VOTE Jan 8 to reform the Democratic Party!

The Democratic Party controls California – and yet, this deep-blue state still suffers under Prop 13, still allows landlords to control the political agenda (at the cost of thousands of evictions and a homeless epidemic), and is going to struggle to create an effective response to Donald Trump.

That’s because the California Democratic Party is still a corporate-run operation, dominated by the Clinton wing, not the Sanders wing. And as we saw in November, that’s not a recipe for success.

48hillsreformdems

Moving the state party is a slow process, but it needs to start now. And one of the ways it can begin is with cities like San Francisco sending reformers to the state convention.

The delegates aren’t selected on the ballot. It’s a much more old-fashioned process that involves showing up on Sunday, waiting in line, and casting a ballot. But it’s worth the effort.

We strongly support the Reform Slate that is pushing to move the party to the left. There are seven men and seven women running in D 17, which is the East side of town. We endorse Alysabeth Alexander, Angeles Roy, Davi Lang, Deepa Varma, Lila Carrillo, Mia Satya, Yayne Abeba Wondaferow, Ben Becker, Christopher Vasquez, Peter Gallotta, Rafael Trujillo, Reid Chalker, Tom Gallagher, and Wade Woods.

In D19, the West side of town, we support Amy Erb, Kelly Groth, Li Lovett, Maureen Dugan, Brandon Harami, Ian Fregosi, Gabriel Medina, Xavier Aubuchon-Mendoza, Brigitte Davila, Chelsea Swall, Wendy Aragon, Alan Wong, Jonathan Lyens, and William Walker.

There’s a competing pro-landlord slate in D17, and the decision will be made by a small number of voters – the ones who show up. You have to be a registered Democrat, and you have to turn out on Sunday/8.

AD 17 meets at the Laborer’s Hall, 3271 18th St., starting at 10am. AD 19 meets at the Doelger Café, 101 Lake Merced Blvd, starting at 1pm.

FIND OUT MORE HERE.

Guardian endorsements: A quick guide

Jane Kim is the progressive candidate for state Senate

For a full explanation of Guardian endorsements, see here. For an easily printable, PDF version of this guide, click here.

President: Bernie Sanders

US Senate: Kamala Harris

Congress, D 12: Nancy Pelosi

State Senate, D 11: Jane Kim

Superior Court Judge: Victor Hwang

State Assembly, District 17: No endorsement

State Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting

Prop. 50: Yes

Prop. AA: No

Prop. A: Yes

Prop. B: No

Prop C: Yes, yes, yes

Prop. D: Yes

Prop. E: Yes

Democratic County Central Committee District 17 (Remember you can vote for ONLY 14 or your ballot will be spoiled):

Wade Woods

Cindy Wu

Petra DeJesus

Bevan Dufty

David Campos

Jane Kim

Frances Hsieh

Rafael Mandelman

Sophie Maxwell

Alysabeth Alexander

Tom Ammiano

Jon Golinger

Pratima Gupta

Aaron Peskin

Democratic County Central Committee, District 19 (You can vote for ONLY 10):

Norman Yee

Leah LaCroix

Sandra Lee Fewer

Brigitte Davila

Hene Kelly

Myrna Melgar

Eric Mar

 

 

Putting tenants first in the Democratic Party

“That’s Sacramento” the old timers say, as they shake their heads. For the entire time that I’ve worked on housing justice in San Francisco, housing activists have told me about about our inability, year after year, decade after decade to defeat the Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins, two laws that were written for and by the real estate industry to limit the power of tenants, and the power of cities to govern themselves and preserve affordability.

48hillsdeepa

Even though Democrats have been in control all this time, maybe this shouldn’t be so surprising: California Democrats get a huge amount of campaign cash from these same real estate industry players. Meanwhile these laws have, of course, caused mass displacement.

No matter how many evictions I encounter, the stories of displacement keep coming, and keep me up at night. One counselor told me two stories from a recent hour-long shift — two ladies, one in her 80’s, one in her 90’s, sisters. They lived with another sister who died; she was the leaseholder. The two ladies were evicted, victims of the Costa Hawkins rule that does not allow subsequent occupants to keep the same terms of the lease. Now, they spend their days at the Senior Center, get one meal, and their nights huddled together at various hospital emergency ward waiting rooms.

Another story was of an older man crying as he talked about his desperation in finding a place to live. He’s sleeping on a kitchen floor. Even this is only available to him during certain hours, and he has no other apartment privileges. He pays $650 a month in cash. At a price point like that, He wouldn’t even qualify for most of the affordable units that are slated to come online in the coming months and years.

Meanwhile, my friend Patricia Kerman faces an Ellis eviction from her home of decades, a handful of blocks away from the Tenants Union. Kaushik Dattani, one of the “Dirty Dozen” repeat Ellis evictors, bought her building and “went out of the business of being a landlord” — despite the fact that he owns dozens more properties, and has done this repeatedly to other tenants. I went with Patricia to Sacramento to demand that San Francisco make a modest adjustment to the rule to prevent the repeat offenders, and the worst of these Ellis abuses.

However, those Democrats with real estate connections let us down again. With the failure of action from Sacramento Democrats, she and her roommate have nowhere to go but the street.

Then came the election of November 2016 — a whole new reason to keep me up at night. As the daughter of immigrants and a lifelong political activist I felt like a stranger in my own country. I have never been so grateful to live in San Francisco. I have never felt more clearly the need to support my neighbors who lack the privileges I have — or as a woman of color, to fight for space at the political table.

In this brave new world we live in now, it feels like anything could happen. Everything we knew about how politics works has been turned inside out. There are looming threats from far right forces on many fronts. We will have a Real Estate Speculator-in-Chief with zero experience at governance, who rouses his base with racist and sexist messages about leadership. Most likely, housing discrimination will be much harder to fight. Rent Control could be overturned. Federal housing subsidies could disappear, leaving millions more like these elderly neighbors in desperate situations across the country. We have no idea what is to come, but we know we have a fight ahead.

At the same time, we also saw massive enthusiasm, trust, and respect for a socialist who ran as a Democrat on a message of economic justice and resisting this inequality and corporate influence. We see a growing movement of people who are getting engaged in new ways they never expected in order to take their country back from corporate and right wing control.

We also see leaders in our city and our state who are using unexpected language of resistance.

The beautiful Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on November 9th brought tears to my eyes- They said that they too woke up feeling like strangers in their own country, and will do all they can to fight Trump’s vision of America. The next day our mayor surprised us with his statement that San Francisco will continue to be a sanctuary city despite threats from the Federal Government.

Of course, I’m skeptical that this was more than empty words. The hard questions are: What state and local programs are going to suffer, and who will suffer most, when the federal government stops funding? And how can California, and especially socially liberal coastal cities, be a refuge for the most vulnerable if it costs too much for immigrants, the poor, the disabled and elderly, the LGBTQ, the low income workers, or even the progressive organizers to live here? In the case of Mayor Lee in particular, it seems likely that these words were platitudes, with no plan behind them.

But the fact remains that these words were said. Politicians know which way the wind is blowing, and they know this message is resonating right now. What better time could we imagine to reject the corporate and real estate agenda, and fight for the platform and leadership we really want?

California is only one state, but it is huge. And right now, the Democratic Party is the biggest game in town. With a supermajority in both houses, control of the governorship, and both Senators and three quarters of the US Representatives.  The California Democratic Party could potentially be a significant force against many areas of federal onslaught — education, health care, climate change, progressive revenue, criminal justice reform, and of course, affordable housing policy. The California economy is big enough to create a real alternative the rest of the county can envy, or imitate — single-payer health care, overhaul of our criminal justice system, bans on fracking and offshore drilling, and, of course, finally repealing those laws that keep forcing San Franciscans out of their homes.

However, we can’t count on the Democrats in power right now. It’s up to us turn these feelings of resistance and justice that we feel right now in California into concrete action in every way we can — whether it’s direct action, new political formations, or organizing. Additionally, it’s up to us to build leadership and expertise that is NOT beholden to moneyed interests, and is firmly rooted in principles of economic and environmental justice, while developing the leadership of people of color and women.

On Sunday, Democrats in San Francisco and across the state will get to choose delegates to represent them at the State Party level. These delegates will vote on endorsements, party platform, and party leadership. Voting for these progressive Democratic Delegates is merely one small step in the direction of moving the overall power base in California to the left-but it is something we can do NOW.

I have joined a slate of candidates in AD 17 and AD 19 which includes  young activists and experienced political office-holders, political strategists, labor and community organizers, Berniecrats, and longstanding progressive democratic clubs, tenants rights advocates who have come together under one platform:  We will resist Trump AND the Corporate and Real Estate Democrats who fail to offer a just alternative.

Join us.

 

Deepa Varma is a longtime housing activist, former eviction defense attorney, and now the director of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

**Update: Our message of change and challenging corporate control of the Democratic party has resonated so deeply already that a competing slate including many centrist politicos coopted our platform almost line for line, and call themselves progressive! We are clearly doing something right.

 

The Tenants Union, Milk Club, Berniecrats, and Progressive elected officials and many Progressive neighborhood Democratic clubs endorse the Reform Slate.

Bay Guardian endorsements for the Democratic County Central Committee

Cindy Wu is running for DCCC, 17th Assembly District.

Here are the Bay Guardian endorsements for Democratic County Central Committee, 2016.

The race for Democratic County Central Committee, often a second thought on the June ballot, is now a big deal, a proxy for the defining struggle to save what’s left of San Francisco from corporate power and real-estate greed.

Cindy Wu is running for DCCC, 17th Assembly District.
Cindy Wu is running for DCCC, 17th Assembly District.

The DCCC sets policy for the local party. A lot of times that means passing resolutions that don’t have immediate policy impacts. In the best of times, it means registering voters, building a more progressive party structure.

But right now, what’s at stake is the party’s endorsement in the November supervisorial races. Control of the city is up for grabs – the six seats on the board that are on the ballot will determine whether the mayor and the tech moguls can dominate city politics for the next two years, or whether the rest of us have a fighting chance.

There are, to be blunt, two sides in this race. We know that some candidates want to appeal to everyone, to say they are “independent” or “moderate” or somewhere in the middle of the battleground.

But at a time of crisis – and anyone who thinks this city isn’t in crisis isn’t paying attention – there is, for better or for worse, no room in the middle. Either you are on the side of the evictors, the developers, the landlords, Airbnb, and the one percent – or you think that it’s unacceptable for the chair of the Democratic Party of San Francisco to be a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors.

So there are, in essence, two slates for the DCCC. One is made up of the supporters of Mary Jung, the landlord lobbyist who is the current chair. The other includes people who have promised two things: They will vote to replace Jung with a progressive (Sup. David Campos is our first choice) – and they will support the progressive candidates for supervisor this fall. The candidates on the Reform Slate have vowed that they will not back the candidates of the mayor, Ron Conway, and the power structure under any circumstances.

There are people on the Reform Slate who might not be our first choices. Bevan Dufty was the supervisor who swung to vote to put Mayor Lee in office, and the city has been terribly damaged by that decision. But he has seen that damage first-hand as the city’s homeless coordinator, and is now standing with the left in this race. We were not always in agreement with Sophie Maxwell when she was on the board.

And there’s a strange twist – after the progressives spent months finding a broad-based diverse slate, John Burton, the former state Senate president and chair of the state Party, decided to run. That might be good news if he is part of the progressive slate, since he will almost certainly win, and Burton has been a liberal legend in Sacramento, but on local issues, he has a much more mixed record.

This race is so important that both sides have scrambled to get high-profile candidates. Name recognition is critical when the voters look at choosing 14 people on the East Side and 10 on the West Side, and nine of the 11 members of the Board of Supes have filed to run. Two School Board members are on the ballot, and one Community College Board member.

Angela Alioto, former supe and daughter of a mayor, is running. Tom Hsieh, Sr., who was one of the most conservative people to serve on the Board of Supes in the past 30 years, is on the ballot.

There are arguments for lots of different candidates, but in the end, this is a classic battle of Us Against Them. The Reform slate will kick the Board of Realtors out of the chair of the Democratic Party and ensure that the DCCC helps progressives win in the fall. The Real Estate Slate will keep things the way they are – which is, frankly, unacceptable.

So here are the Bay Guardian endorsements. Everyone on this slate has promised to replace Jung as chair and to support the progressives for supervisor. We expect that most of the progressive groups in town will be offering a similar slate. It’s our best hope for the first round in the next fight for the soul of the city.

17th Assembly District (East Side)
Alysabeth Alexander
Tom Ammiano
David Campos
Petra DeJesus
Bevan Dufty
Jon Golinger
Prathima Gupta
Frances Hsieh
Jane Kim
Rafael Mandelman
Sophie Maxwell
Aaron Peskin
Leroy Wade Woods
Cindy Wu

19th Assembly District (West Side)
There are 10 seats up in this part of town. So far, only seven have met our criteria. If others decide to commit to supporting the Reform agenda, we will add them in for our final endorsements in late May, before the absentee ballots drop.
Brigitte Davila
Sandra Lee Fewer
Hene Kelly
Leah LaCroix
Eric Mar
Myrna Melgar
Norman Yee

East Bay Endorsements

Jesse Arreguin calls himself "Berkeley's kind of mayor." We agree

We don’t have the bandwidth to do for our friends across the Bay the detailed work we did in San Francisco, so we aren’t going to weigh in on every single race and every single ballot measure. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

But we want to make a few key endorsements – and they reflect our longstanding efforts to help the progressive movement on both sides of the Bay (and in this case, we want to do all we can to help some candidates who are under attack for standing in favor of police accountability).

