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Election 2014: Local ballot measures, state propositions

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NOVEMBER 05, 2014

On Tuesday, Berkeley residents voted on seven city measures, one county measure and six state propositions. Voters also decided the state’s lieutenant governor, 13th congressional district representative and 15th district state assembly member.

Measure F

Voters in the city of Berkeley passed Measure F with a 74.9 percent vote, which proposed an increase of the current special tax rate for parks.

With the measure passing, the tax per square foot will be raised from 12.56 cents to 14.66 cents, a 16.7 percent increase. The revenue from this tax will go toward the maintenance, staffing and improvements of public parks and recreational sports areas.

While the municipal code initially stated that the tax could be adjusted as the cost of living in the Bay Area fluctuated, this measure will allow the tax to fluctuate in accordance with the cost of living in the state of California as well as per capita income growth in California.

This tax will attempt to mitigate the current $500,000 structural annual deficit in the parks budget. Proponents of the measure include Mayor Tom Bates and the entirety of Berkeley City Council.

— Michelle Pitcher

Measure O

A measure to modify the city charter’s protocols for recall elections was approved by Berkeley voters with a 89.61 percent vote.

The measure called for the rewriting of portions of the charter that are currently out of date and no longer in accordance with state law. The last recall election in the city of Berkeley was held in 1973, and no changes have been made to protocol since 1974, according to the official argument in favor of the measure.

This measure will restructure the process of recalling elected and appointed officials, specifically in regard to the circulation of recall petitions and the times at which office holders can be recalled.

This measure will also increase the period of time allowed for City Council and the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education to fill vacancies from 30 days to 60 days.

This measure was placed on the ballot by City Council and received no official statement of opposition from Berkeley residents.

— Michelle Pitcher

Measure P

Berkeley citizens voted to pass Measure P with a 83.67 vote, a symbolic measure that expresses dissatisfaction with corporate personhood and campaign finance laws in the United States. The measure asked voters if the U.S. Constitution should be amended to “abolish” the “legal concept that corporations are persons” and “the doctrine that the expenditure of money may be treated as speech.”

A similar measure was originally placed on California’s statewide ballot but was removed by the California Supreme Court on Aug. 11. Measure P was placed on this year’s ballot with the effort of UC Berkeley’s CalPIRG chapter’s Reclaiming Our Democracy campaign. The campaign is a nationwide effort to overturn Citizens United, a controversial Supreme Court ruling made in 2010.

Passage of the measure does not change any city policies, nor does it require the city to make any formal complaint to the federal government. Proponents hope this vote will raise greater awareness of campaign finance and corporate personhood laws among Berkeley residents.

There were no outspoken opponents to the measure; Councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Susan Wengraf and Gordon Wozniak endorsed it.

— Philip Cerles

Measure Q

A measure requesting more freedom for employee work scheduling was passed by Berkeley voters with a 78.31 percent. It advises Berkeley City Council to adopt an ordinance that would grant public and private sector employees the right to request to work part time.

This ordinance would require employers to deliver a written response to an employee’s request for more flexible working arrangement. Such an ordinance would also exempt small businesses from the requirement but would apply to both public and private sector employees.

In addition to the advisory, the measure directs the city of Berkeley to send letters to state and federal officials urging the passage of laws with similar provisions to the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2007, which was not enacted but had similar ideas to the requested ordinance.

Though the text of the measure concerns part-time work, the proposed ordinance would “promote many forms of flexibility, including flexibility in the times, locations, and number of hours worked,” according to the official argument in favor of the measure.

Measure Q was placed on the ballot by voter petition.

— Philip Cerles

Measure BB

With a 69.56 percent vote, Alameda County voters had passed Measure BB , which will implement a 0.5 percent increase in sales tax until 2045 to improve and maintain transportation infrastructure of Alameda County.

The measure aims to bring in $7.8 billion to expand mass transit, improve highway infrastructure, improve local streets and roads and expand special transportation for seniors and the disabled.

The increase in sales tax accompanies the renewal of an already existing 0.5 percent sales tax that was authorized back in 1986. Thus, this will total to a 1 percent sales tax solely for transportation expenses.

More than half the funds will focus on transit, paratransit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements and street repair. The measure will also provide $400 million for a BART extension to Livermore and seed money for a free youth bus pass.

The Downtown Berkeley and Ashby BART stations will receive $20 million and $18.5 million, respectively. The funding will also aid in the completion of the I-80 Gilman project and Ashby Avenue Interchange project in Berkeley.

— Heyun Jeong

Proposition 1

Proposition 1 — which authorizes $7.12 billion in bonds and reallocates $425 million in authorized unsold bonds to fund water-related projects and programs — leads 67 percent in favor with 94 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning.

Also known as the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act, the proposition aims to establish clean drinking water, protect sources of water and increase water security, among many other goals.

As California faces growing water challenges, supporters view the proposition, which will not raise taxes, as a financially accountable plan that will safeguard the state’s water supplies.

But opponents say the proposition itself provides little cost-effective drought relief and will require taxpayer repayment (of bonds) of $360 million per year for 40 years.

Prop. 1 replaces an earlier $11.14 billion bond proposal that was approved by lawmakers five years ago but was pulled from the ballots in 2010 and 2012 in response to criticisms there was “pork” in the bond.

— Heyun Jeong

Proposition 2

Proposition 2 is leading with 69 percent in favor with 94 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning. Prop. 2 aims to expedite the state’s payment process, and if successful, California citizens can expect that state debts will likely be paid faster.

Prop. 2 is a legislative constitutional amendment that mandates an annual transfer of state general revenues to the California Budget Stabilization Account, or the Rainy Day Fund. The proposition also creates a Public School System Stabilization Account to support public education. Additionally, half of state revenues will be used to pay back state debts, and remaining funds will be restricted to emergency spending only.

