SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – San Francisco supervisors introduced a slew of charter amendments during their regular Tuesday meeting, as Tuesday was the deadline for introducing measures for the November ballot.
Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced the charter amendment to create the Office of the Public Advocate, which would create a new elected position to investigate and eliminate public corruption, the waste of taxpayer money, and abuse of public trust.
“It shouldn’t take a federal FBI investigation by the Trump Administration to root out local corruption, and it shouldn’t take decades to address criminal and corrupt behavior by high-ranking public officials,” Mar said in a statement. “With a Public Advocate, we will address corruption as it should and must be addressed: locally, proactively and structurally.”
The new Public Advocate position would be chosen by voters.
“San Francisco needs a Public Advocate,” Mar said. “We need structural reform to address the culture of casual corruption and pay-to-play politics and make our City more accountable, effective and transparent.”
A federal corruption investigation earlier this year resulted in fraud charges for former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and Nick Bovis, the owner of Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant, in connection with a never-completed scheme to bribe a San Francisco International Airport commissioner for aid in obtaining a restaurant concession.
Earlier this month, Bovis pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in connection with the scandal.
Mar also introduced The Workforce Education and Recovery Fund, which would ask voters to decide whether to expand tuition-free education and workforce training at City College of San Francisco, so that people who may have been affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic can expand their education and job skills and get back on the road to financial recovery.
If approved, the measure would provide $20 million from the city’s general fund to City College for expanding educational programs, Mar said.
Prior to the pandemic, City College was already facing budget problems, which ultimately resulted in more than 300 classes being cut from the school’s spring 2020 semester. However, since the pandemic, budget problems have only worsened and the school is currently considering cutting 500 more classes from the upcoming Fall 2020 schedule, college officials said Monday.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced a charter amendment to eliminate the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s exclusive authority to set fare prices by providing a separate process for city supervisors to accept or reject Muni fare changes. It would also establish a policy for Muni fare increases.
Additionally, it would require that the City Controller’s Office conduct an independent quality review of Muni.
Last month, Peskin introduced a resolution to prohibit Muni fare increases amid a public health emergency, despite the SFTMA Board recently approving fare hikes.
“The measure will reform Muni in a significant way and lead to better service and reliability and accountability and also build our commitment to making public transit an integral part of our strategy to eliminate emissions,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, who is a cosponsor of the charter amendment.
Supervisor Ahsha Safai introduced a charter amendment to limit terms for city boards, commissions and committees, allowing for individuals to serve on such bodies for two 4-year terms.
According to Safai, the charter amendment is about “ensuring that there isn’t an imbalance of power; that there isn’t a concentration of power in one person’s hand. Some commissioners have been on bodies for decades, and that’s fine. We appreciate their expertise and experience, but we also would like to open up these bodies and commissions for new ideas and new people.”
The charter amendment would not apply to elected positions, Safai said.
Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced a charter amendment that would provide oversight for Sheriff’s Office investigations into misconduct involving sheriff’s office staff, contractors, and inmates.
Walton alleged since taking office last year, he’s heard from several of his constituents who have reported misconduct at the city’s jails.
In addition to creating a seven-member sheriff’s office oversight body, the charter amendment would also create a sheriff’s office department of inspector general.
“We have been in conversations with the sheriff’s department about how to provide the best possible path forward and ensure safety of individuals in custody and sheriff’s department employees and contractors,” Walton said.
Board President Norman Yee introduced a charter amendment to establish an ongoing process to determine adequate police staffing levels for the city.
The San Francisco Police Commission would be charged with analyzing staffing levels every two years, with input from the Police Department.
Back in 1994, San Francisco voters approved establishing a minimum staffing level of 1,971 full-duty sworn officers.
According to Yee, that number seems arbitrary.
“No one knows how we arrived at this number or how it was calculated. The charter amendment I am introducing establishes a key process to determine staffing levels with comprehensive data-driven methodology,” he said.
Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus is supporting Yee’s charter amendment, saying, “It ensures that our decisions can directly respond to the demonstrated needs of both the community and the department.”
Supervisor Matt Haney introduced two charter amendments during Tuesday’s meeting.
The first would require the Police Commission to hold at least one public hearing annually to consider policies or strategies regarding community policing and foot patrols. It also calls for SFPD to create a neighborhood safety unit within each police district, focused on community engagement and deploying officers on foot, encouraging them to interact with community members.
“Foot patrols are more effective in both preventing crime and fostering better relationships between officers and the communities they serve,” Haney said. “Currently there is no city law regularly requiring foot patrol officers.”
The second charter amendment Haney introduced would create a new Department of Sanitation and Streets, as well as a commission to ensure oversight and accountability within the Department of Public Works.
“Our laws currently fail to mandate basic cleaning responsibilities, management of trash cans and public restrooms isn’t in the city charter and no where in the law is it required to clean the city’s sidewalks,” he said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how important it is to maintain standards of sanitation in public spaces, as well as the importance of providing clean bathrooms and handwashing stations.”
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