If you want detailed explanations and endorsements that you can take to the polls, check out the East Bay Express, which has done a fantastic job. Except for a couple of modest quibbles, we are in agreement with the Express on everything.

Our (selected) recommendations follow.

Alameda County Measure A1

YES

This $580 million affordable housing bond is critical to the East Bay’s ability to build housing (and deal with a regional crisis that has been caused in part by San Francisco and Peninsula cities attracting big tech companies without building enough housing to handle the new workers). It needs a two-thirds vote, and that will be tough in the conservative parts of the county, so every vote in the more progressive areas is critical.

Jesse Arreguin calls himself "Berkeley's kind of mayor." We agree
Jesse Arreguin calls himself “Berkeley’s kind of mayor.” We agree

 

Berkeley Mayor

  1. Jesse Arreguin
  2. Kriss Worthington

These two longtime progressive councilmembers are running a strategic ranked-choice voting campaign with the aim of putting a real activist back in charge of the city. We will quote the Express: “The truth is, for too long, Berkeley has been run by cautious moderates.”

Arreguin has the experience and the political drive to put the city back where it ought to be – in the forefront of progressive change. Once upon a time, Berkeley led the state on issues like rent control and tenant protection, social and economic justice, and police accountability. Arreguin is the best candidate to restore that vision. He’s been solid on tenant and affordable housing issues, understands that the solution of every problem is not more developer giveways, and has long been a supporter of higher minimum wages. He’s endorsed by Bernie Sanders. Worthington has been the voice of the left on the council for many years, and we’ve always endorsed him in the past. At this point, Arreguin is the strongest candidate with the most hope of winning. Vote Arreguin 1 and Worthington  2.

 

Berkeley Rent Board

Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Igor Tregub

This is the pro-tenant slate. Every renter group and rent-control advocate is with these four. So are we.

 

Measure U1 YES

Measure DD NO

 

Berkeley landlords are generally doing just fine, and the big landlords are doing even better. Measure U1 is a modest per-unit tax on property owners with more than five units, and it will bring in $3.5 million a year for affordable housing. Measure DD is a landlord trick designed to counter U1.

 

 

Oakland City Council, District 1

Dan Kalb

Kalb, who represents this North Oakland district, has been a progressive and a voice of reason on the council – and now he’s under attack by the Oakland police union. Kalb and Council Member Noel Gallo authored a measure (LL) that would create an independent Police Commission; the cops don’t like it, and have just dropped more than $12,000 into an independent expenditure committee attacking him. Kalb deserves re-election – and we don’t like this kind of payback.

Oakland City Council District 3

Noni Session

The incumbent in this district simply has to go. As the Express notes,

Lynette Gibson McElhaney isn’t just “ethically challenged,” as the East Bay Times wrote in its endorsement. She has demonstrated repeatedly that she’s willing to use both her public office and also position as a nonprofit operator to benefit herself and her family members.

Sessions is a far better alternative who would bring more progressive (and ethical) politics to the council.

 

Oakland City Council, District 5

Noel Gallo

Gallo was the driving force behind Measure LL, and the cops are now funding his opponent. The mayor is after him. He has been a strong voice on the council, and deserves support for standing up for police accountability.

 

City Council, At-Large

Rebecca Kaplan

Always one of our favorite Bay Area politicians, Kaplan is a solid progressive vote on the council, a regional leader, and full of creative ideas. Her leading opponent, Peggy Moore, works for the mayor and has been engaged in some misleading (to say the least) campaign activities. We’re happy to endorse her for another term.

 

Oakland School Board, District 7

Chris Jackson

Jackson was a solid member of the San Francisco Community College Board, a voice against the state takeover and a friend of labor. He’s since moved to Oakland, and is running for School Board. He’s got a great political future and we’re happy to endorse him for this seat.

 

Oakland Measure JJ

YES

Rent control in Oakland has never been terribly strong, and JJ is an effort to improve it. The measure would add just-cause eviction protections to thousands of units and make it harder for landlords to raise rents about the legal limit.

 

Oakland Measure LL

YES

A first step in bringing real police accountability to Oakland, Measure LL would create a Police Commission and start the process toward establishing a civilian-oversight body that could investigate misconduct. Vote yes

Richmond City Council

Melvin Willis

Ben Choi

Willis and Choi are the candidates of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and have strong labor support. Choi is a member of the Planning Commission; Willis is a community organizer with ACCE. Both support rent control and are great choices.

Richmond Measure L

YES

This is the latest step in a long battle to bring rent control to Richmond, where housing prices have been soaring. An attempt by the City Council to enact a reasonable law was shot down by the California Apartment Association. Now the battle has gone to the ballot. Measure L would not only create a rent control system in the city, but would undo a recent rash of huge rent hikes by setting the base rent as the amount charged in July 2015. It’s a huge deal; vote yes.

BART Board District 7

Lateefa Simon

We already endorsed Simon for this district that spans both San Francisco and the East Bay. As we noted:

This one’s as easy as it gets. The incumbent, Zachary Mallett, has been a disaster. He bungled the BART strike, he showed no respect for the workers, he has shown no evidence that he is capable of continue in office, and he needs to be replaced. Lateefah Simon is about the best candidate for BART Board that we have ever seen, a longtime community activist, former director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Macarthur Genius Award winner, and someone who understands that transit is a social justice issue.

This district covers Southeast San Francisco and much of the near East Bay. She is supported by the BART workers’ unions – and by pretty much everyone else with any sense in San Francisco and the East Bay. We could not be happier to endorse her.

ENDORSEMENTS: Kim for state Senate, Sanders for President, Yes on C …

Jane Kim is the progressive candidate for state Senate

PLEASE NOTE: THESE ENDORSEMENTS WERE FOR THE JUNE 2016 PRIMARIES — FOR OUR NOVEMBER ENDORSEMENTS, CLICK HERE. 

The Democratic primary season is almost over. It’s almost certain that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee (and, for the sake of the nation, we hope she will be the next president). But it’s critical that people still go to the polls June 7.

On the national level, it’s about sending Bernie Sanders to the convention with as much clout as possible to shape the debate and the party platform.

Jane Kim is the progressive candidate for state Senate
Jane Kim is the progressive candidate for state Senate. Photo by Luke Thomas

On the local level, it’s a political war for the soul of the city.

It’s too bad that Mayor Ed Lee has created one of the most economically and politically divided cities in years. Just a few months into his final term, the mayor is so unpopular that he can hardly go out in public anymore; the police scandals, the homeless problems, the housing crisis … everywhere he goes, he is hit with questions he can’t answer.

And he has put San Francisco politics in a position where there is no middle ground left.

We have always appreciated and looked for independent voices in elective office, people who weren’t part of one party or slate or another. We are always wary of political machines, not matter who is in charge.

But in Ed Lee’s San Francisco, 2016, there is no room for a middle ground. The developers, the real-estate industry, the tech companies, Ron Conway and his folks are so close to controlling this town and driving the rest of us out that we have to fight back as a united front. There are young men of color dying in the streets, shot dead by the police, and the mayor is saying that the chief is doing a great job. There are too many evictions to count, day after day, and the mayor is missing in action. People who won’t choose sides under these conditions have already made a decision that the current situation is tolerable.

That’s very, very wrong.

The left in SF has always been a bit fractious, as it should be: Progressives don’t follow leaders very well, and the best of us are brought up to question authority. There has never been any form of serious party unity on the left, and that’s a good thing.

There are disagreements in this election, over some endorsements and some ballot measures, and we are among those who are not supporting the elected progressive leadership on some issues, like the Rec-Park set-aside (No on B!)

But overall, this is an election that is defined by two sides, by two approaches to public policy, by two distinct visions of San Francisco. And for the most part, we are urging our readers to look at the election in those terms. If you think the displacement, the evictions, the police killings, the housing crisis, the destruction of entire communities is okay, that a few moderate changes around the edges are all we need, then you are with the mayor. If you think this situation is radically unacceptable, then you are against him, and his allies, and the people he and his big-money backers support.

The June election is a precursor to the more important election in November, when six seats are up on the Board of Supervisors. The people elected to the Democratic County Central Committee will decide who the party endorses in those races – and the balance of power at City Hall will be up for grabs.

When it comes to the key races – state Senate and DCCC – there is no middle ground. Those days ended with Ed Lee cast his lot with the Conways of the world and put the city under siege. In that (unfortunate) spirit, our selections follow.

 

 

 

 

President (Democrat)

Bernie Sanders

The most remarkable thing about this nominating contest is that it’s happening at all, and that California is playing at least some role. By the time June rolls around every four years, the decisions of the major parties are mostly pretty well done; California doesn’t matter. That not only hurts the state’s voters, who are denied a role (other than giving money) in choosing a presidential nominee; it hurts all of the down-ticket races, where turnout is lower than it should be.

It’s pretty much impossible at this point for Sanders to head into the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination; even an overwhelming win in California won’t change the math, and Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. But the battle is close enough, and public interest high enough, that the Sanders campaign will be bringing tens of thousands of voters, many of them new voters, to the polls June 7.

We don’t know how far down the ballot those voters will go – in fact, the Sanders campaign has largely failed so far to make the point that electing a president isn’t nearly enough: His agenda, and the Clinton agenda, will go nowhere if the Democrats don’t also take back the Senate and the House, and the House will continue to be dominated by right-wing Republicans unless Democrats take back state Legislatures and governor’s offices … and San Francisco will continue to be dominated by the real-estate industry and tech companies unless local voters put progressives in office at every level.

That said, the Sanders Movement has made huge strides nationally, energizing a new generation of voters and activists – and if he’s serious about his political “revolution,” he needs to make sure that those supporters don’t fade away when the election is over.

Sanders has his flaws, as a candidate and a potential president. He comes from an overwhelmingly white state, and has had trouble reaching out to and working with communities of color. He often comes across more as angry than charismatic.

But he’s the only major candidate for president in decades who has made income and wealth inequality and the failure of our political system the centerpiece of his campaign. He is talking about single-payer health care. He’s talking about raising taxes on the highest earners (even Obama didn’t go that far). He’s talking about breaking up the big banks and cracking down on Wall Street.

He’s both inspiring and refreshing – and the popularity of his message has put the notion of class conflict, of the 1 percent, of the collapse of the middle class on the national agenda in a way we haven’t seen since the heyday of Occupy.

We are not among those short-sighted people with no sense of history who say that there is no difference between Clinton and the Republicans, and that if Sanders loses they won’t come out to vote for her. If Clinton is, as expected, the Democratic nominee, we will support her and urge everyone else to do the same.

But for now, vote for Bernie Sanders, to let Clinton and the rest of the corporate leaders in the Democratic Party know that there is a strong constituency for economic change (which could influence her choice of VP). And let’s hope Sanders can keep his message alive.

 

United States Senator (Democratic)

Kamala Harris

We all might as well face facts: The day she announced she would not challenge Gavin Newsom for governor and would instead seek to replace longtime Sen. Barbara Boxer, Kamala Harris was the prohibitive front-runner. She will win the primary, and she will win the general election this fall.

We could do worse. The US Senate is not a bastion of progressive thought, and Boxer was one of its most reliable left-leaning members. Harris comes from a more moderate tradition; she was at best a cautious district attorney in San Francisco, who did nothing to take on political corruption. She has been a bit more aggressive in Sacramento, particularly on issues like same-sex marriage and immigration. She is smart, politically savvy, and incredibly ambitious.

Her opponent, Loretta Sanchez, has had a hard time getting much traction, and isn’t raising any important issues that could force Harris to debate (like, for example, the death penalty, which Harris didn’t promote as SF district attorney but has aggressively defended as AG).

 

Congress, District 12

Nancy Pelosi

Allow us to wallow for a moment in historical fantasy.

In 1987, after Sala Burton died of cancer, San Francisco had a rare contested race for Congress. Nancy Pelosi, who had never held any elective office and whose experience in politics was largely as a fundraiser, was the pick of the Burton Machine. Harry Britt, a supervisor and heir to Harvey Milk’s legacy, was the progressive community candidate. On Election Day, Britt came in first – but Pelosi’s campaign, using a new tactic of organizing absentee ballots, narrowly emerged as the victor. She quickly decided that San Francisco didn’t matter anymore – she wanted to be a national leader, so stepped adroitly away from the issues of her district (she was very, very late to endorse same-sex marriage) and became the first woman to serve as speaker of the House.

She also used her clout to support conservative politicians and causes at almost every level in San Francisco. She most famously turned the Presidio into a corporate park, allowing George Lucas to build an office building in what was supposed to be a national park, saving him $60 million in taxes, and setting the standard for the privatization of national parks everywhere.

A few thousand votes, and Britt might have had that seat – and while he would never have been speaker, he would have paid much more attention to his district and would have used his clout to promote a progressive agenda at home. San Francisco would be a different city today.

But that was then and this is now, and Pelosi is the best hope the Democrats have for taking back the House. If that doesn’t happen in the next two election cycles, she should probably step down and retire and give someone else a chance.

