Complete Society

Ideas and strategies for a sustainable world

CA and SF Ballot Propositions 2014

Quick Reference

State Propositions:  1 (YES), 2 (YES), 45 (NO), 46 (NO), 47 (YES), 48 (YES)

SF Propositions: A (YES), B (NO), C (YES), D (YES), E (YES), F (YES), G (NO), H (NO), I (YES), J (YES), K (YES), L (NO)

Bonus: Assembly District 17 (David Chiu)


Here are my votes and thoughts about this year’s ballot, both statewide and for SF.

I didn’t have time to do as much research as in previous years, so the proposition votes are mostly based on my analysis of the language and opinion about the proponents and opponents.

For influencers, I mostly avoided the voting slates of the political groups. I simply don’t trust most of them, either because I don’t trust their process or they had a couple non-sensical positions or arguments. I’d like to thank Deb for her analysis of the state propositions and acknowledge SPUR for their well-reasoned voting guide.

I generally dislike the proposition system in California and will vote against propositions that: a) seem unnecessary b) are badly written c) are too bluntly tackling a complex issue that shouldn’t be up to the general voters (including most things that force budgeting constraints)

That being said I’m actually voting YES on more than half of the propositions, so there you go. 🙂

CA State Propositions

Proposition 1 (Water Bond): YES

The water system in CA is broken in a lot of ways and we need to invest money in the infrastructure. Fiscal impact appears to be relatively small (.3 percent of annual general fund revenues) and estimated savings to local governments almost counteracts that amount.

Looking at main arguments against, the arguments are generally poor quality.

  • Opponents make a valid point re major focus on dams, but the argument against dams is not compelling. The whole water system in CA should be looked at as a system – not individual water users paying for the water that gets to them. And it doesn’t make obvious sense that the new dams would automatically divert water from the named rivers.
  • Opponents don’t offer any specific better solutions on the supply side
  • Statements like “no amount of water storage will produce more rain and snow” are disingenuous and make opponents look bad, like they’re trying to deceive people with sound bites that seem to make sense but actually don’t

Proposition 2 (Budget Stabilization): YES

This seems to add more restrictive budget requirements on Governor, which is something I’d generally oppose, but Governor Brown supports it and he’s been good on fiscal responsibility issues. Without knowing too much about the topic, again the arguments against are weak and come only from one organization. The arguments against are also misleading in using the wrong terminology.

Proposition 45 (Health Insurance Rates): NO

This is close call for a few reasons, but ultimately, as Deb says, it’s another example of what’s wrong with our proposition system.  The issue is way too complex for the average voter to determine.  That alone is worth tipping it to a NO.  But here’s some of my thoughts.

I’m very wary of the opportunity of the Consumer Watchdog Group to make a lot of money off intervention in rate changes. They stand the most to benefit by opening up this additional avenue of legal activity.  There are times when it makes sense to have more direct consumer oversight of regulation but it’s not clear this is one of those times and it shouldn’t be primarily pushed by the group that’s going to make the most money from a new bureaucracy.

Also, the Proposition is written poorly in allowing “rates” to be so broadly defined to cover anything related to a medical visit. Homeowners and auto insurance are much simpler.  Proponents argument that health insurance should be regulated like those other insurances is again deceptive and illogical.

Furthermore, there’s certainly a risk of disrupting Covered CA based on my experience with regulatory intervention. It could be too easy for intervenors to prevent plan rate changes to be available during open enrollment and could be a tool for opponents of the Affordable Care Act to try to make it fail.

My only resistance to voting NO is that I’d be siding with a bunch of groups I don’t like or trust, including the CA Chamber of Commerce and SEIU labor union.  But the arguments against creating a new, possibly expensive bureaucracy are compelling enough.

Proposition 46 (Medical Malpractice): NO

Drug testing of doctors and checking the CURES database before prescriptions both make decent sense. But these provisions can be seen as just “sweeteners” for the proponents to get their real win – increasing the cap on non-economic damages. Increasing the cap based on inflation based appears to make sense, but it’s hard to justify big first year jump for the lawyers.

Groups who funded this Prop are all lawyers which makes it appear that the real mission is for them to make more money, not to achieve a real reduction in medical malpractice.  If the proposition didn’t have the cap increase (or it was just an inflation based increase starting from now), I’d probably say YES since the other items seem like good ideas.

From Deb: “I might support the first point if it were a more gradual increase, but quadrupling the cap in one go could have economic and health repercussions, as doctors & hospitals would have to carry more malpractice insurance. This could push clinics in low-income areas out of business…it would be better to do a gradual increase and see if there are negative impacts, particularly in areas with low levels of health care provider service to begin with”

Proposition 47 (Reduced penalties for some crimes): YES

It’s generally a good idea to cut back on incarceration for non-violent crimes and this proposition seems to have a good amount of protections in place. Opponents seem to be doing a bit too much fearmongering – trying to scare people with warnings about things like possession of date-rape drugs, and the idea that people will never get higher penalties even after they’ve repeatedly committed crimes.

Also, opponents argue that lower penalties will mean people will commit a lot more of these crimes. At this level of non-violent offenses, I seriously doubt whether the penalties level will make a noticeable difference in decisions to commit crimes.

Proposition 48 (Tribal gaming compact): YES

Another example of a bad misuse of the proposition system.  The tribal gaming compacts are seriously complex things that our elected officials are supposed to deal with.  There’s no reason why some random uninformed person at the other end of the state should have a say in whether a tribe can build a casino.

SF Propositions

A (Transportation Bond): YES

Useful step in funding much needed capital improvements. Doesn’t raise taxes beyond what they are now. Opponents don’t make any compelling arguments.

