politics & philosophy Archives

Election Slate June 2018 2018

This is a primary election, meaning for the races I’ve marked with an asterisk below we’re choosing candidates to decide between in November. California has an open primary, meaning we choose among all the options (regardless of party affiliation) and the top two go to the November ballot. Primary elections can seem less important, but they are actually when we have the greatest opportunity to create political change.

 

State Offices

Governor:* Gavin Newsom

He’s been working well with Jerry Brown and is ideally positioned to carry on that work. The Governor of California is an internationally significant role—5th largest economy in the world—and Newsom can take the heat.

 

Lieutenant Governor*: Jeff Bleich

This role’s involvement in state environmental issues puts Bleich in front for me. Kounalakis and Hernandez both have too much oil money in their campaign coffers to make me want them in that seat on the California Coastal Commission. Also, Bleich has served on the board of trustees of California State University, including a year as chairman, so he’s ready for the seat on the University of California Board of Regents.

 

Secretary of State*: Alex Padilla

Easy choice here. Glad to have him keep fighting to protect our voting rights.

 

Controller*: Betty T. Yee

Another easy one. Delighted to have her long experience with state financial matters continuing to serve us.

 

Treasurer*: Fiona Ma

Sound financial background and has a seriously impressive endorsement list.

Attorney General*: Xavier Becerra

Both current Attorney General Xavier Becerra and outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones would be good in this position. Becerra has stepped in well since being appointed by Governor Brown in January when Kamala Harris went to the U.S. Senate. Jones did a great job protecting consumer interests without driving insurance companies out of the California market as Insurance Commissioner, and has more experience running a state agency. Given the amount of legal challenges to come while maintaining California values and policies against the Trump/Pence administration, I’m going to stick with the jockey currently doing fine on the horse.

 

Insurance Commissioner*: Ricardo Lara

His opponent Steve Poizner’s got the experience, but Poizner's anti-immigrant stance in his 2010 campaign (back when he was a Republican) takes him off the list. Lara's political experience gives him the edge over Asif Mahmood.

 

Board of Equalization Member, District 2*: Malia Cohen

Whether California’s Board of Equalization, the only elected tax board in the country, should exist at all is definitely a question. Certainly we need more protections against money flowing as campaign contributions to someone who may make a judicial decision for the donor. But while it exists we need good people elected to it. Cohen’s goal for the position is to conduct any remaining business for the BoE as transparently as possible, while rebuilding relationships between remaining staff and county assessors. She can be very beneficial in transitioning the BoE to an improved role.

 

 

Federal Offices

U.S. Senate*: Dianne Feinstein

With a different administration in Washington, D.C., and another candidate that offset the losses of Feinstein’s experience and Senate rank, I might consider an alternative, but we are fighting for people’s lives against Trump/Pence and we need to keep her power working for us. To my relief, Feinstein has moved left on some issues and has been a strong force for good in the Senate over the past year, so I’m not holding my nose here.

 

U.S. Representative, District 12*: Nancy Pelosi

Again, we need this experienced, powerful woman continuing to fight for us at the national level. If you don’t want to vote for Pelosi—and I admit she has significant issues particularly around privacy protections and internet freedom—my next choice would be Shahid Buttar. (I continue to oppose Kevin de León because of his lack of action against his former housemate, sexual harasser Tony Mendoza.)

 

One More State Office

 

State Assembly Member, District 17*: David Chiu

Love this guy and always delighted to vote for him. He works hard and smart.

 

 

City and County Offices

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #4: Andrew Y.S. Cheng

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #7: Curtis Karnow

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #9: Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee

Judge of the Superior Court, Office #11: Jeffrey S. Ross

We need to support our existing judges against this bizarre power grab by the public defender’s office. When as eclectic a group as Jerry Brown, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, London Breed, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, Angela Alioto, Scott Weiner, David Chiu, Dennis Herrera, all 50 SF Superior Court Judges, the SF Police Officers Association, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the SF Republican Party, and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy all agree on an issue (endorsing these four) you know something weird is going on with the other side.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction*: Tony K. Thurmond

Good endorsements and solid experience.

 

Mayor: London Breed (first choice), Mark Leno (second choice), (no third choice)

You can read my whole statement on why I support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco (and why Mark Leno's my second choice and I do not support Jane Kim), but the short version is:

London Breed is rational and resourceful in her approach to civic leadership. A very capable administrator, she comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. This has been particularly visible in her work on housing, which is the most pressing issue in San Francisco. Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. She governed well as Acting Mayor after Ed Lee's sudden death, and will be an excellent mayor.

 

State Propositions

68: Yes

Authorizes Bonds Funding Parks, Natural Resources Protection, Climate Adaptation, Water Quality and Supply, and Flood Protection

California should apply its economic strength to protect and strengthen its resources, particularly its water resources. This is supported by a very wide range of groups from the Nature Conservancy to the American Lung Association in California to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As the Sacramento Bee put it, it's a reasonable ask.

It’s opposed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Republican party, and others who think bond debt is a terrible thing.

 

69: Yes

Requires That Certain New Transportation Revenues Be Used for Transportation Purposes

This locks funds already approved into use on transportation. Basically a tidying up proposition. It seems to just be opposed by a few legislators (who perhaps don't want to be thus locked into where those funds go) or by those who wish that the gas tax generating the funds didn't exist.

 

70: No

Requires Legislative Supermajority Vote Approving Use of Cap-And-Trade Reserve Fund

This is a Republican and oil-industry-backed attempt to make it harder for this already established fund to be spent for its legislated purpose—reducing climate pollution. Some Republicans backing this proposition are particularly hoping to stall high-speed rail projects.

 

71: Yes

Sets Effective Date for Ballot Measures

This is a super smart change to explicitly rule that measures become effective five days after the Secretary of State certifies the election results. As it is now, it could be argued that they take effect the day after the election, but we have too many ballots by mail and provisional ballots to be certain of all election results that night. Rather than risk having to implement and then roll something back when an election result wasn't what was predicted, this eliminates the problem.

 

72: Yes

Permits Legislature to Exclude Newly Constructed Rain-Capture Systems from Property-Tax Reassessment Requirement

This is a great change to incentivize property owners to add these rainwater gathering systems to their buildings, giving them the same tax protections as solar panels, fire sprinklers, disabled access and other improvements. Because it removes a tax penalty it requires voter approval.

 

 

Regional Measure

3: Yes

We need these infrastructure improvements to address the gap between Bay Area transit and highway needs and our current reality, let alone the demands on these systems from the tens of thousands of new residents expected to come to the area in the next twenty years. This measure has broad support across a variety of interested organizations and elected officials, and is primarily opposed by regularly-appearing Sample Ballot arguments character Dr. Terence Faulkner and some guy who owns a stamp and coin company.

(One neat thing about the sample ballot this time is the Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan this measure would approve is included beginning on page 54. This plan will do a LOT.)

 

City and County Propositions:

A: Yes

Public Utilities Revenue Bonds

This is a good bond plan to provide for continuing upgrades to the way San Francisco gets its power. It allows us to take advantage of technological advances, ensure we’re using cleaner sources and reducing our carbon emissions, and protect against damage to these systems from earthquakes or other disasters. This is unsurprisingly opposed by the Libertarians who just don’t like us to all pitch in and buy ourselves nice things like sustainability together. It is also opposed by Angela Alioto and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce who think it gives the PUC too much power, even though all projects would also require approval by the mayor and a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors.

 

B: Yes

Prohibiting Appointed Commissioners from Running for Office

Apparently this has been the unofficial ethical rule for 40 years, since Mayor Moscone’s administration, and this codifies it. The point of it is to keep people who are seeking endorsements in a campaign from conflict of interest when those potential endorsers appear before their commission. The only opposition statements in the sample ballot were from our ol’ pal Dr. Terence Faulkner, though YIMBY Action opposes on the tenuous grounds that having to give up their commission position when running for office would deter commissioners from ever running and thus lower the quality of candidates.

 

C: No

Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Child Care and Education

My heart does not bleed for the Building Owners & Managers Association of San Francisco, nor for Shorenstein Realty Services, nor the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, all of which are providing funding in opposition to this measure. And of course the Libertarians and Republicans hate it because it is spending money on collective goods.

However there is one reason you would want to vote ‘No’ on C: the same tax is in question for Measures C and D, so only the one with the most votes would get funded, assuming both win. As important as child care and education is, housing is an even more vital issue in San Francisco. To ensure Measure D’s success, I recommend a ‘No’ on C.

  

D: Yes

Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Housing and Homelessness Services

Housing affordability is the critical issue in San Francisco. This will help. It imposes an additional 1.7% tax on some of those benefitting most from SF’s current boom times and uses the funds to help those hardest hit right now. There are specific cut outs so it doesn’t apply to leases to businesses doing PDR (production, distribution, repair), retail goods and services direct to consumers, arts/entertainment, or certain non-profit organizations. 45% of revenue goes to housing homeless, 35% to acquiring or rehabilitating rent-controlled apartments to protect from displacement and to create permanently affordable homes for middle-income households; 10% similarly for SRO (single-room occupancy) and extremely low and very low income people; 10% for permanent rent subsidies to extremely low income seniors in income-restricted developments. The measure has wide support including endorsement from YIMBY Action. This is opposed by an intense supporter of Measure C and by Angela Alioto because she doesn’t want to “throw money at various pieces of the problem”.

  

E: Yes

Prohibiting Tobacco Retailers from Selling Flavored Tobacco Products

Candy-flavored tobacco and smoking products are bad for public health, and that costs us all. Even if you don’t care about kids getting addicted early with these products, vote no to keep us all from bearing the cost of another generation’s cancer care. When you get yet another glossy mailer opposing this measure with “funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company” in the disclosure box, you know they’ve got a big corporate profit incentive to work against our public health. This measure is opposed also by retailers who say they vigorously enforce the existing age 21 sales limit, but come on; does anyone remember high school? The smoker kids could always score smokes when they wanted them. Oh and the Libertarians are against it because it’s gonna be like the War on Drugs all over again!! Only about flavored vape smoke, I guess.

