At Least I Don’t Live in San Francisco

If you think your world is weird, viagra canada sildenafil imagine living in San Francisco.

2010 Voter Guide

By Jim Anderson, generic viagra cialis Silicon Valley Bank

Every couple of years the public officials in San Francisco send commentators like me a gift, titled with uncharacteristic humility, “Voter Information Pamphlet & Sample Ballot – City and County of San Francisco.” As I carefully read through the 192 pages I feel like I’m watching one of those Saturday Night Live reruns. You know, the ones in which the satirical commercials are so realistic you can’t tell if they are a joke. Then I catch myself — after all, no one would write 192 pages of satire.

There are a number of important items and candidates on the ballot. One of them even caught the eye of a famous venture capitalist and was profiled in his editorial in the Wall Street Journal. Then there is proposition measure C, which would “require the Mayor to appear in person” at a Board of Supervisors meeting once a month to “engage in formal policy discussions with the Board.” Now, the Mayor is permitted to come to any board meeting and take the floor to speak with the supervisors about anything he wants, but he has chosen not to. Perhaps the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors don’t have a great working relationship. I’m not sure amending the city charter is the best way to solve that problem. I vote no.

Proposition D is also a good one. It will permit non-citizens to vote in San Francisco elections. This came up a few years ago and lost. I’m OK with this idea so long as we San Franciscans can vote in other cities’ elections. The only tough part is deciding which ones. Maybe we could use our sister city relationships as a starting point. San Francisco has 13 sister cities and I’ve no doubt there is a luxuriously staffed city department to maintain and augment these connections. I’m also fairly certain that the Mayor and other city officials may need to travel to Abidjan, Cork, Assisi, Caracas, Haifa, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Manila, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Taipei and Zurich, from time to time to see how our sisters are faring.

Now, securing the right to vote in all these other locales may be difficult, not to mention the cost of translating their voter guides into English, Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Mandarin and Korean as would be required here in San Francisco. Zurich might be especially tough. The Swiss don’t fool around when it comes to their democracy. I am particularly disappointed that we do not have a sister city in France. I think the Mayor and supervisors should jet off on a fact-finding mission to Nîmes as soon as possible to see if the French might be interested. At any rate, I decide to vote no on D until I know where else I will get the right to vote.

Proposition I is to permit Saturday voting. With pervasive access to absentee ballots on a permanent basis I’m not sure this is necessary. Besides, I like the idea of people taking time off work to vote. It sends the right cultural message about our priorities as citizens. I vote no.

Propositions J and K seem very similar. One is the “Hotel Tax Clarification and Temporary Increase” and the other is “Hotel Tax Clarification and Definitions.” I had no idea there was so much confusion about hotel taxes that it would require two ballot measures to clarify them. Actually one measure will raise hotel taxes while the other leaves them unchanged. I’m not clear on why we need a ballot measure to not change something. Initially, I don’t have a strong view on this as higher taxes on those millionaire and billionaire tourists is ok with me. This is the famous theory of taxation articulated by the late Senator Russell Long as, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax that man behind the tree.”

But there is more. Proposition J would also recover taxes from Internet booking sites that collect taxes from customers, but may not always pay them to the municipalities. Buying months of hotel rooms, Expedia and Travelocity could argue that they qualify as “permanent residents” of San Francisco and thus are exempt from the tax. (At this point I’m wondering whether Expedia and Travelocity as permanent residents, albeit, non-human ones, would be permitted to vote as non-citizens under Proposition D.)

Proposition K also contains what we call here a “poison pill” provision to kill off the competing Proposition J if both should pass. Reading through the poison pill I marvel at the creativity behind its invention. If only that same entrepreneurial flair could be applied to city services. I vote yes on K to encourage more creativity in government.

Now let’s turn to the candidates. I always find this challenging because I never know any of the people running. I have a few guidelines to help me. In general, I vote against all incumbents, except those who are trying to change things. Of course, once they get comfortable in office they seem to lose interest in making any changes. I would also vote for them if I thought the city was well-managed. It is not. I read the bios and tend to vote for engineers, scientists and business people. I feel they are more likely to bring a logical, pragmatic approach to solving the city’s problems. I do keep track of my votes, however, and I can confide here that no one I’ve ever voted for in San Francisco has been elected to anything.

One oddity in our ballot is that we can rank candidates in order of preference: first, second and third. This invention was designed to avoid expensive run-off elections if no one got a clear majority. Unfortunately, for the job of assessor-recorder there are only two candidates running. The job of public defender is even better. There is only one candidate. I skip that one.

Choosing school board members is quite demanding because there are so many candidates. As a point of background, the San Francisco Unified School District is not that bad. The dropout rate is only 18 percent and Lowell High School is ranked 28th nationally. But they are not succeeding with their customers: parents and students. The district loses about 400-500 students per year to the suburbs and private schools. That is the equivalent of shutting down one grade school every year. Still, the budget seems to grow each year — especially the administrative budget. Almost 50 percent of SFUSD budget dollars are spent on items other than teachers, books and classrooms. Given those facts, I feel comfortable voting against all the incumbents.

There is one new candidate for school board in my polling area that catches my eye named Starchild. The occupation is listed as erotic service provider.” (I’m not making this up.) Oddly, Starchild has some excellent ideas, such as making teacher pay higher than administrator pay and allowing students to attend their first choice schools. When popular schools are full, Starchild would open new schools run by a core of the teachers from the successful schools. I like that idea so he/she gets my vote. As you may have guessed, Starchild’s bio is gender neutral.

If we redefine corruption as taking public money and wasting it rather than using it for personal purposes, San Francisco is easily one of the most corrupt cities in the U.S. The annual budget is a whopping $6.6 billion or $8,033 for each of the 815,358 residents. This is the highest per capita spending of any major city in the U.S. The average city worker receives $120,000 per year in wages and benefits. For comparison, Los Angeles has a budget of $7.1 billion for more than four times the population. In fact, there are enough city workers in San Francisco for every family of four to have a personal assistant from the city three days per month. Maybe I should call up the mayor and have him send my guy over. I need some help cleaning out the garage.

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