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My 2012 San Francisco ballot

On Tuesday, I’ll be voting in person for the first time in my native California. I’ve only ever voted by mail before. (I voted from Berlin in the 2008 presidential election, and had a charming exchange in broken German with the women working at the post office. They, like nearly all of Germany, were following the election as big Obama fans, so I had little trouble convincing them of the significance of the letter I was handing off.)

I’m taking more care this year to get informed on each of the ballot initiatives for California and San Francisco, and to make good decisions on them. I’ve read most of the information in the official packet on these choices, and also consulted the ACLU Northern California recommendations, the SF Gate endorsements, the SF Bay Guardian endorsements, this column from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, and a few others.

Here’s where I stand for now; I’m putting this up here as much as a record for me as for anybody else, but they’re subject to change before election day. If you think I’m making a terrible mistake, let me know.

  • Yes on Prop 30 — both 30 and 38 address spending on education and prevent a $5 billion cut to public schools, but 30 is the better proposal.
  • No on Prop 31 — from most accounts, a ballot initiative is the wrong place to make this sort of budget policy.
  • No on Prop 32 — this is one of those zombie initiatives that keep coming back, and would weaken the political power of unions in favor of corporations.
  • No on Prop 33 — I haven’t seen any good evidence this would help anybody but the insurance company whose CEO has pushed it onto the ballot.
  • Yes on Prop 34 — repeals the death penalty in CA. This one’s a very easy call for me to make: even if you’re a supporter of the death penalty in general, which I’m not, it certainly isn’t working in California.
  • No on Prop 35 — this one’s ostensibly about sex trafficking, but overreaches in a lot of places. EFF urges opposition, too.
  • Yes on Prop 36 — three strikes doesn’t work, and causes incredible damage in California. This initiative helps restore some of the original intent of the law.
  • Yes on Prop 37 — a bit of a tough call, as consensus seems to be that a ballot initiative is not exactly the right way to make this proposal law, and the loose language could cause problems. Mother Jones is split, too, with another writer opposing Kevin Drum’s position. But Monsanto has spent a lot of money trying to kill this, and that makes me think there must be something to it.
  • UPDATE: No on Prop 38 — originally I thought it’d be fine if both 30 and 38 passed, but I’ve read a little more about how the two would interact — namely, that the one with the larger majority gets enforced while the other one gets scrapped at worst or put in place piecemeal at best — and I’ve decided to vote against this one. I really hope 30 passes, though.
  • Yes on Prop 39 — closes a tax loophole that is not politically viable to address through the legislature. I’d rather these sorts of things weren’t addressed through ballot initiatives, but as long as it’s here…
  • Yes on Prop 40

With regard to San Francisco measures: there appears to be a bit more constraint with how these end up on the ballot. After consulting a few sources, it looks like the way to vote is yes to all except Measure F. That one, though proposed by well-meaning environmentalists, would commit the city to spending $8 million evaluating an ultimately unworkable plan to drain the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

Of particular interest is Measure G, which declares as City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings. Although it’s not binding, and actual laws to the same effect would get very complicated very fast, I think the general principle is a nice one for the city to endorse.