  

F: Yes

City-Funded Legal Representation for Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits

The San Francisco Apartment Association in their big argument against this say only 1,657 of 172,000 rent-controlled apartment tenants faced eviction in 2017-2018. When we look at the costs of homelessness, that’s a whole lot of households potentially at risk of displacement because they lacked the resources to fight an unjust eviction. (Yes, some evictions will be reasonable, but we know not all.) The supporters of this measure counter that its been 40,000 tenants facing eviction in five years and over two-thirds of them were without legal representation. From years of observation, I trust the housing advocates and community organizations in San Francisco more than the landlords. In addition to that from big landlords, this measure is also opposed by the Republicans.

Note that there is a version of this legislation already in progress with the Board of Supervisors, so a lot of the ground work has already been done (going back to work done by then-Supervisor David Chiu) and implementing it should go pretty smoothly.

  

G: Yes

Parcel Tax for San Francisco Unified School District

With property values rising in San Francisco, a parcel tax is a super smart way to raise revenue for increasing teacher salaries and benefits, adding staffing, and other improvements to education resources. The measure exempts parcels which are the primary residence of a senior citizen owner. We need to be able to attract and retain educators, and they deserve a wage that gives them a fighting chance of living near their work. This is opposed by the Libertarians because spending money bad.

  

H: No

Policy for the Use of Tasers by San Francisco Police Officers

This is not a vote on the use of Tasers, that’s already been going through a very thoughtful year-long process. This is an attempt by the Police Officers Association to set policy for Tasers which subsequently can’t be altered by the Police Commission or the Police Department. The POA shouldn’t be permitted to overrule the police chief, current and former police commissioners, and the San Francisco district attorney. Specifically, they shouldn’t be permitted to eliminate the requirement that police use de-escalation techniques before Tasers are used on people. As YIMBY Action notes, “Police Chief Bill Scott himself called it the ‘antithesis’ of community-oriented policing as recommended by the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama.”

This measure is very widely opposed, both within law enforcement and among elected officials, and within the communities that keep a critical eye on law enforcement such as the ACLU and homeless and mental health advocates.

 

I: No

Relocation of Professional Sports Teams

This is a bizarre measure apparently attempting to stop the Warriors move to SF because it would be rude to Oakland to steal them. Dude, that ship has sailed. Vote No on this waste of ballot space and our collective mental energies.

 

 

As usual the Sample Ballot booklet has tons of other useful info tucked in between things. A few highlights:

- Page 89 Voter Bill of Rights

- Page 125 Info on being a Poll Worker on election day

- Page 155 an actually useful index

- Page 156 Ballot Worksheet

- Back cover Vote-by-Mail application

Posted on May 10, 2018 at 07:37 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why I Support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco 2018

The greatest impact on the character of this city in the decades to come is going to be who can live here. Getting our housing and affordability crisis under control is essential to keeping San Francisco a  community which reflects our inclusive values.

London Breed has made tackling these interconnected problems central to her platform. She’s already been working on the issues for years and wisely puts her emphasis on making incremental positive change happen sooner rather than later.

Having housing at a wide range of costs isn’t an abstract ideal; I see the benefit of diverse housing in my immediate neighborhood of Hayes Valley. I live half a block from public housing in Breed’s district. Nice housing; good neighbors. There is also new low-income housing being built half a block the other side of my home and that is very welcome to me too. Having affordable housing here means people who work here can live here. We need working class opportunity within San Francisco to keep the city healthy and vibrant!

Breed has been involved in helping make good construction projects like these new ones happen. And she’s been a voice for neighbors fighting for a mix of affordable units being added in market-rate construction.

She’s rational and resourceful in her approach. She comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. Despite her deep personal understanding of the issues of housing and income inequality—she grew up here in public housing—she doesn’t sacrifice decent actions we can take now for future pipe-dreams that don’t have the funding or political will to put into reality. Her pragmatism pays off.

All her life experience and the empathy it has rooted in her is something we progressives can leverage if we don’t isolate her by demanding unachievable perfect solutions. I do not believe a fast, uncompromising solution is available on preserving income diversity in San Francisco, but I do think we can turn this behemoth of a ship in a better direction with many smaller, smarter moves. That kind of problem-solving is in Breed’s wheelhouse.

She has a strong base in many San Francisco communities thanks to her working class roots, her direct activity building community resources, and her commitment to housing and tenant dignity (which celebrates and continues the very best of Mayor Ed Lee’s life work).

Another strength of London Breed is that she is a deeply democratically-chosen candidate. Our district elected her soundly defeating an incumbent mayoral appointee. Since then she has twice been chosen unanimously as President of the Board of Supervisors by her peers. Neighborhood support is how we got her strong, skillful representation in office. Her performance is how she's demonstrated the wisdom of that choice.

When the city could have been thrown into crisis at Mayor Lee’s death, she calmly and competently bridged the gap. She skips the drama and focuses on good administration of this challenging city.

That down-to-earth focus on what needs to get done will give us a mayor who spares us from unnecessary distractions during 2018 and 2019 when there is so much else for the people of San Francisco to be focused on changing at the national level. Her even keel will give us a stable foundation from which to support progressive change across the country.

 

Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. I am very proud to support her competence as Mayor in June’s election; no “identity politics” required. Yes, she’s a San Francisco native, from a working-class background, and a woman of color—and those are assets much needed in office—but more importantly, she is very good at governing this city. THAT is why I support London Breed as Mayor.

 

 

 

Breed’s statement “An Affordable City for ALL of Us

 

Her campaign website http://www.londonformayor.com/

 

 

 

A couple additional thoughts:

- Why not Leno?

Mark Leno, like Scott Weiner, has already moved on to a larger stage—and that’s a great thing. They’ve done vital, good work at the state level, which we should want them to continue in whatever form they can. Our goal as progressives over the next few years is to bring in a wave of newly elected progressive candidates; we need experienced hands to help them be effective. Leno’s potential as a mentor able to help wherever needed is significant. The more effective the left is, the stronger our message and our tactics are against the fear-mongering and authoritarianism of the GOP.

I’ve lived in Breed’s district in 2002 through 2003, and since 2007. Between, I lived in the Castro so I’ve familiarity with Leno too. I like his work and think he’d be fine as mayor, but I find Breed’s city-level focus likely to achieve better results, sooner, and more consistently.

 

 

- Why not Kim?

Jane Kim’s willingness in the “Sunday Night Shakeup” to hand power to the most conservative member of the Board of Supervisors in hopes of improving her shot at mayor demonstrated clearly that she is not the person for the job. We need a capable administrator who is focused on civic service, not a backroom wheeler dealer focused on growing her own political power.

I once supported Kim (first in her run for Board of Education in 2004), but her positions in recent years have become so rigid as to render her incapable of making the project and policy deals which will create a more sustainable, diverse community here.

I’ve been a San Francisco area resident my whole life. I grew up in the east bay, went to college in Santa Cruz, and lived in the south bay for 12 years before moving to San Francisco in early 2002. As a member of the early Web community I have watched San Francisco react to the various waves of tech boom and bust, with a particular eye to how it impacted building and rental inventory in the city, both commercial and residential.

San Francisco is going to continue to feel the strong pressure of the economic force of corporate interests, and to continue to need to resist the extractive goals of their short-term profit cycles. At the same time. San Francisco will increasingly feel the impacts of climate change, both on the local and wider, particularly statewide, levels. Meeting these challenges is going to require smart planning to create sustainable economies and infrastructure for the future.

What we build, what we incentivize the building of, is going to make or break our city in the century ahead. Jane Kim’s position on the Mission Moratorium was troubling to me for its lack of engagement with these issues. Her attempts to spin State Senatorial opponent Scott Weiner as a corporate tool do a tremendous disservice to his work. Jane Kim has become more focused on political maneuvering than actual positive change. I’m seriously disappointed in her arc as a public servant.


This post also appears on Medium.

Posted on January 31, 2018 at 04:51 PM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

Election Slate November 2016 2016

There's a huge ballot this time, but that just means you can have more influence on your country, state, and city.

 

President and Vice-President of the United States: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine
Hillary Clinton is the most experienced candidate for POTUS in my lifetime and I am delighted to get to vote for her. I think she'll be a very good President, though I do have concerns about her being more hawkish than Obama. Mostly I am hopeful that she will be able to hold the ground we've regained since 2008 and provide more support to the middle class. I'm incredibly grateful to Bernie Sanders and his delegates for creating such a progressive platform for the Democratic party, and I do think we have a better chance with Hillary Clinton than we would have with any other potential nominee (including Sanders himself) of seeing that platform bring real positive legislative change.

Even if you don't like Hillary Clinton, you should vote for her if you care about those progressive policies. Donald Trump will do just the opposite of everything Bernie Sanders and his delegates fought for.

Donald Trump is not qualified to be a city mayor, let alone POTUS. Even if you leave aside all his moral faults—and he continually demonstrates many—he does not have the experience or the temperament to set policy, delegate effectively, negotiate with both allies and opponents domestically and internationally, or to lead the country though its many challenges in the years ahead. Most presidents achieve about 70% of what they say they'll do; we cannot risk even half that amount of what Trump and Pence have proposed.

 

United States Senator: Kamala D. Harris
Two strong choices here, but I am supporting Harris because of her experience and the priority she places on criminal justice reform. The Senate is very much in need of her perspective to help move the country forward. ADDENDUM: Harris has very troubling issues with regard to internet freedom (particularly prosecutions of site hosts who ought to be protected under federal law). That's a really important issue, but, to me, less important than systemic racism reform.