B (SFMTA Set Aside): NO

This was a close call, but in the balance, I’m going with SPUR’s analysis.  Some of their useful points:

  • Using population growth, rather than revenue growth, to determine the increase means that the measure is not connected to the city’s ability to pay.
  • The set-aside would go up when population increases but would not go down when population declines. This is not a good precedent
  • it is not tied to available revenue, it is not funded by a new revenue source, it does not expire and it is not tied to a specific, measurable performance standard or outcome

While the SFMTA does need more money, I don’t entirely trust the way they handle money now (although Prop A is ok because it’s dedicated to capital investments identified by a special task force).

Unfortunately, the person who wrote the argument against Prop B sounds like a nutcase. But that’s not enough to vote YES.

C (Children’s Fund): YES

Again, I don’t like budgeting by proposition, but SPUR points out that children generally don’t do well in the budgeting process.

My biggest issue with this Prop is the classification of adults up to 24 as children. This seems ludicrous – how many SF startup entrepreneurs are 24 or under? The MVP of the World Series is only 25!

I also problem with design of this set aside, which SPUR also notes, but since it’s mostly an existing set aside the budgeting already has accounted for it in the past.

D (Retiree health benefits): YES

No brainer.  In this case, definitely would not vote with the same nutcase opposing Prop B

E (Sugary Beverage Tax): YES

This article sums up the arguments pretty well:

From SPUR:

The San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst estimates that each year sugary drinks cost San Franciscans $41 million to $61 million — including $6 million to $28 million incurred by city agencies — in public and private health care treatment. An analysis by the San Francisco Controller’s Office estimates that a tax of 2 cents per ounce could decrease consumption of sugary drinks by up to 31 percent

The beverage industry PAC has tried to make this all about hurting the poor – but that argument holds no water based on lots of analysis from similar measures around the world.  *All* of the paid arguments against this prop were funded by the industry PAC (except for the Republican Party)

If you don’t want to pay the tax, *don’t buy the sugary drinks*.  No one is forcing you to.  Some of the best water in the country is free from the tap in SF.

Extra update: One friend made the good point that this tax could drive people towards diet sodas (which aren’t taxed).  And diet sodas contain other chemicals that are bad for your health and can also cause diabetes.

In my opinion, while this is a real risk, Prop E is worth it to take a first step in regulating this industry and we’ll learn whether people do switch over to diet sodas or not.  If no behavior is changed, we at least get funding for public health programs.

F (Pier 70) : YES   (another no-brainer)

G (Real Estate Transfer Tax):  NO

As much as I like the idea of discouraging real-estate flipping for rental buildings, the proposition authors left one corner case possible that I can’t support.  Person buys a small building, maybe with an in-law unit and moves in.  Sometime before a year is up they need to sell because of a work move or medical issue or something.  If the value of the house went up even just a few dollars, they’re now hit with a 24% tax, meaning they lost 24% of their investment through no fault of their own.

Everything else about the Prop is generally ok and I think could be useful.  And I dislike the opponents and deceptive messaging and mailers against Prop G.  So, I’d be for Prop G except for this, probably rare, situation.

H (Beach Chalet grass field): NO

This is NIMBY-ism at its worst and an abuse of the proposition system.  Any taxpayer in SF should be pissed at this small group that has wasted six years of time and money to fight this one soccer field upgrade.  SPUR says it well:

“through a multi-year public process, appearing before the Recreation and Park Commission, the Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Board of Appeals and the California Coastal Commission. In each case, their arguments failed to persuade the regulatory bodies, and the environmental impact report for the renovation project was certified and upheld. With the regulatory appeals exhausted, the opponents filed suit in California Superior Court, which also rejected their arguments”

“The endless process and delay has likely cost more than $3 million in city and philanthropic resources that would have been better spent elsewhere. By resorting to a ballot initiative after losing at every stage of the approval process, the measure’s proponents are undercutting the ability of the existing planning and regulatory process to settle controversial issues fairly”

The Sierra Club SF Chapter’s support of this is another reason why I’ve stopped trusting them on any kind of government policy.

I (Playgrounds):  YES   (this is just to counter Prop H)

J (Minimum Wage): YES

Arguments and evidence for this are relatively straightforward.

K (Affordable Housing): YES

It’s a good commitment to make.  No real arguments against were presented.

L (Transportation Priorities): NO

This is also a no-brainer.  There’s no compelling need to change the priorities and tons of reasons to keep on the path of more, better sustainable transportation.  Also, the Prop is horribly written, with some provisions being stupidly unworkable.  Proponents don’t get some very basic ideas like:

  • Parking meters actually improve parking availability
  • If you’re a motorists, your best friend is the person who didn’t drive today


BONUS: Assembly District 17  (east side of SF)

On the surface the two candidates look very similar – two Harvard law school lawyers named David who are Democrats.  But they are actually quite different, and if your primary criteria is who will do a better job at getting good things done in Sacramento across any of the major policy issues, then David Chiu is the obvious choice.

I won’t get in to a whole lot of heavy detail here.  Basically, Chiu has a track record of getting things done, forging compromises that tackle important issues and move our society forward.  Campos is all talk, very few impactful accomplishments and since he can’t actually attack Chiu on any substantive issues, his campaign has resorted to nasty backroom tactics and incredibly deceptive smear campaigns.  I know Chiu personally and he’s an incredibly smart guy with great integrity.  I haven’t heard anyone say the same of Campos.

And btw, specifically for the environmental / sustainability minded folks:  Chiu has championed *and passed* over half a dozen useful pieces of environmental legislation (from building energy audits to urban ag to the most recent solar vision for SF) while Campos has maybe zero?

Here’s a few useful links:

SF Chronicle Endorsement

Dispelling misinformation about Airbnb legislation

Attorney General Kamala Harris speaking on behalf of Chiu

October 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment