LPSF Ballot Recommendations – Nov. 8, 2022 Election
PROP. A (Retiree COLA Adjustment) – NO
Proposition A is about taking more money from the public to give to former and current government employees. Naturally the whole local political establishment is in favor of it. The San Francisco Chronicle, which also supports it, says that 70% of those who would benefit from cost-of-living adjustments (former city employees who retired before 1996) are getting pensions of less than $50,000 a year (https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Endorsement-Prop-A-retire-17444963.php). But pensions are not full-time working salaries, nor should they be; they do not include Social Security or other income that retirees often have. Especially when employees retire early, as was presumably the case for many of those who would benefit from Prop. A, since they are still alive and drawing pay over 26 years later, it is unreasonable to expect taxpayers to pay them as much every year for the rest of their lives as they made when they were actually working as public servants. More troublingly, the measure would remove current caps on pay and benefits for persons hired as executive directors after January 1, 2023. Controller Ben Rosenfield estimates that if Prop. A passes, it will cost taxpayers approximately $8 million annually for the next ten years. We find it hard to believe that many former city government employees are as hard up financially as many of the people living in San Francisco (including the homeless, unemployed, other seniors on fixed incomes, etc.) who are taxed to pay for “our” bloated local bureaucracy. But if some former city government employees are truly suffering in poverty, we think it would be more appropriate to pass legislation increasing their share at the expense of some of the overpaid individuals who are or were holding top city jobs, such as former police chief Heather Fong who took home a $264,000 a year pension after she retired in 2009.
PROP. B (Public Works Reconfiguring) – YES
It feels good to say “We told you so.” In 2020, following a high-profile corruption scandal involving Department of Public Works head (and former boyfriend of mayor London Breed) Mohammed Nuru taking bribes, voters were presented with (and passed) another Proposition B. It was a charter amendment that took control of street cleaning and maintenance away from the DPW (as if only that agency, and not the whole culture of city government, was the problem) and turning it over to a newly created Department of Sanitation and Streets. The LPSF opposed the 2020 legislation as an unnecessary addition of yet another city department, and now, just two years later, the powers that be have also belatedly realized that it was a half-baked plan. This year’s measure – also on the ballot as Proposition B, and supported by three of the same supervisors who gave us the ill-advised 2020 proposition of the same letter! – will eliminate the newly-created department and transfer its duties back to DPW. Needless to say, we’re happy at the prospect that (for once!) a new branch of the bureaucracy may go away relatively quickly. “Simply hiring more bureaucrats accomplishes nothing but wasting money and ultimately requiring higher taxes,” write supervisors Peskin, Preston, Ronen, along with four new co-sponsors. Truer words are rarely spoken at City Hall! Now if only they would remember that sentence and take it to heart...
PROP. C (Homeless Oversight Commission) – NO
Proposition C sounds good in theory – more oversight and auditing of city government spending on programs and services supposedly helping the homeless. This spending, spread out across the Department of Homelessness and Supporting Housing, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Public Works, and various other government bodies, clearly needs oversight. According to the mayor herself, we (meaning they, the people who run San Francisco’s municipal government) are spending $1 billion a year to address homelessness. But what are officials like the Mayor and Board of Supervisors there for if not to exercise this kind of due diligence? The Controller should already be auditing city government spending, and the politicians cutting waste and redundancy accordingly. None of this requires creating yet another redundant body, the Homelessness Oversight Commission, as this measure would do. Prop. C would also, according to the ballot statement by Controller Ben Rosenfield, increase government spending by around $350,000 a year in salaries and operating costs. Ironically, this proposition is nevertheless supported by the entire Board of Supervisors – including the same seven who correctly observed (in support of Prop. B) that “Simply hiring more bureaucrats accomplishes nothing but wasting money and ultimately requiring higher taxes.”
PROP. D (Affordable Housing) – YES
As is often the case with ballot measures, Proposition D is one of a pair of competing proposals on the same topic that voters are being asked to decide on this election. In this case, Prop. D is the real reform measure. It would, at least to some minor extent, ease regulations and make it easier to build housing in San Francisco. It has the support of YIMBY and pro-building groups like the Housing Action Coalition and GrowSF, and was put on the ballot by citizen initiative. Opponents write in one of their ballot arguments that Prop. D will make it “more difficult for residents to be a part of the decision-making process on how their communities change and grow”, which is code for saying that NIMBY neighbors will have less ability to throw monkeywrenches into projects by delaying them with endless public hearings and study requirements. That’s a good thing!
