This year I’ve decided to share how I’m voting, as an experiment. Sometimes I just ask my wife how she’s voting, and copy her (since we agree on most political issues, and she always does the research), but this year I actually did the research myself. I’ve tried to make notes that get to the crux of the issue, at least from my own perspective. My bias is generally liberal, leaning libertarian on personal freedoms, leaning social democrat on economic policy. I’m more of a pragmatist than an idealist, and for political decision making I favor an empirical approach (what has worked before in similar situations/environments).
I don’t expect anyone to agree with all of my choices, but maybe some readers will find the information to be helpful in making their own choices (somewhere out there is my perfect “mirror-image” voter: one who makes the opposite choice in every category). I hope you find my notes to be useful, even if you end up voting a different way. Let me know in the comments.
Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.… – Winston Churchill
President and Vice President — Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine
I agree with Clinton on economic policy, gun control, immigration, human rights, women’s rights, and many of her foreign affairs positions. I think she could be stronger on environmental conservation, climate change, and cracking down on Wall Street crime. I consider her to be a pragmatic centrist, similar to Obama but more willing to make sausage to get stuff done.
As for Trump, as disturbing as I find his casual racism and sexism, my main fear is that he would escalate a Twitter feud into nuclear war and set global civilization back a few millennia. Not joking here, I actually think that could happen.
Result: Trump/Pence with 276 electoral votes
U.S. Senator from California — Kamala D. Harris
I agree with most of her positions, but I’m most impressed with the way she has (as California Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney) prosecuted financial crimes, especially scams targeting the elderly .
Result: Kamala Harris elected with 63%
U.S. Congressional Representative — Barbara Lee
Lee fought against the U.S. invasion of Iraq when it was politically costly to do so. Liberal, anti-war.
Result: Barbara Lee reelected with 90%
State Senator, 9th District — Nancy Skinner
Skinner’s opponent Sandré Swanson, also a Democrat, seems qualified too, but I went with Skinner because of the endorsements she received.
Result: Nancy Skinner elected with 63%
I’ll list the next few without notes, but I’ll try to respond to any questions in the comments.
State Assembly, 15th District — Tony Thurmond
Superior Court Judge, Office #1 — Scott Jackson
AC Transit District Director, At Large — H.E. Christian Peeples
AC Transit District Director, Ward 2 — Greg Harper
BART Director, District 3 — Rebecca Saltzman
East Bay Regional Park District Director, Ward 2 — Dee Rosario
All of the above were elected.
California State Propositions
51 School Bonds — YES
Money is cheap (low interest rates), and California K-12 and community colleges desperately need the money (thanks to Prop 13).
52 Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program – YES
Extends existing funding for Medi-Cal, providing services to uninsured patients, health coverage for children.
53 Revenue Bonds Voting Requirements — NO
This would require a statewide vote on funding some localized spending (like water supply and protection from natural disasters). It could really muck things up politically and prevent critical infrastructure improvements.
54 Requirement to Put Legislation and Proceedings on the Internet — NO
Generally transparency is a good thing, but in government the get-it-done sausage making is sometimes ugly. Is the additional transparency worth the millions of dollars in costs to make this happen? How many people will actually watch those videos? Will it increase political posturing at the cost of getting stuff done? Those are my concerns and why I’m voting No on this one.
55 Extends Tax on Annual Income > $250K for Public Schools — YES
To give some context, California public schools budgets were in a terrifying free fall, bloody cuts left and right, services and programs decimated, students left out in the cold, until Prop 30 (a temporary tax on income > $250K) passed in 2012. Since then, our schools have been clawing their way back, restoring key programs and services. But the Prop 30 tax is about to expire. Let’s renew it, and keep rebuilding our public schools.
56 Cigarette Tax — YES
I’m libertarian when it comes to consensual sex, drugs, and other lifestyle choices, but I’m pro-nanny state “tax nudging” when people make dumb choices that cost me money (in taxes that go to healthcare programs). Yes, it’s a regressive tax, but it will reduce smoking, especially among young people.
