Election 2016 Palo Alto 101

19 propositions, what??? Before you vote, get the scoop

In Palo Alto, we like to be in front of the trends and ahead of the crowd. That’s why it’s great that we can vote early, thanks to the mail-in ballot option. But before you rip open the envelope and start inking in those black bars, take a minute to get informed about the many issues and decisions that are on your ballot.

Trump v. Clinton is just the beginning…

There’s so much more than a presidential race at stake! Because local issues may matter a lot more to your day to day life than anything that happens in Washington, it’s worth your time to get informed.

Does my ballot really have three full pages? Woah.

Does my ballot really have three full pages? Woa.

Wait, what- 17 state-wide propositions?

Crazy as it sounds, that’s what voters have to weigh in on this year. And there are some big decisions to make- legalizing marijuana, renewing a tax on high income earners, banning plastic bags and more.

Back before the web, we used to have proposition parties to learn about what was on the ballot, but now we can let someone else do the homework for us. There are lots of proposition guides out there, but the one we like best has a cool tie to Palo Alto: CALmatters.

CALmatters: the best guide to propositions

CALmatters is a nonprofit news organization devoted entirely to covering the decisions made in Sacramento (it was started by a Palo Alto local – read more about it here).

CALmatters’ user-friendly proposition guide includes:

  • A brief, succinct description of each proposition (yeah!)
  • What it would cost (often hard to figure out)
  • Why it’s on the ballot (this is always interesting)
  • Who’s for it and who’s against, along with links to their bios (super helpful)
  • How much has been raised for and against, and from whom (like they say, ‘follow the money…”)
  • Editorials for and against the propositions (another lens on who’s supporting the issue)
Should California strengthen gun control and safety laws? photo credit: wikipedia

Should California strengthen gun control and safety laws? photo credit: wikipedia

Propositions that could have big impact- don’t miss these…and so many others
  • Prop 55: extend the ‘temporary’ tax on high earners to fund public schools and hospitals?
  • Prop 58: remove restrictions on bilingual education that were put in place back in 1998?
  • Prop 63: strengthen gun control laws?
  • Prop 64: legalize marijuana?
(Staff file photo/Southern California News Group)

Prop 64 would legalize marijuana in California Photo credit: Southern California News Group)

  • Prop 62 and 66: changing the laws governing the death penalty? [note: when there are two propositions about the same issue, read them carefully before making a decision!]
  • Prop 65 and 67: uphold the law that passed banning plastic bags (Prop 65)? Put the money stores charge for bags into a fund for environmental organizations (Prop 67)? [note: same as above!]
Should California uphold the law banning plastic bags? Credit Image: © Earl S. Cryer/ZUMA Press)

Should California uphold the law banning plastic bags and pass Prop 65 and 67? Credit Image: © Earl S. Cryer/ZUMA Press)

But that’s not all! For the same ballot, we’ll throw in two Santa Clara County propositions (joking aside, they’re big)

Measure A: Issue bonds for up to $950 million to fund affordable housing?

Should Santa Clara invest in affordable housing for seniors, low income familes and others? Photo by Paul Sakuma, AP

Should Santa Clara invest in affordable housing for seniors, low income familes and others? Photo by Paul Sakuma, AP

Measure B: Raise sales taxes to improve regional transportation, including roads, bike paths, BART, Caltrain capacity and more?

Is Prop B- with funds for roads, BART, Caltrain and bikes- worth the investment for Santa Clara County? Photo credit: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Is Prop B- with funds for roads, BART, Caltrain and bikes- worth the investment for Santa Clara County? Photo credit: Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

And get a second pen ready because there are some really important local races too

Palo Alto School Board: There are five people running for three open seats on the Palo Alto School Board. Camille Townsend is terming out, and incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Heidi Emberling are going up against three challengers:  Todd Collins, Jennifer DiBrienza, and Jay Blas Jacob Cabrera. And yes, the school board makes some big decisions in Palo Alto. Learn more here.

Palo Alto City Council: There are 11 people running for four open seats on the Palo Alto City Council. Campaign contributions have been pouring in for a few City Council candidates. Why is this election drawing so much interest? Find out here why these decisions are so important for the future of Palo Alto.

Which way are Palo Alto schools headed? Photo by Palo Alto Pulse

Which way are Palo Alto schools headed? Photo by Palo Alto Pulse

Fill out the whole ballot…every last bar

You’ll be glad you did!

About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of GreatSchools.org , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.