Tag Archives: Phil Ting

Michael Breyer – The Stealth Conservative in San Francisco

When Republicans from around the nation want to really ramp up the rhetoric, they start attacking modern “San Francisco” values. You know, marriage equality, diversity, environmental activism, labor union solidarity and expansion of healthcare.

We expect this kind of anti-San Francisco rhetoric from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and even Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. But we don’t usually see it in San Francisco itself. That’s why the strange campaign of conservative Michael Breyer is so unusual. He’s running in a district that rests largely in San Francisco while calling to restore what he is calling “traditional” San Francisco values.

This normally wouldn’t even be a topic of serious consideration. But Breyer has already spent more than $600,000 of his own money on a relentlessly negative campaign and is on pace to spend more than twice that. He is also raising funds from conservatives who are leading the attacks against public pensions. And money from large corporate landlords is also flowing into his campaign. So, who is Michael Breyer and what is his problem with modern San Francisco values?

Michael Breyer – Another Conservative from Massachusetts

Breyer was born and raised in Massachusetts where he attended some of the nation’s most elite private schools. He then went to Stanford, where he graduated.

San Francisco is full of transplants from all over the nation and world, so there is nothing wrong with being from Massachusetts. Except Michael Breyer calls himself a “fifth generation San Franciscan.” His campaign literature shows pictures of local icons like Lowell High School. His whole campaign is about San Francisco “tradition.” Except he didn’t go to Lowell High School – and he’s not from San Francisco. Maybe this distance created the political myopia that’s causing him to attack modern San Francisco values, like protecting the environment and promoting children’s health.

After graduation Breyer went into the “family business,” so to speak, launching a company called Courtroom Connect to provide services to the courts, where both his father and uncle are ranking justices. He calls it a “small business” but it is an Atlanta corporation that has both large public contracts with the courts and a range of corporate interests, including big tobacco.

His first public record of serious interest in politics appears to be giving funds to an anti-choice, anti-marriage equality Tennessee politician known for his e-book, “God and Politics,” which Breyer endorsed on the back cover.

Breyer went on to become a part of the flood of so-called “Independent” expenditures around the 2011 San Francisco Mayor’s race. After a review by the Ethics Commission staff, he was actually barred from further participation in the Mayor’s race, although that determination was reversed on appeal.

Why does Michael Breyer think protecting children and the environment is zany?

In one of his first pieces of political literature, he attacked the successful efforts to phase out unwanted Yellow Page distribution, which account for unnecessary environmental waste. This was one of the major legislative efforts from the local Sierra Club last year.

He also attacked the effort to protect the health of children by phasing out the linkage between children’s toys and junk food contributing to childhood obesity and other health challenges.

His early campaign literature also pushed pension reform and said again and again he would be a representative of the “traditional” San Francisco values.

What is Michael Breyer Trying to Say?

We know what San Francisco values are. They are tolerance, diversity and justice. Breyer’s opponent, Phil Ting, is the former executive director of a prominent civil rights organization. Ting has won the support of virtually every single organization to take a stand in the race with the exception of groups representing large corporate landlords.

The race is already highly negative, with Breyer just mailing his fourth hit piece in two weeks. Negative campaigns are nothing new in San Francisco. But a campaign against San Francisco values from a candidate running in San Francisco certainly is.

You can stay up to date on the race at www.MichaelBreyerfacts.com

Help Support GoSolarSF

In San Francisco, great policy still isn’t always enough. Sometimes we need public support to help our friends and colleagues in city government make the right choices.

That’s why the Sierra Club and many others are rallying this morning at San Francisco City Hall at 9:30 AM today (Thursday, May 18) in support of GoSolarSF – the pioneering local solar incentive program that has helped more than quadruple the number of solar roofs in San Francisco in just three short years.

GoSolarSF is creating green jobs, attracting new green industries, helping fight climate change and helping to make our nation more energy independent.

