Introduction

The Bay Area and Southern California regions of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice are proud to provide this guide to propositions appearing on California’s November ballot. We build on the work of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, one of our predecessor organizations, which regularly analyzed and made recommendations on local and state ballot measures over the last decade.

Bend the Arc envisions a nation where Jews play a critical role in helping America fulfill its promise, pursuing justice as a core expression of Jewish values. We believe America is strongest when everyone has a safe place to live, a job that lets them provide for their families and hold their heads high, an accessible ladder of opportunity, and freedom from fear, hate and want.

Today we are continuing to build the nation our ancestors came here to find—a land of opportunity and justice for all. Our work enables us to transcend religious, ethnic, and institutional boundaries to create justice and opportunity for more people, by training Jewish and interfaith leaders, organizing in communities, investing to revitalize neighborhoods, and through robust progressive political advocacy. 

Although our Jewish identities are diverse, we are bound together by a profound history as a people with a shared concern for human dignity and equality. We believe that our Jewish values, traditions, texts, history, faith and culture have a light to shine on creating solutions to America’s most pressing problems.

Our shared history teaches us that building a healthy and ethical society is both a personal duty and a communal obligation. As a people, our great successes, as well as our great persecution, remind us of this time-tested truth. From the ancient prophets we hear the call to “seek the well-being of the city in which you dwell… for in its peace you shall find peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7) And we take special pride in the American Jewish legacy of speaking out against injustice and inequity. “Jews believe you can't have justice for yourself unless other people have justice as well,” said the late Bella Abzug, one of the first Jewish women elected to the House of Representatives.

Inspired by our history, we have assessed the 11 propositions appearing on California’s November ballot, thoroughly studying their meaning and likely impact. In general, we remain exceedingly wary of the pervasive use of ballot initiatives. Experience shows that ballot initiatives often espouse simplistic answers to complex societal ills, whether perceived or real. Moreover, propositions are not a substitute for a well-functioning system of representative government committed to upholding the common good and, in fact, some propositions on the November ballot attempt to address the negative consequences of past propositions. We continue to urge common-sense measures to end gridlock in Sacramento and allow our democratically elected officials to deliberate responsibly and react appropriately to the state’s formidable challenges. Yet, as Californians, we cannot help but witness the toll exacted on our state by underfunded schools, infrastructure and health care. We cannot avoid the harsh reality of our fraying safety net, of foreclosed homes, vacant storefronts, and crowded unemployment offices. We cannot ignore the troubling effects of overflowing prisons and shelters.

The November 6 election ballot provides opportunities for voters to enact corrective measures, particularly in the areas of taxation (Propositions 30, 38 & 39) and criminal justice (Propositions 34 & 36). And there is an urgent need to reject initiatives that are misleading (Propositions 32 & 33) or are poorly constructed (Proposition 31) in ways that threaten our democratic system of politics and ultimately penalize the most vulnerable members of our society.

Acknowledgements

Bend the Arc thanks the volunteers of the Voter Guide Committee for their dedication and diligence in researching, analyzing and writing this voter guide.

Co-chairs: Alea Gage & Douglas Mirell
Committee: Joel Abramovitz, Alex DeGood, Jeffrey Kaye, David Levitus, Adam Mitchell, Evan Kuluk, Hanna Dershowitz, Karen Ben-Moshe, Nick Carno
Staff recognition: Eric Greene, Leili Davari, Cory Fischer

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