ISF November 2019 Voter Guide
Indivisible SF’s November 2019 Voter Guide covers the six City propositions on the November 5th ballot. These propositions cover funding for affordable and teacher housing, new taxes on ride-hail companies, campaign finance disclosures, regulation of vaping products, and more. Official text, summaries and the Controller’s opinion for all propositions are available on the Department of Elections website.
Key dates in this election:
October 7: Permanent vote-by-mail ballots mailed.
October 7: Early voting at City Hall begins
October 29: Last day to register to vote by mail
November 5: Election Day (find your polling place)
Measures can be placed on the ballot in three ways
By a vote by the Board of Supervisors or another agency, such as the Board of Education or Community College Board
Submitted by the Mayor or four Supervisors
By the initiative process with a sufficient number of voter signatures
Six measures qualified for the San Francisco ballot in November 2019. All but one were placed on the ballot by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. They cover affordable and teacher housing, new taxes on ride-hail companies and campaign finance disclosures. There was quite a bit of negotiation between the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors on these measures, and even more discussion and back-room dealing about measures that have been either shelved permanently or tabled for the March 2020 ballot.
Sadly, the politically driven compromises between the Mayor and Board of Supervisors resulted in generally weak ballot measures. We would like to see more funding for affordable housing, especially for families making only 50–80% of area median income; higher taxes on ride-hail companies; and greater disclosure of who is paying for political campaigns.
Juul Labs, the maker of vaping products, used paid signature gatherers to put the sixth on the ballot. We have more to say about the corporate use of ballot initiatives below.
Indivisible SF has endorsed the following votes on each ballot proposition.
YES on Proposition A: Affordable Housing Bond
A general obligation bond to raise $600M for construction, purchase, and preservation of new and existing affordable housing for extremely low-income, low-income and middle-income families. Funds will also provide down-payment assistance and pay for educator housing authorized by Prop E (see below). Requires ⅔ majority to pass.
The twin crises of housing affordability and homelessness in San Francisco are worsening every year and the failure of previous administrations to adequately address the issue has left us with an enormous deficit in housing for any but the very rich. This bond measure will not solve those crises, but will help.
We support an increase in property tax to provide funds for affordable housing but oppose the ability of landlords to pass through the tax increase to tenants, the very people that the ordinance is supposed to help. We could support allowing pass through for homeowners who rent out a bedroom or accessory dwelling unit, but not for giant commercial landlords like Veritas. Landlords can deduct property taxes as a business expense, but tenants cannot deduct their rent.
YES on Proposition B: Disability & Aging Services
Renames the Department of Aging and Adult Services to Department of Disability and Aging Services and renames the Aging and Adult Services Commission to Disability and Aging Services Commission. Requires that the commission include members who are senior, disabled or a veteran.
The Aging and Adult Services Commission provides independent oversight of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services, which provides services and support to seniors and people with disabilities. A 2018 needs assessment identified the name of the department as a barrier to people with disabilities who seek those services. Changing the name may mitigate that barrier.
NO on Proposition C: Corporate Regulation of Vaping Products
Overturns the City’s ban on the sale of vaping products and may also overturn the ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Prevents the Board of Supervisors and Mayor from making any reasonable amendments to adapt to future federal or state legislation to regulate e-cigarettes
As of September 1, 2019, Juul has spent over $4.5 million on the campaign to get this measure on the ballot and to pass the measure. Although there can be much discussion about whether San Francisco should ban the sale of e-cigarettes, we are gravely concerned that a for-profit corporate entity, especially one backed by Big Tobacco, should use the ballot initiative process to overturn legislation passed by our elected representatives.
YES on Proposition D: Traffic Congestion Mitigation Tax
Raises $30M to $35M each year to improve train and bus service and for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, including protected bike lanes by taxing Uber and Lyft rides that originate in the City.
By their own admission, Uber and Lyft contribute to the increase in congestion in San Francisco. There is also some evidence that ride-hailing services have contributed to the decline of ridership on public transit.
Uber and Lyft lose billions each year and probably will not absorb the tax, but will pass on the tax to riders. The tax is small enough (less than 50¢ on a $15 ride) that it is unlikely to affect demand for ride-hailing services and reduce congestion.
Previous city governments abdicated responsibility to control Uber and Lyft to the state public utilities commission and it is extremely difficult for the Board of Supervisors to directly control the number of ride-hail drivers in the City. This ballot measure required a state bill and negotiation with Uber and Lyft so that they will not oppose it in November.
Even so, this tax will provide limited funds to help with MUNI’s huge backlog of maintenance and upgrades and with pedestrian and bicycle safety.
YES on Proposition E: Affordable Housing & Educator Housing
Will make it easier and faster to build projects that are either 100% affordable or designated for families in which at least one member is an employee of a San Francisco school or community college (“Educator Housing”).
Affordable housing is scarce in San Francisco and the lack of available housing for families with very low incomes exacerbates the homlessness crisis in the city.
Although many San Franciscans struggle with the cost of living, the problem is especially acute for educators who may earn too much to qualify for affordable housing but cannot afford market rate rents.
YES on Proposition F: Campaign Contributions & Campaign Advertisements
Expands the prohibition on corporate contributions to candidate campaigns, expands disclosure requirements on advertising by independent expenditure committees and increases reporting requirements of independent expenditure committees, and more.
Although all contributions to campaign committees and independent expenditure committees are publicly available on sfethics.org, reporting is not available in real time and navigating the reports is not straightforward. Wealthy donors to independent expenditure committees can easily obfuscate their intentions by contributing to Committee X that then contributes to Committee Y. We strongly support expansion of limits on corporate donations to candidate committees and disclosures of contributions to independent expenditure committees. Even though this ballot initiative does not require the complete and real-time transparency that we would like, it is better than nothing.
How did we create this voter guide?
A questionnaire was sent to our members, asking them to vote on each ballot measure: “Yes”, “No” or “No Position”. Each ballot measure had to get a majority of votes to get either a “Yes” or “No” or “No Position” recommendation. If a proposition received only a plurality of votes for all choices, we gave the proposition “No Consensus”.