Kate Slate – June 3, 2014 California State Primary

Posted: June 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Kate Slate – June 3, 2014 California State Primary

Hello Again,

Tomorrow is California’s primary election, and as you may know, I write a Kate Slate for every federal, state and local election. The goal here is to share with friends what I have found out in preparing my own ballot for tomorrow.

For the past eight or so years, a Slate Party, co-hosted by pal Sacha Ielmorini, has preceded the writing of the “Kate Slate”. Our every-election tradition is a mellow, civilized discussion among friends, who agree to disagree, for the sake of feeling confident about our own voting. If you are interested in being invited to the slate parties, let me know. (Next one will be in September or October!)

For the Kate Slate, I go race-by-race, issue-by-issue, and sometimes end up voting against something that seems right up my alley if it has some fatal (to me) flaw (see Prop B). And, I will let you know if I think it does and why.

Feel free to forward it to friends (and friends, if someone other than me sent this to you feel free to drop me a line if you end up reading it, I like to hear who this made its way to, and I can add you to the email list for the next Kate Slate).

My opinions in the Slate are my own and in no way should be thought to represent any views of anyone other than myself. No one lobbies me for a specific endorsement, though I do have thoughtful engaging conversations with well-informed friends who sometime shed light on aspects I hadn’t considered. And, I am not affiliated with any party.

Since voters recently changed how primaries work in California elections, for most races, all registered voters can now vote for any candidate running, with the top two vote-getters overall moving on to the general election in November, regardless of parties of the voter and candidates.

You probably won’t agree with me on everything, and that is okay!

Even if you don’t know your polling place, or where you were last registered to vote, you can always go to City Hall tomorrow 7am-8pm to cast a provisional ballot. Though, if you can, it is always best to cast your own ballot at your own polling place.

If you have an absentee ballot, you can surrender your absentee ballot for a live ballot at your polling place. The poll workers will destroy your absentee ballot and give you a live ballot. That assures you that your ballot is read and counted as you intended it. (ie. When you vote absentee, if a machine rejects your ballot, the machine depends on a human to interpret your absentee ballot. I am not trying to be all conspiracy-theorist here, but feeding your own ballot into the machine and hearing it beep is the best way to ensure your ballot is interpreted as you intend it to be.)

As always, thanks for reading, bonus points for voting.

Grab and Go:

Note: This is not an instant run-off election—you can only vote for one!

Governor: Luis J. Rodriguez
Lt. Governor: Eric Korevaar
Secretary of State: Derek Cressman
Controller: Betty Yee
Treasurer: John Chiang
Attorney General: Kamala Harris
Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
State Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma
US Representative: Barry Hermanson
State Assembly: David Campos
Superior Court Judge: Daniel Flores
Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Proposition 41: Yes
Proposition 42: Yes
Proposition A: Yes
Proposition B: No

And now, here is what I was thinking in depth…

Governor: Luis J. Rodriguez

For several races on this ballot, I assume the incumbent is going to make it onto the November ballot regardless how I vote, and I am happy to vote for someone who will very unlikely win the November election, whose values align more with my own. This is the case with the Governor’s race. Jerry Brown will very likely be on the November ballot, and will likely be our next Governor. Luis Roderiguez, on the other hand, is a well-respected community leader from Los Angeles, with a long history of political activism for unions, inner-city youth, peace and justice. And, other than Cindy Sheehan, bless her heart, is the only one whose values come close to mine.

Lt. Governor: Eric Korevaar

I came to Eric Korevaar by eliminating first Gavin Newsom, former SF Mayor, for whom I have strong feelings of disdain. Then, I eliminated all the Republicans on principal. Next, I read the candidate statements from the state’s Official Voter Information Guide. Most the candidates didn’t even submit statements, so I eliminated them on principal, too. (They have to at least TRY to be a viable candidate.) And, that left me with Alan Reynolds, whose statement in the Official Voter Information Guide makes me think he may be crazy, and Eric Korevaar. Since the Lieutenant Governor does almost nothing other than wait for the Governor to die, I think he’ll be just fine.

Secretary of State: Derek Cressman

I am not going to spend my entire ballot playing the elimination game or picking out the lesser of the evils. No, there are actually important races on this ballot and the Secretary of State, for their role managing elections and approving voting machines, is one of them.

