Duel Purpose: Opponents Accuse a Supervisor of Introducing Legislation to Clean up the Mess he Made

Come November, San Franciscans will all but surely have to decide between ballot measures regarding whether we should or shouldn't build the luxury waterfront condo project at 8 Washington as it's currently proposed.

Last week saw the somewhat bizarre introduction of dueling legislation regarding how much about those ballot measures we'll read in the voter pamphlet. Per city law, every last bit of legal text must be included within those voter guides — the "anti-8 Washington" measure checks in at more than 500 pages, and the nascent "pro-8 Washington" proposition is a healthy 42 pages. The city's voter pamphlet would tax the definition of the term "pamphlet." It'd also tax the city: Each printed page corresponds to a $3,500 expenditure.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Chiu are on different sides of the 8 Washington divide. And they offered tellingly different solutions to the same problem. Wiener, who supports the development, proposed that legal text greater than 20 pages be abridged from forthcoming voter pamphlets, with full text available online, in libraries, or to be mailed, gratis, upon request. Chiu's take is similar, but he draws the line at 100 pages, far longer than the pro-8 Washington text.

Yes, there's a backstory. Chiu introduced an amendment to the Board of Supervisors that would have allowed signature gatherers for the anti-8 Washington referendum to tote around a slimmed-down text. But the board spurned his move by a 7-4 tally — and not only was Wiener one of the seven "no" votes, he was the only supe to speak against the amendment.

As a result, signature-gatherers hauled around phonebook-sized petitions. And now the city is duty-bound to cram that phonebook-sized petition into the voter pamphlet. Opponents of 8 Washington accuse Wiener of cleaning up a mess partly of his own making. Wiener, meanwhile, paints this as a simple commonsense move. Dueling worldviews aside, on that score, both sides can be right.

 
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