From vaping to affordable housing to campaign reform, here are The Examiner’s recommendations for the November ballot’s local measures.
Proposition A — $600M Affordable Housing Bond
This bond will fund affordable housing construction, small site acquisitions and rehabilitation projects. It is desperately needed, and has wide support across the political spectrum. In addition, it has been constructed in such a way as to not increase the overall tax burden on homeowners, and to maintain it at roughly the same level over time. We urge you to vote yes.
Proposition B — Department of Disability and Aging Services
This is largely a housekeeping measure, changing the name of the Aging and Adult Services Commission and department to the Department (and Commission) of Disability and Aging Services. The change is intended to reflect the actual nature of the work already being done by the commission and department. The only change of any real substance is the addition of qualification requirements for commission members intended to ensure various interest groups are represented.
Proposition C — Vapor products
While the Yes on Prop. C campaign has been suspended, the measure remains on the ballot and still could potentially pass, so it’s important we explain our opposition.
In June, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve what has been described as a ban on vaping products, although it is technically a moratorium or suspension. Inspired by skyrocketing rates of vaping among youth, the ban on sales in The City will be lifted, according to the legislation, when vaping products go through FDA review and approval.
If vaping supporters had gone to the ballot with a simple yes or no referendum on the ban, we might be having a different conversation with our readers right now. There is a legitimate debate to be had on the merits of prohibition.
However, that’s not what they did. Instead, San Francisco-based vaping manufacturer Juul — which is heavily financed by the tobacco industry — financed a ballot measure with a complex set of regulations that would have the effect of permanently legalizing the sale of vaping products in San Francisco in a manner that cannot be altered by the Board of Supervisors.
Furthermore, they ran a deeply dishonest campaign in which they attempted to position their addictive product as a “smoking cessation” tool that is safer than traditional cigarettes — claims no legitimate medical authority will back. Indeed, those claims have gotten Juul in trouble with the FDA, which issued a warning over them to the company last month.
The long-term safety and health effects of vaping products remain unclear, and recent illnesses and deaths, while likely linked to black market products, have highlighted those concerns. Ultimately, we hope the Board of Supervisors takes up the task of establishing clear regulations around vaping products, after the FDA weighs in. But right now, there is no way we can support a measure that would allow the tobacco industry, in its newest guise, to impose its own set of rules on our city.
Proposition D — Traffic congestion mitigation tax
Proposition D will impose a 1.5 percent tax on shared rides using ridehail services such as Uber and Lyft that originate in San Francisco and a 3.25 percent tax on unshared rides. The funds will be used to pay for transit and pedestrian and bicycle safety projects. Introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the amount of the tax was settled in negotiations with Uber and Lyft, who in turn agreed not to fight it at the ballot box. Our only objection is that it should be much higher, given the role the two companies have played in growing traffic congestion in San Francisco.
Proposition E — Affordable Housing and Educator Housing
This measure would change the zone of land owned by public agencies across The City to allow for the development of affordable and teacher housing projects and streamline the approval process for such projects by reducing the need for some types of permits. While far from a magic bullet, it could save precious money and time and make some projects more likely to come to fruition.
Proposition F — Campaign contributions and advertisements
The “Sunlight on Dark Money” initiative aims to give voters more information about who is funding political ads and tighten some limits on who can donate to campaigns in an effort to avoid “pay-to-play” politics. Specifically, it would require independent committees, which are allowed to collect unlimited contributions far in excess of the $500 limit for donations to individual candidates, to disclose who their biggest funders are on any campaign ads they pay for. It also would prohibit top officials with companies that have a real estate project waiting for approval from The City from donating to candidates for mayor, city attorney or the board of supervisors, and clarify restrictions on donations from corporations under city law.
Overall, Proposition F is a relatively modest measure, but it is one we are happy to support.