My Biases

We all go into the ballot booth with our own background and biases. This is my general political worldview. If this doesn’t sound much like you, you probably don’t need to read this site at all.

I don’t believe that voting and organization around the electoral mechanism is the only or the best way to achieve positive change in our society or our government. But I do believe it is one way and one worth taking seriously. I do my best to research every candidate and question on my ballot for every election, and come to a well-informed position. I am sharing my opinions on this site because friends have noticed that I care a lot and often ask for my opinions. I don’t think my opinions are always the most well-informed or correct, but given that I have them, I might as well share them. (I have done this for years on private locations like LiveJournal and Facebook. Starting November 2016, I’m experimenting with doing it more publicly.) I try to ensure that “have strong opinions about my ballot” is not my only contribution to making our society a better place, but do not always live up to that standard.

I’m a thirty-something cis white Jewish man living in Berkeley, California. I’m the father of two kids; one is in preschool and one is in Berkeley public schools. I formerly rented in the Mission and SOMA in San Francisco. I work at a VC-funded startup in San Francisco; before 2012 I worked at a larger tech company and rode the buses down the peninsula. My wife and I own our home. Pre-covid, I commuted daily via BART and relied primarily on walking, BART, biking, AC Transit, and Muni to get around. (These days I work from home, don’t go to too many places, walk and bike, and look forward to returning to public transit.) We do now own a minivan but do not use it for any regular work or school commutes.

I hope for candidates to match to match my personal beliefs more and more closely as their district shrinks. So I often find myself excited about presidential candidates who are farther from my beliefs than local candidates who I’d never vote for.

I generally think that government has a role in creating a more equal and fair society, and that one powerful mechanism of achieving that goal is via progressive taxation and the creation of social safety nets. On the whole I tend to vote in favor of most taxes and bonds, especially renewing existing expiring taxes. I believe that the restrictions written into the California constitution by anti-tax forces in 1978’s Proposition 13 and related measures have had a corrosive force on the state, and wish they did not force so much of Californian financial decision-making into the ballot box.

In general I believe we are forced to do too much governing via propositions. If a proposition is put on the ballot by the legislature or city council via a non-contentious vote (ie, the vast majority of non-Republicans voted for it) and is only on the ballot because some other proposition forced it to be, my default is to vote yes unless I have strong objections.

I endeavor to support equality and justice for people of all races, religions, genders and gender identities, sexual orientations, classes, etc. I do my best to be a good ally, though that is an ongoing process, not a status I can claim.

I am a strong supporter of abortion rights, marriage equality, trans rights, and gun control.

I support the rights of undocumented immigrants, such as my great-grandmother after whom we named my daughter.

I am fully aware that I am a white person who recently moved into a historically black neighborhood (though my wife has lived in the neighborhood off and on for decades) and that makes me part of the problem of gentrification. I do my best to counteract that effect via respect for my neighbors and via the ballot box, but acknowledge that this may not be fully possible.

I believe that a huge amount of what law enforcement agencies do is actively harmful to my values and to real safety, and that goverments must stop defunding education, health, housing and so many other important priorities, and start defunding the police.

The housing crisis is the one of the biggest challenges facing the Bay Area right now. I don’t believe I have all the answers to this problem, but I believe that one root cause is the lack of housing construction (market-rate and affordable/subsidized) over decades, and that any solution needs to include building new housing (of all kinds). I sympathize with those who see dense urban construction as the harbinger of displacement, but it does not seem that preventing development has done an effective job of preventing displacement. I trust neither developers nor NIMBYs, and it’s frustrating that it seems like most local politicians fall too far to one side or the other.

Specifically, I believe that the market-rate housing crisis and affordable/subsidized housing crises are both real and are intertwined, but require different solutions. I believe focused development of market-rate housing, especially dense transit-friendly housing, is likely to help the market-rate housing crisis, which admittedly is the one that affects my friends the most. (That development should still have strong controls preventing direct displacement.) But I don’t believe market-rate housing development will do much to support those who can’t afford market-rate housing, and if done carelessly will make matters worse for them. Solving that requires investment in specifically building affordable housing. Unfortunately, it feels like most local politicians are only interested in solving one of these twin problems. At this point, I am mostly skeptical of anyone who believes that they have found the single truth on how to fix the housing crisis.

In general, I find that when East Bay for Everyone (the East Bay YIMBY group) and the East Bay DSA agree on a housing-related issue, I agree with them. And on issues where they disagree (as is more common), I am internally split.

While I can find plenty to criticize about the Democratic Party (like any organization of its size and diversity), I believe on the whole it is the organization most devoted to electorally accomplishing the sort of change I want to see in our country’s government. While I do consider candidates on their own merits, I have historically nearly always ended up voting for Democrats in contested races. (I would have voted for Nader in 2000 had I been a year older; I also would have regretted that vote within weeks.) I’d like to see a system with more competitive parties and I do evaluate third-party and independent candidates for local positions. That said, I don’t find presidential candidates from parties who do not have the organization, dedication, or representation to get even a handful of state legislators elected to be worth considering. I have been fortunate to live in municipalities since 2002 which use instant-runoff voting for local elections and hope to see more of it in the future.

On the other hand, anyone who is still a member of the Republican Party in this era has chosen to prove themelves unworthy of my consideration.

I generally indicate how strongly I feel about my position on an issue by WHETHER OR NOT I CAPITALIZE MY OPINION.

If I change my mind about an issue before the election, I will update the relevant post in place, and may not explicitly mention that I did so. However, the full change history for this site is publicly available on GitHub.