Archive for October 2018

General election 2018 coverage for the deaf

October 14, 2018

It’s either write this post or watch the Seahawks and Raiders play in London. That’s an easy decision to make.

Thanks to Californa’s nonpartisan blanket primary, I actually get to vote for candidates than can win, and it is actually easier to decide how to vote, compared with the primary last June. And a heads up: The next primary is scheduled for March 2020. With Eric Garcetti, Kamala Harris, and Gavin Newsom considering runs for the White House, having the primary earlier in the schedule seems like an obvious strategy for fans of that ilk.

Anyway, let’s get to work while the Raiders mismanage the clock yet again. All of the information shared here is from objective sources (voter guides, mostly) unless otherwise noted.

Governor: Gavin Newsom

No one will ever measure up to Jerry Brown. (I’m going to have to stop saying, “Jerry Brown: Governor when I was born; governor when I die!”) And thanks to our primary system, I have to select from the lesser of two evils.

John Cox actually submitted a candidate statement, which I can’t say for Newsom. Whether arrogance or because of how funding works I can’t say, but all that matters is that John Cox is not someone I can get behind, and that leaves Newsom.

Remember: You can’t write people in in California (except for president) because of our primary system, so you really do have to choose between the two candidates, as opposed to other states where people mistakenly think they “have” to choose between two candidates but can actually vote a third party or write someone in.

More on that: As a society we love to shit on those who can’t defend themselves for the purpose of feeling better about ourselves. It’s how we evolved, and you can accept that without agreeing that it’s the classy move.

Our ego tells us that we’re more important than we really are, and in a close race decided by hundreds of votes we still seem to think our one vote has an outsize influence. It doesn’t. But that is why most people vote, as opposed to a sense of civic duty. (I also don’t buy into the “license to complain” argument. People will complain regardless. We probably evolved to do that too.)

Anyway, vote the way you want. Thank you for voting.

So back to Cox. He refers to our water supply as “abundant,” and he says we’re “emptying (it) into the ocean.” I guess he means rivers. It takes a special kind of narcissism to take credit for nature.

In addition, he says our roads are a mess but then wants to repeal the gas tax (aka SB1/Proposition 6, which I’ll get to).

This idea that we have enough tax revenue already—if only we could spend it more thoughtfully is an outdated concept. When you take a position that has no opponent—meaning, nothing could ever happen that would change your mind—you’re just being lazy. I am sure there is a tax rate that is too high, but we haven’t found it yet. I would be willing to say one day that it is too high if it were.

See? That’s the difference. You can’t blindly believe anything. It’s important to think about what could change your mind and see whether any of it is happening.

I will give Cox credit for a statement that has a chance of being well received. It’s not just a Donald Trump copy and paste. Anyway, Lieutenant Governor is a more important race because if Newsom becomes president they are likely to take over, and if California finally enters a recession, Newsom is likely to be voted out, and the current Lieutenant Governor will be in the driver’s seat.

Lieutenant Governor: Eleni Kounalakis

Could she be our next governor after Newsom? Maybe. Not since Al Checchi ran for governor have we had a candidate who could use their hard to pronounce name as a selling point.

Her opponent is Ed Hernandez, also a Democrat. Recognizing his best chance to win is to get votes from disillusioned Republicans, who may not understand why “one of their own” isn’t on the ballot, his statement focuses on healthcare and prescription drug costs. Yet if I’m a red Californian I may just leave it blank.

More than ever people vote straight tickets, regardless of party affiliation, because, face it, voting takes a lot of time. Sure, if the Seahawks and Raiders played in London every week people could make the time, but we’re not always so lucky. So we can expect the total vote counts in these Democrat vs. Democrat races to be lower than inter-party races. That’s not racist. That’s just the truth.

