Propositions and Office Holders on the Ballot in California, June 5, 2018

Hey folks, it’s time for that quadrennial ritual again – the midterm primaries! Hope everybody has got their sample ballots and voters guide and is diligently reading through them and making informed choices.

Ha! ha! Just kidding! Midterm primaries are traditionally the least attended of all elections, and till someone makes it mandatory to vote it is going to remain the same. But important issues tend to be sneakily slid into these primaries and hopefully everyone is a bit more woke this year thanks to our dear leader, who is blazing a trail of corruption and nepotism not seen in recent years. So here is a cheat sheet for all you busy people out there who want to do their civic duty but have no time to do the research.


Here are the 5 propositions that are on the ballot this June and how I plan to vote on them.

Proposition 68, Parks, Environment, and Water Bond

A “yes” vote supports this measure to authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for state and local parks, environmental protection projects, water infrastructure projects, and flood protection projects.

A “no” vote opposes this measure.

Recommendation: It makes sense to raise money when your balance sheet looks healthy, and with its 6 billion dollar surplus, CA is in a good position to raise money cheap. There’s no denying that we need the money. There are a lot of proactive measures being taken to protect the Bay and its inhabitants from the effect of climate change. There are also measures to fund new parks in the Central Valley, and it is a good gesture to help populations that have not traditionally voted democratic. I am proud of the legislature for considering this. With our current fiscal status, servicing this debt should not be a problem.


Proposition 69, Transportation Taxes and Fees Lockbox and Appropriations Limit Exemption Amendment

A “yes” vote supports a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to:

Require that revenue from the diesel sales tax and Transportation Improvement Fee, as enacted by Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), be used for transportation-related purposes; and exempt revenue generated by SB 1’s tax increases and fee schedules from the state appropriations limit.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment.

Recommendation: This refers to a 12-cent gas tax that has already been passed last year by the legislature. By getting voters to support this amendment, lawmakers are ensuring that the money cannot be diverted to any other use but transportation. There is a public initiative in November to repeal the gas tax itself, but while it is still there, it makes sense to lock down its deployment to only transportation related uses.


Proposition 70, Vote Requirement to Use Cap-and-Trade Revenue Amendment

A “yes” vote supports this legislatively referred constitutional amendment to require a one-time two-thirds vote in each chamber of the state legislature in 2024 or thereafter to pass a spending plan for revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment.

Recommendation: Reflexively, anything that ties lawmakers’ ability to use funds for the purpose they were generated makes me uncomfortable. If the cap and trade program generates revenues, why should we make it difficult for those revenues to be spent, even if this is only a one-time restriction? This proposition was a sop to Republican lawmakers by Governor Brown in exchange for their vote on the cap-and-trade program to give him a two-thirds veto proof majority for the initiative.


Proposition 71, Effective Date of Ballot Measures Amendment

A “yes” vote supports this legislatively referred constitutional amendment to move the effective date of ballot propositions, including citizen initiatives and legislative referrals, from the day after Election Day to the fifth day after the secretary of state certifies election results.

A “no” vote opposes this.

Recommendation: Because a substantial number of Californians vote by mail, allowing a ballot measure to become law the day after the election means that in case of close races, the outcome may well be different by the time the vote by mail ballots are counted. This measure fixes that by waiting for the certified results before enacting a measure that has been decided by voting.


Proposition 72, Rainwater Capture Systems Excluded from Property Tax Assessments Amendment

A “yes” vote supports this legislatively referred constitutional amendment to allow the state legislature to exclude rainwater capture systems added after January 1, 2019, from property tax reassessments.

A “no” vote opposes this amendment.

No brainer. VOTE YES.

Statewide Office Holders

Before giving my recommendations, I have to confess a bias; do with it as you will. Other than the most important offices, if I don’t see a particularly big difference among candidates, I will always pick the Democrat woman, if there is an option. We need more women in politics. Call it a sweeping generalization, but in my limited exposure to American politics over the last 10 years, I have come to believe that women are more likely to be amenable to changing their views based on the shifting mood of the electorate. They seem to be less ideologically rigid. And that is what I look for in a politician, someone who is responsive to her constituents. That being said, here are my recommendations.

US Senate:

With California being a comfortably Democratic state, the real battle is between incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein and Democratic challenger Kevin de Leon. We have a top-two system, which means it is likely that these two will make it to the November elections as well.

