Proposition B - Board of Supervisors Aides

Voter Guide
November 1, 2009
This measure appeared on the November 2009 San Francisco ballot.

 

What it does

Proposition B is an amendment to the San Francisco City Charter that would remove the charter provision that restricts members of the Board of Supervisors to two full-time equivalent staff members. This measure simply would eliminate the Charter language that reads, “Each member of the Board of Supervisors shall have two staff members.”  The measure would make the question of how many aides each Supervisor could hire a part of the budget process between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors.

Why it is on the ballot

This measure was put on the ballot by the vote of six members of the Board of Supervisors. This measure brings back to the voters an ongoing debate about how many aides each supervisor should have. The 1932 city charter provided one aide for each supervisor, and it subsequently was amended to allow two aides. A 1997 charter amendment allowed each member of the board to hire a third aide. However, that measure included a sunset clause and it was not renewed after it expired in January 2001.

Pros

  • This measure could result in an increase in the quality of legislation and policy that come from each of the supervisors. It could also create a more manageable workload for each aide. Many board aides work 60 to 80 hours per week and still do not have adequate time to do comprehensive research on the dozens of policy and programmatic issues supervisors confront on a weekly basis. As a result, they often rely on departmental reports and other secondhand information.
  • The staffing level of other City agencies is not determined in the charter. It is unfair to place this cap solely on the Board of Supervisors.
  • San Francisco has very few aides compared to the number of people represented by each legislator (approximately one aide per 36,000 constituents) relative to other large and complex cities. For example, San Jose City Council members have five or six aides each, approximately one aide per 20,000 constituents, and the Oakland City Council members have one aide per 11,600 constituents.

Cons

  • This measure places the decision about the number of aides into the budget process, which is ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors. By placing no maximum on the number of aides, the supervisors have little incentive to limit the increase in staff, which could result in a significant increase in city payroll expenditures.
  • It is unnecessary to increase the number of aides because the existing level of professional and legislative support staff for the Board of Supervisors is sufficient. This support includes civil service staff, the Office of Legislative Analysis, the Clerk of the Board and the clerk’s committee support staff, as well as the large and independent Budget Analyst’s Office staff. In addition, the supervisors have access to city attorneys and the resources of the City Controller’s Office and its Office of Economic Analysis.
  • Providing a set dollar figure for legislative budgets is preferable to the simple elimination of the hiring cap, because it would still provide staffing flexibility while maintaining fiscal constraints. Other comparable jurisdictions with more aides do this, and the elected officer can use this budget for staff, outreach or community projects.

SPUR’s analysis

On the one hand, we strongly believe that the members of the Board of Supervisors should have as much assistance as they need, and that placing the micromanagement of staffing in the Charter is overly restrictive. On the other hand, although we have supported similar measures in the past, SPUR rethought its position because the current Charter restriction limits only political hires outside of the civil service system. The supervisors may still request to hire as many analysts as they want through the Clerk of the Board’s Office, and the supervisors are not facing an insurmountable staff shortage. The SPUR board was not able to reach the 60 percent threshold required to either oppose or support the measure.

SPUR takes "No position" on Proposition B.