Kounalakis is the Northern California candidate, so I do have some affinity for her because of that. She also served in the Obama administration, has more liberal endorsements, and cares more about equal pay for women and the environment. They are definitely different types of candidates, even if their party affiliation is the same, so this should be an easy choice for you.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla

Padilla is the incumbent. He autographs the front of every voter information guide, or maybe it’s just a printout. I haven’t inspected it very closely because if I try to sell it on eBay, no one ever buys it.

Mark Meuser is his opponent. As is often the case with an underdog, he uses scare tactics to try to win skeptics. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Meuser insists voter fraud is rampant and refers to “144% voter registration” in Los Angeles County. Why does Meuser, a San Rafael resident, point out this county? Because that’s where Padilla is from, perhaps. Or maybe it is all just a coincidence.

Anyway, voter registration rates can be over 100% if you include inactive voters when comparing it with a county’s adult population. If you change your address, you have to register to vote again. So there is a problem to solve here, but referring to it as “100%+ voter registration rates” is a misnomer.

This is a tricky topic because you have to do something, but we have a lot of evidence that trimming voter rolls is a successful vote suppression technique, especially for minorities, who tend not to vote for Republicans. And the party that drives most purging of the rolls? Republican. Just a coincidence, I am sure.

Anyway, something does have to be done, but it needs to be more thoughtful than this.

Controller: Betty Yee

Yee is also an incumbent and uses her statement to list her accomplishments. It’s … dense, but admittedly she has done a lot so it makes sense. There is some boilerplate, but she does give specific examples as well.

Konstantinos Roditis sounds more like he is running for governor than controller, although that is probably fine because people don’t know what a controller does. Roditis is against high speed rail, so that should help you make your vote if you’re a single-issue voter.

I don’t enjoy the run-on sentence in Roditis’s statement or the hyperbole. I am pretty sure the controller’s doesn’t want to tax my haircut (although if it gave my stylist free healthcare that would be fine with me). Roditis also implies that he is the only controller who wants to make California affordable. Meh.

Treasurer: Fiona Ma

I’ve never been the biggest Ma fan. There’s nothing wrong with her, but she’s always been a bit of a robot to me. She talks about her accomplishments more than she talks about why they are important. That’s fine for someone such as me, but I don’t know how that excites voters. Well, it must have excited them enough for her to advance from the primary.

Greg Conlon is using pension reform as his key issue, so if that’s important to you, it should make for an easy decision. Conlon also ran the California Public Utilities Commission. When your utility bills go up, it is because the utilities asked the CPUC for permission to raise your bills first, and they said yes. Personally, that’s fine, because I would rather make sure my electricity works and my water is clean, but I know that many others feel differently.

Attorney General: Xavier Becerra

Becerra is another incumbent. One fun reason to vote for him is that Rush Limbaugh can’t pronounce his name. It’s pronounced the same way you normally pronounce “Javier,” as opposed to the Division I college of the same name.

I always think of Marco Rubio when I read Becerra’s statement because he repeats himself a lot. They both have a lot of anti-Trump things to say.

Meanwhile, Steven Bailey’s opponent is using what many consider to be racist dog whistles: references to Propositions 47 and 57. He is blaming them for violent crime, which is a switch because normally those two are blamed for property crime. If the shoe fits, report it stolen, I guess.

Anyway, if you voted “no” on those props and have a ’90s, three-strikes view of law and order in California, Bailey is your guy.

Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara

This is a tough one. Lara has a good story, but I think he is running for this office so he can be something else later, whether governor or whatever. I think he has the self-awareness to keep the seat warm.

Steve Poizner wants his old job back, and he is running as an independent. He’s seen the Republican Party brand change since he last held the job nearly 8 years ago, and he wants no part of it.

When Poizner was insurance commissioner before he was fine. California’s Republicans who win tend to be more moderate and less crazy. There’s really only one reason I won’t vote for him and that is because he supports term limits. The irony is that term limits may be the reason he is running for insurance commissioner in the first place. Have to run for something, after all.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Malia Cohen

I was actually just arguing with Cohen’s opponent (Mark Burns) on the Internet a few minutes ago. Of course Burns is against repealing Proposition 13, which is a safe thing to speak on, because most people agree with him. It is funny that he wants to serve on a board of equalization when he supports tax programs that reduce equality.