All of that – and a new study that shows adding solar pays for itself by increasing the value of homes. That means that the GoSolarSF program is more than paying for itself in the long run with higher tax revenues captured from the higher valuations of solar homes (once the homes are sold, assessments don’t go up for those who install solar).

So what’s the catch?

Beats me.

But for some reason the SF Public Utilities bureaucracy is digging in their heels – trying to dramatically cut one of San Francisco’s most effective environment efforts and economic development initiatives.

Part of the resistance might just be cultural. The SFPUC is the old water department and its focus is still mostly on tunnels and trenches – not renewables.

But whatever is motivating the resistance – we need to spread the word that San Francisco should continue to fully fund this important and highly regarded program. Just a few facts to consider:

• GoSolarSF has helped Increase the number of rooftop solar energy systems installed in San Francisco from approximately 500 to 2385
• It has helped drive down the installed cost of solar power by 25% by creating more competition and scale in the solar installation sector
• The program attracted over 30 solar companies and organizations to San Francisco and established the City as a solar power leader.
• GoSolarSF has created or retained hundreds of new jobs
• And the solar projects promoted by GoSolarSF are installed at about 10% of the cost of what it would otherwise be if the City had to own the systems outright (a small GoSolarSF incentive unlocks a much larger private customer investment in the SF economy)

With all of the clear-cut benefits associated with the program, it shouldn’t be anywhere near the SFPUC chopping block. GoSolarSF has clearly demonstrated an ability to get San Francisco more while paying less – and that’s the type of program we should be supporting during these challenging fiscal times. Eliminating or reducing a program that is paying for itself in the long run just doesn’t make sense.

If you are in San Francisco this morning – come support this important program at City Hall. Or sign our petition in support of GoSolarSF.

Keep the sunshine on California government

Since taking office, Governor Jerry Brown has been working bravely to knock down California’s dangerous deficit. He’s looking high and low for new funds – from reducing the number of state paid cell phones by half, halting new agency car purchases and by issuing a statewide hiring freeze that could save $363 million.

Gov. Brown isn’t just looking to cut out waste in government. He is also looking to continue collecting vital revenue by extending the Schwarzenegger era tax increases.

In fact, Governor Brown has been just about spot on. But even Jerry Brown can make mistakes – and he will make a big one if he follows through on his proposal to cut the state funds used to support California’s excellent open meeting laws.

In order to clean up California’s fiscal mess, our government is going to have to make some more tough decisions in the months and years ahead. Very important services are going to be cut. And taxes are almost certain to be raised.

Winning public support for these tough choices relies on making sure Californians understand how these choices were made. And thanks to our open meeting laws, we know that the public’s business is conducted in pubic.

But this week Governor Brown has put one of the foundations of a better government on the chopping block. He is seeking to cut several unfunded state mandates including ones that deal with providing notices to the public regarding open meetings of local bodies. Since the passage of the Brown Act in 1953, Californians have been guaranteed the right to attend and partake in public meetings. Cutting this funding will put the law in “legal limbo.”

While it is tempting to look at across the board cuts in times of budget crises, keeping our local governments open, transparent and responsible to the people remains paramount to a successful democracy. That’s why these cuts that are threatening our open meeting laws should be permanently off the table.

An open government is something that we all should demand, if not expect. We need only to look at the scandal in the City of Bell to understand how important the Brown Act – and public awareness – is to an effective and ethical government. The lack of transparency in Bell allowed city leaders to take about $5.5 million from the city. We must learn from the Bell example and make local governments even more open – not less.

When voters passed Proposition 59 in 2004, our Constitution changed for the better. Prop 59 mandated that meetings and records of local governments and officials be accessible to the general public. For that to happen, local governments are required to – among other things – print notices and agendas for upcoming meetings. The state is then required to reimburse them, to the tune of $16.6 million for 2008-2009.

Technically, the funding that went towards reimbursing local governments for photocopying and posting notices and agendas for public meetings was suspended by the legislature in last year’s budget. But Governor Brown is seeking to keep it suspended for the next fiscal year.

But at what cost?

According to the California League of Cities, no city has yet used the loophole of suspended funding to stop following the law. But that could change anytime.

Because of laws like the Brown Act and Proposition 59, California has truly been able to say that we have an open state government that encourages civic participation. This is a cornerstone of who we are as Californians. We understand that cuts must be made, but for the benefit of our state – and our democracy – let’s keep the meetings open and the sun shining in.

Phil Ting is Assessor Recorder of San Francisco. He is working on a state level to organize support for a split-roll tax system. On a local level, he is a candidate for Mayor of San Francisco looking to find ways to promote greater public participation and User-Generated Government.

San Francisco shouldn’t become “parking trap”

We’ve all heard the classic stories about the one-light towns out there that keep the books balanced by keeping the police busy writing tickets.

We don’t usually think of these rural towns as models of a transparent and progressive administration. That’s why we shouldn’t adopt these kinds of “gotcha” revenue-generating tactics here in San Francisco by turning our entire city into a parking trap.

Unfortunately, just this past week the San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Authority announced its plans to instruct our already hard-working traffic officers to increase the number of parking tickets they issue. The revenue from parking tickets – which MTA had projected to be right around $99 million – has fallen short. So now they are setting higher quotas to raise additional revenue.

We certainly do need more revenue in San Francisco. And one of the city agencies that needs additional funding the most is the Municipal Railway. But we need to make sure this new revenue is generated in a way that is fair to all and in a fashion that takes into account a person’s ability to pay.

What’s wrong with the new MTA parking ticket quotas is that they are the exact opposite – they are essentially a tax lottery, with the unlucky paying more than the lucky. They are unfair, with taxpayers fortunate enough to own garages (usually the wealthier homeowners) less affected than those who do not (usually the less-wealthy renters). And at their core, they are regressive, with the very poor paying just as much as the very rich.

As Assessor-Recorder in San Francisco, my job is to make sure we have a fair property tax system. And I have not been shy about taking on some powerful players – like big banks and other politically connected institutions when I thought they were not paying what they owed. Along with a number of others I have also helped form Close the Loophole – a statewide organization dedicated to reforming Proposition 13 so that commercial property owners start to pay their fair share.

These new revenue sources have several important things in common – they take into account the ability to pay and they are assessed in a predictable fashion. Property taxes, assessed fairly, are progressive in the truest sense because the more expensive the property the higher the revenue generated. And when a person buys or transfers property, they can predict what taxes they owe.

San Francisco has been seeing a healthy debate recently about progressive values. Let’s extend this debate to discussing the many problems with regressive and random revenue generation.

We already have some of the nation’s most expensive tickets. And pity to the person who has his or her car towed – the fees can quickly soar to $500 and above. I have been deeply involved in the movement to fight unfair foreclosures, and I know that $500 for many families is the difference between staying in their homes and eviction.

What has crept into this debate is some sense that people are to “blame” for driving and if they get tickets, then they simply should give up their cars or be more careful.

Certainly, we do not want to tolerate violations of our parking laws. And we do want to continue to pursue a city policy that draws people out of their cars with better public transit, smarter planning and walkable and bikeable streets. But enforcement should be based on safety – not new revenue. And, we need to understand that given the state of our Municipal Railway right now, some people simply must drive.

The parent with two kids at two different schools is going to have trouble on a bicycle. People with mobility issues sometimes need to drive. And most of us know others who have no other real choice – like the janitor who reports to work at 7:00PM. These San Franciscans deserve a tax system that is fair and progressive – not a random lottery that targets them to raise revenue.

Let’s certainly raise more revenue. But let’s do it in a way that reflects our progressive values – with a progressive tax system.

You can make the difference in two clicks. First, sign my petition to tell City Hall to tear up the unfair ticket plan. And second, join the movement I have been leading for nearly two years called Close the Loophole and let’s fix what’s broken in Proposition 13 and bring real solutions to San Francisco.

