SF supervisors OK repeal of contracting ban

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday March 14, 2023
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District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. Photo: Courtesy Ahsha Safaí
District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. Photo: Courtesy Ahsha Safaí

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an ordinance that would repeal part of the city's administrative code relating to its contracting ban with companies headquartered in states that have adopted anti-LGBTQ laws.

The vote was 7-4 to approve the ordinance put forward by District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. A second and final vote is expected next week. Supervisors Shamann Walton (District 10), Connie Chan (D1), Myrna Melgar (D7), and Dean Preston (D5) voted in dissent.

The contracting element is one part of Chapter 12X, as the administrative code is known. It also bans city-funded travel to states that have adopted anti-LGBTQ laws and has been amended over the years to include states with restrictions on abortion and voting rights laws. The list of prohibited states now numbers 30.

A separate legislative proposal by gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would repeal Chapter 12X in its entirety. Mandelman's proposal has yet to be heard by the supervisors in committee.

Safaí proposed ending the contracting ban because it prevented companies in those banned states from bidding on construction projects that could result in a better deal for the city, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. But advocates for LGBTQ-, minority-, and women-owned small businesses had opposed removing the contracting provisions from Chapter 12X. The executive committee of the San Francisco Labor Council adopted a resolution February 27 in support of keeping it in place.

During the meeting, Safaí asked his colleagues for support, noting he had the item continued for two weeks so that he could meet with small business leaders who opposed the plan.

"I'm committed to working with them in a working group," he said, adding that removing the contracting provision would lead to increased competition and lower prices, but would not reduce the city's commitment to equality.

Walton, who was against the ordinance in committee, said he remained opposed, in part because he did not know what the effects would be on local subcontractors.

Mandelman asked to be added as a co-sponsor to Safaí's ordinance.

Chan said more time was needed, and Melgar said she didn't think the board had engaged enough with groups to vote on the item Tuesday.

But District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen disagreed, telling her colleagues that she was against what she called "performative legislation" like 12X. "I'd rather update the legislation to more directly give a leg up to small businesses in contracting," she said.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) had first authored the city policy when he served on the Board of Supervisors in response to the rollback of LGBTQ rights in other states. He now favors its repeal.

Safaí recently told the B.A.R. that Chapter 12X is a "very cumbersome ordinance."

"We thought if we are acting as a large purchasing power and a large entity that spends capital, we can influence people on the other end, the supervisor said. "It sent a message if you are not providing equal benefits to LGBT people, not allowing people to vote freely, and not allowing reproductive rights, we don't want to do business with you, with the hope that would change people's policies. In fact, we have only changed one since the introduction of 12X as a policy and as a concept."

The only state to be removed from the city's banned list has been Massachusetts. The Bay State was delisted in 2021 after it rescinded an anti-abortion law.

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