 

United States Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi works against public interests on privacy and internet freedom. That said, Preston Picus is not going to be as strong a bulwark against ultra-conservatives on other centrist and progressive causes I care about. Would love to have a better option and will definitely continue putting pressure on Pelosi to protect our online freedoms.

 

State Senator: Scott Wiener
Close call, but Jane Kim supported the ill-thought-through Mission Moratorium (plus a bunch of bureaucracy-increasing politicking proposals on this ballot) and so I'm going with Wiener, even if he's flat wrong on Prop Q.

 

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
Very pleased to see him advancing to serve the state of California, continuing the good work he's done here in San Francisco.

 

Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7: Victor Hwang
Hwang is exceptionally well qualified and respected in the legal community.

 

Member, Board of Education: Haney, Cook, Norton, Wynns
Haney, Norton, & Wynn have achieved a lot and have good endorsements; Cook has SF experience in education and good endorsements.

 

Member, Community College Board: Bacharach, Mandelman, Randolph, Williams
Bacharach, Mandelman, & Randolph bring solid experience; Williams rounds that out nicely with the student perspective and experience as Student Trustee.

 

BART Director: Dufty
This was a tough one. Borden has solid transportation planning experience, but Dufty's experience in regional politics and the connections he's formed through his past public service will be necessary to help BART achieve and manage the major funding it needs to do overdue upgrades and repairs.

 

 State Propositions

51: YES
School Bonds, Funding for K-12 School and Community College Facilities. (Yay! Schools!)
Supported by the state PTA, School Nurses, Teachers, Firefighters, League of Women Voters, etc. Only opposed by that same anti-tax crowd that doesn't want us to do any government-based Kickstarting. CORRECTION: Gov. Brown and LA Times opposed.

 

52: YES
Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. (Yay! Keep doing something that's already working to provide health services!)
Extends an existing program to lock funds raised from hospital fees into providing Medi-Cal health services (and prevents the Legislature from diverting those funds to other purposes).

 

53: NO
Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval. (Boo. We do not want even longer ballots.)
Oh look, it's the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, those folks who brought us Prop 13 back in the 70s. Thanks, jerks. No, we do not want to force statewide votes on local projects. We have a representative democracy, let's not waste all our time having to weigh in on things that don't affect our own areas.

 

54: YES
Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. (Yay! Sunshine! Transparency!)
Huge bipartisan effort to create this bill which would require bills be posted for 72 hours before the Legislature votes on them, record and post online all proceedings except closed sessions, and permit anyone to record legislative proceedings except closed sessions (and not have to pay a fee to do so).

 

55: YES
Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare. (Yay! Rich people pay for schools and healthcare!)
Retains a personal income tax increase on very high earners and keeps allocating those funds to schools, community colleges, and healthcare. And who doesn't like it? Yep, Quentin L. Kopp and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association again, the modern Californian Scrooges.

 

56: YES
Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement. (Yay! Make people help pay for the public expenses they create through self-destructive habits!)
California still spends $3.58 Billion a year for tobacco-related healthcare costs. Too many people still smoke and it's costing all of us. This tax, on the other hand, only applies to smokers themselves. Who's opposing this one? Surprise, surprise: Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
(And to anyone who says, "Oh yeah, well what about alcohol and all the costs it creates, Ms. Cocktail Writer? What if there was a $2 tax on every bottle of booze? Would you support that, huh?", the answer is yes, yes, I would.)

 

57: YES
Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. (Yay! Use sensible sentencing and rehabilitation programs that work!)
Supports rehabilitation by allowing parole consideration after serving time for non-violent crimes, enables sentence credits for those obviously rehabilitating themselves while incarcerated, and eliminates automatic transfer of juveniles to adult courts without a hearing before a juvenile court judge. This will save money without reducing our safety. It is a good step toward fixing a broken system.

 

58: YES
English Proficiency. Multilingual Education. (Yay! Adapting teaching methods based on what we've learned in two decades!)
Requires school language programs are "designed to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible" while eliminating constraints from a nearly 20 year old law which restricted methods school districts can use to teach English. It also eliminates some barriers to schools helping English speakers learn a second language.

 

59: YES (or skip it)
Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections. (We want to overturn Citizens United.)
This is one of those "the voters impel their elected officials to act on an issue on the national stage" propositions that doesn't do anything except shout in a very loud voice. Which is fine if you think it's an important thing to shout.

 

60: NO NO NO
Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements. (No! To hell with unethical trial lawyers seeking business at all our expense!)
Opposed by the California Democratic, Republican, AND Libertarian parties. When all of them agree, you know a proposition is crap. This isn't about worker safety (and it's opposed by adult film workers), it's about creating a new private right of action authorizing any resident of California to file lawsuits directly against those who produce or distribute adult content. No other worker in California can be sued this way. And the named proponent of the proposition gets sworn in as an agent of the state. This thing is outrageously bad. Come on, here's a good reason to vote your whole ballot; let's send this waste of our attention down in flames with a massive pile of No votes.

 

61: NO
State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. (Boooo! Drug companies are devious bastards.)
Thank you, Legislative Analyst, for pointing out the gotcha in this one. This is prohibits state agencies from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. But it doesn't require the drug manufacturers to offer the drug for sale to state agencies at that price. Thus, this could just mean the drugs aren't available to state payers. There's more in the voter information guide too about how the drug manufacturers could raise those VA prices. This is a sneaky, mean piece of work which seems designed to get more money in drug manufacturer pockets.

 

62: YES
Death Penalty. (Yes! Replace a failed policy with something more effective, cheaper, and more just.)
Replaces the death penalty with a strict life sentence and no chance of parole. This is supported by the author of California's death penalty law and the guy who led the campaign to bring back the death penalty in 1978. Even they saw that it doesn't work, risks executing innocent people, and is outrageously expensive.

 

63: YES
Firearms. Ammunition Sales. (Yay! Gun sense measures!)
Background check for ammunition purchase, prohibits possession of large-capacity magazines, most ammo sales through licensed vendors and reported to DoJ, and a few more supporting changes which close loopholes and help enforce existing laws. And who's against it? The NRA.

 

64: YES
Marijuana Legalization. (Yay! It's safer than booze and we might as well make tax revenue off it.)
Fine, I'll vote yes, but please, potheads, will you promise to make the stuff smell less like the back end of a cow?

 

65: NO
Carryout Bags. Charges. (No on this one, but yes on 67)
Backed by plastic bag manufacturers.

 

66: NO NO NO
Death Penalty Procedures. (Hell no, you do not mess with Constitutional rights!)
Expensive and actually increases the risk of executing an innocent person. And the damn thing is vaguely written, opening up all kinds of other problems and expenses.

 

67: YES
Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags. (Yay! Keep that dangerous stuff out of our ecosystem and those eyesores out of our trees, gutters, roadsides, beaches, creeks, etc. etc. etc.)
Opposed by plastic bag manufacturers, of course.

 

School Propositions

A: YES
School Bonds. (Yay! Schools!)
Money spent on schools is a solid investment. Who's against it? Libertarians. (I am still not sure what magic free market fairy they expect will come save our public infrastructure.)

B: YES
City College Parcel Tax (Yay! Community Colleges!)
Just renews an existing tax. No opposition statement was submitted.

 

City and County Propositions

C: YES
Loans to Finance Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing (Yay! Affordable housing!)
Okay, San Francisco, here's your chance to do something about it and get more people housed. This just expands the allowed usage of already approved bonds for seismic upgrades.

 

D: NO
Vacancy Appointments. (*massive eyeroll*)
This appears to have been put on the ballot by the anti-Ed Lee wing of the Board of Supervisors and it would block temporary appointees from running for a position and set up costly new special elections for Supervisor vacancies.

 

E: YES YES YES
Responsibility for Maintaining Street Trees and Surrounding Sidewalks (Hallelujah! I've been waiting eagerly for this one!)
Puts our street trees and sidewalks back as responsibility of the city, allowing much more cost-effective care of our common infrastructure and our ever-more-important sources of shade. It also supports a 50% increase in street trees which we desperately need. This is under the existing city budget and not a tax.

 

F: YES
Youth Voting in Local Elections (Yay! Good citizen habits early!)
Why look who's opposing this! It's our old sample ballot crackpot pal, Dr. Terence Faulkner, J.D. (United States President's Federal Executive Awards Committeeman 1988) and the San Francisco Taxpayer's Association. 

 

G: YES
Police Oversight (Yay! Accountability!)
No argument presented against this measure to better focus the currently-titled "Office of Citizens Complaints" on accountability, transparency, and external oversight of law enforcement.

 

H: NO
Public Advocate (Boo! Bureaucracy!)
Adds a new elected official with a staff of at least 25. The Board of Supervisors split over putting this on the ballot and it's opposed by three former mayors.

 

I: YES
Funding for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities (Yay! Let's keep SF supportive of age and ability diversity.)
Establishes a new Dignity Fund within the General Fund until 2037. Broadly supported by the Board of Supes and opposed by, yes, Terence Faulkner (this time as "Chairman of Citizens Against Tax Waste").

 

J: YES
Funding for Homelessness and Transportation (Yay! Funding we desperately need.)
Establishes Homeless Housing and Services Fund (currently there is no specific annual amount for homeless services in the budget) and a Transportation Improvement Fund. The Republicans are against this.

 

K: YES
General Sales Tax (Yay! Funding for all this important stuff we need to do.)
Increases sales tax to 9.25%, which is actually in line with other counties. There's a bunch of money flying around the city right now; it's a good time to get some of it into city coffers and put it to use here in San Francisco. And once again the Republicans and the San Francisco Taxpayers Association are opposed; they just don't want us to have nice things!

