What is does
This proposition would prohibit a city appointed or elected official from accepting a gift, payment, job offer, or campaign contribution from a person or entity, if the city official previously had approved granting certain benefits—such as a contract, lease, franchise, land use exception, special tax benefit or monetary payment—to such person or entity. This prohibition would apply from the date of the official’s action approving the benefit until two years after the officials term of office ended or the official otherwise left office, or six years after the official’s action, whichever came first.
Why it is on the ballot
The Proposition was drafted by the Oaks Project, a non-profit group that has placed similar measures on the ballot in several other cities for November.
Those who support this measure state:
- Citizens are increasingly disillusioned with the influence of money and special interests in politics. This is a modest proposal to address some of this influence by restricting the ability of officials to trade votes for personal financial gain or political contributions.
Those who oppose this measure state:
- The legislation was crafted as a “one-size-fits-all” for several jurisdictions, with only limited tailoring to reflect San Francisco’s commission form of government or existing laws governing campaign contributions.
- It would not address the most troublesome aspects of the current system — it would prohibit contributions only after votes or other approvals have already occurred, and would not place any restrictions on “soft money.”
- It casts an overly-broad net, capturing a wide range of activities not only by elected officials, but also by appointed decision-makers such as commissioners and department heads. It also subjects these decision-makers to potential harassment from civil suits which can be brought even for unknowing violations, and places undue restrictions on future employment and campaigning activities.
This proposition is an attempt to eliminate corruption by city officials. Under current state and local law, public officials may not participate in decisions in which they have a financial interest. For example, officials may not vote to give a contract to a company which they own in whole or part. Officials must report gifts valued at over $50, and may not participate in a governmental decision affecting someone who has been a source of $250 or more in gifts or income to the official within the past twelve months. Campaign contributions are not considered gifts or income to the official.
The goals of the proponents are laudable, and we note that this initiative was placed on the ballot by a non-profit public interest group using unpaid signature gatherers. As drafted, however, the legislation has too many shortcomings that outweigh the potential benefits. It would, for instance, prohibit a supervisorial candidate from accepting contributions based on a decision made years before when that individual might have been a commission member. San Francisco needs and deserves to decrease the influence of money in politics, but it is hard to see how this measure would help.
SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Proposition J.