The way land is divided in the city most big downtown properties sit on at least five, and sometimes as many as 10 or 20 parcels, so the bill will be larger for them. But it's still nowhere near proportionate.
Still, Prop. 13 has made it almost impossible to raise ad valorum property taxes (based on a property's assessed value) in the state, and communities all around the Bay are using parcel taxes as a reasonable if imperfect substitute.
There's a strong campaign for Prop. A and not much in the way of organized opposition, but the measure still needs a two-thirds vote. So for the sake of public education in San Francisco, it's critical to vote yes.
City retiree benefits change
San Francisco has always offered generous health and retirement benefits to its employees. That's a good thing. But in this unfortunate era, when federal money is getting sucked into Iraq, state money is going down the giant deficit rat hole, and nobody is willing to raise taxes, the bill for San Francisco's expensive employee benefit programs is now looking to create a fiscal crisis at City Hall. Officials estimate the payout for current and past employees could total $4 billion over the next 30 years.
So Sup. Sean Elsbernd and his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors have engineered this smart compromise measure in a way that saves the city money over the long run and has the support of labor unions (largely because it includes an increase in the pensions for longtime employees, partially offset by a one-year wage freeze starting in 2009) while still offering reasonable retirements benefits for new employees.
Previously, city employees who worked just five years could get taxpayer-paid health benefits for life. Under this measure, it will take 20 years to get fully paid health benefits, with partially paid benefits after 10 years.
It's rare to find an issue that has the support of virtually everyone, from the supervisors and the mayor to labor. Prop. B makes sense. Vote yes.
Benefit denials for convicts
On the surface, it's hard to argue against Prop. C, a measure promoted as a way to keep crooks from collecting city retirement benefits. Sup. Sean Elsbernd's ballot measure would update an ordinance that's been on the books in San Francisco for years, one that strips public employees found guilty of "crimes of moral turpitude" against the city of their pensions. A recent court case involving a worker who stole from the city raised doubt about whether that law also applied to disability pay, and Prop. C would clear up that possible loophole.
But there are drawbacks this measure.
For starters, the problem isn't that big: cases of rejected retirement benefits for city workers are rare. And the law still uses that questionable phrase "moral turpitude" poorly defined in state law, never clearly defined in this measure, and as any older gay person can tell you, in the past applied to conduct that has nothing to do with honesty. The US State Department considers "bastardy," "lewdness," "mailing an obscene letter" and "desertion from the armed forces," among other things, to be crimes of moral turpitude.
Besides, Prop. C would apply not only to felonies but to misdemeanors. Cutting off disability pay for life over a misdemeanor offense seems awfully harsh.
The law that Elsbernd wants to expand ought to be rethought and reconfigured for the modern era. So vote no on C.
Appointments to city commissions
Prop. D is a policy statement urging the mayor and the supervisors to appoint more women, minorities, and people with disabilities to city boards and commissions.