Vote yes on Prop. I; no on Prop. G

Two ordinances on next month’s municipal ballot, one to establish an Office of Small Business as a city department and the other to pay for refurbishing the Golden Gate Park stables, feature innovative funding mechanisms that try to limit the blank-check nature of many city initiatives.

They are both well-intentioned efforts aimed at a legitimate and demonstrated need. But voters need to make hard choices when faced with competing funding needs, and only one of the two measures, to establish the small-business office, deserves support.

That measure, Proposition I, allocates $750,000 for the first year of operation for the Office of Small Business. The office would be charged with helping businesses of fewer than 100 employees, mainly by operating a Small Business Assistance Center. That center would provide merchants with information on permit and licensing requirements, government contracting bid processes, legal compliance issues and “green” or sustainable business practices.

A current office of small business, which supports the Small Business Commission, has two staff members and serves a limited function. Prop. I would put a greater emphasis on helping merchants by increasing the staff and creating more of a one-stop-shopping atmosphere for questions and paperwork.

It’s a good idea. Small businesses are the lifeblood of The City, with more than 100,000 of them providing more than 300,000 jobs and serving as the engine for the local economy. But The City has over the years sent mixed messages to these businesses by entangling them in red tape, larding them with fees and taxes, and creating legislation without bothering to learn how it affects them.

Prop. I also makes good fiscal sense — ifpassed by voters, the general fund outlay of $750,000 is only guaranteed for one year, meaning backers would have to justify the new office’s existence each year. We expect they will be able to do that, with business people making it known that City Hall had become a more helpful, hospitable place for the motivated individuals who drive The City’s economy and only ask for a fair shake. Vote yes on Prop. I.

Proposition G would establish a matching fund to pay for the renovation, repair and maintenance of the Golden Gate Park horse stables, which are owned by The City but have been closed since 2001. Under Prop. G, The City would put a dollar into this fund, up to a limit of $750,000, for every three dollars in private donations.

Supporters speak convincingly of the need for a variety of recreational opportunities for our city’s children. But we are not convinced that The City should be in the specialized business of running horse stables, or that $750,000 of taxpayer funding couldn’t be spent for more pressing needs. We recommend voters vote no on Prop. G.

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