We’re glad to see Green Party candidate Barry Hermanson in the race, and it would be nice if he could get more votes than the Republican candidate and face Pelosi in the November election. That might force her to debate some critical local and national issues with a real progressive. Pelosi’s going to win anyway, so voting for Hermanson is a perfectly legitimate way to register a protest against the direction of the Democratic Party.

 

State Senator, District 11

Jane Kim

The race to replace Sen. Mark Leno, who is leaving Sacramento after a distinguished career because of term limits, is one of the defining elements of San Francisco politics in 2016. The June election is only Round One – thanks to the odd “top two” primary system in place in California, both Democrats will advance to the November election. So, like David Campos and David Chiu two years ago, Kim and Sup. Scott Wiener will face off twice.

The two candidates represent the two sides of San Francisco politics today. Kim is part of the progressives on the Board of Supes, and Wiener is in the moderate (by SF standards, conservative) camp. They have taken dramatically different positions on issues, and it shows in their support.

Pretty much every left-leaning group in the city is with Kim. Wiener has the conservative unions, including the Police Officers Association, and it’s unclear to us why any San Francisco politician would want to be associated with that organization right now.

In fact, there’s no way to explain Wiener’s bizarre vote in April to oppose a bill sponsored by his ally and mentor Leno that would increase public access to police disciplinary records except for his wooing of law-enforcement groups.

Wiener is a hard-working supervisor and likes to say that by any standard, he would be a progressive in Sacramento (the state Senate is not by any stretch a bastion of liberal thought). He’s accessible and thoughtful. He’s been supportive of nightlife and entertainment in the city.

It’s just that on economic issues, he’s a conservative – that is, he believes in market-based solutions to issues like housing, he didn’t support the anti-speculation tax, he doesn’t support higher mandates for affordable housing, he was on Airbnb’s side in the critical vote on saving housing from conversion into hotels … he’s just wrong on most of the issues we care about.

Kim isn’t perfect, and she’s not by any stretch a left-wing radical. She supported the Twitter tax break (which turned out to be a big mistake). She works with developers to figure out how projects can get approved (yes, with additional affordable housing.) There have been times when she has clashed with her progressive allies.

But she presents a very different vision than Wiener. Kim has been on the right side of nearly every contested vote at the Board of Supes, from affordable housing to police accountability to Airbnb. There are plenty of moderate Democrats in Sacramento; the person representing San Francisco should be pushing the economic and political limits from the left.

And there’s a way better chance of that with Jane Kim.

Both candidates are smart, qualified, and ambitious, and both could play a role in the city’s future. The winner of this race could wind up as a candidate for Congress, or mayor; if that’s Wiener, the conservative element in the city would be empowered.

Wiener would be a state Senator who used his local influence to promote candidates and policies that favor the moderate side Kim; would be a part of a progressive coalition.

So this is about more than a state Senate seat, about more than how either of the candidates would vote in Sacramento. It’s about the city’s future and which side will control it.

That’s an easy choice. Vote for Jane Kim.

 

State Assembly, District 17

No endorsement

There will be a time, no doubt, when we will come around, and accept that David Chiu is the state Assembly member from the east side of San Francisco, and he will do some valid things in the future. But he was the author, with the help of Airbnb lobbyists, of the bill that legalized that company’s lucrative enterprise, which has taken thousands of housing units off the rental market in San Francisco, and he resisted mightily any efforts to make the law enforceable. He has endorsed Scott Wiener for state Senate (over his old friend and one-time ally Jane Kim).

When he first ran for public office, Chiu positioned himself as a progressive. He has sold out that constituency, and in the process, won higher office. He’s going to get re-elected, but this time around, he won’t have our endorsement.

 

State Assembly, District 19

Phil Ting

Ting represents the more conservative side of the city, but he’s been a remarkably progressive member of the Assembly. As a former Assessor, he’s introduced legislation to close one of the critical loopholes in Prop 13, a scam that allows businesses to cheat the state when their property changes hands. He’s now the chair of the powerful Budget Committee, and we’d love to see him use that position to talk about more progressive taxes (like an oil-severance tax).

Ting, unlike Chiu, has aligned himself to a significant extent with the progressives. He’s endorsing Jane Kim for Senate. And we’re happy to endorse him for another term.

Superior Court Judge

Victor Hwang

Judicial elections are rare in San Francisco. In theory, judicial office is an elected position, but in practice, judges hate elections and avoid them whenever possible. Most judges retire mid-term, which allows the governor to appoint a replacement; sitting judges don’t even appear on the ballot when they are up for re-election unless someone challenges them, which hardly ever happens.

But in this case, incumbent Ernest Goldsmith decided to step down at the end of his term. So this is an unusual opportunity for the local legal profession – there’s an open seat, and any qualified lawyer can run.

Frankly, we’re surprised there aren’t more contenders: Lots of people who ought to be judges and who will never get appointed by any governor (Matt Gonzalez comes to mind, as does his former law partner Whitney Leigh) could be running. And it’s not as if the San Francisco Superior Court is doing just fine; there are some pretty bad judges on the bench, and it needs a nice shakeup.

In this case, there are three candidates, all of whom have some solid credentials, and some drawbacks.

Most of the political attention has focused on Victor Hwang, a civil rights lawyer, former public defender, and former prosecutor, and Paul Henderson, a long time deputy district attorney who for the past five years has worked for Mayor Ed Lee. A third candidate, Sigrid Irias, who has spent most of her career in corporate law, has won the endorsement of the Tenants Union and the Harvey Milk Club.

In terms of the geopolitics of the election, the race is something of a subset of the state Senate battle: Jane Kim is a strong backer of Hwang, and most of her allies are endorsing him. Scott Wiener and almost everyone in his camp backs Henderson.

But Irias, who has worked successfully as a pro-tem judge (including in eviction cases) and is former president of the La Raza Lawyers Association, is very much a contender.

Frankly, this is not an easy call for us.

Henderson is a smart, accomplished lawyer with a successful career as a prosecutor. He was the odds-on pick to replace Kamala Harris when she was elected attorney general, but at the last minute then-Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked everyone by appointing the police chief, George Gascon.

He gets good marks from everyone who worked with him, on both sides; the defense bar considers him ethical and reasonable, and as a gay African American man, he understands the reality of discrimination (and police abuse).

He is the only candidate who strongly and unequivocally supports more openness in the courts, who told us the judges should hold public meetings, and who would support televising most trials and court hearings.

But Henderson is part of the Ed Lee operation. For five years – while the local cops shot men of color with impunity, while the tech industry took over the city, while thousands were evicted – he was sitting there as a deputy chief of staff and criminal justice advisor. He told us that he “wasn’t the one making the decisions,” but he was part of that team. (And it’s not as if he was forced to take that job – law firms all over town would have lined up to hire him if he didn’t want to be part of the Lee Administration.) In the battle for San Francisco, he chose his side.

Irias is a credible candidate who could turn out to be a fine judge. She has a good understanding of the role of justice in administering the courts, and has done well as a pro tem. But her entire career has been in corporate law; she’s done very few trials, and has no background at all in criminal law. The Tenants Union likes the way she’s handled herself as a pro tem judge in landlord-tenant cases, and that’s a strong plus.

On paper, Hwang is by far the best candidate. He’s been a public defender (in LA), a civil rights lawyer, and a prosecutor. He’s had plenty of trial experience and has a strong background in public interest law (at the Asian Law Caucus and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach). He’s on the Police Commission.

As managing attorney with the ALC, Hwang helped to get false charges dismissed against Wen Ho Lee, a scientist who the government claimed was giving nuclear secrets to China. The case turned out to be a horrible example of racial profiling, and Lee was cleared. Hwang was a Bay Guardian Local Hero in 2004.

We are still unhappy that Jane Kim engineered the move to have Hwang to replace Police Commissioner Angela Chan; Hwang has been a decent member of a generally bad panel, but Chan was better, and should have kept her seat. Still, it’s hard to hold that against a candidate for judge.

The bigger issue is that the defense bar, and in particular members of the Public Defender’s Office, have serious problems with Hwang. As a prosecutor, they say, he’s been unreasonable, pushing for harsher sentences and refusing to drop charges that don’t make sense. Public Defender Jeff Adachi, despite a long history with Hwang, has not endorsed him.

Hwang told us that as a prosecutor in the Hate Crimes Unit, he may have been “too aggressive” in pushing criminal enhancements that some of his predecessors bargained away. He made it clear when he arrived in that job that he would not dismiss hate-crime allegations under almost any circumstances – which is fine in theory, but in practice, the cops and DA’s Office often file charges that turn out to be bogus, and most line prosecutors in this city work with the defense to avoid trying cases that aren’t justified.

We understand the need to prosecute hate crimes, and prosecutors and defense lawyers often clash. But the folks in the PD’s Office and the DA’s Office typically treat each other with respect and maintain a professional relationship, and the concern we are hearing in this case is unusual.

Hwang got a harsh lesson in political reality when the Democratic County Central Committee, led by the allies of the city’s first Chinese mayor, whom Hwang helped elect, refused to endorse him (because the DCCC is run by the Wiener side of the party, which favors Henderson).

Given the options, and his long history of progressive public service (and the fact that nearly every progressive leader in the city is backing him) we will go with Hwang. But this is just the first round in the election; the two top finishers will face the voters again in November. And Hwang needs to convince the larger community that he can work with all sides with respect.

 

State ballot measures

Proposition 50

Suspension of Legislators

YES

 

It’s dangerous to allow anyone to suspend from office an elected official. The voters have an excellent way to remove people who violate public trust; it’s called the recall. But recall elections are tricky and expensive, and Prop. 50 would deal with the situation we’ve seen on too many occasions recently: State legislators like Leland Yee have been accused (and later convicted) of serious felonies. Colleagues were able to suspend them – but they still got paid. This just stops their paychecks. Not a solution to corruption. Not always fair (there is such a thing as due process, even for someone accused of a serious crime). It’s kind of a feel-good measure that will have no real impact on the serious problem of pay-to-play politics in Sacramento. But good-government types like the League of Women Voters are supporting it, and we see no reason not to go along.

 

Regional measure

Prop. AA

Regional wetlands tax

NO

This measure ties an urgent cause, the restoration and protection of the San Francisco Bay’s wetlands, to a dangerous policy, a regional tax levied by appointed officials. It also starts to expand regional government in the Bay Area – before anyone has had a chance to discuss what that ought to look like.

Long before sea level rise was recognized as a threat, environmental groups were working to save The Bay’s shrinking tidal marshes. The wetlands cleanse and retain the Bay’s waters, help prevent flooding, and provide habitat for wild plants and creatures. Climate change has made their value even more apparent. To borrow the Sierra Club’s apt phrase, tidal marshes offer “a natural and growing levee” that slows storm surges and lowers the height of waves and encroaching waters.

And the Bay wetlands are in dire need of help. A regional approach makes sense; everyone in the nine Bay Area counties has a stake in the wetlands’ health. Measure AA would raise $500 million over 20 years for projects that reduce trash and pollution, restore wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and more.

But the measure has problems. While an annual $12 parcel tax seems like a small price to pay for ensuring the wetlands’ health, it’s unfair: Google and other corporations whose big new campuses are threatened by rising water would pay the same $12 as individual homeowners. A tax on the assessed value of property would be much more equitable.

And Measure AA has a much bigger problem.

The tax would be levied and administered by the San Francisco Bay Authority, a public agency created by the California Legislature. The Authority is governed by a five-member board of appointees who are chosen by yet another appointee, the president of the Association of Bay Area Governments, which is itself on the verge of a hostile takeover by an autocratic state agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

So who would decide how to spend the money? Nobody who was elected to that job. Whom do you complain to if you think the decisions are wrong? Good luck with that; SF’s current representative is Scott Wiener, and it’s entirely possible in the future that nobody ever elected by a San Francisco voter (and thus not accountable to any of us) will be doling out our tax dollars.

Measure AA also furthers the creeping privatization of government, stating that “[t]he Authority shall give priority to projects that,” among other things, “[m]eet the selection criteria” of the Coastal Conservancy, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and San Francisco Bay Joint Venture.

San Francisco Bay Joint Venture is a public-private entity whose members include the Bay Planning Coalition, a private organization that last year backed MTC’s efforts to remove key anti-displacement policy from the forthcoming update of our region’s official land use and transportation blueprint, Plan Bay Area.

The measure’s supporters note that it would be the first regional tax in the Bay Area. If it passes, it would set an somewhat disturbing precedent at a time when local business and political elites are clamoring for the expansion of regional government– without any discussion of how that government should be run.

We’d gladly support an equitable proposal to restore and protect the Bay wetlands that mandated democratically accountable governance. We’d also gladly welcome a much larger discussion of how regional government should work – how much power it should have, and how the people who wield that power should be chosen.

Regional government may very well be part of the Bay Area’s future, and there are good arguments in favor of it (should someone be able to tell Cupertino not to approve a huge new Apple headquarters without providing any housing at all)? But it involves really complex issues of local land-use authority, local spending authority, and how the members of a regional agency are chosen.

We’re already worried about how the regional bodies, the Association of Bay Area Government and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, operate with little oversight (which means, in the end, in the interest of developers, not the public). Measure AA takes us a long way further down a path that we haven’t even begun to map.

