Thoughts on Bonds & Budgets
Despite a reasonably stable economy and projected, albeit slow, growth, the City has a long term structural deficit. As a general matter, I lean toward less concern of debt, as it is needed to ensure dynamism and responsiveness. However, I do have two great and animating concerns, and while they may seem a non sequitur, I feel it critical for any discussion on this issue: the recently passed changes to federal tax law and a coming recession.
Our City has numerous bonds out, with municipal bonds being the traditional alternative option, beyond taxes and fees, for revenue. The new federal tax law offers significant changes to the municipal bonds market that may not be fully understood for some time. An obvious area of concern is with the City's current 5-year plan efforts at refinancing outstanding debt to save money on interest liabilities; this is a common approach for the City, trading new bonds having longer maturities for outstanding bonds before they're due, taking advantage of rate changes. This then liberates otherwise committed City expenditures. However, this long-used practice, called "advanced refunding", is no longer legal, and as a result, debt restructuring is very likely going to prove considerably more challenging.
Additionally, with corporate taxes lower, and with a cap on the write-off for state and local taxes, municipal bonds may prove less attractive investments for banks and investment firms - traditional bulk buyers of municipal bonds. Our City may find it harder to sell bonds intended for issue because there may be fewer institutional bulk buyers; if many municipalities begin issuing fewer bonds, then the supply of bonds drops, thus less supply could lead to less yields for any investor whatever, therefore leading to fewer individual investors. In such a cycle, we find ourselves devoid of buyers of all stripes (institutional and individual), and therefore, stuck with interests from issued bonds while unable to raise additional revenue via bonds. This, I should note, is only one of several of my concerns of this law, which may impact significantly our budget. While I recognize I am no expert, and while I hope once everything of the law is in place, humming along, this concern will not materialize, I do think it will do us well to investigate the matter before committing too heavily on future budgets and expenditures with reliance on pre-tax law models.
While our economy has grown for a decade, this is unsustainable, with a correction and quite likely a recession near-certain over the 4-year term of our next Supervisor. San Francisco enjoyed a large employment growth rate for several years, but has since begun showing a plateau. I feel it imperative our City begin now the process of planning how to manage both a recession and constrictions on traditional methods of raising revenue (wholly un-accounted in the current budget and 5-year plan).
In addition to research and accounting for changes in federal law and its impact on our City (and its impact of the State budget which in turn impacts ours), I feel we must prepare to address ways to ride out recession, especially so with traditional funding paths closed. It will be particularly challenging, if the bond market is closed, to initiate large building projects, which otherwise helps to increase the tax base, while in recession - at least without cash infusions from somewhere (the feds?). The best we can hope for from our budget is nibbling on the margins of a limited pool of discretionary spending, given so much of the budget is enterprise, set-asides, or otherwise committed. If we don't prepare, then sensitive areas of the budget will quickly become targets on the chopping block (likely starting with pensions and labor). While I do not oppose budget nibbling, it is insufficient when the recession hits, and so I lean toward the addition and expansion of existing taxes, the culling of select tax breaks, and perhaps the creation of new revenue sources. While I have some thoughts on where to go, I prefer consulting with experts, and especially so after a study of the federal tax changes is conducted. Regardless, I find this topic critical for anyone running for public office in San Francisco (or any municipality, really). While I am thinking about it, I have thus far yet seen anything of this issue from the mayoral race. Perhaps my concern of recession and, especially, an entirely new bond market, is overblown? What say you?
Jason Lee Jones 21 days ago.
I posted the content immediately following this post to Facebook, and today my content was removed from their platform for violating their community standards, and both my campaign Facebook page and my personal account have been blocked from posting, commenting, instant messages, etc, for the next few days. It took 14 days from when I made the post for Facebook to decide it was offensive.
I'm unsure what the violation is about. It's frustrating that a post, from a candidate for public office, regarding my views on firearms would result in being banished to Facebook purgatory. Additionally, why it is a full ban of my two accounts, rather than the "offender" (that being the campaign page). Given I'm a small fry, I doubt I'll ever earn a response from Facebook beyond a pre-written form letter.
