LPSF Ballot Measure Recommendations
Prop. A (public transit bond) – NO
Anyone familiar with libertarian thinking know we dislike bond measures, and this year’s Prop. A is no exception. They are a form of tax increase, despite politicians’ efforts to disguise this reality by engaging in a fiscal shell game that keeps property taxes at a permanently inflated level rather than allowing them to decrease when previous bond borrowing is paid off. And due to the costs of interest and servicing the bonds, they are an extremely inefficient way to spend, with each dollar borrowed costing as much as twice as much. As former judge and supervisor Quentin Kopp writes, “the sponsor (MTA) ignores the controller’s statement that interest on the 30-year bond will approximate $600 million. That is borne by homeowners who usually pay double the voter-approved debt, thanks to compounding interest.” Renters will also pay, in the form of pass-throughs raising their rent. And as Kopp also notes, a 2008 court decision effectively removed responsibility for the money to be spent as advertised. Even if it were, if just throwing more money at Muni were capable of fixing the chronic problems with the local government transit monopoly, they would have been fixed long ago.
Prop. B (Building Inspection Commission reform) – NO POSITION
This measure purportedly reacting to corruption scandals at the Building Inspection Commission fails to address the fundamental problem, which is that government has too much discretionary power to block or allow development. While reducing the professional qualifications necessary to serve on the commission could marginally diversify the body and reduce its domination by industry insiders, the legal language of the measure is opaque, and it doesn’t appear to do anything significant.
Prop. C (make recall elections harder) – NO
Despite our opposition to Prop. H (see below), recall elections are in general an important tool in the voters’ toolbox for holding politicians accountable. They are another form of term limits, essentially allowing voters to demand an early election. The successful recall of school board members in February would not have occurred if the narrow time window mandated by Prop. C had been in effect.
Prop. D (create new Victim/Witness Rights Office) – NO
Politicians love to come up with new programs and agencies. It gives the appearance that they are doing something new and concrete to bring about positive change. Certainly doing more to protect victim and witness rights sounds good in theory. But why can’t existing agencies like the SFPD and the district attorney’s office that provide victim and witness services simply reform their practices and coordinate their operations to be more helpful to victims and witnesses of crime without expanding the bureaucracy by creating an Office of Victim and Witness Rights as yet another government department? The official Voter Information Pamphlet argument against the measure points out that the planned new office is tasked with producing “an annual survey, an evaluation plan, and a consolidation plan” without “directly improving victim and witness rights” – in other words “a lot of bureaucracy, without a lot of new services.”
Prop. E (further restrict behested payments) – YES
The term “behested payments” may be new to you (it was to some of us), but it refers to an old form of corruption: Politicians and government officials raising – some would say extorting – donations from lobbyists, permit “expediters” or interest groups fearful of saying no lest the money or favors that they rely upon government to provide will be withdrawn if they don’t pony up. Giving directly to government officials at the behest (request) of those officials is mostly prohibited already, but this measure would further make it illegal for members of the Board of Supervisors to seek money from contractors whose contracts they had voted to approve – i.e. closing an obvious loophole that invites corruption. The YIMBY group Grow SF complains that Prop. E “would make it impossible for the city to work with philanthropic organizations” (a frank admission that local government works with these groups in the first place only so that politicos can extort money from them?) While their “impossible” language is an exaggeration, given that philanthropic groups do more good acting on their own than entering into “public private partnerships” with government that often reek of cronyism, making such collaboration more difficult sounds to us like a reason to support Proposition E.
Prop. F (weak garbage collection reform) – NO
Recology (nee Sunset Scavenger) is backing this “reform”, which tells you most of what you need to know about how much of a reform it really is. In the wake of revelations about the company having overcharged San Francisco ratepayers to the tune of almost $95 million, and its employees having been involved with bribing corrupt former Department of Public Works head Mohammed Nuru, both of which Recology admits, it is a measure of the longstanding trash and recycling monopoly’s clout that it is not employees were bribing the corrupt head of the Department of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru (now facing charges).
Prop. G (paid sick leave for air quality) – NO
This one is a business- and job-killer. Employees whose jobs are classified as substantially outdoors would get a new legal privilege to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave a year on days when a government agency says that local air quality is poor. As the economy has struggled to cope with and recover from government Covid lockdowns and restrictions, the public has gained a new appreciation for the complexity and fragility of supply chains, and what the result can be if, say, one baby formula plant unexpectedly shuts down. A mandate like that of Prop. G would throw additional monkey wrenches into those supply chains.
Prop. H (DA Chesa Boudin recall) – NO
While recalls of politicians are more often than not deserved, this case is an exception. The Libertarian Party of San Francisco urges voters to oppose Proposition H, the ballot measure in the Tuesday, June 7 election that would recall SF district attorney Chesa Boudin.
Boudin was narrowly elected (with LPSF support) in 2019 over the candidate appointed by the mayor and backed by the police union. A progressive prosecutor, he is by no means perfect from a pro-freedom perspective. He has, for instance, sought to sue manufacturers of so-called “ghost guns” for crimes committed with those guns, which is as silly as suing manufacturers of ballpoint pens over letters written with those pens.
Nevertheless, he is the only SF district attorney in living memory, if ever, to take criminal justice reform seriously by holding police officers accountable for their misconduct as other individuals would be, pushing to end the discriminatory use of cash bail that often results in defendants who don’t pose a risk to the community sitting behind bars pending trial simply because they cannot afford release; de-prioritizing the prosecution of victimless so-called “crimes” involving things like drugs and prostitution; and seeking to reduce the expensive and failed warehousing of criminals in a system of mass incarceration, in favor of a more victim-centered “restorative justice” approach.
This understanding and approach have made him a committed enemy not only of the SF Police Officers Association – the local monopoly SFPD union that rarely sees a meaningful reform it likes or an abusive cop whose actions it isn’t willing to defend – but of the “law and order” crowd generally. Those who still favor the traditional “lock ‘em up” mentality, including many career prosecutors who undermined the DA’s office by quitting after Boudin’s election rather than embrace a reform agenda, can’t stand that SF’s top prosector has disrupted the office’s previously cozy relationship with the police and adopted a more appropriately neutral stance.
Government police did not even exist in the United States until the 19th century. They were not part of the vision of the constitutional founders, who generally feared standing armies and would have been horrified by many of the laws under which people are routinely incarcerated in this country today. Well-informed Libertarians and fellow freedom lovers understand that law enforcers and prosecutors are the enforcement arm of Big Government. Without the threat of violence and kidnapping, all the other immoral and unconstitutional State regulations and controls on the lives of people who are harming no one would be moot. In an environment with so many unjust and unconstitutional statutes on the books, calls for more police, more prisons, and harsher sentences are profoundly at odds with the libertarian belief in limiting government power and upholding individual rights.
While we empathize with San Franciscans upset about lack of respect for property rights in this city, this is a longstanding problem that has far more to do with anti-business and anti-development policies enacted by establishment Democrats than it does with anything the DA’s office has done. Going after homeless people for “quality of life” infractions has further proven ineffective and burdensome to taxpayers. And as Joe Eskenazi has reported in Mission Local, the SFPD’s clearance rate in making arrests for reported crimes has dropped to its lowest level in decades, making the question of whether police are “engaging in a wildcat strike or simply underperforming” a “difference without a distinction". Indeed SF police have gone so far in trying to undermine Boudin that in a recent successful sting by his office that busted an auto theft rin, his office had to reach out to the Feds for logistical support normally provided by the SFPD. We would be unlikely to support someone with Boudin’s views for mayor or supervisor, but as district attorney he is about the best that San Francisco is realistically going to get, given current political realities.