Our endorsements are here — finally! — and just in time: Vote-by-mail ballots in Alameda County will arrive this week, beginning Monday, October 10. And if you haven’t registered, you’re in luck, because the county has one of the latest voter-registration dates in the country, October 24. (Visit RegisterToVote.Ca.Gov to do your part.)
The Express implemented a new endorsement process this year. We convened an actual “Endorsement Board,” including staffers, contributors, and even an intern: Darwin BondGraham, Sarah Burke, Nancy Deville, Maiya Edgerly, Pendarvis Harshaw, Sam Lefebvre, H. Graph Massara, Nick Miller, Azucena Rasilla, Steven Tavares, Nastia Voynovskaya, and Jay Youngdahl.
The board chowed on vegan pizza and reviewed everything from Berkeley ballot measures to statewide propositions. We duked it out over condoms and capital punishment. And we of course invited some candidates to meet with us face-to-face, then we streamed these interviews on Facebook Live and Periscope, and also posted videos on YouTube.
Our process was very different than how things work at your average ivory-tower, establishment-media-outlet editorial board. Instead of grilling candidates one at a time, we packed them into a room together, essentially turning our endorsement interviews into a healthy debate of the issues. (Watch some of these chats below.)
The following voter recommendations were agreed upon as a group, but we’ve included individual bylines on each endorsement.
You’ll notice that there are a few missing endorsements — Oakland school board, Berkeley city council, Richmond city council, BART board. Those will be published online soon and in print next week. (Apologies for the delay; we’re human!).
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to vote on November 8! (Nick Miller)
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illustration by Roxanne Pasibe
Hillary Clinton for president.
U.S. President — Hillary Clinton
It’s unfortunate that the only person keeping this country from tumbling into the political abyss is Hillary Clinton.
As a progressive media outlet, we of course disagree with Clinton on numerous issues, from her support for the invasion of Iraq to her lack of concern over the institutional flaws of Wall Street and this country’s banking system. And there was also her limited-but-important role in supporting “welfare reform” in the Nineties, which led to hundreds of thousands of low-income and minority Americans slipping further into poverty.
Clinton is also a hawkish, business-moderate liberal. We worry that, given her record, a Clinton presidency will only further amplify the influence and power of the wealthy elite in this country.
But then there’s Donald Trump: huckster, contemptible agitator of bigots, business-world failure. Trump somehow hijacked a major American political party, which is frightening. Trump is real, and he must lose.
What’s more distressing about Trump, however, is his skillful manipulation of a cynical and distrusting electorate. These voters aren’t “deplorables,” they’re people who feel burned by corporate America. They’ll be around and voting in 2020 and beyond. And, clearly, they’re wildly susceptible to all sorts of bat-shit demagoguery.
America’s prognosis? Not terminal, but not so hot, either.
Time to plug your nose, vote Clinton — and even donate to the Democratic get-out-the-vote machine, so as to ensure voters in neighboring Nevada and beyond elect her as our first woman president.
Then, after November 8, back to fighting for real progressive change. (N.M.)
Attorney General Kamala Harris seems unstoppable. She’s got all the big endorsements. And since becoming San Francisco’s top prosecutor twelve years ago, she has played the political game masterfully, rising to what is arguably the state’s second-highest office. She’s a pragmatic progressive who will surely carry on Sen. Barbara Boxer’s tradition in the Senate. (Too bad she’s not replacing Dianne Feinstein.)
But our endorsement can only be lukewarm. Harris was an overly cautious attorney general. She claims to have dominated the big banks in negotiations over mortgage fraud after the financial crisis. But, in reality, the deal she got was made up mostly of balance sheet write-downs that allowed the likes of Wells Fargo and Bank of America to forgive second-lien mortgages, which they were likely going to lose repayment on, anyway, and to also short-sell people’s houses out from under them. In other words, the mortgage settlement actually didn’t save that many people’s homes.
Harris also didn’t criminally prosecute any of the banks or bank executives who orchestrated the frauds that caused the foreclosure crisis.
She also touts her criminal-justice reform ideas, but was notably absent as a policy maker and politician when it came to endorsing or implementing two big changes: realignment and Proposition 47.
She has frequently seemed afraid to make bold, progressive moves. When Harris takes her seat as California’s next Senator, we hope she does. (Darwin BondGraham)
Congress, 13th District — Barbara Lee
Lee has represented western Alameda County in Washington, D.C., for more than eighteen years. We personally will “never forget” when she voted against — and publicly questioned — President George W. Bush’s carte-blanche campaign against terrorism, which his administration launched while the nation was still in shock just days after 9/11. She deserves our vote again this June. (N.M.)
Congress, 15th District — Eric Swalwell
What we like about Swalwell is how he resonates with millennial voters. He works on solving issues that affect them on a personal level: paid family leave, student-loan reform, climate change. And then he builds a unique bond with these voters, keeping them up-to-date with his activities via Twitter, Facebook Live, and even Snapchat from the House chambers. Swalwell is a voice for the millennial generation. (Azucena Rasilla)
Congress, 17th District — Mike Honda
Many voters in Honda’s district work and play in the East Bay. And Honda, like Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, is one of the most consistent progressive votes in Washington. While his ongoing ethics investigation is a concern, Honda’s strong advocacy for education and LGBT issues makes him worthy of another two years in office. (Steven Tavares)
Ever want to vote for both candidates in a race? Of course. And that’s how we feel about the battle for state Senate district nine, which represents a large hunk of the East Bay.
