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Rick -> Rick's Election Analyses -> Nov. 3, 2020

Tuesday, 2020-11-03 general election

Notes by Rick Moen
(Last updated 2021-08-21)

See also: My matching write-up on the March primary.

This election rundown will cover offices and issues votable at our precinct 3402 in West Menlo Park, California. Unless you live close by, your ballot will differ to some degree.

As always, definitive outcomes are not possible for several weeks, partly because some categories of ballots aren't counted until after Election Day (vote-by-mail/absentee including overseas and military, provisional, and damaged).

Also as always, this page includes separate "RM partisan analysis" sections for each issue/candidate, just in case you're curious what I personally think. No, I'm not lobbying to persuade, in part because that doesn't work.



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How to Check Your Voter Registration

California's registration deadline is 15 calendar days before each election; in this case, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Some counties permit checking and correcting registration online, and California also has a statewide voter registration Web site. I would recommend checking your county information first. If you see signs of trouble or have doubts or find no information, contact your county registrar of voters immediately. Or, just visit that office in person, bringing state photo ID or passport.

Urgent Year 2020 Issues

As this election is unique and unprecedented in oh-so-many ways, I have an urgent plea to all US voters.

1. If feasible, submit your ballot in person, this time, not by postal mail. As options differ wildly across the 51 jurisdictions (states + DC), examine your alternatives online.
2. Be very careful to sign the ballot envelope using the same signature and form-of-name (tip: see your driver's license) you used to register. By "form-of-name", I mean a voter registered as Rufus T. Firefly mustn't sign as "Rufus Tiberius Firefly".
3. (At least in California:) Print your name and residence address. Insert ballot (removing your ballot stub), and seal the envelope.
4. If you must submit your ballot by mail, mail it as early as possible, like mid-October. I'm not kidding. (If voting by mail, track your ballot. If voting in person, for S.M.C. County, check ballot status online.) Note: California election officials rejected 100,000 mailed-in ballots in our March primary.
5. Be safe, be healthy.

Why? Because, In the event of a close President/VP contest, there is danger of political sabotage and violence. See link for details. The short version is that, if the winner is unclear at the end of November 3rd, there are actual, verified plans to cause highly destructive chaos in the courts, legislatures, and (violently in the) streets over the weeks that follow, to force a victory disregarding late-counted ballots. Therefore, it is important to do everything possible to ensure definitive President/VP results by Election Night.

Unfortunately by-mail and absentee ballots (for all practical purposes the same thing) are much slower to count; those planning chaos to jigger the results (if there's a close contest) know this, and have also sabotaged our mail system. Given the high number of likely mailed-in ballots this time, it's likely that reasonably complete tallies will be impossible (in some key states, depending on closeness of the vote: AZ, NC, MI, PA, WI) before late November. In-person or early voting makes this nightmare scenario less likely.

As a reminder, it is normal for ballot counting to take weeks to complete after Election Day: Results of statewide races will be certified Dec. 11. Results of county/local races will be certified Dec. 3. For the President/VP race, Electors are appointed Dec. 8, they vote Dec. 14, and those votes are counted and certified Jan. 6.

Here in California, ballots were mailed out to all registered voters at their on-record addresses, in accordance with a May executive order, and cast ballots that are in county Elections Office hands by Friday, Oct. 31 will be counted first. Later-arriving ballots may be omitted from Election Night's tally.

(On Nov. 13th, Sutter County Judge Sarah Heckman ruled Gov. Newsom's mail-out-ballots order legally void, as it usurped the Legislature's statutory authority. However, Judge Heckman's decision had no net effect on the 2020 election, as the Legislature had passed a bill seconding the Governor's action.)

Or, as noted wit Damian Carroll phrased the matter on Oct. 4 in haiku form:

Your mail-in ballot
Should arrive within the week.
Don't wait! Vote early!

Nightmare Scenario Timeline:

So, seriously avoid mailed-in voting if you have any alternative. If you must mail your ballot, please do no closer than a week before the election. Remember that in-person voting can be safe enough, provided you avoid crowding, safer than grocery store visits you already do. (Bring your own black- or blue-ink pen, a face mask, and perhaps hand sanitizer.)

My family's solution: in-person voting, the week before Election Day, using the dropbox right at S.M.C. Elections Office, 50 Tower Road, San Mateo.




Candidate Information

I've had a small epiphany: It's 2020, and we have better ways of getting information than the (state) Official Voter Information Guide and County Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet.

As 2016 U.S. Senate candidate Jason Hanania pointed out, the state charges candidates $25 per word to include a Candidate Statement in the statewide Guide — thus over $6,000 for a full-paragraph statement, plus a $3,480 Filing Fee, thus difficulty staying under the Federal Elections Commission cap of $5,000 in campaign expenditures, exceeding which brings many expensive other requirements and a host of other ills.

All of that is unnecessary: It's 2020, we have the Web, and nobody need pay by the word. Therefore, for each candidate, I have hyperlinked the candidate Web site or best other Web resource. The Web can give you much deeper and better information than the Official Voter Information Pamphlet and County Pamphlet. Use it.



U.S. President and Vice-President

The California general election chooses 55 electors for the Electoral College, all 55 pledged to vote for whichever President/VP ticket wins statewide plurality. The 55 electors then cast their votes in Sacramento on (this year) Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, and those votes become official upon certification by the newly seated Congress meeting in joint session on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.

These are party-nominated offices (hence, write-ins are allowed)1.

(four-year terms, vote for one slate)

Coverage:


Complete a/o Oct. 30th list of newspaper & magazine endorsements:

