RECENT POSTS

Is It Too Late to Send Your Mail-In Ballot? And If Not, What’s the Postage?

By Polly Stryker

We received a note the other day asking us to make sure that voters know to put the correct postage on their absentee ballots. That’s when someone in the office who lives in San Francisco chirped, “What’s she talking about? There’s no postage required.” A brief few moments of uproar ensued as we thought we were onto some strange untold story about insidious and widespread post office bias on an actual individual level.

But duh — the answer is, of course (and it’s “of course” only once you know) that San Francisco doesn’t require postage on its ballots and the other counties do. The California Secretary of State’s office told us it’s up to each county to require postage or not.

So if you live in San Francisco — just drop it in the mail then buy yourself a low-cost croissant with the savings. But if you live in Alameda County — well, someone here said when she mailed her ballot there, she was worried she hadn’t put enough postage on the oversized envelope.

Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, says that the county has required postage on absentee ballots for a long time, and he was surprised that San Francisco County doesn’t require stamps. Macdonald told us it’s a pretty big expense, since about 409,000 people in his bailiwick have requested vote-by-mail ballots this election.

In most of Alameda County, voters have two or three ballots to fill out, Macdonald says. The cost to mail them is 85 cents. (But in Berkeley, beware — there are four ballots and the postage is $1.50.)

So the big question we had was: will ballots reach the Registrar of Voters if people make a mistake and don’t put the correct postage on? Continue reading

Meet California’s First Majority Asian-American District

by Alice Walton

Before Assembly District 49 in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley was redrawn, a majority Asian-American state legislative district in California had never existed

Ed Chau (Alice Walton/KPCC)

Now, it’s a busy election season in the 49th, which is just east of Los Angeles and includes the cities of Alhambra, San Gabriel and Monterey Park, sometimes referred to as “the first suburban Chinatown.” In these communities, more than half of the residents were born outside of the United States, and three-quarters speak a language other than English.

Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause, says the Asian-American community has a long history in the region. “The area has become a gateway for a lot of Asian-American immigrants, and it has been that way for 30, 40 years now, to successive waves….” Continue reading

BART Board Election: Construction Companies Going After Director Lynette Sweet

by Zusha Elinson, The Bay Citizen

Construction companies are pumping tens of thousands of dollars into the race for the Bay Area Rapid Transit board in an effort to unseat incumbent Director Lynette Sweet.

Photo by Thor Swift for The Bay Citizen

The construction firms accuse Sweet of meddling in bids for BART construction work and are backing 25-year-old Zakhary Mallett, who until recently was a UC Berkeley graduate student. Sweet’s backers counter that she is being punished for standing up to BART contractors who shortchange and discriminate against minority subcontractors.

The heated contest underscores a fact that often goes unnoticed by the 400,000 daily BART riders: One of the transit agency’s main functions is handing out billions of dollars in contracts for construction, track repair and new BART cars. This year alone, the transit agency has awarded $2 billion in contracts. The board’s elections and policies often are shaped by contractors who have a financial interest in the outcome. Continue reading

Comfortably Ahead in Polls, Feinstein Looking to Another Term

By Judy Campbell

Senator Dianne Feinstein has held her seat for 20 years, and this fall, she’s running for another six-year term. Feinstein’s got a huge lead in the polls, and she’s a Democrat in a largely Democratic state. But there is a Republican hopeful vying for her seat.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein official photo

It’s dusk in Anaheim, and Elizabeth Emken is at a gala charity event for injured veterans. She’s talking politics, but the conversation also turns to her autistic son Alex. It’s his condition that got her involved in politics.

Emken launched the lobbying arm of the national organization Autism Speaks and helped pass bills that improved insurance coverage for autism. As a candidate for Senate, she supports a small government and low taxes, Arctic drilling and repealing Obamacare.

She doesn’t apologize for her lack of experience in elected office. “We have got to get back to sending people to Washington who understand what families are going through. My husband and I have a mortgage. I’ve got three kids in school. We work for a living.” Continue reading

The 4 Propositions You’re Most Interested In…

If you want to sport this sticker, you'll have to decipher the state ballot and then vote. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

If you want to sport this sticker, you'll have to decipher the state ballot and then vote. (EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lisa Aliferis and Jon Brooks

It’s getting down to the wire — just seven days to make up your mind on a plethora of issues and races … and then ya gotta vote.

Lucky you: We’re here to help.

Our reports about Props. 30 and 38 (education and taxes); the nine-item Prop. 31 (governance) and Prop. 37 (labeling GMO foods) are attracting a lot of attention online. So either we’ve really figured out this SEO thing, or you’re genuinely interested in those initiatives in particular.

Thus, we’re compiling the best-of-the-best of our coverage on these props so that you don’t have to stand in the voting booth pondering whether numerological concerns aren’t going to be the one determining factor after all in how you vote on these things, complex as they are, yet sold, packaged and soundbited by opponents and proponents alike direct to your Id.

So read up!

-Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 both promise to fund schools, but in different ways.

