I’m going through my Alameda County vote-by-mail ballot and decided to share what I’m thinking and links to useful resources.
If you haven’t already also consider registering to vote by mail — link to form for Alameda County residents (pdf). Easier to think about it that way; you can still drop it off at your local polling station on Election Day.
UPDATED 3pm 10/31 to include Berkeley rent board, school directors, and AC Transit/BART directors. I still have to do Berkeley ballot measures at some point, hopefully tomorrow.
UPDATED 5pm 11/4 to include Berkeley bond measures.
State Ballot Initiatives
This is by far the most work to think about each of these initiatives. I exclusively used Ballotpedia to get information, which has a list of the ballot initiatives here. My links below jump directly to the “Supporters” section of the respective Ballotpedia entry (and the “Opponents” section below it) for each measure. I found those sections very useful to “follow the money” and generally gave me a pretty quick idea of which side I’m on.
- Prop 30. Yes. Tax increase to spend on education. League of Women Voters (“LWV”) and California Democratic Party support.
- Prop 31. No. Two year state budget rule, with various constraints on how the budget can be structured. While I’m really sure that California really needs a total restructuring of its budget process, this didn’t seem fully through through enough to warrant a vote for it.
- Prop 32. No. Restricts some campaign contributions but not super PACs and IECs. LWV, Common Cause, and California Democratic Party oppose.
- Prop 33. No. It’s about car insurance and the main donor in support is a car insurance CEO?
- Prop 34. Yes. Ends the death penalty in California. (It’s not a deterrent. It costs a lot more money. And if you make a mistake, you can’t undo it. Oh, and it’s cruel and uncivilized and most countries in the world don’t do it for that reason.)
- Prop 35. Yes. Penalties for Human Trafficking. Doesn’t seem to be any meaningful opposition to this one. Both Cal Dems and Republican parties support.
- Prop 36. Yes. Reform to three strikes law. People getting life for nonviolent crimes is stupid, and this fixes that. NAACP legal fund and various police support.
- Prop 37. Yes. Supported by organic food growers and producers and Michael Pollan. Opposed by Monsanto, DuPont, and every other maker of GMOs (who have spent huge amounts of money to advertising on this issue). Really a cautionary tale about how corporate spending can influence an election.
- Prop 38. No. Both California Republican and Democratic Party oppose. If they can agree on something, who am I to disagree?
- Prop 39. Yes. Favored by California based corporations and increases tax revenues. Opposed by out-of-state corporations and the California, and California Republican Party.
- Prop 40. Yes. Reaffirming redistricting. Supported by LWV, AARP, Common Cause, both the California Republican and Democratic Parties. (The Republicans put it on the ballot to try to oppose it, but then changed their mind. Very confusing.).
Alameda County Initiatives.
- Prop A1. No. Ballot measure for more money for the zoo. I’m more into the zoo learning to become more self-sufficient, and am disturbed that the zoo is using so much of its (taxpayer) money to lobby for more money for itself.
- Prop B1. Big yes on more money for bike lanes and public transit.
National And State People
President. No surprise that I’m voting for Obama again. The idea of Romney running the country and dropping social services and increasing tax preferences for the wealthy and corporations is disturbing.
Senator. Feinstein. I’d like someone more liberal (Feinstein is for capital punishment, voted for the Iraq war, and has excessively pro-Hollywood positions on copyright, see Wikipedia) but republican candidate Emken sure isn’t it.
Representative, 13 District. Barbara Lee. Only representative to vote against the open-ended Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists that has gotten us bogged down in an excessively open-ended war against terrorism. Generally liberal and looks out for the little guy.
Mayor: I voted for Tom Bates, although not super-enthusiastically. This is a good piece in Berkeleyside, ostensibly on ranked choice voting, but with descriptions of the candidates. In a rare case where an internet forum doesn’t spiral into drivel, the comments section is actually kind of helpful too. There seems to be a general sense that Tom Bates has been mayor too long or is somehow too well connected, but neither of the well-organized opposition candidates (Kriss Worthington and Jacquelyn McCormick) had much to say that resonated with me. I put Worthington as second place since he has experience as a councilmember and an impressive list of endorsements. McCormick seems too bent on fighting unions and spending less money; but Berkeley’s fiscal state seems ok enough for the time being to not make that a key issue. See also this Berkeleyside piece on a Q&A evening with the candidates and local journalists.