Regrettably, this mystery helps ensure I must avoid controversial topics on account that it may eventually result in my ban from social media platforms like Facebook. This is something a long shot candidate cannot afford. Regardless, you can decide the merits of the block — what follows below is the same post that earned my block.
Jason Lee Jones about 2 months ago.
Valentines & Shootings
There are two things "they" say one should never discuss while on a first date: (1) politics and (2) religion. I always make it a point, even on Valentine's Day, to discuss both... assuming we make it to topic 2. These topics can reveal irreconcilable differences, so best to get these out of the way early, no?
In politics, those engaged rarely hold passionate and considered views of every issue; rather most have a few issues they invest in, with some — or one — being decisive. I figure, given yet another mass shooting today, why not discuss an issue revealing irreconcilable differences? The issue of firearm regulation — when expressing support for regulation, the supporting side often just shrug, for it is the decisive voting issue of few. Yet supporter of regulation is blasphemous to the opposing side, as it is the deciding issue for many. Playing it safe is for the pros — so here goes...
San Francisco Regulation Efforts
In 2005, The Board of Supervisors placed onto the ballot a ban on handguns and the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of all firearms and ammunition within the City. It went to the voters as Proposition H and passed with 58% of the vote. I opposed this measure on grounds that it would be costly to defend and, ultimately, never to be upheld in court. This eventually happened. Every court rejected the measure almost effortlessly, while taxpayers had to pay for costs both for defending the measure and to compensate those who sued to recover their costs, among them a $380,000 settlement San Francisco taxpayers paid to the National Rifle Association. That our tax money went to the NRA chaps me to this day.
That was 2005. In 2008, the US Supreme Court, in the Heller decision, ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, specifically identifying handguns. While I consider this decision driven more by ideology, thus folly and misguided, it is the law of the land. So any proposed ban like that of 2005 will get nowhere faster than before.
The point here is that the City has tried to ban firearms, and it was a poorly considered and costly effort. I also disagree with that goal — among other reasons, because banning all firearms in this nation is a non-starter. This is largely because of how a majority of Americans interpret the Second Amendment (an interpretation I happen to reject) along with our culture of firearms.
There is one thought that has been kicking around the bowels of my brain for some time, and the shooting today in Florida brings it back up. While I am not running on this as an issue, and have no plans to make it so, I am no lawyer, so earnest consultation is needed if ever I were to consider developing my thought into a proposal. My discussing this here is intended more as a window for voters into how I think about things... before talking with experts.
More than half of all firearms in this country are owned by some three per cent of the population. Most firearm owners do not own the so-called "assault style" firearms — the go-to weapons system for mass shooters. I grew up with firearms and am not principally opposed to them, however, I do reject the common view of the Second Amendment, and also strongly feel more weapons systems should be included on the list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. Adding a weapons system to the list does not itself infringe on any rights, given this nation already has a long list of arms unavailable for civilian ownership. That said, to get to my thought, I must first articulate my view of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment
As noted above, the most common view regarding the Second Amendment is something I reject; that citizens may keep and bear arms to help keep their government in check — essentially as a threat. Some have proposed to me that it being the second amendment means it is really important. I scoff here because when the Bill of Rights was proposed, there were twelve amendments, but the first two failed to achieve ratification leading the third proposed amendment being ratified as the First Amendment and the fourth proposed amendment ratified as the Second Amendment. Further, the Constitution is not like how many choose to observe religious texts, where one picks and chooses which parts to believe and live by, and which to ignore. Rather, it is an all or nothing document — no part is more or less important than another, and thus the order of amendments is irrelevant.
Article I (powers of congress) gives congress the power to call forth the militia to suppress insurrection and repel invasion. This is important, especially at the time. While this nation was still governed under the Articles of Confederation, there was an insurrection in Massachusetts (Shays' Rebellion). Massachusetts couldn't handle it, appealing to the confederate government for help. Yet that government lacked authority to compel other states to dispatch their militia to help Massachusetts. Shortly after, the Constitutional Convention was held, leading to a new, strong federal government replacing the weak confederate government. The Founders had Shays' recent insurrection well in their mind when drafting Article I.
