This is my longest-ever voter guide. Not only do I justify my positions on propositions using my voting framework, I explain those choices in depth. Every ballot prop position is justified by some of my 10 voting principles, eg if you see (1, !2) that means the prop satisfies voting principle 1 and undermines principle 2. Here’s the tl;dr, scroll down for detailed explanations.
YES: 1 — Authorizes bonds to fund specified housing assistance programs (1, 2)
YES: 2 — Authorizes bonds to fund existing housing program for individuals with mental illness (2, 9)
YES: 3 — Authorizes bonds to fund projects for water supply and quality, watershed, fish, wildlife, water conveyance, and groundwater sustainability and storage (10)
YES: 4 — Authorizes bonds funding construction at hospitals providing children’s health care (2)
NO: 5 — Changes requirements for certain property owners to transfer their property tax base to replacement property (!1, 7)
NO: 6 — Eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding, requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees be approved by the electorate (AKA Gas Tax repeal) (!1, !4, 7, !10)
YES: 7 — Conforms california daylight saving time to federal law. Allows legislators to change daylight saving time period (!7)
NO: 8 — Regulates amounts outpatient kidney dialysis clinics charge for dialysis treatment (5, 6)
NO: 10 — Expands local governments’ authority to enact rent control on residential property (5, 6, 7)
YES: 11 — Requires private-sector emergency ambulance employees to remain on-call during work breaks, eliminates certain employer liability
YES: 12 — Establishes new standards for confinement of specified farm animals, bans sales of noncomplying products
U.S. Senator: Kevin De Leon
Governor: Gavin Newsom
Lt. Governor: Ed Hernandez
Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Controller: Betty Yee
Treasurer: Fiona Ma (But Greg Conlon makes a good point about unfunded pension liability)
Attorney General: Xavier Becerra (the opponent is pro-death penalty)
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Marshall Tuck or Tony Thurmond
YES: A — Seawall earthquake safety bond (10)
NO: B— Privacy Ordinance (7)
YES: C — Our City Our Home (1,2, !8)
NO: D — New cannabis business taxes (5, !1)
NO: E — Redirect some of the hotel tax to arts and cultural purposes, without increasing the tax (7, 8)
Board of Supervisors District 2: Nick Josefowitz
Board of Supervisors District 4: Trevor McNeil #1, Jessica Ho #2
Board of Supervisors District 6: Sonja Trauss #1, Christine Johnson #2
Board of Supervisors District 8: Rafael Mandelman
Board of Supervisors District 10: Theo Ellington #1, Shamann Walton #2
Board of Equalization1, District 2: Malia Cohen
BART Board: Janice Li
U.S. House of Representatives, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives, District 14: Jackie Speier, but Cristina Osmena looks ok if you swing more toward moderate Republican.
California State Assembly, District 17: David Chiu (unopposed)
California State Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting
Community College Board (choose up to 3):
Board of Education (choose up to 3):
Assessor-Recorder: Carmen Chu (Though Paul Bellar is also great)
Public Defender: No endorsement (Jeff Adachi is running unopposed)
Vote yes on all judges. To my knowledge, there are no scandals or good reasons to remove any of them from office
I have a general voting framework for ballot props which works most of the time time. I’ve developed this framework over several elections and it is now fairly stable:
Don’t just vote NO on every ballot initiative. California’s broken tax system requires that way too many things go to the ballot because the legislature doesn’t have the constitutional authority to pass certain taxes and other laws. Voting NO for everything based on a principle of “we shouldn’t have to vote on so much” ensures the state is poorly run. My long term strategy with much of my political activism is to undo these rules and to bring California back to full representative democracy where ballot initiatives are rare..
YES. This will allow the state to sell $4B worth of bonds to investors and use the proceeds to fund, in order of amount: 1) construction or renovation of multifamily subsidized Affordable housing construction ($1.8B, or 45%), 2) home loan assistance for veterans ($1B, or 25%), 3) infrastructure like parks, sewage, transportation (11%), 4) first-time homebuyer downpayment assistance programs (11%), and 5) grants to build housing for temporary farmworkers (7.5%).
