Here's a list of the Palo Alto Weekly's recommendations on local, regional and statewide candidates and measures, in addition to California propositions, on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Anna Eshoo (D)(inc)
Josh Becker (D)
Marc Berman (D)(inc)
County Board of Education
Melissa Baten Caswell
Foothill-DeAnza College District Board
Peter Landsberger (inc)
Laura Casas (inc)
Gilbert Wong (inc)
Palo Alto City Council
Lydia Kou (inc)
Palo Alto Unified School District Board
Jennifer DiBrienza (inc)
Todd Collins (inc)
Measure O - YES
Palo Alto Unified School District Parcel Tax (requires two-thirds vote)
Measure O extends a parcel tax that residents and businesses in the school district have been paying since 2001 to supplement the district's revenue from property taxes. With annual automatic 2% increases each year, and occasional large bumps when it has been renewed every five years, the parcel tax is now $836 per parcel and generates almost $16 million a year, or roughly 7% of the budget. It doesn't expire until next year, giving the district another chance to win voter approval if it should fail to win the needed two-thirds support.
The funds from this tax have, unfortunately, now become baked into the regular operating budget, so its defeat would mean cuts of $16 million. The tax helps to keep Palo Alto's per-pupil spending among the highest in the state at around $25,000. With the high property values in Palo Alto, an additional parcel tax shouldn't have become just another part of the district's revenue stream, but with voters repeatedly supporting it for almost 20 years there has been no effort to wean it from the budget during strong economic times. Seniors can obtain the usual exemption if they wish, making such a tax measure palatable to them.
The best reason for supporting Measure O is that its failure will force cuts to many of the strong programs that make this district so unique. At an uncertain time due to the COVID-19 crisis and the possibility of impacts on property tax revenues ahead, voters should approve the continuation of the parcel tax to ensure stability of our finances
Measure S - NO
Santa Clara Valley Water District Parcel Tax (requires two-thirds vote)
Measure S seeks to renew an existing parcel tax that isn't set to expire for eight years and modify it so it will continue indefinitely without any further voter approval. The current tax generates $45 million a year. The water district and supporters argue that passage of Measure S is needed in order to be able to plan for projects that will extend beyond the 2028 expiration date of the current tax. Some Palo Alto residents in the San Francisquito Creek flood zone are actively supporting it because they think its passage will increase the likelihood of there being sufficient funding to complete local flood control measures, including the replacement of the Pope-Chaucer bridge. But the measure contains no such commitment and is an attempt to permanently lock in a tax without any sunset date and therefore no accountability to the public. We strongly support flood control and clean water projects in the county, but this measure is not the answer. Let the district return with a new proposal that respects the voters by being more transparent and that is limited to a 15-year period, as the current tax provides.
Measure RR - YES
Caltrain Sales Tax Measure (requires two-thirds vote)
The system under which Caltrain is managed and funded is a complete mess and needs a massive overhaul. The pandemic has only added to the governance and financial problems. The system has never had a guaranteed source of funding and relies on voluntary contributions from San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to supplement fare revenue, which is now a fraction of pre-pandemic levels. It's operated under a Joint Powers Agreement between the three counties but managed by the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), and problems with this arrangement and the lack of accountability have been the source of conflict for decades.
Measure RR, which had to be approved by seven different agencies to get on the ballot, does nothing to fix the underlying governance problems, but it is necessary to ensure Caltrain's survival through and after the COVID-19 crisis. It will provide, for the first time, a secure source of funding through a 1/8 cent sales tax over the next 30 years. That's a huge step forward. We reluctantly recommend voters approve this measure, which requires approval by two-thirds of voters overall in the three affected counties.
Prop. 14 - No
Stem cell bonds
Sixteen years ago, when voters approved $3 billion in bonds for stem cell research, it was critical to the growth and development of a promising new field of research, largely because the Bush Administration had prohibited all federal funding. But there is now adequate federal government and private funding being invested in stem cell research. With all of the state's other needs there is no reason California should continue to fund the state's own program when there is ample national research being done.
Prop. 15 - Yes
Commercial property tax split roll
It's long past time to end the property tax break to commercial property owners in California, whose taxes don't increase with the value of their property. Since commercial real estate turns over much less frequently than homes, the current system is grossly unfair and amounts to a giant subsidy to real estate investors. The most common argument against the measure is that property tax increases are often passed along to tenants, which include small businesses. Economic studies have repeatedly shown, however, that commercial rents are driven by the market, not by tax rates. Owners of commercial buildings set rental rates based on what owners of similar space are charging and what tenants are willing to pay.
