Proposition A – NO. This $960 million bond measure (the estimated cost to taxpayers of borrowing $487.5 million after all the interest and costs are paid) promises everything but the kitchen sink. Prop. A would supposedly fund "investments" (the Voter Information Pamphlet's biased language) in "supportive housing facilities", shelters, parks, recreation facilities, facilities for "persons experiencing mental health challenges", streets, etc. All things that could be paid for out of the city government's $13.7 billion regular budget (a budget larger than those of many states and even most countries!). But as CPA and former civil grand jury member Craig Weber pointed out, they would rather spend that budget on things like an average salary of $108,774 and an additional average cost of $49,864 in benefits for their over 38,000 employees (a bloated "city family" larger than the entire city of Burlingame).
Proposition B – NO. We're sympathetic to the desire to shake things up after Mohammed Nuru, the longtime head of the Department of Public Works (and ex-boyfriend of mayor London Breed) was arrested by the FBI on multiple charges of corruption. But Prop. B isn't exactly a house-cleaning. Nearly half of current DPW employees would just be transferred to a newly-created Department of Sanitation and Streets, with duplicative support staff meaning an additional cost of $2.5 to $6 million annually, according to the Controller's statement. What it does not do is guarantee that bureaucrats who are not doing their jobs in keeping the streets clean will be replaced, or that the new department won't be subject to the same kind of cronyistic political appointments as the old one. As former judge Quentin Kopp notes, it's just an attempt to "take the heat off City Hall criminality" without fundamentally changing anything.
Proposition C – YES. This measure would simply give non-citizen residents the same opportunity as other San Franciscans to serve on city boards, commissions, and advisory bodies. Libertarians strongly support the right of people to move freely from one country to another, and for people to have full equality under the law regardless of citizenship, which is ultimately just another Big Government program that enables those in power to divide and control people and extort money from them on the basis of nationality. According to a ballot argument by the LGBT Asylum Project and others, 35% of voting-age San Franciscans are foreign-born, and we oppose restricting any of these individuals from full political participation. As we argue in a paid statement in the Voter Information Pamphlet, "Laws must not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of innate characteristics like race, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin."
Proposition D – YES. While we generally oppose additional government spending and bureaucracy, the life and death power that law enforcement agents have over the rest of us creates an even more pressing need for independent oversight than is the case for the rest of government. Incidents like the gladiator-style fights that the Public Defenders Office learned some SF sheriff's deputies were staging among inmates for their own amusement, drive the point home. Prop. D would create an Office of Inspector General with the power to investigate in-custody deaths and complaints against Sheriff's Department employees and contractors in at least some cases, and make recommendations regarding the department's use of force policies. Also an Oversight Board that would hold public meetings and receive input from the public, as well as being able to subpoena witnesses and require the production of evidence. At less then a $3 million additional annual cost, this seems like a good pro-freedom tradeoff. In the wake of the killings of George Floyd and numerous other Americans at the hands of law enforcement, the need to rein in the abuses of gun-toting government agents should be abundantly clear to everyone, and this measure to create some independent oversight of the 800 or so SF Sheriff's Department employees should do at least a bit to help.
Proposition E – YES. This measure would remove the absurd requirement that San Francisco maintain a minimum of 1,971 sworn SFPD officers, a mandate so out of whack with actual needs and budgetary considerations that it has not even been consistently followed anyway. Our paid ballot argument supporting Prop. E notes that this force size exceeds not only that of neighboring cities like San Jose, which has more residents than San Francisco, but even the per capita policing in Paris under the hated regime of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette that was overthrown in the French Revolution of 1789! While certain types of incidents such as auto break-ins have been up the past few years, the SFPD has plenty of capacity to address this trend if they get their priorities straight and focus on investigating and responding to real crimes against life, liberty, and property, rather than victimless actions like drug sales and use, prostitution, and public camping. Additionally, mental health crises and other types of service calls should involve personnel trained to address those situations, not police officers (who have a disturbing tendency to use excessive force against the mentally ill and others), and efforts underway to transfer some of these responsibilities away from the SFPD will likewise free up more officers to focus on apprehending actual criminals.
Proposition F – NO. Trying to parse what this 125-page monstrosity of a ballot measure would actually do is extremely difficult, which is a reason in itself to regard it with a high degree of skepticism. We couldn't figure out from the text itself what the net effect of swapping a payroll tax for a gross receipts tax in all their respective intricacies would be, but according to the Controller's statement it amounts to an estimated $97 million/year tax increase. Which is no doubt why Mayor Breed and the entire Board of Supervisors, unreformed statists all, are supporting it. You might think politicians would have more sense than to try to foist a massive tax hike on local businesses during a government lockdown that has already forced more than half of The City's retailers to close their doors, many of them permanently, but you would be underestimating #GovernmentGreed. The Democrats who run SF claim that Prop. F would provide relief for businesses most impacted by the government's ham-fisted response to Covid-19, but of course they could have provided that relief without tying it to higher levels of legalized theft that will harm other businesses.
