San Francisco City Hall

One year ago today the Mission was filled with giddy champagne-fueled cheers as the first African-American president was voted into office. It was truly a historic event.

It was also a tough act to follow.

Here we are again, Nov. 3, and voter turnout is expected to be dismal. So why take the time to pony up at the polling place this year? While it’s unlikely that your vote will make history, you can be one of the few who decides the fate of some important issues today. Here they are:

Prop A
If you haven’t heard, the city has been feverishly downsizing to fill a $438 million hole left by the state, the economy and a number of other evil doers. And that got a few people wondering, “Should we rethink the way we manage our budget?”

Proposition A seeks to avoid future deficits, which we have run every year for the past decade, by forcing the city to come up with a longterm fiscal management plan. Kind of like when you figure out how much money it’s actually going to take to pay off your credit cards, and then cry yourself to sleep.

It’s supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom, among others, and would give the city controller’s office the ability to make longterm projections for city spending.

Not so fast, says Supervisor Chris Daly. Opponents of the proposition (of which, only Daly is listed) say that city budgets are not static, and that Prop A would take the power to make mid-year adjustments away from the board.

This looks like yet another power play between the board (several of whom are actually listed as supporting the proposition) and the mayor over how the budget will be managed.

Prop B
Legislative aides work under the Board of Supervisors to help write legislation, communicate with their constituents, and basically do everything else the supes don’t have time for. Sounds like an easy job, until you consider the fact that Supervisor Campos alone has some 80,000 constituents.

In cities such as San Jose, council members are given six aides to help them manage things. In Los Angeles, they get 10. So how many aides do San Francisco’s supervisors get? Two. And they’re tired.

“We’re just hoping to hire a third person,” said Sheila Chung-Hagan, legislative aide to Supervisor David Campos. “Right now we’re relying on volunteers just to get through the day.”

Voting yes on Proposition B would revise the city charter, allowing supervisors to decide the number of staff needed within their budget limitations.

But the Republican Party of San Francisco (yes, they are out there) is predictably crying BIG government. Their argument: Why hire people when you can get volunteers to do the job for free?

Prop C
Ahhh, the ill-fated Monster, I mean, 3Com, I mean, Candlestick Park. In the last few years the home of the 49ers has had more regime changes than the Middle East. Now, Proposition C is looking to do it again.

In an attempt to bring in corporate dollars, the mayor is looking to sell the naming rights of the park and split half the money with the city, and the other half with his close friend and 49ers team president Jed York.

Times are tough, and the city and wealthy financiers need money, right?

Los Angeles has the Staples Center. San Diego has Petco Park. There’s Coors Field in Denver, and Miller Park in Milwaukee. For a time, Houston had Enron Field, but that didn’t work out so well. The point is, everybody’s doing it.

So what will Candlestick Park be named this time around? Well, that depends on who the highest bidder is.

But even if you’re not a fan of corporate sponsorship, don’t despair. Much like regimes that take power and re-appropriate land from the bourgeoisie, San Francisco voters can take back the rightful name of their parks with the punch of a ballot. Such was the case back in 2004, when voters passed Prop H, changing the name of Monster Park back to Candlestick. Viva la revolution!

Prop D
Do you believe billboards can cure poverty and help needy children? Or, more precisely, do you believe that wealthy landlords who profit from new billboards on Market Street will responsibly allocate large portions of that money through their non-elected private organization to cure poverty and help needy children? If you answered no to either of those questions, then you shouldn’t vote for Prop D.

This is the only proposition on the ballot that has garnered much publicity, and it has overwhelmingly been negative. In 2002, 79 percent of San Franciscans passed Proposition G, a.k.a. the “No New Billboards” initiative.

Now, the city wants to create a “Mid-Market Special Sign District” in the Tenderloin. Opponents of the initiative say that it would clear the way for 500-square-foot energy-sucking billboards to be erected along Market — essentially turning it into Times Square.

Proponents of the initiative, which include half of the supes, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and a number of private organizations, say the proposition will generate funds for underprivileged youth …

Prop E
Which brings us to Prop E. Props D and E are essentially a two-fer — one opposing the other. Confused yet? Welcome to San Francisco politics. To boil it down, if you’re against everything in Prop D, you should vote yes on Prop E. Or if you’d like to cancel out your vote altogether, vote yes on both. Or if you think voting’s a waste of time, here’s your chance: Vote no on both and see how that feels. Or … you get the point.

Happy voting! And for all you procrastinators, you can find out where your polling place is here.

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Born and raised in Seal Beach, California, Heather Duthie studied Political Science and Community Studies as an undergraduate. She went on to work on a number of documentary films and for Link Television. She has lived in the Mission District for the past 5 years, and currently covers government for Mission Loc@l.

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