The Libertarian Party of San Francisco gives heartfelt thanks to the participants of our First Annual Symposium on Tax Policy. “Pros and Cons of Proposition 13” was indeed a “first” for us, but we succeeded in presenting a meeting packed with information, energy, and confidence that “We the People” can bring about effective solutions via the ballot box – if we stay informed and participate in the political process.
Our two panelists, Laura Wells and Trish Cypher, were impressive in their wealth of information and their ability to clearly communicate their views. Moderator Starchild did a fantastic job moving the discussion along. Our audience asked numerous questions and made excellent comments.
Here are the key points brought up and discussed,
Laura Wells: We need to keep the good parts of Prop 13, and get rid of the bad parts. Prop 13 keeps property taxes reasonably affordable, so that people do not lose their homes because they are unable to afford the tax. It ensures a local source of revenue; thus avoiding centralization of power in the hands of state and federal governments. However, we need to eliminate the corporation loophole -- corporations can exist in perpetuity, regardless of current management or ownership, thus they can avoid the reassessment brought about by death of a private owner or sale of a private home. Because property taxes are based on assessed value, not market value, new owners unfairly pay much more tax than older ones, even when living in the same neighborhood.
Trish Cypher: California corporations pay a significant amount of property taxes, in spite of their perpetuity advantage. Life is not fair, and it is not the function of governments to impose their view of fairness through legislation. The function of governments is to ensure fairness of political process, not fairness of outcomes. We need to keep legislation such as Proposition 13 in order to force governments to be fiscally responsible. Funding challenges are brought about by unnecessary spending rather than by too little tax revenue.
Additional Information on Our Panelists:
Laura Wells is a Green Party activist and 2014 candidate for California Controller. Her two major proposals are, 1) “Keep only the good of good old Proposition 13,” and 2) Establishment of “State Bank for California,” to “provide good loans to homeowners, small businesses and students."
Trish Cypher is co-author of Governments Working Together: A Citizen’s Guide to Joint Powers Agreement. Her principal focus is calling the public’s attention to rapidly-growing “Regionalism,” which transforms cities and counties governed by elected officials into regions managed by unelected government employees.
“California Senate Bill 33, Infrastructure Financing Districts Voter Approval Repeal,” amends or repeals several sections of the Government Code relating to infrastructure financing districts (IFD). The bill was introduced by Senator Lois Wolk of California’s 3rd Senate District.
The crucial highlights of this bill are as follows:
Repeals the voter approval requirements to form an IFD, issue bonds, and set the appropriations limit.
Allows an IFD to contribute to the cost of maintaining facilities, and adds several types of projects an IFD can finance: watershed lands, flood management, habitat restoration, clean up and development of contaminated properties, projects that implement a transit priority project, regional transportation plan, or other projects that would achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
In other words, infrastructure financing districts would pop up to do just about anything without any voter approval, and would establish their financing including bond issuance equally without any voter approval. SB33 needs a majority vote to pass, so a lot of logrolling is essential. Meanwhile the bill is languishing in the inactive file, placed there on September 11, 2013 at the request of Assembly Member Toni Atkins.
San Francisco has plenty of old projects forever waiting for money, such as the Bayview redevelopment; new plans, including the grandiose Priority Development Areas under Plan Bay Area; and enough deferred maintenance to blanket the City with IFD.
It seems that our legislators feel that the people’s vote is just a cumbersome obstacle they must do away with. We encourage all voters who would prefer to keep control over their own destiny by way of the ballot box to keep a watch on what happens to SB33. We certainly will.
For more information see California Legislative Information Bill Analysis
08/29/13 Assembly Floor Analysis
We have not given out our two Libertarian Party of San Francisco awards for a while. We find it difficult to pick one recipient for our “Nanny of the Month” award among so many candidates. Our “Sensible Suggestion” award is rare. The last one went to Supervisor Mark Farrell in December 2012 for his support of entrepreneurial food truck vendors.
Therefore, we are delighted to have a new “Sensible Suggestion” award recipient: Katy Tang, City Supervisor for District 4. Thanks to San Francisco Examiner columnist Joel Engardio for acquainting the public with Supervisor Tang’s thoughts on the “housing crisis” in his San Francisco Examiner article of March 2, 2014, “Knowing When $4 Toast Signals S.F. Salvation, not Apocalypse.”
In his article, Mr. Engardio relates his conversation with Supervisor Tang about the transformation of San Francisco’s Outer Sunset district from a traditional residential neighborhood to a “trendsetter” community, featuring “urban murals, destination restaurants, art galleries and a food co-op.” He quotes Supervisor Tang:
“What you see just sprang up and has a life of its own. I love that it is so organic. People have a more independent attitude out here. They don’t like bureaucracy and government intervention.”
“For so long we made it difficult to grow neighborhoods. Now we just keep going in circles with sensational eviction stories and legislation against property owners.”
“I worry that we’re ignoring the unintended consequences of all the legislation in the pipeline. Instead of solving our housing problems, we may end up hurting more tenants in the long run.”
