2016 November Election Guide

Date: 2016-10-23 · Word Count: 3224 · Reading Time: 16 minutes

Overview and Research

This guide is ordered from most general to most specific. I’ll start with Federal and work my way down to Santa Clara County so you can stop reading once it’s no longer relevant to you.

Yes, I’ve read most of the details of the propositions and would recommend that you do too as the summaries often hide the important aspects of any given proposition.

Here’s what I’m using to guide my opinions (in alphabetical order):

Obviously, I’m also looking at candidate websites (although Ballotpedia is generally much more useful).

Federal

President - Hillary Clinton

This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. She’s a lifetime politician who has always worked towards the betterment of society. I may not agree with everything she’s done, but I agree with enough of it and I can’t argue with her dedication. Her public positions are also sufficiently in line with my own (again, I don’t agree with everything, but she’s a close enough match).

Trump hasn’t done anything I could find which was not directly aimed at enriching himself. Given the power of the president is mostly in the ability to guide the conversation through rhetoric, Trump is particularly dangerous. Also, I have a very low tolerance for hate and fear mongering, which is what his campaign seems to be mostly based on. Finally, I strongly disagree with most of his publicly held opinions

Why not one of the others, you may ask? Well, the problem has more to do with first past the post voting than any particular candidate. Even if I really liked one of them (which, for the record, I don’t), FPTP voting means I’m potentially letting someone I really don’t want in power win.

California

Propositions

51 - No

$9B bond for school facilities.

While we should spend more money on schools, this is absolutely not the way to do it. It adds way too much debt and the way the proposition is structured, it’s way too focused and easy for rich districts to game. This would lead to adding a large amount of debt and increase the divide between rich and poor as the rich districts would be able to move a lot faster than the poor districts to secure funds from this pool.

52 - No

Lock in a fee for hospitals in order to secure federal funds.

You’d think this would be a simple yes vote, but not so.

The basics of this are that it’s moving money around in order to get federal funds. This takes something which was put in place by the legislature and locks it in place unless we have a 66% majority vote to remove it. It also locks the money into Medi-Cal, which ties the hands of the legislature (a problem we already have enough of).

This is the kind of law for which we hire politicians. They should extend the existing law through the legislature, rather than locking it in via a proposition.

53 - No, No, No Fucking Way

This proposes that we would have to ratify all bonds over $2B. This is why we hire politicians, so let’s let them do their jobs. Putting this in place puts major handcuffs around our politicians and would make everything from infrastructure improvements to private/public partnerships vastly more difficult.

Also, if you think this election is bad in the number of propositions we have, consider how much this proposition would magnify that.

54 - Yes

Requires bills to be posted publicly for 72 Hours before being passed.

This puts a bit of an extra spotlight on the legislature and provides more public comment. I really like this for two reasons:

  1. It puts an extra speed bump in against knee-jerk reactions such as the PATRIOT act (yes, this proposition only affects state, not federal, but the state is equally capable of being this callous).
  2. Gives people a single place to see the final legislation before it’s voted on (if you’ve ever tried to follow legislation, particularly when it gets gutted and re-written at the last minute, you’ll appreciate this).

The upside is that the people can get in touch with lawmakers before a bad law is passed and have it changed or stop it completely. The downside is that moneyed interest groups can do the same.

55 - Yes

Extends increased taxes on high earners to fund schools until 2030.

Note: This does not increase taxes, it just keeps what we have and is a marginal rate on high earners.

I’m directly affected by this and am voting to keep my taxes higher (although I’m only just impacted by it). Until we find a solution to prop 13, we need to directly fund things in other ways. While I would prefer to see our schools funded in a way that’s less volatile (during a recession, they get directly impacted as tax revenue from incomes goes down), there’s nothing else (let alone an actually better solution) being proposed.

56 - Yes

Adds $2/pack to cigarettes.

I would prefer it all went into the general fund, rather than being allocated specifically, but I grew up in Australia and have seen the positive impact raising the price of tobacco products has on public health. Truth be told, I think it should be a $20/pack increase.

57 - Yes

Changes rules around non-violent offender parole.

California prisons have, over the years, moved from being a reform institution to being a revenge institution, a move I strongly disagree with. This proposition does away with the more harmful effects of proposition 21 by moving the adult/juvenile decision to the judge, whose theoretical goals are justice, instead of the prosecutor, whose goals are looking tough on crime.

It also reduces the issues around juveniles being unable to re-integrate with society (and thus turning to crime to survive) due to adult convictions on their records and the higher focus on punishment instead of rehabilitation in adult courts. There are also a myriad of issues around detaining juveniles with adults.

There are, of course, some issues with this proposition, but undoing the proposition 21 mess and cleaning up a few “tough on crime” laws whose only effect is to crowd our jails with easily rehabilitated individuals seems like a good trade off to me.

58 - Yes

Allows for multi-lingual education.

