Language makes all the difference on San Francisco ballots 

Public Defender Jeff Adachi has filed three different pension reform proposals with the City Attorney’s Office. Adachi said he will only move forward to collect signatures on one of the proposals, but since time is of the essence, submitting them all for approval seemed like the best approach.

As a matter of process, the City Attorney’s Office has to write an official title and summary of any measure before signature-gathering can begin. Letting the city attorney do the writing is supposed to ensure a fair and accurate blurb for people to read when they are asked to sign a petition to put a measure on the ballot. The City Attorney’s Office has 15 days to issue the title and summary for any proposal.

Of course, that 15-day time frame is not always followed. When Adachi submitted his previous pension reform proposal — Proposition B on last November’s ballot — the City Attorney’s Office took weeks to approve the measure. And when a summary was finally released, here’s what it said about pensions: “Shall the City increase employee contributions to the Retirement System for retirement benefits?”

To many voters (who emailed me), this gobbledygook looked like Prop. B would result in The City paying more into the retirement system on behalf of employees.

There’s no way to know whether this confusion changed the outcome of the election, but here’s hoping this time the City Attorney’s Office produces a timely and accurate summary of the pension reform proposals. City Attorney Dennis Herrera is reportedly a member of the public employee union committee — known as the Hellman Group — that is coming up with its own reform proposals. Despite that potential conflict, Adachi said, “I’m just hoping we get a fair shake in this process.”


Radiation labeling on phones to be tweaked

Today, the Board of Supervisors will meet with City Attorney Dennis Herrera in a closed session to discuss the lawsuit brought by CTIA-The Wireless Association against our law requiring cellphone retailers to identify the radiation absorption levels of the phones they sell. The cellphone labeling law will go into effect June 15.

According to the association, the Federal Communications Commission is the only body that can regulate radio frequency emissions, so The City needs to butt out. Also, forcing retailers to distribute pamphlets that say negative things about radiation levels is a violation of the retailers’ First Amendment right to free speech.

The City’s response? The law doesn’t set a limit on radiation levels. It only requires certain labels, so it does not interfere with the FCC’s authority. (The First Amendment argument is new, so The City has yet to answer it.)

The lawsuit has been put on hold while city officials consider amending the law and regulations. Those proposed changes, I suspect, are the reason for today’s meeting.

In other legal news, there seems to be no end to the Sharp Park debacle in which golf-loving retirees are going head-to-head with environmentalists because the golf course at Sharp Park is home to garter snakes and red-legged frogs, each an endangered species. The most recent salvo is a lawsuit filed by certain environmental groups March 2 alleging that The City’s plan to continue operating the golf course while protecting the endangered animals is inadequate.

According to the gruesome complaint, snakes are often killed by golfers and lawn mowers, and “the California red-legged frog also became a staple of the diet of the forty-niners during the California Gold Rush, and eventually became an item on the menu of San Francisco’s finest dining establishments.”


Burning questions from your supervisors

After three ballot measures in four years, mayor question time is finally set to take effect April 12. Because I know you’re all eager to learn what questions members of the Board of Supervisors will submit to interim Mayor Ed Lee, I have taken the liberty of drafting what I imagine each supervisor will ask for in the first round.

John Avalos: How could you go to someplace called the White House? Shameful.

David Campos: I’m still trying to figure out how you became interim mayor in the first place. I would like you to turn to page 684 of the City Charter and answer my questions about the nuance of the law.

David Chiu: Do you swear on all that is decent and holy that you will not run for re-election (and suck the wind out of my campaign for mayor)? Kindly accompany your answer with some sort of physical manifestation, such as pinky swear, bloodletting or spit shake.

Carmen Chu: Mayor Lee, you’re a boring guy. I’m a boring girl. Why does everyone suddenly find you the bee’s knees? How do you do it? Or rather, how do I do it? Because I’m RUNNING OUT OF TIME!

Malia Cohen: Did I ever tell you the story about how I came to City Hall on a field trip and I met Dianne Feinstein and that’s when I decided that — (Everyone in the room: “YES!”)

Sean Elsbernd: You do realize that I should be mayor, right? Please discuss.

Mark Farrell: You do realize that Elsbernd should be mayor, right? Please discuss.

Jane Kim: Mayor Lee, you have an active Twitter account and you must therefore help Twitter revitalize mid-Market by giving them tax breaks. Will you also give them free cab rides? And Giants tickets?

Eric Mar: Why have you neither declared war on earthquakes nor visited Libya?

Ross Mirkarimi: As a candidate for sheriff and one with robust facial-hair growth, I’d like to know your secret to growing such a marvelously endearing mustache. It’s really more than that — it’s a “you-can-trust-ache” or “fairy-dust-ache,” if you will.  

Scott Wiener: What will you give me in exchange for not releasing those pictures of you in your “tribute outfit” at the Britney Spears concert in the Castro?

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Melissa Griffin

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