With that in mind, here is how I'm voting in the November election.
President. There is only one person who can lead the United States. A progressive, fearless fighter. Someone with a history of speaking the truth. A leader on women's issues. That person is Roseanne Barr. Wait, what?
Senate: Dianne Feinstein. Yeah, yeah, yeah. She's running against some sacrificial non-entity. You don't need my endorsement here.
Congress: Anna Eshoo. Yawn.
State Senate, District 13: They're both good. Sally Lieber is more progressive and focused on social issues, and Jerry Hill is a bit more centrist and focused on business issues. Lieber's signature accomplishments in the legislature include raising the minimum wage and combatting human trafficking. Hill is far more productive, with a range of legislation on everything from underage drinking to holding the PUC accountable for gas safety recommendations form the NTSB. He's also secured the funding for Caltrain electrification. Because of the strong business focus of Silicon Valley, I think Hill might be a slightly better fit for the electorate. In fact, he is ahead in the polls (which is largely because he is the effective incumbent, representing most of the newly drawn district). I'll probably vote for Jerry Hill, but I don't really feel very strongly about it, and reserve the right to change my mind.
State Assembly, District 24: Rich Gordon, who has a terrific track record of accomplishment in Sacramento.
Santa Clara County Board of Education Member, Board of Education Trustee Area 1: Grace Mah. She has a very productive track record as the incumbent. Her opponent, David Cortright, is a one-issue candidate, who is upset about the way charter schools are approved in SCC. When asked about the other issues, he basically said that he would learn about them. Grace Mah already knows about them, and already opposed the charter school that so upset Cortright.
Foothill-De Anza Community Collge District Governing Board Member: We pick three, and the three to pick are Laura Casas Freer, Joan Barran, and Betsy Bechtel (disclaimer: Betsy is my wife's cousin). Geby Espinoza, the challenger, seems to be running on a platform that mostly involves the legalization of hemp, which is an odd platform for a community college board member. As far as I can tell, she seems to know nothing about the actual college, although her video statement is quite impressively incoherent.
Mountain View Whisman School District Governing Board Member: This is tough, and I'll have to learn a lot more about it over the next few years. All of the candidates seem good, and the totality of my understanding is listening to the LWV forum. I'm going to vote for Jim Pollart for his effective leadership and track record, Chris Chiang for the depth of his educational experience and ideas, and Peter Darrah as a current parent (that seems like a good idea).
City of Mountain View City Council Member: We vote for four, and my picks are John Inks, Chris Clark, Mike Kasperzak, and John McAlister. Jim Neal is a libertarian candidate whose positions, while slightly less looney than most libertarians, still involve mostly hating the city government. I read Margaret Capriles's web page, listened to her talk at the Google-hosted forum, and read interviews with her, and I still couldn't figure out why she was running, or what her agenda was, other than a few broad sweeping statements, and some areas of agreement with the more experienced candidates. On the flip side of that, Mike Kasperzak and John Inks are the very effective Mayor and Vice-Mayor, and Chris Clark and John McAlister serve on the planning commission. All four laid out very thoughtful plans for MV, and demonstrate a deep understanding of the workings of city government and of the issues facing the city. FWIW, I was particularly impressed with Chris Clark and Mike Kasperzak.
El Camino Hospital District Director: We vote for 3. It's a little tricky to make a choice like this without being an expert in health care policy. The biggest issue is that there was a grand jury report last year criticizing the board for a lack of transparency about the way they spent taxpayer dollars. The board has, apparently, made substantial progress on this issue. The challengers made a point of saying that there was more work to do. I watched a good chunk of the candidate forum, and I've decided I don't really know. However, my sense is that most of the current board is new, so some continuity is a good idea. It also seems to me that anyone running just for more transparency (Julia Miller) is probably not going to do a good job on the other issues, and the changing regulatory landscape in healthcare over the next few years is going to make this job a little tricky. So, I would vote for the incumbents, John Zoglin and Wesley Alles. I am a little chary of voting for a malpractice attorney (Dennis Chiu), so process of elimination leads to Bill James for the third.
Proposition 30: Yes. Due to the budget crisis in California, they needed to temporarily raise taxes in order to pay for (primarily) education. They authored the budget so that if this proposition doesn't pass, there will be drastic education cuts. Education in this state has already been cut to the bone. Let's make this happen.
Proposition 31: No. There is a lot that is good in Prop 31, but it is just too ill-thought-out to be a good law. It's primary effect is to devolve a lot of state powers to local authority. This was designed to provide more local control over education; because property tax revenue in this state is low, unlike other states, most of the money for education (and most of the rules about it) come from the state. However, the "authority" that is being delegated to the localities is murky, and there is nothing built into the law to resolve conflicts between state and local authorities. As currently written, it seems like it will let 1000 lawsuits bloom to resolve these issues. The drafters should go back to the drawing board (I'm going to say that a lot this year).