57 Parole Consideration for Nonviolent Felons — YES
It’s not completely clear what “nonviolent” means, but it looks like the state would save tens of millions by allowing the possibility of parole (with good behavior, education, etc.) for a group that would mostly include thieves, forgers, fraudsters, and drug users. I’d rather give this group a second chance than murderers, armed robbers, and rapists. And let’s get real — the U.S. incarceration rate is too damn high.
58 English Proficiency and Multilingual Education — YES
This preserves existing requirements for English language proficiency while also authorizing dual-language immersion. I met some Jewish kids the other day who could speak Chinese (learned at their dual-language public school) and I thought that was pretty cool.
59 Waves Fist at Citizens United — YES
A mostly symbolic gesture against the Citizens United decision that opened the gates to corporations spending truckloads of money in political campaigns.
60 Requires Condoms in Adult Films — NO
This ridiculous law would create a new “porn-watcher” state job. Pornography actors are generally against it, as are many health organizations and the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, and the California Libertarian Party. The proposition is poorly worded and would result in worker harassment.
61 State Prescription Drug Purchases — NO
This is one of the few propositions I ended up siding with the Republicans. I’m not confident this price-fixing approach would do more harm than good. The veterans are against it. This is a good one to read up on yourself if you want to dig into the details.
62 Abolish the Death Penalty in California — YES
It’s not that certain heinous crimes don’t deserve the death penalty — some do. But the fact is that mistakes are made, and innocent people are executed every year. If evidence surfaces that exonerates a convict, you can’t undo an execution.
63 Background Checks for Ammunition — YES
I’m all for the rights of citizens to own lethal weapons. I’m sitting within arm’s reach of razor-sharp carbon steel at this very moment. But we need to keep weapons and ammunition out of the hands of the mentally ill, dangerous felons, and potential terrorists (both domestic and foreign). This isn’t a binary issue; it’s ridiculous to be only FOR or AGAINST gun control. We need to get into the details and get it right.
64 Marijuana Legalization — YES
It pisses me off that ANY of my tax dollars go towards prosecuting personal drug use. I’m happy to pay for education and prevention programs, which are far more effective than policing the possession and/or ingestion of mind-altering chemicals (many of which have therapeutic applications, both physical and psychological).
This is also a race issue. White people do party drugs all the time and nobody cares.
65 Carryout bags — NO
This is the fake plastic bag initiative backed by plastic bag manufacturers, in the guise of an environmental proposition. This is the fake sneaky one — VOTE NO. The Green Party and the Surfrider Foundation are against it. Another one to read up on, if you’re curious. Or just vote No.
66 Speeds Up State Executions — NO
For reasons above (Prop 62).
67 Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags — YES
This is the real one to vote for if you want to remove this environmental scourge and searing eye-blight of the plastic grocery bag.
There will still be plenty of plastic bags in your life, even if you no longer get them at the grocery store. All kinds of food comes in plastic bags — you can use those instead for around-the-house stuff.
Once you switch over to owning your own cloth or canvas grocery bags (and remembering to take them to the store), it seems crazy it was ever any other way.
Local Measures (Alameda County, City of Oakland, Transit District)
A1 Affordable Housing Bond — YES
There is a serious housing crisis in Alameda County, and this bond would provide affordable local housing and prevent displacement of the most vulnerable (elderly, veterans, people with disabilities, etc.). Funds would be subject to citizen oversight and regular audits. Would issue up to $580M in general obligation County of Alameda bonds.
Result: Yes (72%)
G1 New $120 Parcel Tax for Oakland Teacher Retention and Arts/Music/Language Program — YES
The best Oakland teachers keep getting poached by other districts because of the pay/cost-of-living disparity. Ultimately this is another downwind effect of the San Francisco tech boom (crazy high housing costs in Oakland), but a parcel tax can shore up teacher salaries and staunch the bleeding. Being both a public school parent and a property owner in Oakland, I’m happy to pay this modest tax increase. Here are the details.
Result: Yes (81%)
HH Soda Tax — YES
I’m voting with the nanny state on this one, from an empirical perspective. The Berkeley Soda Tax has reduced child consumption of sugary drinks, and that’s a good thing. Childhood obesity is a huge problem in Oakland and almost everywhere else in the United States, and highly-sweetened beverages are a big part of that problem.