Veteran politico Sandré Swanson is exactly the kind of lawmaker you would want under the rotunda dome in Sacramento. The former Assembly member and chief of staff to Barbara Lee toes the line, speaks out in defense of those who don’t have the means to fight for themselves, and cares about progressive issues such as tuition-free college and prison reform.
After an endorsement-board interview last month, we all agreed that he would be an ideal state Senator — especially if the opposition party were in power, as he’s not afraid to stand up to Dem leadership, let alone Republicans.
But … this is a time of Dem strongholds and liberal-progressive majorities in Sacramento. We don’t need a lion. We need a legislator who can execute and pass much-needed policy.
That’s why we’re endorsing Skinner, the former Assemblywoman from Berkeley. During our endorsement interview, Skinner successfully articulated specific policies that she would pursue if elected: reforming Proposition 13, fighting for universal pre-school, working toward a no-fee community-college system, increasing investment in housing by encouraging cities to use infrastructure-financing districts, amending the Ellis and Costa-Hawkins acts, and supporting legislation that holds bad cops accountable.
Again, we’d love to see both Swanson and Skinner in the Capitol. But we can only endorse one candidate, and it’s the latter. (N.M.)
A FACEBOOK LIVE stream of the Express endorsement interview with Nancy Skinner and Sandré Swanson:
Thurmond is the incumbent Democrat in this district, which represents coastal areas in the northern East Bay, including parts of Oakland, plus Berkeley, Emeryville, and Richmond. He’s up against Claire Chiara, a Republican student at UC Berkeley.
Thurmond has led on legislation varying from regulation of methane emissions to immigration reform. We support his re-election. (N.M.)
Assembly, 18th District — Rob Bonta
Bonta is the incumbent in this district, which represents parts of Oakland and the cities to its south. He was also the first Filipino to be sworn in to the state Legislature in 2012. Challenging him is Roseann Slonsky Breault, a longstanding leader in Alameda County GOP politics.
The Express supports Bonta’s re-election. We urge him to continue working to expand access to health care, among his other legislative accomplishments. (N.M.)
Assembly, 20th District — Bill Quirk
Quirk represents the central East Bay, including parts of Hayward, Castro Valley, and Union City. This election, he’s going up against Republican Luis Wong.
Since 2012, Quirk has been part of legislation that’s addressed everything from senior fraud to rape-kit testing backlogs. We support his re-election. (N.M.)
Proposition 51 — No
We disagree with both major state political parties and side with Gov. Jerry Brown on this one. Prop. 51 lacks protections to ensure that the $9 billion in bonds will be spent on school districts that need it the most. And we worry that high-powered school districts will swoop up most of the funds. It’s unfortunate that lawmakers and the governor couldn’t pass a smaller bond package to fix aging schools. We typically agree to support school bonds, but Prop. 51 isn’t the right policy. (N.M.)
Proposition 52 — Yes
Medi-Cal is a critical program for low-income Californians. And, after its recent expansion under the Affordable Care Act, we don’t want state lawmakers diverting funding to other programs. This is a no-brainer. (N.M.)
Proposition 53 — No
We elect lawmakers to execute smart decisions, which includes determining whether to initiate revenue bonds to pay for things such as roads or bridges. We don’t always need voters to weigh in on these decisions — and this sloppy initiative could even impact the formation of joint-power authorities, and their ability to improve transit or other programs. This is a dangerous one. Vote no. (N.M.)
Proposition 54 — Yes
This common-sense reform would require the state Legislature to make public any bill at least three days before it is voted on, a much-needed “sunshine” law to counter the practice of eleventh-hour, end-of-session legislative trickery under the Capitol dome. Nearly every editorial board in the state is in favor of 54. Sadly, the California Democratic Party opposes it. (N.M.)
Proposition 55 — Yes
In 2012, when Californians were trying to climb out of the Great Recession, voters approved Prop. 30, a modification to the state’s income tax that slightly increased rates on people earning more than a quarter-million dollars a year. It was a crucial move that staved off billions in cuts to schools, prevented massive tuition hikes at our public universities, and stopped budget tightening that would have devastated our safety net health-care programs. It was a smart and just decision to ask the richest Californians to pay a little more. But Prop. 30 is set to expire in 2018. Prop. 55 would extend the “millionaire’s tax” for twelve more years. Vote yes. (D.B.)
Proposition 56 — Yes
We don’t always embrace regressive taxes, but a smart thing about this $2-per-pack increase on cigarettes and comparable tax on other tobacco products is that there is a limit on administrative expenses, and it would inject nearly $1 billion into the Medi-Cal program, which provides health-care coverage to low-income residents. (N.M.)
Proposition 57 — Yes
Some ding this initiative for a lack of clarity. Well, how about this: Prop. 57 incentivizes nonviolent offenders to better themselves while serving time, and rewards them with early release. This saves taxpayers money and reduces the prison population. It’s sensible criminal-justice reform. (N.M.)
Proposition 58 — Yes
In 1998, the passage of Proposition 227 eliminated bilingual classrooms almost entirely. Today, just some 312 schools in the state offer bilingual programs.
