SF Usual Suspects

Board FAQ

1. Why aren’t ordinances effective until 30 days after the mayor approves them?

2. Is the Board involved in appointments by the mayor?

3. Are there different fiscal provisions in the City Charter involving the Board?

4. What are the terms and what are ballots like?

5. Are there term limits?

6. How many times can an appointed supervisor run for election?

7. Doesn’t a new supervisor with more than two years left in the term have to run in November?

8. Can supervisors campaign for ballot measures?

9. Can the Board submit ballot arguments?

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1. Why aren’t ordinances effective until 30 days after the mayor approves them?
Voters have a right to circulate a petition to keep the ordinance from going into effect until after a public vote, called a referendum.

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2. Is the Board involved in appointments by the mayor?
Yes. The mayor appoints most commissioners, the Board appoints some, and the Board President appoints still others. Board confirmation is not required, but the Board can reject the appointments. The appointment of the city administrator by the mayor for a five year term (compared to the 10 years for previous chief administrative officers) will be subject to Board approval. The removal of the city administrator by the mayor requires confirmation by the Board, although under the new Charter the removal can occur without cause.

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3. Are there different fiscal provisions in the City Charter involving the Board?
Yes. The Board now needs only a majority vote to adopt the budget, instead of the previous 2/3 vote. Previously, the Board could only lower proposed appropriations. Under the new Charter, the Board can raise them too, if there are enough funds. The Board appoints an Audit Committee to work with the outside auditor.

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4. What are the terms and what are ballots like?
There are eleven Supervisors. Voters elect them in November of even numbered years. They have to declare they are candidates sometime in early August. As a practical matter, they usually decide well in advance of August so they can start raising money. They usually have four year overlapping terms. But during the present change from at-large elections to district elections things are a little different. In the year 2000, eleven Supervisors were elected from eleven districts, some of them for two years, some for four years. Beginning in 2002 Supervisors, were elected for four year terms. Voters use non-partisan ballots; that is, the ballot does not show any political party, and supervisors do not run as members of a party or faction.

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5. Are there term limits?
Yes. In June 1990 voters adopted a Charter amendment limiting supervisors to two terms. Supervisors in office when the limit was enacted were deemed to be serving in their first term, even though they may already have served several terms. A two term limit for the office of mayor had been adopted by the voters in 1955.

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6. How many times can an appointed supervisor later run for election?
A supervisor appointed for less than half a term can run twice for election. A supervisor appointed for more than half a term can only run once more. In effect, an appointment for more than half a term counts as a full term. But the new district election Charter provision affects what is counted as a term.

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7. Doesn’t a new supervisor with more than two years left in the term have to run in November?
Under the Charter that became effective July 1, 1996, a supervisor appointed to fill a vacancy with more than two years and five months left in the term has to be elected in order to complete the term. Michela Alioto-Pier was the first appointment that fit this qualification.

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8. Can supervisors campaign for ballot measures?
It is unlawful to use the facilities of the City and County of San Francisco, including the facilities of the Board, to support or to oppose, or to solicit funds to support or to oppose, any ballot proposition or any candidate. This includes all proposed Charter amendments and bond issues on the ballot. Therefore, it is not lawful to use for those purposes the exterior or interior walls of City buildings or City offices, photocopy equipment, word processing equipment, telephones, fax machines, desks, the City seal, the time of aides or other City employees or any other City facilities. Campaign literature or buttons should not be stored in your desks or offices concerning either propositions or candidates.

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9. Can the Board submit ballot arguments?
Yes. The ballot argument must be prepared on forms which are specified by the Director of Elections and available from the Rules Committee Clerk.

Aides are requested to submit ballot arguments on the form specified by the Director of Elections and to place them in a ballot argument folder within the “common” folder on the computer network. This is important especially since there is little time between the time the Board orders ballot arguments transmitted and the deadline imposed by law.

In preparing ballot arguments there is a limit of 300 words for initial ballot arguments and 250 words for rebuttal arguments. This word limit includes the phrase “Board of Supervisors” which appears at the end of ballot arguments but does not include the phrase at the head of the argument entitled “Proponent’s Argument in Favor of Proposition X.” Show the number of words in each line and the correct total.

No underlining will appear in the ballot pamphlet. However, words can be in bold face, italics or both Do this by underlining the text and placing a marginal note “B” or “I” or “BI” to direct the printer to do the underlined portion in boldface or italic.

The ballot argument should end “Board of Supervisors.” It should not also indicate on the submittal line “and the XYZ neighborhood group” or “endorsed by” or similar wording because there are often not enough minutes to get written neighborhood group approval between Board approval and the submission deadline. If it is important to indicate the support of another group or person, it should be done in the text of the ballot argument. A written consent of the group or person mentioned in the text as an endorser must be submitted with the argument.

The President of the Board usually introduces motions for ballot arguments concerning all propositions for which a Supervisor has not introduced a ballot argument. The Rules Committee considers ballot arguments on Charter amendments and ordinances.

The Board can submit ballot arguments concerning all propositions described in the City and County ballot pamphlet.

The Board may submit a proponent’s ballot argument about any measure on the City ballot, unless the measure is sponsored by someone else (e.g. initiative petition or Mayor) who writes a proponent’s argument. The Board may write an opponent’s argument concerning any measure. See Municipal Elections Code Sections 530 and following for guidance.

Ballot arguments are normally considered by the Rules Committee except that arguments about bond issues are normally heard by the Finance Committee. The Clerk routinely distributes ballot argument instructions and encourages sponsors to submit the arguments on time.