Randy Shaw, in a Sept. 11 op-ed piece in The San Francisco Examiner, lauds Proposition A, the $500 million Transportation and Road Improvement Bond that funds desperately needed public-transit infrastructure improvement. Shaw says while voters know how Prop. A funds will be spent, that is not the case with Proposition B.
I beg to differ. Shaw reveals the hidden agenda of Prop. B's surreptitious $22 million transfer of funds from needed services, police, parks, street cleaning, homeless programs and mental health service, while the language of Prop. A reveals less of its hidden agenda. Prop. A will cost more ($500 million plus $350 million in interest) in the long run than Prop. B.
Prop. A should be called the faith-based proposition because it does not specifically say how the funds are to be spent or what part of the funds will be allocated to the number of specific measures outlined in the bond. For instance, instead of using the more legally binding language of shall or will, the bond language is riddled with maybes. Ironically, the only time the words shall is used is in Section 10, page 8 when it comes time to pay off the bond. Part of the language: “For the purpose of paying the principal and interest on the bonds, the Board shall, at the time of fixing the general levy … collect annually each year until such bonds are paid.”
Examples of past propositions indicate how important the word shall is. These are state propositions 116 (1990 $2 billion state rail bond), 1B (2006 $20 billion state transportation bond) and 1A (2008 the state high-speed rail bond), as well as San Francisco Prop. B (2011 road and street maintenance bond). All of these bond measure not only used the term “shall be allocated,” but also made specific fund or parentage allocations to well-defined projects or programs.
As Shaw says in relation to Prop. B, “Why should voters approve a ballot initiative that raids other city department to give [the] SFMTA more money?” Ditto for Prop. A. Why should homeowners and their tenants pay over a 30-year period for a vaguely worded measure where the money might be spent for other projects other than the listed ones in the proposition (the overbudget cost for the Central Subway could be one).
Denise D'Anne is an environmentalist and political activist on the board of San Francisco Tomorrow and San Francisco Gray Panthers as well as the president of the Dance Mission board.