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Editorial: Our election recommendations

Original post made on Oct 16, 2020

Learn about the Palo Alto Weekly's recommendations on local, regional and statewide candidates and measures, in addition to state propositions, on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 16, 2020, 6:55 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Rick Callender
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 16, 2020 at 10:53 am

Rick Callender is a registered user.

The editorial on MeasureS in completely incorrect. San Francquito is fully funded if Measure S is passed. If it doesn't pass it not funded. See the true facts at yes on S for safe clean water, homeless abatements in a humane way, and flood protection.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 16, 2020 at 11:16 am

Chris is a registered user.

It’s good to see somebody hasn’t been snowed by Uber and Lyft’s massive spending on advertising. Despite the education level in Palo Alto, it is surprising that so many people have bought into giving special breaks to a few private companies with unsustainable business models.

Posted by Measure S is critical for flood control
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 16, 2020 at 11:45 am

Measure S is critical for flood control is a registered user.

In order for San Francisquito Creek to complete our flood control projects we need measure S. It does not raise taxes but simply extends the existing tax to continue after 2028.

Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 16, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Menlo Park Resident is a registered user.

The Prop 15 editorial is also misleading (probably copied from the biased and misleading language in the ballot that calls this a tax "change" and refuses to call it an "increase")

"whose taxes don't increase with the value of their property". The assessed values go up 2% per year and also the cost of improvements made to the property.

"The most common argument against the measure is that property tax increases are often passed along to tenants, which include small businesses." This increase is passed on to tenants for the remainder of their existing lease terms and in most cases any renewal option terms. One scenario that is always left out of the discussion is that a large percentage of the properties that are not sold very often are owned by the businesses that occupy them and therefore will be responsible for the entire increase at a time most are already struggling.

Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 16, 2020 at 2:08 pm

Taxpayer is a registered user.

The PAUSD 14th Day Enrollment Report, 2020-21 came out on October 9. Enrollment is down 8% this year, continuing a declining trend (6 years in a row).

What's the need for a parcel tax that represents 6% of the PAUSD budget when PAUSD has lost 8% of its enrollment just this year? ($15.6 million projected revenue from the parcel tax/$267 million 2020-21 projected annual budget)

Also, PAUSD just netted $10 million due to school closure savings, and emergency relief funds.

BTW, why is PAUSD announcing its enrollment in a parents only email on a Friday (Oct 9) night rather than as an agenda item at a public board meeting, as it has done every year for the past 5 consecutive years?

Vote No on Measure O!

Below are the PAUSD enrollment reports:
Web Link
Web Link

Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 16, 2020 at 6:55 pm

Norman Beamer is a registered user.

Please vote "YES" for Measure S in order to ensure finds for the flood control of San Francisquito Creek.

Posted by In the Details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2020 at 3:28 am

In the Details is a registered user.

Thanks for the recommendations.

Unfortunately, the analysis of Prop 19 is inadequate and frankly a little glib.

The law is complicated and not very well thought through.

There are 3 main areas it affects:
1) It purports (and is advertised as) allowing the disabled and those who lose a home in a wildfire to transfer their tax basis. This is already allowed under existing law if the county your are moving to allows it, and most (if not all) major CA counties already allow it. I have yet to see any discussion of which counties already do under existing law, and why any that don't yet (if so) haven't chosen to. They can still choose to, also. This Prop 19 is an unnecessary bludgeon to fix a problem that doesn't exist in this regard, but it uses fire victims in a misleading way. That should be reason enough to be suspicious of this proposition.

2) Prop 19 allows seniors to move their tax basis up to 3 times instead of the current 1 time. I agree with the Weekly that this is probably a good thing to do to free up housing stock, however, the existing law already allows this transfer once. This is a sweetener for a poison pill #3 that will hurt the most vulnerable homeowners who have already been hurt in California by the Trump tax increases on California homeowners.

3) Prop 19 says you can only transfer the tax basis of your home to your children if you die IF the children live in the home. Unfortunately, thought, Prop 19 has no exceptions for those who inherit the home, want to live in it, but can't immediately move in, or have to rent it out for a few years until they can afford to live in it themselves. It picks off people on the lowest ends of home ownership, and thus will hit people of color and those for whom the home is their most important (probably only ) asset the hardest.