Derek Cressman is the right candidate for the job because he has long been working for voting integrity and he is passionate about the issue. He worked at Common Cause that works to keep government open, accountable and ethical. Cressman is running against a termed-out California State Senator, Alex Padilla who is just taking the next step in his political career. Whicd do you want running California elections for the next four to eight years?

Controller: Betty Yee

Here is another race where there is a talented candidate who is qualified for the job, running against a termed-out career politician who is less so, and just doing the political career thing. Betty Yee also has a strong vision for her new role including top-to-bottom reform.

Treasurer: John Chiang

John Chiang is termed out as Controller, where he did well as a watchdog protecting taxpayer interests. Perhaps you recall how the state was closing 70 state parks due to the state’s budget shortfall and then all of a sudden $54 million was uncovered of hidden assets the department had been sitting on? Well, that was John Chiang’s discovery. And it saved the parks from closing. He has my vote for his new role as Treasurer.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

First, Kamala is running against a few crazy people (read their statements, believe me), so there is that. Second, her leadership impressed me when she asked the courts to allow California to continue to allow same-sex marriages while the courts were hearing the constitutionality of Prop 8, even though they denied her request.

She also walked out of talks with big banks responsible for the mortgage crisis when the deal they were arranging was too lenient. She has stood up to the NRA for gun control when other politicians have waffled. I think she has been good in this position and I hope she is reelected for a second term.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

This is a case where there is only one candidate who even makes sense for the office: incumbent Dave Jones. On one hand you have Ted Gaines who is an insurance businessman (How is HE going to regulate the insurance companies? No conflict of interest there, right?) On the other hand you have Nathalie Hrizi who is running on a platform to abolish insurance companies. And then you have Dave Jones who is the incumbent. Here is what I wrote about him in the Kate Slate when he first ran in 2010, “Dave Jones is another champion of environmental causes and introduced the Green Insurance Act of 2010 that establishes environmental standards and protections in the insurance business, and provides incentives and tax credits for offering green insurance and making green investments.” Who are you going to vote for?

State Board of Equalization: Fiona Ma

Fiona Ma is doing the Chiang-Yee shuffle, going for the office that termed-out Betty Yee who is running for the Controller’s office vacated by termed-out John Chiang who is running for Treasurer. I picked her because she is running against a Republican, honestly.

US Representative: Barry Hermanson

It would be fun to get Barry Hermanson on the ballot with Nancy Pelosi, because even though Pelosi will win her seat back, it would be awesome to see Barry Hermanson in debates against Pelosi (would that happen?), and, it would be fun for the California Ballot to not have a Republican on it for the seat of the US Representative. Can you tell I am not really into the Republican agenda?

State Assembly: David Campos

This one feels like picking the less unpleasant of two unpleasant options. Here is the deal: I just don’t trust David Chiu. After he flopped on the mayoral appointment when Gavin Newsom got elected to Lieutenant Governor I felt so deceived, and now we are stuck with Ed Lee.

And, Chiu didn’t demonstrate the strong willpower we need at the State Assembly when he let a few loud businesses water down a really great street design for Polk Street that would have made the important corridor safer for everyone using it. I just don’t trust him and I worry that his vote will be bought in the state assembly. So he is a no-go.

And then you have Campos. I am simply unimpressed by the work he has done in office. And when I say “work he has done,” I mean, “sponsored legislation,” which has been like, barely any. I mean, if you are going to talk about the Ellis Act legislation, great. That is one! (I know it is an important piece of legislation and I know he’s sponsored more than one piece of legislation, but you get my point.)

Anyway, this is a dry run for November, and my mailbox is already full of mailers from these two guys so it looks like lots of money is going to be wasted on this race no matter how you vote. But, Campos is the better option.

And I wish they would spend their money on something better for San Francisco.

Superior Court Judge: Daniel Flores

I find this race important, too. People never pay attention to the judges on Election Day, but they get elected and hold office for ages, never challenged, ruling in our courts for years. This one is important, too, because the person who should win is not paying for ads (or at least none that I got) and I worry that Daniel Flores, a civil rights attorney, will be outspent by Williams and Kingsley. What turned me off about the two competitors is who endorsed them. I got their mailers and thought, “No, thank you!” (Endorsements from David Chiu, London Breed, Gavin Newsome, and Carole Migden to name a few.) And, Daniel Flores has the endorsements of people and groups I trust (Jane Kim, SEIU 1021, John Avalos).

