Welcome to Part One of our Voter’s Guide. We’ll be back next week with more on local measures on the municipal and district ballots in Marin County, and on the various statewide propositions under consideration.
—The Pacific Sun Brain Trust
District Measure: Measure W
Fourth District Supervisor Dennis Rodoni appears to have staked his political future on a measure in West Marin that would raise the local transient occupancy tax (TOT) paid by hoteliers, innkeepers and short-term renters by 4 percent, to 14 percent. The rest of the hotels and campsites and short-term residential rentals in Marin County would remain at a 10 percent county TOT tax levied on rentals. The $1.3 million in anticipated annual revenue is earmarked for affordable-housing programs and enhancing firefighting capacity in Marin County.
There are good reasons to support Measure W, even if it does highlight the county’s apparent capitulation to the demands and possibilities of a short-term-rental economy now raging in vacation-focused parts of the county. This is a taxation issue now, not a zoning one. The county has not moved to enforce or enhance zoning ordinances targeted at commercial operations in residential neighborhoods.
The zoning zealots have a great point, but it’s no reason to oppose W. And while we’re sympathetic to the “No On W” folks who own small hotels and inns in West Marin—and don’t appreciate that the TOT tweak is also being directed at their businesses and exploited via the advent of short-term home renters (now their main competitors)—it’s a reasonable tax with the right beneficiaries in mind: affordable housing and firefighters.
One concern raised by local business owners is whether the hike will scare off visitors to West Marin and/or force hotel owners to raise their rates. We’re pretty sure that a 14 percent TOT—which is also the rate in the great Marin County vacation-feeder of San Francisco—won’t break the bank for small businesses asked to shoulder this particular load. Call us cheeky for saying so.
Advisory Measure Only: Measure X
Measure X was prompted by homeowners in Bolinas who say they are sick of people street-camping in town and creating, they say, all sorts of parking and public-safety problems. There’s no denying that the weekend parking situation in town is not helped by the numerous people who have made downtown streets their homes, and it’s true that the occasional street-camper will act out in unpredictable and violent manner, as any resident can tell you. According to the Marin County voter’s guide, Measure X would pave the way for a resolution that would include Brighton Avenue, Park Avenue and Wharf Road in downtown Bolinas as county roads “where there shall be no overnight parking of vehicles, except for automobiles, motorcycles and pickups, between the hours of 11pm and 5am.”
This measure is strictly advisory and is being requested by the Bolinas Community Public Utility District, the governing body in town. The measure seeks advice from residents that the utility district would use in making a determination about whether or not to pursue with a full-on parking regulation. It’s highly contested in town, but has the support of Rodoni, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, downtown locals who own homes, and some downtown businesses.
Opponents have stressed that the consequences for those who live in their vehicles downtown would be awful. The downtown street-living scene is populated with struggling single mothers, locally raised artists and various free thinkers, freaks, would-be homesteaders—and is also peppered with an admittedly scraggly fringe that will occasionally reek of meth.
Some street-campers are residents who were priced out or bailed out from a dwindling market of available rentals—thanks in no small measure to the advent of Airbnb and the changing culture of West Marin. There isn’t a whole lot of affordable housing available that doesn’t come with four wheels and a scruffy puppy tied to the rear axle.
It’s a tough call given the genuine problems raised by supporters of X, which includes excessive water usage downtown and some 18 such permanently parked live-in vehicles, which is a real drag on an already nightmarish weekend parking situation. Still, we’re opposed on the broader principle that struggling people aren’t really the problem here, but a symptom of the affordable-housing problem. And besides, everyone knows what happens to unpopular street signage when and if it should arrive in Bolinas.
Countywide Measure: Measure AA
Measure AA is a pretty non-controversial measure to extend an extant sales tax in the county that’s been in place since 2004 and is designed to raise money to fix the local roads and Highway 101, among a slew of transportation-related targets for the tax revenue. It’s a half-cent sales tax that provides $27 million annually to the county’s transportation coffers. The special tax expires on March 31, 2025; Measure AA extends it through 2049.
Opponents of Measure AA make a point that’s getting pretty tiresome: all that Measure AA tax money that’s already been raised—and they still haven’t fixed the roads or the potholes in Marin County. Even if anti-tax zealots in Marin County are opposed, the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, among other pro-biz organizations, is in favor. So are we. The roads are a mess.
Well, duh. Did anyone think the oldest continuously published alt-weekly in the United States was going to endorse the Republican John Cox for governor? Cox’s campaign in its entirety seems to be predicated on coaxing road rage from voters over last year’s SB 1, and this year’s Proposition 6, which seeks to repeal it (see below for more).