Paying taxes for wetlands restoration is a fine idea. We can even live with the unfair parcel tax. But first let’s decide who ought to handle the money. Vote No on AA

 

San Francisco ballot measures

 Proposition A

Public Health and Safety Bonds

YES

This is a $350 million bond act to improve seismic safety at critical facilities like SF General and the city’s ambulance deployment facility. There’s $20 million (nowhere near enough) for homeless shelters and other related programs.

There’s no reason to oppose this. We wish the mayor would put more effort into raising money for housing and back off from his pledge never to put new bonds on the ballot until old ones are paid off (which amounts to a “no new taxes” position.

But sure, vote Yes on A

 

Proposition B

Recreation, Park, and Open Space Fund

No. Seriously, No

It’s hard to oppose something that sounds like more money for parks and open space, which we all love. But Prop. B doesn’t bring in a single penny in revenue; it’s another in a long string of “set-asides,” which would guarantee a percentage of the city budget for one particular department.

We’re dubious about set-asides anyway — we supported the Children’s Fund, which is a set-aside for programs for people who can’t vote, but at a certain point, all this does is tie the hands of the supervisors during budget season. Parks are important; are they more important than housing, homeless services, or public health? Is it more important to have money for open space than for critical psych emergency beds at SF General?

Those aren’t easy questions, and there are reasons that the supes and the mayor, with public input, vote on a budget that balances lots of needs. So this thing starts off with a high threshold to get our support.

Now let’s look at where the money would go.

We’re big supporters of parks, recreation, and open space – but we are not fans of the current management of the Rec Park Department. General Manager Phil Ginsburg seems to think that privatization and “monetizing” the parks is a great idea, and we don’t. He kicked the venerable nonprofit Haight Asbury Recycling Center out of a tiny corner of Golden Gate Park because rich neighbors didn’t want to see poor people coming by with empty bottles. It took a ballot measure to keep him from turning Coit Tower into a corporate party center.

We can’t support the current direction of the department. We can’t support this set-aside. It’s a bad idea on every level. Vote no. Seriously – vote no.

 

Proposition C

Affordable Housing Requirements

YES, YES, YES

The most important part of Prop. C is not the numbers. The measure would increase to 25 percent the amount of affordable housing required in many private projects – but it would also take that number out of the City Charter and allow the supes to change it by ordinance.

The developers demanded, as part of the deal for their support of the mayor’s affordable housing trust fund a couple of years ago, that the city limit – in the charter, the city’s Constitution – the amount of affordable housing that city officials could demand. That number was set at 12 percent.

It was a mistake: Not only is that number way too low, but it’s inflexible, and the housing situation in San Francisco changes all the time.

Developers have testified at public hearings that 25 percent is too high, that the numbers don’t add up. That’s something that ought to be discussed – and the developers should come forward with the figures to prove their case. But the city’s own studies show that market-rate housing creates a demand for low-income housing, since all the rich people who move into the new luxury condos need people to serve their coffee and clean their homes. If the affordability level is below 30 percent, the city actually loses ground. So if the developers of luxury housing can’t meet reasonable levels, then their projects don’t make sense for anyone.

Prop. C is a critical part of the progressive housing agenda, pitting Sups. Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin against the mayor and the developers. By all means, vote Yes.

 

Proposition D

Investigations of Officer-Involved Shootings

YES 

San Francisco has an unusual procedure for investigating police misconduct. In most places, the cops investigate themselves. In this city, thanks to legislation by former Sup. Harry Britt in the early 1980s, an independent civilian agency takes complaints.

It’s not a perfect system, since the mayor appoints the head of the Office of Citizen Complaints, and the agency is often limited by the lack of aggressive leadership. But it’s better than the alternative, and has tremendous potential.

Right now, the OCC only acts on complaints; if nobody files one, the agency can’t do anything. Sup. Malia Cohen has put forward this measure, which would mandate civilian review of all office-involved shootings.

In practice, it might not make much difference – somebody almost always files a complaint about police shootings. But it would enshrine in policy the idea that an outside civilian agency should always investigate when the cops shoot someone.

Vote Yes, and hope that the Police Commission and future mayors appoint stronger independent leadership at the OCC.

 

Proposition E

Paid Sick Leave

YES

The language of this measure is pretty complicated, but the bottom line is simple: Prop. E would make the city’s sick-leave law consistent with state law, without in any way limiting or reducing the benefits that San Franciscans get. There’s no opposition. Vote yes.

 

 

San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee

The race for Democratic County Central Committee, often a second thought on the June ballot, is now a big deal, a proxy for the defining struggle to save what’s left of San Francisco from corporate power and real-estate greed.

The DCCC sets policy for the local party. A lot of times that means passing resolutions that don’t have immediate policy impacts. In the best of times, it means registering voters, building a more progressive party structure.

But right now, what’s at stake is the party’s endorsement in the November supervisorial races. Control of the city is up for grabs – the six seats on the board that are on the ballot will determine whether the mayor and the tech moguls can dominate city politics for the next two years, or whether the rest of us have a fighting chance.

There are, to be blunt, two sides in this race. We know that some candidates want to appeal to everyone, to say they are “independent” or “moderate” or somewhere in the middle of the battleground.

But at a time of crisis – and anyone who thinks this city isn’t in crisis isn’t paying attention – there is, for better or for worse, no room in the middle. Either you are on the side of the evictors, the developers, the landlords, Airbnb, and the one percent – or you think that it’s unacceptable for the chair of the Democratic Party of San Francisco to be a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors.

So there are, in essence, two slates for the DCCC. One is made up of the supporters of Mary Jung, the landlord lobbyist who is the current chair. The other includes people who have promised two things: They will vote to replace Jung with a progressive (Sup. David Campos is our first choice) – and they will support the progressive candidates for supervisor this fall. The candidates on the Reform Slate have vowed that they will not back the candidates of the mayor, Ron Conway, and the power structure under any circumstances.

There are people on the Reform Slate who might not be our first choices. Bevan Dufty was the supervisor who swung to vote to put Mayor Lee in office, and the city has been terribly damaged by that decision. But he has seen that damage first-hand as the city’s homeless coordinator, and is now standing with the left in this race. We were not always in agreement with Sophie Maxwell when she was on the board.

And there’s a strange twist – after the progressives spent months finding a broad-based diverse slate, John Burton, the former state Senate president and chair of the state Party, decided to run. That might be good news if he is part of the progressive slate, since he will almost certainly win, and Burton has been a liberal legend in Sacramento, but on local issues he has a much more mixed record.

This race is so important that both sides have scrambled to get high-profile candidates. Name recognition is critical when the voters look at choosing 14 people on the East Side and 10 on the West Side, and nine of the 11 members of the Board of Supes have filed to run. Two School Board members are on the ballot, and one Community College Board member.

Angela Alioto, former supe and daughter of a mayor, is running. Tom Hsieh, Sr., who was one of the most conservative people to serve on the Board of Supes in the past 30 years, is on the ballot.

There are arguments for lots of different candidates, but in the end, this is a classic battle of Us Against Them. (Alito, for example, was a strong supporter of public power and defied PG&E on the Board of Supes, and we would love to support her – but she’s endorsing some of the pro-real-estate supervisor candidates and is allied with the real-estate slate. She may agree with us on some issues, but she’s missing the larger politics of Ed Lee’s city, where there is no middle ground.)

The Reform Slate will kick the Board of Realtors out of the chair of the Democratic Party and ensure that the DCCC helps progressives win in the fall. The Real Estate Slate will keep things the way they are – which is, frankly, unacceptable.

So here are the Bay Guardian endorsements. Everyone on this slate has promised to replace Jung as chair and to support the progressives for supervisor. We expect that most of the progressive groups in town will be offering a similar slate. It’s our best hope for the first round in the next fight for the soul of the city.

 

17th Assembly District (East Side)

Alysabeth Alexander

Tom Ammiano

David Campos

Petra DeJesus

Bevan Dufty

Jon Golinger

Pratima Gupta

Frances Hsieh

Jane Kim

Rafael Mandelman

Sophie Maxwell

Aaron Peskin

Leroy Wade Woods

Cindy Wu

 

19th Assembly District (West Side)

There are 10 seats up in this part of town. So far, only seven have met our criteria. If others decide to commit to supporting the Reform agenda, we will add them in for our final endorsements in late May, before the absentee ballots drop.

Brigitte Davila

Sandra Lee Fewer

Hene Kelly

Leah LaCroix

Eric Mar

Myrna Melgar

Norman Yee

 

How to vote

A simplified guide to the June 7 ballot

The June primary ballot is a bit confusing, so we’re going to try to clear up what
your choices are and how to be sure you get to vote in the races that matter to you.

First of all, everyone who is registered to vote gets to vote in the primaries for US
Senate, US Congress, and state Legislature, and in the SF judicial race.

In the unlikely event that you want to vote in the Republican presidential primary,
you have to be a registered Republican, and good luck with your party, which is
imploding as we watch.

If you want to vote in the Democratic presidential primary, you have to be either a
registered Democrat or a No Party Preference voter. According to the SF Elections
Director John Arntz: “When voting by mail, NPP voters must request a party ballot
be mailed to them. If the NPP voters do not request a party ballot, the Department
will mail ‘NPP’ ballots which will not list any candidates for president.”

There are lots of NPPs, who used to be known as Decline to State. Democrats
allow those voters into the party’s presidential primary; Republicans don’t.

If you want to vote for Democratic County Central Committee, YOU MUST BE A
REGISTERED DEMOCRAT. Voters with No Party Preference don’t get a ballot
for DCCC.

If you want to vote for DCCC and are not registered as a Democrat, you have to re-
register by May 23. You can go down to City Hall and do it at the Department of
Elections, or online at registertovote.ca.gov.

If you’re not sure what your registration status is, please don’t wait until Election
Day; double check it now. It’s easy; just go here. Takes two minutes.

If you can’t follow this and need more help, go to www.sfelections.org, where you can
find an easy-to- follow flowchart.

Early voting at City Hall opens May 9. You can contact the Department of
Elections at 415-554- 4375.

CLEAN SLATE GUIDE 2016: Print this and take to the polls

Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall

Print this out and take it to the polls or use it to fill out your mail-in ballot. For a full explanation of our endorsements, go here.

>>> CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE CLEAN SLATE GUIDE (PDF) 

Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall
Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall

President: Hillary Clinton

US Senate: Kamala Harris

Congress, District 12: Nancy Pelosi

State Senate, District 11: Jane Kim

State Assembly, District 17: No endorsement

State Assembly, District 19: Phil Ting

Superior Court Judge: Victor Hwang

 

Board of Education: Stevon Cook, Matt Haney, Mark Sanchez

Community College Board: Rafael Mandelman, Tom Temprano, Shanell Williams

BART Board District 7: Lateefah Simon

BART Board District 9: Bevan Dufty

Board of Supervisors, District 1: Sandra Lee Fewer

Board of Supervisors, District 3: Aaron Peksin

Board of Supervisors, District 5: Dean Preston

Board of Supervisors, District 7: Norman Yee

Board of Supervisors, District 9: Hillary Ronen

Board of Supervisors, District 11: Kimberly Alvarenga

 

STATE BALLOT MEASURES

Prop. 51 (school bonds): YES

Prop. 52 (Medi-Cal hospital fee): YES

Prop. 53 (revenue bond vote): NO

Prop. 54 (legislative sunshine): YES

Prop. 55 (tax extension on the rich): YES

Prop 56 (cigarette tax): YES

Prop. 57 (earlier parole): YES

Prop. 58 (English language learning): YES

Prop. 59 (overturning Citizens United): YES

Prop. 60 (condoms in porn films): NO

Prop. 61 (drug prices): YES

Prop. 62 (death penalty repeal): YES YES YES

Prop. 63 (ammunition sales): YES

Prop. 64 (marijuana legalization): YES

Prop. 65 (carry-out bags): NO

Prop. 66 (death penalty enforcement): NO NO NO

Prop. 67 (plastic bag ban): YES

 

SAN FRANCISCO BALLOT MEASURES

 

Prop. A (school bonds): YES

Prop. B (City College parcel tax): YES

Prop. C (affordable housing loans): YES

Prop. D (elect our elected officials): YES YES YES

Prop. E (street trees): YES

Prop. F (youth voting): YES

Prop. G (police accountability): YES

Prop. H (public advocate) YES YES YES

Prop. I (funding for seniors): YES

Prop. J (funding for homeless services): YES

Prop. K (sales tax increase): YES

Prop. L (Muni oversight): YES

Prop. M (housing and development commission): YES YES YES

Prop. N (non-citizen voting): YES

Prop. O (office development in Hunters Point): NO

Prop. P (competitive bids for affordable housing): NO

Prop. Q (tents on the sidewalk): NO

Prop. R (new police unit): NO

Prop. S (hotel tax allocation): YES

Prop. T (lobbyist contributions): YES

Prop. U (affordable housing requirements) NO NO NO

Prop. V (sugary beverage taxes): YES

Prop. W (mansion tax): YES

Prop. X (arts and industrial space retention): YES

Prop. RR (BART Bonds): YES

 

ENDORSEMENTS! The case for six progressive supes, Kim for state Senate …

Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall

This is, to channel our favorite presidential contender of 2016, a HUUUGE election. There’s an increasingly scary presidential race, control of San Francisco City Hall up for grabs, and crucial state and local ballot measures.