Another proposition that is effectively undoing the issues from a previous one (in this case prop 227). Prop 227 was straight up racism and this attempts to fix this by allowing dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native speakers.

59 - Yes

Public opinion poll telling legislators we want to overturn Citizens United.

This should never have gotten onto the ballot. However, given it’s here, we should let legislators know, which they already know, that we wish to overturn Citizens United and that we’d like them to put effort into doing so.

60 - No, No, Fuck No

Requires condoms in porn and gives Michael Weinstein a backdoor way of become a state employee.

This is, quite literally, a con. While the public face of the proposition sounds reasonable, if you look at the details you’ll find that it gives every anti-pornography zealot an opportunity to sue porn houses into oblivion and, in the the inevitable case that someone tries to fight it on constitutional grounds, gives Weinstein, personally, the job of defending it in court while being payed by the state for the privilege.

This is an attempt by the same people who sponsored Los Angeles Prop B to expand their failed law state wide and give themselves more power while they’re at it.

If you look at the opposition to this law, you’ll notice that all of the groups who are promoting STI prevention are against this law. The only backer is the group lead by Weinstein himself.

61 - No

Requires that Medi-Cal not pay more than the VA for drugs.

This is binding on Medi-Cal, not on drug companies. It’s very much one of those propositions that has unintended consequences written all over it. The only thing we can be sure of is that the drug companies will find some way of ensuring their profits are retained as their executive compensation practices encourage.

62 - Yes

Replaces the death penalty with life in prison.

There’s a reason why protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights forbids capital punishment and almost all countries have gotten rid of it: it has the state murdering innocent people.

We are not in good company and this is an opportunity to do the right thing. Having said that, if you are the kind of person who believes in an eye for an eye, keep in mind that not only do innocent people get murdered by the state, but it costs us over $150,000,000 annually to keep this flawed process.

63 - No

Require a permit to buy ammunition.

This is another one of those propositions which is just law makers chickening out and trying to get the populace to do their jobs for them. This proposition is highly flawed and really should be dealt with by the legislature. Also, it’s 34 pages long! That’s way too much text to hide unintended consequences in and it’s especially ironic that such a long statute has fixing the unintended consequences of prop 47 as one of its goals.

64 - Yes

Legalize the use of marijuana.

This is one I’d prefer to see handled by the legislature, but it seems we’re stuck with only being able to handle this particular subject via proposition. Marijuana is, quite frankly, no worse than tobacco or alcohol and so it makes sense to get rid of the prohibition against it. Taxing sins and then using that money in order to fund programs to help those who have issues (which is rarely the entire populace of those partaking) seems like an all around win. I’m also hoping that the tying of marijuana and tobacco consumption will get a little more police focus on public tobacco consumption (which is becoming a rather painful problem in much of Silicon Valley).

As for the argument that we’ll end up with “Big Weed”, we already have it and they’re criminal gangs. This is a great move to reduce the power and financial sources of criminals and turn it into community power and money.

That’s not to say there aren’t many, many issues with it, but from my perspective, it’s better than the status quo.

65 - No

Specifies where plastic bag fees should be spent.

Vote for prop 67 instead.

This is one of those particularly horrible propositions which locks revenue to be only spent in prescribed manners and doesn’t achieve the goal we actually desire (getting rid of plastic bags).

While it probably would effectively get rid of plastic bags by making it financially impossible for companies to continue to provide them (the cost of accounting is rather high), it’s a rather expensive and red-tape laden way to do so (especially given prop 67).

66 - No, No, Fuck No

Kill innocent people faster.

Vote for prop 62 and against this. If you want to understand why, look at the discussion around prop 62.

67 - Yes

Cause the law banning single use plastic bags to take effect.

Plastic bags are a blight on our planet and we should be replacing them with re-usable bags. While I do re-use plastic bags, they’re not made to be continually re-used and there are usually more environmentally friendly choices. Also, keep in mind that fossil fuels are a limited resource and I can think of many other places I’d prefer to use fossil fuels than in disposable bags. Note that it does not impact your ability to get thin plastic bags and wrapping for things like fresh produce, bulk goods and meat.

Also, the goal of the law this proposition is aiming to gut (yes, you need to vote yes to avoid this proposition from gutting the already enacted law) is to unify a wide array of local laws into a single state law.

State Senator - Kamala Harris

This was a tough one. Both have dedicated their lives to the public good, but the deciding factor for me was that Harris seems to be far more prepared and has thought put a lot more effort into thinking about and discussing a wider range of issues than Sanchez. Being on the short list for the supreme court also says a lot about the quality of her legal work.

State Representative: District 17 - Ro Khanna

The line between Khanna and Honda position wise is fairly narrow. Honda has, however, been calling it in of late. He’s not proposing any new legislation, votes entirely on party lines, and he doesn’t seem to be making meaningful contributions to the legislation that is being proposed.

