This election season wasn’t the most offensive, but it produced the usual crop of battered politicians with bruised egos and hurt feelings. But now the elections are over, and San Francisco will soon have two new supervisors who will become part of the process of creating, considering and voting on legislation.
There is much before this new Board of Supervisors that will be crucial to the future of San Francisco. One looming issue is unfunded retiree health care debt — a $4 billion problem that will not just go away. This is a structural problem that will require every contingent in city and county government to sit down and figure it out, much like the process that led to the 2011 pension-reform measure.
Another issue that could come before this board is the contentious idea of congestion pricing for cars entering the downtown core. San Francisco is growing and adding jobs, which is good for The City and the region. But as we continue to add more people to this geographically constrained area, we cannot continue to just dump more vehicles into the narrow confines of downtown. At nearly every meeting about large development projects, members of the public bring up congestion pricing as a way to limit traffic in The City by charging a fee for vehicles entering the most congested areas. This board could be tasked with weighing such an idea in its role on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.
The budget for this fiscal year seemed relatively painless compared with years past. But unless the state and federal government stage a drastic turnaround in the next few years — which they could, but let’s not hold our breath — The City needs to think about smart revenue streams that can stop future cuts and perhaps start adding back what has been lost over the past few years. Take, for instance, the new California law authored by state Sen. Mark Leno that could allow the county to implement a $10 annual vehicle fee. Much like congestion pricing, such a levy would be a contentious fight, but with a consensus vote about how such money could be used — Muni maintenance, anyone? — the good could outweigh the bad.
Mayor Ed Lee has vowed to work equally with all of the supervisors who are elected. But some of Lee’s board relationships suffered after the vote over whether to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Now is the time for Lee to return to the kinder, gentler approach that typified his first year in office.
As for the new board, much is yet to be determined about its new identity. We will not be naive enough to think that every member of the board will agree with the mayor about every issue. Legislative bodies and elected executives exist to balance one another, and genteel disagreement is healthy to democracy. But that does not have to mean that supervisors and the mayor must continually butt heads.
This new board, with a new dynamic, has the chance to tackle major issues in our city and keep San Francisco a vibrant place to both work and live.