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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Scott Wiener Proposes Stripping Down City Voter Guide

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2013 at 11:11 AM

click to enlarge Voter pamplet's here! - ABILENE CHRISTIAN U.

Update: Supervisors David Chiu and Scott Wiener introduce dueling ballot pamphlet measures.

Can a book topping 500 pages still be labeled a "pamphlet"? That's the situation San Francisco may be facing, as the gargantuan legal text of the referendum targeting the 8 Washington development portends a voter pamphlet of Tolstoy-like proportions.

Supervisor Scott Wiener will today introduce a measure to prevent gargantuan legal texts from weighing down voter pamphlets. Under current city rules, every last word -- all 500 pages worth, perhaps -- is mandated to be included in those voter guides. Wiener's ordinance would provide the option of cutting them off at 20 pages, with the full text readable online, in public libraries, or available to be mailed to voters free of charge. Considering the Department of Elections estimates that each printed page in the pamphlet corresponds to a $3,500 outlay, eliminating 500-odd pages from the booklet would save around $1.75 million.  

"This makes a lot of sense," Wiener says. "You'll save a lot of money and a lot of trees."

Wiener noted that this is how they do it across the bay in Alameda County. This came as a surprise, however, to personnel at the Alameda County registrar of voters.

Texts are truncated infrequently enough in Alameda County that multiple employees we spoke with had no idea this was a permissible activity. Cynthia Cornejo, the county's deputy registrar, said that, in rare instances, a jurisdiction has opted to edit a lengthy text -- with a note informing voters where they can find it online or how to obtain a free copy.

Cornejo notes that "there is no limitation of pages" and said texts often run 20 or 30 pages -- or more. Her office oversees around 100 jurisdictions including special districts, school districts and cities. One of them may opt to edit a legal text every other year, if that.

Alameda County voters can also opt out of receiving a printed voter pamphlet -- but not many have. Thus far, 3,752 voters out of 805,058 have gone paperless.

Has enough to read...
  • Has enough to read...
Informed of Wiener's proposal, Jon Golinger, one of the leaders in the referendum against 8 Washington, laughed out loud. Golinger's ally in the fight against the luxury condo complex, Supervisor David Chiu, had worked with the city attorney in hopes signature-gatherers wouldn't have to lug around a 550-page booklet -- around 500 pages of which was an environmental impact report.

Slimming down the booklet would have required the approval of the Board of Supervisors. But, by a 7-4 tally, the supes spurned such an amendment in June of last year. Not only was Wiener was of those seven votes against truncating the text, he was the only one to speak against doing so. You can even see it here, at the 63-minute mark.

Golinger said this was now an ironic move on Wiener's part -- and expressed concern that a pending lengthy pro-8 Washington ballot measure will now escape scrutiny.  

Asked if he'd received any complaints yet on his proposal, Wiener replied "This is San Francisco. We have a real diversity of perspectives here. I'm sure we'll hear from someone."

You don't need 500 pages to note that he's certainly right.

Update, 4 p.m.: It just wouldn't be a party if there wasn't an ordinance-off. Board President David Chiu -- who, remember, is opposed to the 8 Washington development -- has also introduced a measure that would allow gargantuan legal descriptions to be abridged within the ballot pamphlet.

Chiu's cutoff, however, is 100 pages, not 20. The 42-page pending measure being pushed by pro-8 Washington forces would be included under Chiu's measure, but not Wiener's.

Chiu, who is chairing a Board meeting at this very moment, is unavailable for comment.

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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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