The Nov. 2 general election is now under way. City Hall opened for early voting on Monday and permanent absentee voters are starting to receive ballots in the mail this week. While some residents are busy casting their votes, others are just starting to examine the more than 25 state and local ballot measures they will face on voting day. Regardless of the election outcomes, one thing is clear — this general election will have a profound impact on our city for years to come.
Local tax measures will have the greatest effect on our city’s economic recovery. Top among them is Proposition J, a 2 percent hotel tax increase that will make San Francisco the most expensive city in the nation to visit. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that this tax alone will kill 2,026 jobs and eliminate $75.5 million in wages annually.
Sponsored by the Labor Council to raise revenue for The City, this tax will not only hurt hotels, but hundreds of restaurants, taxi drivers, retail outlets and other businesses — and their employees — who serve visitors to our city. An alternative measure, which clarifies existing laws for hotels and online travel companies, would raise $8 million to $12 million annually without raising tax rates or putting our convention and visitor industries at risk.
The real estate transfer tax, Prop. N, is another threat to our city’s economy. If passed, this measure would raise the tax on the sale of residential and commercial homes by as much as 33 percent to become the highest in the region. During an era of declining real estate values, Prop. N could bring homeowners and businesses higher tax bills even after selling property at a loss. And even if passed, Prop. N would not bring a dependable source of revenue to The City, as transfer-tax revenues are extremely volatile.
Other ballot measures will significantly impact the quality of life in our city. Proposition L, the civil sidewalks initiative, is our city’s best chance to improve civility and safety on our sidewalks. Originated by a group of merchants from the Haight and placed on the ballot by the mayor, Prop. L will prohibit sitting and lying on public sidewalks during busy daytime hours and enable law enforcement to address aggressive individuals who camp out in front of homes and stores. Prop. L is not about targeting the homeless, it is about addressing bad street behavior that is hurting so many businesses and residents across The City.
Unfortunately, the community policing measure, Proposition M, is a poison pill for Prop. L. If Prop. M gets more yes votes, it will kill Prop. L and require the Police Department to use resource-intensive foot patrol policing when a more integrated, data driven community policing model is already working. This politically motivated measure is a thinly veiled attempt to insert politics into policing decisions and micromanage the police department.
And we must not forget about Proposition G, the Muni reform measure that will require collective bargaining and end guaranteed high wages for transit operators — who are currently the second-highest-paid in the nation. As residents continue to experience fare increases and service cuts, Prop G. is an important step in helping to ensure more efficient and effective transit operations in San Francisco.
The outcomes of these and many other measures on the November general election ballot will greatly influence the speed of our city’s economic recovery and effect the daily lives of those who live, work and visit San Francisco. The business position on key initiatives is available in the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce voting guide at www.sfchamber.com. The Chamber urges everyone to learn more and vote in this critically important election for San Francisco.
Steve Falk is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. His Examiner column will appear on the first Thursday of each month.