Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 2014 Endorsements

There's a primary election today, the first open primary under the new system installed by voters in 2010. We predicted this new system would not be an improvement, and now we get to find out. We don't endorse candidates, but there are a few state and city ballot measures to opine on briefly.

Prop 41 - Veteran's housing bond - No

In every election we vote on bonds, and so every year we present our view on bonds. We believe a bond makes sense if, and only if, the thing you're spending money on is paid for in one year, but the benefits extend over many years. For example, if you wanted to build a new park, go ahead and issue a bond for that. If you need to do maintenance on existing parks, that is ongoing and needs to be in the regular budget. If government doesn't presently have the money, they need to raise taxes and/or make cuts elsewhere.

On the surface, a $600 million project to build veteran housing sounds like the kind of thing a bond would be good for, but actually housing veterans is an ongoing problem that will not be permanently solved by this or any other bond. It needs to be in the regular budget, so we are voting No.

Additionally, it appears the money for the project is already available via a 2008 bond measure, but said money has been shuffled around by lawmakers to create the appearance of a gaping hole to necessitate borrowing. Nice try.

Prop 42 - Local government transparency - Yes

California has laws that require local governments to be transparent. But transparency ain't free, and the state has been reimbursing these governments for the cost of complying with the law. Attempting to balance the budget, Jerry Brown said he would not pay for it any more, although he probably does not have the authority to do that.

Prop 42 would put it into law that local governments have to pay for their own transparency. This makes sense to us, as communicating with the public is an essential part of being a democracy. Also, the current reimbursement situation puts incentives in the wrong place—local governments have no reason to do it efficiently if they don't have to foot the bill.

SF Prop A - Public safety bond - Split

We are really on the fence here, so I guess you'll have to decide for yourselves, dear readers. The reason for our ambivalence is that there is a split among the things this $400 million bond would supposedly be spent on.

The most-touted items, retrofitting fire stations and upgrading the Emergency Firefighting Water System, are mid-length projects that we'd argue should be in the regular budget.

There is also a new seismically-safe building in the proposal, so that at least is ripe for a bond. But then it would constitute the minority of the money being borrowed here, with the rest feeling like tacked-on expenditures. You decide.

SF Prop B - Waterfront height limit planning - No

See our Prop B and C statement from last November. This year's proposal would call on the electorate to approve any construction over standard height limits along the Embarcadero. We were against ballot box planning last year, and we're against it now.

Debaters only

Did you know that Nancy Pelosi is up for re-election this year? Well, how would you when she has no campaign events, no public fundraisers, not even an election web site. As of this writing, she hasn't even bothered to ask for your vote in a tweet! And of course, it has been years since she has participated in a debate.

It's this last point that gets us. As we've mentioned before, we think politicians owe it to their constituents and to democracy in general to engage in debates. We refuse to vote for any non-debating politicians and encourage you do do the same.

Wednesday morning update: the results

Prop 41 - Yes
Prop 42 - Yes
Prop A - Yes
Prob B - Yes