Phil Ting

San Francisco Assessor-Recorder

Activists as Experts

Yet another reason to be proud of our city is that San Francisco was “crowd sourcing” government long before the Internet era.

On any given day, hundreds of neighbors, activists and well-meaning agitators crowd into hearing rooms to help shape our local government. And over the years – they have shaped it, almost always, for the better.

But in my experience there are two key barriers to making sure elected officials and appointed Commissioners hear the Wisdom of the Crowds – whether those crowds show up in person or online. First, there is always a certain suspicion that the people who come and testify do not necessarily represent the community as a whole. (That’s a challenge we are trying to address with our User Generated Government site www.ResetSanFrancisco.org, and hope to write separately on that issue in the coming weeks).

Second, and I think most importantly, there is frequently an impulse on the part of the government to bias “expert” testimony over the first-person appeals of constituents – even though these constituents almost always have the greatest expertise on how government decisions will impact their own neighborhoods and families.

It is this perception gap between crowd testimony and “expert opinion” that we are trying to help close with www.ResetSanFrancisco.org – with a set of features that our community members can use to gain technical expertise on issues.

The personal experiences we bring to government are powerful and important – and they should be highlighted, not diminished. But the crowds engaging government will be even more impactful if they have a sound mastery of the facts, the history and sometimes even the very technical details of government mechanics. The truth is, the more we know, the better we will be at making an impact.

The most important tool is tried and true – the library. Our site is working to highlight those articles, books, and blogs “Worth a Read” so San Francisco activists can gain useful knowledge. If you have good ideas – let us know.

And we are working to give our community members a chance to engage directly with experts – through our online “Ask an Expert” webcasts. Our next webcast is this Thursday at 4pm with Michael Cohen, the former director of the San Francisco Office of Workforce and Economic Development.

Michael is one of those rare people who has both an expert’s grasp of the big picture and a technician’s mastery of the details of government. It was a big loss when he left city government after more than a decade of outstanding service. But we hope his expertise will be a big benefit to our Reset community.

There are some in our community that didn’t always agree with Michael’s vision of economic development. But now all of us can get a chance to draw on his expertise. I hope you can tune in Thursday at 4 or anytime on our site after the event to ask Michael a question about how to make our economy stronger and more equitable.

Phil Ting

[email protected]

User Generated Government

Phil Ting endorses Mark Leno for State SenateDemocrats fought to regain power over the past decade, we have seen a sophisticated online infrastructure develop, mature and help us win elections.

I’ve experienced the tremendous power of the online community with a statewide campaign I’m involved in, www.CloseTheLoophole.com, which has quickly organized more than 25,000 Californians to support closing loopholes in Proposition 13.

Thanks to pioneers like Governor Howard Dean, netroots leaders like DailyKos and Calitics and energized social networks, we know how to use online infrastructure to draw attention to issues and campaigns. But as hard as it was to win back control of the White House and Congress, and as hard as it will be to keep control this year, the hardest part isn’t just winning elections – it is making those victories meaningful from a policy perspective.

And that’s why I think we need to focus on closing the gap between the people-powered emphasis of our campaigns and the more elite-driven emphasis of much of our governing style.

For example, as good as our healthcare law is, and as much as it will do for California, I think it would have been much more comprehensive if the President had been paying as much attention to his netroots supporters during those deliberations as he did during the campaign. The reality is that a continued engagement of his powerful online army in the forming of policy would have helped build support for even greater healthcare reforms, like the public option.

We see the same disconnect here at home in California – with a surge of interest and support during campaigns and then a noticeable drop-off in engagement after the ballots are counted.  Part of this is natural. Voters engage during campaigns and then want to get back to their lives and let their elected officials do their jobs.

But part of this drop off happens because many candidates, who ask for help so often during campaigns, largely ignore the communities they have built until the next election.

Frankly, I think we would have a much better and braver government if more people were involved in shaping policy. And using online communities to help identify problems, propose solutions and then stand up to the special interests that so often resist reform is more necessary than it has ever been.

