Survival Strategies In A Modern World

Election night, I started the evening sharing beers with a couple Canadians currently biking down to Mexico, talking the ins and outs of our electoral process as hope slowly crystallized into despair. I don’t know how many beers I had. I wasn’t really keeping track. Perhaps your memory did funny things on Tuesday night too. Let’s just say not that many, but enough. And I thought for sure I’d get home and pour a glass of whiskey or have another beer or 6. But as I sat there I didn’t. I couldn’t even get up. I sat on my couch, and read until I cried, and repeated that cycle a few times. My friends and I texted entirely too late for us normally, but we were up because how could any of us sleep? How was anything ever going to be normal again for so many of us? I channeled my despair into a few cohesive thoughts; I had so much more to say, but life is not fair and I knew no matter what I had work to do the next day. Eventually, I slept.

The next morning, I had a little bit more to say. I found the words that had been percolating which I just couldn’t find the night before. I spent a lot of energy wondering about what I had just challenged myself to do: What am I going to do better? How am I going to give more? How am I going to do more? The first thing I did was go to the ACLU and donate. We are going to need them more than ever in the coming days. It wasn’t much. But it was something. It was a first step. What’s the next one? How can I give more, not just to them, but to so many other worthy organizations? What sacrifices can I make as someone who knows she has plenty more to give?

I thought about my budget. I thought about my needs and my wants. I am glad I have a passport that accurately reflects who I am, especially now, but the idea of travel seems more anxiety-inducing than anything right now. I’ve rarely felt comfortable flying as an openly transgender woman the past few years; that was before our nation elected a bigot whose Vice President-elect would rather will trans folks out of existence than treat us with any modicum of compassion. You’ll have to excuse me if the thought of air travel fills me with trepidation now. And while that will certainly free up some money, I had already talked about doing that in 2017. Perhaps I was subconsciously preparing myself for this reality.

I could go to fewer shows. But let’s be real, they are going to be more essential than ever. PWR BTTM delivered a fierce statement Wednesday night, and it was amazing to just be in a room with so many LGBTQ folks. I may be more mindful of the shows I go to, though most bands I see seem to be composed of like-minded folks. It was gutting to hear how hard it was for the bands to get up on stage the past couple days and yet so affirming to see them play despite all of that. Because in times like this, that’s what we need. So I may work to ensure I’m supporting more socially conscious efforts, but now more than ever, we need to support artists, as many of them will be directly affected as who they are in addition to being musicians.

I could give up alcohol. And finally, I found something that is both tangible and necessary. I found something that I do spend a decent amount of money on. I need to eat, but I don’t need to drink. Looking at the amount of money I’ve spent at breweries and bars in the past year, that would be more than enough to free up plenty of money for other causes. That’s not even including the cash that I spend that never hits the budget as anything more than cash. So that is what I must do. That is where that money is. And as much as I love supporting local brewers and bars, they are not going to miss my money. In fact, I think plenty of other folks will be lining up to help them with that. I cannot blame them.

So that’s what I am going to do. I’m done with drinking. Or at least done spending money on it. However the mechanics of it are much easier if I just avoid drinking alcohol altogether for the time being. So that’s what I will do. The reality of a Trump presidency got me to do something I never thought I would. I doubt this is the last time I will have that thought. I need to start taking care of myself better. Some of that starts with paying down my own bills so I am prepared for whatever is next. Because who knows what that looks like? If I can do that while also helping out worthy causes like Planned Parenthood or Southern Poverty Law Center, even better. This is something that more than allows me to do that. In addition, it frees me up a bit to give my time, to take better care of myself physically. It’s a lot easier to volunteer at an event if you aren’t hungover, I’ve found.

Beyond all that, I cannot afford to approach the next few years without a clear head. For my own safety. Even in San Francisco, I fear things are about to take a dark turn. The bitter irony of Trump campaigning on the lie of making our dangerous cities safe again is his win makes them unsafe for so many of us. He has emboldened bigots, and if you don’t think they are here, even in a place that overwhelmingly supported (mostly) liberal policies and politicians, I have some news for you. Voting for someone with a D next to their name doesn’t magically remove hate from your heart. I currently do a lot of things by myself; I’m going to have to think about that a lot harder. And if I keep going out there as I plan to, as myself, unashamed of who I am, I am going to need to be at my best. Be that a stronger buddy system, or more awareness, now is not the time to simply wish things will be better. Now is the time to practice so we are prepared.

As much as I want to not think about the next few years, I cannot afford to forget them. I need to be at my best, and as much as I fear it is going to hurt to read, to listen, to watch what comes next, I cannot afford to look away. We must remember. We must burn this into our memories. We must not forget. Perhaps you can entertain notions that things will not so be bad; I have to entertain the opposite. I will keep looking at what I must change. This is an easy sacrifice, and a necessary one. I may, before long, have to give up much more than just the things I want. I don’t want to think about any of this. But as I keep saying, I cannot afford not to. That doesn’t mean I’m going to dwell on it though. What’s done is done. For better as some folks seem to believe or for worse as so many of us fear, Trump will be our next President. We don’t get a different set of facts here. It’s time to start doing better today what I want to keep doing tomorrow. I encourage you to ask yourselves the same questions. Perhaps you won’t arrive at the same place as me; perhaps you find the only thing that makes the next few years tenable is a good whiskey. That’s neither right nor wrong. You have to make the decisions that work for you, though some of us have much more flexibility in that regard. I am making the decision that makes the most sense for me at the time. I’m not going to stop hanging out with my friends. I need y’all now more than ever. All that’s changing is what’s in the glass. I’ll share a drink with you again when we have something to celebrate. Until then? There’s work to do.

In The Morning Light

Thanks for everyone who has reached out, public or private. But after a night of a lot of thinking, and crying, and sleeping, I remember that I will probably be fine. Perversely my company’s stock is doing more than okay this morning (I guess everyone forgot about all those fake accounts?), I have a job that isn’t going anywhere unless the entire global structure collapses (gonna lean towards no on that front in the light of morning, but I guess we’ll find out), and though we passed a couple odious measures here in San Francisco (really Q?), I still live in San Francisco, which, right or wrong, is still seen as a bastion of certain ideals that I do not think will crumble overnight.

But not everyone will be fine. Not everyone feels that way this morning. That’s okay. Support them but don’t tell them they have to be at some point this morning if they are not. This is gonna take a long time for some folks to sort out. For my part, it’s time to redouble those efforts. Get involved at the local level. Groups like Transgender Law Center and the SF LGBT Center will become more essential. It’s time to start putting more money and effort into those groups. I get not everyone can, but I know that’s something tangible I can do, and I ask you to also look at what groups and organizations you can support, especially if they center their work at those in the most vulnerable intersections of our society.

And I will be okay because have my relative privileges. To my fellow folks who don’t feel that way, or know they won’t be, I need to use those to help them. Specifically when it comes to trans folks, remind your trans friends they are loved, sure, but if you want to provide more salient kind of help, also remind them now would be a good time to make sure they update as many legal docs as they possibly can, because who knows what’s next? Help them with things like that if you can because they are going to need it.

Support those that are different. Speak up for LGBTQ folks, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, folks with disabilities, and so many more. Speak truth to injustice even when it seems no one wants to listen. Fight what comes next.

If you can, get involved on the local level in other ways too. It’s hard to think about 2018 now, but we must. This is when we can start building toward that in our communities. The fight to support each other starts at that level.

It’s odd to approach this with equanimity. I guess that is just how I process stuff. But don’t confuse that with complacency. Also, I’m not really walking back how I feel about Trump supporters. I am not sure exactly how to interact with them at this moment, not sure if I’ll ever know how to interact with them, and while some may say we need bridgebuilding, I am also tired of being asked to meet people halfway who never take a step forward. Remember that’s what is being asked of so many folks. At some point, I’m sure I’ll figure out how to deal with that as well, but how do I meet people who refuse to acknowledge my existence is just as valid as theirs? Certainly I will have to continue to interact with people who did. I am just not sure exactly how yet.

Find your support. Find your people. We are going to need each other. I know a lot of us probably cried last night; don’t forget to laugh too. It’s a weird time to be looking for joy and silver linings, but I love y’all. That didn’t change last night. In fact, in many ways, it galvanized it. Y’all are family. And even in the darkest times, we need to lift each other up. We’re gonna need each other to do the work ahead. I am not here to say you need to start doing that today; take your time. But know I am here to help when you are ready.

So You Wanna Be A San Francisco Voter

I am a firm believer that everyone who wants to live in San Francisco should have to vote here first. It might help keep the rent costs down and hey, at least we haven’t tried it yet. I jest, I jest; more seriously, San Francisco just has too much damn democracy. In principle, the proposition system (hereafter referred to as Props most of the time) isn’t inherently terrible, but in the spirit that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, California in general and San Francisco in specific has perfected that when it comes to the ballot box. In a presidential election, we have outdone ourselves. On top of the Presidency, an open Senate seat, and the biannual running of “Nancy Pelosi’s seat will change hands when she says it will”, there are 42 (not a typo) city, regional, and state measures and Props. There are state questions that are worthy of our consideration and could help set the stage for more progress on some of these issues nationally (legalization of marijuana; repealing the death penalty; banning plastic bags), there are the local that are at least worth discussing (the soda tax falls into that category for me), some local votes that will determine much about how we approach these problems going forward (I believe 6 Supes are up for re-election or termed out, including mine; the Jane Kim v Scott Wiener State race) are there are some that are just ridiculous (looking at you, Prop Q). There’s a whole lot that falls in between. I like to do a little (heh) write-up to help me approach. One, it makes me not only justify my vote to myself, but to others; while it’s not a requirement, it helps me strengthen my positions, and in some cases, change my mind on issues I just hadn’t researched or thoroughly interrogated. While it’s not necessarily out loud, looking at it on paper is different than mulling it over in your head. Two, god forbid you are a voter here, but if you are, good luck. Perhaps you too will find some of my analysis useful, or at least what I end up digging up useful. Three, it’s always enjoyable to make fun of excess with more excess. In that spirit, let us proceed into the dark, tenebrous depths of the mind of a San Francisco voter trying to approach the ballot with some amount of efficacy left:

Note: any names you see in the headers are the actual names, though many of them have shortened or entirely different shorthand. But I think it’s instructive to look at how things are worded on as many levels as possible. All numbers at the local level courtesy of: http://www.sfethics.org/ethics/2016/06/campaign-finance-dashboards-june-7-2016-and-november-8-2016-elections.html I’ll try to link to anything else relevant as I go.

Federal Offices:

President and Vice President:

You’re joking, right? Look, it’s good to start out with an easy one, so I guess I’ll take it. It’ll get harder from here. I can’t tell you how to vote, but I have a lot of questions if you are choosing to vote for Donald Trump. Mind you, not voting against Hillary, or for your party, or whatever other reason you may have lodged in your brain somewhere, but explicitly voting for a racist, sexist, nihilistic, narcissistic, lying, proudly ignorant demagogue because you actually like that choice. I just really wonder why. For my part? I’d like to keep having rights, and I would like for women, black people, Latinx people, Muslims, LGBT folks, and everyone else he seems intent to grind under his boot to keep having rights too. Do we have a lot of work to do to make sure those of us who are not able white cishet males who have an overwhelming tendency to be Christian also have the opportunities to be our best selves every day? Of course.Let’s do that work instead of giving into fear and a dystopian vision. One of the running jokes during 2016 has been claiming Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer, but I am beginning to think we’ve been focusing on the wrong bit of Bay Area history that’s truly relevant to 2016.

I’m with her: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine

United States Senator:

Thankfully the national offices are easier than what’s to come. This one isn’t really that hard, either, but it deserves a few words. Thanks to Proposition 14 in 2010, California has what is called a Top-Two Primary system, which means the top two are selected irrelevant of party because all candidates are on the same list. In a state where we have a lot of Democratic control at many levels, a measure like this ostensibly should create more competition than just running a sacrificial Republican who has no chance, and arguably help create better races. Or perhaps not better, but more contested? I’m not entirely sure, I didn’t live here when Prop 14 passed, but the result is this is a race between two Democrats, Loretta Sanchez and Kamala Harris. Two women running to replace a woman is pretty awesome. It’s been an uphill race, as this seat is widely considered Kamala Harris’s to lose, and she deserves some criticism. The California Department of Justice, which she heads as the Attorney General (AG), recently arrested and charged Backpage.com’s CEO with help from the AG of Texas, which, while not surprising, is incredibly disappointing since moves are just more in a long line that hurt sex workers. Not surprising, since a lot of liberals still have staunchly conservative ideas when it comes to sex work, but disappointing nonetheless. And I get it, she’s just enforcing the laws we have, but we make choices which ones to emphasize enforcement of, too. I’m anti-sex trafficking, don’t get me wrong; I just don’t think this is really the most expeditious way to address those kinds of issues. A lot of it gets tied up in our immigration laws, and how we treat folks on the margins of society, and I’d rather see us focus our efforts on making those aspects better, but I digress. She also fought against providing gender affirming care to prisoners (though the state later conceded on that front), which bothers me since it’s medically necessary care. Of course, she also helped make California the first state that outlawed gay and trans panic defenses and one of her positions is to fight for that nationwide. And she works to fight human trafficking as the AG too. Reality is frequently more complicated than we want it to be, and we are imperfect machines trying to make always rational decisions. Sometimes we get really focused on one thing and forget others. Which isn’t to say that I’m going to forget the negatives, but I like a lot of the positives about here, and I haven’t read or seen much about Loretta Sanchez that has changed my mind on that front. While I would love to see some positions regarding housing and transportation from Kamala Harris considering the need for action on that in this state and on the national front, I don’t see anything about that from Loretta Sanchez either.