Prop. 58 will repeal individual parts of Prop. 227. It will give school-district officials and educators the flexibility to decide the course of action on how non-native students should learn English — whether that is in a bilingual setting, an English-only environment, or a different method. The passage of Prop. 58 will also benefit English speakers, as they can be part of a dual-language program.
Opponents argue that Prop. 227 was hugely beneficial to the education system, and that it was reflected in better test scores by non-English speakers, who were taught in an English-only environment.
That’s not true. Prop. 58 will be beneficial to all students, English and non-native speakers alike, and will help them compete in the workforce where being bilingualism is crucial. (A.R.)
Proposition 59 — Yes
American politics needs campaign-finance reform. This measure is toothless, sure. But the need for change is critical. Send a message. Vote yes. (N.M.)
Proposition 60 — No
On its surface, Proposition 60 may appear to be a good thing: deter the spread of HIV by closing loopholes around the law that requires pornography producers to enforce condom use on set. We can all agree that HIV should be prevented. But the California porn industry is ardently against Prop. 60 — and not because condoms don’t look good on film. It opposes it because, if passed, the measure would give anyone the ability to sue a porn producer (many of whom are also actors) if they report a violation and California’s safety agency doesn’t file a case within two weeks. And there’s incentive for people to litigate: If they win, they get a cut of the judgment money. It’s scary that these lawsuits would require performers to publicly release their real names and addresses — a serious safety issue for people who easily attract stalkers.
Porn actors are already required to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases every fourteen days. There may be room for improvement in that oversight — you can never be too careful when it comes to deadly viruses — but going the Prop 60. route would detract from actual progress and worsen the overall safety of these sex workers.
Frankly, Prop. 60 is a horrible idea. So much so that both the California Democratic and Republican parties are against it. You should be, too. (Sarah Burke)
Proposition 61 — Yes
Progressives such as Rep. Mike Honda and even U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders support this initiative, which would combat price-gouging by Big Pharma and increase chances that patients in need will access prescriptions that would save their lives. But major pharmaceutical companies are throwing huge cash to defeat 61, and many editorial boards are surprisingly on their side, arguing that the proposition is riddled with unknowns. But that’s not reason enough to vote against it. Time to send a message and kick-start drug-price reform. Vote yes. (N.M.)
Proposition 62 — Yes
Proposition 66 — No
The repeal of capital punishment, a baldly barbaric fixture of the criminal justice system, through the passage of Proposition 62 this November, is morally imperative for California voters. The bloodlust of the competing measure, to expedite appeals and executions through Prop. 66, is unconscionable. One-in-ten death sentences are overturned. (If both pass, the measure with more votes prevails.)
But as essential as is it to eliminate formal executions, voters should remember that life without the possibility of parole — the resultant sentence for death-row prisoners should Prop. 62 pass — is known among activists and incarcerated people as “the other death penalty.” The state’s supposed authority to condemn people to death perseveres; the language softens.
California — which currently imprisons north of 700 people on death row, more than any other state — hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, when legal challenges to lethal-injection precipitated a de facto moratorium. More than one-thousand people have received death sentences in the last four decades, but only thirteen have been executed; death penalty appeals usually take about 25 years.
Changing death sentences to life without possibility of parole will eliminate key resources, in particular the extent of prisoners’ entitlement to appeals. Furthermore, members of California Coalition for Women’s Prisoners emphasize that the LWOP population is often barred from rehabilitation programs — even though they disproportionately lead peer-organized support groups and act as a stabilizing force inside.
Voters should remember that shuttering death row leaves hundreds effectively still sentenced to death (with fewer resources than before). Prop. 62 represents a belated rejection of capital punishment, but in its place the measure mostly applies a veneer of civility to the same practice. (Sam Lefebvre)
Proposition 63 — Yes
Known as the Safety For All Initiative and developed and sponsored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Prop. 63 aims to regulate the purchase of ammunition by requiring background checks. Gun owners will need to obtain a four-year permit from the California Department of Justice, and it will require sellers also to get a permit and verify that individuals purchasing ammo have their required permit in place. It makes gun theft a felony, and it also requires that, if a weapon is lost or stolen, it must be reported. California is one of the states with the toughest gun regulations, and Prop. 63 will tighten up loopholes and infrequently enforced rules. (A.R.)
Proposition 64 — Yes
It’s no secret that the Express supports the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis — but our endorsement of Prop. 64 comes with a few caveats.
The basics: Prop. 64 would legalize possession and use of recreational marijuana and cannabis concentrates for adults over the age of 21. It would also tax pot sales at the state level, at 15 percent, and revenue would go toward substance-abuse prevention, law enforcement, and environmental clean-up, among other programs.
Additionally, the measure establishes much-needed new oversight and regulations for pot, such as labeling requirements and lab testing. There are also anti-trust provisions. And 64 also legalizes the production of industrial hemp, which is a no-brainer.
The Express endorsement board, however, continues to worry that people of color, low-income residents, and victims of the War on Drugs will be pushed out of this emerging cannabis industry. We applaud the City of Oakland for the innovative equity provisions featured in its most recent marijuana ordinance. And we also embrace Prop. 64’s promises to nurture small growers and pot businesses, and to stave off marijuana monopolies.
Still, we’d like to see more done on the state level so as to ensure that marijuana trailblazers and drug-war victims get a stake in this new industry after Prop. 64 passes.
