San Francisco supervisors today introduced a flurry of year-end legislation just before their break for the new year, including several proposed charter amendments for next year’s ballot in June.

Most of the proposed legislation is budget related. The city is facing an estimated $522 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

Supervisor John Avalos submitted three charter amendments.

One would prohibit the city from picking up the cost of employees’ contributions to the city and state retirement systems.

The second would raise the minimum work week for firefighters to 52 hours, which Avalos said would bring San Francisco in line with other cities.

The third would allow the Board of Supervisors to require that money appropriated to city departments for particular programs be spent on its designated purpose. Currently, departments are given authorization to spend the money but are not required to spend it.

A charter amendment proposed by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd would change city law regarding the wages set for San Francisco Municipal Railway transit operators. Currently, wages are set after an annual survey of comparable transit agencies, with Muni operators receiving a minimum close to the highest pay rates.

Elsbernd’s legislation would eliminate the wage survey and allow transit operator wages to be set through collective bargaining without any minimum.

Supervisor Chris Daly submitted a charter amendment on fire safety that would establish a “zero-tolerance” policy for firefighters drinking on the job.

“It’s time for us to nip that one … in the bud,” Daly said.

Elsbernd also introduced non-ballot legislation to address what he called a “critical” issue of escalating city employee retirement and pension costs to the city.

He said the costs “are a very significant reason” for the city having to raise fees for residents.

“We must begin to find a way to pay this bill,” he said.

Other proposed non-ballot legislation addressed issues such as secondhand smoke and animal enclosures at the San Francisco Zoo.

Supervisor Eric Mar introduced an ordinance to expand the city’s ban on smoking. Current law prohibits smoking in city buildings, schools, public transit and certain businesses.

Mar’s proposal would close “huge loopholes in existing policy” and strengthen public health regulations by expanding the smoking ban in areas where people congregate, he said.

The ban would expand to include bars, tourist lodging facilities, homeless shelters, enclosed common areas in multi-unit apartment buildings and farmers markets.

In response to a recent incident in which a man climbed into the San Francisco Zoo’s grizzly bear enclosure but was later acquitted of charges of trespassing and disturbing wild animals, Elsbernd today introduced legislation that would specifically prohibit entering zoo enclosures and otherwise taunting or endangering zoo animals.

A current Park Code law on disorderly conduct sets fines at between $50 and $500; the new legislation would increase fines to between $500 and $1,000.

Elsbernd said the current fine “is just not enough to deter people from jumping into our zoo enclosures.”

All the proposed legislation still requires approval from the full board.

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  • snowbird

    Government power the real health hazard

    The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of “second-hand” smoke.

    Indeed, the bans are symptoms of a far more grievous threat, a cancer that has been spreading for decades and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved the cancer of unlimited government power.

    The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or is in fact just a phantom menace, as a study published recently in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: If it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the “right” decision?

    Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than trying to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the bans are the unwanted intrusion.

    Loudly billed as measures that only affect “public places,” they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and offices places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don’t like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is negligible, such as outdoor public parks.

    The decision to smoke, or to avoid “second-hand” smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.

    All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbours. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free because his life belongs to him, not to his neighbours, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.

    Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Smokers are a numerical minority, practising a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.

    That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favourite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke while they unleash the unlimited intrusion of government into our lives. We do not elect officials to control and manipulate our behaviour.

    Thomas Laprade
    Thunder Bay, Ont.
    Ph. 807 3457258