 

L: NO
MTA Appointments and Budget (*another massive eyeroll*)
This is another battle between the halves of the Board of Supes. We do not need their petty politics tangling up the appointment of MUNI's Board of Directors (which is already decided by the Board of Supervisors) and management of MUNI's budget.

 

M: NO
Housing and Development Commission (*yet another massive eyeroll*)
Yup, same gang of Supervisors again trying to restructure city government to shift power away from the mayor's office. We do not need more bureaucracy delaying every housing decision. This does not create any accountability we don't already have.

 

N: YES
Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections (Seems fair.)
Parents, even non-citizens, who live here and have kids in our schools should have a say in how those schools are run. (And opposed by Republicans, Terence Faulkner, wearing his "County Central Committeeman" hat now, and the San Francisco Taxpayer's Association.)

 

O: NO
Office Development in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point (Boo! That's not what we agreed.)
Lennar is trying to re-write the 2008 deal made with voters. They want to add more office space without adding any public benefit for it and without public hearings. No. We need housing before more offices. I remember the bubble popping in this city before and those empty offices did us no damn good.

 

P: NO
Competitive Bidding for Affordable Housing Projects on City-Owned Property. (Boo! Don't design the process to encourage slumlording.)
We already effectively have competitive bidding; this just means it doesn’t get built if there are only two bids.

 

Q: NO
Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks (Boo! Harassing not helping.)
This is not how you solve homelessness. It provides nothing to shelter those driven from their tents. Very disappointed in Wiener over this one.

 

R: YES
Neighborhood Crime Unit. (Yay! Neighborhood beat cops!)
Once the city reaches a threshold of enough full-duty uniformed police officers (probably by end of next year) this will assign 3% of them to focus on neighborhood safety and quality of life.

 

S: YES
Allocation of Hotel Tax Funds (Yay! Tourists get stuff they come here for and help those who need it most!)
Puts the base hotel tax into arts programs and family homeless services rather than into the General Fund.

 

T: YES
Restricting Gifts and Campaign Contributions from Lobbyists (Good lord, this wasn't already restricted?)

 

U: NO
Affordable Housing Requirements for Market-Rate Development Projects (Boo! Greedy realtors trying to kill affordable housing!)
Remember P-U, these realtor-backed attempts to undermine affordable housing STINK! This not only attempts to get developers out of building new low-income housing, it applies retroactively, encouraging evictions.

 

V: YES
Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (Yay! Reduce diabetes!)
No it's not a "grocery tax", that angle has been debunked. Grocers won't raise the price on other stuff to make themselves less competitive. Duh. What'll happen is what's happened in other places. That 1 cent per ounce price increase will help people—particularly low-income people who are more likely to get diabetes and related illnesses from excess sugar—to make healthier beverage choices. That saves the city money in health costs, but more importantly it saves lives.

 

W: YES
Real Estate Transfer Tax on Properties Over $5 Million (Yay! Tax the wealthy, they can afford it!)
This city has seen property values go through the roof and there's a ton of monied folks excited about owning here. It's is a very good time to establish this tax to even out some of the past business-attracting tax breaks that have been handed out. Let's make this boom fund the city to share the benefits among everyone.

X: YES
Preserving Space for Neighborhood Arts, Small Businesses, and Community Services in Certain Neighborhoods (Yay! Affordable spaces!)
Rampant development is taking away existing spaces occupied by arts, blue-collar businesses, and community services. This would require developers to build replacement space in specific circumstances (which is all well detailed in the sample ballot, but it's a quarter to 1am and I'm too tired to summarize).

 

RR: YES
BART Safety, Reliability and Traffic Relief (Yaaay! BART gets its half-century revamp!)
Remember those reasons I picked Dufty way up there? This is where the money comes in. BART carries almost half a million people a day. We need to keep it safe, reliable, and comfortable. It's awesome that it's done so well with the funding it has had for these 44 years, but the bill we have always known was coming is due.

Member, Board of Supervisors, District 5: London Breed
Breed has done good work and I'm excited to see her continue. Nothing particularly wrong with Preston, he just seems like a one-issue guy, and, frankly, I need a very compelling reason to remove a competent, local woman of color from office.

 

Edited October 24, 2016, to soften a few needlessly harsh swear words which crept in during the arduous ballot evaluating process.

Posted on October 15, 2016 at 12:54 AM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

A look at SF election results 2016

Population of SF: about 865,000

Registered voters: 468,238 (~54%)

Turnout for June 7, 2016 election: 185,698 (~40% of registrants, 21% of population; come on, SF, we can do better than that!)

More people voted by mail (96K) than at the polls (89K). Yay for awareness of easier voting!

There were about 3,500 non-Democrat/non-Republican voters for president, about 12,500 Republicans, and over 150,000 Democrats. SF is deep blue.

Hillary Clinton voters outnumbered Donald Trump voters 12 to 1.
Bernie Sanders voters outnumbered Donald Trump voters just under 9 to 1.

Generally I'm very happy with the results, except that the NIMBYs appear to have fended off the YIMBYs for DCCC slots. At least a couple of my picks got in. Measure C also defeated (math is hard).

Full results here on the city's site. Love their simple, human-readable, fairly predictable URL!

Posted on June 8, 2016 at 01:56 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 2016 Election Slate San Francisco 2016

It's that time again! Here's my recommendation for voters.

 

Democratic Nominee for President: Hillary Clinton
Effectiveness matters. As happy as I am to see a progressive doing as well as Bernie Sanders and as much as I like his position on campaign finance reform, I believe Hillary Clinton is more likely to create effective positive change and that that change will be on many fronts. She's the most qualified candidate for the job I've seen in my life and while she's more of a hawk than I'd like, her commitment to floating the most boats (in terms of increasing quality of life for the most people who are currently struggling) is likely to offset the hawkish appeal of war.

 

United States Senator: Kamala D. Harris
She's been a very good public servant and I'd like to see her in positions where she can make more of a positive impact.

 

United States Representative: none
After years of supporting Nancy Pelosi, I am making a vote of no confidence by not voting in this category. She works against public interests on privacy and internet freedom.

 

State Senator: Scott Wiener
Close call, but Jane Kim supported the ill-thought-through Mission Moratorium and so I'm going with Scott.

 

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
Very pleased to see him advancing to serve the state of California, continuing the good work he's done here in San Francisco.

 

Member, County Central Committee, Assembly District 17 (DCCC):
I'm voting for the YIMBY slate. I am convinced that more housing, more density, will make for a better San Francisco in the short and long run. Yes, right now a lot of the housing being built is expensive, but we don't have enough housing units at any price for the number of people who want to live here. You don't get to cheap older housing without it having been new once—and this city is way behind on keeping up with demand. I also don't want to see ever more suburbs going in because people can't live near where they work.

Francis Tsang
Arlo Hale Smith
Jill Wynns
Scott Wiener
Zoe Dunning
Malia Cohen
Tom Hsieh
Gary McCoy
Joshua Arce
Leah Pimentel
Rebecca Prozan
Alix Rosenthal

I filled in the last 2 slots with London Breed and Shaun Haines, both local progressives who bring a good perspective to the DCCC.

 

Judge of the Superior Curt, Office No. 7: Sigrid Elizabeth Irías
Hwang also well qualified but ran an annoying flyer campaign.

 

Proposition 50 (Suspension of Legislators): Yes
Provides clarity to means of penalizing legislators accused of wrongdoing. Increases vote requirement to suspend a member of the assembly to two-thirds (from a simple majority). This seems like a good idea in these polarized political times; suspension should be something agreed upon by more than just a bare majority. Removes pay and benefits during suspension.

 

Measure A, Public Health and Safety: Yes
Funds seismic improvements—a big quake is coming, folks—and improves facilities to help the homeless and mentally ill, communities suffering terribly in the city right now. Only opposition statements came from the Libertarian Party, as ever a good barometer for detecting things to vote opposite to their recommendation.

 

Measure B, Park, Recreation and Open Space Fund: Yes
Increasing population, and in particular increasing younger population, means our parks are experiencing an increased load. This measure helps stabilize funding to allow better ongoing management. Only opposition statements came from the Libertarian Party.

 

Measure C, Affordable Housing Requirements: No
Feels good on the surface, but economic modeling (report by SF City Economist here: http://sfcontroller.org/sites/default/files/FileCenter/Documents/7131-151274_economic_impact_final.pdf) suggests it would dampen housing development enough to overall result in a reduction in units. It's not just percentages which matter, it's actual increase in number of affordable units. 



Measure D, Office of Citizen Complaints Investigations: Yes
This mandate to investigate any incident in SF in which an SF police officer fires a gun and kills or injures someone will result in approximately six additional investigations per year. That seems like a very reasonable increase in workload to gain more oversight over a problematic area. Only opposition statement is by recurring character Terence Faulkner (count his entertaining affiliations in every voter information pamphlet!) who tells a confusing story about some event in 1859 and makes baffling references to Romeo and Juliet and to the Burr-Hamilton duel.

 

Measure E, Paid Sick Leave: Yes
Simple streamlining with state law provisions without reducing current coverage. No arguments against; this is just a thing we've required the Board of Supervisors to run by us rather than deciding themselves.

 

Measure AA, San Francisco Bay Clean Water, Pollution Prevention and Habitat Restoration Program: Yes
Lots of nice environmental and shoreline recreational benefits, but one of the really big payoffs from this region-wide $12 parcel tax for the next 20 years is flood prevention. If you believe in climate change, we're going to need this. Only opposition statement is from the Libertarian Party, who apparently don't want anyone to have nice things like a beautiful unpolluted San Francisco Bay.

