Friday, October 24, 2008

Endorsements: SF Local 2008

Here are my endorsements for the San Francisco local election on Nov. 4, 2008, including State Assembly, Superior Court, School Board, Community College Board, BART Director, and local propositions:

Assembly, District 13: Tom Ammiano (D)
Superior Court, Judge #12: Gerardo C. Sandoval
School Board: (choose 4) Fewer, Norton, Wicoff, Yee
College Board: (choose 4) Jackson, Marks, Ngo, Wolfe
BART, District 9: Tom Radulovich

Tom Ammiano for Assembly is an easy sell; he has a long record of representing the people of San Francisco. Likewise, Sandoval for Judge is a no-brainer: the incumbent, Thomas Mellon, has a terrible record; it's a wonder that Mellon had the gall to put his name up for re-election. For School Board and Community College Board, my algorithm is usually very simple: I vote for whomever Tom Ammiano recommends. (Ammiano started out as a classroom teacher and served on the School Board before moving to the Board of Supervisors.) This year, though, Ammiano has endorsed only 3 candidates for School Board, but Wicoff (endorsed by SFBG and the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club) seems a safe choice for the 4th slot. Tom Radulovich has been a great BART director, and definitely merits another term.

I didn't list Mark Leno (D) for State Senate, because I got redistricted out of that race; it was a relief not to have to choose between Leno and Carole Migden in the primary. However, if you live in Senate District 3, definitely vote for Leno. He's not as funny as Jay Leno, but I daresay he's a better legislator. Similarly, my district isn't up this year for Supervisor; however, if you live in Sup. District 11, please do not vote for Myrna Lim, not even as 2nd or 3rd choice — Ahsha Safai is a much better choice (endorsed by Toklas but opposed by SFBG) or go with SFBG's list of Avalos – Knox – Ramos, or in any case "anybody but Lim." update: I am told that Ahsha Safai is at best unreliable on the issue of rent control.

Also, I'm no great fan of Supervisor Chris Daly, whose infantile behavior, far more mercurial even than John McCain, has been a frequent embarrassment to the City, but the ads financed by downtown developers, targeting Eric Mar (District 1), David Chiu (3), and John Avalos (11) as "puppets" of Chris Daly, are alone enough reason to give serious consideration to voting for those candidates.

San Francisco Propositions

  1. Yes: S.F. General Hospital earthquake retrofit (bonds)
  2. Yes: Affordable Housing (no bonds)
  3. No: Prohibit City employees on boards and commissions
  4. Yes: Develop Pier 70
  5. Yes: Conform City recall requirements to State law
  6. Yes: City elections in even-numbered years
  7. Yes: Allow City employees to buy back lost retirement credits for parental leave
  8. Yes: Investigate the possibility of municipal electric utility
  9. No: Office of the Independent Ratepayer Advocate
  10. Yes: Historic Preservation Commission
  11. Yes: Stop enforcing laws against sex workers
  12. No: Guarantee funding for Community Justice Center
  13. Yes: Protect tenants against landlord harassment
  14. Yes: Transfer tax on sale of real estate valued over $5 million
  15. Yes: Change 911 fee to 911 tax to conform with court decisions
  16. No: Give Mayor Newsom more control over Muni
  17. Yes: Close loophole in the payroll expense tax
  18. Yes: Create the "George W. Bush Sewage Plant"!
  19. Yes: City should identify funding sources for budget set-asides (advisory)
  20. Yes: Provide adequate drug rehab services
  21. Yes: City of SF opposes continued occupation of Iraq (advisory)
  22. No: Re-introduce JROTC in SF high schools (advisory)
Prop. A is very straightforward: San Francisco cannot afford to allow General Hospital to be condemned for earthquake safety reasons. Prop. B creates an Affordable Housing Fund from property taxes, and SF desperately needs more affordable housing. Prop. C is a good idea, but fatally flawed execution: we should prohibit high-level City employees from serving on boards and commissions, especially if they're job-related, but there's no reason a Muni driver shouldn't serve on the Library Commission. Prop. D is a non-controversial development project for the waterfront about halfway between the Bay Bridge and Candlestick Park.

Prop. E increases the number of signatures required to recall a Supervisor, making it more difficult for special interests to attack Supes who vote with the people. Prop. F would move the Mayoral election and other city elections to even-numbered years when turnout is higher; the counterpoint is that the ballot is also more crowded with higher-profile races, but in general it's a good thing to have our top officials chosen by a larger percentage of eligible voters. Prop. G allows employees who took unpaid parental leave to buy back the retirement credit they lost. It is guaranteed not to cost the City a penny.

Prop. H is not the "blank check" that its opponents argue; there will be extensive public hearings before the City lifts a finger to move towards public power. Public power works well in many other cities across the country, including some in northern California, and Prop. H also commits the City to clean energy. Prop. I creates the Office of Independent Ratepayer Advocate, but Prop. H already does that. Prop. J creates the non-controversial Historic Preservation Commission.

Prop. K has been the focus of much heat and little light. It would stop enforcement of laws against prostitution — but not laws against child prostitution, human trafficking, abusive pimps, and other related crimes. It wouldn't drive hookers out onto our school playgrounds in broad daylight, it would let them operate like normal businesses, mostly behind closed doors, thus reducing the nuisance to the surrounding neighborhood. It would also end the current situation where a sex worker is often afraid to report a crime because he or she is afraid of being treated as a criminal instead of as a victim. I strongly endorse YES on Prop K!

Prop. L says that the City shall fund that which it has already funded; it's completely unnecessary. Prop. M defines certain forms of harassment by landlords (that means you, CitiApartments!) in the City's rent-control law; it doesn't harm good landlords and won't scare (non-abusive) small property owners out of the business. Prop. N increases the real-estate transfer tax on the sale of property worth $5 million or more, with exemptions for affordable housing and credits for solar energy and earthquake retrofits. Prop. O replaces the 911 "Emergency Response Fee" with a 911 "Access Line Tax" at exactly the same rate, to conform to recent court decisions. It also updates the application of the tax to include things like business VoIP.

Prop. P is another power grab by Mayor Newsom, replacing independent oversight with political cronies, and the Legal Counsel for the State Legislature says it violates state law and is invalid. Prop. Q closes an enormous loophole in the City's payroll expense tax that lets multi-million-dollar law firms and other "partnerships" pay far less than their fair share. It also raises the small-business exemption, giving our own local "Joe the Plumbers" a break.

Prop. R would rename the Oceanside Water Treatment Plant, dubbing it the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. There are some who say it's a slap in the face to the people who work there, doing important and under-appreciated work, but I can't think of a more fitting tribute to our 43rd President, especially since it would be the very first public facility named in his "honor." Prop. S establishes the policy that the voters will not support funding set-asides unless they identify the source for the money. The voters are still free to disregard their own policy and vote "yes" on some future ballot measure, but only after being specifically told that's what they're doing.

Prop. T requires the City to provide substance-abuse treatment to fill the urgent need. Even if you have no compassion whatsoever for the addicts, consider the problems and expenses laid upon the rest of us by their petty crimes, obnoxious belligerence, and total lack of personal hygiene. Prop. U is a simple advisory statement that the people of San Francisco oppose continuing the Iraq War and urge our representatives in Congress to push that point-of-view. Prop. V is an advisory statement that the people of San Francisco support reversing the School Board's decision to kick JROTC out of SF public schools. Maybe after the Iraq War and the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but not a moment before.

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