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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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Public AdvocateCharter Amendment

County
November 8, 2016California General Election

City and County of San Francisco
Measure H Charter Amendment - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Failing

167,114 votes yes (47.76%)

182,807 votes no (52.24%)

Shall the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco be amended to: 1) create the Office of the Public Advocate; 2) set the Public Advocate's powers and duties; 3) authorize the Public Advocate to review the administration of City programs, including programs for transmitting information to the public and to receive, investigate, and attempt to resolve complaints regarding City services and programs; 4) authorize the Public Advocate to receive and investigate specified whistleblower complaints; 5) authorize the Public Advocate to appoint the Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints; 6) provide for the Public Advocate's election, removal, and salary; and 7) set City policy regarding sufficient funding and minimum staffing for the Office of the Public Advocate; and setting operative dates?

Summary

The Way It Is Now: The City currently does not have a particular official or central office responsible for overseeing how City departments interact with the public. Some City offices provide opportunities for the public to obtain information, report problems or submit service requests. Examples include:

• the City’s 311 Customer Service Line;

• the Board of Supervisors;

• the Mayor’s Office;

• the City Attorney’s Office;

• the Controller; and

• the Office of Citizen Complaints (for complaints about police actions).

The Controller is the City’s chief accounting officer and auditor. The Controller monitors the level and effectiveness of City services. The Controller also oversees the City’s whistleblower program, which receives and investigates confidential complaints regarding misuse of City funds and improper activities by City officers and employees.

The City’s Office of Citizen Complaints (OCC) investigates complaints of misconduct and neglect of duty by police officers and may file disciplinary charges against officers. The Mayor appoints a Director of the OCC from nominees selected by the Police Commission, and the Board of Supervisors confirms the Mayor’s appointment.

The Proposal: Proposition H is a Charter amendment that would create the position of Public Advocate. The Public Advocate would be elected at a City-wide election and serve a four-year term. The first Public Advocate would be elected at the first election held after January 1, 2017, and would serve a shortened term. Beginning in 2020, the Public Advocate would be elected every four years. No person could serve as Public Advocate for more than two consecutive terms.

Under Proposition H, the Public Advocate would:

• investigate and attempt to resolve complaints from members of the public concerning City services and programs;

• receive and investigate some confidential whistleblower complaints concerning City services and programs;

• review the administration of City programs, management practices and contracting procedures, and make recommendations to improve them; and

• appoint a Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints (or its successor) from nominees selected by the Police Commission, subject to the Board of Supervisors’ approval.

The Controller would continue to handle whistleblower complaints regarding misuse of City funds.

Proposition H would also make it City policy to provide the Public Advocate with sufficient funding and a support staff of at least 25 people. The Public Advocate may also hire independent experts who could be exempt from some of the City’s contracting rules.

— Ballot Simplification Committee

Financial effect

City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition H:

Should the proposed charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would result in a moderate to significant increase in the cost of government. 

The proposed new Office of the Public Advocate would have a variety of powers to review, investigate and make recommendations regarding the City’s public information programs, complaint resolution processes, and its management, contracting and employment practices. Additionally, the Public Advocate would have the authority to receive and investigate certain whistleblower complaints. The authority and responsibility to perform these functions currently exists in various City departments, which remain largely unchanged in the proposed measure. The Public Advocate would also have the authority to introduce legislation.

The Charter amendment mandates a minimum staffing requirement of four positions for this new office, at a likely cost of between $600,000 and $800,000 annually. The amendment also sets a City policy recommending an additional twenty-two staff for the office. The additional cost to meet this staffing policy would likely cost between $2.8 million and $3.5 million annually, although this policy is not binding on the City and would be subject to decisions made during the annual budget process.

The Public Advocate would be elected at the first citywide general or special election occurring after January 1, 2017. The salary for the new Public Advocate would be set by the Civil Service Commission.

This proposed amendment is not in compliance with a non-binding, voter-adopted city policy regarding mandatory expenditures. This policy seeks to limit voter-mandated expenditure requirements that limit the discretion of the Mayor and Board of Supervisors in the City’s budget process.

Note that the proposed amendment would change the duties of the Controller’s Office, which has prepared this statement. 

 

— City Controller Ben Rosenfield

YES vote means

If you vote “yes,” you want to amend the Charter to create the position of Public Advocate, responsible for investigating and attempting to resolve public complaints concerning City services and programs. You also want to make it City policy to provide the Public Advocate with sufficient funding and a support staff of at least 25 people.

NO vote means

If you vote “no,” you do not want to make these changes.

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