Posted on May 15, 2016 at 11:36 PM in politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

Letter to the proponents of San Francisco proposition E 2015

I received email promoting prop E and sent the following letter in response:

 

Mr. [David] Lee,

 
I have already voted against this proposition primarily because it does not provide any provision for managing the inflow of non-local comments. I don't mean people who live nearby because of our over-priced city and who are personally affected by the matters discussed, I mean the same kind of people in other states and even other countries who spend their time trolling the comments on SFGate.com. A lot of those folks are there because they don't like San Francisco values. They're burning time and attention to stir things up and slam the city and its people. It's bad enough in our newspaper discussions (and other SF-affiliated online comment spaces); we don't need it in our government. Have you already forgotten the out-of-state involvement in Prop 8?
 
Further, the idea of scheduling specific times for comment will hinder the ability to work through many items at public meetings. I've attended lots of local government meetings and many times have attended at the last moment because I was able to get there unexpectedly. I'm not alone in that. There's no predicting how many people will want to comment on an issue. There's no predicting how many people who came will decide to comment or not comment based on the statements of the primary parties involved. Scheduling specific times will produce unnecessary constraint in number of speakers (or, one hopes, an overflow into the next scheduled slot so that no local voices are unheard). Also at these meetings there's often a postponement of an item, for example when an interested party was unexpectedly not present at a recent Board of Appeals meeting I attended. Should the Board and all the attendees for the next matter on the agenda have had to sit silently for half an hour until a scheduled time came up? That's not efficient or a good use of anyone's time.
 
 
 
Yes, more livestreaming would be great. We need it.

Yes, methods for those who live, work, or study in SF to contribute to these meetings without attending in person would be good. But it needs to be done in a manner which doesn't clog the process with those who are not impacted by the matter at hand.

Yes, improved handling of the timing of high-interest agenda items would be great. But those running these meetings are already incentivized to make that happen and unfortunately the variability in matters to be covered—e.g. how long it will take to approve the minutes of the prior meeting, or to resolve other routine start-of-meeting matters, or to work through any given agenda item—means that a schedule is very problematic. You can't legitimately cut anything short to stay on track and you don't want dead time in order to stay on track; it's got to be flexible.
 
Proposition E did not address those major 'But's and needs to be re-worked in future to earn my yes vote.
 
 
 
I hope you will share my letter with your students so that they understand a defeat on this proposal is most definitely not because we don't want to hear their voices.
 
Technology is not the only part of improving a challenging civic function like this; it needs community management skills—just like any good online discussion space—and careful implementation and problem resolution planning before a mandate of methodology can be laid down.
 
sincerely,
Dinah Sanders

Posted on October 30, 2015 at 11:04 AM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

SF Election Slate November 2015 2015

San Franciscans! Here's all the election info. Note the voter info booklet and sample ballots under "Voter guides and sample ballot".

This time it's almost all really about housing. Very exciting to see so much potential progress on offer for us.

 

Mayor: Ed Lee
Not perfect, but overall a decent balancing act through some very odd times. 
Broke-Ass Stuart and some of the other candidates clearly love this city in all its messy complexity, but I doubt their ability to effectively manage an economy of San Francisco's size, let alone their ability to negotiate the minefield of the city's political power structures.

 

Sheriff: Vicki Hennessy
Hard to imagine a better candidate with a broader base of support. She did a great job as Interim Sheriff and has both a humane view of the role of the department and the essential support within it to make effective policy changes.

 

City Attorney: Dennis Herrera
And a standing ovation. We are so lucky to have him.

 

District Attorney: George Gascón
SF Treasurer: José Cisneros
Seem to be doing a good job.

 

For the local ballot measures below I've linked the proposition description to Public Press's overview.

Proposition A: Yes
Affordable Housing Bond
"It’s been two decades since city voters gave a housing bond the green light" Public Press points out and boy do we need to address affordable housing in this city. The special set-aside for helping teachers live here is particularly appealing. This is a sound investment in the city and we're in good economic shape to make it now.
Good broad base of support.
Oppositions statements are from the usual clump of anti-public-spending folks (Quentin Kopp and assorted libertarians) who seem to believe that someday a magic Reagan angel will rise up and make trickle-down economics actually work.

 

Proposition B: Yes
Paid Parental Leave for City Employees
A modest improvement to benefits for new parents who are city employees.
Once again, good broad base of support.
Opposition statements are only that same Terrance Faulkner dude who's opposing lots of things this time because why should non-ladies need to care for a new baby (insert eyeroll here) and Libertarians because why should non-young-single-white-guys get special treatment (insert world's smallest violin here).

 

Proposition C: Yes
Registering Lobbyists
Creates transparency about who's spending big money—$2,500 a month or more—to have other people lobby city government on their behalf.
Proposed by the SF Ethics Commission.
Opposition statement by Terrance Faulkner again, who seems to be missing the key fact that the non-profit exemption terminology in this proposition brings it in line with that for direct lobbying.

 

Proposition D: Yes
Mission Rock Waterfront Development
This is a well-crafted project worked out with years of community input, located on what is currently a parking lot in a former industrial area. It will create about 600 affordable housing units, which the city desperately needs, plus another approximately 900 market rate units. (40% affordable is an exceptionally good percentage.)
Broad base of support.
Opposed by the Sierra Club, whom I respect, but who I think are flat out wrong on this one. This is a city and some amount of growth is appropriate—and this is a great place to locate this development. It doesn't create a "wall on the waterfront" (like the ill-considered development north of the Ferry Building which the voters fortunately stopped in a past election); rather all buildings are at least 100 feet from the waterfront, and step down in height towards the water.

 

Proposition E: No
Requirements for Public Meetings
I support increasing public access to civic decision-making, but this throws the whole process in danger of being continually bogged down by non-locals submitting comments on issues which do not actually affect them. We don't need our public participation in government turning into something like the comments on YouTube or SFGate.
There are people I respect on both sides of this issue, but I come down to it not being well-crafted enough to avoid serious problems that could result in less rather than more local voices being heard in city decision making. Not ready for prime time; supporters should improve the proposition and try again later.
(Bonus trivia: this is one of those rare things on which Quentin Kopp and I are actually in agreement on which way to vote. It's expensive and counter-productive.)

 

Proposition F: Yes
Regulating Short-Term Rentals. For this one the City's summary is even clearer than Public Press'.
Okay, stay with me here. This is long, but it's because you're probably as in the dark on how it actually works as I was before spending a few hours going through it all.

This area of city law is all about keeping residential rentals from being lost to the market and only used for tourists.

It is essential in evaluating this proposition to compare the way it is now, under SF Ordinance No. 218-14 which took effect February 1st of this year, to the proposed changes. Many of the mailings and editorials about this proposition speak in such general terms they obscure the actual change this law would make.

"Current law requires hosts to register with the city, after which they are allowed to rent out entire homes for up to 90 days per year — unless they are staying on site, in which case they can rent out rooms year-round. But to date, only about 700 hosts have registered, implying that thousands of others are flying under the radar. City Hall currently has no way to find them." [source]

Note that hosts under current law must live in the residential unit which will be offered for rental (or partial rental) for at least 275 nights of any given calendar year. Non-resident hosts renting out their place(s) are, as I understand it, violating the requirements of the City’s Residential Unit Conversion and Demolition Ordinance (Administrative Code Chapter 41A) or the Planning Code, and that doesn't change with Proposition F.

So, the registry of hosts and the limited rental days per year for non-resident hosts already exist. Voting Yes on proposition F means you support changing the limit from 90 days to 75 days per year, and subjecting resident hosts to the same limit as non-resident hosts.

Currently there is no restriction on offering affordable housing (built with assistance from the city) or in-law units as short-term rentals; a Yes on proposition F means you support preventing those uses. (The in-law unit is a big factor in SF right now because in hopes of adding much needed housing the city has just created pathways to legitimize currently illegal in-law units; obviously if those units are eaten up with tourist rentals the whole aim of creating more residential housing is defeated.)

Currently no reporting is required from either the hosts or the services like AirBnB which facilitate short-term renting; a Yes on proposition F means both hosts and services are required to provide data to the city. That would expose the non-registered hosts, increasing city revenue and helping to offset the costs of the new Office of Short Term Rental Administration and Enforcement. (This agency was already created as part of the law which went into effect in February, so SF will be paying for it regardless of whichever way Prop F goes.) Proposition F also will allow fining companies such as AirBnB for listing unregistered hosts.

Proposition F adds notification to interested parties (such as neighbors) of registration of a unit for short-term rentals.

Currently, interested parties defined in detail (e.g. the neighbor) may sue the violator (i.e. the host). Proposition F will also allow them to sue the hosting service which promoted the violating rental. (I don't really buy this as a financial incentive to spy on neighbors; the hassle and expense of a lawsuit against a company with in-house legal counsel who handle this stuff all the time doesn't seem worth it except in extreme problem cases.)

My big takeaways on digging into this proposition:

  • It's currently a misdemeanor for a non-resident to rent out their place for short-term rentals (e.g. through VRBO, AirBnB, etc.) and Prop F doesn't change that.
  • The city currently doesn't have any way to penalize listing services for facilitating those short-term rentals because the city doesn't require any reporting from those services or from hosts. Prop F does change that, and when you realize they wouldn't be able to list unregistered hosts without risking fines from the city or lawsuits from neighbors of the unit it becomes a lot more clear why AirBnB has spent $8million trying to shoot this proposition down.
  • Prop F will drive non-registered hosts (which, importantly, includes all those who do not live in the rental unit most of the year) underground. This will probably have a dramatic negative impact on their ability to use their place(s) for short-term rentals. Whether that will result in more places coming back into the residential rental market remains to be seen, but I do think Prop F would slow the outflow of units from residential to short-term usage by cutting off that easy revenue stream.
  • Prop F will further limit the amount of short-term rentals available, not only through the reduction of the maximum for a unit from 90 to 75 days per year, but also through the minor hassle of registration with the city and reporting. (Though it's strongly in the listing services' best interest to make that reporting easy for their users so I doubt it will be a big issue.) With short-term rentals constrained, those wanting to earn money renting out part of their home will be incentivized to consider normal residential rentals instead, potentially adding more housing to the market.
  • Prop F makes it harder to use potential residential units for short-term rentals. It thus creates an incentive for those currently operating multiple units for this (illegal) purpose to transfer their business into legitimate small hotel activities.