If you die and your child is in college, this law means they can't transfer the tax basis and rent out the house until they finish college and move in. After losing their parents, they'll have to deal with selling a home and making other major decisions instead of just being able to rent out the home until they can afford to stay. If you are away on sabbatical, you won't be able to rent out your home and keep your tax basis. If you lose your job and have to move into a small rental while renting out the house so you can keep it, your basis will be reassessed and you won't be able to afford it anyway.

Yes, it's unfair when people like Jeff Bridges can rent out their parents' beach house for oodles of money. The law should have focused on fixing that. Unfortunately, instead it mostly hurts people on the lowest rungs of home ownership who are already holding onto their only asset by the skin of their teeth.

What if people need to rent out half the house temporarily in order to get by to keep it? According to a radio show I listened to, the home would be reassessed.

Prop 19 is a mishmash of poorly thought out provisions that will unfairly hurt people who are most vulnerable and will end up being yet another hurdle for homeownership and transfer of wealth for people of color.

Vote NO on Prop 19.

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2020 at 12:19 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“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.”

I will be voting “YES” on Measure O and YES on Measure S and I EXPECT everyone else to vote YES also. Measure S isn’t the greatest plan but I am looking forward to an increase in parcel taxes for all! As far as Measure O, it’s time Palo Altans quiet down, stop complaining, pay those taxes, and most importantly support our great teachers, students, and schools. Time to pay up and enjoy the tax increase. It’s a small price to pay to be able to live in our great city. Again, please vote YES on Measure O and YES on Measure S.

I’m so tired of seeing “No on Measure O” because it rhymes although “Yes on Measure S” also rhymes and I like it because it makes it easy to remember. Just remember to vote YES on both. Thanks.

Finally, that was a long post about Prop 19. I will be voting YES on Prop 19 just like this great article recommends. I don’t understand why Jeff Bridges got named dropped was a little too much.

Posted by Voting Against Marc Berman - Mr. Upzoner
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 17, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Voting Against Marc Berman - Mr. Upzoner is a registered user.

I'm voting against Marc Berman because he consistently votes to upzone. In particular he has been voting to eliminate R-1 housing in Palo Alto so your neighbors could all build multi-unit buildings without parking next to you. While, I'm sure he'll still win, I am casting a protest vote.

Posted by Voting Yes on Prop 16 will lower Asian UC / CalState Admissions
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 17, 2020 at 1:03 pm

Voting Yes on Prop 16 will lower Asian UC / CalState Admissions is a registered user.

While Prop 16 sounds good, the reality is quite different. Prop 209 ended discrimination against Asians in the UC system and without race as a factor, the percentage of Asian's attending the UC's increased dramatically because it was now merit and income based.

While I support affirmative action for folks whose ancestors were brought over as slaves, the vast majority of folks in California who benefit from affirmative action immigrated to this country by choice. For those folks, income & merit (e.g. academics) should be the criteria not their race.

Posted by Mary NOonMeasureS
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 17, 2020 at 1:42 pm

Mary NOonMeasureS is a registered user.

Not surprising that the first comment on this thread comes from Mr. Callender, the CEO of Valley Water (AKA the golden spigot). He is paid $326,352 a year, along with a $600 monthly car allowance to make sure you vote for this forever tax.
Thank you for your research Weekly. Vote no on S.

Posted by trish mulvey
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2020 at 3:23 pm

trish mulvey is a registered user.

It's nice to know Mr. Callender considers himself a local resident, but statement about Measure S is in error. According to Valley Water's 2020 Safe Clean Water draft report there is still $25 million unspent (the report is available in the reference material section at, appendix A, page A-2) for the project from 101 to Middlefield Road. Also the project still has "currently unknown design elements” (page 132 of the same report), hence it is unknown whether measure S would fully fund a project that could include upstream detention. As the Weekly Election Guide says: “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.” Please Vote NO now, and ask Valley Water to bring back a measure for the next general election that includes an updated project description. A measure we can all support.

