San Francisco voters to decide future of 11 ballot
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
October 30, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Mandatory sick pay, boosting the
salaries of city leaders and a $450 million school bond measure
are a few of the 11 ballot measures San Francisco voters are set
to decide on in this year's general election.
The propositions range from policy changes to new taxes, from
proposals with no fiscal impact to ordinances that could increase
the cost of government by millions of dollars.
Proposition F, the paid sick leave ordinance, for instance,
could cost the city, but if it passes it would be the first law
of its kind in the nation, requiring all businesses within San
Francisco to pay sick leave for an employee who is ill or has
to care for an ill child.
Local unions and labor organizations herald the measure as good
for workers and good for the public health. According to Sonya
Mehta with Young Workers United, the measure's sponsor, it's a
way of leveling the playing field by forcing non-complying businesses
to play ball with those who already provide the benefit.
The proposition also includes a built-in anti-retaliation clause,
which would hold businesses accountable if they pressure employees
into working when sick, Mehta said.
The measure has drawn criticism from the San Francisco Chamber
of Commerce and from local restaurants, which typically hire entry-level
employees at minimum wage. Kevin Westlye, executive director of
the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said many restaurants
could cut back on hiring with this one more added expense.
"It's not that restaurants don't support sick days,"
Westlye said. "It's just that the process was flawed. Given
a little more time, I think we could have come up with a compromise."
Westlye said the standard in the industry is currently five eight-hour
days per employee per year, increasing after a couple years. But
Proposition F would mandate that large businesses provide up to
72 hours of sick time in an employee's first year.
"The public will read "sick pay" and they'll vote
in favor at the expense of other people's checkbooks," he
Proposition F requires the support of 50 percent of voters to
Another measure that could have a major fiscal impact is Proposition
A, which, if it passes, would allow the San Francisco Unified
School District to borrow up to $450 million for improvements
to existing schools.
The measure has received several glowing endorsements, including
those of Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce,
but many homeowners aren't too excited about the increased property
taxes required to pay off the loans.
Proposition A requires the support of at least 55 percent of
voters to pass.
Newsom, along with other elected officials in the city, aren't
exactly pushing for Proposition C, but if it passes, they
will be the ones to see the most immediate benefit.
Proposition C would change the city charter to thaw the salaries
of the mayor, city attorney, district attorney, public defender,
assessor-recorder, treasurer and sheriff, which were frozen in
1994. The salaries would be set at levels comparable to those
drawn by public officials in similar positions in other Bay Area
counties. The fiscal impact is estimated at $207,000 a year. Sheriff
Michael Hennessey stands to gain the largest increase, with a
$55,000 raise, while Newsom's salary would jump from $189,000
One of the only measures on this ballot that would put money
into the city's coffers is Proposition E, a measure designed
to increase the taxes paid by the owners of most private parking
garages from 25 percent to 35 percent. Proposition E would increase
the city's general fund by as much as $26 million a year.
Opponents, like Carol Piasente with the San Francisco Chamber
of Commerce, argue that the tax will hurt San Francisco's big
moneymaker, tourism, because garages will pass on the increased
taxes to the customer.
"It would be a deterrent to people who are coming into the
city to do business, to shop, to go to a show," she said.
But Howard Strassner, transportation chair of the local Sierra
Club chapter, argues that it's a simple matter of market value.
"Garage and lot owners have found that higher fees will
send parkers to cheaper lots, car pooling or transit," Strassner
said. "They oppose this measure because they know the market
won't bear higher prices, which means they take a hit in their
Strassner said that if Proposition E passes, despite the fact
that the money collected isn't specifically slated for public
transportation, the San Francisco Municipal Railway would benefit
the most from the increased revenue.
This November's ballot is filled with several other local measures,
including Proposition B, which would allow members of the
Board of Supervisors and other public figures to attend meetings
via telephone in the case of pregnancy, childbirth or childcare
immediately after birth.
Proposition D would prohibit the city government and those
contracted by the city from disclosing private information about
The proposition was placed on the ballot following a grand jury
investigation that found city government wasn't doing enough to
protect the confidentiality of its citizens.
Proposition G would require a planning commission hearing
for any retail chain store before it moves into a community. It
is opposed by some business organizations, including the chamber
Proposition H is also firmly opposed by business associations
and homeowner groups, but tenant organizations say the measure
would protect renters in the case of eviction.
The measure would require landlords pay additional relocation
assistance to people who are kicked out of their apartments for
a variety of reasons, like renovation. Propositions I, J and K
are matters of policy.
Proposition I would make it mandatory for the mayor to
attend a Board of Supervisors meeting once a month.
Proposition J would create a formal policy calling for
the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President
Proposition K, the final measure on the ballot, states
that seniors should not pay more for housing than 30 percent of
their income and would essentially help local government explore
different housing options.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.
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