Tax time coming this November 

click to enlarge Prepare: A provision in the state constitution will allow tax measures to pass with a smaller percentage of the vote this November; voters might want get their calculators and adult beverages ready.
  • Prepare: A provision in the state constitution will allow tax measures to pass with a smaller percentage of the vote this November; voters might want get their calculators and adult beverages ready.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Having recovered from our election hangover, we must immediately reach for the next fix: the 2012 elections. What can we look forward to this November? Taxes, taxes and more taxes.

Remember that last year’s proposal to increase the San Francisco sales tax by 0.5 percent needed two thirds of the votes in order to become law. It only received 54 percent. But that was last year, and 2012 is a new ballgame thanks to a provision in the California Constitution. According to the provision, tax increases that are proposed in an election where no one is running for the Board of Supervisors need a two-thirds majority to be enacted. But when seats for the board are up for election, a tax increase only needs a majority vote to pass.

Politicians act accordingly. Since this constitutional provision was enacted in 1996, only two tax measures have been proposed in odd years in San Francisco — the failed 2011 sales tax attempt and a successful transportation tax proposal in 2003. At least a dozen have been proposed along with the supervisorial races in even years.

This November, supervisors Eric Mar, David Chiu, David Campos, John Avalos and whomever the mayor appoints to District 5 will all be up for re-election. Also, voters will be picking a new supervisor in District 7, as Supervisor Sean Elsbernd is termed out.

With only a majority vote required to pass new revenue measures in 2012, you can bet that the fertile little minds at City Hall are giddily scheming to put tax proposals on the ballot this November, hoping for an easier win.

But wait! There’s more! Local tax measures will have to compete with statewide proposals that are coming fast and furious. While they have until March to collect the more than a half- million signatures to get on the November ballot, no fewer than nine ballot measures that have a tax component have been submitted to the California secretary of state. They range from an increase in commercial property taxes to a so-called “Kardashian tax” that raises rates on the wealthiest Californians.

Between state and local revenue measures, this November’s election is bound to require a calculator and brown liquor.


Two front-runners are vying to be Lee’s pick for District 5

The fate of the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors is the topic du jour among political junkies. Now that Ross Mirkarimi is vacating the seat to become sheriff, Mayor Ed Lee will choose his replacement. That person will serve until District 5 voters weigh in at the November 2012 election.

The list of potential candidates seems endless.

I’ve been pestering all my City Hall contacts (who are unaffiliated with any potential appointee) for the real scoop, and I’ll be the first to tell you this is gossip.

According to various contacts, the decision is down to Planning Commissioner Christina Olague and London Breed, executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex. They each have a camp of supporters who are giving Lee the full-court press.

Olague’s team includes progressives and anti-development types who like her voting record on the Planning Commission. Appointed by then-board President Matt Gonzalez in 2004 and again by then-board President Aaron Peskin in 2008, she frequently votes against proposals such as the Parkmerced project, the Treasure Island plan and the condos at 555 Washington St. Then again, she voted in favor of the master plan for the cavalier, real-estate gobbling Academy of Art. Some say it is this perceived inconsistency, despite her progressive credentials, that worries an administration looking for predictability. Others just blame her overall voting record. As one person put it, “Ed never met a project he didn’t like.”

The upside to Olague is that District 5 is progressive and folks think she’s a shoo-in to be elected if she does get the appointment. Chris Daly has basically said he’ll run if she’s doesn’t get the nod. This is not an appealing prospect for the Lee administration.

Then there is Breed, who apparently plans to run for the seat whether she is appointed or not. Her backers are Willie Brown and the business community. Remember that part of her job is to get people to write checks to the culture complex. Thus, in addition to fundraising experience, she also has had to build relationships with influential people in the community.

“The North of Panhandle loves her,” said one consultant. While the North of Panhandle area doesn’t show up to vote as much as Haight-Ashbury, she would have 10 months to raise money and make inroads to the rest of the district. Daly and/or other progressives might run against her, but don’t forget that no incumbent in San Francisco has ever lost in a ranked-choice voting contest.

The consensus is that Breed will be a reliable moderate vote (though she may have to cast a few in the other direction to win over her district) and if that’s true, I think Lee will choose a Breed in the hand for one year over a wild-card progressive with better re-election chances.

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Melissa Griffin

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