San Francisco to Vote on Whether It Votes Too Much

Ballot Box Thomas Nast.jpg
Thomas Nast
San Franciscans vote on too much stuff. Do we agree? Let's vote on it.

This is the epitome of Supervisor Scott Wiener's potential charter amendment, which six of his colleagues on Tuesday agreed to place on the ballot. But wait, there's more. Wiener says he hopes his legislation would reduce the volume of material placed on the ballot with the approval of just four supervisors.

So, we the voters are not only set to vote on whether we the voters are voting too often, we're also meant to adjudicate whether the supes -- elected by we the voters -- are abusing the process of placing material before we the voters.

"There is a bit of irony that we have to vote on this," says Wiener. A bit?

Wiener's potential charter amendment would give the supes the ability, after three years, to amend ordinances placed on the ballot by the board or mayor (charter amendments or measures placed on the ballot via signature-gathering are not affected). Currently, only more voting can alter these voter-approved laws.

Progressive elements claimed this was an attack on years of progressive legislation -- a more nuanced version of progressives' dismissal of every attempt at civic reform: They're trying to turn San Francisco into Walnut Creek!

As a sop, Wiener's proposal has been altered to only apply toward legislation taking effect in 2012 or thereafter. "I initially wanted it to be retroactive," says Wiener. "I ended up amending it because, you know, I had to get six votes."

Incidentally, Wiener couldn't have sneaked a proposal onto the ballot aiming to curtail the number of proposals sneaked onto the ballot with just four supervisorial votes. Four ayes is all well and good for an ordinance -- but only a charter amendment could alter the amendability of all future ordinances. And you need six votes to put a charter amendment before the voters.

The supervisor says he's proven that he didn't have a grocery list of San Francisco ordinances he wished to dismantle by his move to drop the retroactive portion of his charter amendment. "It was one of the compromises. It's San Francisco politics. People are sometimes cynical and skeptical."

Really? Wanna take a vote on it?

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My Voice Nation Help

Scott has spun this one a few times. The best approach would be to take away the supes power to introduce any charter amendments. Make them get 50,000 signatures like the people do and fully vette the proposed amendment to the people.


I like Scott and think he's doing a good job, but on this I have to disagree. I am getting tired of people trying to game the elections to favor one side or another. Elections have consequences, that's why you pay attention and if there's something on the ballot you don't like, you vote No and you get people to vote No and that's that. If after a ballot measure passes that someone doesn't like, they can propose another at the next election to get rid of it. Simple. This idea that we can have constant "do overs" when we don't like what the voters say is as bad as giving everyone trophies at T-Ball.

Mark Barnes
Mark Barnes

A blatant attempt to suppress the will of the voters.


Wiener made a last minute amendment to his measure so that it will take effect on any measure approved after November 1, 2011 -- in other words, all those measures put on the ballot by the Board for this coming election can be rewritten by the Board. Moreover, Wiener referred twice to this as a “modest first step.” We have not been told what is the second step...or if this is his version of a new 12-step program for the city.

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