Alioto-Pier charter amendment proposal heard
in Rules Committee
Michela Alioto-Pier at the Rules Committee hearing yesterday to
discuss Alioto-Pier's charter amendment proposal making it possible
for supervisors to teleconference offsite under certain conditions
related to pregnancy.
By Judith Ghougassian
June 16, 2006
A Board of Supervisors committee took public comment Thursday
on proposed legislation which would allow pregnant supervisors
and commissioners to vote by teleconference.
"I'm a young woman interested in pursuing a career in politics,
but at the same time I want to raise a family," said Jaynry
W. Mak, legislative assistant for District 4 Supervisor Fiona
May . "This legislation provides more opportunity for young
women to get into politics."
Jaynry W. Mak
Mak plans to run for a position on the board of
supervisors for District 2 in November to replace Supervisor Fiona
District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier introduced the legislation.
If the charter amendment is passed by the full body of the Board
of Supervisors, it would essentially do two things-: It would
allow women who are pregnant, to participate in meetings via teleconference
It would also give the board the ability to create a policy for
maternity or paternity leave.
California state law provides teleconferencing for
any reason, as long as the majority of the body is physically
present. The City of San Francisco charter is more restricted
than state law, requiring members of an elected body to be present
at meetings, Alioto-Pier said.
"When a woman is pregnant, there can be complications, along
with those pregnancies," said Alioto-Pier. "And the
reason for this charter amendment is to ensure that when a member
of our elected body serves on the board of supervisors or in any
of our commissions, when they are pregnant, they are not put in
a position where they have to choose the health of their unborn
baby, or whether or not they are doing their job properly."
Among the several public speakers present were Heidi
Sieck, representing the San Francisco Women's Political Committee,
and the National Women's Political Caucus.
"Congress is comprised of about 13 or 14 percent of women
and that is obviously an inappropriate gap for representation,
and all of those women on a national level got their start in
local government," Sieck said.
Alioto-Pier said there are 22 municipalities that
allow elected members to participate in teleconferencing, Palo
Alto being one of them, and six California counties that allow
remote voting. Other jurisdictions are not as limited as this
proposal, said Alioto-Pier, who is making sure to keep this legislation
under specific conditions.
"It's not only a woman's issue," said
San Francisco resident Joseph Bravermin. "Everyone has an
axe to grind. If a person is indisposed and he is sick, how does
he carry out his functions as a member of a board?"
Alioto-Pier said allowing board members to leave
for other illnesses would call for a completely different proposal.
Although City Hall is equipped for teleconferencing
on site, the estimated high-end cost would be up to $200,000,
according to Peg Stevenson from the Controller's Office. This
would include a specific technology that supports multiple phone
and video conferences. There may be some additional costs involved,
The charter amendment does not specify how the meetings
would be teleconferenced, leaving it to the discretion of the
Board of Supervisors.
"I do feel very supportive of this," said
District 9 Supervisor Tom Ammiano. "I think we are going
to be dealing with issues other than pregnancy and representation
as technology does advance, and what is gonna be playing by the
rules and what is gonna require changing."
Supervisor Tom Ammiano
Should the legislation be passed by the Board of
Supervisors, the Brown Act would impose certain restrictions requiring
a posting of the meeting location and agenda, while making both
accessible to the public, according to Tom Owen from the Attorney's
"The reason that this is so tailored to pregnancy
is because it's simply the natural state of a woman," Alioto-Pier
said. "And what we find is that there aren't that many young
women who participate in politics, and we wanted to make sure
this was open to them equally."
The proposal has been continued for further discussion
at next week's Rules Committee meeting.