The City’s future in hands of voters

If recent history is any indication, there will be another lackluster showing by San Francisco voters in Tuesday’s election.

Voter turnout in The City’s elections when there is no national presidential race has been as low as 22 percent — and that’s only for registered voters, according to San Francisco’s Department of Elections. There are more than 190,000 eligible voters in San Francisco who are not even registered.

Such numbers are unacceptable.

We hope the local electorate bucks the negative trend this year. There are many issues that will be decided on this ballot that will determine the future of The City, which is undoubtedly at a socioeconomic crossroads.

When stepping into the ballot box or filling out ballots in the comfort of their homes, San Franciscans need to ask themselves key questions about what fate they desire for The City.

How do we become a city that is a model of economic prosperity — while preserving adequate housing and livable communities for working and middle class people? What kind of city will we be when teachers, firefighters and members of law enforcement cannot afford to live and raise families in The City they serve?

It is clear the situation is dire for many San Franciscans, even those who’ve called The City home for years. Despite the economic recovery fueled by the tech boom, lower- and middle-class families, educators, transit workers, artists, public safety employees, ethnic minorities and the historically disenfranchised are increasingly finding themselves forced to look elsewhere to call home.

The evidence is clear and well-documented. The San Francisco metro area is currently the least affordable urban center for middle-class homebuyers in the country, according to a report released this year by real estate website Trulia, which focused on affordability for such buyers.

According to recent estimates, only 27 percent of The City’s police force and 33 percent of its firefighters live in San Francisco.

We continue to lose our prized diversity. Decades of black outmigration has been followed by an exodus in the Mission, where 8,000 Latinos have been forced out in the past 10 years, according to the Council of Housing Organizations and the Mission Economic Development Agency.

If current trends continue, the Mission’s Latino population will decline from 48 percent of the total population to 42 percent by 2017, and to 31 percent by 2025, a report released this week forecasts.

In terms of the arts, 70 percent of 600 artists who responded to a poll conducted this year by the Arts Commission said they had been displaced or were being displaced from their homes. And 28 percent said they were at risk of being displaced soon.

While voting is not the only route to help change the current status quo, it certainly is an important part of the equation. And given the changes that have happened over the past few years, middle-class workers and families can no longer sit on the sidelines.

The choice is clear: Those who are affected by all of these changes in The City can take action by voting and participating in the affairs of their neighborhood, local government and community — or continue on the current trajectory and see a barely recognizable San Francisco.

On this year’s ballot are a slew of important issues, from the mayoral election to measures for affordable housing and regulating short-term rentals. And we would be remiss not to mention the District 3 Board of Supervisors race between moderate incumbent Julie Christensen and her progressive challenger Aaron Peskin.

We won’t repeat all of our endorsements here, but they can be viewed here. Also check out the endorsements made by other local media to seek out alternative viewpoints.

Be an informed voter and take an active role in building the San Francisco you want to live in.

It’s not too late to help bring the vision of a better San Francisco to fruition. As singer-songwriter Patti Smith sang, “People Have the Power.”

Polls are open Election Day from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Registered voters can cast ballots early at San Francisco City Hall. If you don’t know your polling place, call (415) 554-4375 or visit www.sfgov2.org.

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