Posted by iSez
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 17, 2020 at 5:22 pm

iSez is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 17, 2020 at 7:23 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

No on Measure O. Give to PIE if you want, but No on O.

Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 17, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

@The Voice
When you see scurrilous information on PAO, just hit the “Report Objectionable Content” button at the bottom of the posting. The Weekly staff will review it and remove it if it is factually inaccurate or a personal attack. That is what I just did to the posting above from iSez.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:45 am

chris is a registered user.

The number of students in Palo Alto schools is dropping rapidly. PAUSD needs to come back with a new proposal for a lower parcel tax that reflects the new reality. Vote NO on Measure O.

Posted by Pat
a resident of Los Altos
on Oct 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Pat is a registered user.

I really need to leave this state. The commentary you use to justify Prop 15 is ignorant at best.

"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."

It's amazing that no one at this paper even knows how commercial rent is calculated or how property taxes are built into leases. Commercial rent is almost always charged per sq/ft which is determined by the market, but you also have CAM (Common Area Maintenance charges which should be direct costs passed along to the tenant) and NNN (triple net) charges, which are taxes, maintenance, and insurance. I wish residential was leased the same way. Another words, this measure hurts small "working class" businesses that can't absorb high cost increases like Tech companies can. And we all know Prop 15 is the first step of a full repeal of Prop 13 .

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:50 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Did you all get your Santa Clara County Property Tax Bill? Read what is in it. the 2% is specific to the value of the property and house. In addition is the other taxes. Page 2 lists the "Special Assessments" which include the school assessment, vector control, safe water, flood control debt, Measure AA Bay Restoration Authority. The largest of those - other than the school tax for Palo Alto Schools, is the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Included in the actual property tax are the Bond issues, both county and city.

AS to comments about Mr. Berman - his opponent is the former Mayor of Menlo Park. Note that is in San Mateo County which appears to manage their overall government responsibilities far better than Santa Clara County. SMC seems to get things done while we just TALK, and Google takes over the whole place.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

If passed, Prop 16 is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 22, 2020 at 11:42 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Proposition 15 will slowly strip funding OUT of local schools -- Palo Alto Unified, Mountain View Whisman, Sequoia Union HSD, Menlo Park City School District and Las Lomitas. What is the value of local journalism if it doesn't make local conditions explicit to voters? And, if the Weekly chooses to endorse a proposition, why not pay your readers the consideration of explaining what other rationale factors should outweigh local damage?

Of course, it doesn't help that your stated rationale also ignores local conditions. Commercial-industrial property does NOT turn over "much less frequently" than homes. The Santa Clara County Assessor produces a superb annual report -- annually -- that you should be reading. For 2020, page 12 shows 45% of commercial parcels changing hands in the last decade vs. 42% of single-family homes. 65% for both in the past two decades. The difference finally shows up in pre-1979: 14% vs. 11% for homes -- definitely a loophole worth closing, but not a wholesale justification for stripping hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes out of the area without mentioning it. (Kindly review my Aug 21st Viewpoint, "Where Did The Other $713 Million Go?" linked below.)

In fact, if slow turnover really incites you, it is commercial residential that is the real laggard -- 58% in the last two decades and 15% pre-1979. Why not accuse them? Ah, because it might raise rents. Now why would that be damaging, given your dismissal of the same effect on commercial-industrial tenants?

Because it is one thing to "close a loophole" by forcing the laggards to catch up periodically -- and another to put an entire market segment on a much tougher tax revenue schedule. Tightening up the rules would have produced less than half of the revenue projected -- according to proponents' own documentation. That means over $6 billion comes from changing the game. Forcing one segment up to market value all the time, while all other property owners enjoy a different, more stable assessment mechanism will not be absorbed the way individual reassessments have in the past. This is a leap upwards and will either increase rents or decrease property values.

Proponents' published revenue breakdown (also linked below) details the $12 billion they promise from the measure. Less than 50% came from properties that last changed hands 20+ years ago. (Only 25% from pre-1990 base years.) 30% comes from properties that have ALREADY changed hands in the last decade.

Which is a heads up. And where the pain will steadily materialize for local school districts. This isn't new-new revenue as a result of the measure.