I voted for her in the primary and nothing’s happened since that changed my mind: Kamala Harris

United States Representative, District 12:

Again, another easy one. You can throw a protest vote Preston Picus’s way all you want. There’s nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t seem like a bad dude. But barring unprecedented events, this seat is Nancy Pelosi’s until she says otherwise. That may be soon, she’s 76, after all, but her age is still below her average vote percentage she gets in elections here. I have no real bone to pick with her. I have voted for more exciting Representatives in my life (one of many Minneapolitans who helped elect the first Muslim US Rep, for example), but again, there’s a lot of other stuff to focus on here. Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be.

Counting on the rest of the country to make her Speaker one more time: Nancy Pelosi

State:

State Senator District 11:

San Francisco has term limits for Supes at eight consecutive years on the board followed by at least four years out, and for some Supes, the next step is going to Sacramento. It really seems like more of a punishment than anything else (I jest, I jest, though really, have you been to Sacramento?), but that’s the next logical step for a lot of folks who are career-minded and have served on the Board here. This year, we’re putting forth two Democrats, either of whom could serve us well in a number of capacities, Scott Wiener and Jane Kim. They represent what is in effect the two party split here in what we call the moderate and progressive factions of a largely Democratic town. Even in three years of living here, I haven’t really gotten a great handle on what it means to be in one wing or the other, though it seems to rear itself most in housing, with the moderates frequently being accused of being in the pockets of big developers to push through more housing and line their pockets in one pessimistic view and the progressives being so wrapped up in keeping San Francisco affordable that they will fight the agents of gentrification, those builders of multi-story buildings that will steal sunlight and breezes and views and bring parking and not help those who can’t afford it, contributing to the death of the neighborhood. The truth is more boring and muddled, of course, but a shorter version is moderates tend to be more pro-all housing and less concerned with things like character at all costs and progressives tend to be more pro-affordable housing and neighborhood character, a battle of building what will come next versus protecting what’s already there. For me, housing is a, no, the major issue. I may be fortunate, but who knows when my luck will change? If it does, I’m done in the City. I cannot afford to keep up without the deal I have. But that also doesn’t mean that deal is equitable. I basically won a lottery when I found this place. And that’s not really a great way to maintain a city in my opinion, and whether it’s just plain old rent control or more income-adjusted types, it still ends up being a lottery. I am of the mind that more housing will help us address many of those issues, and I’m not particularly sympathetic to changing views and changing streets as we do not live in a museum, we live in a city. Even museums rotate through their collections quite a bit. While there are things I am not a huge fan of with Wiener (such as his love of a “robust police force”, whatever that means), I’m a big fan of his housing and transportation platforms; both present somewhat token responses on things like Vision Zero; both stand for many of the same things in general. In addition, I’m a little turned off by the “save the soul of our city” nature of Kim’s campaign. Save it for whom? Do I count as someone who hasn’t lived here that long? Is it my City too? The reality is it’s a lot of different cities to a lot of different people. If she gets elected, I won’t be disappointed. Her positions on criminal justice reform and housing have huge aspects I support, but I don’t think her vision on housing aligns nearly as much with my vision on housing. Call me a supply-side housing advocate all day long as a jeer if you want to, I still think that’s a better way forward; I’d rather see us try to make housing affordable than just make affordable housing, especially considering how much that costs the City and State to actually produce those units.

Gotta go with what matters most to me and what I think will impact the City and State most long term on this one: Scott Wiener

Member of the State Assembly District 19:

A relative rarity on the ballot, this is a race between a Democrat and a Republican. To give you an idea of how this race is viewed, it’s not even in the SF Chronicle’s voter guide. Phil Ting is the incumbent Democrat representing San Francisco. He won it with 77 percent of the vote in 2014. In 2012, he won 58 percent of the vote in a two D race. While the district is a bit more than the western half of San Francisco (it has some weird boundaries in the City) including Daly City, Broadmoor, Colma, and a bit of South City, it’s safe to say this is a reliably Democractic seat. Many ballot guides don’t even have any recommendations in this race. Even those that support him have milquetoast statements saying little more than they endorse him. But he did receive a Golden Wheelie from the SF Bike Coalition?

I see no reason to reinvent the wheel: Phil Ting

Nonpartisan Offices:

Judicial: Judge of the Superior Court, Office No. 7:

Why do we vote on judges? It’s weird, you know. They are also incredibly difficult to accurately research much of the time since a lot of what they do is stuff you will neither find a good write-up for nor find the actual information about. In fact, this race doesn’t even appear in most of the guides I’ve looked at. I also feel like I just voted for this. That’s because I did on June 6th in a primary. Paul Henderson and Victor Hwang won the run-off, and here they are. Unfortunately I didn’t do a handy write-up for the primaries, so I can’t point to that, but I did, based on research then, go with Victor Hwang. I see no reason to change that now.
Gonna trust I did an alright job last time and move on with life: Victor Hwang

School:

Board of Education:

Both this and the Community College seats are Vote for no more than four candidate positions. And they are the same names that come up over and over. It’s too bad I don’t know more considering these kinds of votes are actually quite important. It can be a springboard to possible bigger things like in the case of Sandra Fewer, but they also just have a lot of influence about the direction of schools and colleges in the City. And that kind of stuff matters, no doubt. Like judges, it’s hard to find much. A lot of spilled ink regarding everything else, but not a lot on this.Again, this is another office that seems to come up a lot. No, I still never know what to do.

In what may be the most surprising thing I found, both the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner agree on the same four individuals. Matt Haney, Jill Wynns, and Rachel Norton are all incumbents, and both publications like Stevon Cook to replace Sandra Fewer. I feel bad that I’m not necessarily deeply researching all of these, but I am a person with limited time and means. The current board seems like it’s doing a decent job of directing where things are going. Stevon Cook seems like an able and willing person to step into that seat. The only other person who really seems worth consideration is Trevor McNeil. They both have strong education backgrounds, and McNeil has some stout endorsements, including Nancy Pelosi. It’s tough. I think either would do the job well.

However, these are my four: Matt Haney, Jill Wynns, Rachel Norton, and Stevon Cook

Community College Board:

Alright, let’s not make this too complex. There are four open seats and five people running. Three of them are incumbents, Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, and Amy Bacharach, and two are newcomers (though they aren’t entirely new), Tom Temprano and Shanell Williams. I think the incumbents have done a decent job guiding the institution the past few years. I think Shanell Williams is a good fit for the fourth seat. Maybe there are some progressives in San Francisco who can change my mind.

My four: Alex Randolph, Rafael Mandelman, Amy Bacharach, and Shanell Williams

State Propositions:

No, I don’t know why half the state Props have really useless names. I just work with what they give me

Proposition 51: School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School And Community College Facilities

I would love to never have to vote on something like this. Of course, that is contingent on the underlying tax structure of your state not being broken. Just say no to the Prop system, because it leads to things like Prop 13. But here we are. Besides, it’s all speculative, we may still need a bond like this. But one of the things that’s not speculative, though some doubt its impacts at all on funding state services, is California does have pretty poor education. One could question how the government is spending the money it is bringing it. But no question, the way the government brings in money is different than it was before 1978, and it did impact how much is directed to education via property taxes. So instead we vote on things like this. In this case, are we going to authorize $9B in general bonds, broken down between $3B for new construction and $3B for modernization of K-12 facilities as well as $1B to charter and vocational schools and $2B to for community colleges. It’ll end up costing us almost 2x that. There are a lot more details than that getting into exact usage, but that’s the gist. By my interpretation, this is just part of the pot to pay for school projects as much of the funding also comes from the local level, so it may incent more depending on your municipality. Or it may not.
I am conflicted on this one. I think education funding is important, but one of the criticisms I keep finding is it locks California into some already arcane rules regarding how school projects are funded. Unsurprisingly, most of the local resources are pro this Prop, but another criticism is it favors more affluent areas. So let’s follow the money. There have been no funds contributed against this measure, even though Jerry Brown himself is against it. On the for side, they’ve raked in over $10M. It’s what you’d expect, with the largest contributions from California Building Industry Association Issues Committee. It makes sense builders would be kicking in, since this is the kind of work that goes to builders. But let’s step back to the more basic issue. No matter who you ask, California has a poor education system, near the bottom of many rankings, yet we just passed France for the 6th largest economy in the world.This really seems at odds. Until you remember it’s California and we have a lot of messed up laws and Props to navigate with all of this. And it sounds like, unfortunately, kicking into this right now is going to perpetuate one of those systems. Like I said, I’m conflicted, but especially given that it’s a Prop, it’s better to vote no and get it right the second time than vote yes on something that cannot be fixed easily. Until we fix that?

Let’s get it right first: NO on Prop 51 (though I’m guessing this will be a yes when the dust settles)

Prop 52: Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program

This is one of those Props that is designed to keep doing what a previous legislation put in place. The basics appear to be to continue a funding system so that hospitals pay in to obtain matching funds to provide coverage for Medi-Cal, covering people like uninsured individuals, children, seniors, low income folks. It’s hard to feel bad about that. It also has some safety mechanisms in place to keep the state from diverting those funds, which is pretty necessary for any sort of measure that has set-asides.

As I see it, there are two main reasons to object. One, we should just let legislators due their job. They passed it the first time in the 2009, and it may well be a better thing to let them handle. Two, set-asides are bad budgeting. They can backfire quite quickly. But I don’t think either of them are sufficient reasons. While I am always leery of putting things into the State Constitution (since we have to do this all over again should the needs change), this is the kind of thing we should be putting in there. It’s specific enough that it does not seem it will lead to abuse and it supports a specific need. It has fairly robust support from a lot of different groups. I can get behind that too.

Let’s cover those who need it most: YES on Prop 52

Prop 53: Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval

This would require statewide voter approval of any bond that exceeds $2B. Can you tell how excited I am to vote on 42 city, regional, and state measures already? Do you think I really want to vote on more? I don’t really understand what problem this solves. I thought we elected folks to make these kinds of decisions for our state, and yet we still do stuff like this all the time. I don’t see why we should add yet another layer in a state that already has so many layers. It doesn’t even come up that much as there are not that many projects over $2B, but many of them are projects like high-speed rail and transportation measures. Bills like this tend to have a couple effects. They either make things harder, or they push everything to a $1.99B set of bonds. It is widely opposed by many disparate groups. It’s the effort of one man opposed to a large-scale water diversion project and high speed rail essentially. While I am not up to speed on the water diversion project in the Delta (and I probably should be), I can say my personal opinion of high-speed rail is we need it now, and things like this won’t help. A one-man crusade that’s going to make future ballots more complicated or hamstring local projects for no good reason? That’s not what we need.
I like infrastructure. Let’s not make it any harder to build: NO on Prop 53

Prop 54: Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings

Ah transparency. Something we all we want. This is designed to prohibit the Legislature from passing any bill unless it has been in print and on the Internet for at least 72 hours, except for public emergencies. It also has some measures to allow recording (and in some cases, require them) as long as it’s not a closed session proceeding. An emergency would require the Governor to declare a state of emergency and two thirds of the house to consider passing it faster.

There are two lenses I tend to view most of these ballot measures through. Should this even be a Prop and is this going to improve our government or the services we provide? I tend to think even many of the things I end up supporting shouldn’t be Props, so that’s unfortunately not always useful. But the second one comes up a lot. How is this going to make our legislature in California work better? How is this going to help us solve the problems that our state faces? I have trouble seeing how this does. I am all for the increased transparency measures, but the time limit is at odds with how our government works unfortunately.
Again, this is another time to follow the money. It’s largely funded by Charles Munger, Jr.. He has previously supported an effort to change how California’s redistricting worked. And honestly, I can get behind that. But again, it’s the design of itthat seems a bit…off. And that’s where I am with this. While I generally support transparency measures and certainly legislatures all across the country take advantage of the lack of it, I’m not sure I like this. I’m not trying to be overly cynical about it, but I don’t know if it actually stops any of that bad legislation or it just makes it take 72 hours instead of happening right away. I personally think it’s more of the latter. Are we really holding politicians accountable? Perhaps. But it also seems like a chance to politicize bills that are routine. And in the interests of transparency, this is a measure one man spent almost $10M to get on the ballot. Such democracy we have…
Transparency is great, but let’s find it another way: NO on Prop 54

Prop 55: Tax Extension To Fund Education and Healthcare

Currently, we have a measure enacted in 2012 that taxes high earners ($250K single, $500/$340 for joint/head of household) additionally to fund K-12, community college, and healthcare programs. This is designed to extend that through 2030. As one might expect, this is broadly supported in the Bay Area. Which…well, we have a lot of people that would apply to here. While I understand the Chronicle’s no position, I don’t entirely agree with it in this one. I have certainly argued we should fix the underlying system as well (just four Props ago), but I think this is different than a bonding bill because…well, it’s not a state bond. Yes, we need to fix the damage that things like Prop 13 did, which certainly contributes to us having to vote on stuff like this, but is that going to magically fix itself because of a no vote here? It was sold as a temporary measure at the time, and that is also a common argument to vote against it. I am sympathetic to that, but I just don’t see the arguments advanced by most of the major papers in the state coming true. Will rejecting the status quo actually change it? I am specious about that line of reasoning in this case. Again, I think that’s a bit different with a bond like in Prop 51 (since we do have to pay for that), and I get the danger in relying heavily on top earners, but honestly, I’d be perfectly happy if this extended it indefinitely. And if I ever made enough to get taxed under this? I’d happily pay it.

