Is it possible that tiny Inverness could play a major role in a statewide election? Perhaps so. Two of the nine initiative measures that qualified for the Nov. 6 ballot were the brainchilds of, and largely written by, Inverness residents.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper, a part-time resident of Inverness, was back in the news this year with another of his measures to split up California, this time into three states. Fortunately, his Prop. 9 was thrown off the ballot by the state Supreme Court, which found it to be an invalid use of the initiative process.
Inverness’s Jerry Meral, a one-time official with the state’s Natural Resources Agency, is faring better with Prop. 3, an $8.887 billion bond measure to fund a grab bag of water-related infrastructure projects. His effort looks good on the surface, but increasingly is drawing flak, most surprisingly a vote-no recommendation from a natural ally, the California chapter of the Sierra Club.
This year’s ballot contains a number of measures that aren’t easy to figure out, so let’s take a look at all of them, as well as some of the offices up for election. The Light is not endorsing candidates for West Marin elective offices.
At the top of the ballot, my nod for governor goes to the current lieutenant governor—and Marin resident—Gavin Newsom. His rival, Republican John Cox, seems to be almost as wild a card as Donald Trump, whom he supports wholeheartedly. Not only is Cox an issues troglodyte, it was just a few years ago that he toted his carpetbag into California from Illinois, where he lost largely self-funded races for Congress, Senate, governor and even, yes, president. With a top-of-the-ticket candidate as reactionary as Cox, is it any surprise the G.O.P. is sinking into obscurity in California, where voters registered as “decline to state” now outnumber those registered as Republicans?
The lieutenant governor race is a bit of a puzzler between two Democrats, Ed Hernandez, a state senator and an optometrist, and Eleni Kounalakis, president of a housing development firm and Barack Obama’s ambassador to Hungary. She has drawn fire because her father, a wealthy real estate developer, contributed $8 million to an independent expenditure committee formed specifically to support her campaign. Neither candidate has very high name recognition, but Hernandez has a proven track record on issues such as universal health care, environmental protection, education and labor rights. Kounalakis is more dynamic than the folksy Hernandez, but he can point to legislative accomplishments that reflect my values, whereas I’m not so sure where she stands on many of the issues I care about.
Moving quickly through the other state offices, vote Alex Padilla for secretary of state, Betty Yee for state controller, Fiona Ma for treasurer, Xavier Becerra for attorney general (my reservations about him at the time of the primary have dissipated), Ricardo Lara for insurance commissioner, and Malia Cohen for board of equalization.
Also at the statewide level, I strongly urge you to vote for Tony Thurmond for superintendent of public instruction. His opponent, Marshall Tuck, is a veteran charter-schools advocate who, not surprisingly, is funding his campaign largely from a $10-million donation from a PAC dedicated to privatizing the nation’s schools.
That brings us to United States senator. My support remains with Dianne Feinstein. I was shocked by the eagerness of her opponent, Kevin de León, to carry Trump’s water into California by attacking her for her prudent handling of the Christine Blasey Ford revelations in preparation for the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. De León didn’t come off looking very senatorial, if you ask me.
Closer to home, it’s a pleasure to support Jared Huffman for another term as our representative in Congress, and to endorse incumbent Mike McGuire as state senator. For state assembly, I support staunchly progressive Dan Monte over incumbent Marc Levine. The latter casts too many votes that seem influenced by the agendas of major campaign contributors, such as Walmart, pharmaceutical companies and (especially) people like John Scully and his deep-pocket, multibillionaire friends in the California Charter Schools Association. Monte is our man.
Anna Pletcher deserves our vote for Marin County district attorney. For the three open seats on the Marin community college district board, the best candidates are the two experienced incumbents, Wanden Treanor and Diana Conti, plus newcomer Suzanne Brown Crow, who will provide essential representation for the Novato end of the district. Finally, I recommend the two incumbents for three seats on the board of the Marin health care district, Larry A. Bedard and Jennifer Rienks, and Brian W. Su. I’m appalled by the candidacy of Melissa Bradley for a seat on this board; she’s the local real estate company mogul whom I remember with a shudder from my days on the county planning commission when she orchestrated demonstrations in opposition to affordable housing.
There’s one countywide question on this year’s ballot, Measure AA, which asks us to renew by a two-thirds vote the half-percent transportation sales tax adopted by voters in 2004. The proceeds of this tax have underwritten a tremendous amount of good work in recent years and have leveraged much additional state and federal funding for transportation and roadway improvements. The estimated $27 million Measure AA will raise over each of the next 30 years is essential if we’re to have any hope of getting a handle on traffic congestion in Marin. It’s important to vote yes on AA.
I’m guardedly in favor of Measure I, Shoreline school district’s $19.5 million in bonds for repairing and modernizing outdated classrooms and buildings, replacing aging portables, upgrading infrastructure, constructing new educational facilities and improving access to technology. I make this recommendation with my fingers crossed that we’ll also see major improvements in the district’s leadership, communication and responsiveness, both administratively and—especially—at the school board level. Measure I requires a 55-percent majority to pass.
Bolinas will vote on Measure X, an advisory vote to urge the county to restrict overnight parking downtown in order to force out vehicles being used for human habitation. I’m not taking a position on this item, because it is the opinions of the residents of Bolinas that matter in this non-binding measure. Stinson Beach residents should vote yes on their fire district’s appropriations limit override, which will ensure that all tax revenues intended for the district are distributed by the county to the district.
