Email with endorsements for the June 8, 2010 California and San Francisco primary elections
In what is becoming a tradition, a few of us went through the various San Francisco and California ballot initiatives last night so that the rest of you don't have to. The participants were Jeff Hamilton (aka Evil), Brendan Bolles (Big Guy, Mr. B), Eric Anderson (OE), David Hornung (SM), and Katie Hornung (Katie). This time we found the issues to be pretty straight forward and there was very little dissent (Measure D had a little). Read below for commentary.
Yes on everything A-G
13: Seismic retrofits will not increase property taxes: Yes
If you have a house and add that home theater and slip-n-slide bowling alley you've always wanted, the house will be reassessed and your property taxes will increase. But this will also happen if you make it more earthquake safe, so some people are hesitant to go forward with such work. This measure takes away this disincentive and has our extremely competent (ahem) legislature determining exactly what falls within the bounds of a seismic retrofit. Sounds good.
14: Opener Open Primary: No
This one is actually a little tricky - it lets everyone in California vote for every candidate in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, and then the top two vote getters will be on the final ballot in November. Sounds pretty good so far. In theory you could have a November election between two popular Democrats or maybe two popular Republicans if the other side didn't bring it. Or maybe there could be some sort of hybrid cyborg candidate with a lot of support on each side who otherwise would get lost in the (Tea) party. So this election reform might allow for those theoretical possibilities, which sounds good.
But on the downside, one thing it would surely do is further marginalize third parties, which would basically cease to appear on the November ballot. We didn't like that (particularly Big Guy who is registered Green).
Another theoretical scenario: you could also end up in a situation where the Democrats had five strong candidates and the Republicans had only two, but under this system the two Republicans might be the ones that wound up the top two vote getters, punishing the Dems for having a strong field. This system would really strengthen the ability of the two parties to choose their candidate for you by scaring you about throwing the election if you didn't obey.
There are plenty of good ways to reform elections so that the people's views are better reflected (ranked-choice voting, for one). We don't think this is a good one.
15: California Fair Elections Act: Yes
At the federal level, a candidate with enough support can choose to not take any more private campaign money and instead get a set amount from the government. This measure would make the option available for California state elections. We don't like all the money in politics, and public financing could possibly help a lesser known candidate that deserves to be heard. So yeah, we like it.
16: PG&E wants to eat your children: NO!
Oh, PG&E, you rapscallions. They call this measure the "Taxpayers Right to Vote", because it gives us the right to need a 66% majority to pass any future public power legislation. Well, why not make it 99% - imagine the glorious freedom!
Sort of reminds you of Bush's "Healthy Forest Initiative" that would protect forests from fires...by cutting them down.
PG&E has been successful before with such tomfoolery, like last time San Francisco talked about getting public power and they ran an expensive campaign convincing the populace it would give government a "Blank Check." Using our utility bill money, no less. And it worked! Pretty please, California, don't fall for this.
17: Auto Insurance rule change: No
This bill would let an auto insurer look at your insurance history to see if there had been any gaps (like, say, if you didn't own a car for a while) and jack up the price if you did. No thanks. FYI, this devilish scheme is being hatched by Mercury Insurance - hope you aren't using them.
A: School Earthquake and Fire retrofit: Yes
This proposes increasing property takes by a whopping $32.20 per year to pay to upgrade some schools. That sounds pretty cheap and we're all renters anyway so guess what, we like it.
As an aside, there's a great argument against from Dr. Terence Faulkner, JD who says SF students can't find India on the map so they shouldn't get earthquake retrofits. Ummm...
B: New emergency response center: Yes
Apparently our current emergency command center is in the bottom of a building not considered earthquake safe (the Hall of Justice). It's going to be expensive though: $412 million. The only argument against it that we were presented comes from Chris Daly (we're not a fan) who'd rather the whole building get fixed, not just move this one thing out. Prop B also retrofits other emergency infrastructure and it seems everyone's for it. But given how expensive it will be, we're surprised that only Chris Daly is against.
C: Film Commission change: Yes
The Film Commission works to bring movies to our city, which brings in some money, as well as publicity that brings in tourists and their precious, precious money. Currently, all 11 members are appointed by the mayor. With this measure, 5 of them would be appointed by the board of supervisors. We like power to be distributed, so sign us up.
First interesting tidbit: apparently the SF Chronicle has a crush on Gavin Newsom, because they side with the mayor's office on every issue, including this one.
Second interesting tidbit: crazy lawyer Terence Faulkner makes his second appearance here, arguing, "Should the influence of the Board of Supervisors increase on the Film Commission, it is likely that the business interests of the City and County will be neglected in favor of more lunches, dinners and cocktail parties. Free meals and cocktail parties are major City Hall perks." Oh, Terence.
D: City Pension changes: Yes (mostly)
The first thing this Proposition changes is a little controversial - it forces city employees to pay their own money into their pension instead of the city. So basically it's a pay cut. But most of us think SF city employees are overpaid, so giving them a pay cut is fine by us. David wasn't so sure he liked pensions being monkeyed with, himself being a government employee.
The other thing this changes is how pension payouts are calculated, closing a widely-known loophole used by city employees right before retirement. Cool beans.
Surprisingly, even though this seems to effect a lot of unionized city employees, none of them could be bothered to submit an argument against it in the voter guide.
E: Security budget transparency: Yes
Gavin Newsom feels very insecure. So he demands a security force be around him at all times. He even had them travel to his wedding in Montana (they drove his hi-tech city-supplied SUV while he rode with another officer in a private jet) and then they followed them to his Honeymoon in Hawaii. Mayoral security sounds like a great job, right? They also followed him all during his campaign for governor, and San Francisco paid the bill.
Well all that sounds pretty expensive, but the neither the mayor nor the cops will tell us how much. Prop E will force them to tell us, that's it.
We're not sure the Mayor of this town needs too much security anyway. We noted that the one Mayor who had an incident (Moscone) was actually shot by a member of the board of supervisors and Newsom's entourage wouldn't have mattered. And BTW, the Secret Service discloses its presidential protection budget.
F: Renter's hardship: Yes
This Prop would give a way for a tenant to prevent their rent from going up temporarily when they lost their job or got a 20% pay cut. On one hand, renters in this town hardly need more protection, but then again the tenant will have to apply for this exemption and a judge will evaluate if they are really suffering based on their assets, bank account, etc., so we think it will only be helping people who actually need it.
G: Transbay Terminal: Yes
California already voted to build a high-speed train between SF and LA, to be completed approximately 3 lifetimes from now. The plans were originally to have it end at the existing Transbay Terminal, but some people want to build another station for it. This Prop re-affirms that the Transbay Terminal will be used, which makes the most sense to us.
It sort of kills us that the guy writing the voter guide opinion in favor is Chris Daly, but we agree with this measure anyway.
Another entertaining argument against accompanied this Prop. Eve Del Castello is against it because the decrepit Transbay Terminal is a "landmark", high speed rail is "unsafe", and I-5 is "fun". Haha, good one, Eve.