Bonds aren’t my favorite way to fund programs like this, but they’re not terrible. In particular, I don’t think we should be using bonds to subsidize mortgages. But bonds to fund construction of apartments for low income people makes plenty of sense. Overall, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
This satisfies principles 1 (even though this isn’t a tax, the bonds are repaid over time from the general fund, which is funded by taxes), and 2.
YES. This allows previously-set aside funds to be used to repay a $2B bond which will be used to finance the No Place Like Home program, which will build and rehab housing for people suffering from mental illnesses and are currently homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless.
I’m against budget set-asides because they don’t respond to changing conditions. The Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004, levied a new tax on top earners to fund mental healthcare. But 2004 was a very different time. The main issue in 2004 was just getting money to help people without private insurance access mental healthcare. That’s still important, and Prop 2 ensures that only $140M out of the $2B per year can be spent on housing assistance.
California has seen an epidemic of people ending up homeless and suffering from mental illness so debilitating that they are unable to care for themselves. Prop 2 will give California more resources to help those most seriously impacted by both the housing shortage and mental illness.
This satisfies principles 2 and 9.
YES. This is a big bond ($8.877B), but California has big problems. This money will be spent to improve the sources, conveyance, storage, and quality of our water. California must have grand plans for water — we regularly suffer long droughts which will only get worse, while having a ton of great farmland that demands a bunch of water. Bonds are an excellent way to fund large infrastructure programs because it allows us to pay off huge capital investments with inflated dollars (35-year payback period).
This satisfies principle 10.
YES. Another bond ($1.5B) to fund construction and improvements at the 8 private/non-profit and 5 UC children’s hospitals. Since this is for capital improvements, a bond is a good funding mechanism.
This satisfies principle 2.
NO. This is an extension of Prop 13 which will allow property owners to take their artificially low property tax rate with them to a new property of any size anywhere in the state, as long as it costs less than or equal to the value or their current home. Under current law, this is only possible if they move to a new, smaller, home in their current county — designed to incentivize downsizing without leaving a community.
Schools and local governments throughout the state would lose $100M per year in the first few years, growing to $1B per year (in 2018 dollars) over the next several decades.
Prop 13 established a landed gentry in California (and gave us the terrible rules about how new taxes must go to a ballot prop), and Prop 5 will further entrench this class and increase the subsidies given to the wealthiest Californians by taxpayers.
This satisfies principle 7 and undermines principle 1.
NO. This repeals the “gas tax” which was only enacted in 2017. The 12-cent tax raises $52B over the next decade to fund infrastructure improvements on bridges and roads, as well as public transit. Repealing this tax is willfully blind to the cost of maintaining infrastructure for cars.
This undermines principles 1, 4, and 10, and satisfies principle 7.
YES. This one’s kind of weird. It’s on the ballot because of California’s broken electoral system. In 1949 there was a ballot prop which established daylight saving time in California. Because California forbids the legislature from modifying a previously-passed ballot prop, this change also has to go to a state-wide ballot prop. Voting yes on 7 will repeal the 1949 ballot prop, establish Pacific standard time as the standard time, define that daylight saving time starts and ends on the same days it currently does, and finally give authority back to the state legislature to modify daylight saving time as it sees fit with a two-thirds vote.
Passing Prop 7 will not actually end daylight saving time, it just gives the state the authority to do so.
This satisfies principle 7.
NO. This is government overreach that is well-intentioned (save money for dialysis patients) but will result in bad outcomes (dialysis clinics will close because they are unable to cover their costs).
It sets a limit on revenue of cost+15% and forces clinics to repay insurance companies when they make more than that. This will effectively wipe out the operating profit and result in some clinics being unable to pay their staff or their bills. You could uncharitably call this a hand-out to insurance companies, who definitely do not need any help making more money.
It’s not progressive to pass a law that results in a vital industry being destroyed. Instead, the state should give subsidies to dialysis patients who cannot afford treatment.
This satisfies principle 5 and 6. 5 is obvious, but I should explain 6: I think the right to make a profit is fundamental to our economic system, and by eliminating profit the state will be violating the rights of the people.
Would have gotten us more senators while breaking the economy.
NO. Prop 10 will repeal Costa-Hawkins and remove state oversight on rent control programs.
