Both Sides Now

Written by: 
Aubrey Freedman

With the June election just around the corner, expect to see the LPSF’s arguments all over the Voters Handbook that will be mailed out next month. There are 10 local propositions on the ballot for San Francisco County, and we covered most of the major ones either as the official opponent or in our paid arguments. Here’s a short synopsis of our arguments that you won’t hear about in the local media.

Prop A—Public Utilities Revenue Bonds. This measure would give the SFPUC the authority to issue revenue bonds for power facilities, in addition to the authority they currently have to issue revenue bonds for water delivery and sewers. The politicians definitely want PG&E out of The City, and Prop A gives them the power to incur debt without voter approval to force all residents to get all our power needs from The City and no one else. We are no fans of PG&E—and we say so in our argument—but will a government-owned and run monopoly serve residents any better? We also questioned the wisdom of the SFPUC’s current practice of mixing groundwater in with our drinking water, despite the current campaign to “educate” the public with paid consultants regarding safety and the necessity of rate increases. Lastly, we had something to say about the ongoing “slamming” of all San Francisco residents into the CleanPowerSF program—how tacky can they get?! We recommend a NO vote on A.

Prop C—Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Child Care & Education. Heavens to Betsy 

—it’s another “crisis” in San Francisco! The City that spends more money per resident than any other city in the country except Washington D.C. is facing one “crisis” after another. This time it’s an “early education crisis.” It is true that child care is outrageously expensive in The City, but why is that so? Could it be all the regulations that make it so expensive and burdensome to open a child care center? Could there be other reasons for families choosing to move to the suburbs like better schools, lower housing costs, larger living spaces, and less traffic and parking woes for which “universal child care” won’t make a bit of difference? Prop C will tax commercial businesses that rent out spaces to other commercial businesses. Are the politicians so silly to think the additional costs of the tax won’t be passed on to the businesses leasing out the spaces and they won’t increase their prices to their customers? Is there no relationship between higher taxes and higher living costs? The politicians prefer to ignore reality and just tax “commercial landlords” hoping for “free” money to dispense. However, they’re not completely in the dark since Prop C exempts commercial landlords that rent space to small businesses, government tenants (we love this one), and nonprofits from the higher gross receipts tax, so they’re admitting that costs do matter. We would have liked to mention in our argument why is government funding any child care at all—let alone more—since it’s the job of parents to provide for their children (which includes all education, not just early education), not the taxpayers and those who choose not to have children, but this is a leftist city and “children” are a sacred cow, so we contained ourselves. Prop C will do nothing to lower child care costs—in fact, with more government funding, it probably will drive prices up—but it will make more parents dependent on the politicians to “help” them. We recommend a very strong NO vote.

Prop E—Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products. This measure is a referendum on the ban on flavored menthol cigarettes, hookah tobacco products, and E-cigarettes. Shamefully every member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban the sales of all of these products in San Francisco. This is not even an issue of protecting “the children” because the banners already banned the sale of all tobacco products to anyone under 21 (in San Francisco and statewide too), so the ban is truly about treating adults as children since our leaders know what’s best for us all. Even more shameful is banning E-cigarettes since they are supposed to help people kick the smoking habit, but the banners don’t approve of any smoking at all. Of course, none of these bans do any good as prohibition never works and folks will continue to get the products they want—either through online purchases, purchasing them in nearby cities, or the reliable good ol’ black market. We advise a strong NO vote on E to send a message to the Board of Supervisors to end their busybodyism and let us make our own decisions for ourselves.

Prop G—Parcel Tax for the San Francisco Unified School District. Another parcel tax for “the children”? No, actually this time it’s for the teachers, and the earlier title of the measure was the “Living Wage for Educators Act of 2018,” but they were probably forced to change it to the more honest parcel tax that it is. That’s $298 extra per household—no chump change especially with the recent $99 parcel tax for CCSF, the $12 parcel tax to “Save The Bay,” and the current parcel tax of $244.10 that still has ten years left on it. Considering that about 1/3 of San Franciscans with children choose private schools over “free” government schools, despite the tremendous costs of private schools, it’s going to take a lot more than yet another parcel tax to attract better teachers and improve the outcome at San Francisco’s government schools. It’s no secret that when the school district negotiated their last contract with the teachers’ union when they were threatening another strike, part of the settlement was a salary increase of 11% over the next 3 years, an overall compensation boost of 16%, and that both sides would work together to push for a parcel tax for the June election for an additional 2% salary increase at least. Voila Prop G. I had my own son in a government elementary school here in The City years ago—one of the good ones—and from my own experience, I can tell you that almost all of the teachers were dedicated and hard-working, but there was always the constant worry of all the parents of the teachers going out on strike.

