Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A dyspeptic survey of San Francisco local ballot measures

The State of California presents nine of these things -- so naturally San Francisco needs FIFTEEN! Asking the voters to opine on that many items isn't democracy; it's evidence of dysfunction.

I plowed through them and voted today. Here's a run down of what I was thinking.

Prop. AA: $10 per car add-on to the Vehicle License Fee to be spend on transit and infrastructure. YES. If we want a livable city, we have to pay for one.

Prop. A: bond to pay for earthquake upgrades in buildings that are affordable housing. YES, reluctantly. If we want owners to rent out, rather than just speculate on, substandard buildings, apparently we have to "help" them. These will be loans.

Prop. B: an attempt to help city finances by take-backs from city employee pensions and health care. NO. You don't get a city that works by bashing the people who work for the city. This is regressive and would hurt the lowest paid workers the most. More here.

Prop. C: make the mayor meet with the Board of Supervisors. YES. We voted for this in 2006. The Mayor ignored our vote. We tried again; Newsom managed to fight off that measure with a well funded campaign. The whole issue is stupid. Of course the city's executive officer should meet publicly with the legislative branch. Refusal is simply childish.

Prop. D: let non-citizens with children in the schools vote in School Board elections. YES.This only seems fair and sensible. More here.

Prop. E: Election day voter registration in municipal races. YES. Our voter registration procedures were developed in the days when we used manual typewriters and carbon paper. Voter registration should be automatic along with moving into a residence. Failing that, it should be easy and available at the polling places. States that allow this, like Minnesota, have the highest participation rates in the country. That's what we should be aiming for.

Prop. F: Health Service Board elections. ?? I give up. I didn't know there was such a board and I certainly don't want to be voting on it.

Prop. G: Bus driver wages and benefits. NO. The transit workers union was uncooperative in negotiations with the financially strapped city during budget discussions this year and this is pay back for not helping out as the other city unions have. The ballot box is no way to negotiate worker contracts. I shouldn't be asked to vote on this.

Prop. H: whether elected city officials can serve on political party committees. NO. This is another piece of junk we're voting on because a politician, in this case Mayor Newsom, got his nose out of joint. The current elected Democratic County Central Committee shows no deference to his desires, so we have to vote on this. It's idiotic.

Prop. I: a privately funded test of Saturday early voting in 2011. YES. I'm almost always for anything that makes voting easier and certainly opening polls on a weekend day might do that. We've tried this before. In the fall of 1994, polling places were opened on Saturdays in a few locations to offer early voting. A polling place in the basement of City Hall opens during every election as soon as the mail ballots go out. These measures are all good, though this particular proposal seems a little incoherent.

Prop. J: raise the hotel tax paid by visitors by about $3 a night and enable collection from internet reservations. YES. Despite what hotel owners say, nobody is going to forgo visiting San Francisco because they are being charged an extra $3 a night (Heck, they are probably being charged an arm and a leg already.) The city needs the money.

Prop. K: this is a poison pill to undercut Prop. J. NO. If this one gets more votes, the hotel tax would not be raised, though the city might capture more tax from people booking on the internet. The hotel owners really don't want the hotel tax raised, so they are paying to run this measure. I wonder if some political consultant is cleaning up on selling this one to the Convention Bureau?

Prop. L: busting people for sitting on sidewalks. NO. This is one of the city's periodic swipes at homeless people for trying to survive in our midst. More here and here.

Prop. M: require police foot patrols. YES. Perhaps a better response in neighborhoods that are freaking out about homeless people, but the Police Department isn't likely to implement this -- takes too much personnel and time.

Prop. N: real estate transfer tax applicable only to properties selling for over $5 million. YES. Damn right we should vote for this. Location in San Francisco is what makes any such parcel that valuable and its owners can contribute to the general welfare!

1 comment:

sasha said...

Jan, regarding Prop F, the board manages the health care of San Francisco retirees (and possibly current employees? I forget exactly). I think the board consists of industry reps and client reps. The client representative board members are currently elected (by the people whose health care the board manages, not by the general electorate) in staggered terms (half the seats are up every year). Prop F would shift the elections so that all the seats get elected at the same time. Many of the people whose health care is managed by this board feel that the current system allows for a better transfer of expertise from current members to incoming members, and that were there to be a big crop of new board members at any given time, the industry reps (who are, after all, professionals) would be able to put stuff over on the client representatives.

So it's not the most important issue on the ballot, but is probably a No.

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