Costa-Hawkins, passed in 1995, prohibited cities from enacting new rent control laws on single family homes, condos, and new apartments. It also prohibited vacancy control. Effectively, this means that all apartments built after 1995 couldn’t be subjected to rent control, and a landlord could raise the rent of a unit when a tenant moved out.
Prop 10 will repeal these limitations on rent control, allowing every one of the 482 municipalities in California to pass their own local rent control laws. It will also allows cities to enact vacancy control, which will prevent units from resetting to the market price upon a tenant moving out. Vacancy control has never led to good outcomes in any city on Earth. Preventing a unit’s rent from rising to market price removes the incentive to ever renovate or improve the unit. And without a framework for rent control from the state, every city will do it differently, increasing the burdens on housing developers, not to mention creating 482 new battles for YIMBYs to fight to ensure the rent control laws don’t get abused to prevent new housing.
The worst thing about Prop 10 isn’t that it legalizes new rent control, it’s that it removes state oversight on local rent control laws. They didn’t have to write the prop this way, but they chose to add this text:
SEC. 7. Amendment and Repeal.
Pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 10 of Article II of the California Constitution, the Legislature may amend this act to further its purposes by a statute passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the Journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring, signed by the Governor. No statute restricting or eliminating the powers that have been restored by this act to a city, county, or city and county to establish residential rental rates shall become effective unless approved by a majority of the electorate.
In plain English: the state legislature may only make amendments which further the purpose of the proposition, not limit it. Any limitations on the powers granted to each of the 482 municipalities must go to a state-wide ballot prop.
Here’s a concrete example of why this is bad: Say Marin decided to pass a law that said all new construction was immediately rent controlled and could only rise at 50% CPI. This would completely stop all construction because the developers would lose money on any new building. The state would be forbidden from punishing Marin. In order to limit this abuse, a state-wide ballot prop would have to be run, which requires hundreds of thousands of signatures and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, just to limit the abuse of one small town. Now imagine this fight happening 481 more times. What a complete waste of time and money due to a bad law we can avoid by voting No.
I’m not necessarily against rent control. In fact, I think it has its place in a vibrant city. But Prop 10 goes further than simply allowing rent control, it undermines good governance and sets the state up for failure.
This satisfies principles 5, 6, and 7.
See my friend Max’s detailed analysis of Prop 10 for a deeper understanding of the negative consequences of this badly designed prop: https://medium.com/@MaxGhenis/no-on-california-proposition-10-60bb5131925e
YES. I was leaning NO on this until I started reading more. The title of the ballot prop makes it sound vindictive and like the state is sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. But it turns out that a recent court decision made the current operating procedure of emergency ambulance operators infeasible.
EMTs in ambulances are guaranteed the same breaks under California labor laws as everyone else. Prior to the court ruling, this included remaining on call during state-mandated meal breaks and shorter breaks. Occasionally, a break would be interrupted by an emergency and the break would be cut short. But because most of the day EMTs are just waiting for a call, the break would make up at some other point in the day. After the court ruling, an EMT could be forced by state law to take a 30 minute meal break where they would be unable to respond to an emergency, but all of the downtime they currently experience is still there. This new ruling makes EMTs less responsive to emergencies while raising the cost of providing emergency services (because more EMTs must be available in a given time period).
This doesn’t satisfy any of my voting principles, and I can’t think of a general purpose principle to add to the framework. So this is more my personal opinion than a principled stance. I think a YES vote is logical and reasonable, though.
YES. This is a weak yes, because I don’t think I understand enough about the industry or existing regulations to have an informed opinion.
Generally, I want to improve animal welfare and reduce meat consumption. I am a meat eater, but I recognize that meat production results in immense suffering and carbon emissions. One way to balance that is to promote policies which improve the living conditions of animals on farms and which raise the price of meat. Prop 12 will do both.
Like Prop 11, this does not satisfy any of my voting principles. I think this prop is niche enough to not warrant developing a standard principle to include in my framework.
