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.)