Getting the details straight


Today the Ballot Simplification Committee completed the last ballot measure for the November 2, 2010 election . As another mark that the Voters Guide material is nearing completion, the ballot measures were given their official letters today. The list is of measures including the letter and title is given on the Elections Department website.

If you ever wondered why the measures are arranged the way they are, here’s the procedure. First the propositions are separated into groups according to the type of measure. Propositions placed on the ballot by County Agencies such as this year’s Vehicle Registration Tax go first in the list. Then come the Bond Measures, then the Charter Amendments, the Ordinances, and finally the Declarations of Policy (there are none of those on the ballot for November). Within each category, the order is randomly assigned with the exception (in this city there is always an exception) of ballot measures that directly oppose one another; these are placed one after the other. An example of that this year would be the two hotel tax measures, which are now measures M and N.

The last proposition to be considered by the BSC was Proposition O Real Property Tax. This deals with the tax charged by the city on the sale of real estate valued at $5 million or more. The tax currently ranges from 0.5% to 1.5% depending on the sale price. Long term leases, those for 35 years or more, are also taxed at these rates. Proposition 0 would increase the tax to 2.0% for properties valued between $5 million and $10 million. Properties worth $10 million or more would be taxed at 2.5%.

After receiving public comment on the wording of the measure, the BSC came up with wording it considered satisfactory, but appeals for reconsideration may be made for 24 hours after a completed version is adopted. It’s quite likely there will be an appeal on this one that the committee will have to consider tomorrow.

After the ballot measures were completed, the committee moved on to consider the requests for reconsideration that have come in during the last few days. The first appeal taken up today was on the Hotel Tax proposals. The appeal suggested that the wording of the “Way It Is Now” be made the same for each of two measures and the committee did that.

Another appeal was presented for the Vehicle Registration Fee for a change and clarification of the description of the way the tax funds would be used. The committee adjusted the wording on this measure too.

The most contentious issues today were related to Propositions M L: Sitting or Lying on Sidewalks and Proposition NM: Community Policing and Foot Patrols. Although the titles do not indicate this, the two measures conflict with one another. If Prop M should be adopted with more votes than Prop L, Prop L  would not take effect. If, on the other hand, Prop  L should be adopted with more votes than Prop  M, then both measures would take effect. The committee struggled to find neutral language that would explain to voters the substance of each ballet measure and the effect of their passage. Proponents and opponents of each measure, including Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, appeared before the committee. The final draft was prepared and approved by the committee, but it is not likely to satisfy either group completely. Voters can expect to see many ballot arguments and ads for each of these dueling measures before November 2.

Tomorrow will be the last day of BSC meetings for the November 2 election. It is going to be a lively and interesting election. If you or any of your friends are not yet registered to vote, be sure to do that within the next few weeks. If you are going to be away for Election Day, there are many opportunities to vote early or to vote by mail. This is an election you won’t want to miss.

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