I’ve been making voter guides for about 10 years now, and this is by far the longest and most exhaustive one. What an insane election in so many ways.
I’m grateful to my mom, Janet Cox, for helping me think through all this and edit the guide. We did some research, looked at other endorsements, and had a ballot info party with friends, neighbors, and politicos we know. We’ve been active in East Bay politics for the last 12 years, so we know a fair number of the candidates running.
You are welcome to share this far and wide. It’s fine to disagree, ask questions, or engage in constructive, respectful debate offline or in the comments.
This voter guide contains:
- Statewide Propositions
- Regional East Bay Measures
- Oakland Measures
- Federal, state, and regional candidates
- Oakland Candidates
NO? on Proposition 51: School facilities bonds – At first I figured voting for schools bonds should be a no-brainer, but then I read this article and heard about opposition to this because it will likely favor wealthier, better resourced schools, and increase sprawl by letting developers off to hook for having to pay for schools near the new housing they build. On the other hand, this is money for school buildings that is sorely needed, and many districts may not have another source of funds.
YES on Proposition 52: “Hospital fee” and Medi-Cal funding match – Private hospitals should continue to pay a fee to help defray Medi-Cal costs, which are disproportionately borne by public hospitals. Pretty much every medical interest group is behind this, including hospitals, nurses, and doctors, plus both political parties.
NO on Proposition 53: Statewide voter approval of revenue bonds – This would require statewide voter approval of many government bond measures over $2 billion. For example, Measure RR (the BART bond on which you should vote YES) would require a statewide vote to pass! You think the ballot is long now… this is a terrible idea for so many reasons.
NO on Proposition 54: Printing and posting bills before legislative passage – Waiting 72 hours after any change to legislation may sound good if you don’t dig into the idea, but the sweeping legislative process changes in this constitutional amendment would make it much harder for legislators to compromise or amend bills from the floor of the Assembly or Senate. More than creating transparency it gives corporate lobbyists a window to kill good policy. It’s a pet project of a billionaire who funds all sorts of conservative initiatives, and we think the consequences would be hard to predict and generally negative. By the way, most legislative hearings and floor sessions are videoed live and archived for later viewing already. This measure also allows those events to be used in political advertisements.
YES on Proposition 55: Extend Prop 30 income tax to pay for education and health care – Let’s keep taxing people who make over $250k to fund schools and health care! If this goes down there will be a budget shortfall with some dire consequences, and much of the progress California has been making since Prop 30 passed will end.
YES on Proposition 56: Tobacco tax – Do we have to explain this? Yeah, you could call it regressive, but the revenues fund a slew of important public health initiatives and training of primary care physicians, as well as school programs to prevent smoking. California hasn’t raised the tax on tobacco since 1998.
YES on Proposition 57: Public safety and rehabilitation – Restores the authority of judges, rather than prosecutors, to decide whether to try minors as adults. This will give more children in the system access to rehabilitation — while reducing the state’s prison population and saving millions of dollars. This is important criminal justice reform.
YES on Proposition 58: Bilingual education – Overturns a racist initiative passed in the 1990s that restricts bilingual education in California and requires English learners to be taught in English. If this passes, schools will have more flexibility to teach English learners with the most effective methods and mix of languages, and more English speakers will have access to bilingual education, which would be great.
YES on Proposition 59: Advise the legislature to work to overturn Citizens’ United – Both houses of the state legislature voted to put this non-binding measure on the ballot. It might not do anything, but why not make a statement about campaign finance reform
No on Proposition 60: Requiring condoms in porn – Supposedly this is an STD-prevention measure, but it’s a pretty dumb one. Moralistic and ineffective, this is a ridiculous thing for the whole state to vote on. This law is already in effect in LA, and apparently porn actors already undergo frequent STD testing. It seems like saying “we want gun control, so let’s ban guns in movies.” Yeah, that’ll work!
Split on Proposition 61: Prescription drug price limits – Mandates that state agencies pay no more for drugs than the Veterans’ Administration pays.
Edie says no: I usually trust the League of Pissed-Off Voters in SF, and their take on Prop 61 makes sense to me. It just doesn’t seem like good policy, and it’s hard to predict what impact it would have.
Janet says yes: We have to do everything we can to get drug prices down. All the doomsayers imagining the pharmaceutical companies doing their worst if this passes MIGHT be wrong…but if they’re right the public will once again get the message loud and clear that the companies that make the drugs people need will do whatever it takes, at whose ever cost, to maximize profit. To my mind, these companies should be nationalized and the money that stuffs the pockets of their executives and shareholders should be spent on R&D. But that won’t happen until government acts, and government won’t act without a public outcry (and campaign finance reform). So, YES.
YES on Proposition 62: Replace the death penalty with life without parole – The death penalty is unjust, discriminatory, expensive, and barbaric. Let’s get rid of it! If you agree, be sure and also vote NO on the other death penalty measure, Prop 66.
YES on Proposition 63: Prohibit large-capacity ammunition magazines – a lot of this is in recent laws signed by the Governor. But there’s an extra bit that would take guns back from convicted felons. At this point we’ll take whatever gun control we can get.