The proposition garnered 71.97 percent of the votes. It is expected to protect taxpayers from unnecessary tax increases and schools from program cuts.

Proponents of the proposition included Gov. Jerry Brown and the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored public policy advocacy organization. Opponents of the measure included former California superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin.

— Zoe Kleinfeld

Proposition 45

Proposition 45 is failing with 60 percent voting no with 94 percent of precincts reporting as of early Wednesday morning.

The proposition requires health insurance companies to seek approval from the state’s Insurance Commissioner before changing their rates or other charges connected to health insurance. Health insurance companies will be required to publicly justify rate increases before they are implemented, insofar as the proposition mandates public notice, disclosure and judicial review.

Although these measures seek to clarify the source of health insurance costs, they are expected to have a detrimental fiscal impact due to increased regulatory state administrative costs. Opponents argue that the proposition will not only raise healthcare costs, but also give politicians too much clout in determining health care policy.

The proposition garnered 52.42 percent of the votes. The proposition will prohibit health, auto and homeowner insurers from basing customer eligibility on credit history or previous coverage.

— Zoe Kleinfeld

Proposition 46

Proposition 46 is failing with 67 percent voting no with 93 percent of precincts reporting as of early Wednesday morning.

Prop. 46 sought to clarify the source of health insurance costs. The proposition would have implemented more comprehensive substance abuse screening for medical practitioners, including increased drug testing of physicians on behalf of hospitals and the creation of a statewide prescription drug database before allotting drugs to patients. Additionally, the almost four-decade-old cap on medical malpractice suits would have been increased from $250,000 to $1.1 million and adjusted annually to reflect future inflation rates.

Opponents of Prop. 46 voted no at 63.4 percent. State legislative analysts expected the proposition to have had a detrimental fiscal impact, because it would have increased the medical malpractice damage cap. Those who are part of the group No on 46 argued that Prop. 46 would have disproportionately benefited trial lawyers rather than California health care consumers as a result of the malpractice lawsuit stipulation.

— Zoe Kleinfeld

Proposition 47

Proposition 47, which reduces the penalty for certain nonviolent crimes from felony to misdemeanor sentences, passed is winning with with 58 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

Also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, the law will mandate reduced penalties such as shorter jail terms for criminal offenders who commit nonserious and nonviolent crimes, including petty theft and drug possession. The proposition does not apply to registered sex offenders and those previously convicted of serious or violent crimes.

Proponents say the proposition will save hundreds of millions of dollars annually and will be used to support education, mental health and drug treatment programs, victim services and other programs.

But those against the law argued that the proposition poses a threat to public safety because it would potentially release 10,000 felons from state prison as well as reduce the penalties for crimes such as gun theft and possession of “date rape” drugs.

Opponents of the proposition included the California Police Chiefs Association, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and California District Attorneys Association.

Proponents of the measure included Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and former Berkeley mayor and current State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Oakland.

Jane Nho

Proposition 48

Proposition 48, the Indian Gaming Compacts referendum, is failing with 61 percent voting no as of early Wednesday morning, with 96 percent of precincts reporting. The proposition is a veto referendum that rejects AB 277, which formed gaming compacts with the state and two native groups – the North Fork Rancheria of the Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe.

The proposition’s failure prevents North Fork Rancheria from building a new casino in Madera County, which would have been the first in California to be built outside an existing reservation. Opponents argued the casino would have led to increased pollution and crime in the Central Valley and set a precedent for tribal casinos being built on lands not owned by tribes. It would also have led to Vegas-style casinos and a push by other tribes to build casinos outside existing reservations, they said.

Supporters, including Gov. Brown, argued the casino would have created about 4,000 jobs and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment.

Isaac Smith

Lt. Governor

Incumbent Gavin Newsom is defeating Republican Ron Nehring in the election for lieutenant governor, winning  56 percent of the vote as of early Wednesday morning, with 95 percent of precincts reporting in. A Democrat, Newsom served as supervisor and later mayor of the city and county of San Francisco before being elected as lieutenant governor in 2010.

His top priorities include job creation, increasing clean energy and strengthening California’s schools, according to his website.

In the case that the governor is unable to serve, the lieutenant governor assumes the governor’s office. He is also president of the state Senate and has a seat on the boards of the California university systems.

Frances Fitzgerald

U.S. Representative, 13th Congressional District

Democrat Barbara Lee may be re-elected as the Congressional representative for District 13 — which includes Berkeley and other East Bay cities — against Republican Dakin Sundeen, who works at technology support firm Definitive Networks Inc. Lee is leading with 87 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting in, as of early Wednesday morning.

A UC Berkeley alumna, Lee has represented the East Bay for 16 years and co-sponsored two bills in her most recent term to make college more affordable. She is a member of the Higher Education Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. She has also worked to protest the sale of the Berkeley Main Post Office’s building to private ownership.

—Frances Fitzgerald

State Assembly, 15th District

As of early Wednesday morning, Tony Thurmond appeared to have defeated fellow Democrat Elizabeth Echols in the race for state Assembly District 15, which includes Berkeley, Richmond and parts of Oakland. Thurmond secured 50.35 percent of the vote, with all precincts reporting.

Thurmond has served on Richmond City Council and on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board.

Thurmond wants to implement a split-roll tax to help fund education. He proposed the bill Pay it Forward, which would allow students to attend public colleges for free and repay the money over 20 to 25 years. He also wants to implement entrepreneurship training programs and increase the state’s environmental protection efforts.

—Frances Fitzgerald

Contact Daily Cal News staff at [email protected].

NOVEMBER 05, 2014