Kevin De Leon
I am so tired of Dianne Feinstein. I still hold a grudge against her for being key to downzoning San Francisco and installing both height and density limits. Her bad decisions decades ago set San Francisco on a path to where it is now. She doesn’t understand the average Californian, she’s completely out of touch, and she isn’t bringing meaningful change to the state.
Kevin De Leon probably won’t win, but the party needs new blood.
I’m no big fan of Gavin Newsom, but his opponent, John Cox, is a climate change denier. I think Gavin is uninspiring, but I support most of his policy positions.
The lieutenant governor doesn’t actually have any power, so it’s kind of symbolic, but they still influence policy behind the curtain. Ed Hernandez is strongly pro-housing and, from what I hear from people who’ve worked with him, a pleasure to work with. He can build strong coalitions to accomplish big important goals.
Alex has been doing a good job. The primary responsibilities for secretary of state include running elections and registering voters. Under Padilla, California has added millions of voters to the rolls.
His opponent, Mark Meuser, believes Trump’s lies about voter fraud. He would start purging the voter rolls and disenfranchise millions of people. He’s an existential threat to California.
Betty Yee did a fine job in her first term, there’s no reason to not give her a second.
Her opponent, Konstantinos Roditis, wants to gut the tax base which will lead to the state ending up where it was before Jerry Brown took office: broke.
Fiona will prioritize investments in affordable housing and infrastructure — among California’s two biggest problems. She has the experience and political chops to do this job well.
Of note, her opponent, Greg Conlon, correctly identifies unfunded pensions as a nightmare obligation for the state. This is going to be a huge problem for California in about twenty years, and now would be the right time to start fixing it.
Xavier is doing a good job. But honestly, it wouldn’t matter to me if he wasn’t because his opponent is pro-death-penalty.
My friend Max sums up Ricardo Lara well:
Ricardo Lara is not the perfect candidate, but he suits California’s political moment and comes to the job with experience to make an effective Insurance Commissioner.
Marshall Tuck or Tony Thurmond
Honestly, both Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck would do a good job. If you want more vocational training and like the teachers union, vote Thurmond; if you like charter schools and the endorsement of most Democratic officials, vote Tuck.
The seawall protects the waterfront along the east side of the city. If it ruptures in an earthquake it will cause incredible destruction and likely flooding of the BART Transbay Tube. It needs repair, and a bond is the correct funding mechanism for large scale capital improvement projects.
This satisfies principle 10.
Prop B adds language to the SF City Charter that requires the city administrator propose a privacy-first policy in a set timeframe. But it also grants the Board of Supervisors the authority to amend the Sunshine Ordinance without voter approval “provided that any such amendment is not inconsistent with the purpose or intent” of it.
The Sunshine Ordinance gives any person the authority to request any document from the SF Government. It is used by journalists and activists to keep our officials accountable. It has no barrier to use, though it does suffer from some oversight neglect. It’s like the Freedom of Information Act, but only for the local government and it’s easier to use. (You can even submit requests anonymously!)
It was proposed by Aaron Peskin, who is very much not a fan of the Sunshine Ordinance, and who I generally distrust, and is unanimously supported by the Board of Supervisors. It’s opposed by the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter and the SF Republican Party.
It truly pains me to advise a NO vote on this prop. I really like all of the provisions except for allowing the BOS to undermine the Sunshine Ordinance. As someone who’s submitted dozens of Sunshine Ordinance requests to access public records, I am extremely worried about granting the BOS the authority to shield itself from the transparency the Sunshine Ordinance demands. If Prop B did not contain this clause I would have supported it whole-heartedly.
Or, in the words of a friend, “complicated ballot prop + unclear implications + no obvious benefit == no”.
This satisfies principle 7.
Prop C is a progressive tax that funds desperately needed services to get homeless people into permanent housing. It makes sense to tax top earning businesses (and people) to fund services for those with the least. It is well designed and funds the right things.
Prop C will institute a new tax on businesses that operate in San Francisco which make more than $50million per year. This constitutes roughly 300 to 400 businesses that employ from 15 to 20% of the city’s job base, and which currently pay 40% of the city’s business taxes. The new tax ranges from 0.175% to 0.690% depending on the level of revenue.
The money would go to fund homelessness services in these amounts:
The tax would raise about $300 to $400 million per year, effectively doubling the current budget for homelessness services.