PROP. E (Poison Pill Anti-Housing Measure) – NO
Proposition E was put on the ballot by seven members of the Board of Supervisors in an effort to stop Prop. D. (Whichever of the two measures receives fewer votes would have no legal effect, even if it passes.) As opponents argue, Prop. E “allows the Board to continue to kill housing by holding up projects they don’t like,” and “is filled with poison pill provisions that will prevent new housing construction.” Allowing more infill housing to be built in urban areas like San Francisco isn’t important just for addressing homelessness and upholding property rights, but also for the environment. As the Greenbelt Alliance and Urban Environmentalist groups write in opposing Prop. E, “Recent studies have shown that stopping new housing in cities like San Francisco is one of the most environmentally destructive things a city like ours can do”, because it pushes more people out to the suburbs, leading to more open space paved over and people having to drive longer commutes.
PROP. F (Library Preservation Fund) – NO
Who doesn’t like a good library? Libraries are among the favorite government handouts of people who dislike many other forms of government welfare. But there is no reason they should be operated at taxpayer expense, as one libertarian library fan explains here – https://steemit.com/libertarian/@amthomasiv/a-libertarians-view-on-publi.... The first ones in America weren’t. Perhaps the earliest public library was started by a private group that included Ben Franklin. Later, business leader Andrew Carnegie, once the richest man in the world, donated a good part of his fortune to establishing hundreds of libraries across the country. At a time when books were scarce and many more people lacked the money to buy them, libraries filled a vital gap. Today, virtually everyone has a world of learning at their fingertips in the form of the Internet, and government libraries have expanded their role from repositories of books to become more like community centers where you can take classes, use computers, borrow music and movies, and more. People tend to think of librarians as the good guys, and certainly some are, but that’s not always so. The San Francisco public library has repeatedly attempted to get authorization to spy on the library-using public by putting RFID chips in their books and other materials (see https://sfrichmondreview.com/2018/06/01/commentary-peter-warfield/). So what’s this all got to do with Prop. F? Simply that it is a measure which would freeze in millions of dollars of local library funding, at the involuntary expense of taxpayers, for the next quarter century. So if this isn’t a time to discuss and think about the fundamental nature of public libraries in San Francisco, when is? Right now, local government-owned libraries are coercively funded to the tune of about $83 million annually from property taxes (paid by renters in the form of higher rents as well as by property owners), plus a “baseline” payment from City Hall of about $113 million a year, for a total yearly budget of around $196 million, according to the controller’s statement on Prop. F, which would basically continue similar payments, subject to adjustments, for the next 25 years. Dividing that $196 million figure by the number of SF residents (around 842,754 at the start of 2022, according to the Census Bureau), we arrive at a total cost of $232.57 per person per year. Did you receive $232 worth of benefit from government libraries over the past year? Are there perhaps other things toward which you might put $232 to better use in the coming year, some of them even educational? Housing, health care, travel, college courses, a faster Internet connection? We don’t want to decide for you, we just believe as Libertarians that it should be your choice. In the absence of government libraries, the voluntary sector would likely provide similar services for those wishing to pay for them directly. Meanwhile, everyone else would have more resources to allocate to other cherished priorities. Please think twice before voting to lock the next generation into a coercive arrangement of paying for services they may not want, need, or use.
