Good-government advocates joined forces Thursday to blast what is being called a good-government measure.
Supervisor Scott Wiener is proposing a charter amendment for the November ballot that would empower the Board of Supervisors to change and even repeal voter-approved ballot measures.
The “overdue good government measure” is about making city government more effective and flexible, Wiener said during the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee hearing Thursday. “Some people assume that I must have a secret agenda here,” Wiener said. “The honest answer is I don’t.”
But a handful of advocates, including labor union Local 21, criticized the measure as an attack on voters’ rights.
“This is quite simply a repeal of one of the cornerstones of progressive politics in California from the 1890s to the present,” said Calvin Welch, a longtime San Francisco community advocate. “This is not the way to govern The City.”
Welch predicted the measure would be used by board to undermine voters’ adoption of such controls as limits on shadows on parks, eviction laws and restrictions on chain stores. At the same time, Welch said other measures like Care Not Cash, and a requirement for a certain number of neighborhood fire houses to remain open, would face no threat.
But Wiener said that “this is not about having a list of what we want to change” and it is not about progressives versus moderates. He said bringing small technical changes to the ballot is “ridiculous.” As an example, he cited a cleanup measure, recommended by the Ethics Commission, that would require monthly reporting of political consultant activity, not quarterly.
“One of the most common complaints I hear from voters is: ‘Why do we have to vote on so many ballot measures? Why can’t the Board of Supervisors do its job and pass legislation without asking us to pass it for you?’” Wiener said.
Under Wiener’s proposal, after a measure is approved no changes could be made for three years. Then for the next four years, changes could be made with a two-thirds vote by the board. Then, after seven years, a simple majority vote could change or repeal the measure. The board could not repeal measures placed on the ballot through a petition, but could amend them.
The committee postponed a vote on the measure until June 3 to provide Wiener with more time to address the concerns.
“In the end this will be up to voters whether they want to give us this power,” Wiener said.