In his first term as president, George Washington faced another insurrection (the Whiskey Rebellion). This time, the new national government held federal power, marshaled the militias of the several states to meet the insurrection, with Washington himself becoming the first and so far only sitting president to lead an army on a field. I note all this because it makes little sense that our constitution would give citizens the right to keep and bear arms to use against their government — which is, by definition, insurrection — while providing that same government power to call forth militia to put down the insurrection it otherwise should be protecting. Given the Constitution equates insurrection with foreign invasion, insurrection clearly is not a constitutional act. Once we reject the notion that citizens may keep firearms for the purpose of an unconstitutional act — using them against their own government — then any argument of the need for firearms reduces to self-defense, sport, bravado, and fun.
I will further note that the Second Amendment is written in the context of a well-regulated militia. The aforementioned Heller decision changed that — one of the reasons I think it a poor ruling (the oft-derided act of legislating from the bench). Regardless, California has a well-regulated militia — the all-volunteer California State Military Reserve, an active militia that serves as our state defense force. There is also a state navy. None of this is the National Guard, and the federal government has no authority over it. If not for the 2008 Heller decision, I could have tried making an argument that none really should have any firearm whatsoever on grounds they are not in California's well-regulated militia. That could have been fun!
Forgetting there is a Second Amendment, San Francisco attempted to ban all firearms. I wonder, however, if rather than any ban, a targeted statement of intent, some kind of resolution perhaps, targeted well enough, may inspire the state to expand firearm regulations? Immediately challenged, perhaps such an effort reaches the Supreme Court, allowing them to earnestly consider where the line is drawn regarding firearms for civilian ownership? My thinking leads me to a revolutionary weapons system developed by Nazi Germany in 1943.
Maschinenpistole model 1943
The German aim was to consolidate the myriad weapons of the infantry into one. At the time, a squad had riflemen, firing bolt-action rifled rounds with deadly accuracy, at range. They were supplemented with sub-machine gunners firing pistol rounds in bursts, great for suppressive fire though terrible at range and lacking knock-down power. They were further supported by a machine gun crew, firing a barrage of rifled rounds at range for suppressive effect. The problem here is a logistics and quartermaster's nightmare; lots of different firearms, caliber ammo, and parts, to be distributed to a mobile army in the field. Worse is that bolt-action rifles are terrible in urban combat and on-the-run shooting; something the Germans were facing with more regularity. The innovation of putting all these variant squad armaments into a single, select-fire weapons system came with the Maschinenpistole model 1943. This firearm uses a caliber between the sub-machine gun and the rifle — so a bit of range loss but more than sufficient. Soldiers could select single shot (like a rifle), or three-round burst (like a sub-machine gun), or fully automatic (like a machine gun). This meant one weapons system for everyone in a squad, supplied with the same ammunition and parts. The Germans were getting into dire straits and, facing hordes of Russians from the East, needing a game changer. This was it.
Perfected in 1944, it was finally presented to the German leader, Adolf Hitler. Loving it, but not its name, he christened it the Sturmgewehr (model 1944). These went into action, but too late to turn the tide of the war for Germany. This weapons system, like the rest of German technology, was captured by the Allies and Russians. We, the Americans, translated the crates they were found in; Sturmgewehr — where "sturm" is "assault" and "gewehr" is "rifle". Thus the "Assault Rifle" was born in the Western world. Every assault rifle since has been based on this German wonder weapon. Driving the point, each time someone says "assault rifle" they are literally quoting Hitler. The Russians, for their part, used the inspiration of the Sturmgewehr as the basis for the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, commonly known as the AK-47. The Sturmgewehr is the granddaddy of all modern assault and so-called "assault-style" firearms. The "assault-style" is generally a civilian variant that does not have the select-fire options, and certainly not the fully automatic option, though it can be modified, such as with a bump-stock, as seen on Las Vegas, or converted if one were truly committed.
Ban the Sturmgewehr?
