Proposition D - Diversity on City Commissions

Voter Guide
June 1, 2008
This measure appeared on the June 2008 San Francisco ballot.
 

What it does

Proposition D makes three changes to the San Francisco City Charter related to diversity on City boards and commissions. First, it adds “types of disabilities” to the list of diversity criteria. Second, it mandates that each commission should “reflect the interests and contributions” of the people represented by the broad mix of diversity criteria. Third, it specifies that the Commission on the Status of Women shall conduct an analysis of appointments to City boards and commissions every two years to track the diversity of appointments to those bodies.

The current charter includes language mandating that the “composition of each appointive board, commission or advisory body … be broadly representative of the communities of interest, neighborhoods, and the diversity in ethnicity, race, age, and sexual orientation of the City and County and have representation of both sexes.” Proposition D would add “types of disabilities” to the list of diversity criteria.

Proposition D also adds language that specifies that this diversity goal is official City policy. The additional language also specifies that “each Board or Commission … shall reflect the interests and contributions of both men and women of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and types of disabilities” and “urge in the strongest terms” that City officials “consider and as appropriate support” nominees who meet the diversity criteria. This new section, however, only identifies race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability as diversity goals. The current list of diversity criteria in the charter also includes age and neighborhood.

Proposition D would require a report every two years by the Commission on the Status of Women regarding appointments to the various boards, commissions and advisory bodies.

Because state law prohibits quotas, this measure could only provide stronger language in the pursuit of goals, and does not give legal recourse to nominees or potential nominees if they ultimately are not selected to a board or commission that could have become more diverse with their appointment.

Why it is on the ballot

This measure is a charter amendment that received the support of a majority of members of the Board of Supervisors to go onto the ballot.

Pros

Arguments in favor of this measure:

  • Current City policy does not include disabilities as a distinct diversity goal on our boards, commissions, and task forces. By adding disabilities, this measure broadens our diversity goals as a City.
  • Keeping track of diversity is an appropriate way to measure progress towards an existing City policy goal of increasing diversity. Prop. D both requires a biannual report and assigns this report to a specific agency, thus establishing a system for tracking progress over time.

Cons

Arguments against this measure:

  • We already have a City goal and policy to promote diversity on boards and commissions. This measure does not seem to address a problem that requires charter reform to solve.
  • While the measure adds disability as a diversity goal, it leaves out many other factors of diversity. In particular, Prop. D does not include many key diversity criteria that are particularly relevant for San Francisco — namely ancestry, national origin, marital status, familial status, religion, educational status and income. As a charter reform of our diversity goals, it would be more appropriate for Prop. D to have included a more complete list of diversity criteria. Many of these additional diversity criteria are already recognized in the Constitution of the State of California.
  • It is inappropriate for the diversity analysis to be conducted by the Commission on the Status of Women instead of the Human Rights Commission, which has a broader mandate. If we wish to use the City Charter to identify a permanent role for a specific department to write a report, this is best done as part of a broader charter-reform effort that looks at all charter agencies.
  • Whenever more requirements are put on commissions, it becomes harder to fill the seats, and can lead to vacancies on the commissions.
  • This proposition could make future appointments a fight over whether or not a candidate helps a specific commission reflect the diversity of the City at large, as opposed to a decision based on the qualifications of the candidate. Further, it moves the City away from a goal of looking at the aggregate diversity across all commissions.
  • There is no provision in this proposition for filling commission seats when no candidate can be found who meets the diversity criteria.
  • “Types of disabilities” is a vague term that does not reflect the true interests of people who are disabled.
  • This measure implies that the current composition of many commissions is inappropriate. For example, the measure implies that the membership of the Commission on the Status of Women, which is all women, is out of keeping with the overall diversity of the City. The measure makes it unclear what should happen to commissioners or commissions that do not precisely reflect the overall diversity of the City.

SPUR’s analysis

There is no question that broad diversity across all commissions is a paramount goal in a diverse city such as San Francisco. Our current charter includes such language and goals. Therefore, it is not clear what specific problem this charter amendment is seeking to solve. In addition, while it does add disabilities to the list of diversity criteria, it leaves out other important sources of diversity that already are protected classes in our state constitution — namely ancestry, national origin and religion. Further, by strengthening the language of the charter, it creates an impossible goal that each commission should reflect the diversity of the City (as measured by a partial list of criteria). Instead, we should be pursuing a goal as a City that the aggregate representation on our appointed boards, commissions, and task forces reflects the broadest set of diversity criteria. Unfortunately, this charter amendment is not such a policy. In the end, we agree with the goals of diversity but think that this measure is not fully thought through as the solution to increasing diversity.

SPUR recommends a “No” vote on Prop. D.