This never happened when my son was in religious school later on, despite the government teachers getting better pay and benefits. The one time there was a big dispute between a husband and wife teaching team and the administration at the religious school—they just quit at the end of the school year and that was that. If the government schools need to offer better compensation, we suggest they cut out the administrative fat and get back to teaching basics like algebra and the Constitution in middle school, rather than burdening property owners even more, despite such a poor record. We recommend a strong NO on Prop G.

Prop H—Use of Tasers by San Francisco Police Officers. While taser use could be preferable to the tragic killing of civilians by police officers that we read about in the news often these days, tasers have their own problems too. Hundreds of people in this country alone have died after being tased by the police. Prop H would specifically let officers tase anyone who is actively resisting, and when “active resistance” is so loosely defined as even “tensing,” this creates a dangerous situation for anyone stopped by the police for any reason. While being a police officer can’t possibly be an easy job, perhaps better training regarding explosive confrontations would serve and protect the public better than more deadly weapons. Because we prefer to see more restraint when government’s ultimate agents of deadly force do their jobs, we recommend a NO vote on H.

There are also 3 other measures that we submitted arguments against for the “free lottery,” but we did not win the lottery for these measures or submit them as paid arguments due to budget constraints.

Prop D—Additional Tax on Commercial Rents Mostly to Fund Housing & Homelessness Services. This is a competing measure to Prop C, and if both measures pass, then the one with the most votes becomes the law. Again, the emphasis is to tax rich “commercial landlords” and exempt small businesses and nonprofits. Again, we point out these taxes will be passed on to the ultimate consumers in the end, as always. The San Francisco Tax Collector is currently enjoying record collections due to San Francisco’s hot real estate market, but still it’s never enough. Increased subsidies will only increase the “need” for more housing subsidies. The City currently spends around $300 million per year on the homeless—and the problem is getting worse, not better. Higher taxes on “landlords” will do nothing to solve either problem, but they do make good sound bites for politicians to claim they are “doing something.” We also recommend a very strong NO vote on this one.

Prop F—City-Funded Legal Representation for Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits. There are already plenty of protections in place in this city where 70% of the residents are renters. In fact, it is already so hard to get a tenant out of one’s private property that many potential housing providers simply forego the potential earnings and leave their properties vacant rather than deal with politicians and bureaucrats who have zero respect for private property. Renting a place to live and providing a place to live—this is a completely voluntary transaction by both parties, and the only proper role of government is to enforce the terms of the agreement signed by both parties. Now, if it were a criminal matter where the government is threatening the loss of one’s liberty, then it’s reasonable for the government to provide a lawyer if the accused has no resources. But renting is a civil, not a criminal matter, so why should the taxpayers have to pay for more lawyers at City Hall? Worse still, a housing provider faced with a problem tenant would be forced through taxation to pay for a lawyer for the tenant in order for the lawyer to deny the housing provider their property rights to their own property. This is ludicrous! This measure is pandering at its worst to appeal to all the renting voters in a renters’ city, so it deserves a very strong NO.

RM3—Regional Measure 3. This is a regional ballot measure that all 9 nine counties of the Bay Area are  

voting on. It will increase the tolls on all Bay Area bridges, except the Golden Gate Bridge, by $3 over the next few years. We railed against this measure in the last newsletter, so there’s not much to add here. Our ballot measure argument emphasized the equity issue of having the less affluent working-class folks who can’t afford to live on the peninsula but have to commute to their jobs on the peninsula who will be paying the lion’s share of the higher tolls so the more financially comfortable can enjoy the (supposedly) better public transportation the tolls will pay for. Talk about wealth redistribution! This measure is clearly a tax, not a fee, since the payers will not enjoy much benefit since the bulk of the tolls (the part that isn’t wasted) is going to mass transit, not the roads. However, the proponents are getting away with calling it a “fee,” which only needs a 50% + 1 vote majority, rather than the 2/3 approval requirement for a “tax.” Our argument also took a few well-deserved pot shots at the MTC for its mishandling of earlier government boondoggles like the Central Subway, the Bay Bridge, the Oakland Airport Connector, and the Transbay Terminal, but it did not win the “free lottery” argument, and there are no paid arguments allowed on regional measures, so you will not see our argument in the Voters Handbook. Nevertheless, we recommend a very strong No on RM3.

As always, we expect the majority of San Francisco voters will probably vote the opposite of what we recommend on the ballot measures, but nevertheless we always make it a point in each election to see that the argument for more limited government is always presented to the voters, not just the statist side. We hope to be pleasantly surprised from time to time! In the last general election in 2016, San Francisco voters amazingly voted down another proposed sales tax increase with a 65% NO vote majority. Hope springs eternal!

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