YES on Proposition 64: Legalize recreational marijuana use – It’s time! This initiative isn’t perfect, but it’s the chance we get to make this huge and necessary change. First and foremost this is criminal justice reform — POC are disproportionately locked up for marijuana offenses, and nobody should be. We can save money on incarceration and generate billions of dollars in tax revenue, plus regulating pot might make the industry safer, take the pressure off national forests where illegal grows are wrecking water quality, and make it harder for kids to get pot (right now it’s easier for minors to obtain than alcohol).
NO on Proposition 65: The Bad Bag Ban measure – The plastics industry put this on the ballot to confuse voters into voting down the statewide ban on plastic bags. Vote no on this and yes on 67!
NO on Proposition 66: Speeding up the death penalty – Another attempt to confuse voters and undermine another proposition (62 to repeal the death penalty). This one would actually speed up the appeals process so California could execute more people
YES on Proposition 67: Uphold the statewide plastic bag ban – This is common-sense policy already in place in Alameda County, San Francisco, and many other jurisdictions in California. In fact the legislature already passed the ban, but the plastics industry put this on the ballot in a last-ditch effort to save their dirty profits. It’s good for the environment, good for businesses, and reduces waste. Edie helped implement the ban in Alameda County, so she speaks from experience!
Regional East Bay Measures
Yes on A1 (Alameda County) – Lots of good affordable housing programs and development money, for homeowners and renters. Learn more from TransForm.
Yes on RR (Alameda, Contra Costa, and SF Counties) – Super important bond measure for BART repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. We all depend on keeping BART safe and reliable for years to come. Edie has been working a ton on this at TransForm, check out their op-ed in the East Bay Times to learn more.
Yes on C1 (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) – Extend an existing parcel tax to keep AC Transit at current levels. If this goes down, expect service cuts that will deeply impact low-income and transit-dependent folks who are having a hard enough time. Learn more from TransForm.
Yes on X (Contra Costa County) – TransForm didn’t endorse this because of concern there is not enough support for bus service in West Contra Costa County where it’s most needed. But voters have to make decision, and if I lived in CoCo County I’d vote yes anyway. Perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good and all that.
YES on G1: Support Oakland teachers – Oakland teachers are among the lowest paid in the Bay. Especially given the housing crisis, the district is having a hard time attracting and retaining staff. All the money from this parcel tax goes to teachers, school staff, and students.
YES on HH: It’s a soda tax, not a “grocery tax” – The World Health Organization said recently that everybody in the world should tax sugary drinks! Let’s be among the first. All the beverage industry’s lies about a “grocery tax” are also offensive and misleading.
YES on Measure II: Extend lease terms for city land – This is supposed to make it easier for affordable housing developers to finance projects in Oakland. And clearly we need more affordable housing in Oakland.
YES on Measure JJ: Protect renters – Some important protections for renters, like bringing more buildings under just cause eviction rules and making it harder for landlords to impose unfair rent increases. Read more about it in a blog post I wrote for work!
YES on Measure KK: Maintain and improve city infrastructure and affordable housing – Fix Oakland’s notoriously crumbling streets. Build, keep, and improve affordable housing. Upgrade parks, libraries, senior facilities, fire and police stations. Read more about it in a blog post I wrote for work!
YES on Measure LL: Create an independent police commission – Clearly the OPD could use a little more oversight! This certainly won’t solve all Oakland’s police problems, but it’s a start. There are lots of trustworthy community groups, electeds, and Oakland leaders supporting this.
Federal, State, and Regional Candidates:
Hillary Clinton for president – Edie says: “Never thought I’d be this excited to vote for her. A) Context is everything. B) Her debate performances have really impressed me, as did the Democratic Convention. She’s much less progressive than I might like, but most viable presidential candidates are, and she is undeniably well-prepared, smart, steady, and serious. C) Let’s hurry up and have a woman president already! If anybody is considering a protest vote, please consider the importance of the popular vote given Trump’s crazy talk about not accepting the results. We have never needed a landslide so badly.” Janet says, “Amen.”
Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate – The obvious choice in this race. She is super smart, hard-working, with real integrity. As attorney general she’s gone after big oil and big banks, and she has progressive ideas about criminal justice reform, especially for a prosecutor. Loretta Sanchez is insufferable and conservative interests are supporting her.
Nancy Skinner for State Senate – Nancy Skinner served in the assembly for several years before terming out, and she is one of the most effective legislators Oakland and Berkeley has ever had. Unabashedly progressive and unafraid of a fight, Nancy did a lot of good for California and the East Bay in the Assembly. She is an energy and climate expert and an environmentalist at her core, but she is far from a single-issue legislator. We’ll be missing out if we don’t send her to the State Senate.
Tony Thurmond for State Assembly – Love this guy. Glad he doesn’t have serious opposition so I don’t need to convince you. But we’re lucky to have him representing us!
Rob Bonta for State Assembly – Also good!
Scott Jackson for Alameda County Superior Court Judge – Scott Jackson is a good lawyer and a knowledgeable and accomplished jurist. He has virtually every endorsement of anyone you’d recognize, including tons of other Alameda County judges. We have only heard terrible things about his opponent, Barbara Thomas.
