Ballot measures rules could go to voters 

In the last election, a slew of measures were placed on the ballot at the last minute by the Board of Supervisors, sparking criticism that the measures should undergo more scrutiny and input from the public before coming to voters.

This November, San Francisco voters could have a chance to change the process by which the Board of Supervisors and the mayor can put measures on an election ballot.

Currently, four members of the board can place a measure on the ballot, as well as the mayor, without a public hearing.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd plans on introducing a charter amendment next month that would require all ballot measures to be introduced 45 days before the current deadline. It would then undergo a public hearing before a Board of Supervisors committee 15 days later.

Elsbernd said that the charter amendment is a response, in some part, to the Paid Sick Leave ordinance, which was put on the November 2006 ballot by four supervisors on the last day to do so.

The impacts of the ordinance were not analyzed, nor were the details worked out on how The City would enforce it. After voters approved the measure, Elsbernd said The City was left scrambling to figure out how to implement it. Elsbernd responded with legislation that allowed a 120-day extension of enforcement of the law to work out lingering questions.

"In the past, the voters of San Francisco have been asked to vote on issues where they haven’t had a full stack of information," Elsbernd said. "The voters of San Francisco, when they cast their votes, should have as much information at their disposal as possible."

The 45-day rule and the public hearing will "provide an opportunity for us to get department comment, Controller’s Office comment, budget analyst comment," Elsbernd said.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin stands in support of the charter amendment, as do such groups as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the public policy think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, which have advocated changing the process.

"I think that it has been used both by mayors and boards of supervisors as a tool of ambush and political intrigue. Subjecting legislation to public hearings can only add value," Peskin said.

"In a world of sunshine and public right to know … the last thing that’s done in the dark of night is putting ordinances on the ballot," said Jim Lazarus, vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Lazarus said more time and public hearings would give those affected by a measure the chance to negotiate with the author of the measure, a chance to identify any flaws in the legislation and figure out if there would be any unintended consequences — all before it goes on the ballot.

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

E-mail your city officials:

Mayor: Gavin Newsom

Supervisors: Jake McGoldrick - District 1; Michela Alioto-Pier – District 2; Aaron Peskin - District 3; Ed Jew - District 4; Ross Mirkarimi - District 5; Chris Daly – District 6; Sean Elsbernd - District 7; Bevan Dufty - District 8; Tom Ammiano - District 9; Sophie Maxwell - District 10; Gerardo Sandoval – District 11

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