Khanna has a good record of public service and seems energized. I don’t agree with everything he’s suggesting but he seems like he will drive change. My biggest desire for changes to his platform is that he realizes that we need both high speed rail and local improvements to public transportation. At the moment, he’s pushing to gut high speed rail in order to try and redirect some of that money. For better or worse, the train has already left the station and gutting the project after it’s started is a huge waste of resources (also, we need high speed rail).

Member of State Assembly: District 25 - Kansen Chu

Chu is active and co-sponsors a lot of cross-party bills, most of which I agree with. He’s also very active in the wider community.

Brunton is into trickle-down economics and fear-mongering.

Santa Clara County

Propositions

A - Yes

Affordable housing and social support services.

This allows for bonds to be issued to provide affordable housing for vulnerable populations. As Utah found providing homes for the homeless is much cheaper than the alternatives.

B - Yes

$0.005 sales tax for 30 years to repair and improve infrastructure.

This is another handcuffed by Prop 13 proposition. We desperately need extra funding to fix potholes, improve VTA bus service, extend BART into San Jose and Santa Clara and improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Also, this includes funding to put in more railroad grade separation. This is critically important as it improves public transit (trains don’t have to slow for crossings), improves congestion (cars don’t have to stop for trains) and reduces the ease of suicide by train.

Santa Clara Unified School District

Area 2 - Albert Gonzalez

Both Gonzalez and Richardson seem more than qualified for the position. Gonzalez has, however, grown considerably during his time on the board and is now on the California School Boards Association Board of Directors. Given his pattern of growth and no good reason to unseat him, I’m inclined to re-elect.

Area 3 - Michele Ryan

Honestly, I’d love to vote for Welsh, she’s got a great drive and is very creative in her leadership. And, if she’d been going for a different area, I probably would have. However, Ryan has done some great work in her tenure and I feel it would be incredibly sad to lose her from the board.

City of Santa Clara

Propositions

O - Yes

Council member salary management.

Santa Clara is currently paying some of the lowest salaries for council members, so this seems entirely reasonable, especially as council members are effectively working a second full time job (most people on the council are expected to put in around 30-40 hours a week). As an added bonus, it pushes salary setting off to a committee (so we don’t have to continually vote on it) and sets guidance in the maximum increase.

P - No

Hard term limits (instead of forced rotation).

I have mixed feelings about term limits. On the up side, they stop people being voted for just because they are the incumbant. On the down side, good people doing good work are replaced and hard won experience is thrown out. I haven’t yet worked out what the greater good here is (certainly, good people will look for other ways to contribute), but it feels like arbitrarily restricting our ability to vote for someone who is doing a good job and has built up lots of experience and relationships is somewhat unfortunate. Santa Clara already requires a rotation, so the main issue with incumbents (in that they have a financial benefit) is reduced.

Q - No

Replacing officials who resign takes a 45 vote and causes a new election.

I have a few concerns with this measure as it’s written. Firstly, it’s looking for a 45 majority, which is incredibly difficult to get. Secondly, it causes extra elections (which are expensive). Given how infrequently this occurs, I don’t see the need.

R - Yes

Require a 23 majority vote in an election for extended leases or to dispose of parklands.

I’m mostly leaning yes here, rather than a hard yes. While I generally consider this to be a “we hire the council to do this” problem, Santa Clara city has a miniscule amount of parks and rec space (6%), so I feel like putting a bit of a break on it is worth while. Allowing up to 180 day leases allows for many normal functions to procede and I’m sure we’ll find out the limitations and unintended consequences. Given the support of both the mayor and vice-mayor though, I have to assume some thought has been put into that.

Seat 3 - Debi Davis

Debi has been doing some great work over her first 4 years and I’d like to see that continue. I’m particularly thankful for her push in government transparency. McLemore almost had me based on his experience with transit issues, but I’m impressed with Davis and wish to see if she’s a one term wonder or grows even more in a second term.

Seat 4 - Raj Chahal

Raj has a long background in public service and is a strong proponent of controlled growth and mixed use development.

Seat 6 - Suds Jain

Suds has a very analytical approach to looking at issues as well as progressive view points. He also has a strong history of public service, currently serving on the planning commission.

Seat 7 - Ahmad Rafah

Ahmad is a refugee who is driven by this into public service. He also has very strong progressive ideas for improved transit and alternatives to cars. He is also a walkable city proponent, which I like a lot.

City Clerk - Bress

I’m not a fan of how Diridon has handled Levi’s Stadium, amongst others. Bess is very active and has been for a long time.

Chief of Police - Mike Sellers

Sellers has a host of experience and is widely involved in the community. While there may be good people who can reasonably replace Sellers, I do not believe Nikolai to have the necessary qualities (particularly given Nikolai was the head of the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association during the disastrous Kaepernick incident). Reading through Nikolai’s campaign materials also felt like it was a very ego driven exercise, rather than a desire to do better.

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