The wheel of democracy turns yet again, with the yummy, annoying, or satisfying responsibility to choose amongst a plethora of candidates and causes. The View’s ability to examine politicians and ballot initiatives has shrunk over the years, hobbled by fewer enthusiastic volunteers and diminishing advertising reviews. Still, we do our best, focusing on municipal propositions.
Proposition A, retirement benefit changes: Introduced by Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, this measure would adjust supplemental cost-of-living benefits for municipal employees who retired before November 6, 1996, eliminating a requirement that the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System be fully funded based on its assets’ prior year market value. SFERS would adjust retirees’ base allowance to account for the supplemental payments they didn’t receive in five different years because of the full-funding requirement. Monthly supplemental payments would be capped at $200 for eligible retirees whose gross allowance exceeds $4,167 per month. The measure, which requires a simple majority to pass, confronts voters with a complicated math problem. Most of the impacted retirees are in their 70s or older. If their annual income is less than $50,000 – it many cases it’s more, as City staff often engaged in new employment after they retired – they could use a couple hundred extra bucks a month. On the other hand, pretty much nobody but government employees receive dedicated pension payments. Still, why not be compassionate. Yes.
Proposition B, street-cleaning department reversal: Two years ago, San Francisco voters approved a different Proposition B, which directed the City to split the Public Works department in two, creating a new street cleaning agency. Now, the Board of Supervisors is concerned that an independent street cleaning entity would cost too much and accomplish too little. Supervisor Aaron Peskin proposed this measure to strangle the nascent Sanitation and Streets department in its cradle, while preserving two oversight commissions established under original Proposition B. The measure requires a simple majority to pass. San Francisco’s streets aren’t much cleaner than they were two years ago; their icky condition has cast a shadow over the City’s reputation worldwide. Nope.
Proposition C, homeless department oversight: Safaí proposed this measure to create an oversight commission for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. With an annual budget of roughly $700 million, HSH is the largest municipal agency that doesn’t have a supervising body. Though it’s done better recently, thanks mostly to an infusion of pandemic-related cash and skilled staff, HSH could use more talented minds worrying over how best to beneficially disrupt San Francisco’s homeless industrial complex. Proposition C needs a simple majority to pass. Yes.
Propositions D and E, affordable housing: These two bad boys, which seek to accelerate development of affordable housing, differ in a few ways, including the kinds of projects that’d qualify for expedited approval and whether supervisors retain control over approving municipal funds for 100 percent affordable projects. Supervisor Connie Chan sponsored E; Mayor London Breed advocates for D. It’s hard for a non-ballot attorney to slice through the thicket of legalize contained in each measure. The bottom line seems to be that D is more generous to developers and would likely induce more housing to be constructed; while E focuses on making sure that any housing built will actually be affordable. It’s tempting to tell the politicians to get their acts together and hash out one compromise proposal that’s good enough to bring to the voters. That’s what will do. Nope and Nope.
Proposition F, library preservation fund: This measure would renew for 25 years an annual property tax set-aside of 2.5 cents per $100, the revenues from which would support library operations. It needs a simple majority to pass. Books may be obsolete, but libraries are the lingering heartbeat of civil society. Note that this and Proposition G restrict property tax funds to a specific purpose, which may not be great fiscal policy, unless it is. Yes!
Proposition G, student success fund: Spearheaded by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, this measure would set aside up to $60 million annually in “excess” property tax revenues to support San Francisco public schools, with expenditures limited if the City faces a budget deficit. The money would pay for grants of up to $1 million a year to support students’ academic achievement or social or emotional wellness. According to the City Controller, “The proposed amendment is not in compliance with a non-binding, voter-adopted city policy regarding set-asides. The policy seeks to limit set-asides which reduce General Fund dollars that could otherwise be allocated by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors in the annual budget process.” In other words, like Proposition F, it strips the mayor and legislators of the ability to determine how best to spend these funds. The measure needs a simple majority to pass. Schools, of course, are every bit as important as libraries. Yes.
Proposition H, Elections: If approved by a majority of voters, this measure would shift 2023 races for mayor, sheriff, district attorney, city attorney and treasurer to 2024 and every four years thereafter. Supervisor Dean Preston introduced it to boost turnout in local elections that’re currently held in odd-numbered years. Even year election turnout can be almost twice as odd ones. Seems like a reasonable way to improve voter engagement. Yes.
Propositions I and J, JFK Drive and Great Highway: The Board of Supervisors voted seven to four earlier this year to prohibit vehicles on 1.5 miles of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Separately, the Great Highway along Ocean Beach has been car-free on weekends since August 2021. Proposition I, placed on the ballot by signature, would reverse the supervisors’ vote, closing JFK Drive only on holidays, Sundays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. between April and September. It’d also allow cars to traverse the Great Highway in both directions 24/7. Proposition J, backed by Supervisors Myrna Melgar, RafaelMandelman, Matt Dorsey and Ronen, would affirm the supervisors’ JFK Drive vote, keeping the road car-free. Both measures need a simple majority to pass. Cars versus bicyclists and pedestrians? Tourists and museum visitors versus outdoor-minded locals? This battle of the pedals makes the View’s head hurt. No position.
Proposition L, sales tax for transportation: Sponsored by Mandelman, this measure would extend for 30 years the City’s 0.5 percent sales tax, the associated revenues directed to transportation projects. The San Francisco Transportation Authority would be allowed to issue up to $1.19 billion in bonds to be repaid with tax proceeds. The measure needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass. Given lingering inflation, this doesn’t seem like the right time to continue to impose a regressive tax. No.
Proposition M, vacancy tax: Placed on the ballot by signature, this measure would impose a tax on vacant homes, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 in its first year, depending on unit size, increasing to a maximum of $20,000 in later years. The tax would apply to empty units in buildings with three or more units if the unit in question is unoccupied for more than 182 days. An estimated 4,500 vacant units might be impacted by the tax. If they remain that way under the measure $38 million in annual revenue would be generated, dedicated to affordable housing purchases and rent subsidies for seniors and low-income people. The measure needs a simple majority to pass. It’s an interesting concept, but there may be non-nefarious reasons an owner wants to keep a unit vacant, and the tax seems quite high. No…?
Proposition N, Golden Gate Park’s underground garage: Championed by Mayor Breed, this measure would allow the municipality to use public money to buy, operate or subsidize public parking in the Music Concourse Garage in Golden Gate Park. According to Breed, Proposition N would give local government more flexibility in how it manages and sets rates at the garage, which is largely vacant much of the year. A parking garage to mostly serve visitors to the nearby nonprofit museums doesn’t seem like something San Francisco taxpayers should subsidize. Perhaps the fine institutions that rely on this facility can raise philanthropic funds to support parking. No.
Proposition O, City College parcel tax: This measure would impose a tax on property, the revenues of which’d be dedicated to City College of San Francisco. Placed on the ballot after supporters gathered enough signatures, the tax would raise roughly $43 million annually, with a 2023 rate of $150 for single-family homes, sunsetting in 2043. It needs a simple majority to pass. Education is important, but City College has repeatedly shown itself to be a failed institution, which should be merged with San Francisco State University. Fool me once…How many chances does a poorly performing institution get? No.
Supervisor, District 6:
#1 Matt Dorsey #2 Honey Mahogany
Supervisor, District 10:
City College Board of Trustees:
Just don’t vote for an incumbent