So, in the short term—say the next few years—if Prop F passes, I'm guessing we see some apartments return to the residential market, some additional spots for shared-housing residential rentals, and some new small hotels created. I think those "some"s add up to a significant number, so that's all good. We also see fewer short-term rentals available and that's a drag, but does put a nice ceiling on city-disrupting convention events like Dreamforce. Bottom line: unregulated hotel rooms, with all their issues and annoyances, decline in favor of registered short-term rentals with insurance etc, legitimate hotels, and residential rentals.

 

Proposition G: No
Proposition H: Yes
Defining ‘Clean’ or ‘Green’ Energy
SF has a plan for switching the city over to a greater percentage of sustainable energy sources. The intent under this CleanPowerSF is that compared with PG&E’s energy portfolio, CleanPowerSF will draw from more renewable sources without charging customers more than they currently pay.
Prop G attempted to define it one way (in PG&E's favor & less sustainably). Prop H uses the state's definition.
Prop G has been withdrawn by its original proposers (PG&E employees) in favor of Prop H, which has a broad base of support.
Guess who is opposed? Yes! Terrance Faulkner.

 

Proposition I: No
Mission District Housing Moratorium
Halts basically all construction in the Mission which isn't 100% affordable housing for 18 months. Which is to say, halts all construction in the Mission, even projects with exceptionally high percentages of affordable units. City Controller estimate in September is that it halts building of 750-800 units.
The arguments in favor falsely equate "luxury" with "under 100% affordable". Yes, we need more affordable housing, but this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yes, the Mission is undergoing massive change, but not for the first time and this proposition does not offer any solutions. The argument against is clear:
"What the proponents didn’t consider in their rush to the ballot is if we don’t create new homes at all income levels, the city’s problem of displacement will worsen. Thousands of people will still move to San Francisco, and if Prop I limits the supply of housing, they will bid up prices of existing homes, increasing displacement."

 

Proposition J: Yes
Legacy Business Historic Preservation Fund
This fund to support local, 30+ year old businesses which are significant to the history or identity of their neighborhood and which are committed to retaining that legacy.
The fund is subject to future budget cycles so it is nicely suited to protecting old businesses in boom times without overdrawing the city in lean times.
Opposed by Quentin Kopp, the Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party in their privileged belief that "If an enterprise is truly a “healthy” business...it will exist."
I'm siding with the true character of the city and with protecting it from short-term monied interests.

 

Proposition K: Yes
Using City Land for Affordable Housing
Streamlines the process for taking unutilized public lands within the city and turning them into affordable housing, prioritized toward the homeless.
Wish this had been done 10 years ago with the old freeway lots bounded by Octavia, Fell, Oak, and Laguna! We need housing for everyone, not chained off vacant lots.
Opposed by Quentin Kopp and the Republican Party. Supported by pretty much everybody else.

Posted on October 17, 2015 at 07:55 PM in politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Permalink | Comments (0)

Buh-bye, Facebook. 2015

Last June I quit using Facebook both personally and professionally. I'd been feeling pretty queasy about their creepy terms of service switcheroos already, but pile on real name policy problems and ever-increasing revenue-generation interference with having your posts actually seen by your followers and I was pretty dubious already. But it seemed necessary. "You've got a brand! How can you not be on Facebook?!" So I held my nose and stuck with it, at least for my Discardia and Art of the Shim social media presence.

The turning point came when news broke that the Facebook app was going to start quietly recording background sound while you worked on a post. WTF?! Ostensibly to identify music or TV and include it in the post, but really? Facebook, do you think we don't know you're not going to sell that marketing info and let the NSA listen in? How dumb do you think we are? 

That was it. I posted an announcement with a link to a video explaining why everyone should be leaving Facebook and I deleted the apps from my devices. No more social media posts via Facebook.

You know what? It did absolutely no damage to my brand. It didn't affect my sales. It didn't reduce my reader interaction as an author/publisher. 

Turns out, Facebook needs us waaaaay more than we need Facebook. And we don't need it at all.

 

Over the past year I've been duplicating all the content from my Facebook accounts onto my own sites and today I finally made time to copy over the last of it. Time to permanently delete my account. Ahhhhh, how nice!

For posterity, and an illustration of just how much a professional account contains attempts from Facebook to get you to spend money to reach your own followers, here are screenshots of the page as it now appears. Amusingly, because the last thing I posted was the 'Delete Facebook' video, all the automatically mocked-up ads they want me to buy use that graphic.

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 4.30.14 PM
Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 4.31.41 PM

 


Facebook's constant clawing for additional personal information is very visible in my old personal account:

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 7.26.23 PM

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 7.28.18 PM

Posted on October 3, 2015 at 04:38 PM in politics & philosophy, The Web, tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

The kids are not fiscally all right — and here’s a few more thoughts on why 2015

[A post I put up on Medium archived here in October 2015]

 

Ana Swanson’s Washington Post Wonk Blog piece, “The growing wealth gap that nobody is talking about: Young people have always been poor, but today’s young people are poorer than most”, ends in puzzlement. A few potential sources for the comparative poverty of Gen-X and Millennials in the United States are offered, but the concluding paragraphs seem out of place with the confident, data-driven statements cited before them.

Why should the lack of wealth among Gen-X and Millennials be such a surprise given their (or I could say ‘our’, in the case of Gen-X) role as the generations who were most encouraged to run up and continuously carry substantial credit card debt? (See, for example, trends charted here.)

These generations also walk away from college graduation with substantially more student loan debt (“Soaring College Tuitions.” The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2008, corrected chart 1; see also Friday’s piece “We’re Making Life Too Hard for Millennials” with its chart captioned ‘Tuition Races Upward, Debt Mounts’).

Beyond credit debt, though, our extending lifespans in the U.S. have to be important too. Based on my initial exploration of changing life expectancy (as described by the Social Security Administration in these sources 23) it appears that as you move forward from 1900 there is a later and later age of potential inheritance of wealth from older relations. (That potential is not evenly distributed, as, for example, an examination of African-American experiences* in home ownership and debt over the past century painfully reveals. When there is no family wealth accumulated, there is even less opportunity for any upward climb.)

The sources cited above support that, showing the increasing percentage of those who reached age 21 who then reached age 65. If you get old enough to likely become a parent, you also have an increasing likelihood of reaching retirement age. Those who are able to collect wealth are holding it longer.

Thus, to give specific examples based on the charts in these sources, someone born in 1895 (the parents of the Greatest Generation), who reached age 21 only had 60–71% odds of living until 1960. That 65 year old would then, on average, be unlikely to live past 1975. They would therefore be releasing their wealth into the next generation when their kids are 55–60 years old (assuming they had had their kids when around age 20–25). Put another way, 29–40% of the Greatest Generation would likely have inherited their parents’ remaining wealth by age 60.

Our boomer, born in 1955 (the parent of our Gen Xer), who reached age 21 has 79–88% odds of living until 2020, and then on average of not living past 2035–2040, releasing their wealth into the next generation when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 55–65 years old. Put that another way and only 12–21% of Gen Xers will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 55–65.

The parent of our Millennial, let’s say, is born in 1975, and having reached 21 has 82–90% odds of living until 2040, and then on average of not living past around 2060, when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 65–70 years old. Thus, only 10–18% of Millennials will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 65–70.

Over just nearly a century we’ve gone from a generation where 1 in 3 inherited by retirement age, to a generation where fewer than 1 in 5, perhaps as low as 1 in 10, will inherit by or soon after retirement age.

There is a cascading effect of extended lifespan which may be more important than inheritance, given that many will not inherit a meaningful amount of money even in the best scenario for their age and generation.

Increasingly, not only would a given generation not yet have inherited at their own retirement age, their parents are more likely to use up more of that potential inheritance supporting themselves living on well after retirement, or even to require financial assistance from them, further reducing potential wealth passed on to the children of that given generation.

There may be an offsetting influence of later parenthood (e.g., children more often had at 25–30 or even 30–35 years old) but I suspect that, at least until very recently, lifespan has been extending faster than parenthood has been trending later. The CDC data I found in a cursory search, (45), suggests that only within the last 10 years are we seeing average age of the mother pushing up to the 25–30 year old age range. That trend may be picking up speed, but so far I don’t have the impression it has overtaken the influence of extending lifespans in terms of average age of child at time of death of last surviving parent.

While past generations were motivated to build their wealth in order to create a better future for their children, now those parents are more likely to still be around enjoying that future, with the children needing to shift for themselves far longer. It becomes somewhat less clear what the younger generations’ motives would be to take on years of debt and hard work to build wealth for anyone but themselves. With less reliable relationships between debt and long-term wealth — as college degrees no longer are as sure a path to high income and as the mortgage crisis demonstrated the vulnerability of investing in a home — recent generations are finding it hard to determine their best method of avoiding destitution in old age.

Freedom to define your own path is a touchstone of Generation X, but that freedom is also for many simply a hard fact: there is, starting with that generation, decreasingly going to be a transfer of the prior generation’s progress.

Approaching that future, clear-eyed, amidst financial crisis and Great Recession, little wonder that Gen-X and Millennials aren’t looking particularly lucky. And little wonder that they’re exploring other ways of defining the good life.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 5.11.23 PM

*Jinx McCombs sent me this comment by email: “For generations, African-Americans have been labeled as inherently inferior because they are plagued with poverty generation after generation. But when formal and informal cultural patterns minimize income and block the accumulation of wealth, and this continues generation after generation, only a few extraordinary individuals will be able to break through, and even they will remain at a disadvantage compared to those who inherit. Edward Baptist’s book ‘The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism’ makes this point clearly. It may be that a large group of Americans besides African-Americans are beginning to find themselves in that same trap of no-wealth-accumulation.”
 

