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San Francisco voters to decide future of 11 ballot measures

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 added.

Proposition F requires the support of 50 percent of voters to pass.

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 to $233,000.

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 profit margin."

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 individuals.

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 of commerce.

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 Dick Cheney.

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.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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