The most intriguing local issue is Measure W, which asks that we authorize an increase from 10 percent to 14 percent in the transient occupancy tax on overnight accommodations in West Marin. The estimated $1.3 million in annual revenue will be split evenly between local fire departments and affordable housing initiatives. It requires a two-thirds majority to pass. I’m disappointed that instead of a spirited give-and-take discussion of the issues surrounding this proposal, the opposition has focused on polemics that are largely irrelevant and border on the incoherent. If you don’t see it in the letters to the editor, see the voter handbook’s mishmash of non sequiturs and rehashes of old grievances (especially the truculent “Rebuttal to argument in favor of Measure W”). Measure W may not be perfect, but it’s a fairly ingenious and painless way to generate a significant amount of revenue for two worthwhile causes that resonate with residents throughout West Marin. Vote yes on W.
Now let’s get back to those troublesome, but in some cases very important, state ballot propositions. I recommend no votes on Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 7; all the others deserve yes votes.
Voting yes on Props. 1 and 2 expresses support for affordable housing, with Prop. 2 targeting housing for mentally ill homeless people. Prop. 4, equally worthwhile, is a $1.5-billion bond measure to fund grants for construction, expansion, renovation and equipping of nonprofit and public children’s hospitals. Who could say no to hospitals dedicated to the care of children?
Prop. 8 aims to put the brakes on runaway profiteering in dialysis clinics. Experience within my own family has shown how dialysis has become one of the medical industry’s most lucrative gravy trains (mostly from Medicare dollars!), so I support Prop. 8.
Prop. 10 would restore to local governments the authority to enact rent control laws. It doesn’t impose rent control anywhere, but it does seem reasonable to allow the citizens of individual cities and counties to make these decisions.
Prop. 11 is a narrow measure that allows private-sector ambulance employees to remain on-call while on rest and meal breaks. If you need an ambulance, you assume it will be dispatched immediately, not when the driver’s snack break is over.
Prop. 12 asks voters to set specific standards for the sizes of cages in which certain farm animals are confined (chickens, veal calves and pigs, in particular). This measure became necessary because of the omission of objective standards in previous voter-approved restrictions on confinement of animals on industrial-scale farms, and we should pass it.
There are four state measures we should oppose. I am convinced by the California Sierra Club’s vigorous opposition to Prop. 3’s water bonds. The club said the proposition “flies in the face of good governance by being written behind the scenes by those who would gain funds from it.” Bonds for statewide infrastructure projects should be put together through the legislative process, not behind closed doors by “pay-to-play” special interests who hire signature gatherers to shoehorn their self-serving handiwork onto the ballot. As the Sierra Club notes, the measure contains no provision for legislative oversight of how funds are spent or of the efficacy of the programs it would create. It even takes away revenues from other worthwhile endeavors, such as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, and gives that money to the Metropolitan Water District and Central Valley agribusiness water agencies. Vote no on Prop. 3.
The real estate industry is behind Prop. 5, claiming piously that its intent is to enable homeowners over 55 to keep their existing home’s property tax savings when they move to a different home. While that may be true on some scale, the proposition’s real beneficiaries are real-estate speculators who would be unleashed to churn houses indefinitely without ever incurring property tax reassessments. Savings for these investors would come at the expense of billions of dollars in lost property-tax income to schools and local government. No on 5.
Prop. 6 misuses the initiative process. In 2017, our state legislators for once proved themselves to be the adults in the room by passing a long-overdue increase in fuel and vehicle taxes to address chronic shortfalls in funds for maintaining the state’s increasingly decrepit roads, highways and transit programs. In a move of Trumpian cynicism and hubris, a cohort of mostly Republican politicos, rallied by gubernatorial candidate John Cox, paid signature gatherers to place Prop. 6 on the ballot to repeal the increased taxes. They even had the gall to make their measure a constitutional amendment that would lock their dirty work into place should it pass. This proposition would cost the state $5.1 billion in annual revenues and accelerate the deterioration of all elements of California’s transportation infrastructure. Don’t be beguiled into saving a few pennies at the pump; you’ll pay much more in the long run as roads crumble and traffic gridlock becomes endemic. Please do the responsible thing and vote no on 6.
Prop. 7 asks us to tell the legislature whether we want California to solicit the federal government for permission to adopt year-round daylight savings time (to do so would then require a two-thirds vote in the legislature). When year-round D.S.T. was tried nationwide in 1974, it proved very unpopular and was quickly abandoned, largely because in the dead of winter parents became alarmed that they were packing their children off to school before sunrise. Prop. 7 seems a waste of space on the ballot and should be rejected.
Addendum: Vote no on Prop. 11
In the election endorsements in last week’s issue we recommended a yes vote on Prop. 11, which is about rest and meal breaks for paramedics and E.M.T.s on private-sector ambulances. The voter handbook contains no argument against Prop. 11, but further research revealed a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hourly workers in California need not be paid while on meal breaks. Yet a 2016 state Supreme Court decision found that private security guards must be paid while on meal breaks if they remain on call and may have to interrupt their meal break to respond to an emergency call. Presumably, the same would apply to the paramedics and E.M.T.s who staff private ambulances. The impetus for Prop. 11 was California’s largest private ambulance company, American Medical Response. According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, this company has been the sole contributor to the campaign, to the tune of $22 million. It appears that the real purpose of Prop. 11 is to have voters insulate the private ambulance industry from having the Supreme Court’s ruling applied to it. I now recommend a no vote on Prop. 11. It is only fair that private ambulance workers, who are typically low paid, should be paid for their time on meal breaks if they have to remain on duty at the same time.
Wade Holland, the Light’s copy editor, is a 48-year resident of Inverness.