For those questioning legalization, let’s be real: Prohibition of marijuana is dead. If adults want cannabis, they can obtain it. Instead of pretending that the genie can somehow be put back in the bottle, we need to move forward with sensible new laws and regulations.
Prop. 64 is a pragmatic and fair first step to legalize the plant for adults and end drug-war policies that unjustly target people of color and poor Californians. This will save the state money and generate new revenue to fund oversight. It’s the right choice. (N.M.)
Proposition 65 — No
Proposition 67 — Yes
Prop. 65 is a distraction by the awful plastic-bag industry. Vote no.
A yes vote on Prop. 67 upholds the state law banning plastic bags. (The awful plastic-bag industry put this referendum on the ballot.), So, vote yes on 67. (N.M.)
Measure A1 — Yes
Property taxes would go up approximately $40-70 a year for the average Alameda County home if Measure A1 passes. But this is absolutely worth it to pay off $580 million in bonds to pay for thousands of new affordable-housing units. Vote yes on A1 and give county supervisors the tools to address the region’s housing crisis. (N.M.)
Measure B1 — Yes
The Alameda Unified School District’s parcel tax should be reauthorized for another seven years. Our schools simply cannot afford losing $12 million in annual tax revenue. (S.T.)
Measure C1 — Yes
It’s baffling and borderline irresponsible that the East Bay Times endorsed “no” on C1, and purely on the grounds that it is allegedly fiscally irresponsible and contributes further to AC Transit’s retiree-benefit shortfall. How about this: Invest in mass transit, get more cars off the road, help those who cannot afford to own a vehicle. Extend the parcel tax that’s set to expire in a few years, vote yes on C1. (N.M.)
Measure RR — Yes
RR isn’t perfect. There’s some uncertainty as to how the $3.5 billion in bonds will be spent (to close infrastructure repair gaps or to cover labor-cost overruns and expenses). But its bigger than our distrust of BART, or whether the board and staff will allocate the admittedly massive bond revenue wisely. Investing in mass transit is needed, for the same reasons we need to extend the Measure C1 parcel tax.
And claims that the $3.5 billion in bonds would burden homeowners with weighty tax bills are over-stated; it’ll likely cost the average homeowner between $50 and $100 a year. (That said, we urge BART to issue the bonds at a competitive rate to keep this tax on the low end.)
We repeat: Invest in mass transit, get more cars off the roads, help those who can’t’ afford to drive. Vote yes on RR. (N.M.)
BART Board of Directors
BART Board, Ward One — Gail Murray
As we see it, BART workers have a hard and thankless job of keeping the region’s backbone transit system running. Currently, they’re paid a fair wage and benefits, and we should maintain these middle-class jobs — not undermine them. The BART system is being pushed to its limits and needs reinvestment before further expanding lines and onboarding new riders. And BART needs to continue to commit to overseeing its police and to stop criminalizing poor riders. BART should also implement programs to reduce fares for students, children, the elderly, and disabled people. We’re not sure Gail Murray is behind us on all these big-picture issues, but her opponent Debora Allen definitely isn’t. And Allen fails our litmus test: She took money from Steve Glazer, the anti-labor state senator who has called for banning strikes and slashing workers’ pensions. Vote Murray. (D.B.)
BART Board, Ward Three — Rebecca Saltzman
Except for a gaffe involving the Black Lives Matter protests last year, when she incorrectly, and insensitively, stated that Rosa Parks never shut down a transit system, Saltzman has been an excellent BART director. She seems to genuinely care about the causes the protesters were trying to advance: racial justice and police accountability. Saltzman is also a fighter for the environment, and she respects BART workers and isn’t going to try to strip them of their middle-class jobs like several of her opponents will. We think Saltzman deserves another term. (D.B)
BART Board, Ward Five — John McPartland
Sure, this was the guy who got a concealed-carry gun permit because he was afraid of Black Lives Matter activists. He’s a conservative suburbanite who asked the district attorney to throw the book at protesters. And, what’s more, he’s not the best on the big-picture issues we care about, such as reducing fares and promoting affordable housing around stations. But just like in the district one race, his opponent, Jennifer Hosterman, is even more backward and is one of the Glazeratti. So let’s stick with McPartland. (D.B.)
BARD Board, Ward Seven — Lateefah Simon
Design your dream candidate. What kinds of experience would they have, and what would their priorities be? Lateefah Simon is basically our dream BART director. Her priorities include reinvesting in the existing system; holding the BART police accountable; and making BART more affordable. Simon’s record of dealing with labor issues is good, too. She’ll work with the unions to strike a fair deal and avoid a system shutdown when their contracts are up again, and she hasn’t taken to using anti-union rhetoric like her opponent, incumbent director Zakhary Mallett. (D.B.)
City of Oakland
City Council District 1 — Dan Kalb
North Oakland/Rockridge’s councilmember, Dan Kalb, has led the way on protecting tenants, banning coal, and police accountability. He easily deserves another term on the council. We’re eager to see what the wonkish man from Rockridge can accomplish.
But Kalb often goes along with the majority of the council and the mayor in what appears to be a quest not to stir the pot, preserve decorum, and respect the process — even when the process is running off the rails and undermining the interests of the groups he claims to serve. Getting along with people isn’t always the best course of action. This is Oakland. We’d like to see a feistier Kalb who is more concerned about policy outcomes than he is about maintaining smooth relationships with his colleagues. (D.B.)
