PRO & CONS – Prop H – November 8, 2016

PROPOSITION H- PUBLIC ADVOCATE

Charter Amendment

Placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors

Requires a simple majority vote for passage.

THE QUESTION:

Shall the City amend the Charter to create the position of Public Advocate, responsible for investigating and attempting to resolve public complaints concerning City services and programs; and shall it be City policy to provide the Public Advocate with sufficient funding and a support staff of at least 25 people?

BACKGROUND:

The offices of the Mayor, the City Controller, the District Supervisors, the District Attorney, the City Attorney, the Office of Citizen Complaints, and the Ethics Commission exercise the powers of the proposed Public Advocate.

The Mayor appoints the Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC). Both the Mayor’s Office and the City Controller review the administration, performance, and effectiveness of City programs and services.

In addition, the City Controller oversees the Whistleblower program, with the power to review and investigate all whistleblower complaints regarding City services and programs. The Controller is supported by the investigations of the District Attorney, the

City Attorney and the Ethics Commission.

THE PROPOSAL:

This measure would amend the City Charter to create the position of Public Advocate, who would be publicly elected every four years, for up to two consecutive terms. Passage of this proposal would shift some powers from the Mayor and City Controller to the Public Advocate.

Proposition H authorizes the Public Advocate to:

  • Appoint the Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints,
  • Review the administration and performance of City programs and services,
  • Receive and investigate some confidential whistleblower complaints about City programs and services, and
  • Investigate and attempt to resolve complaints about City programs and services including introducing new legislation.

Proposition H also creates new City policy to:

  • Provide the Office of Public Advocate with sufficient funding and administrative support,
  • Develop a Public Advocate office in City Hall with at least 25 support staff, and
  • Allow the Public Advocate to hire independent experts who are exempt from some City contracting rules.

A “YES” Vote Means: If you vote “yes,” you want to amend the Charter to create the position of Public Advocate, responsible for investigating and attempting to resolve public complaints concerning City services and programs. You also want to make it City policy to provide the Public Advocate with sufficient funding and a support staff of at least 25 people.

A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote “no,” you do not want to make these changes to amend the Charter to create the position of Public Advocate.

ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF PROP H:

  • Proposition H would put an independent, unbiased director in charge of Police oversight. Having a publicly elected Public Advocate, rather than a Mayor, appointed the Director of the City’s Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC), will increase government accountability.
  • Many large cities, such as New York, Seattle, and Portland, have public advocates. In New York, this saved 0.02 of their annual budget, which would be 20 million in San Francisco.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST PROP H:

  • Proposition H would erode the Mayor’s powers, while creating the position of “junior mayor”, an employment opportunity for a “termed-out” supervisor. Also, the Public Advocate could intervene in the Whistleblower Program, which operates under our independent City Controller.
  • Proposition H would add one more elected officer to our present 18 elected officers and multiple independent officials, the majority of whom currently perform the duties and wield the powers proposed for the Public Advocate, and who also collect up to $200,000 a year for their services to the City and affiliated agencies.

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