-Proposition 31 will do nine (yes, 9) different things, attempting to overhaul state governance. God knows California governance needs overhaul, but is Prop. 31 the right approach?

-Proposition 37 requires the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in foods.

If you need information on still more props, here’s a bonus:

-Proposition 32 (campaign spending)

 

You can always consult our Proposition Guide for concise information about all 11 props. on the California ballot.

A Supporter and Opponent Explain Prop. 31′s ‘Community Strategic Action Plans’

 

Sacramento Capital. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Proposition 31 might win the battle for the longest and most complex ballot measure. At more than 8,000 words Prop. 31 is an opus to California Forward‘s attempt to restructure and rebuild California’s government from the core. To do that it outlines nine main changes:

  1. Establishes a two-year budget cycle
  2. Permits the governor to make unilateral budget cuts during fiscal emergencies
  3. Requires all bills to be published three days prior to a vote
  4. Forces lawmakers to identify a funding source for new programs or tax deductions
  5. Requires performance reviews
  6. Defines specific goals for the state budget and all local government budgets
  7. Allows local governments to establish “Community Strategic Action Plans”
  8. Allocates $200 million a year in sales tax to those plans
  9. Allows local governments to transfer local property taxes among themselves.

Whew, that’s a lot.

But one component of the initiative is particularly opaque: What are these “Community Strategic Action Plans”? What are they supposed to do? KQED called California Forward’s Executive Director Kristin Connelly to ask her specifically about the plans. California Forward wrote and sponsored Prop. 31. Continue reading

Video: Props 30 and 38 Both Promise to Help Schools — in Different Ways

There’s a lot riding on the November 6 election for California’s once prized public education system. With $6 billion in trigger cuts looming due to the state budget deficit, two competing tax measures on the ballot propose to temporarily help fill the gap. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 would raise the state sales tax a quarter cent and income tax on those earning more than $250,000 annually. Competing Proposition 38, sponsored by millionaire attorney Molly Munger, would increase income tax on a sliding scale for those earning at least $7,316 a year.

On Friday, KQED’s This Week in Northern California examined the competing propositions.

Now a Target, Lungren Wants Campaign Finance Reform

Photo from Office of Dan Lungren

The New York Times this week ran an article about some GOP incumbents who are not so big right now on the whole Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has resulted in unprecedented amounts of money flowing into electoral campaigns. One of those disgruntled incumbents is the Sacramento-area’s Dan Lungren, locked in one of the most tightly contested races in the country against Democrat Ami Bera.

From the Times:

An expansive onslaught of negative political advertisements in congressional races has left many incumbents, including some Republicans long opposed to restrictions on campaign spending, concluding that legislative measures may be in order to curtail the power of the outside groups behind most of the attacks…

Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign-finance issues, has been a target of negative advertisements. He has drafted legislation that he said would force more responsibility for the tone and messages of the campaign onto the candidates and political parties and away from the third-party groups. The staff of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is also working on proposals…

Lungren said the attacks on him began just months after the 2010 election, with radio advertisements and automated phone calls. They have accelerated into an onslaught of television commercials in what has become the most expensive House race in the country. Lungren’s opponent is Ami Bera, a doctor and Democrat.

“What I’m trying to do is transform the system so people participating as candidates can be held responsible for what is said,” Lungren said of the legislation he is drafting.

He said the 2012 experience could be transformative for other Republicans who have spent the past six months enduring the grim piano music and disconsolate faces of “voters” in negative ad after ad, sometimes against them, sometimes on their behalf but always without their signoff.

“We had to see how this worked out for a cycle,” he said. Full article

Continue reading

Voters Supportive of Local Measures for Schools; More Skeptical of Statewide Solutions

Voters in Redwood City approved a local tax for district schools earlier this year. (Ana Tintocalis: KQED)

Voters in Redwood City approved a local tax for district schools earlier this year. (Ana Tintocalis: KQED)

Redwood City is a suburb just south of San Francisco. In recent years, the city has restored its historic downtown area and cleaned up its neighborhoods. But one thing remains the same: the Redwood City school district still gets the lowest amount of state education funding compared to neighboring communities — a result of the state’s complex school funding formula. That rubs 78-year-old Redwood City education advocate Margaret Marshall the wrong way. “It’s not fair and it’s wrong,” she says.

Marshall served on the district’s school board back in the 1980s. But when the state cut millions from education funding over the last two years, she took action. Marshall and an army of volunteers spent hours drafting a local parcel tax for Redwood City schools this past spring. Parcel taxes have become extremely popular among public school districts because the money raised goes directly into local campuses and teachers.

“If [voters] see the money being spent on their block, on their street, in their child’s school, they’re at least willing to consider that tax increase.”
But passing this kind of measure is tough. It requires a “supermajority” vote — two-thirds voter approval.

Redwood City tried three times before to pass a parcel tax, but this time Marshall says voters were finally ready to listen. “I had more coffee and cups of tea in the little coffeehouses locally,” she tells me. “But when you take the time to explain it to someone, one-on-one, you feel better about it. I think lots of times people distrust because they don’t understand what is happening.” Continue reading