>> CLICK HERE FOR OUR PRINTABLE CLEAN SLATE GUIDE TO TAKE TO THE POLLS

In June, most local progressives did well, and while the Bernie Bump was part of that, the main reason was turnout. When progressives go to the polls, we win. So don’t be alarmed by the length of the ballot: We have spent months researching the ballot measures. We have watched the candidates. We have done our best to provide you with guidance. So take our suggestions (or disagree with them) – but please: Vote.

Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall
Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall. Photo by Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

President

Hillary Clinton

We were big supporters of Bernie Sanders, and we will repeat his recent comments: This is not a time to vote for a protest candidate.

Donald Trump is by far the least qualified, scariest candidate for president in most of our lifetimes – and that’s included some truly bad candidates. Trump is another level altogether.

We are, of course, disappointed in the choice that the Democratic Party made (and we could still argue that Sanders would have been a stronger candidate against Trump). Clinton is a corporatist and not someone who is going to fundamentally alter the power that big businesses and the very rich hold over American government. Not by herself.

On the other hand, she might very well appoint Supreme Court justices who vote to overturn Citizens United. She’s more of a hawk on foreign policy even than President Obama – but she’s got the experience and the level-headedness to avoid Trumpian disasters. And it’s a big deal to elect the first woman to the White House.

It’s critical that Clinton wins – and that she get a US Senate and a House not dominated by fight-wing Republicans. This one’s easy: Vote for, work for, support Hillary Clinton for president.

 

US Senate

Kamala Harris

This one will hardly be a contest: Harris won the top-two primary overwhelmingly, and is a lock to be the next US senator from California. As we said when we endorsed her in June, we could do worse: The US Senate, even if Democrats take it back, will remain a fairly conservative body, and Harris will bring an energetic and more progressive perspective. She will not, we suspect, be another Barbara Boxer, who was among the most liberal members of that body; her politics have been more to the center – and she’s always been a cautious politician. Example: Rep. Loretta Sanchez, her opponent, supports the repeal of the death penalty (Prop. 62). Harris has been quiet on the issue. While she declined to file capital cases as San Francisco district attorney, she’s aggressively pursued executions as attorney general.

 

US Congress, District 12

Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi was never our first choice for the job – back in 1987, we went with Harry Britt, and over the years, we’ve found plenty of reasons to be critical of Pelosi. She’s been a better national leader for the Democrats than a representative of San Francisco: Her constituency includes a lot of conservative Dems, so she has walked away from San Francisco progressive politics (think: same-sex marriage, which she avoided for years). But there’s actually a chance that the Democrats could retake the House – and if the Republicans continue with a huge majority, she may decide to retire after another term anyway.

 

State Senate, District 11

Jane Kim

This race has been the political story of the year in San Francisco: Jane Kim, widely considered the underdog, heavily outspent, emerged in first place, leaving Scott Wiener and all of his supporters stunned.

Wiener’s response has been to dramatically change the tenor of the campaign. In the primary, the two candidates were (relatively) respectful, holding a series of issue-oriented debates and talking about policy. Since the primary, Wiener has gone heavily negative, attacking Kim from every direction, in every way he can.

Kim was the beneficiary of a heavy turnout in the primary (and the support of Bernie Sanders, who is still a key endorser). She also ran an exceptional campaign – and was part of a progressive movement that recaptured the Democratic County Central Committee.

Just about every progressive organization and leader in the city supports Kim; all of the more moderate, in some cases conservative, groups are in the Wiener camp. (Among others, he has the support of a hard-core landlord group whose leader opposes transgender bathroom rights in schools).

But this time around, the lines are not quite so clean and clear: Kim, for example, has endorsed both Ahsha Safai and Kimberly Alvarenga in District 11 and is not endorsing anyone in D5. In both of those cases, control of the Board of Supes is in the balance, and Kim has not been part of the progressive campaigns.

Oddly, she was supported by an independent expenditure committee funded in part by Pacific Gas and Electric – that’s odd because Kim has been a supporter of CleanPowerSF, which PG&E hates.

Still, on the issues, there is no real choice: Although she voted for the Twitter tax break, which has been terrible for the city, Kim has largely been a consistent progressive on the Board of Supes. Wiener supports Airbnb and has not been good on controlling and enforcing the short-term rentals law. He’s a big supporter of the Google buses (which have driven up rents and led to displacement). He didn’t support the anti-speculation tax.

Both Wiener and Kim are smart, hard-working, accomplished legislators. But they offer very different political perspectives. There are plenty of moderate Democrats in the state Senate; the representative from San Francisco needs to be someone who will push the edge on both social and economic issues.

More: Wiener has consistently supported the more conservative candidates for office and is part of the group that has been allied with Mayor Ed Lee. The person who wins this office will be poised to run for higher office (sometime in the not-so-distant future, a Congressional seat will be open, and there’s a mayor’s race not that far off). That person will also be able to raise money and influence local politics.

If Wiener’s the winner, the conservatives get empowered. If Kim finishes on top, the progressives get a champion.

No contest there. Vote for Kim.

 

State Assembly, District 17

No endorsement

The primary two years ago that put David Chiu in the Assembly was a dramatic moment in SF politics. Chiu ran against David Campos, and won narrowly, giving the moderate faction in SF a victory and putting a more centrist candidate in the seat once occupied by progressive champion Tom Ammiano.

Chiu, who ran for supervisor as a progressive, quickly switched sides, to his own political advantage. He is an ally of Scott Wiener, who endorsed him for Assembly over an LGBT candidate (and is now arguing that the city needs LGBT representation in Sacramento) and Chiu is now supporting Wiener.

With expanded term limits, Chiu could be in the Assembly another 10 years, and may wind up doing good things, and might earn our support at some point. But given his history and his support for the wrong candidates, he’s got a way to go.

 

Assembly, District 19

Phil Ting

Here’s the odd thing: Ting, who represents the more conservative side of the city, has been more aligned with the progressives on a lot of issues and endorsements. He’s backing Kim over Wiener. He’s made a point of promoting better tax policy and closing Prop. 13 loopholes. (Next, maybe he can take on the idea of expanding property tax to “intangibles” like stock holdings.) He’s often voted with the progressives on the DCCC. We’ll give him the nod for another term.

 

Superior Court Judge

Victor Hwang

Like the Kim-Wiener contest, this is Round Two: Hwang came in first in the primary in June, and will face his closest competitor, Paul Henderson, in November. It’s an usual race – although judges are technically elected officials, they tend to despise elections, and most of them retire mid-term to allow the governor to appoint a replacement. In this case, in a remarkable not to democracy, Judge Ernest Goldsmith is leaving at the end of his term. So it’s an open seat – and while we were surprised that only three candidates entered the race, the finalists are both entirely qualified for the job.

Paul Henderson has spent much of his career as a San Francisco prosecutor, and was expected to replace Kamala Harris as DA when she was elected state Attorney General. Instead, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom made the unprecedented move of appointing the police chief, George Gascon, to the job. Henderson then moved on to work as a criminal justice advisor to Mayor Ed Lee.

He has the support of Scott Wiener and most of the other Lee allies.

Victor Hwang has been a public defender, prosecutor (of hate-crimes cases) and a public-interest civil-rights lawyer. He is the only candidate to get the highest possible rating from the local bar association (“exceptionally well qualified.”) In terms of geopolitics, he is also the candidate of Jane Kim and her allies; most of the progressive movement supports him.

A third candidate, Sigrid Irias, finished third and out of the running in June.

It’s hard to pin judges down on issues, since they typically shy away from any political stands, arguing (not entirely accurately) that the Code of Judicial Conduct forbids them from saying much of anything about anything. But they can talk about how the courts are run – and on that front, Henderson was impressive. He told us he thinks the judges should hold court-administration meetings in public, and that most trials and court hearings should be televised.

Hwang was more cautious, saying that TV cameras should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and he wasn’t as clear about opening the court administration to the public.

But our analysis from the primary hasn’t changed:

Henderson is part of the Ed Lee operation. For five years – while the local cops shot men of color with impunity, while the tech industry took over the city, while thousands were evicted – he was sitting there as a deputy chief of staff and criminal justice advisor. He told us that he “wasn’t the one making the decisions,” but he was part of that team. (And it’s not as if he was forced to take that job – law firms all over town would have lined up to hire him if he didn’t want to be part of the Lee Administration.) In the battle for San Francisco, he chose his side.

Hwang has a long and distinguished record at the Asian Law Caucus and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach. He’s been a pretty good member of the Police Commission (which lacks a majority of good members). He is a former Bay Guardian Local Hero. Our only caveat in supporting him is that the local defense bar, particularly the Public Defender’s Office, has serious concerns. As we said in the spring:

As a prosecutor, they say, he’s been unreasonable, pushing for harsher sentences and refusing to drop charges that don’t make sense.

Hwang told us that as a prosecutor in the Hate Crimes Unit, he may have been “too aggressive” in pushing criminal enhancements that some of his predecessors bargained away. He made it clear when he arrived in that job that he would not dismiss hate-crime allegations under almost any circumstances – which is fine in theory, but in practice, the cops and DA’s Office often file charges that turn out to be bogus, and most line prosecutors in this city work with the defense to avoid trying cases that aren’t justified.

We understand the need to prosecute hate crimes, and prosecutors and defense lawyers often clash. But the folks in the PD’s Office and the DA’s Office typically treat each other with respect and maintain a professional relationship, and the concern we are hearing in this case is unusual.

We urged Hwang to make an effort to build bridges across the community – and there are signs that he is taking that seriously. After his impressive showing in June, his is the prohibitive front-runner, but he is still working hard, showing up at community meetings, working to build relationships, and impressing us that he would be an excellent judge.

In the end, this is a pretty clear choice. Vote for Victor Hwang.

 

Board of Education

Stevon Cook

Matt Haney

Mark Sanchez

 

The San Francisco public schools are in far better shape than they were 15, even 10 years ago. The last two superintendents have been solid leaders; enrollment is increasing, and SF is ranked as the best big-city school district in the state.

And yet, there are serious lagging problems. The achievement gap remains terrible – African American students are still far behind white and Asian students by every possible measurement. There are some schools – mostly in upscale neighborhoods – that raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside money to hire more teachers and enrich the curriculum, while other schools, mostly in lower-income areas, scrape by on inadequate state money.

The elementary schools and high schools are improving faster than the middle schools, and we often wonder why there are not more K-8 offerings or why the district can’t change the model (like K-3, 4-6, and 7-8, or even 7-9?)

The enrollment lottery continues to frustrate a lot of parents who push for neighborhood schools – which, frankly, would make the two-tiered system that we currently have much worse.

Oh, and the next board will have to choose a new superintendent.

And along with all of that, we have what could become the most serious problem the district faces: The housing market is so bad, and teachers are paid so far below that they need, that it’s impossible for educators to live here. The district started the year with a teacher shortage, and the shortage of experienced, skilled teachers is only going to get worse if pay scales aren’t dramatically increased.

In fact, teacher pay, and teacher housing, is the defining issue in this election. And it should be.

The Teacher’s Union has endorsed four candidates who have pledged to work for higher salaries and to look for ways to use surplus land to build housing for teachers. We’re with the union on three.

It’s a tricky question. Typically the Guardian endorses a full slate of candidates in these sorts of races; four will win, and we should back the best four. That’s what the union did.

But this is an odd case, and there are politically strategic reasons for our choices.

Let’s start with the incumbents.

Matt Haney, the current board president, is a clear choice for re-election. He’s been a progressive leader on the board, would be a great person to head the next search for a superintendent, and has our support. (We agree with his suggestion that some school names should be changed, particularly those associated with slave holders. We could add a few more. But that’s become a distraction in the race.)

Sandy Fewer, who has been a solid member of the board, is stepping down to run for supervisor.

The other two incumbents are Jill Wynns and Rachel Norton.

Wynns has been on the board so long it’s hard to remember what the schools were like without her. This would be her seventh term. She has been on the right side of some critical issues, and is the only sitting board member who opposed the commercialization of the schools when the board voted to allow the Golden State Warriors to sponsor a sports field. She has developed a national reputation as a School Board leader.

We appreciate and respect all that she has done. We respect her long institutional memory. We were deeply unhappy with her support for former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who was terrible, and her support for JROTC (there should be no military recruitment in high schools). Still, we endorsed her four years ago.

But she is not an ally of the teachers. Besides, six terms is enough. She deserves thanks for her work, and it’s time to move on.

The teachers, reluctantly, added Rachel Norton to their slate. She has been part of the more moderate wing of the board, and is, in fact, part of the moderate/conservative side of SF politics: She ran for DCCC as part of the real-estate-friendly slate. She has worked with Fewer on the school assignment system, and pledged to the union that she would make teacher pay her top priority.

We have not, generally, been fans of Norton, who somewhat dismissively said on her blog that commercialization in the schools is no big deal:

“Principles are pesky things sometimes. On the one hand, I am bombarded by commercial logos every day and I do manage to (most of the time) utilize critical thinking about the companies with whom I choose to do business. If a company is offering an expensive, desirable and useful device free to students, what’s the big deal about a small corporate logo on the case?”

 

UPDATE: You can read Norton’s entire post here. She says we took it out of context. Please decide for yourselves.

