Groups seek to cap late measures

Two downtown organizations are working together to craft a possible charter amendment that would limit city leaders’ ability to place measures on the ballot at the last-minute.

The effort is in response to a roster of six measures that qualified for this November’s ballot on the last day propositions were due, because a minimum of four supervisors signed on with their approval.

That’s when the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, became serious about changing The City’s charter, said SPUR’s executive director, Gabriel Metcalf.

“The process has been broke for a long time, but this year it reached a new level of absurdity,” Metcalf said.

The chamber of commerce has come out strongly against the six measures, since the ballot process doesn’t provide for the public hearings or economic analysis required for all pieces of legislation that run through the usual Board of Supervisors approval process.

At a recent breakfast gathering of the business advocacy group, Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of public policy for the chamber, charged that the measures were meant to “motivate certain constituencies” to vote for Supervisor Chris Daly, since four of the last-minute pieces of legislation were authored by the controversial incumbent and he added a supportive signature to the other two. Daly is known to advocate for his low-income constituents over the downtown area’s business interests.

Daly said he has a legal right to put measures on the ballot, if he gets the support of at least three other supervisors. He added that the process was a more equitable way of “pushing issues” than well-funded initiative campaigns where petition workers are paid per signature to gather support.

“I’ll never be ashamed of pushing turnout for elections,” said Daly. “Where there is actual conflict is when there’s significant money involved.”

Daly also said that a public dialogue exists for ballot initiatives, but it happens in community meetings where he and other supervisors campaign for the measures.

The proposed charter amendment would also apply to the Mayor’s ability to put measures on the ballot. Although still in the drafting phase, some of the possible solutions being considered include requiring a public hearing on all measures before they get on the ballot, requiring supervisors to attempt to enact measures legislatively through the board process before going to the voters and prohibiting supervisors and mayors from putting a measure on the ballot during a year when they’re a candidate on the ballot.

beslinger@examiner.com

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