I just don’t buy the arguments against this: YES on Prop 55

Prop 56: Cigarette Tax To Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, And Law Enforcement

I’ve mentioned I’m pro-sin tax before, I’ll say it again. This is designed to increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack to fund health care measures.. Increased costs do tend to make it harder for people to get into habits like this. While I even agree with it in this case, I’m just not a big fan of the “what about the children!?!” arguments of the world. Still, that argument is accurate and tobacco is something we all pay for whether we smoke it or not. I’d say the same thing if there were an increased tax on alcohol, even though I like it. These are things that have societal costs, which isn’t to say people shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy them; it just says they should be appropriately costed. The usual suspects are funding efforts to defeat this. If you find yourself on the opposite side of Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds, that’s a good thing in my book. This is an excise tax which largely funds Medi-Cal, which pays for a lot of smoking-related care. This seems like a decently designed measure. And if it eventually stops bringing in as much money? That’s good.

We’ll probably all be smoking joints instead anyway, so does it really matter?: YES on 56

Prop 57: Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings And Sentencing

To say that the United States of America has a problem with its justice system would be an understatement. We have a problem with our prisons here. We have too many people in them for terrible reasons. We have a racist, classist system that locks folks away and forgets about them. Or worse yet, profits from them.This Prop is designed to allow increased parole considerations for nonviolent felons, as well as increased sentence credits for things like good behavior. It also makes changes to whether some juveniles should be tried as adults. While I’d be in favor of even more robust action, these are modest measures that honestly should already be in place. We need to make a better world, and throwing people in prisons is something we need to spend much more time thinking about as a society. We all pay these costs, though it’s obvious who pays the brunt of these costs. Considering all the myriad ways the system is unfair, especially for people of color, we need to be looking at ways to make it better. This is a minor way of doing that. And an overdue one.

In a strange big of weirdness, both Jerry Brown and Newt Gingrich support this measure. That is not a typo. Opposition includes a whole bunch of Rs (as well as Loretta Sanchez) and numerous police associations and district attorneys. No one, for or against, really makes the arguments that matter if you ask me.Yes, in a purely cynical sense, reducing the number of people in prison will reduce the cost. If we are only focusing on the monetary cost. And yes, this is because the Supreme Court ruled our prisons are overcrowded, a violation of the Eight Amendment. We can do better, we can go further. But let’s take this step right here. This isn’t one of those issues where passing a small reform now makes things harder. Let’s keep passing more reform in regard to our prisons. Our current system fails lots of people, and it especially fails those on the margins of society. I’d rather see us be more aggressive in dismantling the present system. But if we have to dismantle it brick by brick, so be it.
Another small step, but hopefully not the last one: YES on Prop 57

Prop 58: English Proficiency. Multilingual Education

California has a reputation as being this open and liberal place. It’s not underserved, but it’s also full of lots of discrimination too. I get why we want folks in our education system to learn English (and really, to specifically learn Standard American English), but Prop 227 back in 1998 significantly restricted the use of bilingual programs. Or at least made them much harder to implement. Which doesn’t seem like the smartest way to go about it. Fear of a non-English speaking country doesn’t magically teach kids English. So the most significant aspect of this Prop is to restore bilingual programs that have shrunk across the state since Prop 227 passed. And that’s basically what I think the problem is. Perhaps some kids will do fine if they are just immersed in English. But perhaps some kids won’t. We shouldn’t be trying to approach every student the same way and Prop 227 put up barriers on bilingual education as seen by the precipitous drop in the number of schools that have them now. In addition, we live in a multilingual world. Let’s celebrate that instead of passing and continuing to support fearful laws like this. Anyway, this is the guy who was a main proponent on getting it Prop 227 through in the first place. That makes supporting it even easier.

Let’s broaden our approach to how we teach children: YES on 58

Prop 59: Corporations. Political Spending. Federal Constitutional Protections

Because we Californians don’t have enough other stuff to deal with, how about a nice non-binding measure? No, I’m serious. We have a non-binding measure about whether to ask our elected officials to do what they can to propose and ratify an amendment overturning Citizens United. As much as I am not a fan of Citizens United, this seems like a poor use of a Prop. I mean, this is going in the state charter. But Citizens United is egregiously awful. Corporations do not have speech. And sure, we’re just shouting into the air here, but if it’s here, I might as well support it because I do support it. At least this isn’t one of the many disingenuous measures I have to vote on. Now stop doing things like this with our ballot because I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do with my time, California.

Sure, fine, whatever: YES on 59

Prop 60: Adult Films. Condoms. Health Requirements.

Have I mentioned that we have a lot of Props this year? And I have mentioned that some of them are ridiculous? Someone (bless them) decided that we should all vote to have adult film performers (amateur or professional) wear condoms during the filming of intercourse. There’s also some aspects of it that seems less galling, like requiring producers to pay for performers’ vaccinations, testing, and examinations related to STIs, and that gets at the heart of it. This is supposedly a measure about “workplace safety”, but the devil is always in the details with these ballot measures. While the use of condoms gets a lot of billing promoting the measure, what is really onerous about this is the fact that any Californian can sue the productions if they suspect they aren’t meeting health and safety standards (condoms obviously being a part of that). That would cost the state a lot and open a lot of porn performers up to increased risk since they could be liable in those suits, which would make their personal information public as well. This isn’t to mention this is a ridiculous thing for our whole state to be deciding. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be health standards in the porn industry, but this doesn’t seem to actually care about them. This strikes me as a morality bill masquerading as a health bill. Considering how disparate the opposition is (my favorite line of the state ballot book is that this is the only initiative both the California Democratic Party and California Republican Party oppose), and how everyone who works in said industry is opposed to it, it’s easy to vote no. Considering there are already laws protecting the workers at state and federal levels, it’s even more laughable. It’s just not a good bill. It seems the guy who got this on there, Michael Weinstein and his organization AHF, have a…curious history, and set up what has to be the most ridiculous provision I’ve seen yet in a Prop where if the state declined to defend a legal challenge, the group that wrote the bill drafted language to not only allow them to defend it, but gets sworn in as state employees that are difficult to fire. This is why we can’t have nice things, California.

This bill is a poorly written joke: NO on Prop 60

Prop 61: State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards.

Look, I’ve read a lot of Props. And I’m not really sure what this one is supposed to do. I read the words. I get it says it’s supposed to prohibit state agency from buying prescriptions over a price threshold set by what the VA paid (except in certain cases). But I’m not sure how this necessarily ameliorates what it’s supposed to. The goal is to lower the price of prescriptions. However, pinning it to prices that are not set and could go up just seems like it could hurt lots of people. Obviously there are plenty of odious things about the pharmaceuticals industry, and it’s hard to stomach voting against something they are spending a lot of money to try and get folks to vote against. But when a bill pins something against a moveable target, things can get out of hand quite quickly. We could end up with a situation where veterans pay a lot more because that’s the lever that can still be pulled. Maybe that won’t happen. I am guessing we’ll get a chance to see that. This one probably has a good chance to pass, and I don’t have a problem with the message being sent. But I worry about the outcomes.
I just don’t think this is the right way to do this: NO on Prop 61

Prop 62: Death Penalty

Luckily, there are some paired initiatives, or at least initiatives diametrically at odds with each other, such that you know what you are going to vote on one based on what you vote on the other, or should. It’d be odd to vote to repeal the death penalty but also later vote to essentially speed up the death penalty. This is a pretty basic one. Do you want to appeal the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole (this also applies retroactively to existing sentences). Let’s make this quick. You can read all the measures and opinions you want, but at the end of the day, it’s a simple question. Do you feel comfortable with state-sanctioned murder? I don’t like it any more than I like non-state sanctioned murder. I don’t think that’s a decision we can easily make. I think it’s important to look at the disproportionate impact the death penalty has on people of color. It’s important to look at just how often our justice system gets these kinds of things wrong. I don’t think that’s a decision we should be making as a society. I think it’s bad for us as a society. I think it’s morally dubious. I think it’s a waste of money. I think it’s racist in its implementation. I think it’s not our decision to make.

But it should be our decision to get rid of the death penalty: YES on 62

Prop 63: Firearms. Ammunition Sales

Hey, Gavin Newsom’s Prop made it through! This is designed to require background checks, prohibit large-capacity magazines, require sales through licensed vendors for ammo, etc., etc., etc. It’s basically the kind of low-hanging fruit that comes up a lot. You’ll be shocked to know the arguments against are largely the criminals do not follow laws. The violation of civil liberties they decry requires folks who buy stuff like this to fill out a bit more paperwork. Me? I’d be fine melting down every gun for slag. It is not a burden. It is a responsibility. I’m just going to put this right here. I’m done with our fetishization of the Second Amendment. Yes, I understand this isn’t necessarily the kind of measure that’s really going to change that, but the arguments about how this is going to make it harder for us to protect ourselves from ISIS is effing ridiculous. I have a harder time making sure my prescriptions are right every four weeks than folks do buying guns. The Second Amendment may allow you to own firearms, and perhaps that will never change in my lifetime. I don’t see this kind of legislation moving the needle all that much. But to argue this kind of action (really, any kind of action) is onerous? No, I refuse to believe that. I know that there are a lot of other measures that need to be undertaken to address gun violence, and this really doesn’t do a whole lot about that. But again, that’s no reason to do nothing. Perhaps this is something to build on. I’d rather see that happen in Sacramento than on my ballot…

But since they asked me?: YES on 63

Prop 64: Marijuana legalization

Sometimes when I’m at a show, or even just biking around, it’s hard to believe that marijuana isn’t legal just based on my sense of smell. San Francisco has a fairly blasé reputation when it comes to enforcing those rules; one of my first experiences with that was when I noticed someone taking a hit at a show and the staff came up and seemed to just encourage him to step more into the crowd and not be so obvious about it. It is the antithesis of how I’ve seen venues approach underage drinking. Then again, there’s a world of difference in the liability. After all, the venue didn’t provide the marijuana.

This is not California’s first go-round with this, and the rather relaxed nature of medical marijuana and lax attitudes (at least in the Bay Area) do a lot to contribute to the fact that it appears de facto legal in many cases. But it is not legal, as I’m sure many, many folks can tell you. Even if you don’t like it, from a social justice standpoint, legalizing marijuana would go a long way, because while white and non-white individuals use it at similar rates, non-white individuals are far more frequently targeted for drug offenses. In addition, as opposed to the last effort in 2010, we have now seen a template in other states of successfully implementing legal marijuana. It will make it legal for folks 21 and older, it will put some rules in place regarding cultivation and sales, it includes standards regarding things like taxation and packaging and advertising, it still allows for an element of local control in terms of taxes and regulation, and it has an element to reconsidering sentencing for marijuana convictions? Look, it’s not perfect, but it’s hard to expect any law like this to be perfect the first time or even the second time around. We’ll know a lot more about how to approach it in terms of regulation once it’s legal. I think that’s a step worth taking. While the bill does nothing to ameliorate the disproportionate impact the war on drugs has had on black and brown communities, raises some different issues since they will likely be cut out of much of the equity these new legal enterprises generate, and still contains some measures that will probably used to harass them (like smoking while driving or at a non-licensed business), I still think legalization is an important step forward because our current policy has obviously and abjectly failed far too many people. We would be the biggest state by far to push through such legislation, and I think that would send a strong signal.

It’s past time we adopted a more sensible approach to an issue where our current methods are not working, whether you want a toke or not: YES on 64

Prop 65: Carryout Bags

Because California is its own special kind of caricature, we have not one, but two plastic bag measures on the ballot this November. This one aims to redirect money collected from grocers and some retailers (who currently sell bags for $.10 in my experience, though it usually goes in the bike bag, so correct me if I’m wrong) to a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board for…something? To make it even more Californian, the two Props play off each other…but they don’t really. If they both pass, who keeps the money depends on which measure gets more ballot votes. If Prop 65 passes and Prop 67 fails, the interpretation is that there’s no statewide bag law. If they both fail, well, they both fail. Breaking it down this way, one can see Prop 65 as mostly harmless if both pass, just dictating where the money goes, but it’s a disingenuous proposal. This is another one where it’s good to follow the money because it’s a trickier one. All of the money (as of 10/24/2016) for this measure has been contributed by American Progressive Bag Alliance, a Project of the Society of the Plastics Industry (Non-Profit 501 (c) (6)), Yes on 65 and No on 67. That name kinda gives up the game, you know? No money has been raised against it either. I don’t trust a Prop the plastics industry is spending over $6 million to try and push through. I get it, we all gotta make money, but I have a vested interest in the world not being wrapped in plastic. I joke about the lack of bags here, but honestly I rarely even use paper ones and the rare occasions I get plastic ones are mostly from periodic take-out. But even that usually just goes in a paper bag or the bike bag. It’s proof that behaviors change. Why do we want to take a backwards step on the off-chance this passes and Prop 67 doesn’t?
Follow the money and it’s an easy choice: NO on 65

Prop 66: Death Penalty

The Yin to Prop 62’s Yang, instead of getting rid of the death penalty, this aims to speed up the process, since death penalty cases frequently spawn lengthy appeals processes and legal challenges. I think we should get rid of all those lengthy appeals when it comes to the death penalty by just getting rid of the death penalty. There, we’ve already solved that problem. Moving on.

