City figuring out how to drag voters to the polls 

click to enlarge Out of service: “Investment and maintenance” are highlighted in SFMTA’s budget. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Out of service: “Investment and maintenance” are highlighted in SFMTA’s budget.

When I cast my vote about 6 p.m. Tuesday, I was only the 62nd person to do so at my precinct. Less than 10 percent of registered voters in our fair city actually went to the polls. Combined with the vote-by-mail ballots, that brings us to a total 23 percent voter turnout. The last time participation was that low was November 2009, when City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Treasurer Jose Cisneros each ran unopposed for re-election.

As luck would have it, the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors today will consider a proposal by Supervisor Scott Wiener that would move the elections for city attorney and treasurer so they occur at the same time as those for mayor, sheriff and district attorney, starting in 2015. According to the city controller, this consolidation would save $4.2 million for each boring election we don’t have to separately orchestrate.  

Statewide primary elections are not something we can change, but attempts to spice it up failed here in San Francisco. The jumbled top-two primary ballot didn’t appear to confuse local voters, 78 percent of whom still found the name “Dianne Feinstein” among the list of 23 candidates for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi still came out far ahead of all other congressional candidates, but Republican John Dennis received 12,562 votes, which is more than a Republican candidate for Pelosi’s seat has received in a primary in at least 10 years. This despite the overall low turnout.

It seems people felt free to vote across party lines with this new system.

And on the subject of political parties, the race for a (bafflingly) coveted spot on the Democratic County Central Committee ended predictably, with current members of the Board of Supervisors hogging the seats on the committee along with the unlimited campaign contributions that the contest allowed. Great candidates such as Leah Pimentel and Christopher Vasquez got shafted while supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu, Malia Cohen, Eric Mar and Wiener now sit on a committee that accepts and doles out large donations from special-interest groups. No conflict of interest there. No siree.  

And the supervisors are already campaigning once again. At Tuesday’s board meeting, every supervisor up for election in November suddenly had something to announce. Mar asked for a hearing on local job training, Chiu introduced pro-Warriors legislation, Christina Olague called for a hearing on how The City is educating black children, Campos basked in his creation of a Wage Theft Task Force, and Avalos introduced anti-foreclosure legislation.

And the beat goes on.

40 years of putting transit last

On May 24, Ed Reiskin, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, presented his department’s budget to the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors. He opened his remarks by saying, “The theme of this whole budget is investment and maintenance. We have a lot of infrastructure both in the ground and in our vehicles that has not been maintained as well as we would like it to be over the last generation.”
Turns out, this was a spectacular understatement.

The bumpy reopening of the N-Judah line and the unhinged overhead wires at Market and Fifth streets Monday are testaments to the work that needs to be done and evidence of why so many San Franciscans still rely on their cars. 

At the hearing, Reiskin pointed out, “The transit-first policy was put in place by the Board of Supervisors in 1973. My understanding is that in the nearly 40 years now that that’s been in place, we haven’t really achieved any significant mode shift and we are endeavoring in this plan to do so.”

But that budget will have to wait, because the agency anticipated $14.6 million in labor concessions that “did not come to fruition based on how the negotiations had turned out” and will have to rebalance the books somehow by June 19.

Let’s hope they don’t dip into the funds for future fiasco prevention.

Quotes of the Week

“Since this is a family show, I have to try to keep my anger and my frustration and disappointment that the 49ers are leaving — I’ll keep it clean. But I really do believe that we should be putting up a huge fight, kicking and screaming, trying to keep these Niners here.”

— Supervisor Malia Cohen at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, commenting on the proposal to allow the 49ers to terminate their lease at Candlestick Park early for a fee and a promise to try to bring the Super Bowl to the Bay Area.

“If the board is so upset at how the 49ers left San Francisco, you don’t do to Oakland what was done to you.”

— Alan Jones, public commenter at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. At that meeting, board President David Chiu proposed legislation allowing The City to begin negotiations to bring the Warriors to San Francisco.  

“One would think the San Francisco firefighters would have their bank account at the San Francisco Fire Credit Union. One would be mistaken.”

— Email from my friend, attaching a check written to a DCCC candidate from the San Francisco firefighters’ account at Bank of America.


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Melissa Griffin

Melissa Griffin

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