Joe Biden: Arizona Daily Star, Advocate, Asheville Citizen-Times, Atlantic, Austin American-Statesman, Austin Chronicle, Baltimore Jewish Times, Baltimore Sun, Bangor Daily News, Bay Area Reporter, (Boston) Bay Windows, Beaumont Enterprise, Berkshire Eagle, (Metro Detroit) Between the Lines, (Riverside) Black Voice News, Boston Globe, Boston Irish Reporter, Boulder Weekly, Brattleboro Reformer, Buffalo News, (Bend, OR) Bulletin, (Annapolis) Capital, (Madison) Capital Times, Caribbean National Weekly, Charleston City Paper, Chicago Crusader, Chicago Defender, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chico Enterprise-Record, (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice, (Lansing, MI) City Pulse, Columbus Dispatch, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Daily News of Newburyport, Daily Nonpareil, (Arlington Heights, IL) Daily Herald, (Sunbury, PA) Daily Item, Dallas Voice, Decatur Daily, Des Moines Register, Detroit Free Press, (Moline, IL) Dispatch / Rock Island Argus, Dorchester (MA) Reporter, (North Andover, MA) Eagle-Tribune, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, (Puerto Rico) El Nuevo Día, El Paso Times, Falls Church News-Press, Gary Crusader, (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, Gay City News, Georgia Voice, (Washington) Georgetowner, Gloucester Daily Times, Hartford Courant, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Houston Chronicle, Idaho Mountain Express, Iowa City Press-Citizen, Jersey Journal, Keene (New Hampshire) Sentinel, Kennnebec Journal, Kenosha News, (Tampa) La Gaceta, (Los Angeles) La Opinión, Laredo Morning Times, Lancet Oncology, Las Vegas Sun, Lincoln Journal Star, Los Angeles Blade, Los Angeles Times, Louisiana Weekly, Mankato Free Press, Marin Independent-Journal, Martha's Vineyard Times, Marysville (KS) Advocate, (San Jose) Mercury News, (DC) Metro Weekly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Monterey County Weekly, Nation, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, New Hampshire Union Leader, New York Carib News, New York Daily News, New York Times, New Yorker, (Chico) News & Review, (Urbana-Champlain) News-Gazette, Newsday, Northwest Asian Weekly, Omaha World-Herald, Oregonian, Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Weekly, Oroville Mercury-Register, Palm Beach Post, Patriot-News, Philadelphia Gay News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Tribune, (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Portland Press Herald, (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat, (Davenport) Quad-City Times, (Hackensack) Record, (Greenfield, MA) Recorder, (Meriden, CT) Record-Journal, (Springfield, MA) Republican, Riverhead News Review, Rolling Stone, Salem News, San Antonio Express-News, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, St. Louis American, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Scientific American, Scranton Times-Tribune, Seattle Times, (Bend, OR) Source Weekly, South Florida Caribbean News, Stamford Advocate, (Seattle) Stranger, Shelter Island (NY) Reporter, (Newark, NJ) Star-Ledger, Storm Lake (IA) Times, (Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel, Surfer (Magazine), Tampa Bay Times, (Brunswick, ME) Times Record, (Eureka) Times-Standard, (Albany region) Times Union, Tokepa Capital-Journal, USA Today, Vallejo Times-Herald, (Lebanon, NH) Valley News, (Orlando) Watermark Online, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Washington Blade, Washington Jewish Week, Washington Post, Willamette Week, Windy City Times, Winston-Salem Chronicle, Wisconsin State Journal, York (Pennsylvania) Dispatch.

Дональд Дж. Трамп Donald J. Trump: Boston Herald, (Colorado Springs) Gazette, Las Vegas Review-Journal, (NYC) Jewish Press, (NYC) Jewish Voice. New York Post, Santa Barbara News-Press, (Spokane) Spokesman-Review, Washington Examiner, Washington Times.

(2020 note: Las Vegas Review-Journal, in endorsing Трамп/Пенс Trump/Pence, has the distinction of being owned by major Трамп Trump donor and billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. The Santa Barbara paper is wholly owned by a noted practitioner of crimelord capitalism. The Jewish Voice of Brooklyn is a bunch of neocons and conspiracy wack-jobs. New York Post is of course a scurrilous Murdoch tabloid. The Gazette and Washington Examiner are mouthpieces for venture-capital and oil-industry firm Anschutz. Spokesman-Review is just a family-owned local paper. Washington Times is owned by a holding company of the "Reverend Sun Myung Moon" Unification Church aka "Moonies", and is known for promoting racism, neo-Confederate historical revisionism, conspiracy theories, climate-change denialism, Islamophobia, etc. Boston Herald, is a tabloid that, after recent bankruptcy sale, is operated by private capital firm MNG Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Digital First Media. Jewish Press is an independent paper by and for the Modern Orthodox community.)

(Independence Party of New York candidate) Brock Pierce: Anchorage Press


Your (presidential) vote almost certainly won't matter: As of Oct. 21st, FiveThirtyEight projects 99%+ chance of Biden/Harris taking California's 55 electoral votes, vs. under 1% for Трамп/Пенс Trump/Pence. Realistically, if you're in California and want your presidential vote to matter, move to Nevada or other swing state. Otherwise, cast your vote and keep rechecking FiveThirtyEight to see Nate Silver's analyses late on Nov. 3rd and the approximately two weeks longer that will be required to get in the greatly expanded mail-in vote, to see how decisive contests (elsewhere) went.

RM partisan analysis: I'd vote for a pastrami sandwich before I'd vote for the mentally unstable, mendacious, petulant, narcissistic, vindictive, bigoted, corrupt, greedy, traitorous crimelord and his scary medievalist henchman VP. Fortunately, I can vote for Biden/Harris with confidence, as they are sane, competent, and can provide the leadership that's been missing the entire last four years. Unfortunately, by Nov. 1, the Toddler-in-Chief had about 210,000 avoidable American pandemic deaths (and more each day) on his non-existent conscience, on account of knowing and abject leadership failure. That hideous national damage is a sad fact, but at least it can be ended.

I'm voting for Biden/Harris (or any sane, competent adult).

Outcome: Biden/Harris won both statewide and country-wide. The 55 electors picked by California's Democratic Party therefore cast California's vote for Biden/Harris on Dec. 14.

Biden/Harris won the popular vote by a historic seven million votes. More important, a/o Dec. 14, the Electoral College, as expected, handed them a 306 to 232 vote victory. As a reminder, it takes 270 to win.

Трамп Trump continued to press ultra-low-odds litigation against the vote count in many states — apparently as primarily a grift to siphon off donation money for his large, ballooning debts to foreign interests, deliberately not conceding in order to help create a new 21st Century Stab-in-the-Back Myth, and perpetuate his money grift. Their recount for two counties of Wisconsin, costing the campaign $3 million (of other people's donation money), ended on Nov. 29th widening Biden/Harris's WI margin of victory by 87 votes (1, 2), to a bit over 20,000, statewide. Georgia's recount (paid for by Georgia's voters rather than the campaign), finished Dec. 4, and left Biden/Harris still winning the state by 11,769 votes. (Costs to Georgia's 159 counties are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, each, and Biden/Harris's already-certified winning margin of 12,760 out of 5 million votes cast is in practice insurmountable, so Georgians' money was wasted.) Recounts of statewide votes basically almost never change tallies by more than about 300 votes (margins within 0.05%) (as also suggested by the initial post-election manual audit in Georgia, that was in essence a first recount, of two, that changed the initial statewide tally only by 1,274, revising Biden/Harris's GA margin to 12,284 votes).