Why support for something I just voted to repeal? NO on 66

Prop 67: Ban On Single-Use Plastic Bags

This is on the ballot to uphold SB 270, which passed in 2014, banning single-use plastic and paper carryout bags. Basically, they all have to either be reusable or recycled paper bags, and they cost at least $.10. We are deciding whether to do that at the state level or push it back to the system we had before that, where municipalities and counties had more control over that. One of the wrinkles is to add a few more provisions around those laws, such as some new measures about what constitutes a reusable plastic bag, but on the whole, it’s just here to say whether or not we should keep what we’ve already been doing for two years. Have I mentioned yet the Prop system is a bit ridiculous. This is one of those things where many folks grumbled (myself included) when they were first introduced to it, in my case as a new resident in San Francisco which already had a measure at the city level before I lived here. But the thing is you get used to it really fast, and for something that is objectively terrible for the environment. The whole argument against is that this is a special sweetheart deal to the grocers of the state, a hidden “tax”. And sure, grocers do get to keep the funds, but whatever. Sure, it’s regressive in the sense that any sort of additional fee like this is going to be regressive, but little charges like this also drive behavior. Plastic is a wonderful discovery, but it’s killing our planet (creating a fascinatingly depressing phenomenon along the way) and it’s past time we moderated our use of it.

The fact that we even have something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is all I need to know. This is a little way we can all make a difference: YES on 67

School Propositions:

Prop A: School Bond

Remember way back when I was talking about Prop 51 and I mentioned that school bonding is the kind of thing that’s more effective at the local level? Well, here we are. This is to authorize $744M in general obligation bonds for upgrades. A lot of that is for things like seismic retrofits and modernization, but there’s also other layouts for an arts center, technology upgrades, and two new elementary schools. We have to invest in schools. It’s not something you can just pay for one time and move on with your life. And more kids live in San Francisco than we popularly like to joke. Whether or not the teachers can afford the City is a different problem, but hey, one things at a time. The City also appears to have decent success with capital bonds in the recent past. In addition, those new elementary schools would prioritize neighborhoods like Mission Bay and the Bayview, where they are needed. Almost every local organization or paper is for this or has no position. But this is another one of those instances where we have an obligation paying it forward. Not everyone can afford a private education here, despite the rumor we all dive in pools of money like Scrooge McDuck here. I’m a proud product of public education.

I don’t pay property tax, which is how this will be paid, but if I did, I happily would pay a little extra: YES on A
Prop B: City College Parcel Tax
The City College of San Francisco (CCSF) has a lot of problems, at least, if you ask me as someone who is only recently moved here. I’ve mostly heard about its accreditation woes, which have been a source of much handwringing since 2012. But setting aside that issue, CCSF is an important resource for the city and region. Like a lot of educational institutions, they’ve had a lot of trouble with funding in recent years. To stabilize the funding for CCSF (and other institutions of course), the state and the City have introduced a number of measures. In this case, this is a continuation of a parcel tax that was set to expire in 2020. This measure increases the tax from $79 to $99. They need the money to keep doing the good work they’ve been doing the past few years to reverse the negative course they were on before that. It’s all cyclical. The stabilization leads to increased enrollment leads to increased funds. They can afford to pay their instructors and other staff more, which they deserve. And again, we get back to the issues of public verses private, or who is served by what. Not everyone can go to a private school, or even needs to. Institutions like CCSF provide vital resources and opportunities for a number of people.

Let’s keep providing the support necessary for them to succeed: YES on B

City And County Propositions:

Prop C: Housing Loan Program

Apparently we have unspent seismic safety bond funds? This is news to me, though, in fairness, I didn’t live here in 1992 when that bond went into effect. This is designed to instead direct that bond funding into affordable housing. Unfortunately, it’s only $261M and we could only use $35M a year, but let’s be real. Affordable housing is a pressing need here, and any funding that can help contribute to purchasing, renovating, and rehabilitating that stock is something we should look at. Do we need to do a lot more here? Of course. This is not going to go very far in such an expensive place, but I see only upside in this one. We are just voting yes to redirect bond funds that we’ve already approved which are not currently being used.

It’s gonna take a lot more than this, but that’s no excuse not to put this to good use: YES on C

Prop D: Vacancy Appointments

Oh the progressive majority…thanks for taking our time to increase democracy. In this case, it’s one of those “seems like a good idea until you read about it more” measures. While a surprising number of local institutions and papers support this (I guess it’s not that surprising), I don’t really get it. The idea behind this measure is to stop the practice of vacancy appointments by the Mayor by making it so the Mayor has to appoint someone with 28 days, but then there’s a special election within 180 days in which that appointee cannot run. You still with me on this one?

Let’s get real for a minute on this idea. I think on the whole the idea of electing your elected officials is great, that’s what they are campaigning with as a slogan. But that’s a ruse. Someone who would only be there temporarily and couldn’t run again would do exactly what on the Board while we waited for the real election? Good question. In addition, special elections are a terrible idea because they will be low-turnout elections. Those sound just like the elections that would produce results like Prop B in 2014. Turnout in June was just under 265K with a presidential primary driving it and are generally up in even years with more to vote on, but recent odd years saw turn out for municipal elections below 130K at times. What would turnout look like for a mandated election at an unusual time for a City office? I’m not sure I want to find out. In addition, the measure has a feature that appears designed to help progressives keep their majority following the upcoming election, which is dirty pool. Poorly timed elections are not a way to guarantee we’ll all get a better outcome in our city elections; given the general nature of the four measures proposed by the progressive majority is mendacious in my opinion (and others), this is another easy one to vote against.

This measure is not what it purports to be: NO on D

Prop E: Street Trees

One of the first things I noticed when I lived here was cool random stumps carved into chairs. One of the other things I noticed is that lots of people sponsored trees. Because San Francisco doesn’t maintain all its trees. Weird, right? Parks and Rec were responsible for all city trees in Minneapolis. Even Saint Paul takes care of it trees. That’s right, even a city that can’t organize its garbage service in a sensible fashion takes care of its trees. Be ashamed, San Franciscans. This is another one of those issues almost every local org and publication can get behind, and with good reason. San Francisco currently has an inconsistent policy where they only maintain some of the street trees. I live on a street where they do, but perhaps you don’t. It’s a weird system. And it’s really not the kind of things that should be piecemeal. It’s hard to enact a plan for all of the City when you only plant in a 1/3 of it at street level.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note this has a set-aside, and set-asides aren’t great. In addition, they could have just done it themselves on the Board of Supervisors. The set-aside is a little ridiculous in that regard given they could have crafted a more malleable policy at the time, but for whatever reason, they pushed it to us. But the set-aside is basically the only reason to be against this. It’s bad, but in the scheme of a $10B budget, $20M is not much and we need an urban approach that covers the entire City.

They should have solved this before it got to me, but since you’re asking…: YES on E

Prop F: Local Voting Age

We love democracy so much now we are thinking about granting it to 16- and 17-year-olds. I’m not sure what the entire backstory to this is, but I can honestly say that, especially when I was in government classes in high school, my level of engagement was fairly high. Though it didn’t really touch on local issues. This, perhaps, had something to do with the nature of my high school. But we can all agree that voter engagement is low amongst young folks. And part of that is probably the whole nature of it. My first election was in 2000, I was in college, I had not really fostered that electoral responsibility ethic, and had I not been friends with a lot of other engaged people, who knows what would have happened? I won’t say I’ve voted in every election since then (I think I’ve missed a couple local elections/special election kind of affairs) but I’ve voted in most of them. It’s like anything, it’s practice. Giving young folks the opportunity to participate and engage in the process at the local level. If we’re looking at ways of increasing that kind of civic engagement this sure seems like a reasonable measure. Especially if that means getting young people involved in local level issues, where that engagement is critical but seems to be an afterthought. This seems like an opportunity to address two major issues at one time. In addition, engaging school children could have the added effect of engaging parents and guardians. One of the main arguments is that they aren’t up to the responsibility. The other one is that it might not be legal per the State Constitution. That one seems to have more merit, given the inconsistent way we treat young people in regards to whether they are adults or not makes me doubt the former. Still, not sure I get the sacred duty line the Chronicle is towing. Voting is a learned habit. Why not help folks learn that sooner and learn the value of local elections which have a higher impact on their day-to-day than many other things.

You learn to vote; let’s help teach that: YES on F

Prop G: Police Oversight

San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for a while now. So much so the Department of Justice just delivered a scathing assessment. It was deserved, and in fact asked for, though because it’s a collaborative reform, it has less binding authority. It tells you what you already guessed, but the basics are the police disproportionately targets black and brown individuals, and disproportionately kills them as well. In addition, its overall accountability and diversity could use some word. This probably explains why I keep seeing messages on Nextdoor saying SFPD is hiring. This measure, on the other hand, is one about accountability. The renaming is aesthetics, but the real effect of this Prop is to remove the requirement the Police Commission approve the proposed budget of an agency designed to report on policy accountability.
I know, right? I had to read that twice too. We just passed a Prop in June that requires the currently named Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) to investigate any incident when someone is shot by SFPD. This is the next measure designed to increase that accountability. I don’t really care what it’s called, but I get the power in naming, and a Department of Police Accountability (DPA) is a pretty fair reminder of what it’s supposed to be doing. Because this is moving something out of the SFPD in terms of where it’s budgeted, this is actually something worth voting on, since that’s a City charter issue. Putting the DPA under a different budget umbrella could also help contribute to the efficacy and effectiveness of this group. And it’s something we need to do better. This is one step along the way.

Sure, DPA sounds cooler anyway: Yes on G

Prop H: Public Advocate

Have I mentioned yet we have too much democracy here? We also have too much government. Lots and lots of government. I can’t even keep track of everything, and I haven’t been here long enough to learn all of it. For a city with an estimated population just north of 846,000, I expect a certain amount. But anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so in that spirit, someone thought it’d be a great idea to add a new elected official if we so choose, a Public Advocate. To publicly advocate, I guess. This is a whole-cloth creation, a new position with new staff, and new powers to introduce legislation and hold hearings, oversee a variety of other agencies and programs, investigate complaints from citizens, and more. It sounds like it would be a fairly powerful office to some degree, and it could also streamline certain functions, putting one place in charge of many already existing oversight functions. But it also sounds like it’s just creating an office with a decent amount of power and no real vested interest in making the city function better if I read it right. Also, it sounds like lots of folks already do these functions, and it’s not like those positions would go away, it’s just this group would also have some role in the process. Which likely means more back-and-forth in a process that already seems to have a lot of that. But the most galling act is that this elected official would have the power to subpoena and compel testimony for reasons that I’m not entirely clear on. That’s a lot of power to give an elected official, especially one that doesn’t really appear to have its own purpose. Well, the role does have a purpose. This is one of the four measures (D, H, L, and M) that many outlets in the city highlight as outright power grabs as the progressive majority (which got them on the ballot with 6-5 votes) tries to chip away at the Mayor. The SF Chronicle in particular wrote a salty take-down of all four which is worth your time. It’s measures like these that sour me to the progressive majority. Don’t we have better problems to solve, and shouldn’t our elected officials be working on that instead of things like this?

You’d think. Let’s tell them so: NO on H

Prop I: Dignity Fund

The first time I was in Portland, I noticed the bus seating up front was for honored citizens. So much is in a name, isn’t it? This measure is designed to serve those honored citizens, seniors and adults with disabilities, by means of a set-aside starting at $38M and going up from there. In addition, it would create a new oversight committee. But the problem is mostly with the fact that it’s a set-aside, and a growing one. Certainly, it’s going to a group that needs it. Unlike the set aside on Prop E, it’s larger, but it’s still the same issue. Earmarking general budget funds that have to go to a specific purpose is not a great way to budget. And unlike Prop E, where I can at least get behind the fact it solves a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place (namely, who is responsible for the City’s trees), this doesn’t really address anything that cannot be handled through the normal budgetary process. Admittedly, I’m splitting hairs on the logic here, but that’s the problem when you ask me to vote on this much stuff. I stop making sense and start contradicting myself. Thanks San Francisco

We’re still gonna fund seniors and those in need with or without this. Let’s decide that through the normal process: NO on I (again, another one I can easily see passing and I don’t think we’ll regret on the whole…though I cannot wait to vote on changing the nature of that set-aside as another Prop 10 years from now)

Prop J: Dedicating the Prop. K Sales Tax

Prop K: Sales Tax for Transportation and Homelessness

Why is this on the ballot before the measure that funds it? I don’t know, that’s how little sense voting here makes. I get why they are separate measures, just…not sure why they are in the order they are in. So let’s talk about them together. Prop K and J are not linked on the ballot at all either which is odd. But that might explain the order as well. Prop K aims to increase the sales tax in the City (yes, they capitalize City on the ballot just like the rest of us) to 9.25%, an increase of .75% due to .25% expiring at the end of 2016. If Prop K passes on its own, it’s just a tax increase. Admittedly, a tax increase with a kill switch, but just a tax increase. Strangely, our current tax rate is actually lower than most nearby municipalities. Prop J looks to dedicate that increased funding generated to two specific inadequacies in the city: transportation and homeless resources. You don’t really have to sell me on either. Transportation is something I want to see more funding to go towards, especially as it goes towards improving our transit, biking, and walking. Homeless individuals are a critically underserved community everywhere, but it’s especially perverse here when you see so much wealth. Yes, it dedicates the funding, however these are two areas that need the funding, and it’s easy to see where the funding comes from because you’re voting on that too. They don’t matter unless we pass both of them.