All well said, Supervisor Tang! As long as City Hall allows neighborhoods to grow organically, without picking winners and losers, without demonizing groups, the market, like nature, will find a way to prosper and thrive.
Read Joel Engardio's article:
Full Disclosure: Ours are no-prize, for-fun-only awards, without any tax consequences.
A voter ballot initiative is in circulation whose supporters hope to place on the November 2014 ballot. This initiative failed to garner enough signatures for the June 2014 ballot, and we hope the same fate will befall it as it tries for November. The initiative is the “Conflict of Interest Prevention Act of 2014” (City Attorney’s title: “Prohibition on Outside Employment for Members of the Board of Supervisors”).
The initiative mandates that members of the Board of Supervisors “shall devote their entire time and attention during their term of office to performing the duties of their office and shall be prohibited from receiving compensation for any other occupation or business activity.”
We wholeheartedly agree with this initiative that We the People need to “ensure effective representation, prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars, and strengthen public confidence in the integrity of governmental decisions.” However, trying to achieve these lofty goals by prohibiting the members of the Board of Supervisors from holding any outside job is a stretch!
First, the only member at present to hold an outside job is Mark Farrell of District 2, who is one of the Managing Directors of Thayer Ventures, a venture capital firm. Interestingly, Farrell voted against his own interest as a Thayer director when he voted against exempting private companies for six years from paying the city's business tax on employee stock options. So, it would appear that this proposed initiative is a solution to a problem that does not exist.
Secondly, this proposed initiative has the potential of pushing Supervisors into the arms of lobbyists, since without any outside job or current outside skills, Supervisors would be totally dependent for their livelihood on lobbyists – no big money from lobbyists, no re-election.
Thirdly, the last thing on earth we should want is Supervisors (or any politician) with a lot of time on their hands, churning out copious amounts of legislation micromanaging every aspect of our lives. And demanding bigger and bigger salaries to compensate them for all that work.
Fourthly, even as a pre-emptive strike, this proposed initiative is not the right solution. We have not seen any indication that this proposal might be a poison pill against the possibility of folks undesired by the initiative’s supporters might take over the Board. But we would like to point out that the spokesperson for the initiative is Jon Golinger, the foe of Waterfront development that led the successful campaign against the 8 Washington group.
Lastly, a few press articles claim that San Francisco’s resident icon of fiscal responsibility, the Honorable Quentin Kopp, a former Supervisor, State Senator, and Judge, supports this proposed initiative. We would like to quote Mr. Kopp from one of his wonderful columns in the Westside Observer, “Ruminations of a Former Citizen Supervisor.” The segment, dated February 2011, is entitled “Dignity and Decorum”. We quote,
“One of the new supervisors, Mark Farrell, declared subsequently he would retain his private firm association, which was refreshing and might serve as an example for his ten other colleagues who pursue no private means of sustenance and treat their legislative service on the Board of Supervisors as a full-time responsibility, which as readers of the column know, it is not, despite the "full-time" amount of compensation bestowed upon these worthies. It's not merely surprising, but even ominous that all other supervisors eschew private enterprise in favor of a cocooned existence dependent entirely upon taxpayers and not the experience of "real-life" problems and issues. (Certainly, supervisors historically observed Charter Conflict of Interest provisions and avoided participation in matters creating any economic conflict between their interest and the public interest.)" http://www.westsideobserver.com/columns/quentinMay09.html
Spoken like a true “citizen statesman,” Mr. Kopp, the kind our Founding Fathers envisioned.
Have we given up the vision of our Founding Fathers? Have we voted it away? Have we fully fallen for the spurious argument that as population grows in a complex society, so must government’s power and reach?
The San Francisco Waterfront, ever since the days of Fontana East and West (does anyone remember that skirmish?) has been a veritable battlefield, where old money and old-time residents defend their turf against the invading newly empowered.
The coming skirmish, all set for the June Elections, just got some reinforcements – Supervisor Scott Wiener ordered City departments to do a study on how the initiative would impact the housing crisis and infrastructure. No rules of engagement in this war.
We are mum on taking sides at this point, but cannot resist pointing out that the initiative process is part of California’s Constitution and is a deep-seated tradition, perhaps the last vestige of the Barbary Coast’s rebel spirit. And Scott Wiener does not particularly care for voter initiatives. As some of you might remember Supervisor Wiener was the architect of Proposition E in 2011, “Amending or Repealing Legislative Initiative Ordinance and Declaration of Policy.” The proposal was clear in its aim to fix this pesky process called “The Initiative.” It went down in flames with 121,248 “No” votes and 59,369 “Yes.”
So, people, prepare for a really focused battle in The Waterfront Wars in the form of the “Waterfront Height Limit Right to Vote Act.” It will be the housing crisis vs. the right to vote. Or whatever nuclear option each side decides on.
You can read Scott Wiener's edicts on a February 11, 2014, article on the San Francisco Examiner. http://www.sfexaminer.com/PoliticsBlog/archives/2014/02/11/wiener-calls-for-review-of-waterfront-ballot-measure-impacts