There are two really solid challengers. Stevon Cook ran four years ago, and came up just a handful of votes short. He’s a really impressive candidate who got our endorsement last time. He survived a troubled childhood in San Francisco, thrived at Thurgood Marshall High School, went on to Williams College, and came back to help his community. He’s been an academic advisor at Marshall (one of the most challenging high schools in the district) and now runs a program that seeks to expand computer-science education in the public schools. He will be an excellent School Board member, and we are happy to endorse him.

Mark Sanchez, a career teacher, was a School Board member from 2000 to 2008, and was a leader of the progressive bloc. He called out Ackerman on her abusive style and ineffective policies, fought against JROTC, and worked to improve education for communities of color. After he lost a race for D9 supervisor in 2008 to David Campos, he became principal of Horace Mann Elementary, and is now principal at Cleveland Elementary. He has the political experience, teaching experience, administrative experience, and progressive instincts to be an even better board member than he was last time around.

So we like Haney, Cook, and Sanchez. If we endorse Norton or Wynns, there’s a chance that both of them, with the advantage of incumbency, will win, and one of the three better candidates will miss the cut.

So this time, vote for three – Haney, Cook, and Sanchez – and let’s hope that all of them win.

Community College Board

Rafael Mandelman

Tom Temprano

Shanell Williams

 

Talk about a tough job: The elected members of the Community College Board are going to have to figure out how to get through a rigged accreditation system, maybe (we hope) help find a new accreditor, deal with a loss of $35 million in state funds, restore a shrinking enrollment, and get back on working terms with a faculty that was on the verge of striking.

Not even remotely easy for a board that only recently got the authority back to make its own decisions after years of working under the thumb of a state monitor.

But the stakes are immense: City College is one of the most important institutions in the city, a path to higher education for tens of thousands of residence and a source of job training for some of the city’s most important industries. It cannot be allowed to fail; in fact, it can’t be forced to downsize to the point where it’s no longer accessible to the San Franciscans who need it.

There are four seats up. We are endorsing three. As with our School Board endorsements, that’s a strategic move to make sure that the three who are best positioned to build the school for the future get seats.

Rafael Mandelman is an incumbent and served as board president through a very difficult time. The faculty union isn’t thrilled with him, and we understand that. But he is a longtime progressive who is committee to the school and took a leadership role in a tough time. He deserves another term.

Tom Temprano ran two years ago, and finished just out of the running. A young LGBT activist and small business person, he understands the role City College plays in training the next generation of workers and providing educational opportunities for all. He also understands that the faculty are underpaid – and that without good teachers, nothing else matters.

Shanell Williams has been a student trustee – and a leader in the fight to save City College. She is exactly the kind of person who ought to be seeking elective office, and has a bright political future.

 

BART Board, District 7

Lateefah Simon

This one’s as easy as it gets. The incumbent, Zachary Mallett, has been a disaster. He bungled the BART strike, he showed no respect for the workers, he has shown no evidence that he is capable of continue in office, and he needs to be replaced. Lateefah Simon is about the best candidate for BART Board that we have ever seen, a longtime community activist, former director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Macarthur Genius Award winner, and someone who understands that transit is a social justice issue.

This district covers Southeast San Francisco and much of the near East Bay. She is supported by the BART workers’ unions – and by pretty much everyone else with any sense in San Francisco and the East Bay. We could not be happier to endorse her.

 

BART Board, District 9

Bevan Dufty

The Transformation of Bevan Dufty could fill a small book: Once: Willie Brown staffer, strong supporter of a corrupt mayor, elected supervisor on a split ticket against Tom Radulovich, whose seat he is now seeking, and Eileen Hansen, who had most of the progressive support … and the last-minute swing vote to put Ed Lee in the Mayor’s Office. Now: An effective and independent former head of the mayor’s office of homelessness who was part of the Reform Slate for DCCC and who now wants to go back to public service on the BART Board.

People learn, we suppose. We are still stinging from the day when then-Sheriff Mike Hennessey had the votes to become mayor after Gavin Newsom moved to Lieutenant Governor, but Dufty called a recess and went and called Newsom and changed his vote and went with Lee. The city is still suffering deeply from that terrible decision.

But Dufty proved to be a solid advocate for homeless people in the city, and has moved into the progressive camp, and promised us (we got you on the record, Bevan) that he has no desire to run for supervisor again and wants to spend the next ten years fixing public transit. There’s a lot to do. He’s an experienced, smart guy. We’ll give him a chance.

 

Board of Supervisors

You can see the equivalent of a two-party contest this time in the Board of Supes races; it’s as if we are watching the Democrats and Republicans fight for control of Congress. Not that the moderate/centrist/pro-tech-industry-and-real estate candidates are even remotely Republicans; on social issues, almost everyone in SF politics is a liberal. But on key economic issues of regulation, development, and taxes, there are progressives who think the city is better off with more regulations on rent, evictions, speculation, displacement, housing, the tech industry, and real-estate in general, and moderates who think that we should allow the free market more of a role in deciding who gets to live here.

Four years ago, there were all sorts of contests where we either had several good candidates, or limited choices. This time around, it could not be more clear.

The progressives now have a narrow 6-5 majority on the board, a critical check on a mayor whose politics have failed the city. In three districts, key progressive supes are termed out. If Sup. Jane Kim wins the state Senate race, her district will go to a mayoral appointee and ally.

So the progressive side needs to win all six races – and in every case, there is a progressive candidate and a mayor-friendly candidate, a clear choice between different visions of how the city should be run.

We are supporters of ranked-choice voting, but for the most part it doesn’t come into play this time around. Every district has two major candidates. Every time, there’s a dramatic choice. Our recommendations follow.

 

 

District One

Sandra Lee Fewer

The district that basically covers the Richmond has been a key swing area in local politics. Since the return of district elections, it’s represented by Jake McGoldrick, a neighborhood and labor activist who was mostly with the progressives, then Eric Mar, who has been a progressive stalwart and leader. Sandra Fewer is the clear and worthy successor.

Fewer has impeccable credentials for the job. A parent of three public school kids who became a PTA activist; an organizer with Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth; a two-term School Board member. She’s a tenant advocate who worked to force the school district to abandon a plan for market-rate housing on surplus property and turned it instead into affordable units. She’s got amazingly widespread support, from state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblymember Phil Ting to Sups. Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Norman Yee, David Campos and John Avalos to four of her School Board colleagues (who don’t often agree on everything but agree Fewer is a great candidate).

She has the proven ability to bring people together to make things happen.

Her main opponent, Marjan Philhour, has never held elective office, and her main experience in politics is as a paid fundraiser. She’s the candidate of the mayor’s allies – London Breed, Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell. We’re with Fewer.

 District Three

Aaron Peskin

After the brutal, knock-down-drag-out battle that got Peskin elected to the board last fall, this is an easy one. He has no serious opponents. He has demonstrated in just the few months he’s been back on the board that he’s a watchdog for the public, a master of legislation, and an exceptional supervisor. We’re a bit concerned that he has not taken more of a leadership role in the fall elections: If the progressives don’t win all six seats, the mayor’s allies will be back in control, and Peskin is entirely missing in the critical D5 race. Still: No contest. Vote Aaron.

 

Board of Supervisors, District Five

Dean Preston

The future of San Francisco could come down to this district contest, and we are more than a bit disappointed that so many progressive groups and leaders are either staying out or siding with the incumbent, London Breed.

We will admit, right up front, that there’s racial issue here: Breed is an African American woman who grew up in a tough, violent housing project, raised by her grandmother, lost two siblings to drugs and the criminal justice system, and to her immense credit graduated from UC Davis and got a master’s degree from USF. She is a smart, tough woman, and her personal story is inspiring.

Preston is a white guy who has worked as a tenant lawyer and runs a statewide tenant organization. He owns his home; she is a renter.

It’s hard for a lot of people on the left to endorse a straight white man over a woman of color. We are acutely aware of that. It’s a factor in this contest, and it ought to be.

But Breed has a record in office, and it’s very troubling.

Breed ran four years ago against Mayor Lee’s appointed incumbent, Christina Olague. It was one of the strangest elections in local history: Some progressives supported Community College Board member and Sierra Club leader John Rizzo; some backed Julian Davis, who is the only person in history ever to get and then lose a Guardian endorsement after he lied to us about a foul history of inappropriate behavior.

After we dumped Davis, were prepared to endorse Olague, but the new owner of the paper told us couldn’t do that. Not long after, Tim Redmond (who now runs the Guardian) was fired.

Olague had the mayor’s support for much of the campaign, but lost it at the end after she voted not to impeach Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, in one of the most complicated and politically difficult issues in recent memory. The mayor’s pal Ron Conway and his wife poured about $100,000 into an independent expenditure committee to trash Olague. The real-estate industry was already there.

So Breed won.

Whatever her attitudes toward Mayor Lee when she ran for office, she quickly changed. Over the first three years of her term, she voted consistently with the mayor, his allies, and his agenda.

Breed was on the wrong side of the key votes on Airbnb, supporting rules that let the company turn desperately needed housing into hotel rooms with no effective enforcement. She then voted to make a bad law even worse. She appointed the most conservative supes to key committee assignments. She refused to support the anti-speculation initiative. Most of the time, she has been on the side of Mayor Ed Lee’s allies.

If there are two parties in San Francisco today – and sadly, thanks to the mayor, there are – she is a member of the more conservative group.

Over the past few months, facing a challenge from the left, she has moved somewhat. But her record is clear.

We have never questioned her motivations, or her sincerity. But she has been on the wrong side too often, and if she is re-elected, we believe she will be part of what could be a renewed moderate bloc that will undermine the progressive agenda. In a worst-case scenario, if Mayor Lee (embattled and unable to get anything done) decides to step down, it’s critical that the progressives hold six seats so we don’t get another mayor like Lee.

Preston has a long history as a tenant advocate. He was a leader in the fight to amend the Ellis Act in Sacramento, supported tight restrictions on Airbnb, supported the anti-speculation law, and has been on the right side of pretty much every issue in the city.

He has a history (as a tenant lawyer) of negotiating good deals, so the district would see someone in office who doesn’t quickly cave to developers or the likes of Airbnb (which has devastated the rental housing stock in D5). He’s got all the qualifications that would make him a great supervisor — a command of the issues, political experience, and unerringly progressive stands. He much better represents the politics of D5 than a moderate like Breed.

Preston is running an inspiring grassroots campaign that is offering a serious challenge to the incumbent. We give him immense credit for taking this on; it’s not easy to challenge an incumbent who has the support of the mayor’s big-money operation. Preston is doing this for the progressive movement and for the issues; He has our strong support in what could be a critical district race.

 

District 7

Norman Yee

The last two supes from this conservative district were, in order, a total disaster (Tony Hall) and an honest, principled, but very right-leaning legislator (Sean Elsbernd). Norman Yee won four years ago, and has effectively managed to be both a neighborhood advocate, a representative of his district, and someone who is open to progressive ideas.

Yee is often a calming voice on the board, an experienced elder statesman who has served on the School Board, worked in the community, and earned widespread respect. Nobody on any side of an often fractious board ever questions his motivations. He does not always agree with us, but we’re glad to have him on the board.

His main challenger, Joel Engardio, was a terrible member of the DCCC who voted consistently with the real-estate industry and its representative, Mary Jung, who appointed him. We’re happy to endorse Norman Yee.

 

District 9

Hillary Ronen

Again: About as clear a choice as there can be. Ronen, chief of staff to Sup. David Campos, has a history as a civil-rights lawyer and a part of the progressive movement. Josh Arce, her opponent, was appointed to the DCCC by the real-estate industry’s lobbyist, Mary Jung, voted with her most of the time, and singlehandedly shot down a resolution suggesting that the San Francisco Police Department adopt modern standards on use of force.

That was a telling moment that nobody should ever forget. As 48hills reported:

“The resolution had been delayed and delayed after the Police Officers Association opposed it. But Hene Kelly, along with Kelly Dwyer, who recently had to leave the committee after she was rent-hiked out of town, worked for months to come up with an alternative everyone could live with.

They met with the public defender. They met with the cops. They drafted and redrafted.

“I spent three months to get this before the committee,” Kelly said. I had police officers agreeing with our changes. I had to turn it in ten days before the meeting, and it was in the agenda packet 72 hours ahead.”

That’s the process. But last night, something else happened: Member Joshua Arce introduced a “substitute” amendment that amounted to worthless mush. And the policy arm of the San Francisco Democratic Party went with the meaningless statement by a vote of 13-10.

… It’s yet another sign of the takeover of the local Democratic Party not only by allies of developers and the real-estate industry but by people who are unwilling to show any backbone at all on anything at all.”

That’s Arce. He is trying desperately to say that he and Ronen are both progressives, but the record shows otherwise. He is an odd character with strange political ambition: When he was 18, he ran for state Assembly from his dorm room at UCLA with, according to the LA Times, a platform that included “slapping harsher penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.” Now he’s saying he’s the guy to represent the Mission.

We have serious issues with anyone who tries to run as someone he isn’t – and that’s what Arce is doing.

Ronen would be an excellent supervisor. She’s got the experience, the political savvy, the community credentials to be a worthy successor to Tom Ammiano and David Campos. She’s straightforward and honest about her positions. We are happy to endorse her.

 

District 11

Kimberly Alvarenga

 

Another district where a candidate of the real-estate industry is trying to run as a community advocate. Ahsha Safai is a house-flipper who was sued for mortgage fraud, an ally of Mayor Lee, a candidate who repeatedly makes claims that aren’t true and who would be a terrible supervisor. Somehow, he has some labor support, which is disturbing: Why Local 2, the hotel workers’ union, would back a candidate whose policies will only drive more union members out of town is beyond our comprehension.