We should pass both of them: YES on J and K

Prop L: MTA Board and Budget

Onto the third of the package deal to dilute the Mayor’s power, this one is designed to change how appointments are made to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors. Right now that power rests solely with the mayor. This is designed to split it between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. Funny this should come up at time when there’s a progressive majority, yet there never seems to be a progressive mayor. SPUR probably says it best when they note in their Pro section there is no compelling reason to support this measure. This politicizes the process of funding SFMTA projects who have enjoyed at least some independence in trying to make improvements to routes in the City (though there are still plenty of unruly residents to slow that down). So basically this is a measure to politicize appointments to the SFMTA board and make it harder for them to keep making the incremental improvements they’ve slowly been making throughout the City. Even in three and a half years, I’ve noticed a number of small incremental improvements, and I am loath to get in the way of that. Improving transit is a long-term project, it frequently requires some decisions that may not be entirely popular. We shouldn’t exacerbate that by creating a process with more friction. Muni is getting better, and for it to keep getting better, we ought to maintain that independence. I don’t see how splitting the board in half in terms of appointments creates accountability or reliably moves us forward.

Less government, more results: NO on L

Prop M: Housing and Development Commission

Nope: NO on M

Alright, fine, I’ll say something about the fourth and final odious progressive measure. It’s designed to create a new Housing and Development Commission. Or not really new because this department is just there to do things the Mayor’s office already does. The main argument I can see against this is if you don’t think the Mayor is doing a good job with this stuff. But laying all of that at the feet of the mayor seems…a bit too easy to me. It’s basically designed to move those functions out from under the control of the Mayor. And it doesn’t lay out how it plans to improve those things if they think they are all the Mayor’s fault. So it’s yet another layer making it more difficult to work on affordable housing and economic development. Reshuffling the deck without any considering for how it makes those functions better in a way that in all likelihood will make them worse? I cannot support that. Are you beginning to see why it’s hard to take the label progressive seriously here?

Still: NO on M

Prop N: Noncitizen Voting

This one goes along with Prop E in our expanded democracy measures here. Like, actual democracy, not this shame of Props that we have to vote on over and over. In this case Prop N would allow parents, guardians, and caregivers of children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in elections for the Board of Education, even if they are non-citizens. It may well be illegal to do this per the State Charter. It’s a five year measure, and if there are any significant issues, then it’ll be up to the Board of Supervisors. The other major issue is this would be thorny to implement, even more so than Prop E. Also, I’m not sure why I am even being asked. Still, it’s a relatively minor thing, and I don’t find an issue with creating avenues of engagement. This seems like it could, and the cost is relatively low.

This is less an endorsement and more a yeah, sure, whatever: YES on N

Prop O: Bayview Office Development
This Prop is designed to exempt office developments in Candlestick Point and Hunters Point from the annual office space cap. You didn’t know there was an office space cap? Thanks voters of the past! Anyway, it’s there and now we have to deal with it. We already approved a Prop in 2008 to get this project going at Candlestick Point. Which may happen…eventually? I don’t know. Personally, I think the office space cap is not that great, but I guess voters in 1986 had their reasons for supporting Prop M and that’s the world we’re living in. However, a project of this magnitude would basically eat up all of that capacity. This is a one-time measure to keep pushing forward something that’s desperately needed. Right now, Candlestick is a giant pile of rubble. Actually, that might all be cleared out by now, but there’s not much there. It is admittedly full of issues as a difficult part of the City to reach, but hey, we’re not voting on a measure to try and increase transit access to the southeast corner of the City. We should, but we are not. This is a development we need to move forward with as a city, and while this may lead to more one-offs at the ballot box rather than actual reform of Prop M. This project shouldn’t be held up anymore by poor decision of the past.

I have some minor issues, but given the one-off nature and the fact it’s required by previous legislation, it’s an easy vote: YES on O

Prop P: Competitive Bidding

Oh, hey, look, a housing measure. Actually, there aren’t that many related to that this year. This one is designed to increase bidding on competitive housing projects by requiring at least three proposals. Locking in at least three bids does not seem like a good idea in such a housing challenged place. In addition, the already try to find at least three bids, though they are not always successful. So I have no idea what this is really trying to accomplish. Since it’s unclear what this is actually trying to address since they already make good-faith efforts to proceed in the fashion laid out without the onerous requirement (which could be problematic due to the required minimum), I don’t see any reason to add this to the City Charter.

Don’t we have better things to vote on?: NO on P

Prop Q: Prohibiting Tents on Public Sidewalks

I won’t say every time we vote there’s something odious. But this year there’s definitely something odious, and it’s Prop Q. Like most things, homelessness isn’t a uniquely San Franciscan problem, but we have our own special flavor: the excesses of the current tech boom and our supposed progressive nature (neither the first nor last shot I will take at what passes for progressivism here) mean we have the means, or at least should have means, to deal with what is a pretty straightforward issue. The homeless need to be housed; it’s not like they want to be out on the streets,and if you believe that, go volunteer at a shelter sometime and it’ll change your mind quick. Many do not have the resources to turn around their circumstances because of the myriad problems homelessness leads to and exacerbates, and the paradoxical ways they feed off each other. Salt Lake City has shown a pretty easy solution exists, however Salt Lake City doesn’t have water on three sides or nearly as many land use issues as San Francisco (also it’s over twice as large by land area and has less than a quarter of the population…you get the point). With more people living in the City these days, that’s more people who are seeing the reality of homelessness, or at least the reality they want to see. We should be saddened there are people living on the streets, we should be mad at ourselves for not providing the resources, for failing our fellow citizens. But frequently the reaction is not sadness, but disgust.

Along comes Prop Q. I’m not really sure what it’s trying to solve. Ostensibly, the idea is to get people out of tents, but the City doesn’t have enough beds for people as it is, which contributes to the chronic homelessness along with other factors. The City is already doing quite a bit to try and address chronic homelessness in terms of trying to get folks on the street into permanent housing, but once again, we run into a lack of housing to help address that at the level we need to. And this law doesn’t really seem to change any of that stuff too much. It’s basically just a fuck you to the people who are living on the streets from the rest of the City. What kind of message is that? In addition, it’s just another pretext to harass an at-risk population. I worry, though, that people will be more concerned with what they see than who they see. If we only see homeless people as tents that need to be removed because it makes walking through South of Market a little nicer, then who have we become? Are we voting on a bill just because we don’t want to have to brush against a reality that most of us still only barely intersect with? I worry about the answer, but for my part, I refuse to support such a mean-spirited Prop. We should help homeless folks.

This ain’t helping: NO on Q

Fun aside: the three major contributors in support of Q are Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, William Oberndorf, who owns his own business, and Ronald Conway of SV Angel, LLC. Be an angel and invest in homeless folks next time, fellas

Prop R: Neighborhood Crime Unit

This is one of those times where I have to shake my head at Scott Wiener. I’m cynical enough to believe this was a move to shore up some votes, but that doesn’t make it a good Prop. It designates that as long as the police force is meeting its charter-mandated minimum workforce of 1,971, at least 3% of the workforce is dedicated to “quality-of-life” crimes. May as well call this the Nextdoor Prop, because what shows up there is typically what I’d think of as the kinds of things a group like this would deal with. I have many issues with the American policing and San Francisco in specific, but telling them exactly how to use a certain percentage of their workforce is not one of them. I don’t necessarily think this is a terrible idea, and apparently neither did the Mayor and the Police Chief already support this, and I’m not sure why they are asking me and everyone else in San Francisco. They could have done it without me, and then if the exact nature of it wasn’t working (like say, the percentage),they could fix that without more ballot approval.

Why are they asking for ballot approval in the first place? The City is so vexing sometimes: NO on R

Prop S: Allocating the Hotel Tax

Only three set-asides this year…we’re slacking. The final one is setting aside a portion of the hotel tax for arts development and homelessness resources. The tax that is currently collected is discretionary in terms of its use. Its original intent was to fund arts programs, and in recent years, that has changed, so in comes this measure. But we’re coming back to the same problem with set-asides. It doesn’t solve a pressing problem, it just requires a certain amount of funding for certain purposes. That restricts what the City can do with it in future years. We need more flexibility in that regard. It’s not that we shouldn’t fund them. We can, and do, with the tax we collect. It’s that we need to be able to adapt to whatever circumstances we face in the future. Since it’s not really addressing a specific need and it just creates more issues with adaptability, I feel like that’s not a great reason to put this into the Charter.

I love the arts as much has anyone. I agree they need funding. I just don’t think they need it quite like this: NO on S

Prop T: Lobbyist Gifts and Reporting

Every night when we go to bed we all just whisper a thankful prayer we are not lobbyists, right? Thought so. It’s a definitely a word we all have associations about. We already have several measures designed to increase the accountability and transparency of lobbyists in regards to gifts and reporting, but these are more stringent requirements. It’s one of those measures that most groups support. Again, it’s another time where they probably could have taken care of this without it coming to the ballot, so here it is. I think I have better things to do with my time than divest too much energy in this one. I don’t think it’ll be that harmful, though it has some requirements that could definitely use a little work in my opinion, I think we’re just moving into an era where we have an increased desire for transparency because it’s that much easier to provide. While I think creative people and institutions will find ways to work around those requirements (both a personal and professional opinion) and I don’t really care that much about it, if you are going to take the time to ask me…

Keep your receipts and turn them in in a timely manner: YES on T

Prop U: Affordable Housing Eligibility

Why is that measures that always have names like this never do what they purport to do? Finally, at least a ballot Prop that does exactly what it says. It raises the income limits on who qualifies for the affordable housing. San Francisco has a cool chart and everything. This kicks it up to 110% instead of 100%. Which doesn’t seem like much in this city. But it also doesn’t seem like this really solves all that much. It’s not aiming to increase the actual available stock. It’s just saying who should get to qualify should come from a larger pool. I don’t see what this addresses, other than making it even harder for lower-income residents. Yeah it’s hard for those of us in the middle too. But I don’t need a cut from them to get mine. Given this fails to actually address anything, it’s another easy decision.

Why do you keep asking me these questions, San Francisco?:NO on U

Prop V: Tax on Distributing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Every election, there’s the one issue that generates far more mail than the others. This year that honor quite clearly goes to Prop V. Some will tell you it’s a grocery tax; some will tell you it’s a soda tax. Even that phrasing pretty much tells you how this breaks down. The job of good advertising is to sell you something, whether it’s true or not. In this case, Big Soda kicked in $9,795,000 (as of October 11) through their organization, the American Beverage Association, to let you know that this is a tax that hurts small businesses because owners will have to pass on the costs to customers or absorb them. Not a typo. They have spent almost $10 million in San Francisco alone. They are also fighting similar measures in Albany and Oakland. But I digress. The same advertisements say very little about what is actually being taxed. And when you dig into it, that’s not where things are being taxed. Of course, that’s not going to stop costs from being passed on. But they ain’t taxing your local bodega. They are taxing a distributor.
Prop V is not our first attempt here in San Francisco at a soda tax. And I call it that because that’s what it is. It’s a tax on soda. Look, I don’t really drink it anymore, so I don’t care. But my general stance is I’m very much pro-sin taxes. I don’t mind things that are bad for you or bad for the environment existing, per se. I love driving a car. That doesn’t mean gas should be so cheap. And if you told me, well, what if there’s a tax on alcoholic beverages next, you know what I would say? Good. Plenty of countries charge much more for their alcohol because it is much more heavily taxed (hello 60-95 Kroner beer in Stockholm). I understand there are two large problems with this. One, I am doing okay, so perhaps I should get off my high horse about who is buying soda. It’s easy to get into too much finger wagging about how poor people spend their money. Any tax like this is inherently going to be regressive. Two, who the fuck am I to tell anyone else what to do with their time? It’s their body, their choice what they want to put into it. Both are fair arguments, though I think the cost one is a bit extreme, much like Ed Lee rolling back Sunday meters to help people with the high cost of living here. I don’t think that’s really what’s driving it, or what will really help that much.

Still, a world raised on soda has costs. And those are costs we all pay. Nothing’s happening at a higher level, but that’s not an excuse for us to not do anything at the local level. I think soda is something that we don’t even question, and we should. Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. But perhaps it should be appropriately costed. And perhaps we should do more to make people aware of those costs. Raising the price does seem to lead to lower consumption in the places that have levied such taxes. There are many things we look at and we say “how did our society ever support this?”. Taking a long view, it’s hard not to look at the excess of Double Big Gulps as something like that.

Fuck Big Soda (or Big Pop if you prefer): YES on V

Prop W: Transfer Tax

A lot of the orgs and papers I trust that generally align with my viewpoints are against this one or have no position. This is to increase the transfer tax on residential and commercial properties on the high end, stuff $5M and above. Nothing I’ll be dealing with anytime soon. And I don’t think anyone really finds that end objectionable, at least based on what I’m reading. It’s more what it’s supposed to accomplish and how it’s supposed to accomplish it. We already have the highest transfer tax around on those high end properties, capping out at 2.5% for the very high end stuff. And this is ostensibly to help pay for Prop E and CCSF. But I worry about that. While I don’t like set-asides (and this shouldn’t have them), we should probably be coming up with a different solution. In addition, there’s nothing to say those transfer taxes won’t be paid by onto the consumers at those businesses and the potential renters at those properties. In addition, a tax like this begins to look scarier as whispers of a cool down approach. We shouldn’t be saying something that may not continue is going to fund those programs.

