Every day, San Francisco residents and businesses make a choice on how to spend their money. They decide whether to buy a new copy machine or to take a vacation, and they make their decision largely based on how much it costs.
After all, when it comes to budgeting, the first rule is that income determines expenditure. We know it’s not smart to buy expensive equipment or take lavish trips if we can’t afford it. Realistically, we figure out our costs in relation to our income and spend accordingly.
Using this simple formula, most of us have learned to live within our means. Unfortunately, that is not the case in San Francisco, where laws are often passed without officials or residents ever knowing whether they will harm or help job creation, raise or lower revenues or make it harder to retain certain industries in The City.
Not only is this behavior reckless and bad for San Francisco’s fiscal health, but with the passage of Proposition I by voters in 2004, it is also illegal. Notsurprisingly, a coalition of business associations and taxpayer advocates filed a lawsuit on Monday asking a judge to enforce the rules of Prop. I.
Prop. I, which I authored and placed on the ballot, was passed by voters in November 2004. It requires the city and county of San Francisco to create both an Economic Plan for the city and county and an Office of Economic Analysis, which is charged with analyzing any legislation pending before the Board of Supervisors that might affect the overall economic health of The City before the board votes on it.
I placed this measure on the ballot because I was alarmed at the amount of legislation that was passed by the Board of Supervisors without any thought about how it might affect the economic health of The City.
Shockingly, more than 18 months after voters approved Prop. I, just three economic analyses have been completed, despite a series of laws pending at the board that could impact San Francisco’s ability to create jobs, retain businesses and generate revenue for city services.
In addition, several laws, such as the closure of a part of Golden Gate Park to cars on Saturdays and restrictions on condominium conversions, were approved by the board with no economic analysis done in advance of a vote.
At issue is not the laws themselves, but the fact that voters asked the board to study the economic impact of these kinds of measures before they voted. Simply put, voters and the public at large have the legal right to know how much a city law will cost its taxpayers and businesses. It’s time to enforce that law.
Michela Alioto-Pier is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, representing District 2.