PROP. G (SFUSD Grants) – NO
For anyone worried that without government funding of local libraries (Prop. F) we’d all be as dumb and uncultured as bricks, there would still be the San Francisco Unified School District, which gets around five times as much stolen tax money. According to the budget information on the SFUSD’s website (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1W0OkykyISk9wYf6o5lCKf6VypYaALumy/view), the district had a budget last year of $1,170,608,638, of which (according to the controller’s statement on Prop. G) around $101 million came from the city government. (Prop. G would augment this amount by an additional $11 million to $60 million a year from the city government.) With these funds, the SFUSD is tasked with educating approximately 50,000 students (enrollment last October stood at 50,566 according to the info at https://www.sfusd.edu/about-sfusd/facts-about-sfusd-glance). Like City College (see comments on Prop. O), the city government’s badly mismanaged K-12 schools have been shedding students, resulting in the recall of three school board members by fed-up voters earlier this year. Anyway, let’s do the same basic exercise we did with the SF Public Library system. Dividing the SFUSD’s $1.17 billion annual budget by 50,566 students gives us a dollar amount of $23,150 per student per year. Now imagine that for every school-age child or teen in your household, you had over $23,000 a year to spend on their education. You could just about afford to send them to one of the city’s best independent (“private”) schools, among which tuition averages $25,034 a year, according to PrivateSchoolReview.com (https://www.privateschoolreview.com/california/san-francisco), even without the help of any scholarships or financial assistance with tuition, which are often available. Independent schools in San Francisco already educate over half as many San Francisco students (26,437 according to the website) as the city’s government schools, and a growing number of families choose this option. And that’s not even counting those who choose to homeschool their scholars. Given that independently schooled and homeschooled kids routinely outperform government-schooled kids on measures of academic achievement (see e.g. ), wouldn’t it make more sense to take the extra $11 million to $60 million a year that Prop. G would lavish on the deficit-ridden SFUSD, and instead give it directly to families to allocate as they choose?
PROP. H (Even Year Elections) – NO
Proposition H would require the San Francisco city government to hold elections only in even-numbered years. Seven members of the Board of Supervisors put this measure on the ballot not for any inherent need for it – four members opposed the unnecessary legislation – but because they expect it to benefit them politically. Presidential elections, which are always held in even-numbered years, typically draw higher turnout, including by many people who otherwise pay relatively little attention to politics. Some politicians think that they and the measures they support are more likely to win voter approval when there are more low-information voters going to the polls. This effect could be compounded by the fact that local issues and campaigns would tend to get drowned out in the media and public consciousness by the amount of coverage and attention devoted to national politics in the days and months leading up to an election. In shifting elections to even-numbered years, Prop. H would also extend the time in office of various incumbents by a year beyond the terms to which they were elected. We hope voters reject this cynical and self-serving bid by the local political establishment.
PROP. I (JFK Drive & Great Highway) – YES
Disputes over how public streets are used isn’t a top libertarian issue. Unlike government regulations on the use of private property, there is no direct aggression involved in voters deciding how to use the commons. Local government will continue to monopolize San Francisco streets no matter how residents vote on propositions I and J, the two competing measures over when, if ever, to allow automobile traffic on the Great Highway by Ocean Beach, and John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park. Whether one prefers the convenience of being able to get from point A to point B more rapidly and the aesthetic pleasures of a scenic drive, or the safety enhancement and aesthetic pleasures of pedestrian malls free of motor vehicles, is a subjective matter. Yet there is a disturbing pattern of local officials trying to impose more and more restrictions on and impediments to driving in the city that echoes many other areas of public policy in which government attempts to control our lives by imposing controls on activities that don’t involve aggression. In general, we would rather see people share the commons in a manner determined by community norms rather than State decrees, with individuals who cause accidents held responsible for them, than the system of preemptive laws, fines, and punishments that exists now. Given that the traffic lanes in question are surrounded by more attractive options for pedestrians and cyclists – the beach, the park, and bicycle lanes – and would appear to get little foot traffic on weekdays, taking away the means for people to directly access these areas via autos seems unnecessary.
PROP. J (JFK Drive) – NO
Proposition J would make permanent the Board of Supervisors’ closure of portions of John F. Kennedy Drive and certain other connector streets in Golden Gate Park. Aside from the reasons mentioned in our reasons for supporting its opposing measure Prop. I, one of the things we don’t like about Prop. J is that it doesn’t uniformly ban motor vehicle traffic. While it would close JFK Drive and certain “other street segments” to private vehicles, various government motor vehicles would be exempted. That doesn’t sound like equal protection under the law. Another dubious point is that it would create additional one-way streets. One-way streets are confusing to many drivers (in some cases leading to citations that gouge family and individual budgets), often cause unnecessary extra emissions as motorists seeking to go counter to the allowed direction of traffic have to drive further to avoid them, and contribute to speeding.
PROP. K, a bungled attempt to tax Amazon.com, was removed from the ballot after a judge allowed backers to pull the measure when they discovered it might not do what they wanted it to do (see https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/S-F-activists-wanted-to-tax-Amazo...).
