2016 Voter Guide

Your clip-and-save guide to the Bohemian's select election endorsements


Proposition 51

Funding for K-12 school bonds and community college facilities

If passed, this law would create a $9 billion bond to improve and build public schools. Schools are still recovering from the budget crisis of 2008, and this measure will go a long way to addressing overdue facility needs. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 52

Voter approval of hospital-fee program

This reasonable proposition continues a fee program at hospitals to help ensure we get federal matching dollars for Medicaid funds. It would reform current practices by requiring voter approval of any use of these funds for other purposes. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 53

Voter approval of state projects that cost more than $2 billion

Government waste and boondoggles are far too common, but hindering major infrastructure improvements through general-election approval is a recipe for delay and potentially greater costs for needed projects. A better idea is to elect politicians who will spend our money wisely. Recommendation: No

Proposition 54

Conditions under which legislative bills can be passed

A yes vote on Proposition 54 is a yes for open government and transparency. The proposal would prohibit passage of any bill that hasn’t been in print or posted online for at least 72 hours. All legislative proceedings would also have to be recorded, posted online and available for free. Democracy thrives in the daylight and dies in the dark. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 55

Extension of personal income tax for those making over $250,000 to fund education and healthcare

Proposition 30 of 2012 levied a sales and income tax to help California schools dig out from the effects of the great recession. The tax is scheduled to end, but Proposition 55 would extend it for those making more than $250,000 (1.5 percent of the population) to continue to pay for schools and public health projects. That is reneging on the terms of Proposition 30, but California’s school and health system are still in need. California’s tax system is in need of an overhaul, but in the meantime, asking the 1.5 percent to help pay for these worthy causes is reasonable. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 56

Increase cigarette tax by
$2 a pack

Smoking exacts a huge cost on public health—$3.5 billion a year for Medi-Cal patients in California. This proposed tax on tobacco products and e-cigarettes would fund anti-tobacco education and healthcare. If you don’t like the tax, don’t smoke. Recommendation: Yes.

Proposition 57

Reform criminal sentencing, parole and juvenile proceedings

Is prison meant to be simply punitive or should it also offer chances for rehabilitation and parole? We believe in the latter. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing Proposition 57 as a way to alleviate prison overcrowding by incentivizing good behavior. The other part of the law makes juvenile offenders subject to state courts, not prosecutors. We believe judges, not overzealous prosecutors, should decide when a youth should be tried as an adult. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 58

Bilingual education in public schools

Proposition 58 would repeal 1998’s Proposition 227, a one-size-does-not-fit-all ban on bilingual education. Proposition 58 returns the decision on how to teach English-language learners to school districts, where it belongs. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 59

State Legislature opposition to Citizens United

True, this proposition doesn’t have any real teeth. It’s merely an advisory measure that urges state legislators to use their power to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the rotten Citizens United case of 2010 that allows unfettered corporate money in our elections. So it’s a symbolic gesture that costs nothing, but it sends a strong message. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 60

Require use of condoms in pornographic films

This sounds like a great idea, right? But why do both the California Republican and Democratic parties, the San Francisco Green Party, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Dan Savage oppose it? Because it’s poorly written and it’s not about public health, but costly, free-for-all litigation. As written, the law would allow anyone in the state to sue anyone connected with porno films. No other workers can be sued this way. And why should the public be involved in porn regulation anyway? Recommendation: No

Proposition 61

Prescription-drug price regulation

The proposal seeks to rein in drug costs by prohibiting state agencies from buying prescription drugs at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Supporters have spent
$14 million to the $108 million opponents have spent. It’s on track to be the most expensive ballot proposition in U.S. history. Most of the opposing campaign contributions were made by pharmaceutical companies. If Big Pharma is against it, it means they’re out to protect their profits. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 62

Repeal the death penalty

The death penalty is a failure. It’s more costly than life in prison. It’s inhumane. It’s unjust. And it’s not a deterrent to crime. It’s time to kill it. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 63

Background checks for ammunition purchases.

If you’re going to do a background check for a gun purchase, it makes sense to do the same for buying bullets. And no one should be able to buy a gun if they’ve been convicted of stealing a gun. That’s also part of Proposition 63. Recommendation: Yes

Proposition 64

Legalization of marijuana

A good idea, but there are too many details to work out and the timing is not right. (See Endorsement, p18) Recommendation: No

Proposition 65

Tax on plastic bags for environmental projects

This ridiculous proposed law from the plastic-bag industry is like putting a tax on bullets to help pay for injuries caused by bullet wounds. A better idea would be to ban the environmental scourge all together, as Proposition 67 seeks to do. Don’t be fooled. Recommendation: No

Proposition 66

Reform death penalty procedures

Speeding up the appeals process is a costly band-aid for a broken system. Vote yes on Proposition 62 instead. Recommendation: No

Proposition 67

Ban plastic bags

Petroleum-based plastic bags contribute to climate change, clog landfills for eternity and choke our oceans and waterways, where marine creatures mistake them for food and die slow deaths. It’s time for them to go. Recommendation: Yes



