Endorsements 2008: San Francisco measures - Page 6

Yes, yes, yes on A and H. No, no, no on P and V...
|
()

O would not raise taxes or increase the fees most people already pay. It would simply replace what was a modest "fee" of a couple of bucks a month to fund 911 services with an identical "tax" for the same amount, while also updating the technical definition of what constitutes a phone line from a now defunct 1970s-era statute. The only people who might wind up paying any new costs are commercial users of voice-over-internet services.

It's very simple. If Prop. O passes, the vast majority of us won't pay anything extra and the city won't have to make $80 to $85 million more in cuts to things like health care, crime prevention, and street maintenance. That sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Vote yes.

Proposition P

Transportation Authority changes

NO, NO, NO

Mayor Gavin Newsom is hoping voters will be fooled by his argument that Proposition P, which would change the size and composition of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, would lead to more efficiency and accountability.

But as Prop. P's opponents — including all 11 supervisors, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, and the Sierra Club — point out, the measure would put billions of taxpayer dollars in the hands of political appointees, thus removing independent oversight of local transportation projects.

The Board of Supervisors, which currently serves as the governing body of the small but powerful, voter-created Transportation Authority, has done a good job of acting as a watchdog for local sales-tax revenues earmarked for transportation projects and administering state and federal transportation funding for new projects. The way things stand, the mayor effectively controls Muni, and the board effectively controls the Transportation Authority, providing a tried and tested system of checks and balances that gives all 11 districts equal representation. There is no good reason to upset this apple cart. Vote No on P.

Proposition Q

Modifying the payroll tax

YES, YES, YES

Proposition Q would close a major loophole that allows big law firms, architecture firms, medical partnerships, and other lucrative outfits to avoid paying the city's main business tax. San Francisco collects money from businesses largely through a 1.5 percent tax on payroll. It's not a perfect system, and we'd like to see a more progressive tax (why should big and small companies pay the same percentage tax?). But even the current system has a giant problem that costs the city millions of dollars a year.

The law applies to the money companies pay their employees. But in a fair number of professional operations, the highest-paid people are considered "partners" and their income is considered profit-sharing, not pay. So the city's biggest law firms, where partners take home hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in compensation, pay no city tax on that money.

Prop. Q would close that loophole and treat partnership income as taxable payroll. It would also exempt small businesses (with payrolls of less than $250,000 a year) from any tax at all.

The proposal would bring at least $10 million a year into the city and stop certain types of businesses from ducking their share of the tax burden. Vote yes.

Proposition R

Naming sewage plant after Bush

NO

This one has tremendous emotional and humor appeal. It would officially rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. That would put San Francisco in the position of creating the first official memorial to the worst president of our time — and his name would be on a sewage plant.

The problem — not to be killjoys — is that sewage treatment is actually a pretty important environmental concern, and the Oceanside plant is a pretty good sewage treatment plant.