It is Presidential election season here in the US, which is nothing but fun, as I think you’ve noticed. To get in on this joy we get to share in this blessed year of Our Lord two thousand and twenty, It’s my endorsements!
Yes, I know this is about all I post lately. Sorry. I’ll try to change that1. It’s handy to have this around to pass to friends, but, most of all, I think best through writing: I discover my deeper feelings, I research more completely, and I force myself to make a clear statement. Hey, it worked for Joan Didion and Flannery O’Connor.
I’m not a neutral person. Presumably, you can easily tell my politics from this site. But, I am a person who believes in learning and improving. So, when I consider a political issue, even if it’s one close to my heart I’m prepared to change my mind, given a sufficient preponderance of evidence. To help me do this, I use principles informed by, among other things, Kaizen and Catholic Social Teaching.
- Is the policy fixed and static in the future, or can we learn from it and change it if needed? If current policy is not fixed and static in the future, does this policy change increase our ability to learn?
- Are we repeating success — either ours or someone else’s — or at least not perpetuating failure? If the current policy is failing, are we trying something new?
- In general, local government is more responsive to feedback and faster to change, as it is in the gemba for most policies. Does the policy localize authority?
- Is the policy based on explicit goals and objective, measurable reality? Goals are best achieved through a series of small, measurable, achievable steps, which helps prevent muda and muri.
- Does the policy rest on a coherent model of action, in which we can predict the result of a series of actions; predict if we will get the outcome we think we’ll get; and measure our results?
- Is revenue net positive or neutral?
- Are the endorsers of the policy suspicious?
- Given the opportunity to be kind or the opportunity to be mean, does this policy choose kindness?
- Does this policy respect the inherent dignity of the individual, and ideally help that dignity grow? Intolerance and anger are a form of muri.
- Do we seek the common good through this policy? Does this policy help us do our duties to others?
- Are the poor and vulnerable put first with this policy?
Given all that: my endorsements are below. The order mimics what I see in my vote-by-mail ballot.
Los Angeles Community College District Seats — None
I feel deeply unqualified to select these seats.
Member of the State Assembly, 62nd District — Autumn Burke
Burke has been an active member of the state Assembly, introducing important bills like AB 1196, which prohibits chokeholds; and AB 1185, which may help us Angelenos rein in our corrupt Sheriff. Although she was not my first pick when initially elected, she deserves another term.
Measure RR, LA Unified School District Bonds — Yes
LAUSD has been hit hard by COVID. RR is a well-written measure that spends money wisely, updating our school infrastructure to allow the safe use of our schools in this pandemic and in future ones; and ensuring that LAUSD students have access to the technology they need to learn at home or in the classroom. If we choose not to vote yes on this, there is no possibility that these costs can be covered by the schools’ operating budgets, or by the City or County. This is a clear case of “you get what you pay for,” and we want to get this. Most homeowners in LA will pay less than $200/year for the benefits of RR.
Water Replenishment District of Southern California, Member, Board of Directors, Division 2 — Rob Katherman
Rob Katherman has worked to focus the District’s work on meaningful improvements for the South Bay. While I’m not deeply convinced that LA’s water strategy is amazing, changes like groundwater desalination could make a difference. Katherman’s opponents are inexperienced in the issues dealt with by the District.
County Supervisor, 2nd District — Holly Mitchell
Incumbent Herb Wesson has supported past policies that made police less accountable for their actions. Holly Mitchell has been an effective reformer at all levels. She’s led on issues of race and equity throughout her legislative career, years before these issues were in the common discussion. Mitchell is what LA needs now.
District Attorney — George Gascón
It’s great to see Gascón, who was a reformer in the LA DA’s office a decade ago, come back home. Incumbent Jackie Lacey has been behind the curve on the issues of police accountability and equity in law enforcement that have come up over the past few years. She’s not an awful or unfair DA, but Gascón is whom LA needs now.
Judge of the Superior Court — None
I continue to not feel I can adequately assess the candidates for these positions.
