As we approach the upcoming local and state election, the “democracy” we live in is at a crossroads.
The global pandemic has shown that politicians and corporations are unwilling to ensure the safety and well-being of those who do the work. The recent Supreme Court decisions to make abortion illegal, its undermining of voting rights for people of color, and its forthcoming hearing on tribal sovereignty are just some examples of democracy for a few at the expense of the majority.
In response, the reformists are telling us to vote for “good” Democrats. But the Democrats are part of the problem because they are one of the twin parties of Big Business and have no genuine interest in stopping the attacks on working people.
The good news is that workers are fighting back and winning! Workers in the private sector have made incredible strides by creating brand-new unions, such as the ones at Starbucks and Amazon. Each of these unionization drives has inspired the next, as well as workers in other parts of the economy. Mental health care workers at Kaiser started their strike on August 15, and of this writing, are still fighting to ensure timely care and adequate staffing. Food service workers at the San Francisco airport recently went on strike and won a 29% raise!
California’s “top-2” primary system that prevents third-party candidates from advancing to the state General Election leaves working-class voters with few anti-capitalist choices (as write-ins), and often none at all. In this particular statewide election, there are indeed none.
However, on the local level, Oakland residents can vote for a revolutionary socialist named John Reimann who is running for Oakland Mayor. Reimann is an independent Trotskyist who calls for ending privatization, substantially raising wages, urgent action against climate change, and the formation of a revolutionary working-class mass movement, among other good things. If you live in Oakland, we recommend a vote for Reimann.
The upcoming election presents us with numerous measures addressing several of the multitude of problems we are currently grappling with. Reproductive rights, public workers’ pensions, homelessness, housing, education funding, public street access, the environment, gambling laws, and Native American tribal autonomy are all on this ballot. However, some of these reforms are coming out of working people’s pockets through increased taxes, giant giveaways to corporations, and loosening of City hiring procedures.
We’ve carefully analyzed the ballot measures in San Francisco and California through the lens of how each proposition impacts working people. Unfortunately, space does not permit us to include every measure.
We have all seen during these pandemic years just how severely dysfunctional the system is. The ballot box can be used to win some limited reforms, or prevent egregious measures, but ultimately working people have to take power in their own interests. In order to make real and lasting change, we need to work for a new society that ensures equality and resources for all. This world is crying to become a socialist world and how we get there is by joining a revolutionary feminist party that can solve the global environmental, economic, and political problems that are destroying the planet and its inhabitants.
I invite you to stop by our offices or give me a call to discuss how to join the Freedom Socialist Party and get involved. Give me a ring or an email if you want to discuss any of our ballot recommendations. I can be reached at 415-864-1278 or email@example.com.
Nancy Reiko Kato
Freedom Socialist Party Bay Area Organizer
California Statewide Ballot Measure Recommendations
PROPOSITION 1: Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom, Legislative Constitutional Amendment—VOTE YES
Prop 1 would establish an explicit constitutional right to reproductive freedom, which is defined to include a right to choose to have an abortion and to choose or refuse contraceptives. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade determined that abortion rights could not be protected by states through using the privacy rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—thus, the need to explicitly guarantee reproductive rights in the State Constitution.
Proposition 26: In-Person Sports Betting in Tribal Casinos—VOTE YES Prop 26 would legalize in-person sports betting, roulette, and dice games at tribal casinos, and sports betting at four horse race tracks. It would also authorize private lawsuits to enforce gambling laws. Tribal income would support services to their members. A 10% tax on racetrack profits would go to the state. Opponents say that gambling addiction will increase. However, we support this measure as a matter of tribal sovereignty.
Proposition 27: Online Sports Betting—VOTE NO
Prop 27 would allow vast online sports betting across the state outside Native American tribal lands. Giant out-of-state gambling corporations, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, would receive 90% of the revenue from this measure and only have to pay a 10% tax on net income. After the state covers its regulatory costs, only the remainder of that 10% would go to homelessness and mental health programs. The hype about ending homelessness is a deceptive PR gimmick.
NOTE: Prop 26 and Prop 27 both legalize sports betting in different ways. If both pass, any conflicts between them would be resolved in favor of the provisions in the proposition that received the most yes votes.
