One thing you can say about ranked-choice voting: It makes June primaries less exciting. Because ranked-choice voting does away with the need for a June primary, and the costs that go with it, there are no municipal elections next month in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro. However, there are still good reasons to cast your ballot on June 5.
The marquee race is for the 18th Assembly District, which represents all of Alameda and most of Oakland and San Leandro. We view this as a two-person contest between Abel Guillen, a Peralta Community College District trustee, and Rob Bonta, vice mayor of Alameda. We think both would be solid representatives of the East Bay in Sacramento, replacing the termed-out Sandré Swanson.
But our choice is Guillen because his progressive ideals are more in line with our own than the more moderate Bonta. Guillen is a consistent voice of the left, whether it's about investing in education or protecting the environment. He's been endorsed by the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters, along with numerous labor and good-government groups.
The third major candidate in the race is Joel Young, an AC Transit board member who we think is unfit for office. A series of stories in this newspaper have shown that Young has a violent temper and engages in unethical behavior. The extensive bruising on his ex-girlfriend's face last year after an ugly incident at his apartment provided clear evidence of his boorish behavior, and his claims that prominent East Bay leaders support his candidacy when they do not prove that he can't be trusted.
The 20th Assembly District race, meanwhile, is an easy call for us: We endorse Hayward City Councilman Bill Quirk. The redrawn 20th district now represents Castro Valley, Hayward, Sunol, Union City, and parts of Fremont. His two main competitors are Union City Mayor Mark Green and political newcomer Jennifer Ong, an Alameda optometrist. The candidates are seeking to replace the termed-out Mary Hayashi.
Although we haven't always agreed with Quirk — most notably, we opposed the new natural-gas power plant near Chabot College, which he supported — his positions on a wide range of issues are far more progressive than Green's. In addition, we don't think Ong is ready for the state Assembly. The halls of the state Capitol are not the best place for a political newcomer.
For Alameda County Superior Court judge, we endorse Andrew Wiener, an Oakland attorney. Wiener impressed us when he was the chair of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission — back when it actually was a semi-effective watchdog of city politics.
In terms of local measures, we urge a "yes" vote on Measure B, a $48-a-year parcel tax that would fund educational programs at the Peralta Community Colleges — Laney and Merritt colleges, Berkeley City College, and the College of Alameda. Although parcel taxes are regressive because low-income property owners pay the same rate per parcel as wealthy landowners, California community colleges, like the UC and CSU systems, have been devastated by state budget cuts in recent years, and so they desperately need the money.
However, we strongly oppose Measure C in Alameda, the half-cent sales-tax hike. Sales taxes are deeply unfair; they impact low-income families the hardest, because low-income residents tend to spend a much higher percentage of their earnings on items that are subject to sales taxes. In fact, when including sales taxes, low-income earners pay the highest effective tax rate in California.
Sales taxes also unfairly impact small retailers. Measure C would give Alameda the highest sales-tax rate in the county — tied with Union City at 9.25 percent. We think that's far too high. Although there's no doubt that Measure C would finance some worthy construction projects in the city, we think that city leaders should work harder to find better ways to finance them.
Statewide, we endorse both propositions on the ballot — 28 and 29. Prop 28 would adjust California's term-limits law to allow legislators to serve up to twelve years in either the assembly or the senate. It also would cap the total years in the legislature at twelve. Currently, legislators can serve fourteen years total — six years in the assembly and eight years in senate.
Sandré Swanson represents the perfect example for why we support Prop 28. He's been an effective legislator and champion of progressive causes in the assembly, and yet current term limits prohibit him from serving any longer because he has been there for six years. He also has nowhere else to go, because the East Bay already has a fine state senator — Loni Hancock. Prop 28, if it were in effect today, would allow Swanson to run for reelection to the assembly, and would not force an accomplished public official out of office.
As for Prop 29, the tobacco tax, we support it even though such taxes are also regressive. The reason is that we believe smokers should pay more for the costs that smoking inflicts on our society, including higher insurance rates that we must pay because of the expense of treating cancer patients. This measure will provide much-needed funds for cancer research, and we don't think the claims by the tobacco-industry that the money will be misused have merit.
We also endorse the following East Bay elected officials who are either facing no opposition or are in no danger of losing: Barbara Lee for Congress, Loni Hancock for state senate, Nancy Skinner for assembly, Mark DeSaulnier for state senate, Bob Wieckowski for 15th Assembly District, and Keith Carson and Nate Miley for Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
Finally, we are making no endorsements in the following races: US Senate and the 15th Congressional District.