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Parking Measures & Question Time on November Ballot

By John Dunbar


Mayor Gavin Newsom, District Attorney Kamala Harris and Sheriff Michael Hennessey are certain to be re-elected on Tuesday, November 6th. Newsom and Hennessey face token opposition, and Harris is running unopposed.

Not since then Mayor Dianne Feinstein was re-elected in 1983 has a Mayor been re-elected without a contest. Newsom remains politically blessed since his Valentine’s Day 2004 gay marriage initiative. With one move and the opinion making power of the Chronicle, Newsom snuffed out his political opposition. His opponents take comfort in the fact that the Mayor doesn’t have the political coattails of his predecessors, and in contests for the Board of Education, Board of Supervisors and ballot measures Newsom has lost. One exception is District 7’s Supervisor Sean Elsbernd. Elsbernd worked for former Supervisor Tony Hall at City Hall before going to work for Newsom. When Hall left, Newsom appointed Elsbernd. Elsbernd won a contested race in November 2004, and his seat is up again in 2008.

Three measures on the November 6th ballot are controversial. Two of them involve parking, and a third involves whether or not the Mayor should answer questions from Board of Supervisors once a month.
Proposition A is described in the voter pamphlet as “Transit Reform, Parking Regulation and Emissions Reduction.” It gives the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) new powers. It fixes the maximum number of off street parking spaces for new development. It shifts $26 million that now goes to the general fund to the MTA, and guarantees the MTA 100% of any new revenue from policy changes in parking fines, taxes or enforcement. City voters widely rate MUNI service as poor, and this measure is a response to those public opinion findings.

Quentin Kopp’s Good Government Committee opposes Proposition A on the grounds that it will repeal Proposition K, adopted in 1978 to regulate taxicab permits. In the voter handbook, Mara Kopp­—a possible District 7 challenger in 2008­—writes that Proposition K’s repeal “allows government permits to be sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars profit.” Proposition A gives the authority to issue taxicab medallions to the MTA.

As of October 20th, the Proposition A committee had amassed $275,000 and spent $236,000.
Proposition H increases the number of parking spaces developers may build. It also increases the amount of parking that could be built in existing properties. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin may have trumped this measure by placing parking restrictions into Proposition A, since that is a Charter amendment as opposed to an ordinance like Proposition H. H’s proponents argue that San Franciscans drive cars, will do so in the future and use projections to show that more cars are inevitable. Critics argue that allowing more parking construction exacerbates traffic congestion, and that H is designed to help Downtown condominium developers make more money.

Proposition E requires the Mayor to attend one Board of Supervisors meeting each month, to answer questions from Board members. It is modeled on the British parliamentary Question Time format. Newsom opposes the measure and has raised $85,000 as of October 20th to fight it. In Britain, Question Time is a way to test how well Prime Ministers can think on their feet.