PROP. L (Transportation Sales Tax) – NO
All coercive taxation is theft and a form of slavery, but not every type of tax operates in the same way. Some taxes are more readily avoidable, because they apply to only certain types of actions or property and don’t affect most people, whereas others are essentially impossible to avoid if you want to lead anything like a normal or typical existence in society. Those in power, at one time and another, have levied taxes on almost every aspect of human existence. Given their range of options, it must seem somewhat strange to anyone who believes that the Democratic Party represents the interests of the financially poorer members of society, that Democrats keep proposing sales taxes. It’s well understood that sales taxes are a form of taxation which falls hardest on the poor. It’s not a taking that affects only the wealthy, only people who engage in certain clearly optional activities, or only people who own certain categories of assets – everybody buys stuff. Yet once again the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors – all Dems – unanimously voted to fund their transportation priorities by making everyone pay more whenever they buy products ranging from clothing to phone chargers to over-the-counter medication.
PROP. M (Residential Vacancy Tax) – NO
Proposition M would open a new front in local government’s war on economic freedom by imposing, for the first time in San Francisco, a tax on vacant residential units. Proponents naturally justify the measure by citing the “housing crisis” – ignoring that the shortage of affordable places to live was caused by anti-housing policies. Adding yet another tax will of course serve as a further disincentive to creating more residential housing in the city. Because it will be difficult and somewhat subjective to tell when a unit is “vacant”, Prop. M is an invitation to selective enforcement and the kind of corruption that inevitably comes with it. As opponents note, it will also turn neighbors into snitches monitoring each other’s whereabouts. They also point out that “any condo owner in a building with 3+ units will be subject to punitive fines should your home have to be unoccupied for 183+ days a year for any reason – if you are hospitalized, traveling for work, staying with your partner, or caring for family members”. As with Prop. J’s exemption of government vehicles from the proposed ban of motor vehicles on certain streets, Prop. M contains a blatant double standard. The legal text of the measure explicitly states that, “The City, the State of California, and any county, municipal corporation, district, or other political subdivision of the State shall be exempt from the Empty Homes Tax, except where any constitutional or statutory immunity from taxation is waived or is not applicable.” It’s likely that no one even knows how much government-owned property that could be used for housing exists in San Francisco. The 2012-2013 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury cited a Budget and Legislative Analyst’s report which found that “The City lacks centralized oversight and controls over its properties.” This notwithstanding the Surplus City Property Ordinance of 2002, which requires that “all departments and agencies provide an inventory of properties under their jurisdiction to the Director of Property and the City Administrator and identify properties they declare surplus or underutilized.” The Civil Grand Jury’s report (online at https://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org/2012_2013/Optimizing_Use_of_Publicly-Owned_Real_Estate_5-29-13-3.pdf) stated that “the citizens of San Francisco deserve more transparency with respect to publicly-owned real estate,” and we agree. City Hall should audit its own empty property before trying to police and tax that belonging to other people.
PROP. N (Golden Gate Parking to Rec & Park) – NO
Proposition N would have the Recreation and Park Commisson (which overseas the Recreation and Parks Department including Golden Gate Park generally) take over management of the parking garage under the park’s Music Concourse from the non-profit group that currently runs it (the privately-constructed garage was built on public land without the use of taxpayer funds). Reading between the lines of Prop. N, it appears that the goal of backers is to enable the city government to raise overall parking rates in the garage while extending special discounts to members of politically favored groups including seniors, the disabled, and people from “low income households” and “equity priority neighborhoods”. It was put on the ballot by mayor London Breed, who appoints members of the Recreation and Parks Commission that would gain control of the garage under the measure. Most crucially bad, Prop. N would allow taxpayer money to be spent on the facility, which it apparently cannot be under current rules.
