Across California this week, voters will weigh in on a minimum wage hike, investigations of police shootings, affordable housing, medical marijuana and more than $6 billion in school construction bonds.
These are just a few of the more than 160 measures that will appear on ballots in cities and counties across the state. While the city of Los Angeles has no initiatives and the statewide ballot features just one measure — Proposition 50, which would allow for the suspension of state lawmakers without pay — other local ballots will be full of hot-button policy and tax issues.
Here are some issues worth following:
Police shootings and low-income housing in San Francisco
San Francisco’s police chief quit last month after a string of officer-involved shootings and controversial incidents that have prompted a federal probe of the department. And the astronomical cost of housing remains a huge issue in the city.
So it’s not surprising that San Francisco’s ballot will contain measures on both issues. Proposition D would require the city’s civilian police review agency to investigate every police-involved shooting. Proposition C would raise the city’s requirement for all residential developers to provide low-income housing. Going forward, developers will be required to reserve 25% of units in new complexes for low-income residents — the highest percentage by far in the country.
Both measures are expected to pass.
“More and more cities are having to deal with what to do with marijuana,” said Michael Coleman, a fiscal policy advisor to the League of California Cities who tracks local tax and bond measures across the state.
Coleman has tracked three cities, Alturas in Modoc County along with Sacramento and Davis, with medical marijuana business tax measures on the ballot as new state regulations take effect and ahead of a likely statewide ballot measure on full legalization of the drug in November.
The biggest city dealing with marijuana is San Jose, where voters are weighing a measure that would expand the locations where medical pot dispensaries could be located across the city.
Billions for schools
School bonds and taxes dominate the list of local measures, as they typically do, Coleman said.
About 8 out of 10 school bond measures pass, he said, partly because of schools’ popularity and also because of a lower threshold required for passage. School bonds require only 55% of voters to say yes, compared to two-thirds approval for other bond measures.
By Coleman’s count, more than a quarter of the $6 billion in school bonds on local ballots come from two measures: one for community colleges in Long Beach and the other for community colleges in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
There also are a handful of property tax increases for schools, primarily on Northern California ballots.
A tax vote in Glendale
Glendale will decide whether to repeal a city tax on electricity, water and gas rates after residents got enough signatures to force the measure onto the ballot.
Proponents say the city needs to cut benefits offered to workers and make do with less money. City officials argue losing the money, which makes up roughly 10% of Glendale’s day-to-day budget, would lead to major cuts in public safety.
San Diego’s minimum wage battle
Two years ago, Democrats on San Diego’s City Council passed a big minimum wage hike that was opposed by the city’s Republican mayor and business groups. The opposition got enough signatures to force the issue on the ballot.
But the potential fight fizzled, especially after the state raised the minimum wage to an amount higher than San Diego’s over time.
Proponents of the measure still argue for its passage because it would raise the wage more quickly than the state in initial years and add mandatory paid sick days.
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