The city’s economic impact report found minimal impact on the number of jobs or businesses locating in San Francisco (up to 1000 fewer jobs per year for the next twenty years, in the very worst case). But their model doesn’t reflect the added desirability of a city without an inhumane homelessness crisis.
This satisfies principle 1 and 2, but I’m violating principle 8.
I’m a firm believer that drugs should be legal, regulated, and taxed. But this tax is way too high. The current taxes are from 0.075% to 0.65% on gross receipts on businesses making more than $1 million in revenue. Prop D would cut the exemption in half to $500k, create new taxes at 2.5% on revenues between $500k and $1 million, and raise the tax by TEN TIMES to 5% for revenue over $1 million.
This is not a careful and cautious increase. This is a dramatic and poorly thought-out increase which risks killing a brand new industry, pushing cannabis consumers back into the unregulated and unsafe black market. We should try this again in five to ten years when the industry is more established, and with better informed tax rates.
This satisfies principle 5, but I am violating principle 1.
Prop E would create a new budget set-aside from the general fund without creating a new tax.
I love the arts, and I think we should use public money to fund it. Prop E sounds reasonable until you realize that the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors already have the power to allocate general fund dollars to arts programs. They could, at any point in the normal budgeting process, allocate money from the general fund to fund any kind of arts program.
Budget set asides are bad because it results in an inflexible government that’s unable to respond to a bad financial climate.
Prop E’s set-aside would prevent those funds from being used for anything else, in perpetuity. To change the budget allocation we would have to have another city-wide ballot prop. This economic boom isn’t going to last forever, and when the next recession comes we need to let elected officials direct money from the general fund to the most important programs.
This satisfies principles 7 and 8.
Nick is formerly from the BART Board, where he was a key proponent for building housing on BART-owned land. We need high rises at every BART station, and we can use the revenue from rents to fund improvements for the system. He is the only YIMBY in the D2 race and he will be both a reliable pro-housing vote and an instigator for positive change.
Trevor McNeil #1, Jessica Ho #2
Trevor McNeil is the only YIMBY in the D4 race, though judging from some of his statements you could be forgiven for thinking he leaned NIMBY. He’s running in a district that hates change and tall buildings, so he’s focused on a family housing and affordable housing message. He’s a public school teacher with a couple kids and a wife, and they are renters. He’s be a reliable pro-housing vote.
But Trevor may very well not win. He’s running against popular challengers, and an anointed successor: Jessica Ho. The current Supervisor, Katy Tang, opted to not run again and is recommending her legislative aide, Jessica Ho, take her seat. Jessica would be a wavering pro-housing vote, but is the second-most YIMBY candidate with a really good chance of winning.
Sonja Trauss #1, Christine Johnson #2
Both Sonja Trauss and Christine Johnson are incredible and would do great things for the district. You definitely should vote for both of them, with Sonja as your #1.
I’ve been volunteering with Sonja’s campaign since January this year. I took two months off of work to volunteer for her full time. She started the YIMBY movement with a few other amazing people. She has detailed, well-thought-out plans to solve the housing crisis, transit gridlock, homelessness, and street crime.
Christine Johnson is a former Planning Commissioner who understands how broken our process is. She has many of the same views and plans as Sonja and would be an excellent steward for District 6.
Rafel is the incumbent and does not have a serious challenger. He has shown a willingness to work across the aisle (like with conservatorship, which he’s working with Mayor Breed on). He just got elected in the June special election, but was required to run again. He deserves a chance to serve out a full term.
Theo Ellington #1, Shamann Walton #2
Theo is the most YIMBY candidate in D10. I really like his platform and he has been a fan and ally of YIMBY for a long time.
Shamann Walton is a less reliable pro-housing vote, but he has a lot of big endorsements from people and organizations I respect, and (most importantly) would be way better than Tony Kelly.
Janice is the YIMBY endorsed candidate for BART Board. She wants to build housing on BART property and will fight the NIMBYs to expand and improve our region’s most important transit system.
Malia Cohen. This Board has no power anymore. Thinking about who to vote for for this race is a waste of your mental energy. It’s mired in scandal and was stripped of its authority to do anything. Vote for Malia Cohen to help dismantle it.
