Local Battle Lines Drawn for June Ballot Measures

by Casey Mills on March 29, 2006

This June, voters will make decisions on four ballot measures, all of which have the potential to become quite contentious. A review of the submitted ballot arguments for each measure reveals an early glimpse at where the battle lines are being drawn and what kind of resources all sides will bring to the table. With violence prevention, eviction disclosure, transportation oversight and Laguna Hospital all being tackled, almost every political player in town has weighed in at least one of the measures. Here’s our breakdown of who’s fighting for what this election season.

First up is Proposition A, which would designate $10 million a year towards violence prevention programs. It would also create a citizen’s oversight body to direct the way the city handles violence prevention, as well as a city department devoted to helping the families of homicide victims.

While Supervisor Chris Daly sponsored the measure, the official proponent argument for Prop. A comes from three mothers of homicide victims and the sister of a homicide victim. A stirring argument, these family members detail the need for more resources towards stopping murders in the city in order to save their families and community.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd weighs in against the measure, in which he notes both Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier also oppose it. Elsbernd’s argument is that the city’s current efforts to stop homicides are not working, so San Francisco should conduct audits of all departments dealing with violence prevention to find out what’s working and what’s not, rather than provide more funding immediately.

The measure will once again pit the Board of Supervisor’s progressive bloc against the Mayor, with Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Sophie Maxwell, Tom Ammiano, Gerardo Sandoval and Aaron Peskin all signing on to support it. In addition, a variety of youth, senior and LGBTQ advocates submitted paid arguments, including Coleman Advocates, Senior Action Network and the Inner City Youth Foundation.

Paid arguments from the opposition come from the usual suspects on the city’s right, including the Chamber of Commerce, Committee on Jobs, Republican Party and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods.

Proposition B would force realtors to notify prospective home buyers if certain classes of protected tenants had been evicted prior to the site being put on the market. If passed, it would turn back a recent mayoral veto of identical legislation.

The Mayor has chosen to remain silent on the issue, and as a result the measure appears to have the weakest opposition of anything on the ballot. Most troubling for anti-Prop. B forces is the official opponent argument coming from Gail E. Neira, a Republican State Assembly Nominee. In her argument, Neira refers to “limousine liberal Democrats” and “handout subsidized Democratic bureaucrats” as causing the shortage of housing for low-income residents. She ends her argument by stating that “nowadays, a liberal Democrat is nothing more than a contemporary rendition of Gestapo.” How that sits with a city known across the country as a Democratic stronghold remains to be seen.

In addition to Neira, the Small Property Owners, Chamber of Commerce, Apartment Association, Committee on Jobs and Association of Realtors also weigh in against Prop. B.

Supporters of Prop. B include Daly, the measure’s sponsor, along with Ammiano, Maxwell, Peskin, Mirkarimi and Maxwell, all of whom co-singed the official proponent’s argument. The city’s Democratic Party also lends its name to the official rebuttal to Neira’s polemic.

The paid arguments read like a who’s who of the city’s progressive movement, with supporters including Senior Action Network, the Tenant’s Union, the Housing Rights Committee, Local 2, the Labor Council, Religious Witness with Homeless People, Council of Community Housing Organizations and the Eviction Defense Collaborative. A long list of the city’s most prominent LGBTQ activists also signed an argument in support of the measure, as did Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, Assemblyman Mark Leno and State Senator Carole Migden.

Proposition C would remove the Mayor’s current representative from the board overseeing the building of the new Transbay Terminal and replace that representative with the Mayor himself, as well as create a new slot on the board for the District 6 representative on the Board of Supervisors.

The official ballot arguments reveal a host of environmental organizations lining up in favor, including the Sierra Club, Regional Alliance for Transit, SFTomorrow and the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund. Longtime Democratic activist Jane Morrison also lends her name in support.

Mayor Gavin Newsom himself penned the argument against Prop. C, arguing that it would “silence transportation experts” currently serving on the oversight board. Newsom cites SPUR’s opposition to the measure, and in the original draft also cited State Senator Jackie Speier as opposing the measure. However, Speir’s name had been crossed out of the argument submitted to the Department of Elections.

As we reported yesterday, the most controversial paid argument against Prop. C comes from the Democratic Party. The Party claims to be officially against the measure, but had not voted on it before the argument was submitted.

Other opponents include the Republican Party, the Chamber of Commerce, Committee on Jobs, Taxpayer’s Union, and Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. Paid supporting arguments were submitted by more environmental groups, including the League of Conservation Voters, and eight members of the city’s Democratic Party County Central Committee.

Finally, Prop. D would limit the type of patients who could be admitted to Laguna Honda Hospital, prohibiting violent people from being served. With almost twenty paid arguments being submitted on both sides of the issue, Prop. D promises to host the harshest and strongest campaigning of the June election season.

The official proponent argument for Prop. D brings together the rare alliance of Westside stalwarts like Tony Hall, Frank Jordan and the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods with former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. All claim that the measure will make Laguna Honda a better place for the seniors who are cared for there.

Newsom wrote the opposing argument, which states that it could cause the displacement of up to 300 patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The language escalates from there, perhaps peaking when claiming that Prop. D is “perhaps the most poorly drafted measure ever placed on the SF ballot.”

9 of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors also come out against the measure, joining a variety of social workers, the Chamber of Commerce, SPUR, the San Francisco People’s Organization and Leno, among others. Supporters of the measure include a variety of doctors, Espinola Jackson, Ed Jew, the current president of the Chinese Six Companies and six former presidents, and the Republican Party.

In an election season many expected to be uneventful, this June’s ballot measures promise to cause quite a stir. In what will likely be a low-turnout election, campaigners will have to work hard to sway voters to their side. How successful they are remains to be seen, but it’s clear the battle lines have been drawn.

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