Proposition 28: Additional Funding for Arts and Music Education in Public Schools— VOTE YES
Prop 28 does not raise taxes but would create a dedicated annual source of funding from the state general fund for arts and music education in K-12 pubic and charter schools. 80% of these funds would pay for qualified personnel, with the remaining on training, supplies, and materials. A greater proportion of the funds would go to schools serving economically disadvantaged students. This measure requires the use of existing accounts and does not seek funding through a regressive tax or bond measure, although it does help charter schools.
Proposition 29: Kidney Dialysis Clinics—VOTE YES
Prop 29 would require dialysis clinics to have at least one physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant present while patients are being treated; to report on dialysis-related infections; to get state approval before reducing services or closing clinics; and to not discriminate on basis of payment source. The campaign ads against the measure, largely funded by the big private clinics, DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, argue that patients will die if the measure passes. Don’t believe the hype. We oppose the profit motive for dialysis treatment and support higher quality healthcare for dialysis patients, especially low-income patients who have limited access. Ultimately, what’s needed is quality socialized healthcare for all.
Proposition 30: Income Tax on Millionaires for Electric Cars—VOTE NO Prop 30 would increase tax on personal income over $2 million by 1.75% for 20 years. 45% will go to rebates on zero-emission vehicle purchases, 35% for charging stations, and 20% for wildfire prevention and suppression. Lyft, which is the major funder, would greatly benefit in meeting zero-emission vehicle deadlines, and the subsidies could cause higher vehicle prices. While it is tempting to support this tax on the rich, we are concerned about other consequences. The vast expansion of electric vehicles would severely strain our struggling electricity grid, where 61% of our electricity generation comes from fossil fuels and 19% from nuclear energy. Prop 30 focuses on single cars that many poor and working people cannot afford, even with rebates. We should tax the rich for Green public transportation—i.e., a collective and community solution vs. subsidies for individual car ownership. We also criticize the proposition’s loophole that avoids the requirement that a part of any new tax revenue will fund education.
Proposition 31: Ban on Flavored Tobacco—VOTE NO
Prop 31 would decide whether to overturn a 2020 law that bans the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products and menthol cigarettes. A “yes” vote upholds the current ban; a “no” vote would strike it down and allow the sale of flavored tobacco products. Although promoted as a measure to stop underage tobacco use, the 2020 law is merely a prohibition on selling certain tobacco products to adults. It is already illegal in California to sell or give tobacco and vapor products to anyone under the age of 21. Throughout history, prohibition has not worked, with
such laws being selectively enforced against people of color and other oppressed groups. More effective health education would better protect children’s health.
San Francisco Ballot Measure Recommendations
Measure A: Retiree Supplemental Cost of Living Adjustment—VOTE YES Currently, cost-of-living increases for City retirees are tied to how the pension plan performs. Retired workers only receive a COLA increase when the City’s pension system is “fully funded,” meaning it has gotten enough capital contributions and enough return on the stock market to meet the fund administrator’s yearly expectations, which is completely out of the retirees’ hands. Under the proposed changes, they would receive increases whether the City’s pension is fully funded at the time or not. Retroactive increases would be paid to those who hadn’t received increases due to the current system. Ensuring regular COLA increases is a small but important reform in these difficult economic times. A downside is that the City is allowed to sidestep some usual safeguards to hire new Executive Directors. Allowing hiring rules to be changed opens the door wider for abuse, but a greater number of people would benefit from this measure.
Measure C: Homelessness Oversight Commission—VOTE YES
Measure C would create a Homelessness Oversight Commission to oversee the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The Commission would have the power to set policies, approve departmental budgets, remove department heads if necessary, and conduct investigations into any aspect of the City government’s operations within its jurisdiction.
The Commission is appointed by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors and must have at least one member who has personally experienced homelessness. Additional members must have experience providing services or advocacy for the homeless, including children, youth, and families.
San Francisco’s homelessness crisis is only getting worse and The City urgently needs to step up its response. A Commission with the power to remove bad department heads is a start. However, having appointed, instead of elected, commissioners removes a layer of accountability.
Measures D and E: Approval of New “Affordable” Housing—VOTE NO on D; YES on E Measures D and E would change City laws to expedite the approval of new so-called “affordable” housing, but with different methods and outcomes.
