If at first you don’t succeed…

Today the Ballot Simplification Committee took up two ballot measures that have come before voters in past elections as well as one that’s completely new.

The first measure discussed was a Charter Amendment, which would make it possible for non-citizens to vote in School Board elections in San Francisco. The usual criteria for voting require an individual to be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, a resident of San Francisco, and neither in prison nor on parole for a felony conviction. This proposition would relax these requirements to allow non-citizens who meet the other requirements to vote for members of the School Board. The non-citizen who wishes to vote for School Board members would have to be the parent, legal guardian or legally-recognized caregiver of a child living in San Francisco. The Proposition would not change requirements for voting in any other elections.

The Board of Supervisors would be able to pass ordinances implementing non-citizen voting for the November elections of 2012, 2014, and 2016.
At that time the measure would expire unless the Board adopts an ordinance allowing it to continue. San Francisco voters have faced this issue before and turned down a ballot measure in 2004 To allow non-citizen voting for school Board members, but this one is different in that it doesn’t call for setting up a separate election for the Board but includes them in the general election as is done now.

The other ballot measure that had a familiar look was a Charter Amendment to make it mandatory for the Mayor to appear at one of the regularly scheduled meetings of the Board of Supervisors at least once a month to engage in discussion with members of the Board. The Supervisors, in consultation with the Mayor, would be required to adopt an ordinance providing rules and guidelines about the appearances.

If this idea seems familiar, it may be because in 2006, the voters passed a Declaration of Policy that the Mayor should appear at least monthly at a Board meeting. When in 2007, a proposition to change the Charter to make the Mayor’s appearance mandatory, voters rejected it. Now they have a chance to revisit that decision.

The third ballot measure discussed was a Charter Amendment that would reduce the number of elections held to elect members of the Health Services Board. This Board oversees the City’s Health Service System’s administration of health benefit plans for employees. It consists of seven members, two of whom, a medical doctor and a health care consultant, are appointed by the Mayor; one of whom is a member of the Board of Supervisors appointed by the Board; and four of whom are active or retired members of the System elected to five year terms by members of the System.

The Proposition that will appear on this year’s ballot would reduce the number of elections for members of the Health Services Board by electing two members during each election. This would mean that in the future, the Board would hold elections two years out of every five, instead of four years out of five as they now do. To make this work, the term that would start in 2011 would be shortened to three years, expiring in 2014; the term that began in 2013, would be shortened to two years, expiring in 2015. After that all future terms would last for five years.

Voters may wonder why so many Charter Amendments appear on the ballot at every election. The reason, of course, is that the City has a detailed charter that sets rules for handling many minor matters that should be covered by ordinances or regulations. The League of Women Voters has for many years called for a charter overhaul to make the charter a statement of general policy. We haven’t been successful in getting any action on this, but as you look at your lengthy ballot this November, you might think about whether you and your neighbors should really be asked to vote on small adjustments to rules and regulations that keep this complex city going.

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