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A Quick and Dirty Primer on Today's Election

Scott Lucas | November 5, 2013 | Story Politics

Election day is today, and while it lacks the high stakes drama of a Presidential (or even Mayoral) race, there are still controversial issues on today's ballot, mostly having to do with the fraught real development at 8 Washington. Here's our look at who is on the ballot, and what the proponents and opponents are saying about today's propositions.


San Francisco voters will be electing the City Attorney, Treasurer, and Assessor-Recorder today. In addition, voters in District 4 will be choosing their Supervisors. Three of the races are unopposed, and one features only token opposition. But political junkies still have one (minor) point of interest for today—thanks to last year's Proposition D, this time will be the last that the city elects some of its officers in a different election than the others. Starting in 2015, every office, from the Mayor to the (proverbial) Dog Catcher, will be on the same ballot. Here are the candidates.

Assessor-Recorder The incumbent, Carmen Chu, was appointed in February to serve out the term of Phil Ting, who had been elected to the Assembly. Chu now looks to earn her post before the voters. She points to a new, more efficient, paperless recording process for her office as her major accomplishment during her time up until now. Chu is running unopposed.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, first elected in 2001, is on the ballot for another term. He is best known for his long-time legal advocacy of same-sex marriage, but also for a wide-ranging series of policy crusades he has fought, including helping settle monetary issues in the Healthy SF program, tangling with the NRA over gun safety, and suing Monster Energy over its marketing to children. Herrera is running unopposed.

Treasurer José Cisneros, first appointed to the office in 2004, is running for another term. He points to a record of safe money management, revenue collection, and financial justice programs like those that help residents avoid predatory lending. Cisneros is running unopposed.

District 4 Supervisor As part of the musical chairs that resulted after the Ting election, the Mayor appointed Katy Tang, an aide to then-supervisor Chu, to the post that Chu had vacated by taking on the office of Assessor, which had been Ting's job. Now Tang, a Sunset native, goes before the voters in her own right for the first time. Tang has already staked out issues including better Muni service along the N Judah line, a crackdown on massage parlors that exploited sex workers, and improvement of local parks and Ocean Beach. We profiled Tang back when she first took office. She faces only token opposition, and is widely expected to win.

Ballot Measures

Proposition A: Retiree Health Care Trust Fund This measure would restrict the city's ability to spend money from its retiree health care fund on purposes other than funding retiree health care. The Board of Supervisor placed it on the ballot in a unanimous vote. Supporters, including the mayor, argue that it would create a "lockbox" to pay for the health care retired city workers, including firefighters, police, and nurses. Opponents, including the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, argue that it would fiscally irresponsible to create such a requirement, given that other city functions, like MUNI, parks, and street paving have no such guarantees.

Proposition B and C: Both of these items concern the planned development of a mixed-use project that would include residential and retail at 8 Washington Street, which is near the Embarcadero waterfront. Although after the planning process finished, the Board of Supervisors agreed to allow the development (which in the majority of cases allows a project to proceed) a group of residents gathered enough signatures to place B on the ballot, after which supporters received sufficient signatures to place a competing measure, C. A vote of yes on B and C would allow the development to proceed. A vote of no would block it.

Supporters of B and C, who include Mayor Lee and former mayor Newsom, as well as Supervisors Farrell, Wiener, and Tang, argue that the 8 Washington project would replace the current athletic club with new housing and better public access to the waterfront. They argue that this kind of development is environmentally sustainable, and that it would create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs. Opponents, which include former mayor Agnos, Supervisor David Chiu, former Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and the Sierra Club, argue that what they call the "Wall on the Waterfront" would raise the height limits along the waterfront to too high a level (at least two of the buildings that are currently situated next to the 8 Washington site rise over 500 feet), would serve the luxury market, and encourage further development of the area.

The debate has at times reached a fever pitch, with supporters of the planning process that lead to 8 Washington calling opponents NIMBYs, and opponents calling supporters gentrifiers.

Proposition D: This measure is a non-binding request for the city to reduce the cost of prescription drugs that it purchases, which it currently spends $23 million on. It asks the city to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to reduce costs. Supporters, which include members of the Board, argue that it would lower costs. Opponents argue that the measure is poorly-worded and would slow down research into life-saving medication.

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