Good Government

Our goal: Support local government.

SPUR's good government agenda:

• Put safety first.
• Invest in infrastructure.
• Support a strong civil service system.
• Get better at contracting.
• Experiment with labor-management partnerships and demonstration projects.
• Deliver services at the neighborhood scale.
• Make public data easier to access.

Read more from SPUR’s Agenda for Change
  • The SPUR Voter Guide

    The SPUR Voter Guide is the best resource for San Franciscans who want to understand the issues they will face in the voting booth. We focus on outcomes, not ideology, providing objective analysis on which measures will deliver real solutions.

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  • Good Government Awards

    The Good Government Awards honor outstanding managers working for the City and County of San Francisco, recognizing them for their leadership, vision and ability to make a difference in city government and in the community.

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  • SPUR Report

    Back in the Black

    San Jose has the highest median household income of any major city in the country, but years of budget cuts and staffing reductions have left the city in a precarious position. SPUR and Working Partnerships USA explore how San Jose can bolster its resources and deliver high-quality public services.

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  • SPUR Report

    A Big Fix for Capital Planning

    San Francisco’s aging public facilities harm the economy, limit they city’s ability to function and endanger public safety. SPUR proposes policy reforms for a more effective capital planning and maintenance process.

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  • SPUR Report

    Reforming Civil Service

    San Francisco’s employees and managers work within a system that often fails to take full advantage of their abilities or reward their contributions. The city can strengthen delivery of public services by restructuring practices for hiring, promotion, motivation and training.

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  • SPUR Report

    Fixing San Francisco’s Contracting Process

    San Francisco's contracting process is often time-consuming, inefficient and unpredictable. How can the city minimize waste and inefficiency while maintaining strong safeguards against favoritism and corruption?

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  • SPUR Report

    Setting Aside Differences

    Ballot measures that dedicate city revenues to specific purposes have become increasingly common in San Francisco. But these “set asides” can damage the democratic system and lock in choices long after they continue to make sense. Here's how to improve these measures by evaluating them before they become law.

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  • The Urbanist

    Taxing Waste, Not Work

    Environmental tax reform decreases taxes on labor or income while increasing taxes on waste and pollution. For San Francisco, a shift away from the payroll tax toward taxes on energy, solid waste or transportation could increase economic activity while reducing environmental harm.

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  • Find more of SPUR's good government research

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Updates and Events

June 2012 Voter Guide

Voter Guide May 15, 2012
SPUR provides in-depth analysis of the two City of San Francisco measures on the June 2012 ballot: Prop. A, an ordinance that would require competitive bidding for garbage collection and disposal, and Prop. B, a policy statement proposal for protecting the murals at Coit Tower.

SF Works to Reform Its Business Tax

News April 24, 2012
For the last decade, businesses in San Francisco have been adamant that the city’s payroll tax is holding back job growth. First, companies must pay the tax when they reach $250,000 in payroll, which discourages new hiring. Second, they must pay it when employees exercise their stock options — a strong incentive for any company considering an IPO to leave the city. SPUR, along with much of the business community, has argued that we should restructure the city’s tax system to remove these disincentives to hiring. Following payroll tax exemptions in 2011 for stock compensation and for businesses locating in the Mid-Market neighborhood, the call for payroll tax reform has sounded again. The city is finally responding, but will this effort lead to real reform? City Controller Ben Rosenfield and Chief Economist Ted Egan have for the last three months been hard at work designing a replacement for San Francisco’s...

SPUR Announces June 2012 Ballot Positions

News April 2, 2012
This June’s primary election will bear little resemblance to the contentious ballot San Franciscans considered last November. Gone are the competing pension reform measures, sales taxes and bonds. We’re left with two measures, both placed on the ballot by voter petition. While the June slate may be lean, voters should take the time to fully research the measures on the ballot this spring. They’re important not just to how the city operates but also to how we choose to fund city services. Prop. A addresses how the city contracts for garbage-collection and recycling services; this measure would require the city to own all supporting facilities (it currently does not) and competitively bid the service. Prop. B limits how the Recreation and Parks Department funds Coit Tower, which could create a precedent for similar limitations at other facilities throughout the parks system. These measures could both have potentially expensive implications. After...

SPUR Honors Ed Harrington with Life Achievement Award

News March 22, 2012
This year at our 32nd annual Good Government Awards, SPUR honored Ed Harrington with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the City and County of San Francisco, including unparalleled fiscal leadership and managerial excellence through five mayoral administrations.

Good Government Awards: How Harlan Kelly Led the Next Generation of SF Utilities

News March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. Harlan L. Kelly, Jr. was honored for his outstanding leadership in the delivery and implementation of the SF Public Utilities Commission’s 10-year capital improvement program for water, sewer and power, and his specific innovation on the Construction Management Information System (CMIS) to address inefficiencies in large, complex capital projects. By streamlining and coordinating tasks, and enhancing transparency and accountability with a cloud-based system, the new CMIS allows project managers throughout dispersed project areas to make faster and more informed decisions. The system has already contributed to an overall Water System Improvement Program cost savings of $167.6 million. Watch our video on Harlan’s work:

Good Government Awards: How SF’s Tax Automation Team Took the City Paperless

News March 22, 2012
SPUR's 32nd annual Good Government Awards , held March 19, honored City of San Francisco employees who have performed exceptionally, becoming models for other agencies and cities around the country. The Municipal Tax Automation Team — Darrell Ascano, Tajel Shah and Rebecca Villareal-Mayer — was honored for its outstanding teamwork and achievement in upgrading the technology used to collect and process the majority of the city’s General Fund revenue. By choosing an aggressive, non-incremental approach — upgrading the entire system over eight months — the team executed a complex project that has changed the way tax information is collected and funds are received. This has resulted in increased taxpayer compliance and expense savings. Watch our video on the tax team’s work:

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