Open Letter on the November 6 California General Election – San Francisco

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Dear Friend,

The midterm elections are taking place as we continue to see the dire effects of the Trump presidency, supported by a Congress and judiciary that are equally against the working-class majority, especially its most vulnerable members. Once again, we also see the limitations of voting under a two-party system in which both the Democrats and Republicans are creatures of capitalism beholden to their corporate sponsors. Nevertheless, the elections give Californians the opportunity to stave off a few attacks and support a couple of positive measures that could help to stem the reactionary tide.

Nationally, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings exposed the sexism that is absolutely baked into the capitalist system, while the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling further weakens the labor movement’s power. Business makes scandalous profits while food and gas prices rise, housing becomes scarcer, and good jobs disappear. In the Bay Area, the homeless crisis worsens, and working families and people of color are pushed out while corporations are welcomed with open arms.

But there’s plenty to be optimistic about. Working people are fighting for the change they wish to see in the world.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, outraged women and their supporters took to the streets and shook the elite old boy’s network to its rotten core. (Meanwhile, the Democrats tut-tutted over Kavanaugh’s misogyny but refused to mount a political challenge to his whole reactionary agenda.) Masses of protesters shut down the white supremacists in Washington, D.C., and held sit-ins to stop ICE raids and detentions. Last spring’s wildcat strike by West Virginia teachers encouraged others to take to the picket line. Super-exploited hotel workers across the country, many of them immigrants, are demanding a living wage from Marriott. Locally, we are invigorated by dozens of Black San Francisco public workers calling the city on its blatant racism. The resistance is brewing!

Unfortunately, all this militancy hasn’t yet translated into explicitly anti-capitalist alternatives on our ballots locally. Candidates Tony Hall, running for supervisor in San Francisco, and Cat Brooks, campaigning for mayor in Oakland, are critical of the profit system but believe it can be made kinder and gentler, offering no lasting solution.

The electoral process itself stifles real voices for workers, as only the top two primary candidates, those with the largest campaign war chests, appear on the ballot for the general election. That’s why we also see no anti-capitalist candidates on the ballot for statewide office.

Please see our voting recommendations below. If you would like to discuss any of our positions, or you want to get involved in building a movement that can truly take power for working people and bring about socialism, please contact me (415-864-1278, bafsp@earthlink.net) or visit our organizing center at 747 Polk Street in San Francisco.

In solidarity,
Bob Price
Freedom Socialist Party Organizer

Freedom Socialist Party Voting Recommendations

Statewide Ballot Measures

NO to bonds for funding necessities. NO to pitting needed services against each other.

Propositions 1, 3 and 4 are general obligation bonds. These bonds place new burdens on taxpayers to fund projects that the general fund should already be paying for. California is the fifth largest economy in the world and can afford to pay for these necessities. Instead of taxing the poor and working class, make the corporations pay.

Proposition 1 (Bond to provide veterans’ housing) – Vote NO
Proposition 1 says it aims to help veterans and some farmworkers by funding $4 billion for housing and “housing-related” programs, an important goal. But it will end up costing nearly $6 billion in tax dollars to pay this money back, with a large portion going to private developers and banks who’ll profit from the construction and/or sale of these projects.

Proposition 2 (Uses Mental Health Services Act revenue for housing) – Vote NO
This measure allows the state to issue bonds in the amount of $2 billion. But the funds will be paid back with money previously authorized by voters in 2004 for mental health services. It will end up costing nearly $6 billion to pay off! While the mentally ill need housing, this cynically pits housing against mental health services, and steals voter-approved funds to move them from one pot to another. We agree with those from the National Alliance on Mental Illness who oppose Prop 2!  

Proposition 3 (Bond for water pipelines and watershed conservation) – Vote NO
This initiative authorizes $8.87 billion in spending on water pipelines and basic environmental conservation. With interest, the cost would be more like $17 billion! Benefitting are the banks that loan the money. Water pipelines and basic environmental plans should be maintained without going into debt. Along with the Sierra Club and Friends of the River, we encourage a NO vote.

