Proposition Q - Use of City Funds

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the November 2002 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

This ordinance, placed on the ballot by the Mayor, would prohibit the expenditure for political purposes of any funds appropriated by the City for any contract, grant or loan agreement. The Controller would promulgate any rules and regulations necessary or appropriate for the implementation of the prohibition. If the Controller determined that any recipient of a contract, grant agreement or loan agreement violated the prohibition, such recipient would be barred for two years from receiving any City contract, grant agreement or loan agreement.


Those who support Proposition Q state:

  • City funds should not be used to support political candidates or ballot issue campaigns.
  • Because the Controller, by regulation, would interpret the ordinance, we can expect that it would be implemented in a sensible, reasonable manner, avoiding legal and administrative problems that could arise from having to spell out all the details in a ballot measure.


Those who oppose Proposition Q state:

  • California law already prohibits the practice (the expenditure of government funds for political activities) that the proponents apparently intend the ordinance to prohibit.
  • This ordinance does not belong on a ballot since the Board of Supervisors could have adopted it had it been presented to them.

SPUR's analysis

Federal law permits non-profit entities to expend a portion of their funds on lobbying and ballot measure campaigns. However, California law prohibits any expenditure of public funds by government for political purposes. This measure is intended to ensure that City government funds granted to a non-profit or other entity could not be used for political purposes.

It is unclear how broadly the courts would construe this prohibition. If a San Francisco resident works for a firm that has contracts with the City, would that person be prohibited from participating in the local political process? Or would the courts construe Prop Q to apply literally to the use of funds from the City--meaning that an organization with a City contract couldn't use the City's funds themselves for political purposes. The second interpretation would make sense; the first interpretation would violate people's constitutional rights to free speech.

SPUR does not have a position on Prop Q. We strongly support the idea of prohibiting the use of public funds for political purposes. However, we are very concerned that the ordinance as written would have the unintended consequence of silencing citizens who happen to work on projects funded by the City. The SPUR Board was unable to achieve a 60% majority to either support or oppose the measure, therefore our "no position."

SPUR takes "No position" on Proposition Q.