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    Running Down the 2020 Ballot in the Sprint for the White House

    By Andrea Shorter—

    America is striking back and voting with a vengeance. No matter which side of the thickening blue line one stands, voters nationwide have been coming out in droves wearing personal protective masks, keeping six feet apart, and bringing their snacks and lunches tucked away, as Michelle Obama so wisely advised, to endure the potentially long hours of waiting in queues to cast their ballots at early opened polls. Perhaps you were one of the many who stood in line. If so, you were one of the record-breaking scores of over 26 million and climbing early ballot casters during a presidential election cycle.

    For California voters it can take days of studying near inch-thick party voter guides full of information about candidates for local offices to the presidency, arguments for and against dozens of local measures, and state propositions on the ballot. As one friend said, “It feels like it took as long to study the California ballot as it did to prepare for the State Bar exams.” Notably, he scored exceptionally well and aced that exam, albeit some 30 years ago. There are no lawyers here, but if you are still studying up on, or are anxious about, choosing wisely on the long California and equally dense San Francisco ballot, with less than 10 days to get your ballot out the door, let’s see what we might do to help make sense of at least a few of its most controversial points of debate.

    Let’s start with what should be super easy no brainer choices, shall we? For pro-LGBTQ, pro-choice, pro-Black Lives Matter, pro-immigrants, pro-climate change mitigation, pro-Affordable Care Act, pro-science, pro-civil rights, pro-voting rights, pro-democracy candidates for high office, the choices are clear:

    President and Vice President
    Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris, Democratic Party

    What more needs to be said? Right? Done. Thank you. The overwhelming majority of a grateful nation thanks you. Moving on.

    United States Representatives
    Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, and Jackie Speier

    Let’s return our own original badass squad of Bay Area Congressional representatives to lead a super Democratic majority held House aligned with what we hope to soon will become a Democratic majority Senate, freed of the creepy grip and reign of Mitchell McConnell and useless GOP majority of should-have-removed-him-at-impeachment-when-they-had-a-chance slavish Trump devotees.

    State Representatives
    Re-elect openly gay Senator Scott Wiener, and LGBTQ allies Assemblymembers David Chiu and fellow San Francisco Bay Times columnist Phil Ting.

    All are fighting the tough good fight for more affordable housing, environmental protections, and a host of progressive, sensible justice reforms. Each face noble, yet implausible, opponents. We need this trio’s continued leadership in Sacramento for the heavy lift of a post-Trump worldwide recovery ahead.

    Now let’s run through the many State Propositions numbered 14–25 with recommendations, a few deep dives, and some deep breaths.

    Prop 14: Borrowing for stem cell research – YES

    Prop 15: Schools and community first – YES

    Prop 16: Repeals Proposition 209, ending the ban on affirmative action – YES, YES, and YES!

    About a decade after the passage of 209, the evidence of its devastation was becoming apparent, I was part of a series of discussions among leaders within various civil rights organizations who began to explore the feasibility of its repeal. Now is the time. A California without affirmative action that allows for diversity as a factor in public employment, education, and contracting decisions has produced grave disparities and disadvantages for women and minorities for two decades. Join leading organizations like the Equal Justice Society, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, Asians Advancing Justice, Equality California, the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, and others to help restore affirmative action in California: the most diverse, and economically powerful state in the union.

    Prop 17: Restores the right to vote after completion a of prison term, to people on parole – YES

    It should seem a no brainer to restore the right to vote to people who have paid their “debt to society” by imprisonment. I certainly understand the concerns of victims’ rights advocates in opposition holding that violent offenders, perpetrators of fraud, and other horrendous crimes would then also be allowed to run for office, serve on juries, and enjoy the other rights and privileges of registered voters. However, I trust that the public and voters will be able to sort that out. As a longtime activist for voter rights for ex-offenders, I believe it is time we lift these restrictions that have disproportionately disenfranchised minorities disproportionately impacted by the justice system. Catch up with Florida; free the vote.

    Prop 18: Amends California constitution to allow 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 – YES

    I have been hearing more of a “sure, why not” response rather than wild enthusiasm at the proposition of teenagers being permitted to vote. According to FairVote ( ), there are at least 23 states, including Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, and the District of Colombia, which allow 17-year-olds to vote. With many 17-year-olds already in the workforce, paying taxes, and nearing the age of majority where they can serve in the military, they should have the right to vote within the prescribed periods. Frankly, there are days we’d be better off trusting certain engaged 17-year-olds with the power to vote on issues concerning their futures like climate change, justice reforms, and public education than we do some oblivious adults. So, yes, why not.