After a shameful act of domestic terrorism on January 6, 2021 — one incited by the President-Eject — the joint session of Congress convened specially for the purpose that day was able to finish certification of Biden/Harris's Electoral College victory early on January 7th, making this election finally over. Short of a tanks-in-the-streets hard coup, we are finally getting rid of the quisling-in-chief.

Popular vote figures:

The voting-eligible US population is currently 239,247,182. Cook Political Report tallied: 33.9% (81,281,502) voted Biden/Harris, 31.0% (74,222,593) voted Трамп/Пенс Trump/Pence, 1.2% (2,890,510) voted third-party, and 33.7% (80,852,577) didn't vote. (This is the first Presidential General Election in living memory where the winner outpolled didn't-vote. Biden/Harris's winning margin of over 7 million is also historic.) 158,394,605 valid votes were recorded.

State certifications:
Nov. 5: DE.
Nov. 10: LA, OK, SD, VT.
Nov. 11: SC, WY.
Nov. 13: MS, ND.
Nov. 16: VA.
Nov. 17: FL.
Nov. 18: MA, ID.
Nov. 19: HI.
Nov. 20: GA.
Nov. 23: MI, KY, ME, UT, AL.
Nov. 24: PA, NV, NC, MN, NM, IN, TX.
Nov. 25: AR, CT.
Nov. 27: OH.
Nov. 30: AZ, WI, AK, IA, MT, NE, KS, WV, RI, CO.
Dec. 1: WA.
Dec. 2: DC, NH, TN.
Dec. 3: OR, IL.
Dec. 4: CA, MD.
Dec. 7: NY, NJ.
Dec. 8: MO.

Electoral College Dec. 14 outcome:

Biden/Harris: AZ 11, CA 55, CO 9, CT 7, DE 3, DC 3, GA 16, HI 4, IL 20, ME 3, MD 10, MA 11, MI 16, MN 10, NE 1, NV 6, NH 4, NJ 14, NM 5, NY 29, OR 7, PA 20, RI 4, VT 3, VA 13, WA 12, WI 10. Total: 306.
Трамп/Пенс Trump/Pence: AL 9, AK 3, AR 6, FL 29, ID 4, IN 11, IA 6, KS 6, KY 8, LA 8, ME 1, MS 6, MO 10, MT 3, NE 4, NC 15, ND 3, OH 18, OK 7, SC 9, SD 3, TN 11, TX 38, UT 6, WV 5, WY 3. Total: 232.



U.S. 18th Congressional District - southwest San Mateo County

(four-year terms, vote for one)

This is a Top-Two runoff for a voter-nominated office (thus, no write-ins), three candidates (Richard B. Fox, Phil Reynolds, and Bob Goodwyn) having been eliminated in the March primary.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Not only am I satisfied with Eshoo's ongoing solid performance representing her constituents, but Kumar's skeevy conduct on multiple occasions (see above links) makes me wary of him.

I'm voting for Eshoo.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



State Senate, 13th District - San Mateo County south of San Bruno Mountain

(four-year terms, vote for one)

This is a Top-Two runoff for a voter-nominated office (thus, no write-ins), five candidates having been eliminated in the March primary: Sally J. Lieber, Mike Brownrigg, Shelly Masur, and Annie Oliva (Democratic Party); John H. Webster (Libertarian Party).

Existing officeholder Jerry Hill is termed out, having won this office in 2012 and 2016.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: I'm going to repeat my assessment of Republican Alex Glew from the November 2018 election: "When you look at Glew's positions, at first he seems pretty sane, but then you start to see the paranoid self-assigned victimhood (Twitter is shadow-banning Republicans, Facebook is biased against me) and crackpottery about supposed election fraud." Becker by contrast is a perfectly reasonable and competent fellow.

I'm voting for Becker.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



State Assembly, 24th District - Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, and most of coastside San Mateo County

(two-year terms, vote for one)

This is a Top-Two runoff for a voter-nominated office (thus, no write-ins), candidates Kennita Watson (Libertarian) having been eliminated in the March primary.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: I continue to be happy with Berman. (Longtime Menlo Park city council member Peter Ohtaki is also a sympathetic and diligent public servant, whom I likewise respect.)

I'm voting for Berman.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



San Mateo County Board of Education

(Trustee for area 4, representing north county; four-year terms, vote for one)

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Although this race is blessed with having two attractive candidates, I'm accepting the S.M. Daily Journal's reasoning.

I'm voting for Hsiao.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):



S.M.C. Community College District Board of Trustees

(Trustee for Area 1, four-year terms, vote for one)

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Once again, I'm accepting the S.M. Daily Journal's reasoning. Also, candidate Whitlock might have a functional problem if elected, as the terms of his severance agreement appear to ban him having further contact with the District, and even visiting its campuses.

I also note the particular importance of Ms. Petrides's platform of bringing greater transparency to the District's operation. There has been a huge amount of skullduggery at SMCCCD, lately, including setting up mysteriously resigned Chancellor Ron Galatolo (amid swirling rumors about allegations of harassment and improper handling of construction contracts after voters' bond measure threw the district $1.068B to play with in 2001, 2005 and 2014), with an unaccountable and highly paid ($467,000/year) sinecure as "Chancellor Emeritus" doing essentially nothing at the taxpayer's expense, hiding what's going on behind closed-door executive session meetings, and terminating Mr. Whitlock as Assistant Vice-Chancellor for HR and District Counsel with a similar $2.28 million buy-off and hush agreement. This all is deeply wrong, even possibly criminal, and basically I'd like to sweep away the entire Board that did it.

I'm voting for Petrides.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):

The sweeping out of dirt badly needed for this district is now incrementally more likely; In addition to Petrides's win, existing Board Trustee and current President Karen Schwarz bowed out (no loss; she was evidently part of the problem), being replaced by John Pimentel who likewise ran on a transparency platform for Area 5. Now, perhaps we'll have a bit less misgovernance and then buying off involved parties with taxpayer money.

Existing Board Trustee Dave Mandelkern (ditto) lost to Board Trustee Maurice Goodman as a consequence of the shift to by-district elections (as they both live in Area 3), which is (in my view) an improvement only in losing one of the existing Board, net.

Suspect parties to keep an eye on, going forward, are ex-Chancellor Galatolo's key ally and successor, current Chancellor Mike Claire (who personally oversaw $350M of new construction and renovation on the CSM campus), Area 4 Trustee and 2018 Board President Richard Holober, current Board VP Thomas A. Nuris, and Area 3 Trustee Maurice Goodman. I don't trust them, because they all owed an honest explanation to us constituents, and none delivered. I hope new Board members Petrides and Pimentel will at least will give us a fresh-ish start. Now, giving Chancellor Claire the "bon voyage" treatment without golden parachute would make for an excellent start — sadly unlikely, but I can dream.