Measure J: Divert 10% of Unrestricted County Budget to Alternatives for Incarceration — Yes
I tend to greatly dislike any law that sets a specific percentage of the budget that has to go to a single program or set of programs. This approach reduces our ability to learn and to react to future issues. However, it’s also hard to make dramatic course changes. If we want to try to imprison fewer people and rehabilitate more people, then that takes money and the determination to make a change decisively. Measure J does both of these. It’s also opposed by Sheriff Villanueva, which is a good reason for me to vote for most anything.
Measure2 14: Bonds for Stem Cell Research — No
I was for these bonds when they were proposed in 2004, but not so that the state could support this industry over the long term. Sixteen years later, it’s time for the industry to stand on its own.
Measure 15: Remove Some of Prop 13’s Property Tax Restrictions on Commercial Property — Yes
Property taxes are one of local government’s biggest sources of revenue nationwide. By cutting these taxes deeply, we’ve only cut our own schools, fire departments, and parks, not any form of “big government” in Sacramento — in fact, Prop 13 made local government more dependent on Sacramento. Making this change is necessary to put power and decision-making where they should be: in local government, close to the people they affect.
Measure 16: Bring Back Affirmative Action — Yes
So far as I am lead to understand, between 1969, when the Harvard Educational Review published an article stating that race determines IQ, and (Bakke in 1979)[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regents_of_the_Univ._of_Cal._v._Bakke], racism in America was solved. Perhaps the events of 2020 let us know it was not?
Beyond that, the explicit theory behind Proposition 209 was that creating guaranteed admission levels for students from California High Schools into the UC and Cal State system would provide adequate diversity. Yet our state institutes of higher education still don’t admit minority groups in the numbers we would expect from our wider population — or even hire educators in similar ratios. Let’s try something that worked to add diversity before, no?
Measure 17: Felons Can Vote After Completing Prison Sentence, Before Completing Non-Custodial Parts of Sentence — Yes
Ultimately, if folks are not included in society, they will choose to act outside it. We do a bad job of providing both rehabilitation to those who commit crimes, and restorative justice to the victims of crimes. Let’s not confuse causing harm to those who commit crimes — whether for its own sake or because we interpret that harm as punishment — as restorative justice for crime victims. The harm may be justice, or it may not, but that varies from individual to individual; some victims even find the harm unjust, for instance for religious reasons.
Once we have made the decision to allow the person who committed the crime back into society, we are all best served over any longer term by having that person truly re-enter society. Restoring their stake in society through the vote is a meaningful step along that path. The alternative is to be punitive for the pure sake of harming people who commit crimes.
Measure 18: 17-Year-Olds Can Vote in Primaries — Yes
I’m of two minds about this: on the one hand, I turned 18 during the ‘92 Presidential Election. I missed voting in the Primary, but I could vote in the General. It was fine. I didn’t need to be able to vote in the Primary to be passionate about a Clinton win.3 That said, any position that can be restated starting with “kids these days…” is something to be suspicious of.
Ultimately, when we set a rule about who can vote, we pick an age at which folks can vote, and a date at which they must reach that age. There’s no obvious reason why “18 at the time of the general election” makes more sense than “18 at the time of the primary election.” So, sure, why not?
Measure 19: Property Tax Base is Transferable — Yes
A major theme this year is “revise Prop 13,” which obviously I’m down with. I am for this policy because it allows individuals in disaster-prone wildfire or mudslide areas to sell their homes and move to safer areas while keeping their existing property tax base. We badly need folks to leave these areas and move into denser, more expensive suburban and urban areas, where fire isn’t nearly the challenge. The other changes in this package are fair enough, particularly since ripping off the bandaid of Prop 13 is going to be rough on many folks.
Measure 20: Less Parole, More Imprisonment, for More Crimes — No
While many claim that the 2018 changes to reduce the number of people we imprison have led to massive crime increases, the reality is that the crime increase was small; America is still safer than at any time during the 80s or 90s; and the crime increase occurred in places that didn’t reduce their incarceration rate as well. This is punitive for the sake of being punitive, without any evidence these policies will reduce crime or the cost of law enforcement and imprisonment.
Measure 21: Allows Rent Control — Yes
I am not particularly pro-rent control. In fact, given that our current policy problem is too little housing, this would seem to be a really bad time to enact a measure that controls rents and thus might reduce the rate at which new property is built. It is therefore a good thing that this Measure does not enact rent control — it simply allows local governments to enact rent control in more situations. So, if this Measure is passed and rent control is a bad idea for a community, that community is free to not enact rent control.