Cohen doesn’t seem to worry about appearing too liberal to the electorate. Her key planks include a $15 minimum wage and reproductive rights. She shows off her role in removing flavored tobacco products from San Francisco stores, an issue that admittedly may not move the needle much. It probably just affirms what you already think of her.

Anyway, these two candidates are so different that it should be easy for voters to make a choice they agree with.

United States Senator: Dianne Feinstein

This is one of the weirder races on the ballot. It’s another one between 2 Democrats, but neither candidate is trying to get Republican votes. This may receive the fewest votes of any statewide race.

The California Democratic Party endorsed Kevin de León, which seems like a wasted political move. Why take such a risk vs. an incumbent with Feinstein’s decades of service?

De León ran to the left of Feinstein, and he didn’t suddenly switch to her right to get more votes this fall, so this run is clearly planting the seeds for something else. If you’re into so-called protest votes, de León is a good choice.

As for Feinstein, it is possible that her opponent caused her to work a little harder at her day job, specifically her work on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And as far as Democrats go, she isn’t the most liberal, and being from California especially you can make the case that she is no longer a good fit for the state. But if she wants to keep running, she will keep winning. She has so much power, and it is a shame in some sense that the Senate won’t flip, because she could do much more in a majority.

I think this is her last term, and perhaps de León runs again in 2024 for this seat.

United States Representative, District 19: Zoe Lofgren

Lofgren is the incumbent, and I’ve even said before that there’s not much else to say this time around. It’s still true.

She represents her people accurately. We’re not Berkeley. We’re not the Central Valley. So as a local society we freak out about “unwarranted surveillance,” and she makes voting decisions that respect that. She’s a good fit for us.

The sacrificial lamb running against her is Justin James Aguilera. In the ’80s, Hispanics were reliably Republican because of the relative social conservatism that came with that culture. Aguilera (age 31) was born amid this, and he appears to have ignored everything the Republican Party has done to brown people ever since. He’s still young. He’ll figure it out.

Anyway, he probably would have a good chance to win office in Fresno, but not here. He grew up on the East Side, yet he supports Second Amendment rights. Where did he hang out after school? It doesn’t add up. And you can tell who he is targeting when he disdains the expression “Hope and Change” as “never coming to fruition.” You still have to go out and get it, dude.

Also his statement was one long paragraph, which, juxtaposed next to Lofgrens, makes him look amateurish. Give the city council a try. You’ve got a future in public service if you do a better job of representing the people.

Member of the State Assembly, District 28: Evan Low

Low is an incumbent with an incumbent-style statement. He mentions how he cofounded the Technology and Innovation Caucus, which makes sense, although it is buried toward the end. He should emphasize this more. In a candidate statement he is speaking directly to people who would care about that.

Michael Snyder is an elementary school teacher who falls into similar traps as other candidates. He wants to repair roads but repeal the gas tax. He makes thinly veiled references to his support of Propositions 47 and 57, but at least he gets it right and refers to property crime as opposed to violent crime. There’s something to be said for getting your story straight.

Anyway, this is another one where the candidates are different enough that it is easy for you to make a choice.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Carol Corrigan: Yes

I don’t usually put a lot of time into the judges. They always receive enough yeses, but here’s one that may give you pause. If same-sex marriage is important enough that it helps make your decisions in the voting booth, you should be voting “no.” In 2008 Corrigan was one of the dissenting voices in making same-sex marriage legal, and this, after 10 years, is your opportunity to do something about it.

So why do I vote “yes”? Because she has addressed other issues that also matter to me, in a fashion that I appreciate. She wrote an opinion that says texts and emails on personal devices of public officials are public record. (This comes in handy later on. You’ll see.) She wrote the majority opinion regarding a plastic bag ban in Manhattan Beach. Those decisions also happened more recently, which tells me she’s open to different ideas.