Posted on August 2, 2015 at 04:40 PM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Election Slate November 2014 2014

As the influence of money in politics grows stronger, voting in every election grows more important, particularly whenever we have a chance to enact safeguards against that influence and to elect candidates committed to protecting individual rights against corporate power.

Fortunately for me, it's easy to vote in San Francisco. No one is actively working to reduce my participation through diminishing poll hours and locations as is occuring in some communities around the U.S. If anything, the election process here is becoming more convenient. The polling station in City Hall opens on weekdays 29 days before the election and on the two weekends prior to election day, Tuesday November 4th. Vote by mail (whether permanent or just for this election) is also available and those ballots should be out in the mail this week.

San Franciscans should particularly come out to vote Yes on Measure A which will provide vital funds for street and transit improvements.

Here are my recommendations for this election:

Governor: Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown
He's been doing a great job under challenging circumstances. I'm hopeful that he'll continue to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and care for the people of the state.

Lieutenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Definitely a reasonable choice to step in and keep Brown's work on track if he should become unavailable for some reason. His opponent, Ron Nehring, opposes the Affordable Care Act and same sex marriage, as well as wanting to repeal the criminal justice realignment program which has been an excellent change for the state; we do not want Nehring a heartbeat away from leading California.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
His pledge to defend the principles of the Voting Rights Act is a particularly good sign.

Controller: Betty T. Yee
Her long experience with state financial matters, lately as a Board of Equalization member, will serve us well in this position.

Treasurer: John Chiang
With him termed out as Controller, I'm glad we have a closely related position for this tough, savvy, and fiscally dextrous public servant to move into.

Attorney General: Kamala D. Harris
Very solid work from her on the foreclosure crisis in particular; let's keep her on the job.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
He's done a great job protecting consumer interests without driving insurance companies out of the California market; not an easy balancing act. (More on him and the role of the insurance commissioner here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-insurance-commissioner-20140508-story.html )

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative, District 12: Nancy Pelosi
She's far from perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly, District 17: David Chiu
I really did not like the made-up mud-slinging campaign Campos has run this year and it has completely soured my formerly good opinion of him. As I said in June, I'm sticking with Chiu as someone focused on achieving results. I'm hopeful that he will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judicial appointments: Yes to all, especially Goodwin Liu (pity that he was blocked from his appointment to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by a Republican filibuster).
More background on this section of the ballot and these justices here: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-appellate-justices-20140921-story.html

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
As I noted in June, Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

Proposition 1 (California Water Bond): Yes
Great start to this LA Times endorsement, "Even in wet years, there will never be enough Sierra snowpack to give every interest group and every region in California enough inexpensive water to quench every thirst and satisfy every ambition. The state has a long way to go before it properly takes account of its water limits and updates the way it divvies up this crucial natural resource." http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-proposition-1-20141008-story.html

Proposition 2 (State Budget Stabilization): Yes
Restoring fiscal sense and stability.

Proposition 45 (Healthcare Insurance Rate Changes): Yes
When the biggest healthcare corporations spend a quarter of a million dollars fighting against something relating to rates, it's a damn good sign that they are worried their profits might be at stake. Make 'em justify any attempt to fleece us.

Proposition 46 (Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors): No
Actually mostly about raising the limit on the amount of medical malpractice lawsuit awards.

Proposition 47 (Criminal Sentencing Misdemeanors): Yes
Another good move to emphasize rehabilitation rather than expensive prison internment for low-risk offenders. Allows for felony sentencing still for violent offenders.

Proposition 48 (Indian Gaming): No
I'm a no on this one not because of any particular flaw with the proposition, but because I'm very dubious about the healthiness of adding yet more casinos. They seem to me to be a tax on those weak at assessing statistical probability. Not as bad as lotteries, but still biased toward getting their money from the poor and middle income rather than the rich or businesses.

SF Measure A (Transportation and Road Improvement Bond): YES!
The positive impact these funds will have is going to extend beyond their basic physical results of better streets and transit. Market Street, in particular, will be a dramatically better place to be. This one needs a 2/3rds vote, so make sure everyone you know gets to the polls to make it happen!

SF Measure B (Tying Muni Funding to Growth): Yes
We're building a lot more housing here and business is booming, so if we don't want that increased traffic to cripple our public transit we need to make sure transit funding grows with the city. (For entertainment purposes only, do check out the opposing arguments on this one in the Voter Information Pamphlet. Sorcerers!)

SF Measure C (Children's Fund Reauthorization): Yes
This renews a vital 3-part set of funds for child and youth services. Great programs, already proven to help the city, particularly those of lower and middle income families.

SF Measure D (Retiree Health Benefits): Yes
Do not mess with the retirement benefits of people who've worked hard for them. This is a no-brainer, bringing together less than 50 people's benefits from a dissolved agency under the larger city retirement umbrella.

SF Measure E (Soda Tax): Yes
Bringing a small portion of the externalities of these unhealthy beverages into their price and using that money to fund health, nutrition, and activity programs is a great idea. Again, follow the money; the big soda companies don't want to see this pass any more than the cigarette companies want to see taxes on cigarettes. Look at all the arguments against which were paid for by the American Beverage Association California PAC—all but one and that was funded by the Republican Party.

SF Measure F (Pier 70): Yes
If these developers worked with the nearby community enough to get a proposal so good even the Bay Guardian and the Sierra Club would endorse a big waterfront development, it's got to be fantastic. Supported by everybody, apparently, except that "Sorcerers!" dude from Measure B. (I didn't really know anything about this project before, but now I'm very excited about it. Yay for revitalizing that old industrial bay frontage!)

SF Measure G (Anti-Speculation Tax): Yes
Additional tax on sales of certain multi-unit residential properties if flipped within five years. Opposed largely by the Realtor and Property Management industries, naturally. Pay particular attention to the cases when this would not apply, on page 122 of the Voter Information Pamphlet, which deflate much of the scaremongering against this measure.

SF Measure H (Natural Grass Athletic Fields): No
Not an easy decision, particularly as regards probable loss of dark evening skies in the area surrounding and the potential impact of that on bird life, but with water a growing issue it seems flat out nuts to prohibit artificial turf fields.

SF Measure I (Renovation of Fields): No
Badly written measure which messes with existing review and appeal processes.

SF Measure J (Minimum Wage Increase): Yes
Increasing take-home pay at the lowest compensation levels will help the local economy and ease the pressure on working people in the Bay Area. Having a huge wealth gap is as bad locally as it is nationally. Even setting aside that principle, when a city is so expensive that low-compensation workers can't live there, the region suffers an economic loss in the form of time lost to commuting.

SF Measure K (Housing Policy Statement): Yes
This is a step in the right direction on improving housing affordability in this expensive city.

SF Measure (Pro-Car Policy Statement): NO!
Go live somewhere else if you don't want to live in a healthy city. San Francisco people are more important than cars.

Posted on October 8, 2014 at 08:33 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Election Slate June 2014 2014

Was hoping to get this up earlier but a combination of travel and headcold slowed me down. Fortunately it's all pretty straightforward this time.

Governor: Jerry Brown
This guy plays economic management on the hard setting and he still seems to be winning the game. Very interested to see what he can do with a few more years of turning things around.

Lietenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Seems to be doing just fine and working well with Brown.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Seems to have done a good job in the State Senate.

Controller: Betty Yee
A fair, capable administrator.

Treasurer: John Chiang
Another sound fiscal adminstrator from whose good work the state can continue to benefit.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris
She's doing a good job, let's keep her at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
Seems to be doing good work so far.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
She ain't perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
(his has been one of those campaigns where the larger pile of mailers with over-the-top photoshopped imagery indicates which side NOT to support. When this campaign season started I didn't see huge differences between David Chiu and David Campos, but the way Campos and his backers have conducted their campaign—with attack mailers, stretched truths, and sensationalism instead of a proven track record—makes it clear that they aren't the same kind of candidate at all. I'm sticking with someone focused on achieving results, through keeping his ass in his chair for Board of Supes meetings and compromising when necessary. I'm hopeful that Chiu will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
All three candidates look pretty good, frankly, but Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

State Proposition 41: Yes
This is a small price for housing people, better yet that it helps homeless veterans.

State Proposition 42: Yes
Public information access needs to be protected from budgetary excuses. Pleasingly, this also creates incentives for local government to streamline their processes to keep their costs down while still providing the required access.

City and County Proposition A: Yes.
This is earthquake country. We cannot rely on century-old infrastructure to protect us and allow us to recover quickly. Bonds are a way better investment than the massive expense of lost income we'd see with greater damage and delayed recovery after a major quake or big fires.

City and County Proposition B: No.
This is a bad, sneaky proposal and an attempt to create loopholes for developers. Elections are not the place to conduct planning and evaluate environmental impacts. Why would we want to push these decisions into an arena which favors big money over community wishes? We know what elections are going to bring; piles of often-sleazy mailers attempting to manipulate opinion. Election mailers don't build community. Participation in the planning process can. Besides, aren't we supposed to be those liberal citizens that believe government can be a force for good? We have a public participation process; let's use it.

