June 3rd SF ballot

20140527_185728In the interest of provoking a thoughtful decision about my own votes (and yours) I’m posting my thoughts and recommendations for the upcoming election.  Because I live in a precinct with too few voters to have a poll, I vote by mail usually, so I have my ballot for weeks before the actual election.  That means I have the luxury of provoking a discussion and possibly change my mind.  I’ll make a point here of noting where that happens, in case you might find the same thought process useful.

Elected offices

I don’t feel passionately about most of these, but for a few I have an opinion…

Governor: Jerry Brown

Everyone I have ever worked with in State Government has talked about how the Governor has cut the state’s budget to the bone.  Is it too much?  Probably.  But unlike the Federal government, a state can’t run in the red, and Brown has made sure we stayed out of the red.  If you dislike the state’s finances, you don’t dislike Brown, you dislike California’s dysfunction and frankly, I agree with you.  Together I’ll phone bank with you to change how the state taxes and spends, but changing our Governor won’t fix that.  Let Brown pinch his pennies for another term.

Secretary of State: Dan Schnur

I’ve known Dan for a number of years and always found him to be a man of integrity. Dan has worked for Republican candidates and office holders before moving into the academic side of politics.  And frankly, he doesn’t need to be Secretary of State to be happy or wealthy (enough).  That alone makes him attractive as a candidate.

He’s a thoughtful person who takes public service seriously, and understands political dynamics and PR well enough to get things done without tripping over the obvious stuff.  He supports the “top two” and “independent redistricting” reforms that love and I believe are the future of a moderate electorate answerable to the voters.

He is campaigning on the idea that we need to reform how political fundraising works in order to eliminate corruption, and that he will serve a full four year term.  I think he’s actually well-placed to do this.  It seems unlikely that anyone beholden to either of the existing parties, or who wants a future with party support, could possibly execute serious reform and interrupt the cash spigot.  As someone running under No Party, Dan is well-suited to get it done without worrying about his future in some other office threatened by retaliation from an angry party leadership.

He’s an outsider, and only an outsider has enough independence to cut off the cash flow that both parties seem to be addicted to, and corrupts them.

State propositions

41: Veterans housing and homeless prevention bond act of 2014: Support

Yes, yes, yes.  This is an at-risk population more likely to be homeless than other demographics.  Addressing the homeless and housing crisis in modern times is a great use of money, even if its not spent in the most efficient manner.

42: Public records, open meetings, state reimbursement to local agencies, legislative constitutional amendment: Support

This forces local governments to follow open meetings and open records laws, and makes those same local governments pay for compliance with these laws.   I suppose we might have a debate about it, where someone would say we can’t afford transparency, but I would dismiss that argument out of hand.  We need more transparency,  not less.

SF propositions

A: Earthquake safety bond ($400mm)

If we want to live in a place where earthquakes happen, our emergency services need to be resilient to things like earthquakes and other disasters.  The fire department water supply, fire stations, etc all need to be resilient enough to survive a big quake in order to keep SF from burning to the ground after the quake.  Again, this is a good use of money.

There are a few objections I could see to this.

It shouldn’t be levied as a property tax

Fire after earthquakes destroy property, so actually that seems perfect.  (I say this as someone who sweats his property tax bill annually).

It shouldn’t be allowed for landlords to pass half the cost onto renters

Assuming you want the fire department to put out a fire in your neighborhood before it spreads to your building and deprives you of an apartment, I think you want this.  In fact any apartment you live in in SF is better off because of this.  And there’s no specific benefit accrued by a building owner after you (as a renter) move out.  Paying for seismically retrofitting the building would be a different story, since when you move out you leave the paid-for benefit behind, but this benefits everyone who lives in the city because it improves city infrastructure.

Also, it’s not very much money.  If you are renting a half million dollar condo from someone, their annual bill will be $30-$90, depending on the year, and they’ll be allowed to pass half of that onto you.

B: Shall the City be prevented from allowing any development on Port property to exceed the height limits in effect as of Jan 1, 2014, unless the City’s voters have approved a height limit increase?  Oppose

I’ve saved the best for last, because SF has a housing crisis and everyone has an opinion.  Part of the cause of that housing crisis is the bureaucratic process that makes all development so slow that it can’t keep pace with demand.   So I oppose most things that make it harder to development residential units, including this proposal.   Here are some claims about this proposal and development in general that you hear a lot around housing.

This is just going to create unaffordable housing.  What about affordable housing?  This does nothing for the middle class.

Actually, you really want to create nice new housing stock for people who are currently outbidding you on apartments.  It will reduce the number of them bidding against you on apartments.

Instead of this proposal, we should have a proposal to make 75% of all new development affordable housing.

Get back to me when that’s on the ballot.  It’s not, this is.

It will obscure the view of the beautiful waterfront.  It will ruin the skyline.

If I had to choose between new housing units and a view, I choose new housing units.  But a skyline is not something that’s ever static, and I’ll be damned if I’ll watch people have to leave SF because of the housing crisis because you were going to lose your view of the Bay.

The height ceiling is what makes this city quaint, we can’t change that.

If I have to choose between quaint and new housing, I choose new housing units.