Endorsements 2010: San Francisco ballot measures - Page 4





There are two competing hotel taxes on the November ballot: Prop. J and Prop K. Prop. K contains a poison pill: if both measures pass, whichever gets the most votes take effect. Both J and K try to address legal insufficiencies in San Francisco's existing hotel tax, but Prop. J also asks visitors to pay a slightly higher tax — about $3 a night (the cost of a latte) — for the next three years.

Currently the way hotel taxes are assessed allows some online customers to avoid part of the tax. When a customer books a hotel room through an online booking service like Expedia or Orbitz, the hotel tax is only assessed on the amount that a hotel receives, not the amount that the website charges the customer. In other words, if a website sells a room to an online customer for $150 a night, but only $120 of that goes to the hotel, the customer is charged hotel tax on the lower amount. If Prop. J passes, the customer will have to pay a hotel tax on the full amount paid to the online booking service. The measure would also eliminate a loophole that allows airlines to book rooms for flight crews without paying any tax. Those changes are expected to generate at least $12 million a year. The $3 increase in the hotel tax will generate another $26 million.

The Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau say the measure could hurt tourism — but it's hard to imagine how somebody will decide not to visit San Francisco because of a $3 a night fee. Vote yes.





Put on the ballot by Mayor Newson at the behest of large hotel corporations, Prop. K also seeks to close loopholes in the hotel tax. But Prop. K doesn't include a tax increase, meaning that it will contribute millions less to the city's General Fund at a time when San Francisco is having trouble balancing its budget, leading to ongoing cuts in city staff and services.

Prop. K's a direct attempt to undermine Prop. J. Vote no.





What kind of a city is San Francisco? If proponents of Prop. L, the Civil Sidewalks Ordinance, were to be believed, it's a city where nothing is done when uncivil people harass pedestrians, drink on the sidewalk, or pee in public. Even though Prop. L purports to address this kind of behavior, all it really does is outlaw sitting or lying on public sidewalks.

We think San Francisco is the kind of city that is smart enough to reject this dumb idea. The Prop. L proponents like to say it's about public safety, but there is nothing inherently unsafe about sitting or lying down on the sidewalk. Street poets sit at their typewriters to sell sonnets to tourists. The tamale lady sometimes sits while selling her tasty Mexican treats. Day laborers sit when they get tired of standing around waiting for work. Many people who live on the streets lie down to sleep beside their shopping carts. If Prop. L passes, there is nothing to guarantee that buskers, day laborers, homeless people, partygoers, people with bad knees, or anyone else would not be harassed by police for the simple act of sitting.

But even if there are people squatting on the sidewalk harassing passersby, how is this law going to change that? All they have to do is stand up — which would still be legal. If they persist, and the police arrest them, the city will be on the hook for millions of dollars in costs for prosecution, defense, and incarceration.

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