There has been a rather sustained campaign to portray DiFi as a centrist candidate out of touch with progressive Californian values. Perhaps. But she has been a reliable Democratic vote in the Senate, has moved leftward on marijuana in response to public pressure, and has been an outspoken member of the Senate Judicial Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, apposition she holds because of her seniority. As we approach the November elections and a possible change of hands in at least one house of Congress, I would like to a have a senior member with good political connections on these powerful committees. As the Mercury News puts it, “Seniority matters in the Senate.”

And please, no talk about age when we don’t apply the same rules for men.

Recommendation: Dianne Feinstein.

California Governor:

Even though I’ve seen signs for Travis Allen in true blue Palo Alto (gasp!) anyone who is thinking of even considering a Republican for this office at this moment in time needs their heads examined. To my mind, the three contenders to evaluate are Gavin Newsom, John Chiang, and Antonio Villaraigosa. Newsom is the current Lt. Governor and respects the departing Governor Jerry Brown’s legacy of fiscal prudence and social progressivism and would follow in his footsteps. Chiang is the current state treasurer and presumably the executor of Governor Brown’s fiscal policies. Villaraigosa was the mayor of Los Angeles and has executive experience. Here are some interesting parts of their manifestos in a nutshell:

Gavin Newsom:

  • Supports charter schools and school choice
  • Supports public financing of elections
  • Longtime foe of the NRA
  • Supports SF status as “sanctuary city”
  • Supports single payer health care in theory
  • Began his political career more conservative that he is today and has gradually shifted to the left. But probably more conservative and corporate minded fiscally than his progressive supporters would believe.

John Chiang

  • Affordable housing is his principal plank
  • No position on charter schools
  • Cautiously supports the idea of single payer but does not think it is fiscally viable
  • Foe of the NRA and has implemented divestment of public funds from companies selling weapons
  • Thin on details
  • Has made misleading ads about the failures of his opponents that have been rated poorly by Politifact

Antonio Villaraigosa

  • Strong proponent of charter schools – heavily endorsed and funded by charter school associations
  • Is uncertain if single payer is right for CA
  • Opposes eliminating cash bail and is supported by police associations
  • Has a history of supporting entitlement reform policies endorsed by state GOP
  • Supports reform of Prop 13

Recommendation: Gavin Newsom. There’s really not a lot to choose from among these three candidates, but I don’t like Villaraigosa’s flirting with entitlement “reform” and am leery of politicians wholeheartedly endorsed by police associations. Chiang is just too much of an unknown. There is another candidate called Delaine Easton who meets much of my lefty progressive wish list but has had no traction in this election and would be unlikely to have the political capital to get anything done.

Lieutenant governor:

Recommendation: Eleni Kounalakis. Why? Because she is a former Ambassador to Hungary under Pres. Obama, she is a Democrat and a woman.

For the rest, I defer to the San Jose Mercury News:

Attorney general – Dave Jones

Insurance commissioner – Steve Poizner

Superintendent of public instruction – Marshall Tuck

State Board of Equalization, District 2 – Malia Cohen

There are several other items and offices on the ballot, but I;d really like to address only one other: The recall of Judge Persky. It is a Santa Clara County measure only so feel free to ignore if you are in another district.

Judge Persky’s recall is an issue where emotions run high. I remember being appalled that Brock Turner, the young man who raped a girl at Stanford was let off relatively easy – he was sentenced just 6 months, served 3 months, and is currently in Ohio planning an appeal to his conviction.  Apparently there was a loophole in the law that did not impose mandatory prison sentences if the victims were unconscious or intoxicated and Turner benefited from that. However, he is a registered sex offender now and that will go with him wherever he moves, unless he wins on appeal.

Pro-recall advocates stress the discrepancy in sentencing of a privileged white young man to such a light sentence while minority defendants get the book thrown at them. They are also angry about the fact that the judge chose to disregard the prosecutor’s recommendation and went with the probationary officer’s recommendation when it came to sentencing.

Anti-recall advocates point to the fact that Judge Persky has a pattern of light sentencing. Persky did not break any laws in this case. And his recall will send a message to other judges to get very tough on the perpetrators of such crimes, and the effect is likely to be felt much more by members of socially disadvantaged classes, many of whom will not have the resources to mount the vigorous defense that turner’s family did. But their best argument is “Judges should not have to bend to majority pressure.”

And this last argument, along with the fact that an independent judicial commission exonerated him of bias, is why I am going to vote no.



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