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Literally everything on the ballot: San Francisco & Oakland voting guide, March 2024

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San Francisco

Everything on San Francisco ballots: local to state to national

👨‍💼👩‍⚖️ Candidates

US President (Democratic Primary)
Biden is effectively unopposed
Biden’s the nominee whatever you put down so 🤷‍♂️. Blank communicates a lack of enthusiasm. I’m disappointed with his recent foreign policy choices, though he’s been one of the most quietly liberal presidents, using his “moderate” vibe to pass very progressive policy. Putting blank to pressure him to improve his foreign policy positions is a reasonable choice, but backing him in November is a moral imperative.
Party offices
SF Democratic County Central Committee (AD 17)
SF Democratic County Central Committee (AD 19)
Vote for up to 10. Same reason as above.
US Congress
US Senate (Full-term, thru Jan 2031)
Katie Porter (D)
Likely the best to actually get Washington to help California create more housing and ensure public safety while building seniority in the Senate. She’s a policy wonk and hard worker, not a show boat, and right on the issues, i.e. what we need today.
US Senate (Remainder-of-term, thru Jan 2025)
Katie Porter (D)
(Same as above)
US House (District 11)
Nancy Pelosi (D)
Putting aside her incredible legacy as Speaker, she delivers for the city and state from funding to federal government support on critical programs. She’s worth keeping in for another term.
US House (District 15)
Kevin Mullin (D)
He’s been a supporter of smart housing and transportation policies in the CA legislature. A Democratic US House majority is a safer and more prosperous America for all, and Mullin is the only Democrat in the race.
California Legislature
CA Senate (District 11)
Scott Wiener (D)
The single strongest voice for solving the root causes of homelssness, public safety, and our housing crisis. Right on policy, a total work horse — with exceptional results to show. Just like the last election, he’s the most exciting candidate on the ballot.
CA Assembly (District 17)
Matt Haney (D)
He’s shown a track record of supporting sensible policy on housing and public safety, at least versus the competition.
CA Assembly (District 19)
Catherine Stefani (D)
As supervisor, Stefani has backed generally sensible policing and housing policies and seems quite likely to keep up the work in the Assembly.
County Judicial
SF Superior Court Judge (Seat 1)
Michael Begert
SF Superior Court Judge (Seat 13)
Patrick Thompson
Similar context as prior race. Thompson is a more recent appointee and hasn’t yet overseen a criminal trial, so he hasn’t been asked to make some of the harder tradeoffs judges make. His opponents have said he’s been letting obvious folks go who should obviously have been locked up while awaiting trial. The Chronicle’s prior-linked discussion on this feels far more convincing versus the political rhetoric and reflects my understanding of the criminal justice system: he was complying with the requests of prosecution who are themselves constrained by laws that require specific reasons to detain a person before conviction. That this is the only thing his opponent can point to makes it hard to understand what his opponent will offer differently (especially as Superior court judges can be assigned to many departments, not just criminal justice). It’s also unclear if his opponent will be able to better thread these needs during her own training year. Given my broader hesitancy on judicial recalls, I’m disinclined to remove Thompson quite yet.

📰 Propositions

1: Bonds for mental health, substance use, and homelessness housing facilities
Yes: Bonds are regular means to fund important projects, typically paid for out of the proceeds of those projects. This measure funds a number of important initiatives mentioned in the title, which California desperately needs. To solve homelessness and our crime issues, we need more housing and treatment options. This gets us closer.
San Francisco
A: Affordable Housing Bonds
Yes: Bonds are regular means to fund important infrastructure projects, typically paid for out of the proceeds of those projects. This is no different. Aids the construction of housing, and has wide support across the political spectrum.
B: Police Officer Staffing Levels Conditioned on Amending Existing or Future Tax Funding
No: This measure mandates higher police levels as long as voters later pass new taxes to enable it. This proposition is designed to make it look like the Supervisors are doing something on public safety, but it’s actually just a messaging exercise. It doesn’t do anything direct — no funds actually come out of it — and worse, it would require new taxes for the city to do what they’re already supposed to be doing: running a police department. Let’s stop wasting time on posturing and focus on real impact.
C: Real Estate Transfer Tax Exemption and Office Space Allocation
Yes: This measure reduces the taxes on office-to-housing conversions. SF is required by state law to build over 80k units of housing by 2031. This is a helpful step towards that large requirement, and making our most transit and real estate-rich neighborhoods into a dynamic, livable neighborhood. It’s the transformation Lower Manhattan had after 9/11 — and it’s now a dynamic place any day of the week.
D: Changes to Local Ethics Laws
Yes: This measure expands rules on bribery and gifts while centralizing ethics training. These are small and necessary changes. Not the overhaul we need to root out the deep-seeded corruption in City Hall, but “we should do more” isn’t a reason to oppose this (but also, let’s keep doing more).
E: Police Department Policies and Procedures
Yes: This measure gives police more latitude in car chases, accessing camera footage, and reducing written reports including in use-of-force cases. It also gives the Police Chief the right to waive oversight for other changes. The reality is this is yet another messaging exercise from the Mayor to look like she’s doing something—anything!!—to affect crime. An interview with the police union rep indicate that they don’t need and wouldn’t use many of their new powers. The police already have a process to obtain many of these powers with public review. I’m marginally in favor of this, but 🤷‍♂️? It’s small change where the biggest is giving the Police Chief a bit more power over the Police Commission.
F: Illegal Substance Dependence Screening and Treatment for Recipients of City Public Assistance
No: This measure requires recipients of low-income direct-cash transfers to undergo drug testing, and if found positive, to be denied benefits. On the surface the aims seem noble: reduce drug use to aid impoverished San Franciscans. Unfortunately, if you actually want to solve drug dependency issues and homelessness, decades of policy research shows in practice this sort of policy just doesn’t work (the Republican Congress in the 90s tried this), and worse, can have the opposite effect. Program space is limited for treatment programs. There is a room for making treatment a more likely option for those on the street, but this isn’t the solution. Instead, it smells like a messaging exercise from the Mayor and others to show they’re “doing things” before the November election, with so many carve-outs because they too know it risks making our problems worse. Let’s focus on what’ll actually solve these issues, not some public relations game.
G: Offering Algebra 1 to Eighth Graders
Yes: Cutting Algebra I off from eight graders was always a bad bet. And data is in: turns out it the last decade led to more learning loss for low income students and high income students leaving the school district. Literally no one in SF benefits. The measure is non-binding, and the school district has already acted on this data and public outcry (albeit wayy too slowly). This is still useful to send a message to any school board member who questions whether voters care about education outcomes over the political games and drama of the past few years: educate students well, full stop.

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