Ken Garcia: On June 6 ballot, voters should just say no

There is a word that adequately sums up the propositions on the San Francisco ballot this June. Misguided, supercilious and ill-advised would all apply. But the simple description that works best is “no.”

If ever local ballot measures deserve to be thrown out, they’re the ones city voters will see on June 6, when they’ll be asked to throw good money after bad and weigh in on initiatives based on silly ideology. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t pass. After all, anything is possible in a city that has Chris Daly on its Board of Supervisors.

And Daly is the force behind some of the worst measures, starting with Proposition A — a plan that would take $10 million each year out of The City’s coffers and give it to a “council” to decide how to spend it on anti-violence measures. It wouldn’t make a dent in The City’s homicide rate, but nonprofit groups and newly formed neighborhood organizations would be queuing up around the block.

Forming a committee of concerned citizens to address the problem of violent crime isn’t a solution, it’s a diversion. If anyone were really serious about solving The City’s staggering homicide rate, they’d vote to increase the number of police officers on the streets in the areas most affected by violence. All the other services that would allegedly be addressed in the measure — job training and mental health services — are already funded in numerous city programs.

Prop. A may be well-meaning, but it’s way off base. Originally, Daly had thrown out the figure of $20 million annually to spend on homicide prevention, but since the amount had no meaning, his fellow supervisors cut it to $10 million. But the cost of a series of unnamed social programs is so vague that no amount makes sense. It’s a fuzzy idea with a serious amount of dollars attached — just the kind of thing that passes for public policy in San Francisco.

This year’s ballot also offers the chance to save sad pieces of failed legislation. Proposition B would require landlords to disclose to potential buyers the history of evictions in a building so that the buyers — in a fit of remorse — would have an opportunity to turn down their shot at home ownership. There is no legal, economic or sensible basis for such a disclosure — which is why the mayor vetoed the same measure earlier this year and how, after Daly had one of his temper tantrums, it ended up on the ballot.

Proposition C falls in the same vein. The measure would change the lineup on the Transbay Joint Powers Authority at Daly’s behest and — surprise! — would add Daly to the agency and give more appointing power to the Board of Supervisors. As we’ve seen from the Police Commission and almost every other panel that has been the subject of the board’s power grabs, changing the appointment process only makes it more political, not better. And perhaps the most ridiculous part of the measure is that it removes the head of the Municipal Transportation Agency from a vital transportation commission.

But why stop there? Proposition D on the June ballot allegedly is designed to limit the types of patients admitted to Laguna Honda Hospital, so that seniors would not be mixed in with younger psychiatric patients who might prove dangerous. That happened on a few occasions in recent years and the admittance policy was addressed. But now some local advocates want to address it with a curious piece of legislation — a group that includes building czar Joe O’Donoghue, Green Party guru Matt Gonzalez and former supervisor Tony Hall.

The only problem — besides that a law is not needed to address a hospital’s admissions policy — is that it’s actually a disguised zoning law that would allow developers to build private facilities on public land. It’s being sold in much the same way Laguna Honda’s rebuilding bond was a few years back — “for the most vulnerable” — and it’s safe to say that misleading campaign will now cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the future.

If the proposition really wanted to protect patients, why is it dressed up like a zoning ordinance that even some of its backers can’t explain? The measure is so poorly written that under its current language, patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia would have to be discharged — because they could conceivably be characterized as dangerous.

But elections in San Francisco are never based on fact or reason. This year’s ballot points that out in bold — and is the latest form of ballot-box engineering that should come with a warning label.

SF Examiner
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SF Examiner

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