Sequoia Union High School District Board of Trustees

(Trustee for Area C, four-year terms, vote for one)

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: All three of these are strong candidates and excellent choices. I am going to pick Georgia Jack again as a familiar good choice, but any would be good.

I'm voting for Jack.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):



Las Lomitas Elementary School District Board of Trustees

(Members, four-year terms, vote for two)

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Morimoto would be the first Board member in living memory, perhaps ever, to have a finance background, and the District badly needs that. I consider it important enough to elect him that I am casting only one vote, not the two allowed.

I'm voting for Morimoto (only).

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):

Mid-November update: Board President Jon Venverloh resigned from the Board in response to fallout from a scandal over his wife's social media postings. Then on Nov. 16, LLESD Superintendent Beth Polito wrote to district parents that incoming Board Trustee Dr. Jody Leng "has recently decided to forfeit her position as a Board Trustee". So, not only will only Jason Morimoto ascend to the Board, but also the remaining Board will need to fill two vacant seats.

December update: On Dec. 11, the LLESD partial Board filled the two empty seats with provisional appointed members Cynthia Solis Yi and Molly Finn, who will thus serve until the next election on Nov. 8, 2022.



San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners

(Commissioner for District 5, four-year terms, vote for one)

This is a nonpartisan office (hence, write-ins are allowed). Qualified write-in candidates will be listed at the County Election Office, producing a list at polling places on Election Day.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: This is the first election we're filling seats by district rather than at-large. The Harbor District Board's District 5 runs east-west across the southern part of San Mateo County from E.P.A. to Pescadero. Of the two candidates: Kirsten Keith, ex-mayor of Menlo Park and lawyer, misleadingly describes herself on the ballot as a "conservation agency director" based on a side-line where she spends a tiny amount of time per year on a board (Bay Area Water Service and Conservation Agency) trying to ensure water supply quality to local water districts and companies, but she's in truth a lawyer. Aside from the breathtaking shading of the truth, there's little reason she has aptitude to run a harbor district at all, and didn't exactly cover herself with glory as mayor of our neighboring city, and was benched when she lost re-election to the City Council in 2018. Virginia Chang Kiraly has, by contrast, served for four years as a voice of reason and fiscal competence on the harbor board.

Ms. Keith also remains, in my view, under the cloud of the 2011 "Sign-gate" scandal, when candidate Chang Kiraly's campaign signs were mysteriously disappearing and a cellular phone belonging to Ms. Keith's husband John Woodell was found in the bushes near a discarded Chang Kiraly sign, followed by further litigation conduct that reflected poorly on Woodell and Keith. (I'm not going to make any claim of fact about who was pulling the juvenile stunt of removing Chang Kiraly's signs, but have private suspicions.)

I am voting (again) for Chang Kiraly.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):



Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors

(Members, four-year terms, vote for two)

This is a nonpartisan office (hence, write-ins are allowed). Qualified write-in candidates will be listed at the County Election Office, producing a list at polling places on Election Day.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: The MFPFD Board's politics had long been complex, and became so again with Carpenter and Ballard's late entry into this race (as a "team"). Carpenter had a prior record on the Board including as President, and at the time I perceived that an undercurrent of jockeying and dissension owed largely to him. He left the Board and now seeks to return, with Eigenvector Capital founder Ballard as his protegé. The two candidates' promise to fix vast problems rings hollow to me; they strike me as inventing some issues out of whole cloth (such as Carpenter pushing a crackpot, baseless theory that rival Chang Kiraly's holding of two Special District Board seats is illegal), and suggesting unpersuasively that they're the cure for some real problems such as a past tendency to micromanage the fire chief.

I politely engaged with Carpenter on the crackpot legal theory in The Almanac's online reader response space; Carpenter was by turns evasive, vague, and personally dismissive of me as a constituent. Mr. Ballard, for his part, appears to have mislead The Almanac's reporter into including a preposterous claim that, as an appointed "community member" of two MPFPD committees, he had been the chairman (the boss over other members who were elected officials). I twice tactfully asked Ballard if the claim were true (which I'd already confirmed was not), hoping he'd say "Oh, thanks for pointing out that error. I'll ask the paper to fix it." Instead, Ballard deflected and ignored my question, letting the coverage's misstatement (in effect, his resume padding) persist until I and others belatedly escalated the error to the publisher. So, I consider both of these gentleman problematic for similar reasons: You don't earn a constituent's support and respect by trying to con or publicly disrespect him/her. Speaking for myself, I take it rather badly.

Shortly after those irritating encounters, a glossy, expensive flyer from Carpenter and his Sithlord padawan Ballard appeared in my mail, claiming their "team" would be the enthusiastic choice of local firefighters. However, I cannot help noticing that those same firefighters went out of their way to endorse Silano and Chang Kiraly, and not Carpenter and Ballard.

Mr. Silano has been a generally OK but not really stellar Board member. The standout by far, in my view, has been the fourth candidate, Ms. Chang Kiraly, who's been a force for sanity and level-headed judgement on this Board (as she as been on the Harbor Board), and also has the finance background this district (like many others) needs. I consider it important enough to retain her that I am casting only one vote, not the two allowed.

I am voting for Chang Kiraly (only).

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):



Statewide Measures

(vote yes or no for each)

Talented wit and Democratic Party activist Damian Carroll (National Director of the charity Vision to Learn) wrote a descriptive haiku (the poetic form with 17 syllables) for each of the 12 statewide ballot measures — or, as he put it:

Twelve ballot measures
In seventeen syllables:
Get informed and vote.

I'll introduce each proposition using Carroll's haiku, because they're vivid, funny, and enlightening.



Proposition 14
Authorizes Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research. Initiative Statute.

5.5 billion
Backs stem cell research and boosts
Access to treatments.

Summary: Authorizes $5.5 billion state general-obligation bonds for: stem cell and other medical research, including training; research facility construction; administrative costs. Dedicates $1.5 billion to brain-related diseases. Appropriates General Fund moneys for repayment. Expands related programs. Fiscal Impact: Increased state costs to repay bonds estimated at about $260 million per year over the next roughly 30 years.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: General-obligation bond debt is tricky for states: In good economic times, it is a practical way of funding state and local longer-term projects, the cost in interest being relatively low because of a good state debt rating and ease of selling the bonds over time. The problem happens during economic downturns, when state tax revenue falls off steeply (because of a contracting economy) at the same time that interest rates that must be paid out to place bonds skyrocket because of a tight money market and downrating of the state's creditworthiness on account of excess leveraging relative to shrinking tax revenue (which in turn raises the bond interest rates even further). So, too much bond debt steals interest payouts from state finances at exactly the time (recessions) when it can least afford this.

