Voters to pass judgment on mayoral Q&A

City voters are going to weigh in at the polls this November on whether Mayor Gavin Newsom should appear before the Board of Supervisors for “question time.”

Supervisor Chris Daly decided Tuesday not to seek the required six votes from the Board of Supervisors to put on the ballot his proposed charter amendment that, if approved, would have legally required Newsom — and mayors who followed him — to attend monthly question-and-answer sessions before the board.

Instead, Daly opted to put a nonbinding question before The City’s voters on Nov. 7, asking them if the mayor should submit to the monthly grilling from The City’s legislative branch. This only required signatures of four board members.

The question time would foster better communication between The City’s legislative and executive branches of government and hold Newsom to a greater level of accountability, Daly said.

Others say Daly, an outspoken Newsom critic, just wants to create a “gotcha” session.

“This is, in a sense, asking voters if they want political theater, do they want playtime with the Board of Supervisors,” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said. “This isn’t going to be a true policy debate.” However, Elsbernd acknowledged if voters support the idea this November, the board would “respect the will of the voters.”

The question time would not result in a “reasonable or rational conversation about policy,” Newsom spokeswoman Jennifer Petrucione said.

The question session idea is modeled after the British House of Commons, which requires the prime minister to spend time once a week answering questions from members of Parliament. These sessions are often full of witty barbs and, for some, a source of entertainment.

If voters approve the idea, the Board of Supervisors would vote on whether to make question time with the mayor part of board policy, Daly said, adding that it could go into effect as early as January.

Should the voters not support the idea, Daly said, he would drop it.

IN OTHER ACTION

ODD-YEAR ELECTIONS: The Board of Supervisors defeated in a 6-5 vote a proposal to put on the Nov. 7 ballot a charter amendment that, if approved, would have ended odd-year elections. Supervisor Jake McGoldrick proposed the amendment because nearly 30 percent more voters turn out at the polls during even-year elections.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING STOCK: The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved requiring developers of housing complexes to provide more below-market-rate units, in some cases 3 percent more. This is expected to generate 50 to 75 additional below-market-rate housing units a year.

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