A big chunk of the $12 billion -- about 20% of the total -- is the existing steady growth in commercial-industrial property tax that they enjoy now. PAUSD students now receive $1850 a year of funding solely as a result of commercial-industrial growth over the past decade. Elementary school students in Las Lomitas and MPCSD receive $600. High school students in the Sequoia Unified HSD receive $1700. Handing each of them $100 may seem like in win in year 1 ... but by year 4 or 5, it will be clear that they are being paid with money taken out of their own pockets. And that a growing number of hundreds more have also gone missing.

You have endorsed making local schoolchildren unwitting donors to a new statewide fund. The first time property tax has ever left the county in which it was raised. If the proposition passes in November, the Weekly will have contributed to the long chain of property tax manipulations that, since 1978, have harmed any hopes of adequacy in California education.

Web Link
Web Link

Posted by In the Details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 8:31 pm

In the Details is a registered user.

What about this judicial "race" - unopposed judge of the superior court. I don't know what to believe. He seems to have a solid background but the California Commission on Judicial Performance rendered a Decision and Order Imposing Admonishment that would give me pause:
Web Link

Does the Weekly have further information/recommendations about this position? Even though it's unopposed, I'm not going to fill in the circle unless I support this person.

Posted by In the Details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 9:00 pm

In the Details is a registered user.

Prop 24 - I am very big on privacy, but I'm going to go with the Mercury News recommendation to vote NO on Prop 24.

California Privacy Rights Clearinghouse gives an in-depth analysis much deeper than any I've seen. They don't give a recommendation, but they give the good, the bad, and the ugly. Based on the information, I have decided to Vote no, and hope for better next time.
Web Link

Posted by In the Details
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2020 at 9:08 pm

In the Details is a registered user.

I still don't know what to do about Measure RR. I support the trains, but will this measure mean they'll put up an elevated berm in Palo Alto? I definitely do NOT support that.

Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 27, 2020 at 2:42 pm

Alex is a registered user.

Why are you supporting a clown like Lydia Kou? She is unprepared in meetings and can't handle the slightest bit of criticism from her constituents. She's happy to remove and block their messages from her public pages [portion removed.] She's a public official and her constituents should have the right to contact her through any means they want to use. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 27, 2020 at 3:10 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Alex, that's not at all my experience with Lydia Kuo. She's very responsive. She and one other were the only CC members to dig into the hard issues with ADUs. She, unlike the rest of the council, created a detailed study on budget priorities because she wanted to reflect back community priorities. She does her homework.

I have disagreed with her on a few issues and her responses were always well-reasoned. Unlike others who've been quoted being openly hostile and dismissive to other cc members and constituents, she's always been polite and respectful while still pushing what she thinks is right.

Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2020 at 8:13 am

Concerned Resident is a registered user.

After watching all the debates and reading online articles, I ended up voting for Varma. He's the only one who really supports small businesses and also has concrete proposals on how to help us now and in the future. It's important to have someone intelligent with new ideas and fresh blood in Palo Alto. I'd encourage everyone to read up on the candidates in this important election. Don't vote for the person who spent the most money and sent you the most mailers. Money shouldn't play a part in our election. Thank you.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 31, 2020 at 4:50 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

I voted at Cubberely today - no lines, no waiting. What I saw was the fields filled with children playing soccer, girls softball teams, Music from the dance class, other classes in process. Adults playing pickle ball. What a beautiful site and what a jewel we have. Yes the jewel needs some polishing. We are so lucky to have this resource in our city.

It is popping with all types of activity. And it is great to go in and vote. It connects you to the overall experience. And you do not have to wonder if your ballot will get read or even delivered on time. Suggest that you go over and vote there. What a good feeling.

Posted by Tom DuBois
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 2, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Tom DuBois is a registered user.

Well it's all over but the voting and counting.

Rigorous public debate has always been a hallmark of our democracy and I don't shy away from it. I enjoy the process of learning where candidates stand on the issues.

Once the election is over, the focus shifts from individuals trying to get elected to a governing body working together for the people of Palo Alto. I am looking forward to working with whomever is on the new city council.

Congrats to all the candidates for running a hard fought campaign.

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