Political Notebook: Budget issues divide D8 candidates
by Matthew S. Bajko
One of the key differences between the four candidates running to be the next District 8 supervisor is how they would tackle the city's economic issues, from escalating pension costs to increasing revenues to help balance the budget.
On some issues the quartet are in agreement. They all support allowing chain stores to open in the Castro if the stores have neighborhood backing. In that regard, all have voiced support for seeing Trader Joe's and Whole Foods open along Market Street.
And all four have endorsed Proposition G, known as Fix Muni Now, on the local ballot. If passed it would no longer guarantee that the city's Muni drivers are the second-highest paid transit operators in the country.
But there are policy divisions between the candidates, and they were on display during last week's candidates' forum held by the San Francisco Young Democrats and LGBT political clubs.
The lone candidate supporting the local Proposition B, which would increase city employees' pension contributions, is business executive Bill Hemenger. He also advocates for cutting the city's payroll tax on businesses and wants to streamline the permitting process for new businesses.
Having quit his job at Oracle to run for public office, Hemenger touts his corporate ties and business experience as what the city needs right now as it deals with declining revenues.
"I will attract jobs and businesses here," said Hemenger. "I will roll out the red carpet here for businesses. I will make San Francisco be a place where people can have jobs. We don't need it down on the Peninsula. We need it here in San Francisco."
In response to a question from Hemenger about reducing the city's payroll tax to help spur job growth, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan questioned if that would help the city deal with its budget deficits. Instead, she proposed changing the way the city awards it contracts so that more local businesses benefit.
"I support giving city business to local businesses here," said Prozan. "I want to infuse those tax dollars here."
Deputy City Attorney Scott Wiener, however, voiced support for looking at changes to the city's payroll tax as long as the net result is "revenue neutral." He said he knows of small business owners who cut their employees' hours so they can avoid being hit by larger payroll taxes.
"We definitely need to be much more proactive in not only attracting small and large businesses to San Francisco to build our job base, we need to reform the payroll tax," said Wiener. "We need to be very proactive in attracting business to San Francisco."
Meanwhile, Wiener is the only candidate opposed to Proposition J, which, according to the voter guide would increase the city's hotel tax by 2 percent to 16 percent and require people booking discounted rooms online to be taxed on the full price of their stay.
"The hotel tax increase is a bad idea in a bad economy," he said. "Taxing our way out of this can't be our only solution given the magnitude of the deficit."
Yet Wiener stressed he is not against all taxes. He does support Proposition N, which would increase the city's property transfer tax, and Proposition AA, which would increase by $10 the vehicle registration fee for county residents.
"I don't go into these situations in a dogmatic or ideological way and say no taxes ever or I am going to support every single tax that comes across my desk. I am going to take each tax on a case-by-case basis," said Wiener.
Local attorney Rafael Mandelman voiced support for the controversial proposal to extend metering hours in certain parts of the city to deal with Muni's budget.
"I see the concept of requiring parking to pay for transit is not a bad idea. I am willing to look at expanded metering," said Mandelman.
All four candidates are expected to take part in the "Filling Harvey's Shoes" forum next week being organized by parents of the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in the Castro. Bay Area Reporter news editor Cynthia Laird and the public school's principal, Christina Velasco, will moderate the discussion on who will be the best person to represent the values espoused by Milk, the city's first out elected official.
It will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, October 8 at the school, located at 4235 19th Street at Collingwood.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on the problems facing SF's Day of the Dead event this year.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.