Saturday, October 28, 2006

San Francisco: Politics as usual....

I have always loved San Francisco. It's a beautiful, quirky city full of eclectic and interesting neighborhoods, amazing restaurants, funky foggy weather, and great shopping. There was a time when all I wanted to do was find a place to live in San Francisco and when my friend and I finally managed to squeeze our way into a multi-tenant house after searching for nearly 6 months I was overjoyed. But I only managed to live there for just under 2 years while going to school. Eventually it just got too expensive to live there - San Francisco is an incredibly expensive place to live, even if you are a fresh college grad with a steady job.

One of the interesting things about San Francisco that I remember very well are elections. The ballots were always a mess of wacky propositions, more than a few that made no sense at all. Sometimes reading them was an excercise in humor, and other times I just shook my head in disbelief.

This year's election is no different: according to the Chronicle, 6 of the 11 measures were placed on the ballot the last possible day, 4 within the last 5 minutes of closing time at the registrar of
voters office:

Of the 11 measures, six were slapped on it the last possible day by a minority of city supervisors.

No hearings, no economic analysis, no public notice. Four of the measures arrived less than five minutes before closing time at the registrar of voters office on deadline day.

Each proposition deserves a serious look by voters. But when a measure drops unannounced on the ballot, it should make a voter think: How thoroughly was this idea vetted?

How thoroughly indeed? As the article explains, in San Francisco only 4 out of the 11 supervisors are required in order to place a measure on the ballot. Here's what the voters of San Francisco get to vote on in this election:

Proposition A - $450,000,000 in bonds to to modernize and repair up to 64 additional school facilities. (Is this even necessary in a city where the number of households classified as families with children under 18 is only 16.6% and shrinking?)

Proposition B - A parental leave policy for Board of Supervisor members due to pregnancy, child birth, or a "related condition" that would allow them to participate in meetings by teleconference.

Proposition C - Raising the salaries of certain city employees (such as Mayor, City Attorney, Sheriff, etc.) based on the average salary paid to comparable officials in other Bay Area counties. Boo hoo. Other counties pay their officials more - we're jealous.

Proposition D - Measure to prohibit city and city contractor's from disclosing individuals private information.

Proposition E - To raise the parking tax from 25% to 35%. I'll quote the Chronicle from the same article linked above:
The city's 25 percent tax on parking rates is among the highest in the nation. This measure would push it to 35 percent but where will the money go? Backers say the new money will support transit, but that's not guaranteed. This measure was put on the ballot by four supervisors with no hearings. Vote NO.

Hey, come on now, those raises for city officials have to come from somewhere!

Proposition F - Sick Leave Ordinance - will require all employers to provide sick leave to their employees working in San Francisco. Again I quote the Chronicle:
This one's a stunner: required sick pay for all workers in the city. Were there hearings, negotiations, an assessment of the economic impact and a consensus buy-in like the city had when it approved universal health coverage this year? No.
This measure -- handed in at 4:58 p.m. on the last day possible -- could put the city at the forefront on an important issue. Or it could be an inflexible plan that spells failure.

Proposition G - This one's my favorite. It's a classic liberal elitist rejection of the free market economy: banning retail chain stores. (No! No! That's not true, we will simply require them to get special permission from the planning board before operating in a neighborhood that already has a retail chain store!) Don't worry. Most people vote with their pocketbooks and feet anyways, this will just drive more San Francisco shoppers to leave the city to get their Starbuck mocha lattes and shop at Target or WalMart; better yet, by being outside of the city, they can avoid that shameful embarassment of being seen by their friends as supporting the evil global corporate conspiracy!

Proposition H - Another classic. Requiring landlords to actually pay to relocate their tenants who are evicted "through no fault of their own". One of the reasons San Francisco is so freakin' expensive is because of all the ridiculous rent control laws. I have a question: how can someone be evicted through no fault of their own? You mean it's not their fault when they forget to repeatedly pay the rent? It's no fault of their own when they violate the rent agreement they signed? Oh, right, this is for those landlords that just kick people out to the street for no reason - and we all know how evil landlords are!

Proposition I - Where's the love? We miss our mayor. So we'll propose some bonehead measure that will require him to visit with us at least once a month. Why won't he love us??

Proposition J - My second favorite: a useless measure calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Yeah, San Francisco will get far with that one folks.

Proposition K - Adopting a policy that acknowledges the housing needs of seniors and disabled persons. No action, no plan, let's just acknowledge the problem. Come on, we need your vote otherwise we can't acknowledge there is a problem.

And some people wonder why San Francisco's population has fallen nearly 5% in the past 5 years, why families are leaving for cheaper cities and suburbs with better schools, and job creation is greatest outside of the city, not in it.

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