California walked straight into that trap during the 2000s because of far too much carefree voter reliance on bond issues, causing an explosion of interest debt at the same time the economy repeatedly tanked, reducing state General Fund balances that must be tapped to pay bond interest. This was a very destructive cycle, damaged the state's credit rating, and even now, still will take long years to work out of.

I urge great care to never repeat this hapless Schwarzenegger-era financing blunder. For example, the March 2004 election included a spectacularly ill-advised initiative (Prop. 57) to close that year's General Fund budget gap through issuing $15 billion in general obligation bonds — basically, balancing the state checkbook by taking out a payday loan. I voted against, and would have voted "Oh, hell no", if that had been possible. To my horror, Schwarzenegger's bond measure won. Those were mostly sold to the public only, finally, in Feb. 2008 (just before the late-2008 financial crisis would have made the disaster even worse), and the last of those bonds was retired in August 2015.

The key metric to watch is debt-service ratio, the percent of state General Fund revenues spent on debt service (paying off bond interest and principal). Historically, California had a 1-2% debt-service ratio ("DSR"), which is generally considered reasonable and safe. During the 2000s, it shot up to 6% and higher, and was for years the third-worst of any state (Illinois and New Jersey being even worse), with the state credit rating tanking accordingly. This has now substantially improved. See the State Treasurer's 2020 Debt Affordability Report for the full picture.

Every election where there's a bond proposal, the Legislative Analyst includes an Overview of State Bond Debt in the Official Voter Guide. Look at the current one. Debt-service ratio is already high at around 4%, but will reach 4.7% when unplaced bonds authorized in prior elections have sold. Prop. 14 would keep it almost that high through 2026, delaying DSR decline to sane 1-2% levels.

Currently, as with the Dot-Bomb era and the 2008 financial crisis, we're in a recession, but with the oddity of freakishly low interest rates that has reduced debt service, even though state tax revenues have declined. The state has thus evaded disaster, but needs to keep driving down bond debt, in my opinion. Also, with the possibility of an extended downturn, this seems an especially bad time for more debt.

This particular bond measure would renew state funding for embryonic stem-cell research established by 2004's Prop. 71, which were then urgently needed because President George W. Bush summarily blocked all Federal funding (on religious grounds) — but the latter problem went away when President Obama countermanded that prohibition. So, the need for California to compensate for the country's abject failure (in that area) no longer exists. Also, research funded by Prop. 71 that discovered how to make adult stem cells "pluripotent" (able to grow into any cell type) has averted much of the need for embryonic stem cells for Prop. 71/Prop. 14-type work (not counting that Prop. 14's treasure chest would be double that of Prop. 71).

Additionally, over these 15+ years of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the state agency established and bankrolled by Prop. 71, auditing found that the vast majority of members of the Institute's Board stood to benefit financially from the Institute's funding grants. Prop. 14 does absolutely nothing to remedy this festering corruption problem, and indeed adds six additional members to the Board.

An oddity worth explaining: If passed, Prop. 14's Section 26 would permit the Legislature to amend the voters' statute with a 70% vote of approval from both the state Senate and Assembly, and with the requirement that such amendment be consistent with the intent of Prop. 14's grant and loan programs. However, in general, California's Legislature may not amend or repeal measures passed by voters (except by submitting that change for voter approval), so Section 26 would grant our Legislature a limited power of amendment it would otherwise lack.

I'm voting hell no.

IMO, we need to keep voting "Hell no" on bond measures until the debt-service ratio is back to a rational, safe 1-2% — not 4% and up.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

Well, the voters decided to throw another $5.5B at a boondoggle agency with a history of bad stewardship, few substantive results, and little remaining reason to even exist. Some years, I just can't fathom what people are thinking.



Proposition 15
Increases Funding Sources for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Hikes property tax
On large commercial buildings
Funds counties and schools.

Summary: Taxes such properties based on current market value, instead of purchase price. Fiscal Impact: Increased property taxes on commercial properties worth more than $3 million providing $6.5 billion to $11.5 billion in new funding to local governments and schools.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: In 1978 when Prop. 13 ("Jarvis-Gann") passed, if you owned California commercial real estate and were smart about these things, you created a shell LLC for each piece of real estate you owned, and deeded the property to the LLC in exchange for a 100% ownership interest in the company. Thereafter, you never bought or sold the real estate, only the LLCs that owned them. Since property's owner never changed, per Prop. 13's rules, it never got reassessed. This gamesmanship was/is widely practiced, a trick (mostly) unavailable to residential real estate owners. And there are also other forms of this scam, e.g., instead of selling full title, you sell a 49% interest (and, hey presto, no tax reassessment).

Prop. 15 basically ends these and similar scams, with exemptions for farms, residential rental property, and small businesses. That's the good bit. The bad bit is that businesses that rent space from larger landlords will probably get property tax hikes passed through to them as tenants. However, this and other flaws don't outweigh the win of fixing a huge and lingering problem.

Many would object: The middle of the pandemic recession is a terrible time to permit upwards tax reassessments. Maybe so, but Prop. 15's provisions wouldn't start kicking in until July 2022, and could be delayed if prudent by Legislature action.

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



Proposition 16
Allows Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions. Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment.

Repeals a ban on
Affirmative action for
Jobs, schools, and contracts.

Summary: Permits government decision-making policies to consider race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in order to address diversity by repealing constitutional provision prohibiting such policies. Fiscal Impact: No direct fiscal effect on state and local entities. The effects of the measure depend on the future choices of state and local government entities and are highly uncertain.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: It's past time to repeal 1996's Proposition 209, a ballot measure that produced provable harm (repealing Prop. 209 being the sum total of what this measure does), and recognise that structural racism is real and still needs remediation.

I'm indebted to Pete Stahl for mentioning that the term and concept "affirmative action" stems from a 1965 LBJ executive order requiring all government contractors and subcontractors to "take affirmative action" to expand job opportunities for minorities. Two years later, it was expanded to include women. I did not know that! (However, I should mention in passing that Prop. 16 does not mandate affirmative action onto California's schools or anywhere/anything else; it just removes the blanket prohibition against considering entrenched inequities anywhere in the operation of state agencies or universities. Nor does it require or even suggest quotas, banned nationwide by the 1978 Bakke decision.)