I think, perhaps, we should sit this one out, though I’m guessing this one is gonna pass. Won’t affect me either way…I hope: NO on W

Prop X: Manufacturing and Arts Space

24 Props later and here we are at…this? Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for arts, small business, and community services, but my brain has pretty much melted at this point. I’m not even sure what I’m supposed to be supporting. But the gist, as I understand it, is the City will require developers in the Mission and South of Market to build replacement space if they remove production, distribution, and repair uses of 5,000 sq ft or greater as well as more stringent requirements on institutional community uses and arts uses. It also would require conditional use authorization before changing the property’s use. It also is just beginning to look like words at this point. And while I’d like to think I’m having trouble figuring this out because I’ve reached the point where I’ve just read too much to retain anything, I think I’m actually having trouble figuring this out because it’s complicated. Add to the fact something like this doesn’t need to be on the ballot and is probably more easily handled by the Board of Supervisors, especially should needs change. Anyway, I thought this is what we elected them for. It sounds good, and feels good, but I do not feel qualified at all to be making complex decisions about things I barely understand.

Come to think of it, that describes the entire experience of voting in San Francisco: NO on X

District Propositions:

Measure RR: Keep BART Safe and Reliable 2016

I am not writing these in order, but no matter, Prop 13 will come up a lot. If you have the time, I’d highly suggest going through some of the old Props in the State of California in general (something I have not done nearly thoroughly enough myself) as well as the Props in the City. Those I have spent a little bit more time with. What they help do is they help paint a picture of how we got here. But to understand BART, one has to take a regional and state approach.

BART first opened for passengers on September 11, 1972. It was built at the same time as the Metro in DC, as anyone who’s been on trains in both systems will tell you. And while it has not spawned anything quite like Metro has, it is plagued by similar problems with reliability. The funny thing about infrastructure is that you can’t just build it and walk away. What we’ve done as a country with many of our systems is just that, though. Further, not only do these systems require maintenance, they frequently require more maintenance. Old systems break and experience more problems through use. That’s just reality. BART is no spring chicken. But there are many older transit systems in the world that are still running (though, they could probably use some money to if they are in the States). It’s a question of the resources we dedicate. The reality is a $3.5 billion bond isn’t going to fix years of us not doing it, but like they say, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. Throwing your arms up and saying BART sucks so why should we give it money is not going to make it better. Which isn’t to say we should just write them a blank check. They deserve serious scrutiny for some of their forays (the Oakland BART connector just doesn’t justify its cost; their ongoing issues with escalators; their quixotic stance to keep bathrooms closed due to terrorism concerns while they install flooring worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in escalators to stop people from going to the bathroom in them). But let’s be real. Mass transit is awesome. BART is the system we have. We should make it better. I am not a daily rider, but I appreciate the convenience with which I can jet over to Oakland to catch a show or catch up with friends or just to go to Oakland because technology is awesome and I can spend $6.50 roundtrip and do it.
This is a regional issue. Many of the problems we face as a region we have to solve piecemeal, as they trickle down to city or even neighborhood level. The fight for housing, the fight for BRT in places on Geary or Van Ness, those things are like that. It’s no way to fight it. It’s not often we get the chance to do things like this as a region. And sure, things like Prop 13 may have broken the underlying structure to fund a state so that we need to keep looking at levies and individual one-offs to solve these sorts of things, but the mistakes we made in the past (hey, I’m a Californian too, gotta own that even if I wasn’t alive or here for it) cannot continually be used as excuses to not do anything now. I’d rather we didn’t have to fund this with a regional measure and we had an underlying tax base that paid for all of this, but I’m not working with fantasy, I’m working with reality, and even in a different reality, a levy like this would be a likely scenario. It mostly goes toward track renewal, but there’s also some funds for exploration of things that we desperately need as a region (a second Transbay tube) and even towards making the system more open to all users. Even if you never ride it, a lot of people do and you benefit from that. Yes, you. Not everyone can, or even wants to drive. Even as much as I love my bike, that’s not a realistic option for everyone. Let’s keep making decisions that reflect that in our infrastructure.

Let’s keep BART moving forward: YES on RR

City and County:

Board of Supervisors District 1:

We finally arrive at one of the more important ones that will have impact on me because this is my neighborhood. District 1(D1) is The Richmond (and the Farallones!), Lone Mountain, and oddly, a very small piece of the Panhandle. Eric Mar is termed out, and let us utter a brief halleluiah to that. He is best known outside the City due to this masterpiece of Daily Show reporting. More recently, he’s tried to push the tech payroll tax, has uttered some baffling things about density comparing The Richmond’s density to Brooklyn, and supported a positively insulting proposal in regards to the Affordable Housing Bonus Plan (AHBP). The AHBP is what has really galvanized me to be much more pro-housing, after the number of outright lies that people told to fight that, I am all in on housing. It’s very much what informed my voting in June in the primaries, and it’s what drives it now. I love The Richmond; it’s a pretty awesome neighborhood. I live walking distances from multiple excellent Burmese places. Walk north and I am in the Presidio, walk south and I am in Golden Gate Park. The Ocean is three miles away. There are great Irish dives, Green Apple Books, and The Tidy Shoppe for all my brow needs. There’s a lot of cool stuff in my neighborhood. I would love to imagine a future where I can continue to live in it even if something happened to my place, but I can’t. It’s just utterly unrealistic. That’s why I’d like more of the Richmond. I’d like better transit; I’d like better bike lanes; I’d like better density. In fact, I’d love to see this neighborhood actually be as dense as Brooklyn. That’d be something worth bragging about. Because that means we’d be doing much better at housing people here.
It’s a rather crowded race to represent D1, with 10 candidates running in a ranked choice system, there are a lot of choices. You can vote your passion, and still make your vote count in ranked choice, but I’m not going to break down all 10 for what most see as a two-person race between Sandra Lee Fewer and Marjan Philhour. Fewer is the progressive in this race, Philhour, the moderate. That split tells you much of what you need to know. I’m disappointed that Philhour is for Prop Q, but not particularly surprised by it. On the other hand, I am a very big fan of the fact she’s against Props H and L, which are misguided at best and actively harmful at the worst. San Francisco’s solution frequently seems to be more government, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. I dislike Fewer’s platform on housing, because I think when we only support affordable housing, we end up supporting nothing at all. Also she’s a big fan of the whole “Density Done Right” model, the 100% affordable AHBP, which I think is a horrible model to move forward with. I honestly don’t know where folks who want 100% affordable think the housing is going to mystically get paid for from, at least without buy-in in the form of lots of money from state and national levels. I think that’s an insulting proposal. I do think she’d be a strong tenant’s rights activist, but I’m not sure saying you have the endorsement of the SF Tenants Union is the way to my vote, either. Fewer also has a lot less in her transportation plank than I’d like to see other than a jab at the BRT, which isn’t working because we aren’t letting it work.It shouldn’t take 14 years to build, and I think putting another progressive on the board is just another way of stretching that to 15 years or beyond.

Honestly, I’d like to see what the moderates can do. I feel like many of their ideas align more with my own. I get a bit confounded by some of the rather quixotic measures the progressives pursue here. Certainly, I’ll have my disagreements, as they tend to be more pro-police on the whole and again, the moderates mostly appear to be lined up behind Prop Q, which I think is a misguided measure. But it’s not about finding the perfect candidate who aligns with the issues I believe in 100%, because that’s just not what politics is about. It’s about finding folks you align with well, it’s about helping to nudge those folks more into alignment with you, and it’s about realizing there are a lot of other folks nudging for that alignment as well. The only way you’ll get a candidate you agree with entirely is if you run yourself. That’s true from the Presidency on down to your local Supervisor. In the end ,this is no different. It’s not about finding the perfect candidate, it’s about finding a very good candidate.

Marjan Philhour is a very good candidate, in my opinion. She gets my first choice vote

But it’s ranked choice, so let’s close and throw a little love Andy Thornley’s way. I love a lot of the things he believes in, as someone who is obviously pro-bike (I see him out on the streets periodically) and someone who is very much himself on many positions. I think he represents a lot of good things, and honestly, many of the great things about government at the local level. It is a place to get involved, and he represents that. He deserves a vote for that in my opinion, second choice to him.

The Wrong End Of Synecdoche

Apparently when I don’t have cable and the only internet I have at home is on my phone, I read. Who knew? Since getting back from Minneapolis I have actually read a couple books, and that long, long reading list I have? I may make progress on it finally (just kidding, it only gets longer). One of the books on that list is Steven Hyden’s Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me (YFBIKM). I’ve long enjoyed his Twitter feed, enjoyed his work at Grantland, and continue to enjoy his work at Uproxx so I figured I would also enjoy this as well. And I did. Quite a bit actually. But I was struck by a couple things. Since I haven’t been reading as many books recently, I really noticed the difference between a couple thousand words and tens of thousands of words. Even in a book where each chapter is ostensibly interchangeable (though not really) there’s still a difference in the scope, and that difference plays out on the page. What one does in a thousand word review is inherently going to be more concise. It has to be. A book allows for a more leisurely kind of writing. For example, I noticed the much larger pop culture lens he approaches music criticism from, especially vis a vis other art forms such as movies which are mentioned quite prominently throughout the book. That kind of space allows more easily for those digressions. After all, there is still plenty of space to make one’s point. Now for my own digression…

The Daily Show (TDS) recently compared the uproar over the new iPhone 7 design to the uproar over us trans folks having rights and being treated like everyone else and all. It was one of those jokes that I’d put in the category of “well-meaning, but poorly executed”. The short version is we shouldn’t care about either, which, okay…I get the point you’re trying to make, TDS, but that doesn’t mean you made it well. Much of that comes down to pretty simple issues of phrasing. The joke positions itself by saying that trans folks used to have a thing but now they don’t and worrying about that is a ridiculous use of one’s time. My interpretation is that is specifically pointed at trans folks that used to have a penis, so trans feminine folk for the most part. And while the joke argues we shouldn’t care about the genitalia anymore than we do about the jack on our phone, it still positions itself in relying on the genitalia of trans folk. That it’s no longer there implies a certain sort of experience, not one that everyone wants, needs, or may ever have to be comfortable with themselves; there is no monolithic universal experience for all trans folks. The joke itself isn’t necessarily virulently transphobic as much as it relies on lazy stereotypes of what it means to be trans. Or, put another way, it reflects how cis folks process and think about our trans experiences all too frequently. Which is still, sadly, very much focused on genitalia. To me, that is the next level that’s so hard to reach with many people. Most people I know aren’t openly transphobic in terms of how they act. But like any form of discrimination it’s not just about being overtly discriminatory. Many people are not overtly so but still propagate discriminatory systems through the way they talk, the way they act indirectly. With some people, it’s a matter of challenging direct actions. But with many people, I’m not challenging active transphobia as much as I’m pushing back against passive transphobia, words and phrases we have never really thought about the true meanings of. Just because we don’t want be a certain way doesn’t mean we aren’t that way. I’m no different in that regard. It takes work, and constant reminders to challenge ourselves and listen when others challenge us. When I look at that joke from TDS, it seems there was no on in the room to say, hey, I get what we are trying to do, but that doesn’t make the point and here’s why.

Which brings me back to one of the non-music aspects that stuck out when I was reading YFBIKM. Here’s the pertinent bit:


When you’re trans, it’s pretty easy to end up on the wrong end of synecdoche. As a society we frequently use this kind of rhetorical short hand. But a penis is not a stand-in for a man anymore than XY chromosomes (if that’s even what one has) mean male. There are plenty of people who will tell you otherwise, but science and personal experience back me up on this one. If sex and gender were that simple we simply would not see multifarious expressions of each in our species (or many others for that matter). This phenomenon is at odds with our need to be clever about how we discuss men and women. Yes most men probably are XY; so are some women, and so are some folks who fall into neither of the majority categories we organize into in a binary society. That may be an inconvenient fact to many, but that doesn’t change that it’s a fact. And for many people, I don’t think it’s inconvenient. I just don’t know if they ever thought about it in that context. Which isn’t necessarily a problem. Much of life is about what one did before, but it’s also about what one does next. Will you make the changes to avoid a phrase or word once you realize it’s problematic? If not, why not? What is your loss in that situation? The loss of clever shorthand for something? I’m not asking anyone to do anything I myself am not trying to do. Being trans doesn’t give me a pass, it just makes me more sensitive to the ones that obviously pertain to me. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t used words and phrases in the past that I should not have. English is a great, deep language that still has so many other fun words and inclusive ways to say what we mean. Of course it takes more than this to affect true change in the world. But how we think and talk about subjects does matter.

It’s not a binary world, even if most of the discussions in the book based on binaries. I’m clever enough to appreciate that kind of irony, you know? This didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book at all. It’s just one of those things I noticed and it got the wheels turning a bit. I don’t know how to turn off that part of my brain. I always notice it. Perhaps you didn’t; perhaps you don’t ever have to think about it. But perhaps now you will next time.

