Ten days after the election, here are five local takeaways from the 2022 midterms. For full election results in the county, visit this website.

Number 1: Sathvik Nori and Amy Koo won seats on the SUHSD Board of Trustees.

Sathvik Nori, an undergraduate student at Stanford University, will be the youngest member to serve as Trustee for the Sequoia Union High School District’s (SUHSD) Area D, which includes Menlo-Atherton. Amy Koo, who has served two terms–one as President–on the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District (BRSSD) Board, won the other open seat for Area A.

Their elections add ethnic diversity to a Board that currently has four white representatives and one African-American representative; when Nori, who is Indian-American, and Koo, who is Asian Pacific Islander, take office in December, the Board will better represent SUHSD’s wide range of student ethnicities.

Both candidates strive to ensure that the interests of all students are represented, in particular by making sure that students have equitable access to the opportunities that education provides. 

During her time on the BRSSD board, Koo worked on equity policy, focused on closing achievement gaps, and ensured that school curriculums represented the experiences of all students. She believes that an appreciation of different cultures and backgrounds will ensure “that the American Dream is accessible to all.” Furthermore, Koo has stated that “We need to make sure that all voices are being heard and that we provide the training to enable all stakeholders to block bias when they encounter it.” Read more about Koo’s equity focus here.

A member of the M-A Class of 2021, Nori believes that his recent experience as an SUHSD student will be one of his most valuable assets while he serves on the Board. He has told the Chronicle that he is a commissioner on the San Mateo County (SMC) Juvenile Justice Commission, which has given him a chance to interact with youth at a county juvenile hall, the majority of whom are Latinx. This experience has motivated him to ensure that students of all ethnicities are able to access the same opportunities and have the same positive experience in the district as he did just a few years ago. 

Ultimately, by electing Koo and Nori, the citizens of SMC prioritized commitment to educational equity in their SUHSD Board of Trustees.  

To hear all of this election’s school board candidates’ positions, read our article on the PTA public forum here

Read our interview with Sathvik Nori here

Number 2: This midterm election marked the lowest turnout of the century. 

In 2018, there were 399,591 registered voters in San Mateo County, and 290,058 of them voted in the midterm election—a 72.9% turnout.  This year, only 149,225 of the 432,707 registered voters voted—a significantly lower 34.5% turnout.

It’s likely that San Mateo County residents felt less pressure to vote this year because the nation’s president is a Democrat. Indeed, Politico wrote that across California, voters felt less driven to the polls in both the primary and general elections with neither the motivation of a Republican president nor of a tight gubernatorial race. This pattern of low turnout was not reflected across the rest of the country, as Democrats kept their Senate majority by turning out to vote in highly competitive races.

Number 3: The right to reproductive freedom (Proposition 1) won in a landslide.

After the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion is no longer protected by the U.S. Constitution. Thus, California lawmakers created Proposition 1 to cement the right to reproductive freedom in the state constitution. According to the California Legislature’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the proposal changes the state constitution—which already defines a right to privacy—to clarify that the state cannot interfere with a person’s freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion or use contraceptives. The restrictions that state law place on abortion include that abortion providers must be licensed and a fetus cannot be aborted if it could survive outside of the womb.

This election showed that San Mateo County strongly supports affirming the right to abortion in the state’s constitution. Proposition 1 passed with 77.43% of the vote in the county and 65.7% in the state. During an era in which the U.S. Constitution no longer includes a right to abortion, this state and county’s recognition of rights shows that M-A’s elected officials value our rights.

Number 4: California voters reject sports gambling and a new source of revenue for tribes.

In California, gambling is strictly regulated. Tribal casinos serve as an exception, since the state government is prohibited from regulating tribal gambling. Thus, tribal gaming has become a massive industry that many Californian tribes rely on. Proposition 26 would have allowed in-person sports betting at racetracks and tribal casinos, providing significant revenue to tribes, many of which rely significantly on the money from casinos to fund essential services. Furthermore, it would have imposed a 10% tax on sports betting to fund gambling addiction treatment and gambling law-enforcement programs.

Much of tribal infrastructure is funded by economic enterprises on tribal lands. Due to their inability to levy property taxes and extreme rates of unemployment, tribes are unable to compile the same tax bases that U.S. governmental structures can use to fund these deeply necessary services. Furthermore, federal policy limits their financial options for financing infrastructure. Thus, tribal casinos, and general tribal gambling, fund services that people cannot live without. Tribes that house large, successful casinos participate in revenue-sharing agreements that fund essential services for smaller tribes that do not have casinos. Proposition 26 would have provided another source of revenue for tribes across the state and improved essential services for Native American people. 

Those who oppose Proposition 26 argued that the bill should not pass because of the lack of prevention for underage gambling and the policies of the tribal casinos that sponsor the legislation. These policies include a refusal to allow employees to join unions and to provide health insurance.

A poll co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Los Angeles Times found that the presence of two initiatives on gambling (Propositions 26 and 27) were confusing and off-putting to voters. Indeed, California and San Mateo County residents alike struck down Proposition 26.

Number 5: Voters want more affordable housing.

Measure V, a voter-sponsored amendment to the Land Use Element of the City Council of Menlo Park’s General Plan, would have added a requirement of a majority public approval to change the land use designations of certain “Single Family Use” properties. Currently, the City Council can change how properties are zoned without holding an election. According to an impartial analysis by the City Attorney’s office, Menlo Park properties that are designated for Single Family Use but are currently the grounds for public spaces (such as parks, empty space, and fire stations) would benefit from being rezoned, namely since they could be expanded or used in ways that were not Single Family Use development. Since Measure V did not pass, there will be no changes to the city council’s current permissions. 

Measure L, a proposal by the East Palo Alto City Council, raises the general tax on gross residential rental receipts from 1.5% to 2.5% for landlords, and changes the Municipal Code to tax all landlords. Furthermore, the initiative prohibits passing the tax on to tenants; thus, it will be borne by landlords alone (with exceptions for public and nonprofit-sponsored affordable housing). According to the Interim City Attorney’s office, the City Council will use the revenue from increased taxes for any purposes “deemed necessary and appropriate for the residents of the City,” which includes providing more affordable housing and protecting people from displacement and homelessness. In a publicly published argument in favor of Measure L, elected officials, community leaders, and an advocate from Anamatangi Polynesian Voices wrote that its passage would provide the city with almost $1.5 million to “support efforts to preserve and develop affordable housing; and assist with preventing homelessness.” There is no publicly published argument against Measure L.

Measure V and Measure L are housing-related initiatives. In both cases, the people voted to ensure that their City Councils would be able to use their discretion, without voter approval, to act in the interest of the city. 69.7% of voters voted to pass Measure L, and 60.4% of voters voted against Measure V. Both proposals related to the provision of affordable housing; in Menlo Park, the decision against Measure V allows the City Council to rezone without calling an election and obtaining voter approval, so that affordable housing can be built on properties that are currently not zoned for that type of housing development. In East Palo Alto, Measure L taxes payments on housing (which is not actively used to provide housing security to those below median income/receiving rental assistance) so that the City Council can fund affordable housing. The way that these two initiatives were voted on, and the fact that opinions (Measure L, Measure V) about them were strong, shows the current focus on housing. Ultimately, the election results illustrate the widespread feeling that local governments should be less restricted in their ability to provide affordable housing.

Read the Chronicle’s full article on Measure V here.

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