No Business on the Ballot

San Francisco’s Mayoral Election is more than thee months away, but politics are already well in play. The latest – and most egregious – maneuvers come from the progressive minority on the Board of Supervisors, which placed three last-minute measures on the November ballot without public notice, debate or concern for the long-lasting impacts on the city and the local economy.

The most alarming measure would strip shelter beds from the voter-approved Care Not Cash initiative, effectively dismantling the nationally-recognized program which has provided services and a path to long-term housing for more than 3,400 formerly homeless people. The measure’s chief sponsor, Supervisor Jane Kim, says the program should be changed because of “equity issues” that arise when Care Not Cast participants are given priority to shelter beds. Yet Care Not Cash clients only reserve 30 percent of the city’s single-adult shelter beds, and an average of 100 shelter beds are vacant every night. This measure is nothing more than pure politics to turn out progressive voters in a crowded mayoral race.

A second measure will limit the ability of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to replace declining General Fund support with new revenue from special event rentals and services such as bicycle rentals and food vendors. This measure explicitly prohibits the department from issuing new leases with private entities or adding new fees to currently free-use recreation facilities. Today, the department’s earned revenue is used to support more than 200 gardeners, laborers, and park maintenance staff, as well as numerous park programs. At a time when city departments are being asked to slash their budgets across the board, this measure has no business on the ballot.

A third measure will significantly hamper the city’s ability to create new housing by banning the demolition of buildings with more than 50 units. According to the City Controller, the measure will contribute to higher housing prices, which will in turn harm the local economy by lowering household disposable income, raising labor costs and slowing job growth. Proposed by the five supervisors voting against the recently-approved Parkmerced project, this measure is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to halt similar redevelopment in San Francisco.

All three of these last-minute measures have nothing to do with making our city better, and everything to do with mobilizing deep-pocketed progressive donors who will spend heartily on ballot initiatives that will draw progressive voters to the polls and benefit progressive mayoral candidates. For a city that prides itself on transparency and collaboration, these measures are out of step with the deliberative policy-making process we have all come to expect in our city.

In fact, the measures are quickly becoming the poster child for Supervisor Scott Wiener’s good government Charter amendment, also on the November ballot, that will allow the Board of Supervisors to amend future initiative ordinances after a period of three years. This will give city leaders the flexibility to amend initiative ordinances through the normal policy-making process, rather than necessitate new initiative ordinances to make necessary tweaks or changes. The Chamber supports this measure, and it may be just the kind of safeguard we need to ensure that politics does not unravel good public policy in the future. Until then, the Chamber urges Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and Ross Mirkarimi to pull these three harmful measure from the ballot before it’s too late.