In politics, it’s often the small moves that produce the sweeping moments. If history is a barometer, San Francisco may soon be part of a different kind of seismic event.
Change is coming, either from your pocket to a meter outside your house or perhaps in the form of new government representation.
It won’t be a first, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
Back in the early ’80s, a little-known governor from Arkansas instituted a motor vehicle tax and was promptly bounced out of office. Bill Clinton ultimately resurrected his career and went on to become one of the most loved and most loathed presidents in the modern era.
California Gov. Gray Davis had just cakewalked into a second term when a little blip emerged on the screen that he decided to keep from public view. When word of a multibillion dollar deficit leaked out, his standing sagged and the state made history with a recall election.
A decade ago, San Francisco changed back to district elections under the guise that big money was deciding outcomes for city supervisors and that regular citizens were being shut out of the process. That brought forth such regular citizens as Chris Daly and David Campos and the rise of the overtaxing, free-spending, über-liberal majority that now controls the board.
The Board of Supervisors’ inability to rein in The City’s bloated government costs and refusal to make any significant cuts in social and health care services has instead resulted in a series of fee increases, fare hikes and other euphemistic taxes that have made San Francisco ever more expensive and unwieldy.
But this week the long, greedy hand of the board may be extended out to your neighborhood, and unless the residents decide to slap it down, it will change the look, scope and feel of the disparate communities we know as San Francisco.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority released a study a few months back that suggested The City should install more parking meters in residential neighborhoods — a potentially valuable source of income, but one fraught with the kind of political blowback that only an overzealous group of bureaucrats could embrace.
Board President David Chiu decided to delay any move on the plan, but supervisors, acting as The City’s Transportation Authority, are expected to vote on it today, and it may be the worst idea to come down the pike since changing the sanctuary policy — another wrongheaded move coming before the board early next month.
The report also recommended other citywide “pricing programs,” such as hiking meter rates, extending meter operating hours, increasing parking enforcement and raising permit costs to “more rationally priced” levels above the $76 annual fee.
And that’s the only time the word “rational” should ever be entered into the record regarding The City’s parking policies, because this plan is beyond the outer limits.
This is how far it’s gone: The study came to the head-shaking conclusion that there aren’t parking meters in residential neighborhoods, without following up that discovery with the common-sense answer, “Because there shouldn’t be.”
Our cash-hungry transportation planners have determined that taxing your residential streets and sidewalks as a way to generate more cash falls within the realm of reason.
Don’t you pay property taxes and sales taxes and a dozen other taxes so that your government provides those services for which those fees are levied? Aren’t you supposed to have your parks maintained, your libraries opened and your streets saved from crumbling because you pay thousands of dollars each year to San Francisco?
A similar concept of double-dipping into the pocketbooks of the local citizenry recently emerged under a plan pushed by the mayor and the board to float a $368 million revenue bond to pay for street and sidewalk improvement. But the backlash was so widespread and the polls so low that our so-called leaders dropped that plan rather than face the ballot broadside from voters.
The residential meter idea falls under the same myopic guidelines from City Hall, except it’s even more obvious and disturbing. Residents here have been gouged repeatedly with new fare increases, parking ticket hikes and parking garage hikes. But now they’re thinking about treating the street where you live as a city-owned garage.
It’s not. You’ve already paid for your street and your sidewalk and your tiny piece of residential solace with your tax dollars. And judging from all the potholes and the fines, you’re not getting your money’s worth.
If you’re not making that view known, it’s going to cost you — one district, and one quarter, at a time.