The San Francisco June ballot promises to be drab, featuring elections for the Democratic and Republican parties’ central committees and two ballot measures — one involving whether to have competitive bids for The City’s trash disposal services. As one Democratic County Central Committee candidate told me, “It’s humbling to run for an office that no one has heard of and is down-ballot from the garbage proposal.”
But in San Mateo County, June’s Election Day will be an elaborate occasion. That county is set to vote on three proposals that would tax services related to the San Francisco International Airport. Measures T, U and X are the formal names for the three proposals that would create a new 8 percent tax on airport parking, add a 2.5 percent tax on airport rental cars (bringing it up to 24.27 percent from 22.21 percent) and a 2 percent tax on hotels near the airport (bringing the rate up to 12 percent from 10 percent).
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors draped the ballot with TUX and each only needs a simple majority to pass. The official arguments in favor of TUX announce that the measures are a way to raise money “without significantly impacting the pocketbooks of county residents.”
Like most every locality, San Mateo County has had to deal with debt and spending problems. In the past six years, the county has laid off 500 people and now faces a $28 million budget deficit. Revenue from the TUX taxes (some
$7.5 million) isn’t designated for any specific purpose, though, leading critics to claim that the increased revenue will simply be showered on public employees. According to them, in the past 10 years the total cost of salaries and benefits for county employees has gone up 90 percent, with an 81 percent increase per employee.
Meanwhile, they say the TUX taxes jeopardize the jobs of 10,000 county residents employed at the airport and 67,000 indirectly employed in tourism, hospitality and entertainment services.
But what does this mean for us? San Franciscans will have to pay more when we park and leave cars at SFO, and visitors will have to pay more when they rent cars and/or stay in a hotel near the airport. As you might imagine, the San Francisco Travel Association is unzipped at this prospect. According to association CEO Joe D’Alessandro, “A tax hike that punishes travelers is equivalent to putting up a giant ‘keep out’ sign. We should be doing all we can to welcome more travelers to the Bay Area so they can generate revenue and create jobs.”
In a survey of Meeting Professionals International members (the folks who plan conventions and company events), more than four in 10 respondents said they would either “definitely look for different destination” or “reconsider planning meetings or events in the San Francisco Bay Area” if the TUX taxes are passed.
But will they? San Francisco voters rejected a 2 percent hotel increase in 2010 and San Mateo County residents rejected a rental car and parking sales tax in 2008.
We’ll know in June whether visitors will be required to leave their wallets in San Mateo County before they leave their hearts in San Francisco.
Odd SFPD reviews harsher than Yelp
The 2011 annual report from the Office of Citizen Complaints has just been released and even at 230 pages long, it is worth a read. The OCC is the body charged with investigating citizen complaints against the Police Department.
Bless their hearts, this is one job I don’t envy.
While the OCC claims to be understaffed, it still was able to bring 846 cases to a close this year. Some 59 citizen complaints were sustained.
The report lists all the complaints received by the office in 2010 and 2011, and while some are disturbing if true (i.e., allegations of brutality), most are accusations of “rude” and “inappropriate” behavior, including one for “no empathy.” Police misconduct is no laughing matter, but some of the complaints are real gems.
Here are my top 10:
10. “Officer failed to secure property by leaving service revolver and ammunition clip in hotel safe after checking out.”
9. “Horse manure left.”
8. “Trashed shoes.”
5. Tie: “Sergeant directed the F word at a fan at ATT Park and called the fan ‘a punk’” and “a drunk b*tch”
5 Tie: “Propositioned, sexted while on duty” and “suggestive behavior.”
5. Tie: “Arrested fiancée” and “failure to arrest brother.”
4. “Flipped off complainant.”
3. “City has officers issuing excessive citations” (This charge was sustained, by the way.)
2. “Turned and walked away.”
1. “Failuer to prepare an accurate report” (Misspelling quoted verbatim.)
Mayoral question time isn’t quality time, listeners gripe
Now that KPOO has resumed broadcasting Board of Supervisors meetings, a whole new segment of San Franciscans can listen in and discover the monthly kabuki theater that is Mayor Question Time. The law mandating this exercise says that the Board of Supervisors must come up with the rules about how questions are submitted and answered by Mayor Ed Lee. And since many members of the board are mayoral hopefuls, the rules say the mayor gets the questions well in advance.
At least two astute radio listeners recently sent letters to the board about this issue. “While listening to the meeting it was easy to tell that the mayor had all of the questions beforehand,” one wrote. “It did not sound good at all. It sounded like a fraud. Other than that it was a good meeting.”
Wrote another, “Mayor Lee’s appearance before the Supervisors was nothing but a staged event. It sounded as if Mayor Lee had the questions and answers prepared in advance before the meeting.”
With supervisorial elections coming this November, be sure to ask the candidates what they will do to make Mayor Question Time a useful exercise. I plan to vote for the first candidate who proposes a dunk-tank.