A progressive voting guide for California’s cascade of measures and propositions
A Nevada County voter sits down to fill out her ballot in Grass Valley, Calif. | Elias Funez / The Union via AP

LOS ANGELES—What are the challenges and decisions facing voters in California on November 8th and in the ballots that are being mailed in already?

This is the second installment in a two-part series on how the midterms are shaping up in the state. Part one looked at the statewide and L.A. races.

Part two takes up the various measures and propositions that on the ballot. Sources consulted include the L.A. County Federation of Labor, the California Labor Federation, the Los Angeles TimesL.A. Progressive, Equality California, and an avalanche of mailers.

Let’s first dispense with the propositions and measures on which there’s universal agreement across the progressive spectrum.

Proposition 1 affirms the Constitutional right to reproductive freedom in California: Yes.

Proposition 27 would allow online sports betting, ostensibly to increase state revenues, but would objectively create and enable a whole new generation of gambling addicts: No.

Proposition 28 provides additional funding for arts and music education in public schools: Yes.

Proposition 31 would prohibit retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products (that appeal largely to young people of color): Yes.

L.A. County Measure A would grant the Board of Supervisors authority to remove an elected Sheriff from office for cause, including violation of law related to a Sheriff’s duties, flagrant or repeated neglect of duties, misappropriation of funds, and willful falsification of documents: Yes.

City of L.A. Measure LH would authorize public entities in the City of L.A. to develop, construct, or acquire up to 5,000 additional units of low-income rental housing in each Council District to address homelessness and affordable housing needs: Yes.

City of L.A. Measure ULA would fund and authorize affordable housing programs and resources for tenants at risk of homelessness through a 4% tax on sales/transfers of real property exceeding $5 million, and 5.5% on properties of $10 million or more: Yes.

Now for those that are more debatable:

Proposition 26 concerns in-person sports betting in tribal casinos. A “liberal” reading of this proposition might prompt a “yes” vote in order to bolster tribal welfare. But on closer inspection, this proposition is sponsored by five highly successful tribal casinos—which stopped their own employees from unionizing—and threatens to put licensed, highly regulated card clubs out of business, with the loss of 32,000 well-paying jobs and $1.6 billion in wages. The L.A. Times and a dozen other newspapers have editorialized against Prop 26, as have AFSCME and various ethnic Chambers of Commerce. So a “progressive” vote on this one would suggest a No.

Proposition 29 would require the presence of an on-site licensed medical professional at kidney dialysis clinics during treatment and also requires clinics to disclose physicians’ ownership interests and report infection data. This is the third time, after 2018 and 2020, this proposition has come before voters. But it’s the medical establishment and the owners of these profitable clinics that fiercely oppose Prop 29, and the union movement (CFL and County Fed) that support it. If a voter trusts that generally labor knows best, that would logically favor a Yes vote.

Proposition 30 would establish a higher income tax on California residents with a higher than $2 million annual income to create purchase incentives for zero-emission vehicles and more vehicle charging stations, and promote wildfire prevention. Among its biggest supporters is Lyft, because according to a recently passed state law, Uber and Lyft drivers must log 90% of their miles in electric vehicles by 2030, and state funding would help their drivers acquire such cars.

Also, for environmental reasons, state Democrats are in favor of it, as well as several unions, particularly IBEW. Other unions oppose it—teachers, for example—who fear that carving out state revenues for such designated purposes leaves less in the general fund to provide the constitutionally mandated portion for public education.

This is a tough one. Neither the County Fed nor the CFL has taken a position it. Both the L.A. Times and L.A. Progressive oppose it. Electric vehicles are clearly the mandate for the foreseeable future, but that still encourages the personal car culture as opposed to public transportation. Speaking personally, I will vote No.

L.A. County Measure C on revenue and finance of the cannabis industry would enact an annual tax in the unincorporated areas of L.A. County on cannabis businesses at rates not to exceed $10 per square foot for cultivation (adjusted for inflation) and a percentage of gross receipts for various cannabis businesses, including retail (6%).

“The needs and impact of the legal cannabis industry,” say the authors of the “Argument in Favor of Measure C” in the Official Sample Ballot, “will continue to shift in the coming years, and the tax revenue can help support the County’s development of a health and social equity-led cannabis program. The support includes workforce and economic development programs, reinvestment in communities disproportionately impacted by historical and current cannabis policies, enforcement and compliance programs to combat the proliferation of untested and unsafe cannabis, mitigation of adverse environment impacts and more. Approval of Measure C is a critical step towards the full implementation of an equitable, legal, commercial cannabis market in Los Angeles County.”

The fact that the opposition statements in the Official Sample Ballot are authored almost unanimously by members of the anti-tax, anti-government Libertarian Party is a compelling motivation to reject their argument. Again, speaking personally, in the interest of regulating a booming but until now largely out-of-control industry that affects millions of Californians’ lives, I would disagree with both the L.A. Times and L.A. Progressive and vote Yes.

L.A. County Measure LA will authorize a bond to repair and upgrade local community colleges and prepare students for jobs or university transfer. My biggest regret is that when these bonds pass (which is how these measures are often funded), the interest goes to Wall Street. I have long felt that government entities themselves, whether the state, county or city, ought to have their own independent publicly owned banks so that the interest goes back into the commonweal.

Again, because a property tax is added, the opposition statements in the Official Sample Ballot come from the real estate community and the Libertarian Party. If it passes (with a minimum of 55% of voters), personally, as a homeowner in the County, I will be affected by this measure, but for the greater good of society and to educate young people for more productive lives, I will vote Yes.

City of L.A. Measure SP would provide funding for parks, recreational centers, pools, playgrounds, waterways, beaches, green spaces, open spaces, childcare, and other facilities, increasing park equity in the City of Los Angeles, through a tax of $0.08414 per square foot on improved parcels, for 30 years. My Official Sample Ballot unfortunately has no discussion of this measure.

The County Fed supports it, and mailers from developers and business property associations oppose it, which gives a voter a pretty clear picture of whom the measure will benefit. Again, my own taxes will increase by a couple hundred dollars, but for the greater good (my own included), I will vote Yes.

The universal wisdom is that progressive measures and candidates are voted in when more people vote. So vote!


Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon, People’s World Cultural Editor, wrote a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein and co-authored composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography. He has received numerous awards for his People's World writing from the International Labor Communications Association. He has translated all nine books of fiction by Manuel Tiago (pseudonym for Álvaro Cunhal) from Portuguese, available from International Publishers NY.