Proposition C - City Employees on Commissions

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

 

What it does

Proposition C amends the San Francisco City Charter to prohibit current City employees from serving on most boards or commissions that are created by the Charter and whose members are appointed by the mayor, or by another official or governmental body such as the Board of Supervisors.

However, the prohibition would not apply to:

  • Citizen advisory committees created in the Charter;
  • The Law Library Board of Trustees;
  • Boards or commissions created in the charter for arts and culture departments (the Arts Commission, Asian Art Museum Board of Trustees, Fine Arts Museums Board of Trustees and War Memorial Board of Trustees), the Employee Retirement System (Retirement Board), the Health Service System (Health Service Board), the Department of Elections (Elections Commission) and the Ethics Commission
  • City officers who serve as ex-officio members of charter commissions where required by the charter.
  • City employees are not prohibited from serving on any boards or commissions. They are nonetheless subject to existing ethics and conflict of interest regulations that apply to all members of boards and commissions.

Why it is on the ballot

The Board of Supervisors put this charter amendment onto the ballot. Supporters of the amendment had tried to place it on the ballot in prior elections, but did not receive sufficient votes to make it onto the ballot.

San Francisco has dozens of commissions and boards. Some manage public agencies, while others are more advisory in nature. In addition to commissions for planning, building, redevelopment, public utilities, and police and fire services, there many more, including those for the airport, arts, oversight of general obligation bonds, entertainment, the environment, the Port of San Francisco, and recreation and parks and many more.

In spite of the number of boards and commissions, only a few City employees also serve on commissions.

Pros

Arguments in favor of Prop. C:

  • This measure minimizes politics on some boards and commissions, since City employees may be perceived as helping politicians or themselves to advance their careers.

City employees on commissions could be compromised through workplace pressures and diminution of their career opportunities. Keeping them off of boards and commissions is a way to promote the independence of those boards.

Cons

Arguments against Prop. C:

  • City employees are often the most knowledgeable people about the workings of City government. Prohibiting them from serving on boards and commissions would discriminate against a large number of highly qualified applicants.
  • With the protections provided by the Civil Service system, City employees are less susceptible to political pressures than private-sector employees who are exposed to similar political forces.
  • The measure does not appear equitable, because it exempts certain boards and commissions.
  • This measure is a solution in search of a problem. Only a few City employees serve on boards and commissions. To the extent that people might not want to see those individuals reappointed, this measure could be a political measure those specific commissioners.

SPUR’s analysis

SPUR has long advocated for good government, built on a foundation of informed decision making, to achieve the greatest public good. It is likely that as members of City boards and commissions, City employees could be subject to lobbying and political pressures — as are other appointees, government officials and elected officials. However, all members of commissions are subject to potential lobbying and political pressures, particularly members whose employers are seeking political influence within San Francisco. Minimizing politics on boards and commissions is an important goal. But Prop. C does not apply equitably to all who wish to serve. Further, City employees should have equal participatory rights to government, as voters, candidates for elected office and members of appointed bodies. Given the depth of knowledge of the tens of thousands of City employees, it makes no sense to exclude them from the important function of serving on boards and commissions.

SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Prop. C.