Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Voting in San Francisco: Supervisors Unclear on the Concept

Yesterday during our lunch hour, a group of coworkers gathered around a table and went through the statewide propositions on this fall's ballot. It's a semi-regular practice where I work that allows us to share what knowledge we have about the often-times confusing and contradictory questions that are put to California voters in an attempt to do an end-run around the state legislature. What's even funnier is when the state legislators themselves get a proposition on the ballot; talk about not having self-confidence in your ability to do your own job.
This morning, I filled out and sealed my mail-in ballot (see photo). It took about 20-25 minutes, which involved filling out five different forms with lists of names for people seeking elected offices, as expected; well, actually about half of the forms involved propositions for the state and for the city & county of San Francisco.

The state propositions were the usual mix of back-and-forth over taxing and spending and environmental regulations (which is really usually about money, too, in the end). I was prepared for those, because we had gone through voter guides during our lunchtime meeting, so I knew both sides of the arguments (some, admittedly, laughable) for the props and I made my selections.

In fact, as we wrapped up our lunch meeting, I said that I didn't know if there were any local referenda on the ballot this year, but there usually is something silly, such as the Board of Supervisors (our version of a city council) trying to force the mayor to appear before them a minimum number of times. We laughed; meeting broke up.

Today, what do I find on the ballot? A question about forcing the mayor to appear before the Board of Supervisors a minimum number of times. That's not the strangest part; those honors have to go to the fact that this is the second time San Franciscans have had to vote on this same question. Voters rejected this silly proposal the last time it was put before them, and I certainly hope they will reject it this time.

If it sounds perfectly normal for a mayor to meet regularly with his community's elected council, please consider that San Francisco's Supervisors are not perfectly normal. Not to sound like a right-winger here, but the Board has a majority of members dedicated to a decades-out-of-date political agenda (they did recently vote to make Monday's "Meatless Mondays," which always reminds me of "Taco Tuesdays" – and I don't think that was their intention). As a result, the housing and commercial development market is terribly expensive and distorted in the city. The cost of doing business here is very high. The schools are a disaster. Criminals are treated with kid gloves, if the offenders are undocumented aliens. You get the idea.

So I always figured that it was a feather in Mayor Gavin Newsom's cap that he refused to subject himself to the Supes' presence.

I hope this is the last time the Supes play their he's-just-not-that-into-us game at the ballot box. But with some of the whackier supervisors being termed out this year, and with Newsom likely headed to Sacramento as lt. governor, there might just be a new cast of characters to continue the never-ending, Highlander-like fight.

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