The Libertarian Party of San Francisco holds its business meeting on the second Saturday of every month. The next meeting will be on Saturday, March 8, 2014, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, San Francisco Main Library, 4th Floor Conference Room. Click Meetings on the Main Menu to read the meeting agenda. After the business meeting, those who can, go out to dinner at a nearby restaurant. All are welcome to attend the business meeting and/or the after-meeting social.
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
The Housing Crisis and the City’s Miracle Workers:
We at LPSF have written and spoken ad infinitum about how San Francisco politicians are committed to performing the miracle of attracting folks with money that will pay high property taxes and astronomical business fees, while keeping the lower-income population in place. This is not an easy feat, since any rational human being would rather rent or sell at market rates to a newly arrived higher-income worker than keep a middle class family in a rent controlled space. It appears that the easiest path to accomplishing this feat is to encourage frequent use of a catchphrase, housing crisis, as if this economic event were the result of evil capitalism that just appeared, unwanted, on the scene, and then follow up with proposals on the November ballot to “strengthen renter protections.” One such proposal will be to encourage state legislators to place restrictions on the Ellis Act, since landlords of unprofitable rent-controlled housing are predictably evicting tenants in order to seek newly emerged opportunities. Perhaps Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors are counting on the newly arrived better paid workers to scoop up any formerly rent-controlled buildings abandoned by landlords who find themselves prohibited from making the most out of their investment? Of, course, if that is the case, we must ask how this scenario helps the lower-income families at all.
Income Inequality and Pretending to Fix it
When there is a rapid change in technology – say, automobiles replacing horse-drawn carriages – those who do not adapt to the new realities are left economically behind. The more disincentives there are to adaptation, such as long-term unemployment benefits, “job training” for activities that are one generation behind, and rental controls that render lower-income individuals fearful of moving in search of better economic opportunities, the more income inequality there will be. The progressive solution is to raise the minimum wage, which will affect a relatively small number of workers and will not affect those without a job at all. Mayor Lee and the Board of Supervisors are expected to predictably place such a minimum wage proposal on the November ballot. Their argument is that one can’t live in San Francisco on the current minimum wage. Indeed, one cannot.
Expect our Equally Predictable Response in November
The way we see it, politicians will buy votes in exchange for the illusion of safety. The subject of this post is the illusion of safety from displacement. When economic conditions change structurally and drastically, the only way safety from displacement can be guaranteed is to render individuals who do not adapt to the new conditions dependent on public assistance. Libertarians do not see that situation as real and meaningful safety. We would prefer that City government were honest about the consequences of giving tax and regulatory incentives to picked and chosen industries.
Regionalism is growing like crabgrass. It quietly removes ballot-box control by citizens. It makes it impossible for citizens to correct abuse, greed, or plain stupidity by recalling those in charge. Yet, when we ask folks whether they are aware of growing regionalism, their response is usually either “No” or “What’s regionalism?” These responses are completely understandable, since regionalism is sold to the public as innovative ideas that will benefit us all, while the downsides are not part of the conversation.
In an effort to bring more awareness to regionalism’s downsides, we offer this article, based mostly on the work of Trish Cypher, a Bay Area activist and author of several research publications on government structures:
Background: Regional “governments” – better described as regional “governance” - are created by forming joint powers agreements among jurisdictions such as cities and counties. The concept of joint powers between jurisdictions has existed since the 1920’s, and has produced beneficial results such as fire management, water management, and bridge construction. However, the vast expansion of these powers, especially in California, has produced downsides that should be of concern to all of us.
Downside #1: Once formed, regional governance is immune from voters’ powers of recall, petition, initiative, or referendum. Nothing can be done if voters detect lack of representation, illegal actions, or bad decisions.
Downside #2: Taxation without representation was the battle cry of this Republic. Yet regional governance has the authority to tax without any input from voters or any say at the ballot box. Cities need to go to voters for any increase in financing; regional governance does not. Thanks to incremental financing preset in regional governance, increased tax revenues derived from increased property values are automatically sucked up. Regional governance can sell bonds at will, without voter approval.