For years, many San Francisco politicians, like too many in Sacramento, have believed they could pile regulations and taxes upon local businesses without worrying about the effect it would have on jobs and the economy. The past four years of the Great Recession and its sluggish aftermath have shown that there are consequences to even the best-intended legislation.
A recent Market Watch survey revealed just how bad the situation has become in The City. First the good news: San Francisco is the second-best place in California in which to do business. (San Jose came in first.) But that’s not saying much because California is riddled with business-unfriendly cities.
The bad news is that San Francisco is only the 31st-best place in the nation in which to conduct business out of 102 major cities. The ranking is based on two criteria: company concentration and economic climate. San Francisco finished in the top third mainly due to the number of businesses here.
The really bad news is that The City ranks a pitiful 80th in economic climate, which factors in economic output, personal income growth, unemployment rate and job growth. This world-class city is beaten out by the likes of Bakersfield; Scranton, Pa.; Tucson, Ariz.; Allentown, Pa.; Wichita, Kan.; El Paso, Texas; and Cleveland. On the bright side, San Francisco edged out Fresno.
Clearly, there’s a significant problem, despite the decline in the unemployment rate this year from 9.5 to 7.8 percent. It’s vital, as well as refreshing, that Mayor Ed Lee has made the creation of good-paying jobs his top priority.
He has placed on the June ballot a Charter amendment that would require the city controller to review legislation by the supervisors that could hurt businesses and kill jobs. If the legislation might do economic harm, it would be sent to the Small Business Commission for review and possible development of alternative proposals that might achieve similar results at less cost. The alternative legislation would then be heard by the Board of Supervisors at the same time as the board’s original disputed proposal.
Of course, the amendment’s value will depend on the competence of the small business commissioners, with a 4-3 majority appointed by the mayor. It must be admitted that most San Francisco commissions do not have a reputation for effective accomplishments. Therefore it might be reasonable to try these jobs impact hearings as a pilot test before locking them in as another permanent charter amendment.
But in the end, anti-job-killer legislation could be a decent step forward in giving San Francisco businesses a greater voice and a bit more control over their destiny.