Monday, October 18, 2010

On Saturday my roommate and I sat down with our mail-in-ballots for the coming November elections. This is a somewhat substantial task in California because of the massive number of state and local officials, proposals, and ballot measures. It took a good hour even with the SF Bay Guardian cheat sheet / endorsements in front of us. We went through the candidates voting for things such as State Controller and State Governor (they are different positions), as well as the local officials such the supervisor for District 8; though I didn't get to vote for the supervisor for District 10. "It's amazing that these election people can get the right ballot to the right person with the right zip code with all the ballots that they have to send out." It's called bureaucracy, said Sam.

Governor was pretty easy. Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman. I heard them debate earlier in the week and actually kind of liked what Whitman was saying, but then again G.W. occasionally made sense to me. That said, I don't trust my political instincts because I know I'm easily swayed by rhetoric. As a result I try to listen to what others around me are saying about the candidates. Living in San Francisco, I haven't heard much good about Whitman. In 2000 I remember telling my Mom that I was going to vote for Nader and she convinced me to vote for Gore. It was at that moment that I consciously began to defer to others for political opinions. As much as I personally like the idea of collectively moving towards oblivion (or as Bill Maher put it during the lead up to the 2000 election, that if Nader didn't win he'd rather have G.W. in office so people will see how bad things can get. He got his wish.), listening to moderates is, I feel, a good way to stay healthy. The middle path.

Prop. 19 was the other biggie on the ballot, taxing and regulating marijuana, a.k.a. "pot" as it's called on the streets. The weirdness of openly acknowledging something that for as long I've known, has been a minor taboo, and the normalization that comes with this acknowledgment is almost too much change to bear all at once. Good thing the availability of medicinal marijuana is such that anybody who wants it can get it already. And by now we're all used to smelling pot every fifteen feet walking down the street, the headshops, ads, dispensaries, t-shirts, and dealing with our stoned friends, selves, family members, colleagues and students. Around here I don't think it would change much. Which is one argument: that CA may as well be taxing it. The other are the drug cartels along the border, that legalizing pot here will reduce the profits and thus the violence, though that argument is may not be true, according to this. Socio-political issues asides, it feels more psychological than anything: are we ready to change our definition of what drugs are? Do we want them to be underground? Counter-cultural? If they were sanctioned by the government would we use them differently? I imagine we would.

And then there are the rest of the measures on the State ballot, changing the way the legislature votes on the budget, little tax measures, more pollution controls...nothing too complicated that leaning Democrat or Republican won't take care of. The city ballot measures are more complicated, something about hotel taxes? I don't know. I just voted with the Guardian. Not sure what the right answer is on that one. But the big ones: cutting the city pensions (no, based on the argument that it would raise health insurance costs for the poorest) and no on the sit/lie proposition L because proposition M addresses sidewalk bound trouble makers in a way that doesn't give the police the authority to do whatever they want. I have nothing against the police but forcibly removing people from sidewalks doesn't seem like a winning long term solution to homelessness. At any rate, that's what I voted for. Now I'm going to go buy some yogurt.