Questions for the next mayor

It's entirely appropriate for progressive board members to set some standards

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EDITORIAL The progressives on the Board of Supervisors are a long way from united on a possible mayoral candidate, and if they can't come together, the person who finishes Gavin Newsom's term will be a compromise candidate, either a short-term caretaker (not the greatest option) or someone who's more in the moderate camp but a candidate the left can work with — for 2011 and possibly four years after that.

We're glad to see the proposal by Sup. John Avalos to begin the mayoral selection process early. Picking a mayor in a mad scramble on the day Newsom steps down is a recipe for chaos — and potentially a bad outcome. And as the process begins, the last thing the city needs is a mayor chosen through a backroom deal.

But it's entirely appropriate for progressive board members to set some standards and to ask the people who are angling for the job to make clear exactly what their positions would be on key policy issues.

In other words, anyone who wants to be the interim mayor — and possibly mayor for the next five years or longer — should have to answer, directly and without hedging, question like these:

How much new revenue does San Francisco need to solve its budget problems, and where, specifically, should it come from? This is the central issue facing the city, now and for the indefinite future. San Francisco's budget has a structural deficit of at least $250 million, and it simply can't be closed by cuts alone. What taxes will you pledge to support — and put political capital and fundraising clout behind when they go on the ballot?

What specific programs ought to be cut? Everyone likes to talk about the city living within its means, but that ends up leading to a series of death-by-1,000-cuts decisions that year after year devastate services to the poor. Don't tell us you need to look at budget figures and work it out later; the big-ticket items are no secret. What's on the chopping block — and what isn't?

Will you work to promote public power? How will you expedite community choice aggregation, and will you support a ballot measure to replace Pacific Gas and Electric Co. with a full-scale municipal electric utility?

What are your law enforcement priorities? If money's tight, should the San Francisco police be hassling nightclubs, or should more resources go into the homicide division? How important are foot patrols, and which neighborhoods should get them? Will the SFPD and juvenile authorities continue to turn young people over to federal immigration authorities?

Who should pay to fix Muni? Should the burden of paying for the transit system fall primarily on the riders (through fare increases and reduced services) or should big downtown businesses and retailers (the major beneficiaries of the system) pay more? Should car owners pay higher fees (including parking fees and congestion management fees) to subsidize transit? Which specific fees would you be willing to push for?

Who should the city build housing for? Right now, much of the new housing stock is aimed at the very rich — and San Francisco is turning into a bedroom community for Silicon Valley. Would you set housing policy to conform with the city's General Plan assertion that more than half of all new housing should be below market rate? How would you make that balance happen? Should the city spend a significant amount of money for affordable housing, and who should pay for it?

Do you agree that public sector jobs are as important as private sector jobs in San Francisco? Would you support the tax plan proposed by Sup. David Chiu?

Do you support giving the supervisors appointments to all major commissions?

Do you think the city should be doing more to stop TICs and condo conversions and to preserve existing rental housing?

Comments

Tough choices, given the fact that "fees" now need a 2/3 vote to implement. It's doubtful that will happen in most cases.

Several programs that need to be cut by 90% or so: "Homeless services" and Healthy SF. To be blunt, SF can no longer afford "the homeless". I'm not talking about the severely mentally ill, but rather the rabble of transients, drifters, dealers, con-artists, and petty criminals. SF can no longer afford to pay for rent, therapists, drug "counseling" and social workers for every misfit in town. Time to go.

As for Healthy SF, Medi-Cal is for the poor. At best, Healthy SF should ASSIST the working poor by directing them toward the new Obamacare low cost coverage. And we shouldn't be insuring illegals or people who could choose to buy coverage through work. We simply can't afford it.

General Assistance. We are the only county in the Bay Area that lets people stay on GA all year, forever, with essentially no requirement to do anything in exchange. Other counties allow 90 days in any 12 month period. We should do the same. SF is too broke to continue to subsidize able-bodies people who simply choose not to work. If they are disabled, they can get SSI.

Shopworn city agencies and departments. Why, in 2011, do we need a Department on the Status of Women? Why do we need a Human Rights Commission when the state and feds have these functions? Why do we need an Immigrants Rights Commission? Why do we need a Depart of Youth, Children, and Families when we have a Human Services Department? Many of these agencies were born in the booming 1990s during the dot com boom when there was money for fluff. That money is gone, and these needless entities should be as well.

Why is SF funding some 8000 non-profits to perform "services" that are not required by state or federal law? The Human Services Department alone contract some $200,000,000 for "services" outside the mandates of Food Stamps, Medi-Cal and CalWORKs. Sorry, we can't afford all this anymore. Cut back on at least 4000 non-profits who will have to find something else to do and someone else to pay for it.

Why is SF spending hundreds of millions on a needless Central Subway? For four stops?!

These are just a start. I'm sure others can come up with many, many more ways to cut $500,000,000 out of the budget permanently.

Posted by Scott on Nov. 17, 2010 @ 9:30 am

Keep asking these questions and keep losing elections. Richard

Posted by Richard on Nov. 17, 2010 @ 11:47 am

Revenue? To be clear, raising taxes is not "revenue"... Revenue is what a business makes when they sell a customer something they want. Tax"revenue" taken by the City from SF residents & families for services they may not even get to use. If your a homeowner or landlord, that means increased property tax rates... and if your a renter, it's increased rents each year (within rent control laws) or when you change apartments (rent control can't help there) and forget about upgrades by landlords... and if you're a small business, it's increased fees to do business...so if you're a consumer (we all are), that's increased prices at your favorite restaurant or bar, groceries, goods & services, etc. Who gets the money instead...? Multi-billion budget for 800,000 people?!?.

Mayors and Supervisors beware... We're watching and we'll vote the "big spenders" out of office next chance we get.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

Forgot one thing... If you're an employee at a small business, that means you can forget about a raise this year, or maybe worse. Seriously, the City is spending our money... and what are you getting for it?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

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