Measure D would allow private corporate housing developers to bypass approvals by City boards, commissions, and officials, as well as public input, as long as those developments comply with the Planning Code. It would enable the City to raise the maximum rent cap, thereby allowing developers to get away with creating more unaffordable housing that qualifies as “affordable” on paper. As profit-maximizing capitalists, developers will always tend to use such schemes rather than create actual affordable housing. Measure D would also make the housing approval process less democratic by removing opportunities for public input.
Measure E would amend the City Charter to accelerate the review and approval of affordable housing projects by replacing the lengthy review, approval, and appeal processes conducted by City boards and commissions with streamlined reviews by the Planning Department. It would incorporate Annual Affordable Housing Allocation Reports into the City’s budget deliberation process, as well as officially declare the need to accelerate the approval of 100% affordable housing, educator housing, and other projects that increase housing for working class San Franciscans. Unlike Measure D, it would do all of this without raising the rent cap.
Measure G: Student Success Fund—VOTE YES
Measure G would establish a Student Success Fund, with the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF) providing grants to SFUSD as well as individual schools for programs that improve academic achievement and social/emotional wellness of students. Unfortunately, charter schools are eligible for funding, which takes away money from public education.
The measure helps the development of strong community school frameworks. However, additional measures need to be taken to ensure that economically disadvantaged schools are given priority for this funding.
Measures I, J, and N: Closures of JFK Drive and The Great Highway; Make Golden Gate Park Parking Garage Public—VOTE NO on I; NO on J; YES on N
Measure I would re-open both JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway to cars. The problem is that the measure should not combine two completely different issues. Reopening JFK to cars would be a big boost for the accessibility of Golden Gate Park and its many amenities, especially for people with disabilities and others who need to ride in cars and be dropped off directly at their destination.
The Great Highway, on the other hand, should not be open to cars anymore, mainly due to the inevitable environmental degradation of that stretch of coastline. The busy road disrupts and erodes the dune-covered landscape, it is expensive and difficult to maintain, and it must eventually be reclaimed by nature.
Measure J focuses solely on JFK Drive, proposing that it be closed to cars on a full-time, permanent basis, which would not be a good idea for the reasons mentioned above.
Measure N would transfer responsibility of Golden Gate Park’s large underground parking area from the private non-profit that currently runs it to the City and County. This transfer from private to public hands is worth supporting, especially since parking rates can be lowered. Spaces that are publicly owned should be publicly operated!
Measure M: Tax on Vacant Units—VOTE YES
Measure M would implement an excise tax on owners of residential units that remain vacant for more than six months. This tax money would fund rental subsidies and the acquisition, rehabilitation, and operation of affordable housing. In SF, about 10% of our housing stock is vacant, totaling around 40,000 units. Meanwhile, thousands of San Franciscans remain unhoused, a number that is only expected to increase after pandemic-related restrictions on evictions are lifted.
If Measure M passes, it would be more difficult for real estate speculators to hold empty units – hopefully increasing housing availability in San Francisco. Real estate speculators should be targeted and taxed to counteract their destructive activities. The measure would force many of them to finally take in tenants, or sell their property to someone who will. It would also make them pay for new affordable housing.
Measure O: Parcel Tax for CCSF—VOTE NO
For years, FSP has been fighting to keep City College accessible to the entire community. However, the state and federal government’s policy is to destroy community colleges by underfunding, and ultimately privatizing education. The City College administration has slashed classes, laid off hundreds of faculty and staff, and claimed a shortage of funds. While education funding is important, it should be done by the state and not homeowners. Measure O would impose a parcel tax on San Francisco homeowners, which is a regressive tax on the working class.
We disagree with the City College faculty union, AFT 2121, on this measure. We urge the unions, students and community to stand up to the state’s policies. With a state surplus of $97.5 billion, there is more than enough to restore many of the programs that have already been cut. This is a political problem, not a monetary one.
Of course we need to support City College, which provides some of the greatest opportunities and resources for working-class San Franciscans. However, this parcel tax is not the way to do that, and it completely misses the real point. The incredibly rich State of California needs to pay up and stop trying to downsize and privatize our community colleges!