Good Government

Our goal: Support local government.

Publications

SPUR Report Thursday, September 8, 2011
Image courtesy Flickr user ShawnaScottPhoto

San Francisco’s parks are among the city’s most treasured assets — but they’re also in serious financial trouble. The city’s Recreation and Parks Department (RPD) has lost more than 25 percent of its General Fund revenue in just five years. Meanwhile, labor costs have gone up 34 percent.

Blog Friday, August 26, 2011

With two different pension-reform measures on the upcoming ballot, it’s no secret that pension reform will have a significant impact on the November election. But how did the city get to the point of having a problem of this magnitude? Clearly the recession has played a big part, but what about the many negotiated increases in benefits over the course of the last decade?

Blog Monday, August 15, 2011

A grown man napping on his laptop case. Daily visits from SF mayoral candidates. Keynote addresses from the Wigg Party, MIT's SENSEable Cities Lab, the Rebar Group, and the San Francisco Department of the Environment. Cold pizza after midnight. More than a hundred adults sitting around tables on the 5th floor of a Mid-Market office building on a Friday night. This is what ground zero of the open government movement looks like.

Blog Monday, July 11, 2011

Since President Obama launched his Open Government Directive in December 2009, tech-savvy urban thinkers have been asking, "How can technology improve government and empower communities?" Although the Open Government Initiative suffered a hit when its funding was cut from $35 million to $8 million, nonprofits around the

Blog Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In the coming weeks, the SF Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will be hearing the "consensus" proposal for pension reform, which Mayor Ed Lee and a coalition of the city’s labor unions released May 24. The board has until July to make amendments and vote on the proposal.

The proposal, which projects savings of $1 billion over ten years, would:

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Our priorities for Good Government

BUILDING AN INFORMED, ENGAGED CITIZENRY

SPUR serves as a watchdog for the public interest. We analyze each ballot and provide recommendations on how to vote. We try to help the City make wise decisions in budgeting. We monitor capital spending, civil service reform and changes to contracting rules. And we do all of this with a goal of improving outcomes and raising public awareness.

PROMOTING GOVERNMENT AS A FORCE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE

SPUR believes in our local government as a positive force for social change. But it is not enough to simply want an active public sector. The practical challenges of operating a large, complex public organization are enormous. SPUR works to ensure that government has the appropriate policies and tools to make the most of our investment in government and provide the highest quantity and quality of public services to San Francisco residents with the resources at its disposal.

CREATING AN EFFECTIVE PUBLIC SECTOR

SPUR's approach is to be constructive about changes that need to be made, from the perspective of an ally of government, rather than an adversary. SPUR believes that government can be effective and efficient at what it does to continue to carry out indispensable functions for the quality of life of the city. From parks, to public transit, to street cleaning, to public safety—and the list goes on—there is simply no way for San Francisco to be a good place to live unless local government is well-funded and well-managed.


Good Government projects

BALLOT ANALYSIS

Before every local election, SPUR's Ballot Analysis Committee and Board of Directors investigate all local and some state ballot measures, and prepare an analysis for the public. Our analysis includes the background behind the measures, pros and cons, and a recommendation on how to vote. This is widely regarded as the single best source in San Francisco for citizens to get an understanding of the issues they will face in the voting booth. Because we typically complete our analysis in advance of other election observers, we share our ballot analysis with community organizations and local media to help them make their own recommendations on the ballot.

THE MUNICIPAL FISCAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The Municipal Fiscal Advisory Committee—now a part of SPUR—serves as the coordinating body for many efforts to help government work better. Through public/private collaboration, MFAC helps strengthen the City's ability to manage its operations, maintain essential services and manage revenues. We usually work closely in partnership with City departments as we bring outside expertise to help solve City problems. Occasionally, we will identify a volunteer to help a City agency or department resolve a specific problem. Our committee may also produce independent policy analyses and go directly to legislators or the ballot box to achieve policy reform.

ANNUAL ECONOMIC OUTLOOK BRIEFING

Each year, SPUR's MFAC organizes an economic briefing to the Controller's Office and the mayor's budget director. The focus of the briefing is to bring experts from key industry sectors - real estate, retail, hotels and banking—to discuss economic trends that will affect the City and County of San Francisco budget. This information helps validate the assumptions made by the controller's staff as they form revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year. The outside guidance also strengthens the acceptance of the budget projections by the Board of Supervisors.

GOOD GOVERNMENT AWARDS PROGRAM

SPUR holds an annual awards event to honor exemplary city managers who are models of good public service. This is the only citywide awards program for exemplary management in the city's public sector. Managers are nominated by their department heads and are reviewed by a panel that includes City staff and members of MFAC. Over nearly three decades, this event has honored hundreds of nominees and winners, of whom many have gone on to become department heads.

BALLOT REFORM TASK FORCE AND COALITION

In reaction to the plethora of poorly conceived ballot measures on the San Francisco ballot, SPUR has founded a task force to study and recommend ways to assure that each go through the proper process of public review before being placed on the ballot. Future projects will include additional measures to help increase meaningful public participation and voting. SPUR is also leading a coalition of organizations looking at ways to improve and reform process by which ordinances appear on the local ballot. These reforms require changes to the City charter.