Election 2020: My personal endorsements
Please vote, as if your world, your family’s world and your great grandchildren’s world depends upon it. While every election is important, 2020—like 1776, 1860, 1932 and 1968—is a year when we are not just voting for candidates, but choosing between two very different paths for America.
While SN&R’s editorial staff makes decisions about endorsements, I want to use my column to also weigh in with a few endorsements that I believe are of particular importance.
Vote yes on Proposition 25, the referendum on replacingcash bail with risk assessments. In 2018, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 10, making California the first state to end cash bail for detained suspects. But the bail companies ponied up the money to try to overturn the law with this proposition.
This concept of using risk assessments instead of cash bail has been used successfully in Santa Clara County for years. Even if you do not care about the injustice of keeping someone in jail for a crime they have yet to be convicted of, simply because they can’t afford bail, consider the tens of millions of dollars that Sacramento County will save by not keeping nonviolent offenders in jail awaiting trial.
Vote yes on Prop. 15, the tax on commercial and industrial properties for education and local government funding. While all of California’s largest corporate and commercial operations use government services such as police, transportation and education, many are not paying their fair share of property taxes because of Proposition 13, passed in 1978.
Unlike other states that have a rational property tax system, where the bill is based on a percentage of the property’s market value, Prop. 13 established a bizarre system in which new property owners pay an initial 1% of assessed value and that rate can only increase by 2% a year, or at the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
So most years, property owners get a tax break and the government has less money to spend on services. What’s more, since California property values have gone up significantly since 1978, new property owners have a much higher initial assessment. And since commercial properties do not turn over as frequently as residential properties, they end up paying a much lower percentage of total taxes.
Prop. 15 would establish a “split roll” in which commercial property taxes would be based on current assessed value. This would go a long way to correct the imbalance, and will bring in an additional $8 to 12 billion a year of much-needed revenue for schools and local governments.
Vote no on Prop. 22, the initiative on app-based drivers as contractors. Earlier this year, when many Uber and Lyft drivers lost their income because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they received state and federal unemployment insurance benefits, even though the companies had not paid into the unemployment insurance fund. Pretending that app-based drivers are self-employed may be good for Uber and Lyft, who avoid paying employee benefits, but it did not work out so well for the taxpayers who picked up the tab.
Elect Gregg Fishman for Sacramento County supervisor. Of all the local races, this one will have the most impact. Issues facing the county—including dealing with COVID-19, the recession, homelessness and an out-of-control sheriff—require a focused Board of Supervisors.
The current board of two conservatives, two progressives, and one middle-of-the-road member is a recipe for gridlock. I believe having Fishman join progressive supervisors Phil Serna and Patrick Kennedy will produce much better decision-making.
Elect Brynne Kennedy for Congress. Republican Tom McClintock of California’s Fourth Congressional District has been assumed by many to be a shoo-in. However, according to the highly respected Cook Political Report, there is some hope for Democrat Brynne Kennedy, whose election would improve Congress while also improving the Republican Party by removing McClintock. He is that bad.
Re-elect Rob Kerth for SMUD board. His understanding of energy policy has been a tremendous asset to the SMUD board, and this expertise will be very necessary in the coming years due to the complexity of issues as climate change becomes a greater challenge for this region.
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.