Monday, November 4, 2013

2013 Endorsements

You could be forgiven for not noticing there's an election of sorts in San Francisco on Tuesday. With no accompanying state-wide election and no candidate drama, there's very little to talk about. Nevertheless, we got together to hash out all four SF ballot measures, and here are the results.

Prop A - Retirement trust fund rules change - Abstain

Years ago, something called the Retiree Heath Care Trust Fund (RHCTF) was set up so that money would be saved now to pay for city pensions in the future. Like new parents setting up a college fund, this is just sound financial management.

The trust fund has rules for how and when its money is spent. Prop A wants to slightly change those rules. Are you intrigued yet?

One change would make it harder to take money out, requiring that the deposits for that year had all been paid. Another change would make it easier to take money out now if pension costs for a year are higher than the City anticipated (which they usually are, we hear). Seems like a wash. There are also a number of smaller changes that I won't bore you with.

Our overarching feeling on this one is: why are we being asked to vote on this? Minutia such as the management of a trust fund should be left to lawyers and elected officials, not the electorate.

Half of our group abstained and the rest was split. All were meh. You could either abstain or vote No to express how silly it is that you are being asked to vote on such a thing.

Props B and C - 8 Washington development and height limit - No

At first glance these two seem practically identical. They authorize a building project that includes luxury apartments and retail space down on the Embarcadero, wiping out a private tennis club in the process. The main difference is that C simply raises the height limit for an ordinance already approved by the Board of Supervisors while B stands alone.

We have someone in our group with real estate knowledge, and she points out that Prop B creates a special use district, which is a big pain in the rear for all future permitting there. So if you really wanted to vote for one of these, vote C.

One thing you hear a lot from the opponents of B and C is that this new development will build a "wall on the waterfront" because it's even taller then the old Embarcadero freeway monstrosity. Well it may be twice as tall, but it will be 1/1000th as wide (usually the more important consideration when discussing a wall), so we're going to call BS on that argument. Smells like tennis club money.

But once again our feeling on these is: why are we voting on this? This is why we have a planning commission and elected officials. These decisions should be made in a variety of local hearings, not by the city-wide electorate. Jeesh.

Prop D - Negotiate drug pricing - Yes

Well, this is just a non-binding statement, but of course anybody making a big purchase should negotiate to bring the price down as much as possible. It's pretty shocking that a Bush-era law actually prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices, resulting in Medicare paying about double what the Department of Veterans Affairs pays.

So we're not sure why anyone would be against this, and indeed nobody is. Well, almost nobody…

Our good friend Terence Faulkner is back! His opposition argument is a real gem. It starts with the Roman Empire, drops by Hippocrates, and just keeps on going. He basically argues that pharmaceutical companies are absolutely wonderful and should get as much money as possible. But really, you should read it yourself—pull up the voter guide and scroll to page 71. We love voting against this guy!

Wednesday morning update: the results
A - Yes
B - No
C - No
D - Yes