Board overrides mayor, June election on table


"Colleagues, the mayor's veto is overturned."
So said Board President David Chiu, as the Board of Supervisors overturned Mayor Gavin Newsom's February 6 veto of legislation that former Board President Aaron Peskin introduced as his going away gift to San Francisco voters--a gift that involved declaring a fiscal emergency so that a June 2 special election would be possible.

Overturning Newsom's veto allows the Board to keep this June 2 special election on the table. And they still have until March 3 before they need to decide whether to pull the plug on that plan. If they do, Chiu has also proposed
legislation that would open the door to an August election, if the Board decides that would work better.

Newsom vetoed the Board’s June special election legislation late last Friday afternoon, and he has stated that he prefers to wait until November.

But most folks on the Board (especially now that they have seen the depth and horror of the cuts that the City faces) aren’t buying the mayor’s wait-another-nine-months-and-see plan.

That's why Board President David Chiu, Bevan Dufty, Sophie Maxwell, Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, Eric Mar, John Avalos and Chris Daly joined forces February 10 to override the mayor's veto and move forward with a financial rescue package as soon as possible, in an effort to reduce the massive volume of layoffs and service cuts that the city already faces in the next fiscal year.

“I respect the mayor’s perspective, but I believe that by getting on with the election, less damage will be done,” Chiu said.

Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who voted, along with Sup.Carmen Chu, to uphold Newsom's veto, said he continues to believe that June is too soon to hold the special election.

"What we need is significantly more than one or two revenue measures," Elsbernd told the Board. He pointed to concerns about the City's retirement benefits plan, which currently accounts for 5 percent of pay roll.

"In five years, it will be 24 percent of payroll, that's a 19 percent increase. That's a significant problem," Elsbernd said.

"I'm not saying we should change the retirement benefits," Elsbernd told the Guardian. "I'm saying that a sales tax that creates $34 million, well, that's pennies to some of our problems. Solving them is going to have to include structural reforms. And to ensure beneficiaries are paid, our contributions are going to have to go up."

The Board’s override of Newsom’s veto came two days after Chiu spent four hours at City Hall leading a Sunday morning meeting with representatives from labor and business, all locked in the same room.

“I’ve asked the Mayor to convene these meetings, but obviously that hasn’t happened, “ Chiu told the Guardian. “He has said he plans to convene them soon."

“It was really gratifying and encouraging,” said Sup. Dufty, who attended Chiu's Sunday session, along with Sup. Elsbernd and Sup. John Avalos. Chiu's office says key representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, the Labor Council, the Committee on Jobs, SEIU Local 1021, SPUR, the firefighters union, the Coalition for Better Housing, the plumber’s union and the Building and Trades Council showed up at the meeting which started at 9 a.m.

“I was heartened by Sunday’s meeting,” Chiu said, noting that it’s important for both sides to express their concerns, hear each other’s perspectives, and hear what’s at stake.

The atmosphere at the Sunday meeting was good, with folks relieved to be at the round table, instead of in separate rooms, with the Mayor yelling at this group, and then that.

Chiu had another roundtable meeting scheduled at City Hall on Tuesday evening, but there was no word whether the Mayor’s people planned to show up this time around.

Chiu says he recognizes that a special election will cost an extra $3.5 million, but he predicts that it will raise much more than $3.5 million--something more lin the range of $50 million-$100 million, depending on what voters approve.

“We are facing a $565 million budget deficit, so if we can raise $100 million, we’ll still have to cut $465 million, but it would save us from having to make the most painful cuts," Chiu explained.

So, why is Newsom refusing to talk about a summer election, when so many people around the table are desperate to find a solution now?

Newsom has said it's because he believes it will take until November to do the necessary footwork to make sure the election is successful. But word on the street is that Newsom doesn't want to show support for new taxes until the last possible moment, lest he offend or alienate the "no new taxes" folks, many of whom are large and powerful donors to his gubernatorial campaign. Fact or fiction? Stay tuned.