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

I have endorsed Torlakson for many elections. This is what I wrote in the 2010 November Kate Slate, “I endorsed him in the June primary, and I still think he has the right idea about the public school system. I like that he is ready for the fight for funding, that he favors neighborhood schools, and supports a healthy school environment including access to healthy foods, physical education and health care. While that might not seem like a primary educational focus, I promise you that after four years of teaching middle school in East Oakland, I discovered they are crucial social justice issues to address in education.” He still has my endorsement. He is doing a good job in a difficult office.

Proposition 41: Veterans housing and homeless prevention act of 2014: Yes

I believe we have a responsibility to care for our veterans, and this bond (read: expensive credit debt, but do you have a better idea for a funding source?) provides affordable housing for our veterans. Vote yes.

Proposition 42: Public records. Open Meetings. State reimbursement to local agencies. Legislative constitutional amendment: Yes

This requires local governments comply with sunshine ordinances and providing meeting access, and eliminates the requirement that the state has to reimburse local governments for doing so. Currently, the state has to pay for the costs associated with local governments complying with sunshine ordinances that are state law, and now it makes it the city’s liability to cover the expense of complying. I think it is reasonable.

Proposition A: San Francisco Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond: Yes

I know bonds are expensive, but I also know that I typically don’t vote against emergency preparedness on this shaky ground.

Proposition B: Shall the City be prevented from allowing any development on Port property to exceed the height limits in effect as of January 1, 2014, unless the City’s voters have approved a height limit increase? No

I thought about this a lot and I haven’t been happy about either side, but I came down on this based on a simple premise: I don’t like to vote for bad policy. Even when I support an issue in concept, I typically won’t vote for bad legislation. And, sadly this is bad legislation.

We have a crappy situation wherein the Mayor appoints commissioners and the commissions get to decide important things. Some of these commissions have been able to reverse the will of the voters (google “Clean Power SF” and “Public Utilities Commission”) with potentially devastating consequences. So, this would prevent any development on port property from exceeding current height limits unless they put the development’s height increase on the ballot.

I agree that the commissioners appointed by our Mayors aren’t doing a great job of representing voter’s interests, but resorting to ballot box planning is not the solution. The solution is to change how our commissioners are appointed.

Our city is changing fast and it seems like wealthy interests are doing whatever they want without the say of every day people like us. And people are trying to find ways to slow the pace of change and preserve the San Francisco we love. I can appreciate that. But I also can appreciate how easily wealthy interests can manipulate an election. So, I am voting no.

Anyway, that is a wrap! Happy voting!

The Kate Slate – November 5, 2013

Posted: November 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Kate Slate – November 5, 2013

Nothing like procrastinating…Luckily this election has a pint-sized ballot so this should be done before the rice is ready.

The slate is pretty easy: vote no on everything, but skip the policy statement. Skip the candidates, they are unopposed.

An important note about leaving items blank on your ballot at the end of the slate (your vote may not be counted unless…).

A – Creates Retiree Health Care Trust Fund rules – no
B – Allows the city to issue building permits for a project at 8 Washington that violates City Planning Code – NOOOOOOO
C – Allows the City Supervisor’s approval of the 8 Washington project take effect – NO!
D – Policy Statement about reducing the cost of prescription drugs – blank

Here is why I am skipping the “candidates”: Carmen Chu for Assessor-Recorder, Dennis Herrera for City Attorney, and José Cisneros for Treasurer. They are all incumbents running unopposed, so save yourself the trouble. Then you can feel smug later when they do stupid things because you didn’t vote for them. Just kidding, kinda.

This topic actually sends me into a rant about democracy because candidates running unopposed is a symptom of an unhealthy democracy and this is just one more symptom. (Fist shaking!) But I will be saving you my rant for now.

A – Creates Retiree Health Care Trust Fund rules – No

Voters created the Retiree Health Care Trust Fund in 2008. Now, this proposition would create rules about how the money is handled. The how and the why is confusing and boring (you can read all about it here on the SPUR Voter Guide), suffice to say it is ballot box budgeting that would lock down the budget for a specific cause, which limits budget flexibility. Even though it seems good that it would make sure money allocated for retiree health care is used for retiree health care, it is problematic to budget at the ballot box because it creates inflexible budgets when budgets need to be able to adapt over time.

