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Proposition A & B: Money to Go 

Tuesday, Oct 21 2014

Who's Behind Them: Prop. A is sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and all 11 supervisors. Prop. B is sponsored by Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Who Stands to Benefit: Prop. A: Transit users and pedestrians, ostensibly — and the mayor and board, who ultimately control these funds. Prop. B: Muni passengers.

Every once in a while, a ballot initiative comes along that has the support of every last member of the so-called "City Family." Every elected official, every city union, every appointed commissioner, their spouses, their children, their pets. Proposition A is one of these.

The $500 million bond would, purportedly, fund road and transit improvements of the sort posited by a gargantuan mayoral working group addressing the city's gargantuan infrastructure needs. The passage of this bond has been Mayor Ed Lee's Ahab-like, monomaniacal obsession. Lee's harpoon is only figurative, but there's reason enough not to stand between him and his white whale for any current or aspiring member of the City Family hoping to avoid a puncture wound.

As SF Weekly has noted, the language in this massive bond is alarmingly vague; the malleable term "may" is used throughout to describe where the money "may" go instead of the unambiguous "shall." Whatever Muni opts to do with the funds, the final call rests with the supes and mayor.

In other words, Lee is aggressively twisting arms for a huge pile of money uncommitted to any specific purpose that he will ultimately control.

As such, all the politically plugged-in players and companies (Lennar, Webcor, Recology, PG&E, and a number of LLCs formed to develop specific properties) have contributed some $1 million to a campaign committee, with some funneling money through the cheerily named Committee for a Brighter San Francisco Future (headquartered in Marin). The ubiquitous Ron Conway dropped $50,000; the even more ubiquitous Sean Parker tipped $200,000.

The transit Cassandras opposing Prop. A do not have the sort of funds required to even begin making a dent on the electorate. Finding a well-heeled power player willing to overtly spit on the mayor's shoes is a challenge, naturally, since well-heeled power players tend to want things that a mayor can give.

Campaign filings, however, reveal $75,000 (so far) has been expended by the San Francisco Apartment Association on a slate mailer targeting Prop. A.

That organization's executive director, Janan New, says she objected to top-down policies being "imposed on the citizens of San Francisco."

Well, fair enough. But there's a way to get the mayor's attention other than giving him what he desires: You could also destroy something he desires. The SFAA has led the fight against the (Conway-funded) Airbnb, which Lee has slavishly backed to the point of instructing the city's elected treasurer not to collect the tech giant's delinquent back taxes.

If the SFAA torpedoed Prop. A, then, it would be quite a statement.

Proposition B, meanwhile, is everything Prop. A isn't. It shall shunt a comparatively small ($20-odd million a year) amount of General Fund money specifically into Muni operations. Supervisor Scott Wiener conjured up this measure because Lee declined to put a Vehicle License Fee on the ballot. To the great surprise of all, five of his fellow supes backed him, setting off a wave of recriminations from the mayor.

Wiener never established a committee to fund this measure; campaigning for it, he says, has been limited to him and a handful of allies shuttling between newspaper editorial boards and Democratic club endorsement meetings. Showing up late for these meetings may actually be an advantage. They can blame Muni.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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