SCHOOL FACILITIES SPECIAL TAX
This measure would extend a 1990 parcel tax that expires in 2010 by another 20 years, keeping it at its current rate ($32 a year for single family homes and commercial enterprises, $16 a year per dwelling unit for mixed use buildings). The tax brings in $7 million a year for San Francisco school facilities and would finance seismic upgrades, structural strengthening and related improvements of its facilities, and child care centers. Vote yes.
EARTHQUAKE SAFETY AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE BONDS
It’s hard to argue against a $430 million bond act to upgrade police, fire, and water facilities to prevent a catastrophic collapse of the city’s most basic public safety infrastructure in the event of an inevitable earthquake. Hard — but not impossible: Sup. Chris Daly, the lone vote against Prop. B, points out that the bond money would be used to upgrade police stations but that the old County Jail at 850 Bryant St. wouldn’t get any help. Prisoners, it seems (even those who are awaiting trial and have been convicted of nothing) aren’t worth protecting. And the Fire Department has been very hazy about where it’s going to spend the cash. So we’ve got some concerns here — but on balance, we’re endorsing Yes on B.
By some accounts, this measure was put together in retaliation for Mayor Gavin Newsom’s November 2009 demand that Film Commission executive director Stefanie Coyote resign — shortly after her husband, actor Peter Coyote, supported Attorney General Jerry Brown over Newsom for governor. But Bill Barnes, who works as a legislative aide for Newsom ally Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, the author of Prop. C, says Alioto-Pier was working on this measure even before Coyote got ousted.
Either way, it’s a positive step. Prop. C would streamline a convoluted permitting process for shooting films in San Francisco — a process that can involve multiple departments — and would create a one-stop shop. It would also split the power to appoint the film commissioners between the mayor and the board (6-5, respectively), and require that all 11 commissioners have specific qualifications or experience. Vote yes.
Prop. D is a compromise. Sup. Sean Elsbernd wanted to reform the city’s pension system by mandating higher employee contributions and an end to what’s known as “spiking” — giving some employees a big raise just before they retire. Under current law, that worker would get a pension based on the inflated salary.
Elsbernd wanted to change the calculation and base pensions on an average of the final three years of salary an employee earned. Labor countered that some lower-paid workers only reach their top pay at the end of their careers. The final deal would base pensions on a two-year average. Prop. D would also require future employees to contribute and extra 2 percent to their pensions and require the city to set aside some money every year for the pension and retiree health care systems. In the end, progressive Sups. David Campos and Eric Mar signed on, and the city employee unions aren’t opposed. Vote yes.
BUDGET LINE ITEM FOR POLICE SECURITY
Prop. E would make one simple tweak to the reporting requirements for San Francisco’s annual city budget: a line-item on how much is spent on security for city officials and visiting dignitaries. As things stand, the amount the police department spends to protect people like, oh, say Mayor Gavin Newsom while he is crisscrossing the state campaigning for (lieutenant) governor is kept secret. That’s information the public has a right to know. Vote yes.
RENTERS’ FINANCIAL HARDSHIP APPLICATIONS
Prop. F would allow a tenant facing a rent increase to file a petition with the Rent Board claiming financial hardship. If the tenant was unemployed, or had his or her wages cut by 20 percent or more, or didn’t get a cost of living increase in government benefits and was paying at least 33 percent of his or her income as rent, the rent hike would be delayed for 60 days pending a hearing. If the renter can establish hardship, the landlord would have to hold off on the increase until the tenant’s employment or benefit situation improved. Few San Francisco landlords would be hurt by the delay in what are typically modest rent hikes — but a lot of tenants could avoid eviction. Vote yes.
TRANSBAY TRANSIT CENTER
Prop. G, a policy statement, became a moot point earlier this year, but it’s still good for San Franciscans to affirm the city’s support for bringing high-speed rail service downtown. The California High-Speed Rail Project is moving to create bullet train service from SF to downtown Los Angeles using bond money approved by voters in 2008. Even though that bond measure named the Transbay Terminal as the northern terminus of the first phase, some officials raised doubts about whether the downtown location was the best choice. That rail service was integral to plans for the transit center, which is currently being rebuilt, so the Board of Supervisors placed this measure on the ballot to support that choice. Earlier this month, the California High-Speed Rail Authority considered other alternatives and voted to stay with the Transbay Terminal. That’s the right way to go; vote yes.