June 8, 2010 Voter Guide

Remember, False Profit loves you. We put our heads together and wrote up a guide for your trip to the polls this coming Tuesday, June 8. Click through for:

  1. A cheat sheet for you ravers on autopilot,
  2. Quick summaries for those who can stop dancing for long enough to dig into our reasoning, and
  3. A whole matrix of recommendations for truly committed raver constituents who want to do their own research.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to vote!

Cheat Sheet

CA Prop 13, Seismic Retrofit – YES
CA Prop 14, Top-Two Primary – NO
CA Prop 15, Fair Elections – YES
CA Prop 16, PG&E Monopoly – NO
CA Prop 17, Insurance Persistency Discounts/Rate Hikes – NO

SF Prop A, SFUSD Parcel Tax – YES
SF Prop B, Earthquake Safety Bond – YES
SF Prop C, Film Commission Appointments – YES
SF Prop D, Public Employee Pensions – YES
SF Prop E, Costs of Protecting Dignitaries – ?
SF Prop F, Rent Increase Appeals – YES
SF Prop G, Transbay Terminal – YES

Explanations

CA Prop 13, Seismic Retrofit -YES

Ninna/Sir Lee: Prop 13 alters the law so that certain types of seismic retrofits don’t trigger property tax reassessment. This is already the case for most properties, but due to the complicated and uninteresting history of the law, some buildings weren’t covered. Prop 13 would fix that, eliminating an economic barrier to some seismic retrofits. The measure doesn’t really seem controversial. The only opposing argument we’ve read was from the Green Party’s voter guide, and was essentially “we think Roy Ashburn is up to something tricky, but we can’t figure out what”.  Vote YES.

CA Prop 14, Top-Two Primary – NO

Jess: Prop 14 would place all candidates in one huge primary, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters would advance to the November ballot. In theory, the need to appeal to all voters would encourage politicians to become more moderate. In practice, primary campaigns would become more expensive with everyone trying to attract voters from other parties and buying airtime against a broad field of candidates from all parties. In addition, Prop 14 establishes minimum registered voter requirements that would outright eliminate all small parties except Greens and American Independents.  Basically, we’d have the two richest (i.e. corporate-sponsored) Republicrats in the general election and no one else. That means less choice and more politicians beholden to someone other than the voters who elected them. Vote NO.

CA Prop 15, Fair Elections – YES

Eric: CA voters decided to ban public financing of campaigns back in 1988. That’s been bad for the state: Publicly-financed campaigns allow average people’s voices to be heard in a political system that increasingly represents only a few wealthy donors. Prop 15 is awesome on several points: 1) It taxes lobbyists to fully finance any campaigns that qualify (and raises revenues for the state if not enough do), and 2) Lifts the ban on public campaign finance. A massive coalition of like-minded groups (all major papers, SPUR, Nurses association, etc.) are all for Prop15, but its still facing stiff opposition. Similar measures have failed twice in the last decade, so this is an important opportunity for the state to get the question right. Aside from voting, you can get involved here: http://www.yesfairelections.org/

CA Prop 16, PG&E Monopoly – NO

Ninna/Sir Lee: Prop 16 would make it harder for new providers to enter the local electricity market.  Pacific Gas & Electric loves this idea, and has spent at least $46 million on propaganda in support.  For everybody else, this is a terrible idea, and an example of the worst democracy has to offer.  Vote NO.

CA Prop 17, Insurance Persistency Discounts/Rate Hikes – NO

JD: This relates to auto insurance premiums, and if passed would allow new customers at a given insurer to get a “continuous coverage” discount if they had coverage before long enough.  While this sounds like it would allow more competition, many opponents assert that it is a thinly-disguised way to charge lapsing customers more by raising fees for them, and primarily benefits Mercury Ins., who have spent millions getting it on-ballot, and other huge auto insurers working CA. Labor, a consumer advocate, and papers from LA to Santa Cruz agree it won’t help most and will burden those poor enough to have to miss payments and need to drive.  Vote NO.

SF Prop A, SFUSD Parcel Tax – YES

Orange: This measure would extend a 1990 parcel tax that expires in 2010 by another 20 years, keeping it at its current rate ($32 a year for single family homes and commercial enterprises, $16 a year per dwelling unit for mixed use buildings). The tax brings in $7 million a year for San Francisco school facilities and would finance seismic upgrades, structural strengthening and related improvements of its facilities, and child care centers. Since our school infrastructure is deteriorating, this is a worthwhile tax and a good alternative to funding the project with bonds. This requires a two-thirds vote to pass. (All voter guides we surveyed gave this a YES vote.)

SF Prop B, Earthquake Safety Bond – YES

Jess: This $412 million bond will address seismic retrofitting of many SF public facilities including the Auxilary Water Supply System (primarily used by firefighters) and neighborhood fire houses.  It would also create a new public safety building in Mission Bay to house a new fire station, a district police station, and the citywide police command center.  As earthquakes are the most likely disaster to befall the city, this is necessary preventative work to insure essential services are maintained even during a disaster.  Vote YES.

SF Prop C, Film Commission Appointments – YES

JD: Passage would reform the city’s film commission so that appointees are split between the mayor and the board of supervisors.  The board would get five out of the eleven; currently the mayor picks them all.  It had wide support initially and still does to some degree, though now the Chronicle has come out opposed, claiming it’s another power-and-perks grab by city supervisors at the mayor’s expense, an argument echoed by several Republicans who wrote the official “no” arguments.  On the other side, supporters point out that it adds requirements for job qualifications and for representation from neighborhood and film-labor voices.  To me it makes sense to broaden the base of influences affecting the make-up of the Film Commission, and to require appropriate experience of the appointees, though note SPUR argues that a single overseer gives clearer accountability and prevents squabbles.  It’s not 100% clear-cut, but I still say:  Vote YES.

SF Prop D, Public Employee Pensions – YES

Amanda – Under this proposition, pensions would be calculated based on an average of the last two years of employment rather than solely the last year, when compensation tends to spike. The ballot measure has no formal opposition and would save taxpayers between $300 million and $500 million cumulatively over the next 25 years. While it will not solve the pension problem or address this year’s budget crunch, it is a step in the right direction. Vote YES.

SF Prop E, Costs of Protecting Dignitaries – ?

We’re split on this one, at the moment, but hope to have a solid recommendation by Tuesday.

SF Prop F, Rent Increase Appeals – YES

Pinkfist: This bill creates protections for those tenants at risk of losing their housing due to changes in their income. I am wary of the unintended consequences, but believe that many tenants may be able to avoid eviction.

SF Prop G, Transbay Terminal – YES

Orange: Prop G is an advisory measure asking that High Speed Rail go to the Transbay Terminal rather than to another space near the Caltrain station. This is sensible policy, since the Transbay Terminal is near Market Street and much more convenient to other public transit, such as BART and Muni. It is also what the voters thought we were getting when we approved bonds to pay for high-speed rail. (The California High-Speed Rail Project is moving to create bullet train service from SF to downtown Los Angeles using bond money approved by voters in 2008.) Note: On April 8, the CHSRA voted to designate the Transbay Transit Center as the northern terminus of the high-speed rail system, thereby removing the other site from consideration. However, Prop. G will still appear on the San Francisco ballot, and it’s still worth voting for to help prevent future backpedaling. (All voter guides we surveyed gave this a YES vote.)

Comparison Matrix

What did the Chronicle Say? How about SPUR or the Green Party? Or, maybe you want some guidance on the Candidates? If so, check out our full comparison matrix on Google Docs.