This coming June 7 election is the third heat in our quadrathlon election year, and it’s going to be one of the bigger ones with contests for a wide range of state and federal offices, plus City Attorney. (Recently appointed incumbent David Chiu is running unopposed).
San Francisco voters also face eight local ballot measures: a bond measure, two charter amendments, four ordinances and a recall. All pose significant policy choices, some more complicated than others. Apart from the District Attorney recall, which was placed on the ballot by petition, all of these measures were placed on the ballot by a majority of the Board of Supervisors.
The Bond Measure: $400 Million for Getting Around
Proposition A is a general obligation bond of up to $400 Million to pay for previously planned capital improvements such as repairs and upgrades to Muni’s transit system, improving street safety features and traffic signals, and traffic calming measures.
- Because of financial pressures from Covid and SFMTA’s structural deficit, the bond measure serves as a stop-gap measure to ensure continued operations and improvements while the agency explores more sustainable funding.
- The measure requires two-thirds of voters to vote “yes” for it to pass.
- The bond will be paid for by raising property taxes. Landlords can pass on half of the increase to tenants.
- So far, Prop A has garnered support from civic groups ranging from the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Organization (SPUR), to the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club.
- Former State Senator Quentin Kopp, whose opinion is influential with more conservative homeowner-oriented groups on the westside, indicated his opposition in a recent editorial.
The Charter Amendments: DBI and Recall Reform
Proposition B would reorganize the oversight commission for the Department of Building Inspection, the focus of recent scandals.
- It would change requirements for commission membership to better represent more stakeholders, and move the power to appoint the DBI director from the commission to the mayor, among other changes.
- The measure is supported by SPUR, as well as political clubs on both sides of the city’s political divide, Such as the Alice B. Toklas and Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Clubs. The San Francisco Republican Party opposes, and some groups like the SF Chamber of Commerce have opted not to take a position.
Proposition C places additional time restraints on filing petitions for recall of elected officials, reducing the available window to eight and a half months in the second year of office. Additionally, any appointed replacement for a recalled official would be barred from standing for election.
- When first proposed by Supervisor Aaron Peskin late last year, this measure included many more clauses aimed mainly at removing the power to appoint replacements for vacated elective offices from the mayor to the Board of Supervisors. The measure was amended over time to its current form.
- Predictably, the positions of many organizations on this measure parallels with their stand on the recent school board recall, or the coming recall of the District Attorney (see below).The organizers of the recent Board of Education recall have reorganized as “SF Guardians” to oppose the measure. It’s also opposed by the Chinese American Democratic Club and the Eastern Neighborhoods Democratic Club, and supported by the SF Democratic Party and the Milk Club.
The Ordinances: A New Crime Agency, Fundraising Regulations, Garbage Rates, Sick Leave
Proposition D would create a new Office of Victim and Witness Rights that would provide support and ensure the right to counsel for crime victims and witnesses.
- This measure is supported by a number of groups, including the SF Democratic Party.
- The Milk Club is opposed, possibly reflecting background politics of the District Attorney recall. The measure’s primary sponsor, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, has been rumored to be a possible replacement should Chesa Boudin be recalled.
Proposition E is meant to be an anti-corruption measure that would further restrict a type of fundraising where officials ask persons to donate to a preferred charity.
- The Board of Supervisors recently passed a ban on soliciting so-called “behested payments” by most public officials from city contractors, but it doesn’t cover the Board of Supervisors.
- This measure was drafted to include the Board of Supervisors in the ban.
- Future amendments would require both supermajority approval by the Board, along with approval by the Ethics Commission.
- Support for this item is roughly split among endorsing groups, reflecting perceived negative impacts on nonprofits. SPUR opposes the measure, arguing that “the measure would make changing the law in the future unreasonably difficult.” Meanwhile Kopp, another influencer on good-government issues and a former Ethics Commissioner, supports the measure.
Proposition F would change the way garbage collection rates are regulated. It would reorganize the Refuse Rate Board and move responsibility for monitoring and proposing rates from the Director of Public Works to the Controller. Future changes to this law could be enacted by the Board of Supervisors.
- The measure was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors in reaction to longtime contractor Recology’s overbilling and other scandals.
- A more aggressive option sponsored by some supervisors to open up the process to competitive bidding was tabled in exchange for Recology dropping a competing measure.
- So far there is no influential opposition to this measure.
Proposition G would essentially make permanent an emergency ordinance adopted during the height of the Covid epidemic which requires larger private employers to provide two weeks of paid public health emergency leave. Those with less than 100 workers are exempt.
- Part of the rationale for this measure is that future pandemics, as well as air quality incidents such as wildfires, will become more regular events because of climate change.
- SPUR opposes the measure, arguing it “could place a significant financial burden on small businesses with a large employee base, such as restaurants.” The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce also opposes the measure. Most partisan endorsing groups such as the SF Democratic Party support the measure.
The Main Event: District Attorney Recall
Proposition H would recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin from office, allowing Mayor London Breed to appoint his replacement.
- Boudin, a former public defender, was elected in 2019 on a wave of public concern over police and prosecutorial abuse and bias. Since then, he has faced significant political opposition from law enforcement groups.
- Subsequent concern over crime trends in the city, fueled by an uneven increase in some property crimes along with Boudin’s “decarceral” policies, led to the successful recall petition.
- Both sides argue that the other side is promoted mainly by special interests. Campaign finance issues around the recall have been subjected to significant scrutiny and debate.
This article has been updated.
Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]