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Endorsements: November 2018 Propositions

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San Francisco City Hall. (Courtesy photo)

BALLOT MEASURES

Proposition A

Endorsement: Yes on A

The City’s waterfront is as iconic as it is historic. Every year, it draws more than 24 million tourists from throughout the world. Protecting it is not only crucial for San Francisco’s economy, but for those who call it home every day. That is why approving $425 million in bonds to repair and strengthen the Embarcadero Seawall is a no brainer.

The seawall is the foundation of the northern waterfront, and at more than 100 years old, it is among the oldest infrastructures here. It could move into the Bay by as much as five feet in the event of a major earthquake, and as climate change brings more severe weather, high tides and flooding will put more strain on the wall. This will be money well spent.

Proposition B

Endorsement: No on B

The goals of Prop. B, which would establish guidelines for city policies protecting private and personal data, are laudable. Unfortunately, as at least two local journalism organizations have pointed out, the measure also includes provisions allowing the Board of Supervisors to amend The City’s Sunshine Ordinance, a critical public records act created by a ballot measure. While the sponsor’s advocates have argued that the board would not be able to act to weaken the ordinance, only strengthen it, we cannot endorse leaving that decision in the hands of future elected officials who may have a stake in limiting the disclosure of information.

Proposition C

Endorsement: Yes on C

The “Our City Our Home” measure would impose a very small tax ranging from 0.175 percent to 0.69 percent on only the very largest and wealthiest of companies, those with gross receipts above $50 million. The money will be used to get homeless people off the streets by providing more supportive housing, more shelter beds, more treatment beds, more rent subsidies.

Opponents of this measure have argued that if we impose more taxes on these companies they will exit The City and head to more corporate-friendly climes, or that we will lose jobs. Mayor London Breed, in opposing the measure on Friday, warned of “the inevitable flight of headquarter companies—and jobs—from San Francisco.”

We don’t buy it.

The business community is the first to complain about the negative impact of San Francisco’s highly visible homeless problem. We hear constantly that conventions and conferences are leaving the city, and that it hurts tourism.

If anything is going to drive out these mega-companies, it’s the complaints from their employees and out-of-towners attending conferences who are shocked by the quantity of human excrement and used needles on the street. (And the high cost of housing and property, but that’s for another measure to address)

An economic impact issued report by the City Controller found the overall impacts to be negligible, amounting to a 0.1 percent difference in The City’s job market and gross domestic product over the next 20 years. More importantly, the controller found the measure “will likely reduce homelessness.”

A vote yes comes with responsibility, too. We urge the voters and the companies to hold The City accountable to assure the money is well spent. This is a mandate to spend the revenues on targeted homeless services including rent subsidies, supportive housing, and treatment.

Housing 4,000 people who are now on the streets, and building 1,000 new shelter beds within the next five years, as the proposition promises, would definitely show that the City of Love takes its nickname seriously, as do the companies who we suspect were attracted here partly because of the compassion and progressive ethics San Francisco is known for.

Proposition D

Endorsement: No on D

Taxing legalized weed is inevitable, and yes, dispensaries are becoming mainstream and many profitable. But that is not true for all. Let’s give them time to grow, pun intended. Just like the fledgling tech startups that used to dominate the Silicon Valley landscape, some cannabis companies in The City need a break. Challenged by rent increases, legal disputes with their landlords, and concern about federal government intervention, dispensaries need some more time to get their grounding.

The City also should first do right and live up to its promises. A plan to give licenses to equity marijuana companies has led to a backlog and not even a handful of permits have been issued. Let’s revisit this one during a future election.

Proposition E

Endorsement: No on E

This measure would devote around 8 percent of the city’s hotel tax revenue, which currently goes into the general fund, to funding for arts and culture programs. Proponents argue the change reflects the original intent of the city’s hotel tax, which was created with a portion dedicated to the arts and culture on the grounds that such things help drive tourism. We support funding for the arts, but the city already provides some through its normal budget process, and this measure would reduce budget flexibility by making it harder to divert funds to other critical programs during economic downturns.

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