Measure J

Regional parks and water-quality improvement tax

County parks and open space help define Sonoma County. While we wish this half-cent sales tax was spread out countywide instead of in the unincorporated areas, it’s a worthy request to help maintain our parks and protect water resources. Recommendation: Yes

Measure K

Community separators

Measure K keeps a good thing going for another 20 years: voter approval of any plans to change the community separators of farm land and open space that help keep the urban-rural nature of Sonoma County in balance. Recommendation: Yes

Measure L

Tourist tax

Last year, county voters resoundingly defeated Measure A, a proposed sales tax put on the ballot by the board of supervisors aimed at funding sorely needed road repairs. They’re back with Measure L, a plan to make tourists pay for road repairs (and other things like park maintenance and promotion) in the form of a 3 percent increase in transit occupancy tax on county hotels. Sounds reasonable, but the county should look for other funding sources to pay for our crumbling roads that won’t be subject to the ups and downs of the tourist economy. Recommendation: Yes

Measure M

GMO ban

There are no genetically modified crops grown in Sonoma County, and Measure M will keep it that way. Because many farms here grow organically, the threat of GMO contamination is real. Opponents of the ban say there is no evidence the GMOs cause any harm, but, similarly, there is no evidence they do any good for farmers who have to pay for the expensive, patented seed stock. We’re not willing to trust Monsanto (recently purchased by pharmaceutical giant Bayer) and other GMO seed companies to keep our food safe. Keep GMOs out of Sonoma County. Recommendation: Yes

Measure N

Extension of Santa Rosa sales tax for city services

Measure N extends a 1/4 cent sales tax for another eight years to ensure that needed city services are funded. Recommendation: Yes

Measure O

Santa Rosa public safety spendings

Measure O provides needed clarity in how the city funds its police and fire service. Recommendation: Yes

Measure P

Cloverdale cannabis tax

Here we go. Expect to see more cities take a piece of the cannabis pie. Cloverdale is out front with a plan to fund key city services with sales of up to 10 percent on permitted marijuana businesses. A lot of government agencies are going to have their hands in pot’s pockets, and care must be taken not to kill the goose that grows the golden buds, but this plan is a reasonable one. Recommendation: Yes

Measure Q

Cotati urban growth boundary

Like Measure K, which affects county lands, Measure Q would renew the urban growth boundary for Cotati for another 30 years, effectively putting an end to the threat of sprawl into agricultural and open space land around the city. This is a good thing. Recommendation: Yes

Measure R

Healdsburg growth-management ordinance

Measure R would overturn voter-approved growth limits and return decisions on new housing development to the city council. Yes, housing is very expensive in H’burg. No amount of new housing will solve the problem, though overzealous development could damage the city’s charm and environment. We recommend maintaining the growth limits while pursuing affordable housing development, which is exempt from the existing ordinance. Recommendation: No

Measure S

Healdsburg hotel tax

While we don’t support Healdsburg’s Measure R, we like Measure S. The proposal would boost the city’s transit-occupancy tax charged at hotels from 10 to 12 percent and earmark the additional revenue (about a $500,000) for affordable-housing construction. Recommendation: Yes

Measure T

Fluoridation of Healdsburg water supply

Should the city of Healdsburg stop fluoridating its water? Choose a side of the debate and choose your data in support of your position. We think it’s up to residents to choose whether they want a chemical in their water. If you want fluoride, buy fluoridated toothpaste. Recommendation: Yes

Measure U

City of Sonoma sales tax extension

Measure U extends Measure J for another five years. The half-cent sales tax was passed to cover falling revenue caused by the recession. Since then, revenue is back up and the tourist economy is brisk, but redevelopment fees are no longer available so the city says it still needs the sale tax. We’re inclined to agree, but the city needs to get more aggressive about finding new sources of funds other than taxes. Recommendation: Yes

Measure V

Sonoma leaf blower ban

They do make life easier for gardeners, but leaf blowers are awfully noisy and the gas ones nasty for the environment. Are brooms so bad? Recommendation: Yes

Measure W

City of Sonoma smoking and tobacco regulations

It’s tough to be a smoker these days, but the impact on public health and quality of life outweighs the dirty habit. Measure W would ban smoking in city parks, sidewalks, multi-unit dwellings and dining areas. We’re all for it. Recommendation: Yes

Measure Y

Sonoma County library
sales tax

Last year, a funding measure for local libraries barely missed the 66 percent threshold needed for passage. We’re glad to see this back for another try with Measure Y. The measure would raise about $10 million a year for needy public libraries. That’s a small price to pay for a pillar of our democracy. Recommendation: Yes


Measure A

Reform animal shelter procedures for surrendered animals

This common-sense ballot measure seeks to reduce the number of animals destroyed at the county animal shelter. Recommendation: Yes

Measure B

Reform animal shelter procedures for surrendered animals with all available resources

This measure calls for much of the same things as Measure A but adds the language “using all resources available,” open-ended wording that could expose the county to lawsuits if all available funds weren’t used. Measure A is good enough. Recommendation: No

Measure Z

Water, parks and open space, restoration and preservation

This 14-year, 1/4 cent sales tax would continue to help fund the good work of the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District to protect watersheds, open space, wildlife habitat and maintain public access. Recommendation: Yes

Sonoma County Library