Karen Weinstein for Peralta Community Colleges Board Trustee, Area 6 – We have known Karen for more than 10 years, and she was a mentor to Edie when she first got involved in local politics. She’s been mentoring young women ever since (and before, presumably), and she’ll keep doing that at the Peralta Colleges.
Rebecca Saltzman for BART, District 3 – We’ve known Rebecca for even longer! Even if she wasn’t a dear friend, we would support her because she’s an excellent public servant. She’s been part of a sea change at BART, shifting the focus to improvining existing infrastructure from costly system expansions, and she’s responsible for the affordable housing policy that now requires 20% affordable housing in all BART developments. In her next term a top priority will be discounted fares for low-income riders.
Lateefah Simon for BART, District 7 – Read Lateefah’s bio and you will be clamoring to vote for her after you pick your jaw up off the floor. But almost as good a reason is that the incumbent is pretty terrible. Zakhary Mallett is obsessed with extending BART to Hercules (politics before planning), and proud of being the only vote against the BART labor contract. He basically poured gasoline on the fire of the BART strike, and is willing to be off in the corner on his own in a very destructive way.
Okay, for most of the rest of these we have to keep it short for now. We will try and add detail here soon. We need to get this out!
Chris Peeples for AC Transit
Greg Harper for AC Transit
Dee Rosario for East Bay Regional Park District – Worked as a park ranger for 37 years, knows the parks well, endorsed by many.
Ellen Corbett for East Bay Regional Park District – one of my favorite local politicians. Super experienced and trustworthy.
Oakland City Council At-Large: Rebecca Kaplan or Peggy Moore?
This is a tough one for us. We have known both these candidates personally for a long time, though we know Peggy better. At this writing Janet is voting for Peggy #1 and Edie is voting for Rebecca #1.
Here’s Edie: On the plus side, Rebecca Kaplan is a reliable good vote for progressive causes in Oakland. She has led on lots of important issues (environment, transit, affordable housing, etc), most recently getting Measure JJ on the ballot. However, she has become known for taking credit for more than she does, dialing it in on constituent affairs, and not always working well with other councilmembers and city officials.
But actually the fact that she has butted heads with Mayor Libby Schaaf is one reason I’m going to vote for Kaplan #1… I’m not strongly anti-Libby, but I do think it’s good to have some checks and balances in City Hall. I think both of these (queer and butch!) women would do a good job. Some fresh energy would be great, but so is experience and independence. You decide!
Janet: Peggy is a charismatic organizer, and could be a real bridge-builder on the council and in the city, which is an important role for the at-large councilmember. She’s very progressive and would be a good, reliable vote. She’s also very close to the Mayor, who supports her.
Dan Kalb for Oakland City Council District 1 – We know Dan well and he is an excellent legislator, very strong progressive voice on the council, has led on police accountability, tenant protections and affordable housing, banning coal, public safety, and lots more. Plenty of reasons to support Dan, plus his opponent seems totally inexperienced and wrong on the issues (opposes Measures KK and LL, for example). The Police Officers’ Association opposes Dan, who co-wrote and led on Measure LL with Councilmember Noel Gallo — and in our view that’s another reason to vote for him (and Noel, see below).
Noel Gallo for Oakland City Council District 5 – We generally hear good things about Gallo, who lately co-wrote and led on Measure LL with Dan Kalb. His opponent opposes police accountability and Measure LL.
Nehanda Imara for Oakland City Council District 7
Jody London for OUSD District 1
Roseann Torres for OUSD District 5
Chris Jackson for OUSD District 7
Sorry, we don’t know enough about the other Oakland races to make a recommendation.
These were the consensus opinions at the ballot party with several very well-informed and engaged Berkeley voters. I don’t know much more about them, but these positions are consistent with other trusted endorsers too (like the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club). We’re not making recommendations in the Berkeley City Council and Mayor’s races because we don’t know enough and they’re not clear-cut. Sorry!
Yes on E1 – Renewing a bond for Berkeley schools – Renews a parcel tax that’s been in place in some form since the 80s and makes up about 20% of BUSD’s budget.
Yes I guess on AA – Raising relocation fees for tenants in Owner Move-In evictions – This raises the fee a lot, but times are tough and people.
No on CC and BB because they’ve already been taken care of by the city council.
Yes on U1 – Extra property tax on landlords with more than 5 units – Lord knows they’re making a killing, and funds would be spent on affordable housing. The whole council supports this.
No on DD -Landlord-sponsored tax increase – Because landlords don’t want you to vote yes on U1 but they know the writing is on the wall.
Yes on T1 – infrastructure and facilities bond, similar to KK in Oakland.
Yes on V1 – Allows the city to spend interest earned on past taxes – Sure, why not?
Yes I guess on W1 – Independent redistricting commission – No campaign against it, but gives a lot of power to this commission
Yes on Y1 – Youth should vote in School Board elections!
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler and Judy Appel for Berkeley School Board – Smart women doing a good job, no need to shake things up.
For the Berkeley Rent Board, vote for the pro-tenant members whose first names start with: CALI (Christina, Alejandro, Leah, and Igor).