I respect single-issue voters. For me this isn’t as easy of a decision. I can always change my mind in 12 years if she doesn’t retire.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Leondra Kruger: Yes

Six weeks younger than me. What have I done with my life?

Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, Mary Greenwood: Yes

She’s an ex-public defender.

Associate Justice, Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, Allison Marston Danner: Yes

Did you notice all the judges on the ballot are women?

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tony Thurmond

Thurmond uses Betsy DeVos as a weapon and shows off a relatively liberal set of endorsers. He supports STEAM, which is important to me, vs. STEM, because the arts help you get more out of the other letters.

His opponent is Marshall Tuck, and honestly he’s fine. I generally avoid candidates who emphasize “cutting bureaucracy and waste” because it doesn’t mean anything, and it’s to get votes from people I generally disagree with. (Dog whistles work both ways.)

There have been a few TV ads for this race, which shocked me, but they were pretty run of the mill. Where did the campaign funding come from? Stuff like that.

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 4, Don Rocha

From an identity politics perspective, this is a pretty easy one. Rocha has support from unions and all the people I vote for who lose, including Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese. His focus is on traffic and pedestrian safety and other neighborhood issues.

His opponent is Susan Ellenberg, a classic San Jose politician. We love socially liberal, fiscally conservative politicians. The mayor and the local daily newspaper support her. Her focus is on homelessness and education.

Oddly, both candidates claim endorsements from Supervisor Ken Yeager. No idea what that is about. You really can’t go wrong with either one. It just depends on what matters more to you. They also both have spam texted me, but that is just the way the world works these days.

Sheriff: Laurie Smith

The feather in Smith’s cap is that she was able to get Sierra LaMar’s killer sentenced, despite a not guilty plea. I love conspiracy theories, but even I am convinced they caught the right person.

It’s still weird to me that sheriff is an elected position, but in some cities, so is dogcatcher so whatever.

Smith has a lot of controversy around her. In her most recent term, several inmates escaped, and another was beaten to death by jail guards. You have to think about these things before making a decision.

But of course there is her opponent to think about too. John Hirokawa has been involved in a texting scandal, and one of his key endorsements was pulled. Even Ken Yeager doesn’t endorse him, and apparently he endorses everybody!

Proposition 1: Yes

This is a $4 billion bond for affordable housing. Bonds are generally a good idea if the return on investment is higher than the interest paid. This will become more challenging over time because interest rates are going up, but for now, they are still historically low.

Those against Proposition 1 were also against SB827, which had to do with how land near major transit centers is zoned. It makes sense to me that people’s opinions on these two topics should be quite similar.

Proposition 2: Yes

I really wish we could elect people to make decisions on stuff such as this. The idea here is to use money from Proposition 63 on housing for the mentally ill. 63 doesn’t allow for this, but if the money gets re appropriated as described, it will probably be a better use of the funding.

The reasoning is that getting the mentally ill off the street makes them easier to treat and reduces the chance that they will have problems in life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness opposes the idea, whereas the National Institute of Mental Health approves it. See? I told you it’s confusing. Best to look at what it does instead of who endorses it.

And if you want to be petty, you could describe NAMI as out of touch because they cling to their acronym brand despite it not meaning anything. The National Institute of Mental Health? There’s no secret of NIMH.

Proposition 3: Yes

This is a standard water bond measure. The people for it want to make sure the water stays clean and existing. The people against it hate bond measures.

Proposition 3 helps get water where it needs to be and clean to boot. Remember the Oroville Dam and the potential for wiping out that entire town? That’s the kind of stuff water bonds take care of.

Proposition 4: Yes

This is a children’s hospital bond measure. Most of the money goes to private nonprofit children’s hospitals, with about 18% going to UC children’s hospitals (UCLA, UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UCSF).