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

I didn't think the voters would go for this, and I was right.



Proposition 17
Restores Right to Vote After Completion of Prison Term. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Allows parolees
To register to vote, and
To run for office.

Summary: Restores voting rights upon completion of prison term to persons who have been disqualified from voting while serving a prison term. Fiscal Impact: Annual county costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars statewide, for voter registration and ballot materials. One-time state costs, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, for voter registration cards and systems.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: It's always struck me as deeply wrong to strip felons of their right to vote. It's egregiously immoral to do that to former felons for life (as was done in the Jim Crow South, and still in some states), and I've never accepted the temporary stripping of a fundamental citizenship right being part of a felon's punishment, either. I'd feel this way even if the practice didn't have a racist history, which it does. Bottom line: The State should never be permitted to disempower — to disenfranchise in the purest sense of the word — its own stakeholders.

To be clear, "parole" time is part of a felon's sentence, merely the portion served on the street. So, if you buy the premise that a felon's fundamental citizenship rights should be stripped while he/she is incarcerated in a state prison, it would be logically consistent to oppose this proposition. However, I reject that premise.

Moreover: The purpose of parole for felons is to help re-establish good citizenship behaviors, so shouldn't voting, the core part of citizenship, be included? Aren't felons likelier to act like they have a stake in our society when they do have one? Also, isn't it ridiculous that a felon in county jail (as opposed to state prison) can vote, a felon on probation can vote, a felon on post-release community supervision can vote, a felon on parole from a county jail sentence can vote, but a felon on parole from a state prison sentence cannot? Hmm? Seems crazy and arbitrary to me.

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

One small step forward.



Proposition 18
Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and be Otherwise Eligible to Vote. Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment.

Lets young folk who turn
Eighteen by November vote
In the primary.

Summary: Fiscal Impact: Increased statewide county costs likely between several hundreds of thousands of dollars and $1 million every two years. Increased one-time costs to the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Let's face it: Few 17-year-olds would take advantage of this reform, since even 18-year-olds hardly ever bother voting. However, sure, why not?

If you want to see something ominous, check out the San Mateo County Republicans' reason for recommending "no": "We oppose any relaxing of voting restrictions and responsibilities, as they move us closer and closer to the mob rule of a democracy, rather than the republic our founders envisioned." If Goldwater or Reagan were still alive, they would weep at their party's abandonment of American democracy, as it retreats into monkeywrenching all the country's governing mechanisms in defense of minority rule. Expect to see a lot more of that during the 2020s.

I'm voting yes (but with little enthusiasm).

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



Proposition 19
Changes Certain Property Tax Rules. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Seniors moving to
A more expensive home would
Save property tax.

Summary: Allows homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or wildfire/disaster victims to transfer primary residence's tax base to replacement residence. Changes taxation of family-property transfers. Establishes fire protection services fund. Fiscal Impact: Local governments could gain tens of millions of dollars of property tax revenue per year, probably growing over time to a few hundred million dollars per year. Schools could receive similar property tax gains.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: This measure is the work of the California Association of Realtors, and designed to make vast sums of money for them: It reduces property taxes for many real estate purchases, offsetting the government's tax losses by increasing taxes for many people who inherit real estate. Realtors make money on the former and not the latter.

The citizens of California are not a piggybank for the California Association of Realtors.

I'm voting no.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

On the other hand, maybe California's voters are a piggybank for the California Association of Realtors. (Suckers!)



Proposition 20
Retricts Parole for Certain Offenses Currently Considered to be Non-Violent. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors. Initiative Statute.

Increases jail time
For two-time shoplifters, and
Tracks their DNA.

Summary: Limits access to parole program established for non-violent offenders who have completed the full term of their primary offense by eliminating eligibility for certain offenses. Fiscal Impact: Increase in state and local correctional, court, and law enforcement costs likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually, depending on implementation.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: As shown in the Capitol Weekly piece (above), the sentencing reforms the voters approved with 2014's Prop. 47 and 2016's Prop. 57 were successful: Out-of-control prison costs and populations were cut dramatically, accompanied by a slight uptick in property crimes (tiny enough that it is asserted by many experts to be coincidental). The current measure would roll back parts of Props. 47 & 57, and make some other more-time-in-prison changes. There is literally no evidence suggesting this would produce any benefit other than ideological appeal to some. Moreover, this measure was bought and paid for by the Correctional Peace Officers Association, the very people who ate from the porkbarrel trough during the years of oversentencing.

The citizens of California are not a piggybank for the Correctional Peace Officers Association.

I'm voting no.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



Proposition 21
Expands Local Governments' Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute.

Allows rent control
For 15-year old buildings
If cities approve.

Summary: Allows local governments to establish rent control on residential properties over 15 years old. Local limits on rate increases may differ from statewide limit. Fiscal Impact: Overall, a potential reduction in state and local revenues in the high tens of millions of dollars per year over time. Depending on actions by local communities, revenue losses could be less or more.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: This measure would remove the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act's prohibition against cities and counties enacting meaningful rent control (specifically, exempting single-family homes, condominiums, and any units built after 1995; and also vacancy control is banned by Costa-Hawkins). It does not itself enact rent control. That would remain a local issue, as it should be.

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

It appears that a lot of voters misread this ballot proposition as enacting rent control, rather than permiting local areas to vote for it where local voters decide it makes sense. Polling suggests that the latter matches prevailing preferences.



Proposition 22
Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies from Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers. Initiative Statute.

Makes Uber drivers
Independent contractors
Not full employees.

Summary: Classifies app-based drivers as "independent contractors," instead of "employees," and provides independent-contractor drivers other compensation, unless certain criteria are met. Fiscal Impact: Minor increase in state income taxes paid by rideshare and delivery company drivers and investors.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Really short history first. As everyone in my former profession (staff accountant & tax professional at CPA firms) knows, tax and employment law enforces a crucial distinction between employees and independent contractors. But it's a sad reality that miserly employers often deliberately misclassify the former as the latter, cheating state and Federal governments plus their employees.

Staff accountants get to know the IRS 20-factor test and related US Supreme Court guidelines for distinguishing the two. The guiding concepts are consistent: A contractor is an independent business for hire with a shingle hung out, doing hired work in his/her own way with his/her own tools and methods, and negotiating terms of the work on an equal basis. An employee is not. And, point is, this is an important and valid legal distinction, no matter how much cheating there is.