B – Allows the city to issue building permits for a project at 8 Washington that violates City Planning Code – NOOOOOOO

We should start with C because the signatures were gathered first to put C on the ballot–to overturn the Board of Supervisors terrible approval of the 8 Washington project. Why was it terrible? They make an exception to SF Planning Code for one property–8 Washington–luxury housing on the waterfront by the Ferry Building. The main exception you hear about is the height increase. But, they also made an exception for parking, which is problematic because the area is already serviced by ample public transit and some of the best walking and bicycling facilities while at the same time the area is plagued by some of the cities worst traffic jams. We cannot afford to make exception to city planning code for luxury apartments. In this democracy, everyone has to play by the same rules for this to work.

So that was all about C… What about B? Once the developers of 8 Washington caught wind of the signature campaign to overturn the Supervisors’ decision, they put B on the ballot that creates a special district for the project that allows the development all the exceptions to the rules that they want. Since I don’t agree with them making this exception to the rule–especially not for luxury homes–I am voting no on B.

One argument for Yes is that the developers have to give $11 million towards low income housing. That money for affordable housing is required by law for developments of that nature, to attempt to counter the problematic impacts that developments like this have on affordable housing, that ain’t charity. And, it is a problematic bandage solution for affordable housing, at that. Don’t buy it.

C – Allows the City Supervisor’s approval of the 8 Washington project take effect – NO!

If you didn’t read B above, start there, because that is where I started talking about C. A yes vote for C means that you agree with the Board of Supervisors and make the exception to the Planning Code for the 8 Washington Project and you want the city to issue the building permits. A no vote means that you want to overturn the Board of Supervisors’ decision and oppose the development. I am voting No as I said before because I don’t think they should make this exception. Now, if B passes and C doesn’t, the proposition with the most votes wins.

D – Policy Statement about reducing the cost of prescription drugs – blank

This is a non-binding policy statement saying something along the lines of “wouldn’t it be nice if the city could actually do anything about the insane prices of prescription meds? But too bad we can’t so let’s just say that we OFFICIALLY think it would be nice if the city could actually do something about the insane prices of prescription meds.” I don’t waste my time voting on policy statements. Something in SF compels people to put these stupid non-binding policy statements on every ballot wasting money and time.

Now that thing I must tell you about leaving parts of your ballot blank!

Luckily my friend Sacha (and Slate Party Co-Hostess) did a bunch of election research and let me know that the only way to ensure your vote is counted if you leave items blank on the ballot is to vote at your polling place.

When you vote at the poll, you insert your ballot into a machine and if there are blanks, the polling place official asks you if you intended to leave blanks. If you say yes, they press a button and your vote is tabulated.

But if you drop your absentee ballot with blanks on it in the mail, drop it in an official election box, or drop it off at the Elections office at City Hall YOUR BALLOT MAY BE NOT COUNTED. When the vote counter who opens the absentee ballots comes across a blank, they are supposed to determine whether or not the voter intended to leave that item blank. I do not know how they do this–crystal balls? tarot cards? tea leaves? But I know if someone is guessing whether or not I intended to leave blanks on my ballot, they could guess wrong. And if they guess wrong and decide not to count my ballot, then NONE OF MY VOTES on that ballot would be counted!

So what do you do about this if you want to be able to leave ballots blank AND ensure your vote is counted? Bring your absentee ballot to your polling place and tell them you want to surrender your absentee ballot for a live ballot. They destroy your absentee ballot and give you a live ballot. Then you vote and leave blanks, feed it into the machine–it beeps–and you tell them you intended to leave it blank. If this sounds like a lot more work than you wanted because you are a lazy voter, you could always for no for D and vote for the three unopposed candidates.

Tah-dah! You voted. Now put on that shiny red Ya Voté sticker already!

Updated! Open Letter to Cheese Plus

Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Updated! Open Letter to Cheese Plus

I sent the following letter to Cheese Plus (info@cheeseplus.com), who I heard was against the Polk Street Walking and Bicycling improvements. I’ll let you know what they say if and when I hear back from them. See their response below…

Hi Cheese Plus,

My name is Kate and I am a frequent and loyal customer of Cheese Plus. I’ve introduced my friends to the store, including one of your neighbors who also now shops there regularly. I’ve brought my friends visiting from out of town to your events like the Winter Cheese Fest, and I even bought custom cheese trays and snack trays for my partner’s 40th birthday party. You get the idea. I am a big fan of Cheese Plus.

Recently I heard from someone that Cheese Plus was opposed to the pedestrian and bicycling improvements on Polk Street proposed by the city. Is that true?