The California Health Facilities Financing Authority determines who gets how much money for what. Or you can decide they all get nothing.

Proposition 5: No

This is a rich-get-richer type of proposition. If you support Proposition 13, you probably support Proposition 5 as well.

The government will get its money one way or another. One of the reasons we have so much trouble funding it now is because many of its primary sources (such as sales and income taxes) have a lot of variance. We used to get a lot more money from property tax, which fluctuates less, but after Proposition 13 passed, the state had to find other ways to raise money.

Look, this isn’t about starving the beast. There are better ways to do that if that is your end goal. (Vote for true fiscal conservatives if that is what you want. The reason we don’t have politicians in office that believe in it is because that isn’t what the electorate votes for.) Changing how we collect taxes is passive-aggressive at best.

Anyway, if you’re over 55 and you move to a more expensive property (something only the rich would do), you won’t have to pay as much in property taxes if Proposition 5 passes. It lowers local revenue, which means state revenue will have to be increased to make up for it, or services will be cut, or both. All so the rich can save on property taxes.

The economy grows when money moves around. If you give rich people tax breaks, the money just sits there. That is not how an economy grows. (P.S. Don’t use “grow” as a transitive verb. You don’t “grow the economy.” You “help the economy grow.”)

Proposition 6: No

This is another one where not a lot of thought is required. You’ve seen those SB1 signs around town, anywhere where road work is being done. It all came from a gas tax passed last year, the first increase in decades because the last increase wasn’t tied to inflation. If Proposition 6 passes, the tax is repealed, and all the road work you’ve seen stops.

Proposition 6 doesn’t stop at repealing SB1. It also makes it so voters must approve any future gas tax. Granted this isn’t as big of a deal as it seems because our dependence on gas will only continue to drop over time, but there’s a reason no one talks about this extra provision.

You know how you feel about tax increases in general, so this is another easy decision for you. Just understand that the gas tax hasn’t kept up with inflation, we only have more roads to deal with, there are other transportation projects at risk, and if Proposition 6 passes we go back to where we were with a tougher path to being able to do anything about it. There’s some irony there somewhere.

Proposition 7: Yes

Proposition 7 would give state legislature the ability to control how daylight saving time works, should the federal government ever allow the states to do so. It could mean no more changing of the clocks twice a year.

Now, that isn’t what you’ve heard, is it? Many people, me included, were expecting California to have year-round daylight saving time (or standard time for that matter). And Proposition 7 could enable that, if Congress ever says we can.

So the cart is before the horse on this one. Because of a voter-approved initiative in 1949, the voters have to decide whether and how state legislature can set the clocks, the daylight saving time strategy if you will. But because of a Congressionally approved bill in 1966, it doesn’t matter what we think.

It’s similar to how states can have marijuana laws even though federally it’s still illegal. The difference is that you may not want to prioritize enforcement of these laws, even if you’re Jeff Sessions, but a state-level law stating what time it is? That’s too high profile to ignore.

So I still vote “yes” because it increases the chance we won’t have to change our clocks twice per year, but I know it’s going to be a while before anything actually happens.

Proposition 8: Yes

So many TV ads for this one. You remember TV, don’t you? You don’t? Well, then you probably don’t vote anyway.

There’s a general concept that if you allow people to cut corners that you can provide more services to more people. It is the argument against having or increasing the minimum wage. This should probably drive how you feel about Proposition 8.

There isn’t regulation today for how much outpatient kidney dialysis clinics charge for treatment. We can fix that with Proposition 8. It also removes the ability for clinics to deny treatment, ostensibly to less profitable patients.

Opponents to Proposition 8 threaten that, if passed, clinics could close because they couldn’t afford to stay open. I don’t see this as an excuse to let them charge whatever they want.

Proposition 8 is likely part of a larger solution to the problem of high dialysis costs. But we have to start somewhere.

