City policymakers casting big shadow across state 

click to enlarge The way the state’s Capitol, right, has been legislating lately, you’d think its lawmakers were picking up telepathic signals from City Hall, left. - S.F. EXAMINER PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
  • S.F. EXAMINER photo illustration
  • The way the state’s Capitol, right, has been legislating lately, you’d think its lawmakers were picking up telepathic signals from City Hall, left.

This week, Gov. Jerry Brown practically declared defeat in his effort to reform the California Environmental Quality Act this year. With the continued struggle for CEQA reform in San Francisco, it seems that increasingly, politics in our fair city is in lockstep with the state.

For example, San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic bags was expanded in 2012 to apply to basically all local retailers and include the 10-cent charge for a store-provided paper bag. This year, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, have proposed a similar state law that would ban single-use plastic bags and impose a fee for paper bags. The bill has widespread support and is likely to pass.

You’re welcome, California!

After the shootings in Newtown, Conn., state Treasurer Bill Lockyer called for the state’s two largest public-pension funds to divest from firearms manufacturers. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System quickly agreed to sell its interest in Cerberus Capital Management LP, which owns one gunmaker and part of two others.

The much larger California Public Employees’ Retirement System voted to get rid of shares in two gun producers, but its investment committee voted this week to oppose a proposed law that would prohibit continued investment in any company that manufacturers “firearms or ammunition for a recipient other than the United States military.” A CalPERS report estimates that compliance (read: figuring out who is doing what) would cost “approximately $770,000 in administrative expenses over a two-year period.”

Not long after Lockyer’s public plea, our Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Retirement Board of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System to “ensure that within five years none of its directly held or commingled assets include holdings in firearm and ammunition manufacturers.” So far, the SFERS board is still trying to figure out if there is an exception for police and military, and how this would impact the system.

In other words, at both the state and local level, mushy definitions and the nature of complex investment vehicles are holding up progress on firearm divestment.

I suppose it makes sense that a city that legislates as if it were a state would have much in common with, and great influence in, the politics of its actual state. Folks in Yolo County should enjoy their runoff elections, enrollment in local schools and Happy Meals while they can.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at


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