Griffin: Hard to endorse this prop

Proposition H on the November ballot would forbid city elected officials from being a member of a party county central committee. That it was put on the ballot by Mistermayor — himself an elected official who sits on the country central committee of the Democratic Party by virtue of being the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor — is not even my favorite part of this proposition. (Other elected officials who also sit on the Democratic County Central Committee include supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, David Chiu and Eric Mar.)

When a City Hall staffer breathlessly handed me a copy of Prop. H several months ago, I wondered why he was laughing. Then I read the first sentence of the proposition: “Holding public office requires the subordination of personal and political concerns to the faithful discharge of duties on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco.”

Hilarious! I mean, Mistermayor is so desperate to get away from San Francisco that he’s fighting for a job in Sacramento where he’ll sit in the car and hold Meg Whitman’s purse while she “has grown-up talk time.” Not sure he’s the best champion of focusing politicians’ attention on serving The City.

It takes a few minutes to stop giggling at this proposition, but once you do, there are a few things the measure is supposed to address. First, there is no limit to the amount you can give a candidate who is running for the central committee, whose members are elected in June of even-numbered years. So, a person running for the central committee can amass and spend tons of money and build up name recognition for the June election. Then when they are up for citywide office a few months later — in November of a given year — they can still ride the wave of love they bought with the central committee election cash.

This seems to undercut the intent of The City’s campaign contribution limits.

Plus, a person or company trying to suck up to a sitting elected official who is on the central committee can just give tons of money to the committee with a wink. Finally, since the Democratic Country Central Committee slate pretty much guarantees a win in any local election, the opportunity to give oneself that big endorsement can seem like an unfair advantage.

I’ve watched central committee endorsement meetings and it’s funny to watch people endorse themselves. Personally, I’d find it uncomfortable. But there is obviously little shame at City Hall.

Campaign against changes to city health benefits full of misrepresentations

“Death panels,” my friend said when I showed him the newest materials released by the Campaign to Defeat Prop B. The fliers highlight the provision of Proposition B on November’s ballot that would require city workers to pay for 50 percent of what it costs The City to pay for employee dependents. Claiming that “a single mother with one child” would pay “up to $5,600 more per year for health care — in addition to the $8,154 she already pays,” the campaign to defeat Prop. B is hoping to turn the debate away from the sweeping pension reform it contains and get people talking about the fact that city employees (and retired employees) would have to pay more for their own health care.

Union members themselves aren’t stockpiling Band-Aids, according to a poll conducted two weeks ago. Prop. B supporters commissioned the poll, which used objective ballot language when asking likely voters whether they would support Prop. B.

Overall, 54 percent said “yes,” 21 percent said “no” and the rest were undecided.

What’s really interesting about the poll’s findings is that, among households where one public employee lives, 49 percent were in favor of Prop. B and 33 percent were against the measure. In households where there was a union member who did not belong to a public employee union, 53 percent were in favor of Prop. B and 29 percent were opposed.

As for our hypothetical single mother featured in the Campaign to Defeat Prop B flier, she must be enrolled in the extremely expensive “City Plan,” to which only about 1,150 employees out of almost 28,000 active employees subscribe. The City Plan is one of three options for employees. (See graphic.) In fact, there are only 274 employees with one dependent who are enrolled in the City Plan and thus pay $8,154 per year for health care. And yes, if Prop. B passed, those 274 people would pay an additional $5,000 annually.

The City also offers Kaiser and Blue Shield plans; the other 27,000 employees are about evenly split between those two providers, whose costs are much lower than the City Plan, even if Prop. B passes. Hence my friend’s response, “Sarah Palin’s death panels. Exaggerations and half-truths.”

The Campaign to Defeat Prop B certainly has some work to do if so many union members are in favor of Prop. B. The SEIU has poured $1 million into the campaign against Prop. B and are keeping lots of local political consultants in business. Look for anti-Prop. B fliers calling the proposition a Trojan horse because it promises needed pension reform, but it also changes employee contributions to health care benefits.


There’s a lot to live for: Booze fee fails

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the supes passed the wildly unpopular (maybe just among my friends) alcohol fee that was met with a merciful end by Mistermayor’s veto before you could say, “Cheers!” Then they voted to expand the ban on cigarette sales to all pharmacies because we can’t sell life and death in the same place, and Lord knows the scourge that is smokers is The City’s biggest problem. Also, they endorsed a plan to use prime city property by the Ferry Building for bocce ball courts.

The supes aren’t completely obtuse to the needs of regular San Franciscans, though. In an effort to curb suicides, they did (seriously) declare Sept. 22 “Please Don’t Jump Day.”

Bay Area NewsMelissa Griffin

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