Prop. 16 - Yes
When voters approved Prop. 209 in 1996, they banned most affirmative action programs in public institutions, including the state college system. At a time when residents are awakening to the racial bias that still permeates our society, this proposed repeal of Prop. 209, adopted overwhelmingly by the legislature, will restore the ability for state and local agencies to consider race, sex, ethnicity and national origin in hiring decisions. Similarly, state universities will be able to consider these factors as part of their admissions process. Most private employers have active programs to diversify their workforce. It is wrong that public employers and schools are prevented from doing the same.
Prop. 17 - Yes
Parolees' right to vote
This simple proposal, placed on the ballot by the legislature, would give those who have completed their prison sentence but who are still on supervised parole the right to vote. Parole is a period during which offenders are expected to reenter society, find gainful employment and contribute to society. Providing them with the right to vote gives them a stake in their future and comes at no harm to anyone. It's an easy way to give agency to a person trying to move on from the mistakes they've made.
Prop. 18 - Yes
17-year-olds vote in primaries
This legislative proposal allows for a 17-year-old to register and vote in a primary or special election if they will turn 18 before the next general election. It makes good sense to allow a young person who desires to exercise his or her right to vote in a general election after turning 18 to be able to participate in the primary election that selects the top two candidates for that office. Anything that encourages interest in voting and the electoral process among young people is good for democracy.
Prop. 19 - Yes
Transfer of tax base
This measure would add new tax benefits to existing law for people 55 and older who sell their home and purchase a new one by enabling them to retain the property tax level of the home they sell. It's being pushed by Realtors and firefighters with $42 million in campaign donations (versus almost no expenditures against). For those who have been in their homes at protected Prop. 13 tax levels for a long time, this is yet another unfair benefit to what they have already been enjoying by paying property taxes that are a fraction of what a new homeowner is paying. But until we have the courage to reform the entire property tax system, this measure will make a decision to move easier, and thereby help to increase helpful turnover of the housing stock.
Prop. 20 - No
Criminal justice reform rollbacks
This initiative measure attempts to undo reforms in the criminal justice system that were passed in the last decade and were an important part of reducing the state's prison population in response to federal court orders. It would put more people back in prison, at great expense, and cut programs that are aimed at assisting offenders to successfully return to society. This measure would be a giant step backward and return us to a day when non-violent offenders were sentenced to long and unfair prison sentences.
Prop. 21 - Yes
Rent control at local level
Current state law prohibits cities from enacting any measures restricting rent increases for single family homes, or any housing built since 1995. Even so, about 20 percent of California residents are living in pre-1995 units that are subject to rent control laws. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mountain View and many other cities are successfully using rent control measures to protect renters. Prop. 21 doesn't enact rent control, it simply gives cities back the ability to decide for themselves if some form of rent regulation is in the best interest of their community while addressing housing needs.
Prop. 22 - No
Gig workers as independent contractors
Pressured by unions, in 2019 the California legislature hurriedly passed AB 5 to virtually prohibit the use of independent contractors, including drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-share and delivery services, freelancers and an array of other workers. Ever since it has been struggling to fix all the problems and inequities in the law but has refused to budge on drivers and many other categories. In June a court ordered Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees, but the ruling is on hold until the outcome of the election. AB 5 was a badly conceived and written law that needs a rewrite. But Prop. 22 is not the answer. It only addresses "app-based drivers" and amounts to a rescue of a few large companies. They should be working as part of a broad coalition to amend AB 5 to address its threat to all businesses impacted by it, not just solve their own needs.
Prop. 23 - No
Dialysis clinic requirements
This is the second attempt by unions to organize kidney dialysis workers through passage of a confusing ballot measure that doesn't belong on a state ballot. It was defeated two years ago and should be again.
Prop. 24 - Yes
Just two years ago the legislature passed a ground-breaking and controversial Consumer Privacy Act establishing rules allowing consumers to opt out from businesses with more than $25 million in revenue or possessing data on more than 50,000 people from sharing data they collect on them. Prop. 24 is intended to strengthen the 2018 law by clarifying some provisions and making enforcement easier through the creation of a new state agency, while reducing the number of businesses that are affected. Importantly, it will permit changes through the legislature (instead of voters) to further improve the law as long as they are consistent with the goal of increasing data privacy.
Prop. 25 - Yes
Cash bail referendum
This measure seeks to uphold 2018 legislation that does away with the cash bail system so that poor defendants aren't forced to remain in jail pending their trial while wealthy defendants are released on bail. The implementation of the new law has been delayed due to the referendum. The bail system is highly discriminatory and should be replaced with the risk-assessment system contained in the 2018 law. A "yes" vote means you approve of the law passed to eliminate cash bail. A "no" vote means that law is stricken and cash bail will continue.