Proposition 10: No

This one is probably tough for a lot of people. The purpose of Proposition 10 is to repeal parts of Costa-Hawkins. In other words, the idea is to remove the limits on rent control. If you want more rent control, you should vote “yes.”

Despite the benefits it provides many of my friends, I’m against rent control. It creates an us-vs.-them mentality, where people with rent control are not incentivized to help those who don’t have it or who would like to move into their neighborhood.

Rent control traps people in their rentals because of how much more expensive it will cost them to move. People with unpleasant living situations can’t escape them as easily if they can’t afford to live anywhere else.

For people living paycheck to paycheck, something renters disproportionately do, they aren’t prepared for any sudden shock to their budget (such as a massive increase in rent because they have to move).

Without rent control, all rental housing is potentially on the market, increasing liquidity because it makes it easier for people to move. This can result in more social mobility and lower rents overall because of the increased competition for units, which lowers rents.

Rent control is kind of like Proposition 13, in that it makes sense on a micro level, but when you look at the big picture you can see the damage that it causes. I understand why people vote yes for these types of initiatives, but I don’t see how it benefits society at large.

Proposition 11: Yes

When I was in college I worked at Burger King, among other places, and I always enjoyed it when it would get busy while I was on a break. “Screw them,” Teenage Joel would say. “I’m on a break.”

If you’re an EMT or any other private sector ambulance employee, perhaps you got into that line of work for different reasons than I did. And perhaps you would like to help out in an emergency, even if you were otherwise on your break. That’s what Proposition 11 will do.

No argument against Proposition 11 was submitted, so I guess that will do.

Proposition 12: Yes

I remember 10 years ago when we had Proposition 2, which mainly had to do with whether hens could be confined in small spaces. It passed and finally took effect 3 years ago.

Proposition 12 takes it further in terms of how much space hens get. Now instead of requiring a certain amount of space, they will instead need to be cage-free by 2022. There are more provisions for veal and pigs, but California doesn’t have that many of them. The greatest changes will come from how eggs come to be.

Oddly, the no side claims that Proposition 12 doesn’t go far enough. Maybe. But incremental change is the best we can do as a society. Even if you think the new standards are still inhumane, they are better than what we have now. And, we can finally stop hearing people say “cage free eggs” because it will be redundant.

Measure A: Yes

Measure A continues an eighth-cent sales tax that we pay today. The no side uses the standard fiscally conservative arguments, referring to pension reform (even using bold type—why?) and how often sales tax measures are on the ballot. Well, when a sales tax isn’t permanent, it’s going to have to keep being voted on duh.

This specific part of the sales tax goes toward health services and public safety for the most part. If it fails, technically it would mean that our sales tax would drop by an eighth of a percentage point.

Measure S: Yes

In an effort to be fiscally prudent, we have laws in San Jose that require the cheapest bid to be accepted for public works projects. Sometimes, cheapest isn’t best. Measure S allows the city to consider experience and work quality, in addition to price. It may mean some projects have a higher upfront cost, but in the long term this will save money and prevent a race to the bottom.

No argument against it was submitted, so that should tell you enough.

Measure T: Yes

This is a city bond measure for infrastructure and emergency services. Only the true libertarians are against this one. I wondered whether they copied and pasted their concerns every time, and then, when I read their rebuttal to the argument in favor, I recognized that lots of it was the same as their argument against it.

Even Chamber of Commerce types support Measure T. I rarely see so much bipartisan support, even in San Jose, for bond measures.

Measure U: Yes

This removes the city council’s ability to give themselves pay raises. Unsurprisingly, no one submitted an argument against it.

Measure V: Yes

This is a San Jose affordable housing bond, not to be confused with the statewide proposition. Similar to Measure T, it only has token opposition.

Although I will vote “yes,” I would like to point out that the cities in our county that are north of San Jose need to do more about building housing. Every day hundreds of thousands of people leave San Jose to go to work because it is cheaper to live here. Only South County costs less, and you can imagine what the traffic is like between there and here.