Elected officials sing praises of local services 

You didn’t vote them in for their vocal range, but a handful of elected officials from around the Peninsula are trying to sing you to the polls.

City council members and city managers from more than a dozen Peninsula towns have formed a vocal group called the SOS Singers. The group is attempting to rock YouTube and persuade voters to support Proposition 22, a state measure that would protect local funds from raids by state officials.

The group was formed early this year as a desperate measure to get people interested in helping cities and counties keep control over their funds. The state, which is broke, has repeatedly found ways to capture local funding to pay for its own programs, leaving the cities and counties struggling to find ways to fund their own budgets.

A measure passed in 2004 aimed to protect local funds from state raids, but it granted an exemption during times of emergency, explained Foster City City Councilwoman and SOS Singer Linda Koelling.

Desperate to energize a campaign to gather signatures for a new measure without that loophole, members of the Peninsula division of the League of California Cities conceived of forming a musical group. They named themselves the Save Our Services Singers, and in January, they adapted the song “S.O.S.” by ABBA.

Nine city councilmembers from across the Peninsula belted out lyrics like “Libraries have been cut, our streets have holes and ruts. The state has taken much and left us in a bind.” And for the chorus, they sang, “So when you’re feeling like your city’s reeling — SOS.”

Last week, they released a second hit, this time adapting ABBA’s song “Waterloo” to encourage people to vote for Prop. 22, with lyrics like “22 — the state is facing its Waterloo. Wo-wo-wo-wo, 22 — SOS with Prop. 22.”

Koelling admitted the group is more about the message than the lyrics.

“We’ll never make ‘American Idol,’” she laughed.

But she said she hopes people will be attracted to the novelty of seeing their elected officials singing about politics, and walk away knowing a little more about the measure. She said she hopes the video, which can be found on YouTube by searching for SOS Singers, will become more popular after the group performs it at the league’s annual meeting in September.

“None of us are professional singers,” she said. “But if people have a chance to listen to the words rather than trying to figure out whether we’re talented, they’ll hear the message we’re trying to get across.”

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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