City Council District 3 — Noni Session
Incumbent City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney isn’t just “ethically challenged,” as the East Bay Times wrote in its endorsement. She has demonstrated repeatedly that she’s willing to use both her public office and also position as a nonprofit operator to benefit herself and her family members.
As the Express reported two years ago, her nonprofit flipped houses in Oakland in a for-profit scheme that her sister was allowed to personally invest in.
Last year, McElhaney inappropriately used her city council office resources and staff to interfere with a housing project planned next to her home.
And only recently did it come to light that her husband was paid to work on a controversial real-estate project that involved city land, which McElhaney voted to sell to the developer in a deal that was in violation of state law.
McElhaney has also used her position on the council to delay and water down legislation that would otherwise protect renters and low-wage workers.
This is not to say she doesn’t have accomplishments. But her record is not one we can support.
Her opponent, Noni Session, is a progressive West Oakland native who understands that the city is at a crossroads. Session says she wants to focus on the housing crisis, creating good jobs, nurturing local businesses, and implementing public-safety measures that don’t require more policing. We think Session has a lot to learn if she wants to succeed on the city council, but we think she can do it. (D.B.)
City Council District 5 — Noel Gallo
Gallo doesn’t always say what’s popular or polite. In fact, he’s made a few enemies over the past four years on council. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has endorsed his opponent. So has the Oakland Police Officers Association, which is funding his opponent’s campaign. All of which makes us like Gallo even more.
He’s ruffled feathers for good causes. He’s been outspoken on the city’s need to build affordable housing and to use public land for the public good. And Gallo was instrumental in pushing the police-commission ballot measure through the city council against strong resistance. Vote Gallo. (D.B.)
City Council District 7 — Nehanda Imara
Over the years, Larry Reid has worked hard to bring jobs, housing, and public-safety improvements to Deep East Oakland. But nowadays, Reid hardly authors key legislation for his constituents. He has become too comfortable in office, and he doesn’t always vote in the best interests of working families. It’s time for some new blood.
Nehanda Imara is a teacher and environmental-justice organizer who is already familiar with the problems in East Oakland: illegal dumping, crime, police corruption, substandard and unaffordable housing, lack of good local jobs, and industrial pollution. Imara is tapped into Oakland’s grassroots movement and will quickly get up to speed on all the policy details that a councilmember must grapple with. And we feel that she will be more proactive than Reid. Vote Imara. (D.B.)
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illustration by Roxanne Pasibe
Rebecca Kaplan for Oakland city council.
City Council At-Large — Rebecca Kaplan
Several times over the past two years, it appeared that critical measures — to protect renters, workers, and the environment, or to strengthen police accountability — were being blocked by certain members of the council and city staff. Each time, Rebecca Kaplan took action to push these priorities forward. She’s been a consistent voice for social and economic justice and easily deserves another term on the council.
Her main opponents, Bruce Quan and Peggy Moore, are great local leaders, but haven’t made a case for why we should vote Kaplan out.
What’s more, Kaplan is now a veteran politician on the regional level. For example, Kaplan is chairwoman of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, an important coordinating body that doles out millions for infrastructure. Oakland needs this money, and Kaplan is already delivering it.
She is also working on laws to regulate and promote growing sectors of Oakland’s economy, including marijuana rules and taxes on sharing economy companies.
Definitely vote Kaplan back to City Hall. (D.B.)
A PERISCOPE stream of our interview with Oakland City Council At-Large Candidates Peggy Moore, Bruce Quan, Rebecca Kaplan, and Matt Hummel here.
A link to the Facebook Live session:
And a video (two parts):
City Attorney — No Endorsement
Barbara Parker is running unopposed, and the Express does not endorse in uncontested races. (N.M.)
Measure G1 — Yes
If passed, G1 would levy a $120-per-parcel tax to generate approximately $12 million for the Oakland Unified School District. With those funds, OUSD would increase salaries in hopes of attracting and retaining educators. All this money would stay local, and we support more dollars for schools. (N.M.)
Measure HH — Yes
By now, we’ll assume that you know about the “Soda Tax.” Oh wait, you might know it as the “Grocery Tax.”
We’ve seen advertisements about this so-called “Grocery Tax” everywhere. We first saw the ad on TV, while watching the Raiders win. And then we saw it again, while we were watching YouTube highlights of the Raiders winning. And, later, another message in the form of a leaflet attached to the front door.
The concept of a “Grocery Tax” comes from the idea that storeowners might divert the tax on sugary beverages to other items in their stores, so as to compensate for money lost because soda costs go up.
If the measure passes, an advisory board will be assembled to guide revenue toward paying for healthy activities for youth.
And that’s why of the reasons why we’re voting for it: It’s for the kids.
The tax is regressive and likely will impact the pockets low-income Oaklanders. But, as happened in Berkeley, the tax might lead soda consumers to choose water over Coke.