In April 2018, the California Supreme Court lowered the boom on one cheater, a courier service (Dynamex), and establishing a conceptual test with three requirements that all must be met for an employer to not owe employment tax/benefit for an alleged "independent contractor', called the "ABC test", which the Legislature then recorded into statute law via AB 5. The ABC test replaced the state high court's 11-point "Borello test" from 1989.

Thing is, though, all of these concept tests, IRS 20-point, USSC, Borello 11-point, and ABC 3-prong, are all just about the same, to my eyes. Critics' claims that the 3-prong test is "inflexible" or out of touch with employment reality ring hollow, to me, and reek of special pleading. If there are problems in application, or substantial inequities, those could be expected to be noticed and ironed out, amended, court-mitigated, etc.

Getting to Prop. 22: Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and a few similar companies have spent a ridiculously large sum of money trying to buy this carve-out exemption from normal employment law — in reaction to the California Supreme Court ruling that their employees are substantively employees and so deserve benefits, and in reaction to AB 5.

Basically, they got caught cheating, and so want to change the rules they violated. And, you know? Screw them sideways. They're shameless scofflaws, and need to obey the law.

Prop. 22 includes an odd provision worth explaining: If enacted, Prop. 22's Article 9 would permit our Legislature to amend Prop. 22's provisions if it can muster a 7/8 supermajority in each house, with the requirement that such amendment be consistent with, and further the purpose of, the voter's statute. Although this is peculiar, upon examination it's not that meaningful, because California's Legislature in general may not amend or repeal measures passed by voters (except by submitting that change for voter approval), so Article 9 has the effect of granting our Legislature a limited power of modification it would otherwise lack.

It's not directly relevant, but there's also one elephant in the room whose presence should be noted: my own and others' bias against many of the measure's backers. Uber is one of the most deservedly despised companies in America, on account of a wretched pattern of misbehavior. I think they even rival Comcast as an object of hatred. Things like Uber brazenly lying to the public and courts by ballsily arguing that drivers aren't central to its business, because it's a technology company doesn't help.

Also, speaking at least for myself, I regard DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, GrubHub (1, 2, 3, 4), Caviar, and other meal delivery services as parasites likely to hasten the death of pandemic-stricken restaurants, and wouldn't mind if they all died. So (in short), I try strenuously to note but set aside my personal peeves, and focus on broader policy / legal concerns. (But honesty requires me to disclose that bias.)

An argument can be made that changed 21st Century realities require recognition of a third category, the "independent worker", who exercises more control over where and when to work than an employee, but less over pricing and terms of service than an independent contractor, and works though intermediaries (Uber, et al.). That's a conversation we can have, but Prop. 22 isn't a conversation, just a rip-off.

I'm voting hell no.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

I'm disappointed but not surprised: That stupendous $200 million advertising blitz barraged the citizenry with a rainfall of deliberate and cheeky misinformation, of which the ballsiest was the claim that almost all drivers prefer independent contractor status, an outright fraudulent claim. (See Pete Stahl's piece for details.) Basically, the voters got hoodwinked by very expensive and expert PR.

2021-08-21 update: Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has ruled, in a suit brought by SEIU, that Proposition 22 was unconstitutional, as the measure improperly removed the state Legislature's ability to grant workers the right to access to the state workers' compensation program. Specifically, Article XIV, Section 4 of the California constitution guarantees the Legislature unlimited power to regulate workers' compensation, but Prop. 22 purported to restrict that ability. Therefore, Judge Roesch ruled, Prop. 22's aims cannot be achieved by an initiative statute, but would require an initiative constitutional amendment.

This ruling, however is temporarily stayed pending Uber Technologies, Inc.'s expected appeal. (I must say, though, that Judge Roesch's logic appears unassailable. I think those evil fsckers at Uber have finally lost this one, and not even another pack of cheeky lies the voters and another $2000 million advertising campaign is going to purchase ignoring of the state constitution.)



Proposition 23
Establishes State Requirements for Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Requires On-Site Medical Professional. Initiative Statute.

Health workers’ union
Seeks stricter regulations
For dialysis.

Summary: Requires physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant on site during dialysis treatment. Prohibits clinics from reducing services without state approval. Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on payment source. Fiscal Impact: Increased state and local government costs likely in the low tens of millions of dollars annually.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Two years ago, United Healthcare Workers got Proposition 8 on the ballot in an effort to convince California's voters to "Hit these guys for me" (referring to dialysis giants Fresenius and DaVita), in punishment for those firms resisting union organizing. I objected to UHW's abuse of the proposition process, at the time. Their differences ought to be settled by regulators, arbitration, or litigation — not by conning the voters into being the union's cudgel.

Prop. 23's provision that dialysis clinics accept all patients regardless of insurance is now moot, as the Legislature mandated that, in late 2019. Its other two provisions (the firms must get state permission before reducing or eliminating services at any clinics, and post a doctor or nurse practitioner on-site whenever patients are being treated) don't even sound sensible.

I'm voting no.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

Notably, this "Hit these guys for me" measure failed by a wider margin than the related Prop. 8, two years ago. Pundits speculate that this outcome reflects "voter fatigue" on the subject.



Proposition 24
Amends Consumer Privacy Laws. Initiative Statute.

Mixed bag of new rules
On consumer privacy
With lots of loopholes.

Summary: Permits consumers to: prevent businesses from sharing personal information, correct inaccurate personal information, and limit businesses’ use of "sensitive personal information," including precise geolocation, race, ethnicity, and health information. Establishes California Privacy Protection Agency. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs of at least $10 million, but unlikely exceeding low tens of millions of dollars, to enforce expanded consumer privacy laws. Some costs would be offset by penalties for violating these laws.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: I'm indebted once again to the redoubtable Pete Stahl for explaining where the bodies are buried, on this one. As Pete says (crediting a meticulous series of articles by L.A. Times reporter Michael Hiltzik), basically the Legislature got goaded by James Steyer and others in 2018 into passing the best online privacy law outside Europe, but the problem was, being an act of the Legislature, the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) immediately started slowly dying the death of a thousand tiny bill-making knives, at the hands of that same Legislature.

Prop. 24 would end this erosion by enacting as a voter initiative statute substantively the same protections (nearly) as legislative initiative statute CCPA, obliging the Legislature to subsequently amend it only in ways that "are consistent with and further the purpose and intent of this Act",

Prop. 24 isn't perfect, but is the best thing on the 2020 menu.

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):



Proposition 25
Referendum on Law That Replaced Money Bail With System Based on Public Safety and Flight Risk. Referendum on 2018's SB10.

If you want to end
Money bail for defendants
Vote yes on this one.