Proposition 4 (Bonds for children’s hospitals) – Vote NO
This would allocate $1.5 billion for construction and expansion of several children’s hospitals in the state. We need decent hospitals and children deserve the highest standard of care. The state could reallocate some of the $10 billion per year from the California Department of Corrections for this.  Universal quality healthcare for all is desperately needed, provided by publicly owned medical centers and hospitals, paid for by corporate taxes.

Along with the League of Women Voters of California, we recommend a NO vote!

Proposition 5 (Allows some homeowners to move to a new dwelling without facing increased property taxes)Vote YES
Currently homeowners pay property taxes based on the price of their dwellings. The assessed value is adjusted upward for inflation, up to 2% per year and can increase some when refinancing occurs. However, because of the huge increase in real estate prices over the past 20-30 years, many homeowners’ taxes are based on assessed values far below market rate. Should these people sell their homes and move, they easily face property taxes that are many times greater. Proposition 5 allows Californians to take their prior home’s tax assessment with them to any county in the state if they are over 55, have a disability, or are replacing property damaged by natural disaster or contamination. Currently, only ten counties allow such homeowners to bring in their taxable values from dwellings sold in other parts of the state. No working-class homeowner should be prevented from moving or penalized for the housing hyperinflation resulting from gentrification and out-of-control real estate speculation. This measure addresses some of those most in need; therefore, we support it.

Proposition 6 (Eliminates fuel and vehicle taxes passed since January 1, 2017 and requires voter approval for any future fuel and vehicle taxes/fees)Vote YES
Since January of last year, working folks have been hit with higher gasoline taxes and vehicle licensing fees to pay for highway and road maintenance and programs like mass transit. These are the most regressive of taxes that disproportionately affect low income people who depend on cars to get to work. Corporations that rely on the transportation infrastructure to ship goods and bring in employees should pay for it through taxes. For example, a severance tax on oil and fossil fuel extraction should be levied on companies like Chevron, but California is the only state in the U.S. without such an assessment.

While we are for rolling back regressive taxes on drivers, we are critical of this measure’s requirement that voters approve any future fuel taxes or vehicle fees. This could open the door for voter approval of all taxes, with corporations spending obscene amounts to stop taxes they oppose.

Proposition 8 (Limits amounts kidney dialysis clinics charge for treatment)Vote YES
Most people with kidney failure depend on dialysis clinics for multiple weekly treatments to stay alive. Most outpatient facilities are privately-run and for-profit enterprises that can charge insurance companies several times the cost of care. Proposition 8 limits charges to 15% over the cost of treatments. Medical industry ads claim that this measure will force dialysis centers to close, but all it does is rein them in. This is a step in the right direction to stop brazen profiteering. Together with the Service Employees International Union and the California Public Employees Retirement System we urge a YES vote.

Proposition 10 (Allows local governments to enact strict rent control by repealing restrictions)Vote YES!!
In California’s hyperinflated housing market, many working people are forced to pay more than half of their income in rent, putting them on the brink of homelessness. Strong rent control laws are needed to make housing truly affordable. However, the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prevents cities and municipalities from enacting real rent control that covers all housing. Landlords can increase rents without limit when a new tenant moves in, thereby encouraging eviction of current renters.

Prop. 10 repeals Costa-Hawkins to allow local governments to enact rent control and limit rent increases. This measure will provide relief to millions who live paycheck to paycheck.

Housing is a right and should not be a profit-making venture. The government needs to build and operate high-quality public dwellings to ensure that everyone has a place to call home. Along with the California Nurses Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; AIDS Healthcare Foundation; and San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, we wholeheartedly encourage you to vote YES!

