Advancing our Shared Priorities

Advancing our Shared Priorities

San Francisco is a city of champions. The World Series Champion Giants will attract large numbers of visitors to the city this baseball season. The city’s winning bid to host the America ’s Cup will generate over $1.2 billion in new economic activity over the next three years. And several job-boosting developments such as California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and the redevelopment of Park Merced are in the pipeline.

The Chamber is encouraged by these opportunities for economic growth and voters share our optimism, according to the Chamber’s annual CityBeat Poll unveiled yesterday at our 2011 meeting and CityBeat Breakfast event celebrating San Francisco .

According to the poll, 44 percent of San Franciscans believe the city is going in the right direction, up from 29 percent last year. However, like businesses, voters remain concerned about jobs, the economy and the fiscal health of the city. Twenty-six percent of voters ranked jobs and the economy as the top issue facing the city, second only to homelessness and panhandling (32 percent).  The city budget also ranked high, with 21 percent of voters calling it the city’s top issue.

Voters also see eye-to-eye with San Francisco business when it comes to economic development incentives to attract visitors and create jobs. According to the poll, 98 percent of voters believe tourism is important to the city’s economy.  Seventy-eight percent support investing city funds in infrastructure such as an arena, expanding Moscone Convention Center and waterfront improvements for the America ’s Cup.

But its not just tourism San Franciscans get behind.  Seventy percent of voters would like to see a pay-roll tax exemption for businesses creating new jobs in the Mid-Market area and 55 percent say an exemption should be applied to businesses creating jobs anywhere in the city. These findings bode well for the Chamber-supported Central Market/Tenderloin Payroll Tax Ordinance that is currently being considered by the Board of Supervisors.

As the city’s annual pension expense approaches $439 million next year, it’s no surprise that voters strongly support pension reform that will allow the city to spend less on retiree benefits and more on vital city services. More than two-thirds of voters (67 percent) support changing the city’s pension plan for new city employees from a guaranteed benefit to a defined contribution system similar to a 401k – a reform previously recommended by the Chamber.

With a November Mayoral election rapidly approaching, the Chamber’s poll raises serious concerns about the city’s new Rank Choice Voting system.  Only 15 percent of voters understand that their vote is not counted in an election using Rank Choice Voting in which their first, second and third choice candidates are eliminated.  This undemocratic consequence of Rank Choice Voting is something the Chamber continues to oppose, especially as we look to the crowded upcoming mayoral election.

The Chamber’s annual CityBeat Poll results are a good barometer of where voters stand on key issues and reveal many shared priorities.  In the year ahead, the Chamber will pursue an agenda that advances these priorities – putting jobs and economic growth first, encouraging government efficiency and investing in the city’s economic engines.

The Chamber thanks the 1,000 members, public officials and civic leaders who joined us at yesterday’s  CityBeat Breakfast installing our new Board Chair Recology Vice President & Group Manager John Legnitto, kicking-off our advocacy agenda and celebrating San Francisco and the many opportunities for economic growth ahead.

How We See it is a bi-weekly blog by Steve Falk, President & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.