Why San Francisco officials are wrong to pass the buck to voters

Residents of San Francisco will need to budget plenty of time for voting this fall, when they will decide on as many as 39 ballot measures. Some proposals may not make it all the way to the ballot, but The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city is likely to break the record of 22 referendums set in 2008. The high number is possible because it is easy to place a question on the ballot. It can be done by the mayor, any four of the 11 city supervisors, several city agencies or any group that collects a certain number of signatures from the city’s registered voters.

San Francisco is taxing the patience of voters with so many unworkable and contradictory proposals. This year there are at least three that deal with homelessness. One, proposed by a city supervisor, would allow the city to remove encampments of homeless people with 24 hours’ notice and an offer of shelter. Another supervisor, considering this too harsh, proposed a competing initiative that would mandate 72 hours’ notice before removing encampments and a guarantee of 30 days’ shelter for displaced individuals. A citizens’ initiative would impose a payroll tax on technology companies to help pay for low-income housing and services for the homeless.

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It would be preferable for the mayor and board of supervisors to work out a coherent and compassionate plan to address homelessness. Elected officials should not pass the buck to voters, who are being overwhelmed with ever-lengthening ballots and do not have the time to become experts on every matter of public policy. Representatives in a representative democracy should do their job.

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Ernest Martinson
2 years 4 months ago
The fact that voters do not have the time to become experts on public policy is an argument for less public policy. As it is, even representatives in our leviathan government do not know the damage they inflict on constituents in the name of doing good. To house the homelessness, end all housing subsidies and property taxes that bid up the cost of housing. End excessive regulations that prevent the homeless from building their own.

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