There are, of course, concerns with Newsom. They begin, perhaps petulantly observed on our part, with Newsom’s failure to provide a candidate’s statement to the California state voter’s guide. Whatever his campaign’s reason for withholding a statement, not participating in this most basic of civic activities—helping voters make an informed decision—smacks of a candidate that’s so far ahead in the polls that why bother even indicating that there’s a race at all, competitive or otherwise? Yes, Nate Silver gives Cox a 1 percent chance of defeating Newsom this year, but 1 percent is not zero percent, and we all know how the 1 percent’s been faring under Trump. After 2016, we’re not taking anything for granted, and neither should Newsom.
The no-participation posture smacks of the very sense of my-turn entitlement that the Lt. Governor’s detractors tag him with. That’s a posture that may not serve Newsom well in Sacramento. At least Jerry Brown knew how to throw the impudent yahoos of the California right a bone or two on occasion, if not the frackers.
Kevin de Leon
As other wags have observed, Kevin de Leon did not acquit himself in a particularly senatorial manner when he teed-off on longstanding incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, over Feinstein’s admittedly weird handling of Christine Blasey-Ford’s letter of complaint against the frat-boy judge. Feinstein gets a lot of knocks for her national security hawkishness—she voted in favor of the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq—and for being insufficiently confrontational when it comes to the issue of the lunatic in the White House. At last blush, Feinstein’s up by some 10 points in the polls, which indicates that the state’s not as ready to bail out on the senator as its more progressive quadrants would have one believe.
But the bottom line is that Feinstein’s been in office way too long, is compromised by her establishment cred and her family millions, and it’s time for a change. Whether de Leon can deliver is a subject for another day, but we’re willing to take the chance.
Levine’s opponents have described themselves as the more-progressive version of the popular San Rafael state assemblyman, as they often note his support from various big business and corporate interests in Sacramento. Still, we’re going with Levine this time around. This choice reminds us of the old days around election day when alternative weeklies were faced with endorsing a mainstream Democratic candidate for president—and instead lurched forth with self-serving editorial jeremiads about how awesome it would be if Ralph Nader were president.
As much as we like Levine challenger Dan Monte and appreciate his persistence and keep-him-honest critique of Levine, the incumbent has proved to be an accessible and decent fellow—and we were impressed with his efforts on behalf of undocumented children during Trump’s zero-tolerance moment of maximum misanthropy earlier this year, and with his bill targeting sexual-harassing lobbyists signed by Gov. Brown at the end of the legislative session. If nothing else, that’s exactly the kind of legislation that can begin to redeem middle-aged white men from their current national status as a rather fraught, if not downright icky, demographic.
Secretary of State
Even if the Pacific Sun were pre-inclined to support the Democrat Alex Padilla in his race for Secretary of State this year, his opponent, Mark P. Meuser, is worth a shout-out if for no other reason than—wow!
Meuser’s entire candidate statement in the state voter’s guide is devoted to one thing and one thing only: scrubbing the voter rolls in California so that there are no dead people, undocumented immigrants or duplicate registrations. “If the rolls remain bloated,” writes Mueser, an attorney with a San Rafael campaign address, “special interests are able to use money and influence to elect bought and paid-for politicians.” Cynical translation: Unless we start throwing as many Democrats off the voter rolls as possible, California Republicans may never emerge from an obscurity of their own extremist, anti-immigrant making.
In any other year and under any other federal administration, Meuser’s emphasis on cleaning up the voter rolls might seem reasonable and even necessary. And, hey, it’s part of the Secretary of State’s job to oversee elections. It’s not the Secretary of State’s job, however, to use his power to sway elections.
Meuser’s manifesto smacks of the same sort of flagrant voter suppression efforts undertaken by other secretaries of state around the country who are Republican—i.e., Kansas vote suppressor and Trump patsy Kris Kobach—and who have gleefully championed the worst of the worst when it comes to Trump and his autocratic-incompetent bent.
The reality-show president has made a lot of noise about how, were it not for all those illegal voters, he would have taken California in 2016, and he’s pledged to win the popular vote next time around, after losing it by more than 3 million votes to Hillary Clinton—and that was even after the Russian hookers whizzed onto the scene with advice on how to properly rig an election.
We’re opposed to any attempt, however gussied in civic duty, to deny people the right to vote under the guise of potential election “fraud” that’s been demonstrated to be a “total and complete lie” by any reasonable person or researcher who’s done the legwork.
C’mon, Republicans, give it a rest already. Proposition 6 aims to revoke 2017’s SB 1, which slapped a new gas tax on gallons purchased and with an eye toward dedicating the annual revenue to fixing the decrepit transportation infrastructure in the state. It’s a totally necessary and reasonable tax on a fossil fuel that ought to be shown the door in any event. But more to the point: back in the old days, elected officials of any party would wear it as badge of honor if their constituents referred to them as, say, Sen. Pothole—it indicated a down-and-dirty embrace of constituents’ most pressing, street-level concerns. Nowadays, any mention of a tax is met with road-raging Republicans hell-bent on driving this nation into the ditch—if only until they rescue it by throwing all the immigrants out of the country.
Stay tuned for another round of prickly endorsements and observations in next week’s issue.