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 04:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (1)

media I've enjoyed recently 2014

Advertising and Selling

- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)

- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)

- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)

Creativity

- Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius in architecture (TEDtalks)

- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)

- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)

Education

- Bill Gates: How state budgets are breaking US schools (TEDtalks)

- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)

- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)

- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)

Food and Drink

- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)

- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)

- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)

Health and Growth

- Charity Tilleman-Dick: Singing after a double lung transplant (TEDtalks)

- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)

- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)

- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)

- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)

- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)

- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)

- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)

- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)

- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)

- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)

- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)

- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)

- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)

Nature and Sexuality

- Christopher Ryan: Are we designed to be sexual omnivores? (TEDtalks)

- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)

- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)

- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)

- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)

- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)

- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)

- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)

- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)

- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)

Politics and Philosophy

- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)

- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)

- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)

- David Puttnam: What happens when the media's priority is profit? (TEDtalks)

- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)

Technology and Physics

- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)

- Leyla Acaroglu: Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore (TEDtalks)

- Dan Berkenstock: The world is one big dataset. Now, how to photograph it... (TEDtalks)

- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)

- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)

- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)

- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)

- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)

- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)

- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)

Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

The MetaGrrrl Slatecard for November 2012 2012

Here's my voting plan, ready to be put into action this afternoon or tomorrow morning:

President: Barack Obama
No president will ever be perfect, and there are things he's done with which I disagree, but they are far outnumbered by the things he's done which I like and which I think make our country and the world stronger, healthier, and smarter.

Voting for Obama over other liberal candidates is very important to me as I believe a strong show of support for rational, fact-based governance will help to continue moving future elections in the direction of better lives for all Americans. We don't go from 0 to 60 in one election, folks. Eyes on the prize and let's move the center back to the center.

U.S. Senator: Dianne Feinstein
Holding my nose here after her position on PIPA, but she's an important force for achieving actual results in the Senate.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
No nose-holding here; Pelosi has been doing a good job.

State Senator: Mark Leno
Very pleased with his work.

State Assembly: Tom Ammiano
Ditto.

Board of Education: Garcia-Meza, Rodriguez, Norton, Haney.
Based on examination of their candidate statements and websites; good mix of administrative experience, realistic goals, and strong vision. Budget challenges favor those who have learned how to get their institutions through tough times, but good to bring in some fresh ideas too.

Community College Board: Leung, Berg, Ngo, Santos
Ditto.

BART Director: Tom Radulovich
Steady hand on the rudder; keep on keepin' on.

 

State Propositions:

30: YES!
Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding
This is the good, smart approach to maintaining our educational system and, thus, the future of the state.

31: NO
State Budget. State and Local Government
Adds needless bureaucracy and inflexibility to budgeting process and endangers environmental protections.

32: NO!
Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates
This is straight-up an effort to impede political participation by labor and other non-corporate voices.

33: NO
Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage
Follow the money here; insurance companies trying to use political process to create more ways to jack their pricing. Also, we voted against this in June 2010. Apparently we have to keep knocking them back in line.

34: YES!
Death Penalty
The death penalty should be repealed; it's not an effective deterrent, it's more expensive than life imprisonment, and it's morally wrong. Let's put that money to better use solving unsolved murders and rapes.

35: No?
Human Trafficking. Penalties
This seems like a fairly obvious Yes—I think human trafficking is bad—but people I respect find it shaky (and probably ineffective) as a legal matter. I'm leaning No at this point.

36: YES!
Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties
The 'strikes' right now are currently not required to be serious or violent crimes. This fixes the current problem of putting someone in prison for life for something as small as stealing.

37: NO
Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling
While I do believe that it's important to understand where your food comes from, there are too many things wrong with this proposition. It adds a huge burden on producers and grocers to obtain written statements about the origin of every ingredient or product they use or sell. Many basic foods are already GMO—for instance 85-95% of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S.—which would create a labeling cascade into any product containing some of these ingredients. Worst of all, enforcement is expected largely to occur through consumer lawsuits.
Even without all that weight on the No side of the scale, there is the further question of whether GMO foods actually represent a danger: "there is little if any evidence that changing a plant's or animal's genes through bioengineering, rather than through selective breeding, is dangerous to the people who consume it. In fact, some foods have been engineered specifically to remove allergens from the original version."*

38: NO
Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs
This is the bad state budget proposal, put on the ballot to interfere with Prop 30. Vote Yes on 30, No on 38.

39: YES
Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding
This closes a tax loophole and brings much needed revenue into a vital area for California's future (and continued good business environment). Has the potential to also create jobs in the state.

40: YES
Redistricting. State Senate Districts
A yes vote keeps what we currently have (created by the commission we voted in in 2008) instead of indulging in more gerrymandering.

 

San Francisco Measures:

A: YES
City College Parcel Tax
I am a big fan of community colleges as a means of helping maintain opportunity for all citizens. Though it sounds like City College could be better managed, I don't think taking away funding is the right way to achieve those improvements.

B: YES
Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond
Great parks and playgrounds transform neighborhoods. Spending money on them pays itself back and more in revitalization of communities and individuals. This also includes needed seismic safety improvements, which will help avoid costs (and perhaps lost lives) in a disaster.

C: YES
Housing Trust Fund
Cities need a diverse range of housing; this makes affordable housing an ongoing priority.

D: YES
Consolidating Odd-Year Municipal Elections
Let's save costs, save everyone's time, and increase turnout by bringing all these elections together.

E: YES
Gross Receipts Tax
Let's not penalize job creation, let's fund from those who can best afford it.

F: NO!
Water and Environment Plan
My smart friend Jennifer Granick said it well: "$8M for a study that is step one is draining Hetch Hetchy, the marvelous source of our pristine drinking water, brought to the City by gravity, without need for (polluting) electricity or filtration." (See the rest of her slate card here.)

G: no vote
Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood
Jennifer had a good answer here: "The same theories that give us corporate personhood give us First Amendment rights for unions and NGOs. When you figure out how to parse that under our law, I’ll read your ballot measure. Until then, you are wasting trees."

 

District 5 member of Board of Supervisors:
This election has gotten really ugly with infusions of money from non-local interests and just plain foul anti-local-candidate mailers. This is a position which should be supporting the interests of my neighborhood, so I am deeply suspicious of this influx of outside money.
First choice: Hope Johnson (real local energy, not someone trying to leapfrog to a higher position)
Second choice: Christina Olague (doing a fine job right now)
Third choice: Thea Selby (seems also be truly locally focused)

 

====

Want more background? Check out Kid Beyond's great notes on his slate (scroll down).

Posted on November 5, 2012 at 02:02 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Case Study of Republicans vs. Democrats on FEMA 2012

"The lesson here is simple. At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't. Democrats, by contrast, take government services seriously and appoint people whose job is to make sure the federal bureaucracy does work. And it does."

- Kevin Drum in Mother Jones

Posted on November 2, 2012 at 02:28 PM in politics & philosophy, preparedness, the big room with the blue ceiling | Permalink | Comments (0)

All Out 2012

Glad to hear Ukraine's anti-gay Law 8711 has been shelved—but it may be back in Sept. Keep the pressure on. #equality

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 04:31 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not paying forward 2012

RT @BarackObama: FACT: In 2010 and 2011, Romney paid less than 15% in taxes on $42.5 million in income—much less than what many middle-class families pay.

Can't help but think of this:

Posted on July 3, 2012 at 12:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Soldier" speaks of "putting to death" 2012

RT @aral: Salvation Army [Australia] official: non-celibate LGBT people should be put to death. I know who I won’t be donating to ever.

And the Salvation Army Australia official statement, which appears to be, in essence, look at what we do and don't listen to what some our representatives say.

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 01:20 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Isn't it time to change the U.S. postal service? 2012

I'm shooting from the hip here, but think of what we could achieve if we repurposed it. Think of those 574,000 employees, many of whom have direct knowledge of each household in an area. What else could they be doing if they weren't spending all their time carting mostly junk mail to people's doors?

Suppose we start freeing up resources for more needed tasks by only delivering physical mail two or three times a week. Half or a third of the delivery effort could surely be done with two-thirds or half of the people and vehicles, probably fewer in urban areas.

Rather than cutting jobs—in a time when more jobs are needed—shift those jobs into roles with more of a social return. Peace Corps is another independent agency of the United States; what if we started to shift the USPS infrastructure toward support of economic and social good here in the U.S.? What if we made a concerted domestic investment in increasing productivity and self-reliance in our communities?

I would sure rather have that than the ability for some person to carry a piece of paper from my house to somebody else's house in a couple days for less than 50 cents (as cool as that is).

 

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 04:39 PM in politics & philosophy | Permalink | Comments (0)

It's good to have an eloquent ally 2012

"you're afraid of that woman's voice & you don't think you can beat her intellectually without using a cheat code"

More background and commentary from Daniel Nye Griffiths at Forbes.

 

"I don’t know who these hateful people are, but they are not the gamers I know. They are not the men I know."

 

Let's keep focused on having the "what you did" argument with those who leave hateful comments, not the "what you are" argument.

Posted on June 15, 2012 at 04:46 PM in games, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Yo, Hank. 2012

RT @harikunzru: So Church of England opposed to 'redefining marriage'? Wasn't it created to do just that? Looking at you, Henry VIII...

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mmm, taxes. 2012

RT @atduskgreg: “I liked crowdfunding better when it was called taxation.” — @anildash

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 05:01 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Argh. 2012

RT @ryanqnorth: Amazed these are books published today, and not 20 years ago. RT @chasingray: Dear @Scholastic you should be ashamed.

Posted on June 9, 2012 at 10:46 AM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

This doesn't seem a strong selling position 2012

RT @BarackObama: RT @BenLaBolt: VIDEO: He said it -- Mitt Romney promises to fire teachers, police officers, firemen.

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 10:31 PM in linky goodness, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

"We have to get over this, as an industry." 2012

RT @jessajune: Can't We Discuss This Like Adults? / Fantastic rational criticism of the recent game trailer furor.

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 10:47 AM in games, politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drawing battle lines 2012

RT @BarackObama: Every GOP senator just voted against helping women get #EqualPay for equal work.

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 01:43 PM in politics & philosophy, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

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