Opponents say it’s a “grocery tax” which is kind of true. The grocery store pays the tax. It makes sense for them to pass that cost onto the consumer by raising the price of soda, and in Berkeley that’s what has happened. I can see why a grocery store owner wouldn’t want to pay more in taxes, but their sales and profits won’t go down as long as they offer beverage alternatives to soda (Oakland kids — time to sip on some coconut water or Pellegrino).
Result: Yes (61%)
II Increases Maximum Lease Term for City of Oakland — YES
From 66 to 99 years. No strong feelings about this one, but the change might allow Oakland to negotiation some better long-term lease deals.
Result: Yes (52%)
JJ Just Cause Eviction Amendment and Rent Control — NO
There are already existing restrictions on how much Oakland landlords can raise rent, and I think these are sufficient. Housing is too expensive in Oakland because of overflow demand from the San Francisco tech boom, and more rent control won’t fix that problem. Building more affordable housing will.
“Landlord” is a job like any other job. Greater or fewer property owners can decide to rent based on the pros-and-cons. If we make being a landlord too difficult/restrictive, fewer people will go into (or stay in) the landlord business.
I might be on the wrong side of this issue — most of my Oakland peers will vote Yes on JJ. Since I personally know one elderly Oakland landlord who is behind on her bills and can’t afford to maintain her property, that may have influenced my decision.
Also, that word, landlord — like the renters are hardscrabble serfs eating dirt-and-grass soup, living under the threat of cold iron. We need a better word.
Result: Yes (74%)
KK Bonds for Infrastructure Repair — YES
Historically low interest rates mean it’s a good time for cities to issue bonds, as long as the money is put to good use. This one would go to repairing potholes, cracked sidewalks, funding bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, funding affordable housing, libraries, parks, etc. I’m all for it.
Result: Yes (82%)
LL Police Department Oversight Commission — YES
Establishes a civilian commission to oversee OPD. This commission would have more power than the police department would like, and there is a real risk of alienating good cops by overscrutinizing their actions. But given OPD’s tumultuous history of bad behavior (some quite recent), they had this one coming. Many Oakland residents see the police as the enemy, so hopefully this commission will help heal that rift by making the police more accountable to those they are sworn to protect and serve. Authored by City Council Member Dan Kalb (and others) and supported by Mayor Schaaf.
Result: Yes (82%)
C1 Renews AC Transit Parcel Tax — YES
Renews a parcel tax to fund AC Transit (bus system). The current parcel tax doesn’t expire for awhile, but I don’t have any problem with renewing it early.
Result: Yes (82%)
Looks like I forgot to write up Measure RR, the BART bond measure. It passed with 71%.
City Of Oakland
City Council Member At Large — Peggy Moore, 2nd choice Bruce Quan, 3rd Choice Rebecca Kaplan
Kaplan might have got my first pick, but it was on her watch that Waste Management shafted the city with sneaky-language price gouging in the garbage/compost pickup contract (and she was late to take responsibility). City council members need to read the fine print.
Results: Rebecca Kaplan reelected
City Council Member District 1 — Dan Kalb
Kalb (and Mayor Schaaf) deserve some blame for the garbage fiasco as well, but I like Kalb and I think he’s doing good work. Also he follows me on Twitter and has yet to block me despite me tweeting at him re: how to do his job. The police union doesn’t like him because of Measure LL, which he co-authored (see above).
Result: Dan Kalb reelected
School Board Director, District 1 — Jody London
I’ve been critical of some of the School Board’s choices, but overall I think Jody London is a tireless servant of Oakland students and families. She cares deeply about improving Oakland’s schools, and I trust her to make good choices in a difficult environment (not enough money, many students unprepared for school, high labor costs, infrastructure problems, etc.).
Result: Jody London reelected
Please feel free to post your views (including opposing ones) in the comments. I’ve already mailed in my ballot, but you might convince other readers. Keep it civil and reasonable and I won’t delete, even if I completely disagree.
Please let me know if you found this voting write-up to be at all helpful, and if you’d like me to do more in the future. And remember to vote Tuesday November 8th (7am-8pm)!