I am concerned because I live in the Mission neighborhood, and to get to Cheese Plus, I walk or ride my bike (the time I got the party trays for the birthday party I used a Zipcar).

When I walk or ride my bike on Polk Street it can be scary. I have had car doors swing open in my path nearly hitting me, I’ve had cars pass me far too close to be safe, all while I am just trying to make it to Cheese Plus alive, that is the main reason why sometimes I go to the Flex Fleet Rental when I have to work and get a pickup.

I find it hard to believe that Cheese Plus would put one customer’s convenience over another customer’s safety. Is it really true you don’t support the Polk Street improvements?

I not-too-long-ago signed a petition at Cheese Plus in support of a “Parklet”–a traffic calming device that helps make streets safer for walking and bicycling–so I am giving you the benefit of the doubt until I hear from you.

It seems contrary to apply for a Parklet and then oppose other measures that would make Polk Street a more comfortable environment for the 85% of people who get to Polk Street by walking, bicycling and transit (according to an SFMTA survey).

Will you please let me know your stance on the Polk Street improvements? Here they are for your review in case you need more information: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/opolk/documents/PolkOverview.pdf

I hope you will let me know your position. Unfortunately I have suspended shopping at Cheese Plus and will continue to do so until I hear back from you directly. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my inquiry.

My best,

Kate McCarthy
Cheese Plus Customer

Here is Ray’s response:

Hi Kate

Thanks for your inquiry

Cheese Plus is not opposed to pedestrian and bicycling improvements on Polk Street. Cheese Plus believes there are alternatives to the SFMTA plans that will improve safety while preserving parking. We’re in agreement with the SFMTA on this project with the exception of the wholesale removal of parking on Polk St.

Yes, we have applied for a parklet on Pacific Ave, and we currently are constructing a new sidewalk walk-up (or ride-up) espresso bar on Pacific Ave. We see the future, and want to promote the fundamentals of pavement to parks – re-imagine the potential of our street, encourage pedestrian activity, encourage non-motorized transportation, foster neighborhood interaction, and support local business.

A group of residents and merchants have been working with the SFMTA weekly on new plans that make simple yet sound improvements to safety on Polk St. These can be seen tonight (5 – 8:30PM) at an open house hosted by the SFMTA at the church on the corner of Polk St and Bush. We had a similar open house on Saturday and the public was encouraged to come in and make comments to the SFMTA directly about the 3 proposals for northern Polk St.

I say northern Polk, as there is quite a difference in the accident rates and demographics of northern vs lower Polk. The section of Polk St near Cheese Plus is much calmer, without the conditions of lower Polk where 3 lanes of one way traffic intersect at high rates of speed at Pine, Bush, Sutter, Post, etc.

Perhaps you can make it to the open house this evening. If not, the SFMTA will provide a new survey link (soon, I hope) for a few weeks in which you can see the proposals and weigh in.

I googled your email address and see you are associated with the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the SFBC. Please reach out to Neal Patel at SFBC to discuss Cheese Plus. He and I have met on a number of occasions to discuss cyclists, parklets, and the current project proposals. We had a nice dialog on Saturday about the goals and limitations of the current proposals. Cheese Plus will again participate in an upcoming SFBC Tour du Fromage ride.

Thanks for your time and expertise in this matter. If you are able to attend the open house tonight, please seek me out. I have no intention to try and sway you, but if you would like to hear more about my take on this I would be happy to talk to you further. Otherwise, I am available at the store most afternoons. Speaking directly (I find) humanizes the debate and allows for compromise and mutual understanding of this very complex matter.

And finally, thank you for your patronage of my independent local business. Thanks for the kind words about Cheese Plus and stating your loyalty – it is appreciated. Our next big tasting event featuring dozens of local, independent, artisan food producers is coming in June to celebrate 8 years on Polk Street!



Ray Bair

Cheese Plus
2001 Polk St @ Pacific Ave
San Francisco, CA 94109
415 921 2001

While I appreciate Ray’s dialogue, safety improvements for walking and bicycling on Polk Street are imperative. About one person walking and one person biking is involved in a collision on Polk Street every single month. With life and limb at risk, we simply cannot afford not to sacrifice a few parking spots for the greater safety of San Franciscans.

I won’t be shopping at Cheese Plus unless they change their position. Sad, because I love(d) Cheese Plus.