S.F. voters framed the problems, now must work on solutions

By Corey D. Cook : sfgate – excerpt

…What is most striking about Tuesday’s San Francisco election is not what was resolved but what voters said and what remains to be done. I would suggest that we view this election more as prologue to further public discussion and decision-making rather than conclusion…

Surveys over the past year indicated that San Franciscans came into this election strikingly ambivalent — generally favorable about the state of the economy and positive about the performance of our elected officials but anxious about the future of the city. The top concerns: the high and rising cost of housing; inadequate public transportation; maintaining high quality public schools, and addressing homelessness. This ambivalence resulted in voters overwhelmingly re-electing incumbents (with few exceptions) and expressing clear priorities if not clear prescriptions on policy. What we learned…

S.F. voters framed the problems, now must work on solutions

Election night is a great spectacle. It starts with seemingly endless possibilities that narrow as the number of precincts reporting ticks upward. By the end, the returns sort winners from losers and anoint those to be celebrated. Then it is immediately on to the next election in our cycle of perpetual political campaigns. Reportedly, the ABC National Exit Poll included questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s prospects in the 2016 election. I’m just a political scientist, but I thought the idea was to ask people what they did, not what they think they will do two years from now. While the horse-race approach provides drama, it overemphasizes the contests — and vastly overstates the decisiveness of the outcomes.

So it is with the local elections. What is most striking about Tuesday’s San Francisco election is not what was resolved but what voters said and what remains to be done. I would suggest that we view this election more as prologue to further public discussion and decision-making rather than conclusion.

Surveys over the past year indicated that San Franciscans came into this election strikingly ambivalent — generally favorable about the state of the economy and positive about the performance of our elected officials but anxious about the future of the city. The top concerns: the high and rising cost of housing; inadequate public transportation; maintaining high quality public schools, and addressing homelessness. This ambivalence resulted in voters overwhelmingly re-electing incumbents (with few exceptions) and expressing clear priorities if not clear prescriptions on policy. What we learned:…

On inadequate public transportation:Voters considered Proposition A, a $500 million Transportation and Road Improvement Bond; Proposition B, an increase in the funding set-aside for the Municipal Railway indexed to population growth; and Proposition L, a reversal of the city’s “transit first” policy to advance driving-friendly approaches to parking, transportation funding and traffic. Take away: In overwhelmingly approving Props. A and B and in rejecting Prop. L (all by more than 20 points) voters reaffirmed their commitment to a “transit first” policy. Now the discussion will revolve around the necessary steps of public investment in transportation infrastructure… (more)

What voters can do next: Keep up the pressure on elected officials to enact pragmatic and consensus-based approaches to our housing crisis based on the Prop. K blueprint, devise new strategies to stem evictions, and build upon the minimum wage increase (Prop. J) by advocating for economic development strategies that grow middle-income employment…

Props. A and B, while permitting substantial borrowing for infrastructure investment and setting aside funds to improve Muni’s capacity and reliability are down payments on upgrading our underfunded infrastructure. Transportation measures will come before voters again in coming elections. Expect to see a San Francisco-only vehicle license fee on the ballot to replace the budget set-asides in Prop. B.

What voters should do next: Continue to demand more and better service and support measures taking a regional approach to affordable and effective transit.

When California Gov. Hiram Johnson argued in 1911 for direct democracy by adopting initiatives, he also said that while initiatives are not a “panacea for all our political ills … they do give to the electorate the power of action when desired.” Unfortunately, the way we think about our elections implies that this power of action is complete on election day. Not so.

Rather, the election is just the beginning. To find solutions to our pressing issues, voters need to channel the energy of the campaign into a broad citywide coalition that demands coordination and pragmatic consensus-building… (more)

RELATED:
Transit gets a boost from election results
While Prop. A and B advocates see the funds as advancing The City’s transit-first policy, David Looman, treasurer of the campaign for failed Proposition L, which sought to limit parking meters and build more parking garages, said he was “certainly not surprised” that Prop. L failed.
“We’ve got this mantra of ‘transit-first,’ and nobody knows what that means and nobody knows whether it’s being done,” Looman said. “We’ve got immediate plans to go out and talk to a lot of people and see what kind of measure, if any, comes out of that.”… (more)

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