Summary: A "Yes" vote approves, and a "No" vote rejects, law replacing money bail with system based on public safety and flight risk. Fiscal Impact: Increased costs possibly in mid hundreds of millions of dollars annually for a new process for release from jail prior to trial. Decreased county jail costs, possibly in high tens of millions of dollars annually.

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: The problems with the bail system are infamous and damning. Prop. 25 sets us on an iterative process of developing better release guidelines, under the watchful eye of the Judicial Council, a body built for exactly this sort of task. So: sure.

I'm voting yes.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 preliminary results):

Such a good idea. Such a disappointment.




Regional Measure

(requires 2/3 vote across SM, SC, and SF Counties)

Measure RR

I'll need to supply my own haiku for this local measure:

Think poor folks need less
Money in a pandemic?
This one is for you.

Ballot question text: To preserve Caltrain service and support regional economic recovery, prevent traffic congestion, make Caltrain more affordable and accessible, reduce air pollution with cleaner and quieter electric trains, make travel times faster, and increase Caltrain frequency and capacity between Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco counties, shall the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board's resolution levying a 30-year one-eighth cent sales tax with oversight and audits, providing approximately $100 million annually for Caltrain that the State cannot take away, be adopted?

Coverage:

RM partisan analysis: Sales taxes are the worst, most severe regressive tax in common use: They have disproportionately severe effect on the poor and light effect on the rich. And it's unnecessary: The California of my youth had a state-wide sales tax of 5%, and yet built the University of California and State Water Project, and was the envy of the world.

I don't buy that it's necessary to have special sales tax surcharges that preferentially soak the poor just to balance government budgets. If it's necessary to raise taxes, let it be something like income tax, estate tax, property tax (yes, amend Prop. 13), or a luxury tax. Those things being more difficult doesn't prevent them from being the wiser thing to do.

Also: I can't think of a worse time for a new tax, especially one that lands most heavily on the poor, and especially when Caltrain's ridership skews wealthy.

Also #2: As the P.A. Daily Post editorial points out, what Caltrain actually needs is top-to-bottom governance redesign, as the ramshackle setup contrived after Southern Pacific sought to exit the passenger business has proven unworkable and underlies the recurring fiscal problems.

I'm voting hell no.

Outcome (Dec. 3, 2020 official results):

Well, Caltrain just got a 30-year meal ticket, with (in practice) almost no accountability for the funds, to help well-off people ride primarily at the expense of poor people. Sometimes, the voters really have not even enough sense to come in out of the rain.



Additional Resources

Lifehacker article: "How to Quickly Research All Your Local Elections"

Fair Political Practices Commission has contributor records that help follow the money trail.

Followers of these pages will note that I always heed Pete Stahl's analyses, League of Women Voters of CA (a highly respected non-partisan voter education organization), Ballotpedia (a project of nonprofit Lucy Burns Institute of Wisconsin), CalMatters (an independent journalism venture run as a nonprofit out of Sacramento), Voter's Edge (whose California pages are a joint project of League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and Berkeley nonprofit MapLight that studies and tracks the influence of money on politics in the United States), Vote Smart (a non-profit, non-partisan research organization), Politifact (a fact-checking site run by non-profit journalism school Poynter Institute), ProPublica (an NYC-based journalism nonprofit project), and the greater or lesser wisdom of hard-working newspaper staffs.

I also strongly recommend skim-reading Ballotpedia's Laws governings the initiative process in California page and making sure one understands it, prior to evaluating statewide propositions. Parts of it are highly relevant to proposition tactics (e.g., competing propositions on the same topic, legislative alteration) and other vital concerns.

True California-politics professionals subscribe to California Target Book, a comprehensive non-partisan effort to study state districts and political races. (I am not that obsessive.)


1 All write-in or independent candidates, like other candidates, must be qualified by California's Secretary of State. The deadline to qualify before this election was Oct. 20. Five qualifying write-in slates of 55 California electors for each of five particular President/VP candidate pairs were published.

For the record, those candidate pairings were:

Above certified write-in candidates (for Pres./VP) are also on file with San Mateo County Elections Office.

The state's list of regular qualified candidates (other than write-ins) was published Aug. 27.

2 Whether one approves or disapproves of AIP, the presence of its endorsement says very little about a candidate, as candidates appear not to be consulted. AIP in California has a long and odd story (summarized below). Suffice to say, the AIP that fielded George Wallace in 1968 long ago ceased to exist, there is no real party apparatus, it appears there are no longer nominating conventions or candidates fielded by AIP itself, and AIP amounts in the present age to a brand name associated with a Web site run by one Markham Robinson of Vacaville.

Brief history: The real AIP (backing former Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace and retired Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay) was founded in 1967 as a vehicle for Wallace's 1968 third-party Presidential run against Nixon and Humphrey, on a segregationist platform, getting 46 Electoral College votes (those of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama). This was effectively a one-shot, but embers persisted until 1992, when the last of Wallace's organization folded. However, minor far-right Constitution Party (of Colorado) then adopted AIP's electoral identity as a California "qualified" political party. In 2008, during a Constitution Party schism, a California faction (lead by Ed Noonan) split off and re-affiliated with new minor far-right America's Party (of Michigan), which now controls the AIP brand and (like AIP's other post-1968 incarnations) is on the ballot only in California.

Why California? Two reasons:

(a) As proven by a 2016 L.A. Times investigation, 3/4 of Californians who registered AIP did so in error, under the mistaken impression they were registering "independent". I.e., AIP has for decades functioned primarily as an idiot trap, not as a political party. (The Times exposé prompted a 2018 registration-form redesign, to reduce such mishaps.)

(b) California's hurdles for a "qualified" political party to remain on the ballot are so low AIP has been able to persist on the ballot since 1967, despite low vote totals and 616,584 registrations (including erroneous ones).

Specifically, California lets any already-qualified party remain if it both (1) keeps at least 1/15% (currently 13,947) of total voter registrations (currently 20,921,513) and either (2a) garners votes for one of its statewide candidates equaling 2% (about 139,000) of total votes for that office during the most recent (June 5, 2018's) gubernatorial primary election or (2b) has 0.33% (currently 69,738) of total registrations 154 days before a primary or 123 days before a Presidential general election. AIP handily clears hurdles (1) and (2b), and so remains qualified even though the actual party apparatus imploded decades back, and AIP no longer fields its own candidates, but rather endorses candidates who're already running. (Requirements to gain initial party qualification, omitted here, are more challenging.)

3 For this election, the San Mateo County Elections Office lists no certified write-in candidates for any municipal, school, or special district office.