I have said at events in San Francisco that the single most progressive step we can take right now is to make sure government works. From my perspective as a local elected official, I think that when voters see their bus come on time, their school succeed, their libraries open and their parks and playgrounds clean they become much more supportive of a broader progressive agenda that is fundamentally premised on the idea that government can succeed in solving problems.

As I looked around for ways to promote User Generated Government, I didn’t see many models that felt exactly right. There are certainly some good examples out there – but they are either national in scope or they seemed more like ways to gain support for specific ideas rather than a forum to empower an ongoing community.

So, lacking a model I thought appropriate for our local needs, we’ve tried to create our own model. It is called www.ResetSanFrancisco.org, and it is an experiment in user-generated government on a local level.

We have a long way to go. But already nearly 1,000 folks have joined us in a discussion of policy, to propose good ideas and to offer suggestions about how we can make the community even stronger.

Clearly, this is just a start in one small city. It only includes those who can get online, which is not nearly enough people. It is only focused on San Francisco. And so far, it is only in English (although that will soon be expanded). But it is a start. And we are gathering to celebrate that start this weekend.

If you are in the neighborhood, come by to celebrate the launch of Reset San Francisco this Saturday. And if you have time, stay and help us discuss how we can create a community that does more than win elections. Help us show how online communities can stay engaged to win the most important battles – the fight for better policy.

Let’s Close the Corporate Tax Loophole – Update

(If you’re in LA, check out this event! – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Our grassroots campaign to close California’s corporate property tax loopholes and reform Prop. 13 is going strong and building incredible momentum.

We now have over 3,000 supporters from all over the state on our Facebook page, thousands of Californians have already signed our petition at www.ClosetheLoophole.com (please sign the petition if you haven’t already) and we (finally) launched our Close the Loophole Twitter page. Organizations and individuals from all over the state are lining up to join our effort.

Edit by Brian: More information on an LA event over the flip…

 The calls to reform Prop. 13 are growing louder by the day. Our efforts have been featured in news outlets throughout the state, including KQED, CBS5 News, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Jose Mercury News, the Merced Sun-Star and the Sacramento Bee, to just name a few.  Articles calling for a fresh look into Prop. 13 and its destructive effect on California’s current condition (a situation that Calitics has been covering brilliantly) have been published in prominent news outlets throughout the state and the country, from the L.A. Times and the San Francisco Chronicle to Time Magazine and the Washington Post. You can find a full archive of articles on our website.

Earlier this month, we convened our first Organizing and Leadership meeting in San Francisco with huge success. Over 120 community leaders and activists attended the  meeting and added their ideas and expertise to the process. Check out the photos and ABC7’s news coverage of the event here.

This Friday, we are hosting an organizing meeting in Los Angeles for our Southern California friends. For all those who couldn’t make our San Francisco meeting, we hope you will join us:


What: Please join ACORN and San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting for an organizing meeting to reform Prop. 13 and close California’s corporate property tax loopholes

Who: Concerned Citizens and Community Organizers

When: Friday, July 31, 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Where: Los Angeles ACORN Office 3655 South Grand Ave., Suite 250

RSVP: On Facebook or email [email protected]

We are building a powerful campaign operation and incredible momentum. If this year’s budget crisis taught us anything, it’s that stopgap measures and political rhetoric no longer suffice. It’s time to make fundamental changes to the way California is governed.

We hope you will join our campaign on Facebook and Twitter and sign the petition at www.ClosetheLoophole.com. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

We hope to see you Friday in L.A.!

Dan Walters & Prop 13: A Confusing Duo

Dan Walters has an apology piece for Prop 13 this morning. Apology piece is being a bit generous, as it is more of a “LEAVE PROP 13 ALONE” kind of thing. He notes that its critics demand piece-meal reform because a complete repeal won’t pass.  Well, yes, Dan, we DFHs are pretty crazy that way, we aren’t into tilting at windmills and have a strange compulsion to go where victories are easiest. Shocking!