It is not the government’s responsibility to dictate people’s food choices. If that were the case, fast-food and genetically modified snacks would be taxed a penny for every calorie consumed. The real responsibility falls on the consumer. It’s their choice to make healthy decisions when walking down the beverage aisle. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll think twice about their sugar intake when they get to the cash register and their drink costs 23 cents more than it did last year. (Pendarvis Harshaw)
Measure JJ — Yes
Measure JJ will strengthen Oakland’s weak rent-control system and its limited just cause for eviction protections, which currently doesn’t help thousands of renters. Specifically, JJ puts the burden on landlords to petition the city’s rent board whenever they want to increase rents above the CPI-adjusted amount. And it creates a database so the city, tenants, and attorneys can hold landlords accountable if and when they break the rules. Currently, landlords can raise rents however much they want, and it’s up to tenants to know the law and take action before the rent board to stop them. JJ will also extend just-cause eviction protections to all buildings constructed before 1996. Currently the limit is 1980, so it will put thousands more units under protection. Vote yes on this necessary update to Oakland’s rental laws. (D.B.)
Measure KK — Yes
From fixing potholes and adding modern bike lanes to investing in affordable housing and updating libraries, KK is another one of those du jour infrastructure bonds, to the tune of $600 million, offered in phases over several years. We support it. (N.M.)
Measure LL — Yes
If you want police reform in Oakland, then this hard-fought measure is a solid and sensible first step. LL would create a commission of civilians to oversee the department. This means reviewing policy and suggesting changes. It would also allow for a Community Police Review Agency, which would have the authority to investigate police misconduct and even advise on discipline.
The police union is against this — no surprise. But your vote should be yes. (N.M.)
Berkeley likes to think of itself as a progressive burg run by radicals. But the truth is that, for too long, Berkeley has been run by cautious moderates. We think Berkeley deserves, indeed needs, a mayor who will fight for social and economic justice. Jesse Arreguin is the right guy.
His top priorities are building new housing, especially affordable units; defending renters; lifting up and protecting low-wage workers; saving the city’s Alta Bates hospital; and pressing for greater police accountability.
We also like Kriss Worthington. His policy positions are very similar to Arreguin. Worthington spearheaded the rezoning of Telegraph Avenue to incentivize denser housing. In fact, he wants to simplify the city’s zoning ordinance — which he says is “insane” — so that it’s easier for people to build more housing and new commercial space. He also cares about making government more inclusive to reflect the city’s diversity. And, like Arreguin, he fought hard to increase the city’s minimum wage. Mark him as No. 2 on your ballot.
We also like Laurie Capitelli. But time and again, Capitelli has been a force for moderation, slowing, delaying, and occasionally blocking legislation to make Berkeley a more just city. We’re tired of seeing Berkeley’s office of the mayor play this role.
Ben Gould, another candidate for mayor, is a smart and ambitious grad student at UC Berkeley. We think he’d make a great city councilmember at some point, but he’s definitely not ready for the mayor’s office. We also think his priorities are a little off. He mentioned parks and environmental sustainability as top concerns, but had little to say about wages, labor standards, tenant protections, and police oversight.
Vote Arreguin for No. 1 and Worthington for No. 2. (D.B.)
Our Periscope interview with Berkeley Mayor candidates Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington, Ben Gould, and Laurie Capitelli here.
A video (two parts):
Measure E1 — Yes
This would replace an expiring tax that pays for education programs such as teacher training, reducing class size, music and more. Vote yes. (N.M.)
Measure T1 — Yes
As we mentioned with Oakland’s Measure KK, it’s the season of bonds to fix parks, sidewalks, and senior centers. T1 would cost homeowners anywhere from $40 to $120 annually. It’s worth the expense. (N.M.)
Measure U1 — Yes
Measure DD — No
Measure U1 is a tax on large landlords — a tax they’re more than able to pay. Vote yes! It would increase the business-license tax for landlords who own more than five rental units by approximately $30 per unit, per month. This would add up to $3.5 million a year to the city’s affordable-housing programs. U1 was crafted carefully with public input and unanimously endorsed by the city council. Smartly, it exempts nonprofit affordable housing, rent-controlled units that haven’t been hit with big rent increases since 1999, and newly built housing units from the tax. That will incentivize the construction of both more market and affordable projects while protecting landlords who still manage truly affordable rent-controlled units.
Measure DD is a cynical use of the ballot by some landlords who want to prevent the public from recouping a portion the windfall profits they have reaped due to the housing crisis and rising rents. DD is similar to U1 in that it would increase residential landlord business taxes, but only by half as much. It doesn’t exempt small landlords. It’s poorly drafted and was added to the ballot purely to try to confuse voters and undermine U1. (D.B.)
Measure W1 — Yes
In Berkeley, the drawing of city-council districts is now done by the members themselves. How convenient! If passed, W1 would establish an independent redistricting commission, a standard good-government practice that ensures equitable districts with balanced diversity of residents. We support this. (N.M.)
Measure X1 — Yes
Public financing of campaigns is another common-sense good government practice, and we support this measure, which would allocate $2 million over four years to provide candidates for mayor and council with public funds — only if they accept individual donations of $50 or less. Public financing will bring a greater diversity of ideas into the political process, and increases access for those who otherwise might not engage the electoral process. (N.M.)
Measure Y1 — Yes
What’s the argument in favor of only allowing people over the age of 18 to vote? Seriously. It doesn’t make sense, especially in local elections. Youth have just as much of a stake in local government as adults. This is especially true of school boards, which set educational policy. And yet we don’t allow kids to vote.