The City is a democratic laboratory for the state and the nation. Banning firearms, as the City has learned, is a fool's errand. However, could the City pass a resolution asking the state to ban all derivative weapons systems inspired by the Sturmgewehr? That would thus be all firearms that one may plausibly consider an "assault-style" firearm. It means none need debate what firearms may fall under this category; there is no AK-47 or M16 without the Sturmgewehr, thus no AR-15 or Bushmaster 223. Such a proposal ties all modern "assault style" weapons directly — accurately — to Nazi Germany and Hitler; a politically salient point to make.
The government can and does regulate what arms are available for civilian ownership, and the Supreme Court has thus far only addressed handguns. As noted, lots of consultation with legal scholars would be needed to turn thoughts into proposals, but if the City were to promote such an approach, could it inspire Sacramento to amend the law? Could it find itself before the Supreme Court, forcing them to decide whether the offspring of Hitler's wonder weapon should be in the hands of any who may want it, to... hunt with? When a hunting rifle is more than sufficient (and, for that purpose, far better)? Recall, there is no reason or need to be armed to any parity for the purpose of fighting the police or Army. Parity will never happen anyway, given the Army has tanks and field artillery, among other arms civilians cannot own. Joining derivatives of the Sturmgewehr with 50-caliber machine guns and field artillery does not infringe any perceived rights; handguns, shotguns, rifles — they are not affected — all are more than suitable for self-defense, sport, and fun (though admittedly bravado may take a hit). Such a resolution is not an attempt to ban all firearms; it is not even a law — just a suggestion for Sacramento to consider. The proposal is, however, specific and clearly and unambiguously defines the weapons system to be banned, and one the Supreme Court has yet to consider.
The power of groups like the National Rifle Association come from the zealotry of their supporters. Single-issue voters who go all in to oppose anyone who dares propose even the most modest of regulations. By their standards, my thoughts here are radical, given they twisted in knots on whether to budge on banning the cheap and easy-to-make bump-stock accessory employed by the gunman in Las Vegas to modify his "assault style" firearms. Even having such thoughts and making them public is enough to lose this voting bloc. I lose them despite not actually having a proposal, nor running on this as a campaign issue, nor promising any action if elected. Given my personal Facebook feed, I know there are plenty of such voters here in San Francisco. Regardless, I present this mostly as a window into my thinking on a topical issue, and if there were popular support for a ban, how I might approach the issue from the Board... plus the lede topic if on a Valentine's date this evening.
The one thing I do know: Sturmgewehr-inspired weapons systems are used in nearly every mass shooting. These shootings are now common, as are the wimpy responses of "thoughts and prayers" coupled with no substantive actions of any kind. We choose either to live with avoidable mass shootings, or make some attempt to address them. One way that might help is banning Hitler's gun.
Jason Lee Jones 2 months ago.
Law of Liaison
In November, San Francisco voters will have many options to fill Supervisor seats. Many candidates now vying for seats share but a few things in common: some are currently serving public officials, some are lawyers, some are professional activists, some are former legislative aides - and some are all of these things. Many have long-enjoyed well-earned six-figure salaries.
While nothing is wrong with these backgrounds, nor the economically liberating life they have earned, the simple fact is that many push narratives of change. Our Board, diverse as it is, is filled with lawyers and former aides, activists, and officials. What it lacks, and what the current crop of candidates across the City lack, is economic diversity. To be born poor, live poor, and remain poor. This is a perspective the Board utterly lacks. Sure, there are those who may remember what it was like in their youth, but how many among them have lived it as an adult?
In the District 6 race, we have fine candidates, each of whom I know will, if elected, do their best. Yet they remain those we have seen elected throughout the City for decades; current public officials, lawyers, activists, and legislative aides. Two of the principal candidates easily raised over $100,000 while qualifying for public financing. Each have collected numerous endorsements. Another recent entry is expected easily to raise a similar haul and qualify quickly. Each have professional staffs, and each can dedicate plenty of their time to campaigning. The election of any one of my running mates would be a "dog bites man" story.
While I would never suggest one seat will change the City nor that I am some panacea, there can be no greater change than vaulting someone from a time clock to the Board. My election would be a huge local human-interest "man bites dog" story. The whole City will add plenty more public officials, lawyers, activists, and legislative aides to the Board in November, joining the rest. Let us make a change here in District 6!