By the way, I don’t think you will find many liberals who would say that a complete repeal of Prop 13 would be a bad thing. I support a full repeal myself, anyway.

But once you get beyond tactics, Dan has fun with numbers, citing the large increase of property taxes since 1978. He notes that:

Since then, property taxes have risen 800 percent to more than $50 billion, according to data from the state Board of Equalization – far faster than other revenues, thanks to new construction and transfers.

Of course, he doesn’t note whether this is in inflation adjusted dollars or not, so I’ll assume it isn’t.  So, knock off a big chunk right there.  Further than that, this is a more meaningless statistic. Yes, property taxes have gone up a lot, because there is a lot more valuable property in California today than there was 30 years ago. THere are more homes, more office buildings, lots more strip malls, and even a few more gas stations. So, yes the property taxes have gone up substantially because there are many new properties.  In other words, this is a completely irrelevant statistic.

A more useful statistic would be the share of the income tax of state revenue. It’s way up (PDF). But instead of useful statistics, we get talking points from the California Taxpayers’ Association. The fact is that if we split the rolls for commercial properties and merely taxed them at their current assessment, the state would get an additional $7 Billion in revenue for the next fiscal year. Not raising the tax rate, nothing that new properties do not face, just taxing properties based upon what they are actually worth today. It is a move that would actually increase fairness and the business climate for new businesses.

But guess what, you know what has really risen in the past 30 years in California? Well, that would be people. People in California who need schools, who need police, who need firefighters, who need streets and who need all sorts of services the state provides. With many properties taxed like it’s 1978, they do not provide for their fair share of services.

While Mr. Walters really enjoys the status quo and pinning blame on the “Capitol political culture that’s utterly incapable of acting responsibly”, he ignores the facts that the system does not allow for anybody to behave responsibly. Let the majority govern, and see if the public supports it. Instead, the supermajority binds the hands of the legislators.

There are other columnists, though, who see Prop 13 for what it is. Like David Lazarus, who said we cannot afford Prop 13 Capitol political culture that’s utterly incapable of acting responsibly. Lazarus said back in 2008, referring to Lenny Goldberg:

What he means is that Proposition 13 allows the state to reach deep into the pockets of people and businesses that buy property at market value. But it does precious little to get a piece of the action from those with long-held properties that have soared in value over the years.

Prop 13 is not only a bad governing principle, it is a bad economic rule.  Whether or not Mr. Walters chooses to ignore reality, the fact is that Prop 13 needs to go.

More on the “Loophole” and Prop 13

I wanted to add a little more about this “loophole” I discussed earlier.  For starters, let’s look at how residential properties are transferred. It’s a relatively simple transaction, leaving the banks out of it, as the mortgage is a deal between the purchaser and the bank, it really is a two parties, simple transfer. The purchaser pays the seller for the parcel. It’s easy to see that there was a transfer there.

But commercial properties are far more difficult.  There are several scenarios where it becomes difficult to answer what seems like an easy question: Was the property transferred?  The transfer triggers a reassesment, and usually higher revenue for that county. Let’s consider a couple of those situations, but these are not the only tough questions on when to reassess:

1) Purchase of a Corporate (or other legal) Entity

Here, the question is what was sold? Did the acquiring company merely purchase stock? Or should the property be considered as having sold since there is a new owner? Take the sale of the Equity Office Group.  I used to work in one of the Equity Office buildings in fact.  In 2007, the Company was sold to the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. Yet, Equity Office (EO) was a vast company, and sold for $39 Billion.  So, was the purchase of EO a transfer of the properties in California? Did Blackstone simply purchase stock in EO, or did they purchase a bunch of properties? If so, what is the value of the properties? How do they attribute money for each of the buildings that EO owns?

This question is still open for debate. Blackstone made some of this a bit easier by selling off some of the properties, but a complete resolution on these kinds of cases is really tough for the affected assessors.

