Good Government

Our goal: Support local government.

SPUR's good government agenda:

• Put safety first.
• Invest in infrastructure.
• Support a strong civil service system.
• Get better at contracting.
• Experiment with labor-management partnerships and demonstration projects.
• Deliver services at the neighborhood scale.
• Make public data easier to access.

Read more from SPUR’s Agenda for Change
  • The SPUR Voter Guide

    The SPUR Voter Guide is the best resource for San Franciscans who want to understand the issues they will face in the voting booth. We focus on outcomes, not ideology, providing objective analysis on which measures will deliver real solutions.

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  • Good Government Awards

    The Good Government Awards honor outstanding managers working for the City and County of San Francisco, recognizing them for their leadership, vision and ability to make a difference in city government and in the community.

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  • SPUR Report

    A Big Fix for Capital Planning

    San Francisco’s aging public facilities harm the economy, limit they city’s ability to function and endanger public safety. SPUR proposes policy reforms for a more effective capital planning and maintenance process.

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  • SPUR Report

    Reforming Civil Service

    San Francisco’s employees and managers work within a system that often fails to take full advantage of their abilities or reward their contributions. The city can strengthen delivery of public services by restructuring practices for hiring, promotion, motivation and training.

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  • SPUR Report

    Fixing San Francisco’s Contracting Process

    San Francisco's ontracting process is often time-consuming, inefficient and unpredictable. How can the city minimize waste and inefficiency while maintaining strong safeguards against favoritism and corruption?

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  • SPUR Report

    Setting Aside Differences

    Ballot measures that dedicate city revenues to specific purposes have become increasingly common in San Francisco. But these “set asides” can damage the democratic system and lock in choices long after they continue to make sense. Here's how to improve these measures by evaluating them before they become law.

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  • The Urbanist

    Taxing Waste, Not Work

    Environmental tax reform decreases taxes on labor or income while increasing taxes on waste and pollution. For San Francisco, a shift away from the payroll tax toward taxes on energy, solid waste or transportation could increase economic activity while reducing environmental harm.

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  • Find more of SPUR's good government research

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Updates and Events

California's Latest Experiment in Democracy: Deliberative Polling

News December 19, 2011
Ever the pioneer in the political process, California is once again experimenting with its democracy, this time with new approach to helping the public understand reform proposals. Conducted earlier this year, the What’s Next California Project is California’s first state-wide deliberative poll, in which a random sample of the population is polled on important public-policy issues, then gathers to discuss them and is polled again. Is this the future of polling?

Prioritizing Neighborhood Schools

Urbanist Article December 1, 2011
WHAT HAPPENED The San Francisco Board of Education adopted a new policy for the 2011–12 school year that again attempts to address community concerns and the academic needs of students. The new system gives greater weight to those applying to a neighborhood school, with priority given to students living in census tracts with low academic performance to provide increased opportunity. WHAT IT MEANS Even with greater neighborhood weighting, there was no increase in parents choosing their area school during the first year of the new system. The long term results of this policy change remain to be seen. San Francisco has a long and complicated history of striving toward a student assignment system that is fair and equitable for families and that provides the best academic outcomes for students. In the 1970s, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) — like many urban districts — adopted the policy of busing...

Ranked Choice Voting

Urbanist Article December 1, 2011
WHAT HAPPENED San Francisco’s first competitive mayoral election using ranked-choice voting is on the books, and by most objective measures the system held up rather well: The election results were clear and uncontroversial, individual ballots contained fewer errors than in past contests and most voters chose to participate fully by ranking their first-, se cond- and third-choice candidates. WHAT IT MEANS Despite these results, it’s still unclear whether ranked-choice voting accurately reflects popular opinion. While 73.2 percent of voters ranked three different candidates in the mayoral election, only 52.4 percent did so in the five-candidate race for district attorney and 42.6 percent in the four-candidate race for sheriff. Bullet voting (voting only for one candidate) remains prevalent: In the mayoral election 16 percent of voters indicated a preference for only one candidate, as did 27 percent in the DA’s race and 38 percent in the sheriff’s race. It’s not clear...

The 2011 Election's Real Winner? Getting Back to Basics

News November 17, 2011
Outside of the much-discussed mayor’s race, there were some important items on the ballot this year, and voters appear to have ignored the noise and focused on the business at hand. Here's our take on the election results, and an analysis of how SPUR's recommendations fared in the final count.

What San Franciscans Need to Know About Ranked-Choice Voting

News November 3, 2011
In the weeks leading up to the November 8 election, San Franciscans find themselves up to their necks in news articles (from the Chronicle , the Mercury News and even The Economist ) about our ranked-choice voting (RCV) system and how the tallying of voters’ first, second, and third preferences might affect the outcome of the mayoral election. In principle, ranked-choice voting is simple: If no candidate receives an outright majority of the first place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and his or her votes are redistributed according to those voters’ next choice. The votes are re-tallied, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated, and so on. In what amounts to an instant run-off, this process of redistributing ballots continues until a winner is declared. As someone who studies voting systems (and spends free time poring over data from recent elections), I find the level of interest in...

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