Voting isn’t like drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, owning a gun, gambling, or other “sin” activities that are inherently dangerous and therefore age-restricted by law. Rather, voting is a good thing that will benefit young people by encouraging them to become more involved in the democratic process and to learn about the policies that affect their lives.
Measure Y1 will allow sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to vote in Berkeley’s school-board elections. Adults, don’t be jerks. Vote yes on Y1 to let the kids vote. (D.B.)
Measure Z1 — Yes
We shouldn’t have to vote on shit like this. Back in 1950, white Californians — among the most racist white people to be found anywhere in the nation — adopted Article 34 into the state constitution. They were out to stop Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other minorities from moving into their neighborhoods. Article 34 is a roadblock to building certain types of affordable housing. It requires a majority vote before any state agency can build subsidized housing for low-income people, and it was used by city after city, suburb after suburb, to block affordable public housing. Black and Latino residents of San Jose sued to overturn this rule, but the U.S. Supreme Court (made up of eight white guys and only one Black man at the time) decided that Article 34 wasn’t discriminatory. And so, after all these years, we’re stuck with this sucky, discriminatory, anti-housing law — and we have to vote affirmatively to allow public housing to get built in our towns. That’s what you’re voting on if you vote yes on Z1: to allow public housing to get built for poor people and seniors in Berkeley. Vote yes, not that you should have to. (D.B.)
Families with children shouldn’t be forced to up and move during the school year simply because the landlord who owns their home wants to move into it. It’s bad for the kids and it’s bad for Berkeley’s schools. Measure AA will ban owner move-in evictions against households with school age children during the school year.
AA will also increase the financial assistance that landlords have to pay tenants when they’re evicted for “no fault” causes. This extra money will help renters relocate in what has become the most difficult housing market in the US. Help prevent kids from having their educations disrupted. Vote yes on AA. (D.B.)
Measure BB — No
Measure CC — No
Berkeley’s battle over the minimum wage was years in the making, pitting labor and community groups against business owners and moderates on the city council. For a while it looked like both sides were intractably locked in their positions. Measure CC was placed on the ballot by the labor-community coalition. It would increase Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by 2017, and then increase it further each year by inflation plus 3 percent until it reaches the equivalent of the city’s living wage ($16.37 in 2016 dollars). Measure BB was placed on the ballot by a majority of the city council who felt that CC was giving low-wage workers too much, too fast, and that it would hurt small businesses.
But in August both sides reached an agreement and the council voted to make $15 by 2018 the city’s new minimum wage. They also approved 72 hours of paid sick leave and other worker protections.
Now both sides are urging you to vote no on Measures BB and CC. We agree. Vote no and let the ordinance the council already passed be the city’s new minimum wage law. (D.B.)
Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board — Christina Murphy, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Igor Tregub
Berkeley has some of the strongest, most effective rent-control and eviction-protection laws in California. Let’s not mess this up. Keep Berkeley’s Rent Board tough by electing the slate endorsed by the Berkeley Tenants Union. These four even came up with a mnemonic device to help you remember how to vote, the “CALI” slate: Christina, Alejandro, Leah, and Igor. Christina will give Berkeley’s Black residents a voice on the board. Alejandro helped provide more funding for nonprofit tenant legal services during his first term as a Rent Board member. Leah literally helped draft the rent control measures that are on the ballot in Richmond and Alameda this year. And Igor, another incumbent, helped strengthen relocation rules and assistance, and as a member of the city’s Housing Advisory Board helped pass a tenant protection ordinance. (D.B.)
City Council, District Two — Nanci Armstrong-Temple
The Express Endorsement Board regrets that it was unable to interview candidates in Berkeley council races — there are only so many hours in the election season — but we embrace Armstrong-Temple’s agenda (police reform and accountability, a housing trust fund, overturning Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and are impressed by those in her corner (former Mayor Gus Newport, the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, W. Kamau Bell). This social-justice activist will be a much needed voice on the Berkeley council, and she will prioritize the underserved residents of West Berkeley. (N.M.)
City Council, District Three — Ben Bartlett
South Berkeley activist and former planning commissioner Bartlett will be a tremendous addition to the council. He’s fought for everything from fair housing to banning plastic bags, and boasts both the social-justice and environmental credentials to move Berkeley farther to the progressive left. Bartlett also is endorsed by outgoing district three Councilman Max Anderson, in addition to four current council members — and that will go a long way toward moving past the so-called “Tuesday Night Circus.” Vote Bartlett. (N.M.)
City Council, District Five — Sophie Hahn
Hahn has run for council before, narrowly losing to incumbent Laurie Capitelli. But now that he’s running for mayor, Hahn should step in as his successor. Backed by everyone from the Sierra Club to the East Bay Times to the Green Party of Alameda County, Hahn will strengthen the progressive coalition on the council and deserves your vote. (N.M.)
City Council, District Six — Fred Dodsworth
Dodsworth is the leading challenger to incumbent Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who has served her northeast Berkeley district well. But we embrace Dodsworth’s more progressive vision (surprise!), including his promise to focus on issues of tackling chronic homelessness and creating Berkeley’s own municipal power agency. And, of course, we like that Dodsworth is one of our own: a former journalist. Dodsworth has the backing of various progressive groups and two former Berkeley mayors — and now that of the Express. (N.M.)