It is a four year term. Like everyone else, each candidate, if elected as legislators, is wholly ignorant of most things, relying on experts and aides assisting them. Hopefully, they have ideals and personal experiences helping ground and inform them while ensuring empathy. Each may have expertise in some things, bringing that with them. I am one of these candidates and thus am no different. I concede personal experience as a fine place to develop a hypothesis, yet is a terrible place for testing, while use of specific expertise is valid only in those few areas it may prove relevant. The point here is, despite any rhetoric or convention, whomever elected will shine in office not because of resume or expertise, but because of who they are; their humility, acumen, open-mindedness, desire to learn, selflessness, patience, commitment to improving lives, willingness to take responsibility, to listen, to admit when wrong, and being a miser on credit offered yet granting it liberally. This, while remembering each day they are a servant of their constituents, including those whom did not elect them, and especially those ignored, oppressed, or marginalized.
There are many reasons today I will not win this election. Between today and November 6th, however, we can change that. The democratic ideal promoted by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln is public officials of and from the people. I cannot raise $100,000 simply because I am like most, knowing none with such money. I ask for a twenty dollar bill from those who cannot afford to spare it. Unlike my running mates, I have a boss whom I must avoid rattling with endless requests off, so as to retain my employment. Frankly, I cannot make such requests anyway, because, like most, I am tethered to a time clock, working class, with bills to pay. A day away from work is a day away from pay, thus I campaign for no more than a day or two each week, and seldom are they of my choosing. Also in contrast to my running mates, I have no staff or known public figures offering ideas, opening doors, or lifting burdens.
My success in this campaign is dependent entirely, literally, upon you. There is no one else beyond those of you choosing so generously to help. I know I often bring these points up, but they are important: every "like" on Facebook or "Follow" on Twitter creates an aura of support; it matters not to me, but to others, consciously or not, stumbling upon my social media presence, including, and perhaps especially, the political class. Every San Francisco resident making at least a $20 contribution is both making a political statement in supporting someone completely, wholly, outside the norms of virtually every race of every election in the City, and also helping me qualify for public financing. Unlocking public financing brings invitations to official debates, and is a key to unlocking a media that otherwise, and perhaps rightly, ignores my existence. Each who tell others of me, volunteers to help, places a sign in their window, or does any other thing helping raise awareness is making substantive differences - I alone, whether with one or two days to work with or infinite free time, simply cannot shake the hand of or place a call to every District 6 voter, try as I may.
Stigler's "Law of Eponymy" states that no discovery is named after its original discoverer; in keeping with that, I have developed Jason's "Law of Liaison", which states that, all things being equal, who you know is the only thing that matters. I know a great and amazing group of people. I know you know an amazing and great group of people. Please help this indigent campaign; give it the boost it so desperately needs. Reach out. Spread the word. Make a donation. Volunteer some time. Put up a sign. Arrange to meet with me. Set up an introduction to others. Share posts and Tweets. Or just "like" the page - anything done is more than I can do myself. You may be surprised who you know, and especially who they know. Everything you may do, however trivial it may feel in the moment, join the actions of others - the purest of democratic ideals - building a current that can, at the end, sweep this candidate to victory in November!
Jason Lee Jones 3 months ago.
Acting and Interim Mayors
One argument made to boot Acting Mayor London Breed in favor of a different interim mayor was that Breed would enjoy an incumbency advantage. However, the San Francisco Department of Elections as noted that Breed will appear on the June ballot as "Acting Mayor" given the date to change that has passed. A curious development, and thus I remain unsold this was needed.
Other reasons cited include her having two votes on certain things and that she is influenced by a tech guy who is apparently disliked. While I find the 2 vote issue closest to persuasive, as a person who spends time explaining what a Supervisor is, I think many voters may see only the optics rather than jump into the weeds. Regardless, this soap opera at City Hall likely provides Breed more name ID than she probably ever would have earned otherwise. Point is, a few days later and I still feel uneasy about this.
Jason Lee Jones 3 months ago.