Proposition 11 (Requires ambulance employees who work for private companies to remain on call during breaks) – Vote NO
This measure will require private sector ambulance employees, who are entitled to breaks by current state law, to remain on call during rest times! This allows companies to hire smaller staffs and maximize their profits. Publicly run ambulance services should be an integral part of a universal healthcare system. We join the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Labor in recommending a NO vote on Proposition 11.

San Francisco Ballot Measures
San Francisco just approved an $11.1 billion budget for the next two years. The city also hands out tax breaks to businesses. It can pay for general maintenance without regressive taxation.

Proposition A (Embarcadero Seawall Improvement Bonds) – Vote NO
For all the reasons stated above, a general obligation bond is not the right way to pay for needed improvements to the seawall. We join with the San Francisco Tenants Union in urging a NO vote on Prop A.

Proposition B (Personal Information Protection Policy Charter Amendment) – Vote NO
In an era when corporations share our personal information and retailers allow security breaches that make our personal finances vulnerable, it is important to fight for ways to protect our privacy. Unfortunately, Proposition B contains more ways for local officials to manipulate the city’s record keeping and actually strip away important Sunshine ordinances. These are critical laws that allow public access to important government information and the possibility of holding officials accountable. This measure might protect individual privacy to a degree, but the potential for cover-up and deception from it is too great. We agree with the San Francisco Labor Council in saying NO on Prop B.

Proposition C (Gross Receipts Tax for Homelessness Services) – Vote YES
This is a refreshing tax-the-rich measure! Prop C will generate $250-300 million annually for homeless services by taxing businesses that make over $50 million in gross receipts in a year. This money can be used for rent subsidies, permanent supportive housing, short term shelters, hygiene programs and more. While measures like this need to go even further, and we are critical that banks and insurance companies are exempt from gross receipt taxes, we agree with the San Francisco Tenants Union and the Coalition on Homelessness and urge you to vote YES.

Proposition D (Marijuana Business Tax Increase) – Vote YES
Along with the SF League of Pissed Off Voters, we encourage a yes vote on this measure, which will tax cannabis businesses that make more than $500,000 in gross receipts at a rate of 1%-5%. Depending on various factors, the levy could increase up to 7%. The income to the City would be $2-4 million the first year, rising to $7-16 million in later years.

Proposition E (Partial Allocation of Hotel Tax for Arts and Culture) – Vote NO
This proposition earmarks some general fund money to support the arts and culture. While we believe working people deserve art and culture, we can’t agree with dedicating money for this from the general fund, which could diminish what’s available for public transit, youth shelters, libraries and other services. We say NO to Prop E!

Summary of Recommendations for November 6, 2018 California General Election

Candidates for City and County of San Francisco Office

Leave your ballot blank—there are no candidates running who advocate replacement of the failing, anti-working-class capitalist system

California Ballot Measures

Proposition 1 (Bond to provide veterans’ housing) Vote NO

Proposition 2 (Uses Mental Health Services Act revenue for housing) Vote NO

Proposition 3 (Bond for water pipelines and watershed conservation) Vote NO

Proposition 4 (Bonds for children’s hospitals) Vote NO

Proposition 5 (Allows some homeowners to move to a new dwelling without facing increased property taxes) Vote YES

Proposition 6 (Eliminates fuel and vehicle taxes passed since January 1, 2017 and requires voter approval for any future fuel and vehicle taxes/fees) Vote YES

Proposition 8 (Limits amounts kidney dialysis clinics charge for treatment) Vote YES

Proposition 10 (Allows local governments to enact strict rent control by repealing restrictions) Vote YES

Proposition 11 (Requires ambulance employees who work for private companies to remain on call during breaks) Vote NO

San Francisco Ballot Measures

Proposition A (Embarcadero Seawall Improvement Bonds) Vote NO

Proposition B (Personal Information Protection Policy Charter Amendment) Vote NO

Proposition C (Gross Receipts Tax for Homelessness Services) Vote YES

Proposition D (Marijuana Business Tax Increase) Vote YES

Proposition E (Partial Allocation of Hotel Tax for Arts and Culture) Vote NO

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