VEHICLE REGISTRATION FEE
Proposition AA would add $10 to the existing annual fee for vehicles registered in San Francisco, which would bring in about $5 million a year in desperately needed funds for public transit and other environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Proceeds would help to fund new bike infrastructure, pedestrian crosswalks, and transit reliability projects. Some would also be spent on street repairs — with top priority given to streets with bikeways and public transit routes. Unless Muni and bike infrastructure improves, it's hard to persuade drivers to leave their cars at home and choose greener ways of getting around. Prop. AA is in line with the city's transit-first goals, and it will be a step toward reducing traffic congestion and helping public transit. Vote yes.
EARTHQUAKE RETROFIT BOND
This $46.15 million general obligation bond to support seismic upgrades for wood-framed buildings is an important means of protecting San Franciscans in an earthquake and preserving affordable housing. A 2009 report by the Department of Building Inspection found that 151 buildings that received government affordable housing support — 8,247 units in all — could be destroyed in the next big earthquake.
Unfortunately, most of these buildings are break-even ventures for their owners, who have no incentive to put the money into needed seismic upgrades. This measure would fund those improvements with grants and deferred loans, which would accrue interest but would only need to be paid back if the owner makes a profit or tries to convert the building to another use, providing further guarantees that the housing will remain affordable even after an owner's obligation to the state or federal governments ends. Vote yes on Prop. A.
CITY RETIREMENT AND HEALTH PLANS
NO, NO, NO
Back when the great national health care reform debate was raging, the Guardian advocated for a single-payer system, which would have cut out health insurance companies altogether. What we got instead was a bill that requires everyone to buy health insurance. Now endlessly rising health insurance costs pose a problem for the city — in years of financial stress, it must make ever-larger payments to cover public employees' health benefits. The blame for this dysfunctional system should be pinned on health insurance companies, not public employees. After all, the industry spent millions lobbying federal lawmakers to preserve a system in which they are solidly guaranteed to make millions off the backs of taxpayers.
But Prop. B, introduced by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, asks public employees to bear the brunt of these ballooning costs. It would also require them to contribute up to 10 percent of their pay to fund retirement benefits. One of the most compelling arguments against Prop. B was articulated by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano in a recent Guardian editorial: "A single mother will be forced to pay up to $5,600 per year for her child's health care — in addition to the $8,154 she already pays." That cost would be the same whether the employee earns $40,000 or $100,000 annually — and that's just unfair. Prop. B would deal the greatest blow to the people who have the least. But there's a broader consequence, too — take this kind of money out of the pockets of working people and you've done just the opposite of stimulating the economy.