We will quote Nato Green from the SF Examiner:

“When Safai ran for supervisor in 2008, he claimed to have “saved St. Luke’s Hospital” on his doorhangers, when, in fact, he made no effort. In 2007, Sutter Health revealed plans to close St. Luke’s Hospital. On behalf of the California Nurses Association, I was involved in building a broad labor-community coalition that worked with practically everyone in San Francisco but Safai to save St. Luke’s.

Sutter [later] appointed Safai as a “community representative” to an ad-hoc community advisory board, and then he promptly took credit for saving St. Luke’s. There were countless interminable hearings, rallies and meetings on the way to saving St. Luke’s, yet we never saw Safai. It gave the impression that Sutter appointed him to this role just to give him something to tout on the hustings.

In 2010, Safai was appointed to the Housing Authority Commission by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. The commission is responsible for fiscal and operational oversight of the agency and accountability for the director. Safai and four other commissioners so failed in these basic oversight functions that Mayor Lee replaced them before their terms ended.

In March 2013, the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office issued a report that, among other things, was scathing about the Commission:

‘The SFHA Board of Commissioners allowed the financial condition of the authority to reach a critical point, largely as the result of its own inadequate oversight. The Commission did not review SFHA’s financial statements in the 17-month period from October 2011 through February 2013, and did not address financial risks highlighted by the financial statements.’”

This is the candidate who says he can most effectively represent D11.

Worse: Safai is using nasty, misleading hit pieces to go after Alvarenga, suggesting that she would support “pot clubs on every corner.”

Please: Kim Alvarenga is a mom, a former chief of staff to Tom Ammiano, a political director for SEIU Local 1021. She’s a totally decent, honest person who has spent her life working for underrepresented people, while Safai has worked to build a successful real-estate operation. She is a young LGBT woman of color who would be a huge asset to the Board of Supes. We are disgusted by Safai’s tactics, and we fully support Alvarenga.

 

State ballot measures

Prop. 51

School bonds

YES

The need for funding for K-12 and community college facilities is dire. There’s no way to argue against $9 billion in state bonds to help local communities upgrade ebonds come out of the overall general fund, in this case to the tune of $500 million a year, and while everyone in Sacramento wants to borrow money for good causes, it’s hard to find many who want to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for it. Still: Vote yes.

 

Prop. 52

Medi-Cal hospital fee

YES

Complex, technical, but the bottom line is that private hospitals would pay a fee to pay for uninsured and Medi-Cal patients. If you think that private hospitals in CA are just charities, go check out the financials of the likes of Kaiser and Sutter Health. They make billions. Vote yes.

 

Prop. 53

Revenue bond vote

NO

This is part of the same agenda that brought us Prop. 13. The anti-tax folks want to make it harder for government to raise money. Revenue bonds aren’t backed by taxpayers; they’re backed by, say, the income from an airport or a public-power agency. The reality is that this is funded by a rich Central Valley farmer who doesn’t like the governor’s plans for new water tunnels or high-speed rail. We don’t like the tunnels, either; we do like the trains. Either way, this is a really stupid way to make policy. Vote no.

 

Prop. 54

Legislative sunshine

YES

This is going to pass with about 70 percent of the vote, and it should. The state Legislature has a habit of introducing new elements to bills at the last minute, just before a session ends. Rotten special-interest riders hike onto unrelated bills; legislator voting on hundreds of measures don’t get a chance to scrutinize what’s going on. Prop. 54 also mandates that all sessions of the Legislature and its committees be streamed on video. Vote yes.

 

Prop. 55

Tax extension on the rich

YES

In 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession, the state imposed a modest increase in taxes on the most wealthy, people with incomes of more than $250,000 a year. That tax is set to expire in 2018. The rich are even richer, the needs are even more serious, and drop of as much as $9 billion in state revenue would be devastating. Yes, yes, yes.

 

Prop. 56

Cigarette tax

YES

The state’s tobacco tax is only 87 cents a pack. Prop. 56 raises it by $2. The evidence is pretty clear that smoking costs the state billions in health-care costs, and that higher taxes reduce use (particularly among young people.) Vote yes.

 

Prop. 57

Earlier parole

YES

Prop. 57 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature measure for this fall — is a significant step toward reforming the state’s crazy, racist, inhumane criminal justice system. The measure would allow the possibility of parole for some 30,000 nonviolent felons who are now stuck in long sentences. It would also require a judge – not just a prosecutor – to decide whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult. And it allows prison authorities to allow inmates “good time” – that is, a reduction in their sentences for good behavior. In reality, only a few thousand would likely be set free any single year, and while this won’t solve the prison overcrowding problem, it will help. Vote yes.

 

Proposition 58

YES

English language learning

The description of this measure is a bit confusing, but its impact would be simple: It would guarantee that public schools in California have the right to use bilingual or immersion education as part of the curriculum for English learners. It would overturn outdated and ineffective “English only” rules. Every credible education group supports it. Vote yes.

 

Proposition 59

Overturning Citizens United

Prop. 59 is one of those policy statements that we often see on the ballot in San Francisco but not so much at the state level. It has no immediate impact; it doesn’t change any laws. But it would put California voters on record urging Congress and the courts to overturn the Citizens United decision that allows for unregulated campaign spending by corporations. The momentum to overturn that decision is growing – and for California, the nation’s largest state, to take a strong position would send a national signal. Vote Yes.

 

Proposition 60

Condoms in porn films

This is one of those measures that sounds sensible – until you stop and think about it. Prop. 60 would mandate that adult film performers use condoms “during filming of sexual intercourse.” Sure, public health and workplace safety, right?

Except that the performers themselves are opposed. Public health organizations are opposed. Because this makes no sense and shows no comprehension of how the porn industry actually works these days.

There are still big outfits like Vivid Studios and Kink.com, but a lot of the industry is now pretty homegrown – performers make and produce their own videos. Under Prop. 60, if they aren’t using condoms, they could be sued anytime. Their real names and addresses could become public.

And it seems to be a solution in search of a problem: There isn’t one documented case of a person getting infected with HIV on a porn set in California. Performers are tested regularly.

There’s no question that the state regulators who handle workplace safety – that is, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration – is behind the times on creating rules for porn studios. There may be instances when a performer who wants to use a condom is told not to – and that’s a problem. But Cal-OSHA should be writing the regulations – and this measure will likely either drive porn films out of state or underground, in either case encouraging less, not more, regulation. Both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are against this. So are we.

 

Proposition 61

Drug prices

This one also sounds confusing and bureaucratic. What it really does is mandate that the state pay no more for prescription drugs than the federal Veterans Administration. It’s part of a national movement that says Big Pharma charges too much for medicine. The state has bargaining power, the VA generally gets way better deals than the state does, and the California Nurses Association supports it. So does Bernie Sanders. That’s good enough for us.

Proposition 62

Death penalty repeal

YES, YES, YES

The death penalty is barbaric. Most civilized countries have long since abolished it. It’s also hugely expensive and doesn’t work.

Prop. 62 is the latest effort to get California out of the state-sponsored killing business. The last time around, the voters narrowly rejected a death-penalty repeal, but the vast cost (hundreds of millions of dollars), the growing evidence that innocent people have been sentenced to death, and the understanding that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, is imposed overwhelmingly on poor people of color, many of them with serious mental-health issues, is starting to turn the public around. This should be the year. Please: Vote yes.

 

Proposition 63

Ammunition sales

Yes

California has better gun laws than a lot of states, and this will make the rules even tighter by focusing on two problems: It’s still relatively easy to buy ammunition (even over the Internet) and it’s hard to get guns out of the hands of people who are legally banned from owning them (felons and people convicted of domestic violence). Yes, Prop. 63 is a vehicle for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who proposed it, to get his name out on a hot issue while he prepares his campaign for governor. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

The measure would require background checks for people who buy ammo and create a court process for removing guns from people who aren’t supposed to have them. Vote yes.

 

Proposition 64

Marijuana legalization

This isn’t the law we would have written; it’s complex and has all sorts of rules that might not be needed. But still: Legalizing pot is about, oh, 50 years overdue. The measure allows local communities to set regulations around sales, sets licensing standards, and will bring the state hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax money. Oh, and save millions in wasted law-enforcement time. We all know prohibition is silly and doesn’t work. Vote yes.

 

Proposition 65

Carry out bags

NO

The plastic-bag industry, which sells something like a billion bags a year in the state, put this on the ballot to confuse voters and prevent the kind of real regulation that is in Prop. 67. It’s not an environmental issue; the real environmental groups are all against it. Vote no.

 

Proposition 66

NO, NO, NO

Death penalty enforcement

 

This one’s the opposite of Prop. 62. It’s devious and potentially terrible. The measure would seek to speed up the death-penalty process by eliminating Constitutional protections and imposing unrealistic timelines on prosecutors, defense lawyers, and the courts. It’s impossible for this to work without seriously risking the execution of an innocent person. It would overload local courts with work they aren’t prepared or funded to do. It’s a cynical attempt by the death-penalty lobby to confuse voters. No, No, No.

 

Proposition 67

Plastic bag ban

YES

San Francisco phased out single-use plastic bags years ago – and we seem to be doing fine. The idea of reusable shopping bags has caught on, the economic and consumer consequences are zero – and the environmental impacts of getting rid of a few billion plastic bags, which don’t decompose, aren’t recyclable, and kill fish and wildlife are huge. Vote yes.

 

San Francisco ballot measures

 

Proposition A

School bonds

A few years ago, the San Francisco Unified School District was closing schools and worrying about declining enrollment. Now the opposite is happening – more kids are going to the local schools, many of which are old and in need of upgrades and repairs. Prop. A is a $744 million bond act that would pay for at least one new school, a new arts center, a modest amount of affordable housing for teachers, and facility and tech upgrades across the system. Vote yes.

 

Proposition B

City College parcel tax

YES

In a perfect world, the incompetent rogue accreditors who deeply damaged City College of San Francisco would be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. In this particular world, it doesn’t work that way. City College, a jewel in the city’s educational system, got a raw deal from a group that is about to lose its own license, and the property owners of the city need to step up and make sure the school continues not only to survive but to grow and thrive. Prop. B is not a new tax; it’s just the reauthorization of an existing $99-a-parcel level that provides $15 million a year to the school. City College is going to lose some $30 million in emergency state money next year, and the Prop. B revenue is essential. None of the money can go to administrator salaries; it’s all about paying teachers and providing classroom support. Vote yes.

 

Proposition C

Affordable housing loans

YES

Back in 1992, the voters approved $350 million in bonds to make loans to property owners for seismic upgrades. For whatever reason, most of that money was never spent, and there’s at least $200 million left in the fund. Prop. C doesn’t add any additional bonds or taxes; it would just allow the city to redirect existing approved money to the acquisition and rehab of affordable housing. This one’s easy – vote yes.

 

Proposition D

Elect our elected officials

YES, YES, YES

Prop. D is one of the more important items on the ballot, and could have a huge, lasting impact on local politics. It would end the practice of allowing the mayor to fill vacancies on the Board of Supervisors and instead give the voters that chance. It’s textbook good government: There is no other example we can find where the executive branch of government fills vacancies in the legislative branch. If a state Assembly or Senate member steps down, the governor doesn’t appoint a replacement – the voters do. If a member of Congress steps down, the president doesn’t make an appointment – the voters do. The odd San Francisco charter rules have allowed all kinds of corrupt political manipulations; at one point, when Willie Brown was mayor, six of the supervisors were his appointees.

Under Prop. D, if a vacancy on the board occurs, a special election would be held within 180 days. The mayor could appoint a temporary caretaker to fill in, but that person could not run for a full term. It makes perfect sense and is long overdue. Vote yes.

 

Proposition E

Street trees

YES

It’s silly that this is such a big deal and had to wind up on the ballot, after much back-and-forth and political argument, but it’s a big deal in a lot of neighborhoods. The Department of Public Works, looking to save some cash, a couple of years ago decided that the trees that populate many local sidewalks would no longer be the city’s problem and would suddenly be the responsibility of the nearest property owner. The result: Trees aren’t getting maintained, and some owners are ready to cut them down so they don’t have to pay for trimming every few years. Prop. E would return this job to the city, where it always used to be. The $19 million cost will be covered by a remarkably progressive parcel tax based on the frontage size of a lot. No reason to oppose it.

 

Proposition F

Youth voting in local elections

YES

The strongest argument for allowing 16-year-olds to vote in local elections (other than the fact that adults haven’t always done so well at the job) is that voting is a habitual behavior. People who vote this year tend to vote next year. People who never started don’t start. And 18 is a tough time to start a new habit, since many people are leaving the community for college or a job, have too much on their minds, and don’t think about voting.

If 16-year-olds can vote, it will also give them more incentive to learn about and get involved in local politics. All good. Yes on F.

 

Proposition G

Department of Police Accountability

YES

This is a fairly mild, but modestly helpful, measure that would give a little more independence to the Office of Citizen Complaints, the civilian agency that oversees investigations into police misconduct. The proposal would rename the OCC the Department of Police Accountability, give the agency its own budget (separate from the Police Commission and Department) and would mandate that it conduct a performance audit on police use of force every two years. It won’t solve all of the problems of the SFPD, but it’s a small step.

