San Francisco Board Gets More Money, Less Credibility

Sometimes taxpayers vote to spend more money for better government, but actually get the opposite.  For example, San Francisco residents voted to pay their Board of Supervisors $60,000 more a year to compensate the board for meeting on a nearly full-time schedule. The supervisors convinced San Francisco voters that full-time pay would allow them to devote even more time to the job. Voters approved the raise, thinking the supervisors would be more productive and improve the city.  But, after six years, the only improvements that have been made are to the board members’ bank accounts. 

The San Francisco Chronicle (January 30, 2008) reported that “[e]ver since members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors persuaded voters to pay them like full-time government workers, the city’s lawmakers have been holding fewer meetings to debate and pass legislation.”  

It all started in November 2002 when “voters passed a measure…that led to a raise in supervisors’ annual salaries to $95,000 from $37,858….”  Perhaps the raise was justifiable in 2002 since San Francisco’s lawmaking body held a full board meeting nearly every week.” 

However, besides the weekly meetings, voters expected more: “Members of the board who were in office in 2002 and supported the change contend that voters got it right by ensuring that their district supervisors were paid well enough to devote themselves fulltime to representing their constituents at City Hall.”  Gradually, the “fulltime” work lost its luster for the supervisors though. “The number of meetings has declined by 15 percent – from 46 in 2002 to 39 last year.” 

The apparent aversion for meetings came from the common hatred of Mondays: “In 2003, [the then president of the board], moved [the board’s] regular meetings from Monday to Tuesdays.  The switch gave supervisors an additional workday to prepare for meetings, agendas for which are released Thursday.”  

However, this move accommodated another strange change. “In the past, when a regular Monday meeting fell on a holiday, the supervisors would meet on Tuesday.  Now, a Monday holiday…causes the board to cancel its Tuesday meeting and often several committee sessions during the week.”  Vacation from a vacation is actually practiced…somewhere, maybe in Margaritaville.  

Although their job qualifies as legislating, “[the former president] also implemented a ‘legislative week’ every few months, during which all meetings were cancelled.”  It’s virtually certain voters don’t know what board members are doing now during those weeks.

In defense of the decrease in meetings, the board members say that “the reduced number of full board meetings is actually a sign that the city’s legislators have become more efficient.”  Yes, they definitely are more efficient now -- at making more money for less work and betraying the city’s residents.

Money is currently feeding the apathy of board members, but contributing to the city’s decreasing interest in the board’s activities.  Maybe it’s time the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pump taxpayers for yet another raise -- another 15% raise to ensure they show up at all.

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