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

Seeking Green

SPUR Report September 8, 2011
Image courtesy Flickr user ShawnaScottPhoto San Francisco’s parks are among the city’s most treasured assets — but they’re also in serious financial trouble. The city’s Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) has lost more than 25 percent of its General Fund revenue in just five years. Meanwhile, labor costs have gone up 34 percent. This mix of factors has forced the department to make dramatic cuts. The RPD has lost 150 staff positions in the past seven years, and deferred maintenance costs have reached $1.4 billion. The RPD’s current annual budget is $127.9 million. SPUR’s task force found that the department needs an additional $30 to $35 million each year in order to retain 24-hour safety patrols, maintain the health of park trees and plants, and keep facilities open and programs operating. In this SPUR Report, we offer 11 recommendations to stabilize current funding and fill the additional need using three...

Election 2011: How Did SF’s Pension Problem Get This Bad?

News August 26, 2011
With two different pension-reform measures on the upcoming ballot, it’s no secret that pension reform will have a significant impact on the November election. But how did the city get to the point of having a problem of this magnitude? Clearly the recession has played a big part, but what about the many negotiated increases in benefits over the course of the last decade? While there has been much discussion here at SPUR about the magnitude of the pension crisis in San Francisco , scant attention has been paid to the many decisions that brought the city to the brink. In a recent article, the Examiner’s Josh Sabatini finally cast a light on the elephant in the room: “Among the factors leading to skyrocketing costs is a political culture that routinely rewards public employee unions with little thought about the future.” These increases have taken many forms, but with little...

Hackathon! Coders and Civil Servants Unite to Fix SF

News August 15, 2011
A grown man napping on his laptop case. Daily visits from SF mayoral candidates. Keynote addresses from the Wigg Party, MIT's SENSEable Cities Lab, the Rebar Group, and the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Cold pizza after midnight. More than a hundred adults sitting around tables on the 5th floor of a Mid-Market office building on a Friday night. This is what ground zero of the open government movement looks like. From July 22 through 24, the Gray AreaFoundation for the Arts hosted Urban Innovation Weekend 2: Sustainability, Energy and Transportation, the second "hackathon" in its Summer of Smart series, sponsored by SPUR and other local organizations. The hackathons are an open casting call for ideas on how technology and digital information can help government work better. Respondents ranged in age from their 20s to mid 50s, with specialities in everything from architecture to speech software. Think Wikipedia, only...

Summer of Smart: Using Technology to Transform our Government

News July 11, 2011
Since President Obama launched his Open Government Directive in December 2009, tech-savvy urban thinkers have been asking, "How can technology improve government and empower communities?" Although the Open Government Initiative suffered a hit when its funding was cut from $35 million to $8 million, nonprofits around the country such as Code For America have continued bringing open government to the forefront of public discussion. This summer, the Gray Area Foundation of the Arts is hosting San Francisco's first annual " Summer of Smart ," a three-month-long program of interactive workshops and seminars exploring the emerging role of the Internet in government. SPUR is proud to be co-sponsoring these events. The Summer of Smart kicked off in June with programs including a 48-hour intensive "hackathon for everyone" that looked at community development and public art. The event drew a crowd of urban designers, programmers, artists, teachers and government officials, who broke...

Will the City's Pension Proposal Really Solve the Pension Crisis?

News June 14, 2011
In the coming weeks, the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will be hearing the "consensus" proposal for pension reform, which Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of the city’s labor unions released May 24. The board has until July to make amendments and vote on the proposal. The proposal, which projects savings of $1 billion over ten years, would: Require that city employees pay more for their benefits, rather than reducing benefits. Employee contributions to the pension fund would increase as the city’s contributions increase. Employees earning less than $50,000 per year would be exempted. Increase the retirement ages for new employees from 62 to 65 for most employees and from 55 to 58 for public safety employees. For new employees, calculate pensions based on the average of the last three years of service (instead of the last two years, as is the current practice). Amend the composition of...

Defining Good Government in the New Reality

Urbanist Article March 1, 2011
Costs of City government are rising while revenues are stagnating. Meanwhile, our need for core services has not decreased. What began as a national recession may have triggered a rare moment of opportunity to deal with the causes of our structural deficit. So what is the way forward?

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