California Propositions That Won & Lost

November 18, 2020

By: Will White

On November 3rd, Californians participated in record numbers in our national and local
elections. This election cycle, UWBA developed a voter guide and took positions on several
state ballot measures that are core to the work we do in the Bay Area community. While many
of the positions we supported failed to garner a majority of the electorate’s support, UWBA
remains committed to advocating for policies and programs at the state and local level that
support our mission and organizational goals.

One of the more prominent ballot measures UWBA supported was state Proposition 15, which
fell short of the 51% support needed to pass. This measure sought to reassess commercial and
industry property valued at less than $3 million at its current market rate rather than its
purchase price. The current cap on taxable value of commercial property severely constrains
our cities and school districts from raising adequate revenue needed to provide high quality
education, affordable housing, health care, and transit. If this measure had passed, it would
have brought $7.5-$12 Billion annually into our local communities, many of which are struggling
to provide these needed services for Bay Area communities.

Another prominent measure UWBA supported was Prop 16, which sought to reinstate
affirmative action policies in public sector institutions. This also failed to achieve majority
support, receiving only 43.6% of voter support. California voters repealed the use of affirmative
action in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 209, which lead to a marked drop in
representation for women and people of color in public education and employment. Prop 16
would have reversed the ban on taking race, ethnicity, national origin and gender into
consideration for public education, contracting, and employment. This measure represented an
opportunity to reinvest in diverse communities and restore fairness for women and people of
color looking to succeed in our public sector institutions.

Both Prop 15 and Prop 16, while different in their content, sought to center equity in our
conversations around our tax code and public hiring and college admissions. Both had the
potential to be truly transformational for the communities we serve in the Bay Area. While
many voters in the Bay Area supported these measures, a majority of Californians did not. This
election cycle is a reminder of the work we still need to do as a state to ensure equitable
outcomes for everyone in our community.

Still, this election wasn’t without its bright spots. Californians overwhelmingly supported
Proposition 17 which restores the right to vote for individuals convicted of felonies and are
currently serving parole. This is a huge victory for Californians who are justice system involved,
many of which have paid their debt to society and are actively working to reintegrate into our
communities. Prior to Prop 17’s passage, nearly 50,000 Californians on parole were denied the
right to vote despite working, paying taxes, and contributing to our communities. The right to
vote is a cornerstone of our democracy and we need to ensure that everyone in our community
has the opportunity to have their voices heard.

United Way Bay Area remains committed to advocating for policies that fund our schools and
local communities and that reaffirm our state’s willingness to work for racial equity. We will
continue to ensure that everyone in our community has access to the resources and
opportunities they need to achieve economic success. We may have a long way to go as both a
state and a nation, but UWBA will continue to live its values, ensuring everyone has the
opportunity to thrive.

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