Ten things San Francisco should fund -- and 10 things it shouldn't -- to create a fair, equitable, and forward-thinking city budget
Business tax cuts The Mid-Market Tax Exclusion Zone — more commonly known as the Twitter tax break after the company whose threat to leave the city extorted millions of dollars from city coffers — is just one of series of business tax breaks aimed at the booming technology industry by Mayor Ed Lee and his allies. Not only did they also get stock options excluded from taxation (repealing a law signed by tech-friendly ex-Mayor Gavin Newsom), but they also subtly crafted 2012's Proposition B, the complicated business tax reform measure approved by voters, to give the tech sector a substantial tax cut with little public discussion about that provision.
Central Subway We at the Bay Guardian are huge fans of public transit, and we generally believe this is all money well spent. That said, the Central Subway is a costly boondoggle whose false promises and high cost per rider we'll all be covering for years to come. That money could have been better on a variety of other transit projects that would improve service to Chinatown and other hard to access parts of the city. And the cost overruns in the project — which have been hidden from public view by sneaky and unethical according tricks, as the SF Weekly reported this spring — are likely to continuing sapping resources from Muni and the SFMTA for a generation to come.
Repeal of Sunday metering It made no sense for Mayor Ed Lee to insist that the SFMTA repeal having to pay for parking meters on Sunday, a program that the agency found was causing more turnover and thus more parking availability and less traffic congestion in busy commercial corridors. Drivers, businesses, and Muni riders all benefited from the paid meters. That repeal will cost taxpayers about $11 million per year while transit riders are paying Muni fares that are being increased to $2.25 and the SFMTA is claiming to have no money to provide free transit service to senior and those with disabilities. This decision amounted to a $11 million annual expenditure with negative environmental impacts that were never studied — a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, as the Board of Supervisors should rule when they hear that appeal this summer. This is money that could be better spent.
Nonprofit Inc. The city spends millions of dollars every year on hundreds of contracts with nonprofit organizations, much of which goes to politically connected groups in a sort of political patronage system. For example, Randy Shaw and his Tenderloin Housing Clinic have dozens of contracts with the city to perform a variety of services, all while he writes glowing puff pieces on Mayor Lee for his Beyond Chron blog. Shaw even recently got a $20,000 city contract to help find tenants for commercial spaces in the Tenderloin — as if that's actually a problem in a booming city with an overheating economy. The city's contracts should be thoroughly reviewed by an independent party — in addition to the Board of Supervisors — to weed out the political patronage.