You & I Go Together Like A Cherry & A Spoon

The Twin Cities have an allure I cannot deny. I feel it in the anticipation between trips back, from the first sip of Furious once we’ve reached a safe cruising altitude to the last gasp to cram in just one more sight or sound before I resign myself to returning to Terminal 2. It’s in the latest building converted to condos in Lowertown, the next declaration that Uptown is finally over. It’s in the bike lanes, the lakes, the palpable fear in August there will not be many more days like this. Because there won’t be. So we must live them all because winter is coming and with it, a different pulse, an icy resolve to keep that vivacity alive, no matter how early it gets dark, no matter how many layers it takes.

But here comes that ambivalence again. I love the permanent autumn of San Francisco, watching fog roll over the Presidio through summer until we get our oddly placed one in September and October. It feels weird to bike without a hoodie and a toque whenever I leave. I could live in the bulk section at Rainbow, and I can always get a good burrito. Minnesota is where I’m from, but California is where I live, and will for the foreseeable future. Even as horribly broken as it is at times, it’s still an amazing place. Though honestly, I’ve been served up a heaping amount of dumb luck which I plan to keep on taking advantage of, so what do I know?

Invariably, any discussion of San Francisco turns to how much it costs to live there, or by proxy, how much it costs to live anywhere else. And it’s hard not to notice that everywhere you go. Most taprooms have $5 pours instead of $6. Everything costs just a few cents less at Target. Perhaps it’s a function of how I spend my time and money, but a lot doesn’t seem to cost that much less. I know it adds up; it’s an extra beer here or there or a couple more shows. Then again, I wouldn’t be making the same money in Minneapolis as I do now. Perhaps I could parlay that if I really tried, but I know what the pay scale is at Wells. I’m just trying to be honest here. While it’s not just about the money, I do like paying the rent. Well, I don’t, but my landlord likes it when I do. Still, who doesn’t live in San Francisco and have a escape route? It’s just as essential as an earthquake kit, and much the same you never know when you’ll need it. Because when you do…

So I idly browse Craigslist in Minneapolis (and let’s be honest, Portland). It’s nice to daydream in those bad days. Then it’s nice to go for a run and look at the Bay Bridge and say to yourself, “That’s the fucking Bay Bridge”. And remember how I mentioned those heaping amounts of good luck? The apartments aren’t that much cheaper everywhere else because of that. If I were rent-poor I already would have made my escape. Though you may doubt it, I’m not that much of a fool (most days). If I think about it, I can frequently pinpoint the frustrations that leave me feeling like it’s time to get out of here. Work is frequently the culprit and the best paths up seem to be elsewhere some days, Charlotte or back to Minneapolis or just anywhere but here. Perhaps the future for me is NoDa, but it’s more likely Northeast. It’s always been Minneapolis, it always will be.

My only constant sometimes seems to be that ambivalence. I don’t see it as a negative. It’s important to question yourself. Just don’t forget to live your life in the process. I appreciated getting caught in a storm in Minneapolis. Because it’s novel. Because it was a reminder I definitely was not in San Francisco in August. I appreciate falling into old patterns when I am back. I miss the fog. But I don’t pine for it. And it will be waiting for me anyway. If I don’t ever appreciate being in Minneapolis, then I should just get on the next plane out of town. Minneapolis is never just a vacation. It’s so effortless. If it ever is right then I probably will move back. Until then, I’ll dream about that investment property I can Airbnb all the weeks I’m not in Minnesota. It’s a good dream, and if it ever comes true, then perhaps it’s more than that. But for know, I have a life to live back in the City that I don’t exactly shy away from. And I plan to live it

The calculus remains the same, though. Minnesota has made an indelible mark on me; how do I keep the Twin Cities a permanent part of my life in more than just memories? That’s what every trip back is about. I didn’t figure it out anymore on this trip than the others. But between sidling up to the bar at The Depot or biking the Greenway most days or wandering the Fair or chatting with the wonderful people at Bang, I found what I was looking for. Minnesota is a part of me. We will always go together like a cherry and a spoon. Which perhaps doesn’t make sense, except that it makes perfect sense. Perhaps you just don’t understand. Perhaps you just need to go to Minnesota to find out

Going Home

When I went to college in Iowa, I went as a Virginian. When I moved to Minnesota after college, I was still Virginian. But I moved to California as a Minnesotan. Something happened in those intervening ten years. I wonder about it a lot. Virginia will always be where I was born, nothing can change that, it’s what the birth certificate says and everything. But where I’m from? That will always be Minnesota. I live in California as a Minnesotan with Midwestern roots and even if I stayed here for the rest of my life, I’d still be more Minnesota than anything else. You can see it in the First Ave hoodie and the love of Doomtree, you can see it in how well I still know the streets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, you can see it in how often I go back. It’s the place I go back to; it’s the place I’ll always go back to. It’ll always be the place I wonder about leaving, the place I dream about going back to when I’m low, and the place I still try and figure out how I’ll own a second home in even if I never leave San Francisco (because who can afford a first home here?)

I used to think each trip back would get easier. But now I’m not so sure. This has…not been the greatest few months professionally, and San Francisco has always been a tough city personally. I love it, its hills, the ocean, the Pliny on tap, how much music rolls through town (and how much is still here if you don’t believe the lies), how much different nature is just a few short hours away, how easy it is to get so many places in the US and internationally when SFO is your home airport. But it is hard to connect with people here. We all seem overburdened, and it’s hard to escape that feeling we are all plotting our exit strategies. It’s hard to afford all those shows. It’s hard to keep up here, even if you are fortunate. I don’t know if that’s a function of the place, of my age, or of everything else in my life. 2+ weeks back in Minnesota and Iowa both makes me homesick and reinforces that it’s not where I live anymore. Perhaps it just the deep ambivalence that is a hallmark of who I am. Ambivalence or no, I need to step away from the fog for a bit.

A trip back to Minnesota and Iowa isn’t going to solve my problems (as much as people seem to like saying that). Perhaps it will provide me with some perspective, though. Or perhaps it’ll be nothing more than a couple weeks away from some of the other problems in my life. A couple weeks to play games with old friends, to see a couple old friends get married, to eat Pizza Luce too many times, to bike to the new breweries in Minneapolis and Saint Paul while still hitting the “old” ones that aren’t so old. It’s amazing how time passes, how there are people that I met there and I realize I have known them 10+ years now. In Iowa, I’ll see great friends I’ve known even longer. I’ll see the campus I first went to half a lifetime ago, as a quite different person. Hell, it’s August, the Four Seasons Fountain might even have water in it. Time is a constant, yet time comes at you fast. It’s funny like that.

Sometimes you just have to appreciate something for what it is. I learned long ago that you cannot make problems go away by ignoring them. But sometimes you do need to step away from them for a bit. Sometimes you need to go home, to go someplace you are comfortable, to go someplace where people know you and there’s nothing to explain. Sometimes you just need to drink an EPA, play some cribbage, watch the Twins, and feel like it’s still 2006. Even when it’s not. Even when it’s materially different and you know it. There’s a difference between pretending and forgetting. I try not to do the former, and I wish I were better at the latter at times. Right now I just need to forget some things. Or remember some things I’ve long since forgotten. Perhaps something long ago will remind me of how to proceed here and now. Or perhaps there’s no need to ascribe any significance to it. We go home to get away from it all. We go home because it is hopefully a safe place. We go home to forget and remember all at once. Home is a construct. Home is the City of Lakes. And even if it’s only been a few months, I’ve been gone too long.

Waiting

I’d like to think of myself as straight. I know, I know, it’s so boring. Who wants to be straight anyway? But I think I’ve done enough self-examination to know where I stand on this. Perhaps the act of being straight is nice and easy for those of you out there who are (raise your hand, most of you). Actually, it’s pretty straightforward for me too (pun totally intended). Perhaps you’ve never really thought about it, though, so let’s pull apart some of the constructs of heterosexuality for a minute.

Like any social construct it hasn’t been around forever even if we feel like it has. That’s not really the point I’m trying to make, though. When I say heterosexuality, I am talking about attraction to people of the opposite sex. But there, we’ve already made a misstep. Or we haven’t made a misstep but it would be more appropriate to say heterosexual attraction consists of two people from the two opposite sexes that the majority of folks ascribe to. It’s an important distinction. The majority is no more normative than the minority. All variations are normal; some are just composed of more individuals than others. As we use that term, though, even if you’ve never thought about the lexical properties of it, those are properties that are implied therein as most folks use it.

The lexical properties of heterosexuality also imply cisness to many people. It is a limited view and a terrible assumption, but in my personal experience, it’s quite prevalent. I’m not here to extol the virtues of passing (far too much emphasis is placed on it, for the comfort of cis folks, not the well-being of trans folks) but I understand why anyone would want to. It fails to address the underlying problems, but I get not wanting to be misgendered during simple day-to-day transactions. I get not wanting to draw the wrong kind of attention to yourself that may lead to something much worse than being called sir by a bouncer at a bar. It seems like it may make things easier to some degree, but I think that is an illusory sort of comfort. A lot of this is about illusion, after all. It’s the appearance of normalcy so many folks seem to crave. Add to that a rather limited view of masculinity in terms of what is or isn’t acceptable, and it’s not a great world out there for trans women who are attracted to men. Masculinity is such a fragile construct; anything that shatters that illusion is dangerous. Even appearing to be in a relationship with a trans person is a real blow to that construct, especially if you are a cishet man.

At best, I am moving through a world that treats me like a woman. At worst, I am moving through a world that still treats me like a man (trust me, there are not really any ancillary benefits to that. It’s not like I get paid like a man). And sometimes, I am moving through a world that doesn’t quite know how to treat me, that doesn’t really see me as female, but also doesn’t see me as male either. It happens less now, but it still happens. I have no problem being straight as much as it is difficult to find men who accept me as who I am. Which necessarily affects my chances of dating. I am not, and will not be, your secret shame. I am perfectly happy to remain single instead of hidden. I spent far too much of my life hidden to go back into any sort of situation like that. I’ve been on enough first dates to know. I’ve seen the look that says “you should have said something”. I’ve been in conversations that stopped as soon as I say I’m trans. I don’t run from it any more than I grab a megaphone and shout from the hilltops that I am. I shouldn’t have to do either. I am proud to be trans and live openly, but that doesn’t mean I owe any man anything in regard to who I am.

To bring it back to the idea of heterosexuality, in my experience, most men who are willing to being in a relationship with me don’t identify that way. Which isn’t a problem, I honestly think it’s awesome that people find who they are. It just says a lot of men seem to have to break out of the limited constructs of masculinity and heterosexuality before they are comfortable with the idea of a relationship with a trans person. While I personally identify as straight, there’s a good chance anyone open enough to be in a relationship with me may not. Which is funny when you think about it. Or perhaps I just laugh because sometimes it’s better than crying. Within all of this, I wonder if how I identify necessarily affects my chances of meeting folks. But I don’t think that’s it. All I’m trying to be in this world is who I am. And who I am is a straight trans woman waiting for a world to catch up.

More Or Less

Like many folks, I’m excited for the season finale of Game of Thrones this weekend. It’s been fun watching the women take the reins this season, even as it’s had some missteps, and I’m curious to see how they will shape affairs heading into the next season. But I’m also excited because that means the last thing I want to watch is over for the time being. Sure, I’ll come back for Last Week Tonight later, but that isn’t exactly appointment television as much as it is television I can watch. Which means I can call Comcast bright and early on Monday and tell then I’m canceling my cable.

It’s been fun to have. I watched a lot of hockey this year, and it was great to be able to watch Sharks games this season. But like many things, I wonder about the cost. Cable is not cheap, and my time with Comcast is nearing an end anyway as Sonic rolls into my neighborhood quite soon and I can leave behind their middling internet for gigabit fiber (and apparently a home phone?). Sometimes living on the west side pays off, and in this case, it’s a boon to be in the Richmond or the Sunset. I look forward to not only getting faster service, but paying less for it.

I also look forward to moving away from my television more. The thing about having cable is it’s very easy to start using it. It’s insidious how it pecks away at one’s time. It’s fun to believe the internet invented that phenomenon, but it’s existed as long as we have had convenient distractions. Perhaps you don’t have that issue, but I certainly do. And even if it’s just Sportscenter on in the background while I’m doing something else, it’s on, it’s there. Streaming services may have perfected the “one more episode” model of sucking us in; add that to all those channels at your disposal. I feel like there were quite a few shows I added to what used to be a tighter rotation of what I was watching in previous years. Because I could. Because I was paying for it. To say nothing of the many, many hockey games on most nights. I enjoyed it, but now, I feel it’s time to renegotiate my relationship with television.

Given that time is finite, what do I want to do with the time I’m allotted? What will I do with the time I get back because I’m not watching a baseball game I really don’t care about that much as I surf the web? What else should I be consciously trying to change about what I’m doing? I don’t like making completely intangible goals, though some of these inevitably appear that way. Like, sure, be more present is a great idea, but what does that mean? And why are we judging whether we’re using a device as being present? Maybe I’m talking with a friend half a world away with my phone while at a show? Maybe that’s a cool thing too. What I’m looking at and thinking about are more tangible uses of time and what I have here. Moving to San Francisco, I winnowed out a lot of stuff, but it builds back up. And some of it I never use. What should I do with those board games that collect dust? What about the books that do the same? With that in mind, here’s some things I’d like to be better about going forward.

