City Hall

City Hall – Gordon Mar

Strengthen Our Democracy

The path to a more equitable city and a more responsive government is through a stronger democracy, one that gives all people a voice in decisions impacting their lives. It has never been more important for us to invest in strengthening our democracy. 

When money is considered speech and corporations are considered people, we do not all have an equal say in our politics. When wealth can buy access and political outcomes, we suffer the consequences of policies that do not serve the people. We are at a crisis point, as political spending reaches record highs, trust in government reaches record lows and assaults on our democratic norms arrive daily.

When Democrats took back the House of Representatives in 2018, they recognized this and passed HR-1, the For the People Act, to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics and strengthen ethics rules for public servants, which has been completely blocked by Mitch McConnell in the Senate. We can’t wait on Washington to do the essential work of strengthening our democracy. 

And we don’t have to – we can start right here in San Francisco. I’ve put forward an ambitious package of legislation to strengthen local democracy. In September, the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Public Financing 2.0, my ordinance that provides the biggest expansion of our public financing program for elections since its creation two decades ago. When it goes into effect next year, it will support grassroots candidates by tripling the public matching rate for small donations to qualified candidates, amplify small dollar donors’ voices six-to-one and balance the undue influence of Super PACs which spent $4.5 million last year alone trying to influence the mayoral and Board of Supervisors elections.

On Nov. 5, the people of San Francisco will vote on Proposition F, the Sunlight on Dark Money initiative, to better regulate money in politics and create the strongest disclosure laws on dark money in the nation, a measure for which I’m proud to be the lead proponent. 

I’ve based these reforms on a few basic, fundamental ideas. The value of your voice in our democracy shouldn’t depend on your bank account. Voters deserve to know who’s trying to influence their votes. People with millions of dollars in land use investments shouldn’t be able to “pay-to-play” by donating to candidates to curry favor for their projects. And public officials should be accountable to the public – not corporations or a few private, wealthy interests – and, this starts with how they are elected.

Together, these reforms offer a one-two punch to defend our democracy. We are lifting up everyday people by expanding public financing and we can better regulate corporations, developers and Super PACs by voting “yes” on F. We can restore faith in our democracy. And, to build a better, fairer future, we must.

Affordable housing will also be on our ballots this November with two propositions:

Proposition A is a bond to fund affordable housing production and preservation, to the tune of $600 million, all without raising property taxes. This is an historic investment in addressing one of the biggest crises facing our City and includes thoughtful dedication of the funds towards priorities like building housing for seniors, expanding our small sites program to protect vulnerable tenants and create permanently affordable housing. We need to invest in affordable housing and that means voting “yes” on A. 

Proposition E works in tandem with Prop. A, by making it easier to build 100 percent affordable housing projects and educator housing, like the Francis Scott Key Annex project here in the Outer Sunset. The two main ingredients for new affordable housing are funding and land; while Prop. A provides funding, Prop. E makes more land available for affordable housing by rezoning publicly owned land and lots more than 10,000 square feet for 100-percent affordable housing and rezoning school district land and City College sites to allow for new housing for educators. We’ve already identified 4 SFUSD sites in the Sunset we’d like to use for more teacher housing to keep our educators in our neighborhood and this will help us do it. Yes on E.

Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the SF Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or marstaff@sfgov.org.

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