For Berkeley city council member. In general, check out the League of Women Voters videos of candidates on the East Bay LWV’s YouTube Channel. For District 2, where I live, I’m annoyed that incumbent Darryl Moore hasn’t responded to a couple of emails I’ve sent him, but he does have a good record of getting the south branch of the library rebuilt, Sacramento St. repaved, and San Pablo Park renovated. So I voted for him.
Berkeley Rent Commissioners. I read this Berkeleyside piece, and generally the opposition people (Shenoy, Hunt, Drake, James), who support the idea that the current commissioner is overpaid, sound more reasonable. I looked through their slate’s website and they seem like a reasonable set of people with appropriate experience (a current Rent Board member, an attorney, a Berkeley Mechanical Engineer, and an aide to the vice-mayor).
School Directors. Daily Cal piece on the candidates here; there are two seats up for grabs. Judy Appel has a zillion signs out, and is endorsed by seemingly everyone. Tracy Hollander is a teacher and seemed sane.
AC Transit Director at-large. Two candidates — one the existing at-large director and the other a retired bus driver. Generally I think AC Transit is doing well, and that being a bus driver doesn’t qualify one to run the bus system. I didn’t think terribly hard about it but voted for Peeples.
AC Transit Director Ward 1. Based on this East Bay Express article, Yelda Bartlett sounds much better endorsed (by various organizations) and with-it than incumbent Wallace. Plus Bartlett is an attorney, which I think helps in public service jobs and gives her an edge. So I voted for her.
BART Director District 7. Relevant Berkeleyside article here (District 7 is discussed starting after a few paragraphs). I’m voting for Mallet. Despite his goofy moustache, he has degrees from Stanford and Cal in urban planning.
Berkeley Ballot Measures
Based on reading through pro and con statements and looking at funding for yes/no campaigns here.
Meausure M. Yes. $30MM bond for street improvements and infrastructure. This is what governments are supposed to do: improve infrastructure.
Measure N. No. $20MM bond for pool improvement. I’m just not that into pools, and the “no” argument has a point that there are a lot of other pool options around that are reasonably priced.
Measure O. No. Improved-land tax for pools. See Measure N.
Measure P. Yes. Allowing expenditures. There are no arguments filed against.
Measure Q. Yes. Updates to utility users tax. Again no arguments filed against, seems like a bureaucratic necessity.
Measure R. Yes. Update to redistricting. Supported by the mayor, LWV, Berkeley Common Cause. Opposed by one person who wrote a book on redistricting, but the argument is not clear.
Measure S. No. Sidewalk sitting ordinance. I think that criminalizing being homeless or panhandling is not the right way to address the problem. Also, the “for” campaign is entirely businesses, the against entirely individuals (and a lot of individuals at that).
Measure T. No. Allowing development of West Berkeley. Seems like developers for, West Berkeley residents against. The idea of a huge commercial development abutting Aquatic Park is not thrilling, particularly if it is going to be all under the “same ownership”. Sounds like a giveaway to developers. All donors for it are corporations, LLCs, or politiicians.
Measure U. No. “Sunshine” Ordinance. Sounds like a good idea, but drafted in an ungainly way that requires so much disclosure that it would slow down government. LWV, Loni Hancock are against, a few Berkeley residents are against.
Measure V. No. Bars new financing unless certain biennial reports on financing are approved, and it sounds like approval of the reports could be blocked by special interests. Bunch of neighborhood associations are for, LWV, a couple of Berkeley Councilmembers and Loni Hancock against. Like U, it seems to be a well-intentioned government oversight function, but drafted in a away that would impair the functioning of the government. At the moment Berkeley has an AA bond rating so I’m not feeling a need for further red tape that might impair the operation of the city.