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Variety of Issues on Local Ballots Today

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Michelle Gachet/KQED

A sign directs early voters inside San Francisco City Hall.

KQED morning anchor Joshua Johnson spoke with KQED news editor Dan Brekke about the issues of interest on ballots around the Bay Area.

Joshua Johnson: Dan Brekke, welcome.

Dan Brekke: Thank you, Josh.

Johnson: San Francisco has a number of races down ballot from the mayor's race. That 16 candidate race gets all the attention, but San Francisco also has to elect some top law enforcers as well.

Brekke: San Francisco is going to make some history, everybody thinks, on that mayor's slate that you were talking about, because the leading candidate is Ed Lee, would will be the first Chinese American elected mayor in city history.

Johnson: Should he win.

Brekke: Should he win. And of course, we are looking at the ranked-choice ballot and the calculus for that is very complicated. Down ballot, George Gascon is running for District Attorney. This would be a full term, he was appointed from the police department to replace Kamala Harris. It's a little hard to handicap the opposition there, but he's facing Sharmin Bock, Bill Fazio, a veteran of previous electoral wars for the District Attorney's office, and David Onek.

Johnson: Also, the sheriff's race is going to make some history. Michael Hennessey, who had been there thirty-some odd years, is stepping down and now there's a huge vacuum there for the job.

Brekke: Michael Hennessey is an institution. In fact, he was a leading candidate to become the interim mayor, ahead of Ed Lee. Ross Mirkarimi, probably, coming off the Board of Supervisors, has to be considered the favorite for that job. He's running against Paul Miyamoto, Chris Cunnie, and David Wong. 

Johnson: Bay Area-wide, there are a lot of interesting things on the ballot. Parcel taxes are coming back up again. Those had been on ballots in 2010 and they failed, some of them very, very narrowly.

Brekke: Well, remember that with parcel taxes there's a huge threshold they have to get across. They have to win by two-thirds. Last year there was a sort of break in the Bay Area and the rest of the state. Where most of these parcel taxes were running into the harsh reality of governments running out of money and people running out of money. So most of them failed. There are only a few of them on the ballot this time. I'd say that's a little bit because of parcel tax fatigue. What you are seeing instead are bond measures, which have a lower threshold, they only need 55 percent; and then some specialty taxes like business taxes or hotel occupancy taxes which only need a majority to win.

Johnson: In the South Bay, there are also a number of ballot items, particularly a few in Palo Alto, that might be worthwhile?

Brekke: Palo Alto has a couple of interesting issues there. One is about ending binding arbitration for public safety workers, both police and firefighters. This is put into place because they are not unionized, and under the law down there they cannot be unionized. So binding arbitration gives them a way of sealing a deal. Some people think it's too expensive and that the city isn't getting a good deal for that. 

The other thing on the ballot is taking ten acres from one of the parks down there that was reclaimed land and turning that into a composting center. Everybody wants composting room because we're trying to divert less material into landfills, so people are being asked to give up a slice of park down there to accomodate that.

Johnson: Back in San Francisco, pensions are on the ballot once again. That became a big deal when Public Defender Jeff Adachi put forward Measure B. That failed. He says he's learned the lessons from Measure B last time and wants to try it again this time. Now there are two competing measures on San Francisco's ballot?

Brekke:  That's right. Adachi is back with pretty much a straight version of what he put in last time, and then Mayor Ed Lee is behind another one. So, Lee's measure is Measure C, and Adachi's is Measure D. This is going to be widely watched because many cities in the state are facing this issue.

Johnson: KQED News Editor Dan Brekke, I know you will be working on tonight's electoral coverage not just in San Francisco, but all over the Bay Area, so we'll tune in tonight for that. And also look forward to some of the results tomorrow morning. Thanks, Dan.

Brekke: You're welcome, Josh.


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