Listen to records more

I have a decent record collection; I like it; I don’t play it all that much anymore. It’s hard to listen to a record and watch tv. There’s lots of stuff I own that I don’t have digitally. There’s lots of stuff I never think to play when I’m using my phone because I don’t see my collection in the same way. It’s time to find some of those records I forgot I had, to spend more time with those records that I cannot listen to any other way (that goes for the tapes too). I have it because I like it. So I should use it. This is a pretty easy one because I feel I’ve barely been listening at home recently. It may also finally give me the motivation to either get wireless speakers or a shitton of speaker wire and some Goodwill speakers for the kitchen too.

Read more

I should qualify this. I do lots of reading. I think most anyone in this day and age does. But I’d rather do more in-depth reading. Novels, non-fiction, whatever. I’d rather just spend time with a topic beyond a few thousand words at the most like I do on the internet. Some topics only require a few thousands words; many require much more. I have books on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years now. I have a library card. I live walking distance from both Green Apple locations. I should be able to do this. One of the projects I stalled on was the Hugo/Nebula winners. It’s time to get back into that. Another easy one, since I haven’t spent much time reading anything of length recently, which I’m ashamed to say as an English Lit major.

Run more

The funny thing about television is how it can dictate a schedule if the main reason you have it is for live sports. That’s the main reason I had it, and those game times are set. I can catch up with a show in a couple days, but that’s not how live sports works. That’s why they charge the most for that package. The funny thing about living on the West Coast is that sports are on at weird times if you grew up following an East Coast team, like 4 pm. Which is awesome, it’s fun to watch a Caps game and still have my night, but something’s gotta give in that equation. One of those things that gave more often than not was going for a run. Then you might have a couple beers, and then you’re like, should I really go for a run? And then you don’t. While my mileage is up from this time last year (254 miles at present) I’d like to up that. I’d like to become more consistent about how many times I’m getting out in a week. I’d like to become more consistent about running when I’m on vacation. Can’t hang that all on the tv. But it’s one more excuse at times.

Bike more

Two weekends ago, I took the ferry over to Alameda and biked down to Hayward. It was a nice ride along the Bay, through quite a bit of land I’d never really spent much time in. There’s so much I haven’t seen in the Bay Area, not that you can do it all in three years by any means, but there’s so much more to explore. I still need to figure out a random weekday to go to the Pulgas Water Temple. John Muir’s home is calling my name. I still haven’t tackled Mount Tam. It takes a little more planning, but it’s easier to bike to many more places than you think much of the time. My mileage is down from last year (only 1,592 miles at present), and it only looks that good because of a really strong past few weeks (thanks Vancouver!). I have a slightly shorter commute now (cut about 1.5 miles round trip) so some of that is to be expected. But it’s time to start making that up on these longer summer evenings and weekends.

Write more

I always say this. It’s always true.

Drink less

I enjoy a fine adult beverage. But I feel I’ve probably been having more than I should recently. Sometimes it’s just saying no to that last one of the night that you don’t really need. Sometimes it’s just not having one at all on a night like tonight. I’m still gonna go to Novel Brewing tomorrow because it sounds awesome and I’m gonna be in Oakland for work. I’m still going to try lots of new and exciting breweries and distilleries and bars and visit old favorites. I will still throw back a few with you the next time we see each other (if that’s something we do together). It’s just cutting back on the reflexive drinks. Especially now that I rarely ever drink soda, it’s very easy to just order a beer with a meal or open one at home. And that’s not a problem. But everything is a balancing act. I feel like I may have gotten a bit out of balance on this front over the past few months. It’s just something to be cognizant of.

Put things off less

It doesn’t really take that long to do the dishes. But some nights, I was racing to get dinner in before a show would start, and after sitting on the couch for an hour, I’d lack the motivation to finish up the dishes properly. I don’t think that’s magically going to change, but not having something like that I’m dedicating my time to should make it easier, no? I hope. And sure, some nights I’m just barely getting the laundry out of the machine before rushing off to a show, but most nights, I have the time, I just don’t use it for those little things that take 10-15 minutes when I should. I should figure out what I’m bringing to work the night before instead of the morning of. I should wash the dishes as they come up so I don’t have a nightmare scenario like I’ve had this week (in fairness, I made a lot of brunch). I should put my laundry away in a timely fashion because dammit, I just should. Living alone is nice, I don’t have to worry about pissing anyone off with that kind of stuff. But sometimes it’s nice to have someone light that fire under you. I gotta do it myself. I’ve been abysmal at it recently, so it time to be better.

Sleep more

I get enough sleep. But I could stand to get a little more most nights. I should be in bed by 11:30 unless I’m out. Instead I fritter away who knows how much time in front of a television. TV is weird like that. Granted, I can still do that with the internet, and probably will. But a girl can dream.

Get out more

It’s been a while since I made it back to Corona Heights. Or Tank Hill. Or McLaren. It’s been too long since I made my way to Mount Davidson. Or Mount Olympus. I haven’t stopped by Retrofit in a while. Or any of the other fun vintage shops up and down Valencia. San Francisco has a lot of nice parks and quirky little spots, I’ve been to a lot of them. It’s time to get back to some of them again. It’s time to take advantage of these longer summer evenings, and since our weather is broken, that goes double for the outdoor stuff. The tv is still gonna be here when it’s dark and the shops are closed.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of learning how to renegotiate our little habits. And change is a good opportunity to examine other ones. I am a big proponent of the fact we should always been examining our lives, making tweaks and changes, big and small, as appropriate. We can’t just wait for January 1st, and besides, that’s an arbitrary date. I’ve been looking at some of the little things I’ve been doing and thinking to myself “why am I doing that?” I’ve been asking, and I’ve had some reasons, or more likely, excuses; now that some of them are gone or will be soon. I’ve been awful with the deck this year, though I have been doing it. It’s designed to make me do some of those things outside of my comfort zone and make me reexamine my relationship to some things. I should pay more attention to it. I should pay more attention. Perhaps with one fewer distraction, now I will.

You Were Not Always You

I haven’t done this every year. But most years, June rolls around, I count to a new number, and I reflect. Some years I say it better than others. I’ll always remember June 2nd, 2008. It is a tangible date made whole, the culmination of actions and decisions and truly it will always be one of the most realized days of my life. Though the act of coming out, of truly being yourself, has more than a single date attached, I hope some day this is something most younger people will never understand. But I don’t think we’re there yet. And there are always going to be folks who just need more time to figure out who they are, even in a more open world. Perhaps you have never had a date like that, perhaps you will never need one, though it is worth remembering that is not the case for everyone. That’s why it’s important to be openly and visibly trans, to foster a world where, if you do not yet know that date, even if you are not aware that is how you will be yet, hopefully the date you get to be your best self is coming soon. Not everyone gets to show up and just be themselves. Most of us have to find ourselves, in a world that still does not want us to do that.

If you are so fortunate that you’ve never had to think about anything like this, perhaps reflect on those who will never be fortunate enough to be themselves. Perhaps reflect on that cost. Perhaps reflect on that loss. We have a lot of work yet to do to create a society that allows each of us to show up as ourselves. When I talk about showing up as myself, that doesn’t mean I’m always walking into a room waving a trans pride flag. Part of being who we are is just as much getting to bring all of who we are as it is not having to put that forward if we choose not to. Much of that gets back to agency. The same agency to be ourselves applies to telling our stories or how we show up to anything. Some of us have less choice in that matter, of course, not fitting into the strict rubrics of what we expect from the gender binary. That’s what causes that tension, that’s what makes it so hard to be ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to tell our stories if we choose. That’s why it’s so important to not fit in, to be not who everyone has told us we should be but who truly are, in whatever way that is.

The past year has been a pretty good one for me personally, but in the broader scope, it felt like a backwards slide. I finally changed my birth certificate and passport, finishing off the last tangible documents I needed to take care of, which I assure you is no small feat. But it feels like much of the world around me is moving in a different direction. As trans visibility increases, the reaction is not celebration, but reactionary fear. Cities and states reject expanded equality protections on the grounds they include trans people. Some places have gone so far as to outright criminalize the act of using a public restroom while trans. I feel like I see more people baselessly comparing trans women to predators. And while I’m heartened by the lack of success and pushback I see in some places, there are still far too many outlets that do not challenge these lies about who trans folks are. They uncritically promulgate fear without facts, failing to mention there has been no instance of anyone pretending to be trans to do this. And as even respected media outlets continue to fumble in their coverage, promoting outright hate, it’s trans folks who pay that price. It takes a toll. For me it’s just a mental one; for less fortunate trans folks, particularly trans women of color, it’s much more than that.

Perhaps I’m just more aware of it. I am definitely more aware of my relative position within the overall community than I was eight years ago. One of my goals in the past few years has been to get more involved, and I feel like this is a year that I have finally done a good job of realizing that goal. Not that there is a right or wrong way to be involved. Sometimes it’s the conversations over a dinner or a drink, personalizing while also highlighting I have had a fairly exceptional experience in most regards. Sometimes it’s just taking a few hours a week to volunteer at the SF LGBT Center. Sometimes it going into a space that ostensibly is supposed to include you and doing the work to make sure it is more inclusive, which is why I recently got involved with PRIDE through my employer  again.

That, perhaps, is the best extension of where I am now. I still take care of myself. The whole idea of coming out, of being my best self, it’s been about self-care. Hopefully, I take better care of myself at 35 than I did at 27 because I’ve put in that work. But I am less centered on taking care of myself than I ever have been. Because I don’t need to be anymore. I was not always me and lots of other folks helped me become the person I am now. You were not always you, either. We all need help sometimes. Perhaps more than we would like to admit. Though, I think that is more something we need to change about our society. I could have never done any of this by myself. I am the beneficiary of the hard work and sacrifice of many trans people who came before me. My life may not be easy, but it is certainly easier because of the work of many people I can never properly thank, many people I never can or will know. The only way I can think to thank them is to keep doing that work in whatever way I can. Even if it’s better than it used to be, it’s not nearly good enough. There is still more to do. I can’t wait to see where we’re at next year.

We Are Not Alone

When I walked into the room, I knew I’d be the only trans person. I experience that feeling a lot. Unless it’s a PWR BTTM or G.L.O.S.S. show, I know what kind of crowd I’ll see at the Rickshaw or the Knockout. When I sit at the bar at Church Key, I know who else is coming in for $7 beers; hint, it’s not a lot of other trans folks. But this was different. This was an LGBT focused event hosted by my employer. There were over 30 people there. But I still knew. Well, I don’t really know. We never really know. That’s what makes moving through any space as an out trans person so important.

I was having a conversation with someone about my professional goals, talking about how I want to keep moving up in the company. Obviously this is not an entirely altruistic goal. I’m a good employee and I feel I bring a lot of value, but I also like paying my rent, and San Francisco isn’t getting any cheaper. But I also want to provide an example I’ve never seen as a trans employee rising through the ranks. I don’t know any out employees in senior leadership positions. That’s a gap we still haven’t closed. It is better than it used to be, but coming out can still have an adverse affect on one’s career. I want to see that example of someone moving up, of someone not being held back because of who they are. I think about possibility models, and we’re not all going to be actors, models, writers, and activists. So sure it’s a little selfish, I want to get mine, but I also want to be that person who shows others being yourself won’t hold you back, no matter what it is you do. I want someone else to see that. I want to become the example I never had.

There is power in harnessing being that out person. I don’t want to be THE trans employee. But I am a trans employee. I own that. There is power in being that out person willing to start those conversations. Not that it is any trans person’s job to educate others. Many folks just want to live their lives.I can only provide one person’s experiences and thoughts. I don’t speak for the entire community anymore than anyone else. But I do have the capacity to have those conversations. Some of that is the fortune of a life that has unfolded quite well. So part of me that likes to pay back that relative fortune by giving back where I can, whether that’s time, money, or words. But I just like having those conversations. Not everyone does, but I think that’s just who I am, who I’ve always been. Hopefully it’s better than 2008, but there’s still a chance that I’m the first trans person someone actually meets.

A funny thing happens when we start telling our stories. We realize we are not alone. Our stories are acts of recrudescence, and in that renewal we forge connections. Despite our differences, many of us have more in common than we sometimes remember. With an LGBT audience, there is the shared experience of trying to figure out who we are in a world that goes out of its way to bury examples of who we are, of who we can be. The shared pain of being punished by a world for who we are, the shared joy of overcoming that. It can be easy to focus on the differences, and we should talk about them. HB2 affects me on a much more personal level, just by virtue of the fact it was explicitly passed to try and keep me out of bathrooms in many places in North Carolina. But it’s not my struggle alone. It never was, and it never will be. These bathroom bills may explicitly target trans women, but they rely on noxious enforcement of specific gender norms about who looks like they belong in places. That’s something anyone who’s a little different than society tells them they should be can understand. And I was in a room full of people who are a little bit different than society has told us we should be.

I can’t reach everyone, of course. But it’s not about reaching everyone. It’s about reaching those I can. Sometimes it’s just starting those conversations. Sometimes it’s standing up to be counted. Sometimes it’s pushing back when the next person shares some terrible meme on Facebook. The most powerful tool I have is my voice. And while I don’t go looking to pick fights with bigots, I also won’t back down. I refuse to be silenced. Other people need to hear our voices. There are still folks out there who need to see they are not alone. Keep talking, keep reaching out, keep an open mind, keep hoping, and keep working toward those hopes because they just don’t happen on their own. That’s what I can do. The next time I walk into that room? Hopefully I won’t be the only trans person there.

 
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