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Proposition B would require city commissioners to give up their seats if they run for office

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Proposition B, which was put on the June ballot by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, would require members of boards and commissions established by the City Charter to step down at the time they file to run for state or local elective office. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Appointees to boards or commissions would have to resign from their seats once they declare they are running for state or local office if voters pass Proposition B this June.

The measure applies to those boards and commissions established by The City’s Charter, like the Planning and Port commissions or Board of Appeals, and would require members of these bodies to step down at the time they file to run for state or local elective office, including the BART board of directors.

It wouldn’t apply to elected officials, members of citizen advisory committees and appointed members of those boards and commissions created by a city ordinance.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who introduced the measure, said during an editorial meeting with the San Francisco Examiner that it’s meant to combat “unethical behavior or the temptation.”

“Lets just get rid of the temptation,” Peskin said, noting that commissions approve various city contracts for things like library rebuilds, park refurbishings or land entitlements.

The measure was placed on the ballot in a 7-4 vote by the Board of Supervisors. Board President London Breed, who didn’t step down from her Fire Commission seat after she declared she was running for her first term on the board, opposed placing it on the ballot, along with supervisors Jeff Sheehy, Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.

“The people who serve on boards and commission for The City and County of San Francisco are volunteers and incredible public servants and this is an unfortunate ballot measure,” Breed said at that time.

One argument against the measure submitted to the elections office said the measure was not about good government, but about limiting qualified candidates who could find an entry into politics on the commissions.

“When a group of incumbent San Francisco supervisors seek to pass legislation to try and stop San Francisco city commissioners from running for office it is not in the interest of so-called ‘good government’ — nor is it in the interest of ‘democracy,” said the ballot argument submitted by Denis Norrington, owner of Arrow Stamp and Coin Company. “They don’t want clearly qualified city commissioners running against them. Some of those city commissioners might win!”

Larry Bush, head of Friends of Ethics, an advocacy group that pushes for increased ethic laws, supports Prop. B. He said in his ballot argument that people who serve on these bodies “should not be voting on matters affecting the public while asking for political contributions or endorsements for themselves.” He added, “That crosses a line that should not be crossed.”

Peskin said the measure puts in place an unofficial rule practiced by former Mayor Willie Brown and others, and he didn’t think it would hamper the ability to appointment qualified persons to these bodies.

“The people you want on commissions are citizens who are interested in and have some expertise in the subject matter that they are being appointed to,” Peskin said. “Commissions should not be jumping off points to higher office.”

“It applies to a handful of people in any given year,” he added.

All ballot measures are reviewed for their cost impact by City Controller Ben Rosenfield. He found that if it passed the measure “would have a minimal impact on the cost of government.”

Election day is June 5. The Elections Department is expected to send out vote by mail ballots in early May.

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