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The Middle Path for SF Elections?

February 4, 2010

The Chronicle is reporting that certain interests – seems to be the Chamber of Commerce, but the article is written pretty abstractly – are pushing for a return, in part, to city-wide elections for the Board of Supervisors. Although in the past supervisors were elected city-wide, they are currently elected by district. The current push is for a cross between the two: a majority of the supervisors would be elected by necessarily enlarged districts and a minority would be elected in city-wide elections. C.W. Nevius is on board, though he does point out the downside of city-wide elections:

DeLeon said in the pre-2000 model [i.e. city-wide elections], candidates needed roughly 100,000 votes and $250,000 to win. That led to elected officials who got their money and support from the business community.

And he describes the upside of district elections – groups that are underrepresented and don’t have enough money to win a city-wide election can be represented by people like Harvey Milk and Sophie Maxwell of Bayview-Hunters Point.

The devil, ultimately, lies in the details. I would say at least a majority should be elected from districts, and probably a veto-proof majority. If the representative of each district wants to implement a law, city-wide officials (i.e. those elected with more support from business interests) shouldn’t be able to stop it.

The real cure for this, however, is to get money out of politics, however ridiculous that sounds in our American paradigm. Why doesn’t San Francisco continue its bold ways and institute public financing? Citizens United decision be damned, public financing is the fairest way to run elections and the only way to ensure that moneyed interests don’t possess undue and unjust influence.

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