Proposition G – NO POSITION. We debated this one. Several of us thought this was a clear libertarian "yes", but several other members had concerns including that minors still legally under the control of their parents could be influenced by them on how to vote. On the flip side, 16 and 17 year olds do still pay sales tax and other taxes, and "taxation without representation" was one of the prominent complaints of the American colonists who seceded from Great Britain in 1776. You make the call.
Proposition H – YES. Prop. H represents a rare local ballot measure that would actually increase economic freedom, by streamlining or eliminating a few of the city government's myriad noxious regulations that make it expensive and difficult to start and maintain a business in San Francisco. Currently, the Planning Code needlessly prohibits many sensible and harmless uses of commercial space. This has contributed, even pre-Covid19, to a glut of business failures and vacant storefronts. One sentence in the Controller's statement kind of says it all, noting that under the measure, "Fees for additional reviews required due to City errors would be waived." Does anyone other than the most retromingent statists think it's reasonable to impose additional fees on businesses as a result of government errors?
Proposition I – NO. Riddle: How do you top an effort to increase business taxes by $97 million during the worst economic downturn the U.S. has seen since the Great Recession, if not the Great Depression (Prop. F)? Why, with an effort to raise real estate taxes during a housing shortage when there are over 8,000 homeless people on the streets of San Francisco according to the official count (which is probably an underestimate) by double that amount. This would be Prop. I, which the Controller's statement estimates would add an average $196 million a year to the cost of housing and commercial real estate. A pair of small business owners writing in the Voter Information Pamphlet note that the measure doesn't just apply to the sale of property, but also to small business and storefront leases – in other words, a hit on some of the same businesses that some of the same Supervisors supporting this proposition claim that they are trying to help with Prop. F. "At a time when many [mom and pop businesses] are desperately trying to sell, break, or renegotiate their leases, this tax will increase their rents and threaten their safety nets when they can least afford it," write small business owners Gwen Kaplan and Rodney Fong.
Proposition J – NO. What would an election be without some kind of appeal to rob people "for the children"? Enter Prop. J, a regressive $48 million annual parcel tax increase that would hit every property owner (small or large) in the city not given a special exemption with an extra $320 on their property tax bill, to flow into the coffers of the SF Unified School District. Close behind appeals to commit robbery for the children are arguments to do it for the teachers, and this measure promises "raising the salaries of teachers" – oh, and unspecified "other School District employees" (read: members of bloated administrative non-teaching staff). The SFUSD would also have the "sole discretion as to allocation of the proceeds" among these and other assorted purposes – meaning they could if they chose spend 90% of the money on more administrative bureaucracy.
Proposition K – NO. The LPSF won the "lottery" process to be selected as the official opponent on this one, and its supporters – again a laundry list of local political power players including every member of the Board of Supervisors – decided to try to sell it as an anti-racism measure, touting the fact that it would override the California Constitution's Article 34, a 1950 ban on government development of housing for low income persons unless first authorized by a public vote. "Prop. K is a step towards removing this racist legacy", they write. In reality Article 34 says nothing about race, and does not stop low cost housing from being built by independent builders. It simply prevents government officials from using taxpayer money to subsidize such housing against the will of the public. The irony is that supporters of Prop. K are making arguments suggesting that they want to engage in racism by handing out housing on a preferential basis to people of certain racial backgrounds. Rather than attempting to get into the housing construction business, an endeavor that won't end well, the mayor and Board of Supervisors should cut the red tape and expensive bureaucratic requirements that prevent more affordable housing getting built by independent builders. Legalize tiny homes and ADUs (accessory dwelling units, also called "granny units"), for example. And make more legal free parking places for people living in RVs and vans. Those options won't be ideal housing for everyone, but they work for many people and are better than sleeping on the street, as thousands of San Franciscans do now.
Proposition L – NO. This is an effort to pressure businesses to pay their top executives less, or other workers more, when those executives receive more than 100 times the median pay of their workers, by stealing more money from such companies in the form of a higher gross receipts or payroll tax. Unfortunately, robbing a company as a whole won't necessarily come at the expense of its overpaid executives, but could easily instead negatively impact other workers who may see lower compensation or be more likely to lose their jobs (or not get hired in the first place), as well as at the expense of members of the public who could face higher prices for the company's products. It could also cause some businesses to stop doing business in San Francisco, costing local jobs and reducing the choices available to residents. Executive overpay is a legitimate concern when driven by factors other than simple market-based compensation based on relative demand for different types of labor and skills, but a better way to address the issue is through corporate governance reforms to make management more accountable to shareholders. Not by simply feeding a State which is even more bloated than the biggest independent companies and whose own top employees are already overpaid at the public's expense.<!--break-->