 

Proposition H

Public Advocate

YES, YES, YES

In New York City, the Office of the Public Advocate is a big deal: The elected official who holds the job is charged not with running the city (like the mayor) or keeping track of the finances (like the controller) or passing laws (like the City Council) but with making sure that the people who live in the city have a place to go when they have problems.

In fact, in NYC, if the mayor leaves office, the public advocate is next in line for the job. The current mayor started off as a public advocate.

The San Francisco proposal is more modest. The public advocate elected in SF would not fill a mayoral vacancy or have a set-aside budget. But Prop. H would create a unique position with the day-to-day responsibility to make sure that local government is working for the people of the city.

We argued for a larger, more robust office that would oversee the Sunshine Task Force (and have the ability to order the release of records) and the Office of Citizen Complaints, among other things. But the version the supervisors put on the ballot is more limited: The Public Advocate would conduct investigations and audits, oversee the whistleblower program, and appoint the director of the OCC.

It’s a good start for something the city needs. Vote yes.

 

Proposition I

Funding for seniors and adults with disabilities

YES

Sup. Aaron Peskin announced shortly after his election that he would never again vote for a “set-aside” – a mandate that a certain amount of the city budget go for certain programs. We get it: Set-asides make it harder for the supervisors to make the city budget work, particularly in hard times. There are lots of worthy causes, and we can’t put them all on the ballot.

But this measure, the so-called “Dignity Fund,” is one of those that we are willing to support, because it targets a vulnerable population that is often left out of the budget wheeling and dealing. As the number of seniors living in the city increases, and the cost of living makes all of their lives more difficult, we can accept the argument that there needs to be baseline funding for those services. Vote yes.

 

Proposition J

Funding for homeless services and transportation

Proposition K

Sales tax increase

YES

We don’t love the idea of these two linked ballot measures. Mayor Ed Lee and Sups. Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener, who are trying to criminalize homeless people (see prop. Q), want the voters to pass a (regressive) sales tax to fund services for the homeless and transportation. One of the reasons that there are so many homeless people is that evictions have been epidemic since the mayor gave Twitter and other tech firms at tax break to come to town. One of the reasons that Muni has so much trouble is that Lee, Wiener, and Farrell support the idea of the giant Google buses that take up Muni stops and pay nothing even remotely near their share of the cost. More: The city has the right to charge developers more than $80 a square foot for Muni service. The mayor and the sponsors of this sales tax went with $18. They want to tax the working people of the city and not tax the developers, the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, the Google buses, and tech companies.

It’s enough to make you sick.

But in the end, the city needs the money, the services are critical, and the tax hike is the only way to pay for the (dubious) set-aside. Hold your nose and vote Yes.

 

Proposition L

Muni oversight

The voters of San Francisco years ago adopted a measure that was supposed to take the politics out of public transit by creating an “independent” commission to oversee Muni. But that commission is entirely appointed by the mayor, can make all sorts of decisions on fare hikes, route changes, and budgets with no oversight by any elected official, and if you ride the buses, you know it’s not working. Prop. L would give the supervisors the ability to appoint three of the seven commissioners of the body that oversees transportation in the city and an easier veto over budgets. Vote yes.

 

Proposition M

Housing and development commission

YES, YES, YES

 

Prop. M is one of the more significant measures on the ballot. In theory, key decisions about land use, development, and planning go to the Planning Department, which answers to a commission. In practice, a lot of the most important work these days happens in the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Community Development. That all happens behind closed doors, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars involved.

Prop. M would create a commission to oversee MOHCD and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Yes: This is a significant move to reduce the power of the Mayor’s Office. But the SF Mayor’s Office has far too much power, more than most city executives have. Yes on M.

 

Proposition N

Non-citizen voting in School Board elections

YES

Thousands of parents in San Francisco have no direct say in how their children are educated because they aren’t US citizens. Prop. N is a bold idea that could have national implications: Why not let parents and legal guardians of all kids, citizen or not, vote in School Board races? It’s just a short-term trial – the law would expire after three School Board elections unless the supervisors decided to renew it. Vote yes.

 

Proposition O

Office development in Hunters Point

NO

Prop. O would allow Lennar Corp. a special exemption to build 5 million square feet of new office space at Candlestick Point and Hunters Point without regard for the city’s annual limit on office space.

This is not good planning policy for anyone – the residents and businesses in Hunters Point or the rest of the city.

Lennar already has the right to build 10,500 housing units, 885,000 square feet of retail space, and between 2.5 million and 3 million square feet of office space. The environmental impact report on the project analyzed 2.5 million square feet. The (inadequate) transit and infrastructure mitigations were based on 2.5 million square feet.

Under current law, passed by the voters in 2008, that office space has to be included in the city’s annual limit of 950,000 square feet, and will count against the limit. Lennar gets a preference – in essence gets to be first in line for permitting – but the law keeps the annual limit intact.

Now Lennar wants to essentially doubt the amount of office space – and exempt it from the annual limit.

There are very good reasons for that limit: The city only has the infrastructure to absorb office space, and the jobs and new people it brings to the city, if there are some controls on how much is built every year. The clear facts, borne out by numerous studies, are that new office space doesn’t pay even a fraction of the cost of providing Muni, fire and police, water and sewer, and other costs it puts on the city.

Under Prop. O, not only would the office space in Lennar’s project be exempt, but it wouldn’t count against the limit anywhere else.

If you think the city’s roads, bridges, and already maxed-out transit systems can handle another 20,000 people – and that’s about how many workers will be filling those 5 millions square feet of space – you haven’t spent much time on the streets lately. In fact, the mayor and Sup. Scott Wiener want to raise the sales tax – a regressive tax that hits poor people the hardest – to pay for better Muni service, and the amount that gets raised won’t even bring the current system to the level it needs to be. The EIR on the project notes a long list of “significant and unavoidable” impacts to traffic congestion and Muni service – and that’s at about half the size.

The 10,500 housing units Lennar is building are supposed to help the existing affordable housing crisis. If we add 20,000 new workers to the area – and keep building office space at a rate of nearly 1 million square feet a year everywhere else in the city – that housing capacity will be instantly be taken up. Which, of course, is why Lennar wants this: The giant developer wants to be sure that there’s enough demand to keep prices high for all of its market-rate housing units. Prop O would create a net deficit of more than 2,000 affordable housing units.

We are not opposed to more development in Hunters Point; Lennar already has all the permits and entitlements it needs to go forward with a very large project. We could ask, as some community activists in the neighborhood have, whether moving a bunch of new tech offices into a low-income area will be a gentrification and displacement machine, but that’s almost beside the point. Lennar supported the 2008 ballot measure that allowed all this development, and agreed at the time to a smaller amount of office space and agreed that the annual limit should apply. Now the developer wants to change the rules. Vote no.

 

 

Proposition P

Competitive bidding for affordable housing

NO

Why is Sup. Mark Farrell declaring war on the city’s nonprofit affordable housing infrastructure? Why is he trying to make it harder for the city to build desperately needed housing? It makes no sense, and Prop. P represents a profound misunderstanding of how affordable housing works in this town.

Affordable housing is built by community-based nonprofits, typically within their communities. It’s not as if they’re trying to enrich themselves – the money is carefully monitored and goes for as many units of housing as possible.

Farrell wants a minimum of three competing bids for every project that the city helps fund. Should a Mission-based nonprofit compete with the Chinatown Community Development Center for a project in Chinatown? Why? Who would benefit?

Nobody, really. But if there are not three competing bids, no project can go forward. Do we really need another obstacle to building affordable housing? Vote no on P.

 

Proposition Q

Tents on the sidewalk

NO

This is one of the most ridiculous, mean-spirited measures to make the city ballot in years. It’s nothing but a pointless way to stir up sentiment against homeless people for political points.

Prop. Q would ban camping on the sidewalks in San Francisco. Guess what? That’s already the law. Prop. Q would give the campers 24 hours’ notice and offer them shelter (for one night). Guess what? There’s nowhere near enough available shelter for the existing homeless population.

Why is this even on the ballot? One reason: So Farrell and his ally Wiener can use homelessness as a wedge issue in the state Senate campaign. Disgusting. Vote no.

 

Proposition R

Neighborhood crime unit

NO

Again: A bad piece of public policy that’s on the ballot only for crass politics. This time it’s Wiener leading the charge, and he wants 3 percent of all sworn police officers to be assigned to a new Neighborhood Crime Unit that will focus on quality-of-life issues. Guess that that means? More harassment of homeless people.

This is no way to assign officers and manage the Police Department; in fact, it shifts resources away from more serious crimes.

 

Proposition S

Hotel tax allocation

YES

There’s very little opposition to this measure by Sup. Eric Mar that would slightly change the way existing hotel taxes are allocated. The measure would create an Ending Family Homelessness Fund and a Neighborhood Arts Fund, and each would get a small percentage of the money raised by the hotel tax. Vote yes.

 

 

Proposition T

Lobbyist contributions

YES

Prop. T is the latest example of the Ethics Commission putting measures on the ballot to restrict (or at least put some sunshine on) political influence peddling. The last time around, we thought a measure that swept nonprofits up in the lobbying net was too broad, and we have similar concerns about this one: So-called “expenditure lobbyists” – any organization that spends money organizing to influence City Hall – include, of course, fake astroturf groups and corporate-sponsored operations like Airbnb turns out to prevent new regulations. But they also include a lot of much smaller nonprofits, and the city needs to find a way to make a distinction.

In this case, if bars any lobbyists from making campaign contributions to anyone they have contacted on behalf of a client in the past 90 days. Makes sense, but the supes (who will have the right to amend this later) need to make sure that it’s not stopping genuine activists who happen to work for affordable housing or tenant groups from participating in politics. For now, vote yes

 

Proposition U

Affordable housing requirements

NO NO NO

This deceptive measure is simply an assault by the real-estate interests on San Francisco’s affordable housing laws. The measure allows apartments rented to people who make as much as 110 percent of median income to count as “affordable” in market-rate projects. That means developers don’t have to provide as many units for lower income people – and can make a lot more money.

The current rules say that a project sponsor has to make 25 percent of their units “affordable” or pay a fee to the city. Building apartments that rent at a rate working people can actually afford in this city requires the developers to in essence subsidize the rent. Raising the level to 110 percent means a lot less subsidy – since in many parts of town, that rent level is already close to what the market will bear.

This isn’t about building “middle class housing.” It’s a giveaway to developers who want to find a way around SF’s affordable housing laws. The campaign is funded largely by the California Association of Realtors – and tech titans Ron Conway and Michael Moritz each just dropped $49,000 into the till. Vote no.

 

Proposition V

Sugary beverages tax

YES

Don’t believe the hype, well-funded by the soda industry: This is not a “grocery tax.” It’s a tax on soda, levied on the distributor, not on the store. Its aim is not so much to bring money into the city but to discourage people (particularly kids) from buying a product that can lead to serious health problems.

If we had our way, California would treat soda the way we treat alcohol and cigarettes – don’t let kids buy it in the first place. But that’s never going to happen in Sacramento, so cities are looking for ways to slow down what has become a public-health epidemic of obesity and diabetes. Sugary drinks are part of that problem.

Why this strange 1-cent-an-ounce tax on distributors, not a tax on the sale in stores? Simple: The state won’t let cities do specific sales taxes like that. San Francisco can’t, for example, put its own tax on cigarettes – or on soda. So it has to be an excise tax on the distributor.

This is not a perfect solution – taxes of this sort are always regressive, and if state law allowed, San Francisco could use a more refined approach. But like so much of what cities have to do today to get around a state Capitol that is controlled by powerful lobbies, it’s the best we can do. In Berkeley, a similar tax has led to a decrease in soda consumption.

But here’s the main point: It’s time for the country to start looking at soda the way we’ve looked at other health threats like tobacco. If SF approves this, it will push the national issue. Vote yes.

 

 

Proposition W

Mansion tax

YES

Sup. Jane Kim’s legislation to raise the transfer tax on properties sold for more than $5 million would bring in $45 million a year to the city. That’s more than enough to pay for free City College for all San Franciscans – with plenty left over. The people who will pay the tax are individuals who buy and sell very-high-end residential property – and corporations that buy and sell big commercial buildings. Vote yes.

 

Proposition X

Arts and industrial space retention

YES

The tech boom has been particularly hard on art spaces and businesses that need industrial space – so called Production, Distribution, and Repair (or PDR) space is getting converted rapidly to tech offices. Prop. X would limit that assault and require developers to provide replacement space when they demolish or convert PDR. Vote yes.

 

Proposition RR

BART bonds

YES

There are good arguments against this measure, starting with the fact that the BART Board has been obsessed with building tracks to even-more-outlying areas at a huge cost, while ignoring the urban core. Oh, and BART seems to have no sense of social justice – as more and more working class people forced out of SF have to take BART to work from the East Bay, the prices are way too high.

But the system is aging, and it’s a critical part of our regional transportation network – and with any luck, we’ll have a couple of new BART Board members next year who can push for better priorities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GUARDIAN CLEAN SLATE GUIDE: Take this to the polls!

Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer,Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin, and Kimberly Alvarenga, along with Norman Yee (not pictured) are out choices to keep the progressives in control at City Hall


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