City of Albany
Measure O1 — Yes
Vote yes on Albany’s “soda tax,” which will generate an estimated $220,000 annually to pay for nutrition and parks-and-rec programs. (N.M.)
City of Emeryville
City Council — Ally Medina, John Bauters, and Christian Patz
Long time councilmembers Nora Davis — first elected 1988! — and Ruth Atkin (1999) are retiring from office. So is Jac Asher. So three seats are open.
We enthusiastically support Ally Medina. She wants to build on the work the current council has achieved, including the city’s strong minimum-wage ordinance, affordable-housing commitments, and efforts to recast the cityscape with more parks and pedestrian and bike amenities.
John Bauters is making housing a key part of his platform. He wants to build more of it, and ensure that a good chunk rents at affordable prices so that regular people can live in Emervyille. And Christian Patz seems like a level-headed guy who is willing to ask tough questions and keep city government honest while also supporting progressive housing measures and fair rules to guide economic development.
John Van Geffen, Louise Engel, and Brynnda Collins all seem like reactionaries who want to undo the major economic justice and housing advances that have made Emeryville more affordable and livable. Don’t vote for them. (D.B.)
City of Alameda
City Council: Malia Vella, Marilyn Ashcraft
Alameda’s five-person City Council has two open seats this fall, and council majorities on the island can come and go every two years. Currently, Alameda progressives hold a tenuous majority that would be bolstered by Malia Vella, a college professor and labor leader in the East Bay. Vella gets major points for being the only candidate who voices support for renters and Measure M1. Councilmember Marilyn Ashcraft also deserves a second term, in part due to her longstanding support for prudently developing Alameda Point — although we wish she showed more support for Measure M1. Incumbent Councilmember Tony Daysog has served Alameda admirably over the years, but his unwavering support of the landlords’ position is disqualifying. (S.T.)
Measure K1 — Yes
Sadly, Alameda’s Measure K1, seeking to affirm an up to $3.7 million annual transfer from Alameda Municipal Power to the city’s general fund, has become a political football after Mayor Trish Spencer chose to publicly oppose it. The measure also updates Alameda’s Utility Users Tax requiring all cell-phone carriers to assess the tax and include other new communication technologies that didn’t exist when the UUT was created in 1972. This is not a new tax, but merely a mechanism for sweeping up revenue that should already belong in the city’s treasury. Voting no would unnecessarily blow a $5 million hole in the general fund, which could be used on city services such as further funding Alameda’s animal shelter, a proposal the mayor strongly supports. (S.T.)
Measure L1 — No
The Alameda City Council’s last-minute decision to place its recently approved rent-stabilization ordinance on the ballot this November is the height of cynicism. Its sole function is to sow confusion among voters. Granted, the ordinance is slightly better than what Alameda renters had a year ago, but its ability to truly bring a sense of calm to renters is lacking, and the arbitration system included in L1 has no teeth. Also, the ballot argument in favor — written by two councilmembers — argues that L1 enacts rent control “without creating an out-of-control bureaucracy.” The cynic would say, “Isn’t it the job of elected officials to reign in such matters?” (S.T.)
Call Alameda’s Measure M1 the city’s comeuppance for the overly restrictive Measure A, passed by voters in 1973. That measure severely limited construction of new housing in Alameda in the name of maintaining the island’s “character.” This led to a significant shortage of housing stock in Alameda — and staggeringly high rents in recent years. To some, Measure M1’s prescribed restriction on annual rent increases (65 percent of the Consumer Price Index) may seem draconian. But so was Measure A, a generation ago. Equilibrium in Alameda’s housing policy is long overdue.
It’s worth noting that the assertion by opponents that Measure M1 is the work of out-of-town agitators is a full-blown lie. The Alameda Renters Coalition is the epitome of local grassroots advocacy, and its hard work over the past two years should be rewarded by Alameda voters. (S.T.)
City of Richmond
Measure L — Yes
Last year, Richmond sent shock waves across California by becoming the first city to pass a rent-control law in thirty years. But the California Apartment Association quickly went to war against Richmond’s ordinance and had it rescinded via a petition drive. Back to the drawing board, tenant activists pushed to put a rent control and just cause for eviction law on the November ballot. So what did the landlords do next? Many started jacking up rents as fast and high as they could. In one case, a Beverly Hills landlord evicted 114 families from the Creekview Apartments in Richmond. Vote yes on Measure L to establish a humane and reasonable system of rent control and eviction protections in Richmond. Measure L exempts owner-occupied small landlords and ensures a fair return on a property owner’s investment while protecting tenants from speculators and slumlords. (D.B.)
Richmond City Council — Ben Choi, Melvin Willis, Jael Myrick
Choi and Willis are both running campaigns on the pledge of taking no corporate contributions. That might seem gimmicky, but in Richmond corporate giants like Chevron, the California Apartment Association, and Coke have literally spent millions to defeat progressive candidates and measures. So we’re endorsing Choi and Willis because they’ll be independent, indeed critical of these powerful outside interest groups. Plus they’re both pro-rent control and both want to find a way to keep a hospital open in West County, two crucial measures to keep Richmond affordable and healthy. Myrick has proven himself to be a pragmatic and independent leader on the council. He supports rent control and other affordability measures, and isn’t afraid to go after the corporations that pollute Richmond’s air and water. (D.B.)
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