PROP. O (City College Parcel Tax) – NO
Possibly the least excusable measure on this year’s local ballot, Proposition O would (according to city Controller Ben Rosenfield) “increase the cost of government by approximately $6 million on a one-time basis and $3 million on an ongoing, annual basis.” All this to bail out an institution, City College of San Francisco, which has been poorly run and shedding students, from its own financial mismanagement. As opponents (including even progressive Supervisor Aaron Peskin!) note, “In the past 20 years, we’ve approved nearly $1.3 billion in bonds for the school’s facilities and allocated money from the City’s General Fund to make City College classes tuition free. In the past eight years, City College has had NINE chancellors, a never-ending series of budget nightmares, and came very close to losing its accreditation. This is the third parcel tax proposed for City College in the past 10 years. The one we’re currently paying doesn’t expire until 2032!” The two Community College Board candidates that the LPSF is supporting, Jill Yee and Marie Hurabiell, wrote an excellent op-ed piece opposing Prop. O that goes into more detail. You can check it out at https://www.marinatimes.com/vote-no-on-measure-o.
The Libertarian Party of California’s bylaws prohibit the LPSF from formally endorsing non-Libertarian candidates, but at the local level we have traditionally recommended votes for some non-Libertarians when there is no Libertarian candidate in a race and one or more of the contenders seem significantly better (or worse) than their rivals. Even this is controversial however, and this year we found only three candidates we deemed worthy of a recommendation.
Community College Board – Jill Yee and Marie Hurabiell
In our comments on Prop. O, the City College parcel tax, we mentioned the terrific op-ed piece that these two candidates wrote against the measure, and believe they are good choices for those who want to limit the damage that City College does to San Franciscans’ pocketbooks. Jill Yee came and spoke at our October meeting, and she impressed us as a voice for fiscal responsibility who also happens to have a very long City College resumé and is on paper perhaps the most conventionally qualified candidate for the office. After attending CCSF as a student whose immigrant parents believed in the importance of education, she later returned to teach as a professor at the school for 25 years, as well as chairing its Behavioral Sciences Department. Hurabiell, who Yee endorses, pulls no punches in her candidate statement, accusing “unqualified” incumbents of having “rubber-stamped years of malfunction” and “bowing to insider interests”. Her background includes work in voluntary sector educational institutions.
District Attorney – John Hamasaki
One of four candidates seeking the office of DA, John Hamasaki is a criminal defense attorney who has a history of standing up for police accountability as a member of the Police Commission. Brooke Jenkins, the incumbent district attorney appointed by mayor London Breed after the former DA supported by the LPSF, Chesa Boudin, was recalled in June has been terrible on the issue of holding the government’s armed law enforcers accountable. Breed was initially suppportive of police reform in the wake of the George Floyd protests in 2020, but since then has essentially caved in the face of pressures coming from the opposite direction, and her choice for DA reflects this unfortunate shift. Jenkins wasted no time in undoing many of the criminal justice reforms the DA’s office had been building, firing all the attorneys in the office who had worked on cases involving the prosecution of misbehaving police officers, and ramping up the “War on Drugs” again by making a point of touting efforts to prosecute drug sales. Yet for all her “tough on crime” posturing, and the end of a presumed though unacknowledged “work stoppage” by members of the SFPD during Boudin’s tenure who were unhappy with his reform agenda, crime, the former DA noted in October that the SFPD reported higher rates of both violent crime and property crime over the same period the previous year (see https://twitter.com/chesaboudin/status/1577317131858808832). The U.S. has one of the world’s highest incarceration rates, and just locking up more people at taxpayer expense – reportedly $ per prisoner per year in California – as much as some loud voices in the community seem to be clamoring for this, is clearly not the answer, especially in the case of victimless “crimes” which should not be illegal to begin with. The SF district attorney’s office under Boudin was moving toward more of a restorative justice approach focused on making victims whole, which is more in line with the restitution approach advocated in the Libertarian Party’s platform (https://www.lp.org/platform). Hamasaki has worked with crime victims and was himself a victim of violence, and if elected is expected to continue the work of building alternatives to incarceration.
* * *
In the Board of Education contest, while we did not explicitly take a position on any of the candidates, the LPSF did support the successful February 2022 recall of three prior school board members including Gabriela Lopez, who is now seeking to win back a seat on the board.
In several previous races the LPSF has recommended voting for John Dennis, a Ron Paul supporter who is running again this year as a Republican against congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. However he seems to have become more conventionally conservative and moved away from libertarianism on issues like immigration and policing, and there were no calls to support him this cycle. (This is certainly not intending to say anything positive about Pelosi, a statist politician who has refused to debate her opponents since she was first elected to Congress way back in the 1980s!)
* * *