Ballot Simplification Committee completes its work

The Ballot Simplification Committee has finished its work of drafting text for the November 6, 2012 voter information pamphlet. The complete approved texts of each of these measures are available on the Committee’s website  . Also there you will find the legal text of each of the measures and some of the documentation submitted as background. If you don’t have time to read all the documentation now, here’s a quick rundown of what San Franciscans will be voting on:

Measure A: City College Parcel Tax would impose a $79 annual tax for each each of the next eight years on each parcel of real estate in the city. The purpose is to replace funding cuts in federal and state support for community colleges. Like all measures to increase taxes, this one is likely to be a hard sell for many voters, although there is widespread agreement that San Francisco Community College is suffering from overcrowding and a limited budget that causes hardship for many students.

Measure B: Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond would authorize the City to issue general obligation bonds up to $195 million. (These are the ones repaid by property taxes.) The park department maintains more than 200 parks, playgrounds and other recreational facilities, many of which need repairs and improvements. The City generally issues bonds as other older bonds are retired, so the tax burden on individuals should not change much if these new bonds are authorized.

Measure C: Housing Trust Fund created by this measure would create and improve affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income families in the City. Mayor Lee sponsored this measure because reductions in federal and state funding have limited the ability of the City to continue some of its affordable housing programs.

Measure D: Consolidating Odd-Year Municipal Elections, like the Housing Trust Fund, is a Charter Amendment, but this one is simple in comparison to Measure C. The consolidation of the election of City officers into the same election cycle would mean that every four years the City would not have to hold an election. This would save the City money and might inspire higher voter turnout for these odd-year elections.

Measure E: Gross Receipts Tax, also sponsored by Mayor Lee, would change the basis on which the City collects taxes from businesses. At the present time business taxes are based on the amount of payroll expense for a business. Under this measure, businesses would be taxed according to the gross receipts for each year. The formula for calculating the tax is complicated because it depends in part on the industry in which a business operates, however, the tax is planned to be revenue-neutral so it does not raise taxes on businesses. Small businesses, those with gross receipts under one million dollars annually, would be exempt from the gross receipts tax. There would also be an increase on the business registration fee, but this is a small item on most business budgets.

Measure F: Water and Environment Plan is an initiative that is already causing many arguments. This measure, which was put on the ballot by initiative, would require the city to prepare a two-phase plan to identify new water supply and storage facilities as well as additional renewable energy sources so that San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Water System could be replaced. The measure would allocate $8 million to pay for the plan and to create a five-member task force to develop it. The final plan would be completed by 2015 and the measure would require the Board of Supervisors to consider placing on the ballot a Charter Amendment to approve the plan.

According to an article in the San Francisco Examiner on August 9, 2012, the proponents of Measure F are dissatisfied with the present wording of the ballot measure prepared by the Ballot Simplification Committee. They plan to go to court to protest the wording. Watch the League website for further developments.

Proposition G: Policy Opposing Corporate Personhood is one of those measures that come up only in San Francisco. Although a Declaration of Policy has no legal effect on government policy, it expresses the feelings of citizens. This measure would make it City policy that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights that human beings have and should be subject to political spending limits.

August is usually a slow season in elections, but this one is generating heat early. Anyone who cares about the direction our various levels of government are taking had better register and vote on November 6. Encourage all your friends and neighbors to vote too. We are making decisions that will affect all of us for decades to come.



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