In general, I highly favor any change that devolves more power to local government. Most of us can call or e-mail our local representatives, or attend a town hall, and have a hope of getting the help we need and policies we want. If we don’t get it, then we typically represent a much larger percentage of the electorate that local representative needs than we do of our state and Federal reps. Local government can respond to the needs of a specific set of people in a specific place, rather than picking a policy that’s good for the most people in the most places. Measure 21 creates an environment in which local government can take the lead on rent control.
Measure 22: Employment Law Breaks for Uber and Grubhub — No
Years ago, all these app-based service industries offered all of us the chance to make some extra money on the side. Today, driving for Uber or delivering for Grubhub or shopping for Instacart has become a full-time job for many. There’s a reason that we decided that people should get paid with benefits for full-time jobs: that creates a more fair and just society in which people who work hard get paid decently. The mere fact that you get work through an app rather than by showing up at a union hall or knocking on doors to find a gig doesn’t mean that the value of the job has changed.
In many ways, this is a tax on app-based providers based on the fact that we don’t have universal healthcare and have stingy unemployment and retirement benefits. If folks didn’t have to depend on their job to provide these things, then maybe a more laissez-faire approach to employment regulation would be possible. But the solution for that isn’t making sure more people have worse jobs.
To the assertion that this will cause app-based piecework providers to leave California: given the proven significant use of these apps, somebody will come in to replace them. The market is proven.
Similarly, to those who say that costs will be passed on to the consumer: probably. We should not be too shy to pay for a good world. If you think this will cause inflation, I point to both our current low level of inflation, and the proven lack of effect of minimum wage hikes on inflation.
Measure 23: On-Site Doctors for Dialysis Clinics — No
I’m sympathetic to the SEIU’s frustration at the effective union-busting carried out by the owners of dialysis clinics in California, but this Measure is not the right way to get back for that. There is no medical reason for there to be on-site doctors at dialysis clinics — the only possible response for a serious complication is an ambulance to a hospital, on-site doctor or not. This Measure will cause dialysis clinics to close, potentially killing dialysis patients who no longer have appropriate access.
Measure 24: CCPA v.2 — Yes
I’ve done a number of CCPA implementations, and they’re relatively easy. The law doesn’t put a tremendous burden on sites, and is vastly simpler to implement than GDPR. It’s a good law, but there are gaps that have become obvious as it’s gone into use. Measure 24 fills these gaps.
Measure 25: Replace Bail with an Algorithm — Yes
This law is a real Sophie’s Choice. On the one hand, we have cash bail, which is a system that provides differential justice based on the wealth of the accused (and which is often applied in a racist manner, on top of that). On the other hand, we have an algorithm that will seek to predict the risk a person accused of a crime will fail to show for their trial, and algorithms are themselves systems that easily incorporate racist preconceptions and thought processes, and perpetuate racist policies.
The question comes down to: do we want to keep cash bail, and take another swing at replacing it later; or do we want to get rid of cash bail, and focus efforts on improving a model of flight risk going forward? I am an extremely mild “yes” on this one, as getting rid of cash bail now will reduce the political influence of the bail bond industry, and make more changes possible in the future.
President and Vice President — Joe Biden/Kamala Harris
Hello, I would like to not think about what semi-scandalous activity my President has engaged in for at least a week. If we can’t keep scandal out of it, at least we can stop having a new scandal every few days? We need to accept that aggressive choices by a minority party and its politicians have put our democracy at risk. To be frank, I seriously doubt our form of government can be saved; but, if it can, the next step to doing so is to elect these two.
In fact, I’m working on a couple of entries now. ↩︎
I’m using the term “Measure” instead of “Proposition” because that’s what my ballot uses. Popularly, the word “Proposition” is used, and, so far as I can tell, they mean the same thing. ↩︎
Feel free to criticize me for not being deeply bothered by his history of inappropriate sexual behavior and possible rape, you are correct to do so and I regret not being more conscious of how pervasive sexual assault and rape are within our society. ↩︎