    Prop 19: Property tax breaks and wildfire fund – YES

    Prop 20: Tougher on parole, property crimes – NO

    Prop 21: Rent Control – YES

    Prop 22: Repeals AB 5, classifies ride-hail, other app drivers as self-employed – NO

    Prop 23: Regulates dialysis clinics – NO

    Prop 24: Stronger consumer privacy laws – YES

    Prop 25: End cash bail – YES

    San Francisco Local Measures

    San Francisco is true to form by packing its ballot with a series of measures during a presidential election. However, during this election cycle the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on San Francisco services, businesses, and residents riddle this slate of local measures. Amendments to the City’s Charter and changes to local ordinances are requested, and in many cases are required to save businesses and services, and to promote public health safety measures as we prepare for some time of uncertain recovery from COVID-19.

    A – Health and Recovery Bond, provides $487.5 million for three priorities concerning health and homelessness, parks, and street repairs, creating jobs for COVID-19 economic recovery – YES

    B – Public Works Commission, Department of Sanitation and Streets, and Streets Commission – NO POSITION

    C – Removing citizenship requirements for members of City bodies; expands inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation – YES

    D – Amend the City’s Charter to create a Sheriff’s Department Office of Inspector General and a Sheriff’s Department Oversight Board – YES

    These will be needed to hold sheriff and department personnel accountable to good governance and delivery of safe, fair, public services that help mitigate against discrimination and abuses towards persons in custody. It is a sensible and overdue justice reform measure.

    E – Amend the City’s Charter to remove outdated mandatory minimum police staffing requirements, and establish a regular process to set police staffing levels based on data and communities’ needs – YES

    It would take the handcuffs off the City’s budget process and ability to regulate police personnel with the changing needs of our City and neighborhoods with data-based, data-driven analysis. It is a sensible, up to date justice reform measure.

    F – Business tax overhaul – YES

    This measure would eliminate the payroll tax and encourage businesses to hire again, especially small businesses severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. It would provide much needed tax relief to restaurants, retailers, manufacturing, and the arts. It would also immediately release $700 million in untapped funds that could help homelessness services, early child care, and other critical services while creating 5,500 jobs. It would help small businesses—many of which are women and minority owned—regain their footing, thereby helping to jumpstart a COVID-19 impacted recovery.

    G – Youth voting in local elections – YES

    Consensus is overwhelming to support this measure. Let’s empower young people with the power to vote and to become leaders on their futures concerning climate change, public education, police reform, and affordable housing. Also, the measure would potentially boost voter registration, creating lifelong habitual voters.

    H – Change the Planning Code for Neighborhood Commercial Districts – YES

    Let’s increase the types of permits and conditional use permits that allow restaurants and other businesses to expand outdoor area use, maintaining public health and safety measures that keep us safe from spreading exposure to COVID-19.

    I – Real estate transfer tax – YES

    J – Parcel tax for San Francisco Unified School District – YES

    This measure will not increase taxes. The City can replace the 2018 School Parcel Tax with a new tax that changes the annual tax rate from $320 per parcel to $288 per parcel, adjusted for inflation each year, and exempting people aged 65 or older. The school district could use money collected from the tax to increase teacher salaries; invest in technology, including digital learning; and to fund public charter schools. In this COVID-19 era, these funds could help develop the distance learning modes needed for thousands of students and teachers learning and working from home.

    K – Give the City authority to own, develop, construct, acquire, or rehabilitate up to 10,000 units of low-income rental housing in San Francisco – YES

    The fact that San Francisco needs more housing and more affordable and low-income housing for families and persons at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness is no secret. A major selling point of this measure is that it could work to keep communities of color in the City, as well as to confront head on the legacy of racist NIMBY-ism in housing development that has plagued a purported progressive, inclusive, and diverse San Francisco for decades.

    L – Business tax based on comparison of top executive’s pay to employees’ pay – YES

    I am not a gauge, stick it to the rich type, but I do believe in sense and sensibility, fairness, stopping exploitation of employees, and employers paying their fair share into the local tax base. This measure proposes to place an additional tax permanently on some businesses when their highest paid managerial employee earns more than 100 times the median compensation paid to their employees in San Francisco, where an additional tax rate would be between 0.1%–0.6% of gross receipts or between 0.4%–2.4% of payroll expense for those businesses in San Francisco, for an estimated revenue of between $60–$140 million a year.

    RR – Caltrain sales tax – YES

    Prevent traffic congestion and save Caltrain, a vital lifeline for our City. As we recover from the pandemic and people go back to work and move about more, we’ll need an affordable transit system such as Caltrain. Preserving, improving, and expanding Caltrain services will be essential to getting San Francisco moving again.

    As for candidates for local offices, let’s return our effective LGBT leaders in Shanell Williams and Tom Temprano to the San Francisco Community College Board, and Bevan Dufty to the BART Board. While I am rooting for my highly experienced longtime colleague and former Director of the Department on the Status of Women, Dr. Emily Murase—we need more women on the Board of Supervisors!—in the most competitive race for Supervisor District 7, openly gay candidate, friend, and colleague Joel Engardio would also make a fine addition to the Board of Supervisors.

    There you have it. Thank you for voting, and especially for voting Blue. A change is going to come, with your vote helping to make it happen. Keep the faith. Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

    Published on October 22, 2020