planning concerns through a lens based on a host of issues (from ecological footprint to affordable housing and historical preservation), not just historical preservation alone.

K -
Changing the enforcement of laws related to prostitution and sex workers - NO

I am all for the decriminalization of sex work, alas, this measure, in decriminalizing sex work would ALSO end funding for intervention programs aimed at providing support for women who want to leave the sex industry and might be in that line of work against their will, including the
Early Intervention Prostitution Program. We cannot afford to lose these vital services for our most vulnerable girls and women.

L - Funding the Community Justice Center - No

Funding Community Justice Center was placed on the ballot by the Mayor after the Board of Supervisors failed to fund the Community Justice Center when Gavin tried to legislate it a few month ago. But, once the Mayor put it on the ballot, the Board of Supervisors funded the CJC after all in another draft of the legislation, so now it is all funded--no need to have it on the ballot! (By the way, the CJC is a way to provide services to people who commit "quality of life" type crimes who keep cycling through the justice system, rather than have them cycle through the community justice system). This was just Newsom getting all political on yo' ass. (People think Gavin will use it as a wedge issue against the Sups later to say, "see, you guys didn't approve it but the people want it." Dumb.

M -
Changing the residential rent ordinance to prohibit specific acts of harassment of tenants by landlords - Yes

This one you might want to vote "no" on, since some landlord speech is protected under the First Amendment, even if their speech isn't that nice. Generally, I am against illegal ballot initiatives. But, this gives tenants clear recourse options if they are being harassed, something I am happy about. Also, it means that Landlords cannot demand info like Social Security numbers or citizenship info, which I like. I am tired of handing out my SSN like candy every time I move.

N -
Changing real property transfer tax rates - YES

Increases the taxes on very expensive property purchases only at the point of sale on transactions of $5 million or more. Really only affects the wealthy and adds incentives for adding retrofitting and solar power to properties and increases city monies. Woot.

O -
Replacing the Emergency Response Fee with a tax and revising the Telephone Users Tax - Yes

So, when you pay your phone bill, and there is that line item for 911, which is called a fee. A FEE requires that the city show exactly what that fee finances. But, since the City uses that money for a bunch of stuff related to Emergency Response (not just 911 itself), it is more of a tax. A TAX must be approved by the voters--so this measure changes it from a fee to a tax at the same rate so the city can use the money without getting sued for calling it a fee.

P -
Changing the composition of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board - NO

Yikes, this one removes powers of the fairly effective County-level Transportation Authority and gives them to the failing Municipal Transportation Agency (you know them as Muni). This has dire implications for sustainable transportation and funding priorities for transportation, and transportation oversight. Let's keep the TA functioning as it does.

Q -
Modifying the Payroll Expense Tax - Yes

This Measure is a business clarification about how the Payroll Expense tax shall be applied so that it is more equitable to all SF businesses. Right now, it is not applied evenly to all businesses and it is an important fund source for the city. Small businesses, less than $250K, are exempt.

R -
Renaming the Oceanside Water Treatment Plant - NO

I can't stand the idea of jokingly naming the Oceanside Water Treatment Plant--which is a critical part of our city's infrastructure and a model facility, at that--after our worst president ever. Yuck.

S -
Changes the policy on budget set-asides - NO

This measure was put on the ballot by the Mayor, and is aimed at, but fails to, reform budget set-asides in a way that would really overcome their drawbacks. If it had teeth, or actually addressed the concerns of an inflexible budget due to ballot box budgeting in San Francisco for the past years and years, I might support it. But, since Gavin put it on the ballot, he might want it for leverage when he runs for Governor since he has endorsed a number of ballot-box budget set-asides in the past four years, and he will want to say, yes I did do some ballot box budgeting, but look! I reformed it! Boo.

T -
Provides free and low-cost substance abuse treatment programs - NO

Sounds good, but there is no longstanding funding for this program, which could mean other areas the Department of Public Heath handles--mental health, for example, would get squeezed--to support the funding of these treatment programs. I just think we need to be able to offer these services more flexibly to respond to changing needs.

U -
Policy against funding the deployment of armed forces in Iraq - no

This is a Policy Statement measure, which is basically a non-binding statement San Francisco wants to tell the world. Well, I think they are a waste of money and I don't like how they misusing the ballot box like a Press Release machine. "Hey world, San Francisco thinks the war is bad."

V -
Policy against terminating JROTC programs in public high schools - no

Again, this is a Policy Statement, so it is non-binding. This is an obviously political statement in support of JROTC programs in schools, in spite of an previous (and illegal--according to federal law) approved voter measure in 2005 banning the military from recruiting on public school campuses. No matter where you stand on the JROTC issue, it is simply a political statment and nothing else.


scott b said...

great and thoughtful post Kate, thanks for sharing!

little lima bean said...

Excellent! This was super helpful and i got it just in time. thank you for all the grunt work. I feel more confident in my decisions and my absentee ballot is complete.
Thanks a million!