Proposition 32: No. Currently, union members pay dues, and the unions can use those dues to make donations to political candidates. This turns that into a strictly-opt-in system, where you have to get the express permission of the member to use their dues for political contributions. It will have the effect of decreasing the money available to unions for political influence (which is what has happened in other states that have enacted similar laws). This sounds all well and good, until you realize that the Citizens United decision lets unions and businesses donate limitlessly to political campaigns. This proposition has the effect of kneecapping unions without similarly kneecapping businesses. It's a big old gift to the Republican party (as if the Citizens United decision wasn't enough of one).
Proposition 33: No. This would make it possible for auto insurance companies to base their fees on whether you have had continuous insurance coverage. The auto insurance claims that they will lower their rates for drivers with a clean track record, but it would let them raise rates on anyone who went uninsured for more than 90 days. This might include, for example, someone with a prolonged illness, or a student who couldn't afford a car, or someone who simply lives in SF, where a car is unnecessary. Sound familiar? They tried it in 2010, and it was beaten soundly.
Proposition 34: Yes. This gets rid of the death penalty. Regardless of your gut feeling about the morality of the death penalty, it has become a bureaucratic nightmare, and is expensive beyond all rational measure. No one has been executed in CA in 6 years, and simply keeping the appeals process going is costing the state $70 million a year (yes, you read that right). We can't reform the process, because many of the requirements come from Supreme Court rulings. It's silly that it costs less to send someone to prison for life than to put them on death row, but that's the world in which we live. Let's get rid of the death penalty. (Also, the death penalty hasn't been shown to deter crime, so it really doesn't do any good).
Proposition 35: No. This is another proposition that sounds good in theory, and breaks down in practice. There is a lot that is good in this proposition around making it harder for people who genuinely traffic in slavery to operate, and easier to convict them. But it was very ill-considered. For example, one of the things it does is vastly broaden the definition of "sex offenders" to include anyone who financially benefits from prostitution. At an extreme, this might include, for example, a prostitute's child. Not only does this vastly increase the penalties for these people, it adds them to the sex offender registry. For people who believe in the sex offender registry, this would swamp it with useless information. What the backers of this proposition need to do it take it through the legislature, where it can be refined carefully.
Proposition 36: Yes. This reforms the three strikes law so that if your third strike is non-violent, then you don't go to jail for life. Clearly, the three strikes law was intended for violent offenders, so this seems like a no-brainer, even if you do believe in the three strikes law. It will also save us a lot of money in incarceration, and go a long way towards ameliorating the fact that our prison overcrowding has led them to be condemned by human rights watchdog organizations. For the sake of full disclosure, I should say that this is another ill-thought out measure, in that if your second strike is non-violent and your third strike is violent, you go to prison for life, but if your second strike is violent and your third strike is non-violent, you don't. Having said that, this measure is a step in the right direction.
Proposition 37: No. This requires labeling for food containing genetically modified ingredients. There's no real evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful. This proposition is really designed to allow people to register disapproval with the abusive practices of companies (such as Monsanto) that are the main purveyors of GMO foods. Scientists are lining up to oppose it, because they don't see the need to create a potential panic over GMOs, which are generally regarded as safe. There are lots of arguments on both sides of this one, and lots of devil-in-the-details issues, which makes me think that it is something that is best not written in stone by a ballot proposition.
Proposition 38: No. This raises taxes and sets aside the money for education. The reason to vote against it is a little weird. As you can see, it overlaps with Proposition 30. When two propositions conflict or overlap, if they both pass, the one that has the more votes is considered to win, and the other one fails. Prop 30 has language that avoids education cuts, and this one doesn't. Therefore, if this one gets more votes than Prop 30, then we get education cuts. Nasty stuff, and most people have stopped endorsing this one.
Proposition 39: Yes. This closes a loophole whereby businesses can pay less in taxes if they don't have property or employees in California. Basically, we're currently subsidizing companies that want to move jobs out of state. That's stupid, so we should stop doing it. Half the revenue generated by this measure is put into energy efficiency programs, but only for 5 years, which avoids a lot of the hand-tying nature of budget set-asides (I would prefer no set-aside here, but the time limit mollifies me). This should really have gone through the legislature, but they dropped the ball on it (it failed by 1 vote, because of the anti-tax people).
Proposition 40: Yes. But it doesn't matter, because all a no vote means is that the new state district maps will be reviewed by the state Supreme Court. That's already happened. As a result, the opponents of Prop 40 have dropped their arguments against it.
Santa Clara County Measures A and B: Yes. Measure A seems like a win for government services in our county. Measure B basically extends an existing tax. The county has demonstrated to my satisfaction that that tax money is going to worthwhile programs.
El Camino Hospital District Measure M: No. This lowers the pay of the hospital executives and administrators to the 20th percentile of comparable salaries, rather than the current 50th percentile. It's not clear that we have the right to vote on this, so there will be an expensive legal battle if this wins.