“In March 2017, an audit by the California Department of Finance revealed missing funds and signs of nepotism, leading to calls for the governor to put the Board under a public trustee. In June 2017, the California Department of Justice began a criminal investigation into the members of the Board.
On June 27, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation stripping the Board of its powers. The legislation created two new departments controlled by the governor responsible for the Board’s statutory duties, the California Department of Tax Fee Administration and the California Office of Tax Appeals.
The Board still has its constitutional powers to review property tax assessments, insurer tax assessment, alcohol excise tax, and pipeline taxes. The Board will retain 400 employees, with the rest of its 4,800 workers being shifted to the new departments.
I think Nancy Pelosi has served too long and needs to retire. She’s great at the Federal level, but I don’t think she understands the issues that regular San Franciscans face. She’s growing out of touch.
However, her opponent is really really awful. Hey opponent wants to end the H1-B visa program, strengthen the border, and abolish Net Neutrality.
Some of the same critiques of Pelosi apply to Speier, but to a lesser degree. She is fine.
Her opponent, Cristina Osmena, is a moderate republican. I’d love to see the California GOP run more candidates like her. She has some good ideas and some bad ones. If you’re a more Republican leaning friend of mine, I think you’ll be happy with her. If you’re not a member of the GOP, then definitely vote for Jackie Speier.
David is an excellent advocate for housing. He’s a great representative and is running unopposed.
Phil is another good advocate for housing.
His opponent, Keith Bogdon, is a dyed-in-the-wool NIMBY who wants to “fight to preserve the character of our residential neighborhoods” and promises to “fight against Manhattanization of the Westside”.
Phil Ting deserves your support.
Thea Selby and Victor Olivieri
Victor Olivieri is a friend of mine and he wants to build housing on City College land, while two of the incumbents, John Rizzo and Brigitte Davila have done what they can to block housing on school land. This housing would be for students and teachers.
Thea Selby is an incumbent who I don’t know much about, but since there are three seats for four people, and the goal is to oust either Rizzo or Davila, then you should vote for both Victor and Thea.
Phil Kim and Michelle Parker
Phil Kim is relatively new to politics and he has some real-world experience to bring a fresh approach to the Board of Education. San Francisco’s schools are unequal, with the westside schools outperforming the east side, black and brown students underperforming white and asian students, underpaid teachers that can’t afford to live here, and a ridiculous school assignment system that sends kids across town instead of to their neighborhood school. Phil Kim has the pedagogical background and reform mindedness to fix this broken school system.
I could say much of the same about Michelle Parker. But while Phil takes the “fresh eyes” approach, Michelle combines decades of experience with a strong will to fix problems. She helped the fight against getting rid of 8th grade algebra. Seriously… did you know the SF school system got rid of 8th grade algebra, and now it’s only offered in 9th grade? Like, that’s a thing they actually think was a good idea? Both Michelle and Phil want to make algebra available to 8th graders again.
Though you can choose three people, the “bullet voting” strategy might be preferred. Rather than using all three of your votes, using just two increases the chances of your top two preferred candidates winning. If you don’t believe me, and want to use all three, then I have a slight preference towards Monica Chinchilla over the rest of the candidates.
Carmen has been modernizing the office of the Assessor-Recorder and doing it very well. She is a competent leader. Interrupting her leadership will set back her reforms by a number of years.
Her opponent, Paul Bellar, is great. I like this guy a lot. I’ve met him and I really like his understanding of the problems and his proposed solutions. Technically, he’s the only candidate to have the required qualifications for the office (he’s a certified real estate appraiser), but I think those requirements are foolish for what is essentially a management position. Paul would definitely do a good job, but Carmen isn’t doing a bad job and I’d prefer to maintain the current leadership.
He’s running unopposed.
You should always vote to reelect a sitting judge unless there’s a scandal. Judges should not be at the whim of the voters, they should uphold the law even when the law is unpopular — it’s up to lawmakers to change bad laws.
Written on October 9, 2018 by Steven Buss.
Originally published on Medium
The Board of Equalization has been stripped of power and is going to get dismantled. ↩︎