San Francisco will be presented with opportunities to increase transparency and accountability at the polls in November. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco will be presented with opportunities to increase transparency and accountability at the polls in November. (Rachael Garner/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Effective governance starts with accountability

From bonds to tax renewals to new revenue proposals, I would not be surprised if San Francisco voters are revolted by the sticker shock in this November’s election.   

When there is a $9.6 billion budget and voters are asked to pay more taxes, it begs the question: “Is the government effectively spending your dollars?” When tax dollars are funding poorly conceived projects that are rubber-stamped with little to no public input, it raises the concern, “Who does your government serve?”

With an astronomically high cost of living and a growing equity gap, residents are asked to give more, yet somehow receive less in return. It is time to challenge this culture of government inattentiveness and apathy.  

You will find a number of measures in the upcoming November election that aim to enhance transparency, accountability and balance to government in San Francisco. There is an initiative that will strengthen the department overseeing police investigations and ensure its independence from the Police Department. There is also a measure that will guarantee that tree and sidewalk maintenance (what should be a basic service) will be the responsibility of The City and not be transferred involuntarily to property owners as it has been the common practice for years.

Another measure that I authored would increase balance on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors, the seven-member body that oversees parking, traffic and transit citywide. The proposal would split appointments between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, rather than a fully mayor-appointed board, which will allow for a broader diversity of perspectives.

These ballot measures being offered are sound and in the spirit of good government; yet, cynics allege that we are “meddling” with the executive branch and its powers. There is something fundamentally unsettling when reforms calling for more accountability are being smeared as a power grab. Our democracy has a system of checks and balances. For those in power, increasing public input and oversight promotes democracy and, ultimately, helps us make better decisions. If “meddling” means scrutinizing budgets to protect from public waste or challenging ill-informed decisions and establishing better protocols for the public good, then, by all means, call it meddling. But it is our job to meddle. As elected officials, it is our chartered duty to ask the hard questions, to shine a light on government when those questions go unanswered and to uphold quality service to the public.

All of us holding political titles recognize that our time is finite. These measures will have impact well beyond the time we hold elected office. Effective governance depends on accountability and trust. We must follow through on what we are asked to do to earn your trust.

I recognize there is no panacea for all the challenges we are dealing with in our city, but we have to strive to make government more accountable. There is always room for improvement, and it is our responsibility as public leaders to move us in the direction of better government. We should not be afraid to hold a mirror to ourselves and reflect the truth and transparency we claim to uphold.

I ask all individuals who are in decision-making positions to put our egos aside and elevate the voices of San Franciscans who are fed up with tired excuses. We must be open to challenge so that we can seek better solutions. Change is hard, but tolerating the consequences of the status quo will be even harder.

Norman Yee represents District 7 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.ballotBoard of SupervisorselectionNorman YeeSan FranciscoSFMTA

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The Port of San Francisco, which controls much of the The City’s waterfront, faces potential layoffs due to a financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Steven Ho/Special to S.F. Examiner)
In a financial ‘crisis,’ SF Port officials lobby for stimulus funding

Looking to right their financial ship, Port of San Francisco officials are… Continue reading

Police Chief Bill Scott on Wednesday said a rebranding and reoganization of the former Gang Task Force amounts to “more than just the name change.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faced with surge in shootings, Chief Scott reenvisions SFPD’s Gang Task Force

New Community Violence Reduction Team adds officers with community-policing experience

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Stores including Walgreens and Safeway are required to pay their employees additional hazard pay under a city ordinance that is currently set to expire later this month. (Shutterstock)
Grocery workers could gain additional weeks of $5 per hour hazard pay

San Francisco will vote next week on whether to extend a law… Continue reading

The fatal shooting of San Francisco resident Roger Allen by Daly City police on April 7 prompted protests in both cities. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Daly City approves body-worn and vehicle cameras for police after fatal shooting

Daly City officials on Wednesday approved body and vehicle cameras for police… Continue reading

Most Read