Proposition A is a Charter amendment placed on the ballot by a vote of the Board of Supervisors. The measure contains the following major provisions:
- Creates a Homicide Prevention Planning Council, with 11 voting seats of public appointees—six appointed by the Board of Supervisors, five by the mayor—plus 18 additional non-voting members from City departments, and three ex officio members from the courts, school district, and Housing Authority. The council would draft a homicide prevention plan.
- Establishes a baseline of the amount spent on violence prevention in fiscal year 2004-05, and requires the City to maintain this level of funding, plus $10 million, for each year for the three-year life of the measure. No new source of funding is identified to cover this cost; it would come out of existing City programs.
- Establishes a “survivors’ advocate” within the District Attorney’s Office and a survivors’ fund. The survivors’ fund would assist with burial expenses, counseling and other services to survivors of homicide victims. No new source of funding is identified for the position or the fund.
- The measure expires on June 30, 2010,meaning the funding requirement would apply to fiscal years 2007-08, 2008—09 and 2009-10.
Because the measure imposes requirements on the mayor and board that alter their chartered budgeting authority, it is constructed as a Charter amendment and must be approved by a vote of the electorate. To pass, Proposition A requires the approval of a simple majority—50 percent of participating voters, plus one vote—to pass.
In the measure’s own language, it is intended to fund:
job creation and workforce training; public education efforts; community capacity building and community response; conflict resolution and mediation between disputing parties; substance abuse treatment; mental health services and family support programs; ex-offender and probation services; and family and witness relocation services.
While the City already has established programs providing many of the services the measure calls for, the measure could increase funding to these activities or create new programs. The measure explicitly excludes spending the $10 million yearly allocations on police, firefighting, detention or probation activities.
The Homicide Prevention Planning Council would develop a draft plan by November 2006 and receive input from other City agencies including the police, youth, health and juvenile probation commissions. Finally, the Board of Supervisors would adopt the plan. The mayor would be bound to fund the activities recommended by the Homicide Prevention Planning Council, but would retain the authority to determine the level of funding allocated to each activity. The plan would be updated each subsequent year, including a performance evaluation of any private community organization or City agency receiving funding through the plan.
The Controller’s Office would be charged with calculating the baseline funding from fiscal year 2004-05. No estimate of this amount yet exists. The controller expects to have a figure in May, prior to the June election, but it is unclear whether the fiscal analysis will be done in time to include the information in the voter handbook and other materials. Once the baseline amount is established, any spending already in place that is over and above the baseline amount would “count toward” the $10 million requirement. In other words, if the controller finds that the City already has ongoing violence-prevention programs funded at a level $5 million above the 2004-05 baseline, only an additional $5 million allocation would be required by Proposition A.
The measure would also create a position called the survivors’ advocate in the District Attorney’s Office, which would help survivors of homicide victims access City services, and a survivors’ fund (without a source of actual funding identified), which could be used to help with things such as burial expenses and counseling. Like the $10 million funding requirement discussed above, the position and fund created under this provision would be required to be in place for only three years.
- Violence prevention is clearly an urgentpriority for San Francisco. Although some violence-prevention programs already exist and recent funding is increasing, we need to do more. The real proponents of the measure are not the supervisors who presented it but the community groups who demanded it of them. City residents, especially those in communities disproportionately affected by violence, have made it clear that something needs to be done. It is a worthwhile effort to engage citizens proactively in addressing an issue with such an enormous impact on their lives. In addition, people who have everyday experience with violence in their neighborhoods may have insights and ideas that have not been exposed through existing violence-prevention programs.
- Although $10 million may be much less than the ideal amount of funding for violence prevention, the number in the proposition reflects what the City can afford. Furthermore, setting the baseline funding to fiscal year 2004-05 “credits” any increase in funding in fiscal year 2005-06 and fiscal year 2006-07 toward the $10 million supplement, reducing the impact of the set-aside.
- The negative financial consequences of creating a budget set-aside are mitigated by the short three-year life of the measure.
- Because violence is such a complex issue, this measure will make a significant contribution by requiring the coordination of a large number of existing City departments in the planning process. Guaranteed funding will make participants take the planning effort seriously.
- Conventional public safety measures such as policing, incarceration and parole have been in place for many years and have not solved the problem, so alternative approaches are needed. Groups from the communities most affected by violence are the logical place to look for solutions to the linked community problems of violence, unemployment, poverty, social disconnection and loss of hope.
- The $10 million addition to the fiscal year 2004-05 baseline is essentially an arbitrary, politically negotiated figure. An allocation of this nature should be based on analysis of need.
- The definition of violence prevention in the measure is vague, making it unclear what would be funded. Nor has there been any analysis of what would actually be effective at reducing violence. Violence is rooted in deep social and economic issues that cannot be addressed by a simple $10 million and good intentions.
- It is bad policy to create unfunded mandates of this nature. The million per year will simply come out of other existing programs. This is just another budget set-aside. Policymakers have a responsibility to identify a source of funding when they create new programs.
- The office of the survivor advocate and the fund should not be put into the Charter. It is poor public policy to define the organization chart of City departments at this level of specificity in the “constitution” for San Francisco.
SPUR has no position on Proposition A. SPUR requires a 60 percent vote of its Board of Directors to take a position for or against any measure. We were unable to reach that threshold for Proposition A.
The measure provides an opportunity to address very serious concerns among the communities by violence, and to show that the City is committed to taking on the issue. The fact that the allocation expires after three years and allows increases in funding after the baseline year to count against the $10 million requirement makes this a relatively small and relatively responsible budget set-aside.
On the other hand, we have serious doubts about whether this measure will achieve its intended outcomes. It seems a simplistic approach to a complex issue to throw a little money at the problem with no basis for deciding how to spend the money and no analysis of what will be effective.
The split vote expresses our ambivalence on this measure.