2) Partial Transfers

There are a few partial sales in residential property, but it is far more common in commercial property.  Real estate investment trusts (REITs) allow several owners to own a building or a group of properties. What if one of the large participants in the REITs leave? You might have a new majority owner of the property, yet is there a transfer?

These cases end up in court frequently, and often the owners of teh property can vastly change without triggering a transfer and a reassessment of the property. Homeowners generally can’t avoid these reassessments, and besides the fact that commercial properties sell less often, this slight of hand is why commercial properties pay so much less today in comparison to residential properties.

The Facts Speak for Themselves

Phil Ting is fond of citing a statistic:

30 years ago in San Francisco, commercial property owners contributed the majority of property taxes, 59%, and residential property owners contributed 41%. Today, we see the reverse: commercial property owners contributed just 43% of property taxes in 2008 while residential property owners contributed 57%. (SF Chronicle 5/21/09)

That statistic should be somewhat shocking to voters who were around to remember the 1978 vote.  Looking back at the information from that vote, you’ll see the advertising and ballot argument focused on keeping poor granny in her house. Yet Prop 13 was always a project of the corporations and the landlords.  Howard Jarvis was whiling away his time as the lobbyist for Los Angeles Apartment Owners Association, incidentally where the Yes on Prop 13 HQ was located, when he emerged from obscurity. The Apartment Owners funded Prop 13, and commercial property owners will be sure to protect it from attack.

If Prop 13 is to be reformed, it must come from homeowners and renters that are being slagged with higher taxes. It should come from those who use services, like our K-12 education system, higher education, and the state parks. It needs to come from a well-informed populace that sees Prop 13 for what it is: A Corporate Power Grab.

This discussion is not to say that the “loophole” is necessarily the biggest issue relating to split roll.  It isn’t, it is just one way that the corporations have found to use the system that Prop 13 put in place to avoid paying their fair share.

Words into Action: Moving Forward on Prop 13

SF Assessor Phil Ting’s “Close the Loophole” event last night was a pretty big success.  Turnout was exceptional with an overflow crowd at the SF LGBT Center’s Ceremonial Room.  It’s clear that a lot of people are very, very frustrated with Prop 13. If you missed it, and would like to get more involved, here is the Close The Loophole website and here is the Facebook Page.

Phil Ting spoke for a relatively short time, maybe 15 minutes or so.  He briefly explained where his focus lay, the split roll.  Basically, the split roll would pull commercial properties out of Prop 13, and change the system for assessing and taxing those properties.  Because of the way commercial properties are transferred, in small percentages at a time or by selling a whole company, etc., they can be transferred without being reassessed. Thus, the “loophole” to which Phil Ting refers in his Close the Loophole campaign. All in all, a splitting of the rolls would in the current fiscal year bring in about $7.5 Billion for local governments.  It would not resolve the budget crisis in one chunk, but that money spent wisely could have helped us mitigate the crisis.

The key to this meeting however, was building a working group to begin the process towards moving past talk and into action. Let us not hold any illusions, messing with Prop 13 will not be an easy task.  Business organizations will spend millions of dollars to defeat a split roll initiative, with some political folks suggesting that the No campaign for a split roll campaign measure could raise over $100 million.  It’s tough to beat such a large and spendy No campaign, very hard indeed. The only way that happens is to a) have a substantial budget of our own and b) build a grassroots wave of support.

So, after Mr. Ting spoke, the group broke up into work groups to discuss important features of the campaign. I joined the fundraising group, and we went over ideas of whom to reach out to and how we could raise the kind of money that we would need to pass this measure.  A coalition group had some good ideas of natural allies and an online organizing group worked on building support through the Politics 2.0 toolset.  A policy group also went through ideas, both on the split roll and a further ideas that could be included in a package of reform.

After getting back together to share ideas from the work group, the group committed to reconvening in September. But, we’ll need to have more groups like this across the state. So, let’s work on getting similar events set up elsewhere. If you have access to a meeting space, and would like to host an event, let’s get that going.  Feel free to post something here, or shoot me an email. I’ll do my best to help you organize an event.