More honesty in question time 

“Mayor’s question time is this Tuesday,” I mentioned to my friend as I perused the Board of Supervisors agenda for today’s meeting.
“Oh, you mean that thing where Mayor Lee shows up at the board with scripted responses to scripted questions and doesn’t really tell us anything?” my friend said.

“That’s the one!”

In an effort to bring you the honesty that should accompany question time, below are the accurate yet slightly paraphrased questions posed by supervisors this week. I also included the answers that I believe Ed Lee would give if he actually were not interested in a full term as mayor.

Question from Supervisor Mark Farrell:
How do you plan to stimulate the local economy?
Answer: Charge supervisors $100 for every piece of legislation they propose. We’re doubling that price for resolutions, Supervisor Mar.

Question from Supervisor Carmen Chu: How do you plan to make sure whomever you hire to be the new executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is not an utter disappointment with a wandering eye like the last one?

Answer: We will require each applicant to have more than a Transportation Merit Badge from the last Boy Scout jamboree. Also, we will have a new rule mandating that the executive director must take Muni to all job interviews while in office.

Question from Supervisor Jane Kim:
What will you do to keep gang members from killing each other in my district?

Answer: We plan to institute a “guns for thesauruses” program to encourage young people to attack each other with sly repartee and vicious innuendo, instead of bullets. It worked in Dusseldorf, so we are confident it will work here.

Question from Supervisor Scott Wiener: What will you do about the fact that certain property owners are finding themselves charged with tree maintenance because The City cannot afford to take care of all our trees.

Answer: All people in District 6 need to move to District 8 because there are apparently no problems larger than the potential for tree maintenance. Next question.

Question from Supervisor Malia Cohen: Please give us a status update on the efforts to improve the Third Street corridor.

Answer: We plan to declare the corridor a historic district like we have done with the Tenderloin and Civic Center. This way, instead of “presently blighted,” people will just think of it as “formerly awesome.”

Just kidding! We have no plans.

Validity of city’s election system unverified

On Monday, the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee of the Board of Supervisors held a hearing on the recent report by our voting systems task force. The 57-page document outlines a series of “opportunities” for our voting systems.

Since 2007, The City has contracted with Sequoia Voting Systems (later acquired by another company, Dominion Voting Systems), but a “top-to-bottom” review by the California secretary of state that same year found that Sequoia equipment “lacked effective safeguards against corrupted or malicious data.”

Created in 2008, the task force was charged with coming up with alternatives to equipment that an eighth-grader can hack, and recommending overall election improvements.

According to the report, the major issue preventing our use of better voting systems is the onerous process of getting any system certified by the state and federal governments. A full 87 percent of U.S. voting systems are controlled by two vendors.  

Waiting around for new voting equipment to be approved while we clunk along on our current system might not be so unsettling if we had an auditing system to catch election irregularities.

That’s right: Our ranked-choice voting elections have thus far not been properly audited. In a regular majority-vote election, you just grab a certain number of ballots in each precinct and count them manually to see if the results are within a certain percentage of the overall total. You just can’t do that with ranked-choice voting.

So saith the report: Pulling 1 percent of ballots in each precinct and conducting rounds of elimination “bears no relation to the actual elimination sequence” at the citywide level. As a result, “the manual tally procedure does not verify the outcome of [ranked-choice voting] contests.” Problem is, aside from a full citywide recount, that’s the only procedure we have.

One would think the Board of Supervisors would be concerned about this combination of unsafe and unverifiable election data. But no. After a short PowerPoint presentation by the task force (bless them for their hard work) and a few public comments, the hearing ended quietly.

The zany, ranked-choice mayoral election we’re facing in November is ripe for allegations of impropriety. I vote that our representatives take this issue more seriously.

Fall ballot likely to have dueling pension reform

Last Wednesday, Public Defender Jeff Adachi held a news conference where he proposed a compromise deal between his Pension Reform Act and Mayor Ed Lee’s proposal. Generally, Adachi gave ground and agreed to smaller contributions from the lowest-paid city employees, and held firm on the higher contributions for people making $80,000 or more.

The Board of Supervisors will vote today on whether to put the mayor’s proposal on the ballot. They also could make amendments to bring the initiative into line with Adachi’s compromise so everyone can hold hands and sing, and we voters will not be forced to do math come November.

But such an outcome is doubtful. The more likely scenario is that we will have two competing proposals on the ballot. The difference is, having offered to compromise, Adachi is laying claim to a pleasant perch on the moral high ground.

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Melissa Griffin

Melissa Griffin

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