Business and Voters United

San Francisco business and voters see eye to eye when it comes to jobs, the economy, the city budget, and just about every other major issue facing San Francisco. Our shared concerns and priorities were made loud and clear today as we unveiled the Chamber’s annual CityBeat poll at our 2010 meeting and CityBeat Breakfast event at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

Like businesses, voters are concerned about employment and the fiscal health of our city. According to the poll, jobs and the economy ranked as the city’s top issue, outpacing homelessness and panhandling, education, crime and the cost of owning a home. Voters also ranked the city budget among their top three concerns.

As the city continues to grapple with its high unemployment rate and looming half-a-billion dollar budget deficit, it should come as no surprise that confidence in San Francisco is declining. Fifty-one percent of voters feel that things in San Francisco are on the wrong track, and an overwhelming 84 percent feel the economy has gotten worse over the past few years.

While these statistics are sobering, there is reason for optimism. According to leading Bay Area economist Jon Haveman, signs of recovery are starting to come to bear. The outlook for city revenues is looking up, taxable sales are increasing and homes are selling and appreciating. These are all good signs, but unfortunately not enough for businesses to make the substantial hiring and investment decisions that will be needed to correct the economy in the short-term.

That is why the Chamber has long encouraged economic development strategies, rather than new taxes, to stimulate the local economy. Turns out, voters agree with us. According to the poll, they support a new hiring tax credit, extending the biotech payroll tax exemption, and other measures to assist small business and ensure economic development in our city. On the contrary, they oppose every tax measure polled, except the vehicle license fee, which gained 54 percent approval.

Even on issues outside the economy, voter’s side with business. For example, 71 percent of voters say they would support a sit-lie ordinance to deal with threatening behavior on the sidewalks of San Francisco. This is a measure the Chamber supports and applauds Mayor Newsom for introducing it this week. While homeless advocates call it an attack on poor people – voters are focused on behavior, not social status.

Voters also appear ready for a change at the ballot box with a 48 – 36 percent margin supporting a hybrid-system of elections that would ensure that four supervisors were elected citywide to address the city’s broader issues. The Chamber is seriously considering a ballot measure for November to give voters the option to change the way Supervisors are elected.

As we approach two citywide elections this year, the 2010 CityBeat Poll results are a good barometer of where voters stand on the major issues facing our city. In the months ahead, the Chamber is proud to not only champion the voice of business, but the voice of voters, as we advance our agenda to put jobs first, rightsize city government and build a 21st century economy in San Francisco.