Make your vote count this election, every election

Every election matters. On Tuesday, voters in San Francisco will join millions of others across California to determine who our next governor is, who manages the state's money and enforces its laws. Those who mail back ballots or show up at the polls will decide the fate of important state health care, criminal justice and environmental issues.

Here in San Francisco, voters will have their say on hotly contested candidate races and ballot measures addressing the housing crisis, health care, parks and transportation. I will head to my neighborhood firehouse Tuesday morning to drop off my ballot, thank the poll workers for their hard work and proudly display my “I voted” sticker for the rest of the day. I hope you will too.

Some elections matter even more. After Tuesday, there will be three more elections here in San Francisco over the next two years. Together, the impact of those elections will be broad and transformational, likely shaping the character of our city dramatically for decades to come.

First: On Nov. 3, 2015, San Franciscans will elect our next mayor. San Francisco is a strong-mayor town, a combined city and county that empowers its mayor with sweeping powers to appoint the department heads and commissions that create long-term policy and run day-to-day operations citywide. The mayor's leadership — or lack of leadership, as has recently been the case — largely sets the tone for the direction of San Francisco.

Current Mayor Ed Lee has tried to pretend that he is “not a politician” and said coyly, when asked about his plans for re-election next year, “I haven't even really thought about it at all.” If you believe that, I've got a Golden Gate Bridge to sell you. The buzz has begun to grow about enlisting state sen. (and former Supervisor) Mark Leno to return from Sacramento to send Lee into retirement next year. With the mayoral filing deadline now in early June, we will soon find out.

Second: On June 7, 2016, California will play a major role in deciding who the next president of the United States will be (ready for Hillary!). We also may have a rare United States Senate seat to fill if Sen. Barbara Boxer chooses not to run again. But San Francisco Democrats will definitely have the opportunity to take back our local Democratic Party from the real estate lobby and other development interests who have quietly hijacked it in recent years.

Believe it or not, the chief registered lobbyist for the San Francisco Realtors Association was also installed as the chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party and regularly uses that influence to lobby local officials to water down and defeat affordable housing and anti-eviction laws. In June 2016, all of the elected seats of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee will be up for grabs and San Francisco Democrats will decide whether to take it back.

Third: On Nov. 8, 2016, while the nation chooses the successor to President Barack Obama, San Franciscans will also decide who we want to represent us in Sacramento and on the Board of Supervisors at City Hall.

With Leno termed out of his state Senate seat that year, state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is the natural choice to step into this important role and continue his decades of service to San Francisco as a champion for the environment, education, labor and civil rights. Locally, at least six of the 11 seats on the Board of Supervisors will be on the ballot, with most of them either open seats or incumbents who narrowly won last time, likely facing strong challengers.

In all of these elections, San Franciscans will be voting on a variety of local ballot measures along with making crucial decisions about who runs City Hall and who represents us in Sacramento and Washington. Now is the time for the neighborhood groups, environmentalists, working people, artists, small businesses, homeowners, renters and everyone who is feeling the squeeze watching the San Francisco they love pulled out from underneath their feet to start organizing for the next elections.

No doubt the Chamber of Commerce and the business interests who are running The City right now have already begun setting the stage for the candidates and ballot measures that would keep them in command for decades to come. So, after you vote Tuesday, mark your calendar for the next election on Nov. 3, 2015. It has already begun.

Jon Golinger is an environmental attorney who lives in North Beach.

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