San Francisco Government Operations

San Francisco Charter

Executive Branch

Board of Supervisors

Board of Commissions

Civil Service

Financing San Francisco Government

Budgetary Systems and Procedures

San Francisco Public Library System

Voting Rights and Office of the Director of Elections


LWVUS Positions in brief:
1) Government – Promote an open government system that is representative, accountable and responsive.
2) Citizen’s Right to Vote; protect the right of all citizens to vote; encourage all citizens to vote.
3) Citizen’s Right to Know/ Citizen Participation

LWVCA Positions in brief:
1) Election Systems: Support election systems for executive offices of both state and local levels that require the winner to receive a majority of the votes as long as the majority is achieved using a voting method such as instant runoff voting, rather than a second, separate runoff election.
2) Initiative and referendum process – Support citizen’s right of direct legislation through the initiative and referendum process
3) Intergovernmental Relationships – Support an efficient, effective and equitable balance of responsibility and authority among levels of government with accountability to the public.
4) State and Local Finances: Support measures to ensure revenues both sufficient and flexible enough to meet changing needs for state and local government service.

San Francisco Government Operations

San Francisco is a Charter City. The charter city provision in the California Constitution (commonly referred to as ‘home rule’) gives cities supreme power over ‘municipal affairs’. The home rule provision maximizes local control and recognizes that cities, rather than the state, know what’s best for their communities. Any city ordinance that regulates a municipal affair trumps general law of the state. The courts have consistently classified some areas as municipal affairs; municipal election matters, land use and zoning decisions, how a city spends tax dollars and municipal contracts. San Francisco County and City share the same boundaries and are consolidated. Many city officials also fulfill the duties of county officials. Members of the League of Women Voters of San Francisco participated in the last major revision of the San Francisco City Charter in 1996.

San Francisco Charter

Objectives of this position:

Support a San Francisco City Charter, which is an enabling document, understandable to the general public. It should contain a brief preamble.

1) The Charter should provide:

   a) a line of authority;

   b) clear designation of powers;

   c) for accountability;

   d) for citizen participation;

   e) power to establish an administrative code;

   f) power to establish a personnel system.

2) The Charter should prohibit the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors from interfering in the operation of administrative affairs.

Executive Branch

Objectives of this position:

Support measures to increase effectiveness and accountability of administration. Retain the authority that now lies in the Mayor’s position.

1) The Mayor, with the concurrence of the Board of Supervisors, should have the power to create, eliminate and combine departments and boards and commissions. If the supervisors do not act within a specified time, the Mayor’s proposal will would go into effect.

2) The Mayor should appoint heads of those departments whose policies are set by the commissions.

3) The Mayor should continue to appoint heads of those departments, which are currently responsible to the Mayor.

4) The duties of controller should be in the office of Mayor.

Board of Supervisors

Objectives of this position:

Support measures to increase responsiveness, responsibility and effectiveness of the Board of Supervisors.

1) Members of the Board of Supervisors should serve full-time with salaries commensurate with their duties.

2) The Board should have an expert staff, which includes a budget analyst and a legislative analyst.

Board of Commissions

Objectives of this position:

Support a system of boards and commissions which will effectively serves the public.

1) Duties of boards and commissions should include the following functions:

   a) Holding public hearings;

   b) Approve the budget of their department or their own budget;

   c) Advise;

   d) Act as an appeals board.

2) Regulations governing boards and commissions should include:

   a) Attendance requirements with specific limitations on absences;

   b) Formal orientation procedures for all boards and commissions;

   c) Standardized compensation for all commissioners and remuneration for reasonable, appropriate expenses incurred.

3) Selection of commissioners should be based on the following criteria:

   a) Commitment and time to serve;

   b) Proven ability in a field related to the commission;

   c) Objectivity in working with community problem;

   d) Represents the diversity of the community.

4) Election process should provide for increased public participation by:

   a) Establishing an ongoing screening and nomination committee;

   b) Submission of names of potential candidates by the public to the committee.

5) Appointments should include:

   a) Uniform length terms of four years;

   b) Terms staggered to ensure continuity;

   c) Membership limited to seven to increase efficiency;

   d) Appointment of commissioners should be by the Mayor as terms expire.

6) Effectiveness of a commission should be judged by the following criteria:

   a) Provides a public forum;

   b) Includes citizens in decision-making;

   c) Provides for a range of viewpoints.

7) Coordination and efficiency of the boards and commissions system should be increased. Consolidate boards and commissions and their departments if the following conditions are met:

   a) Special needs are considered;

   b) Procedures and policy-making are open to view.

   c) Long-range, cost/benefit ratio is improved.

   d) Delivery of services to the public is improved.

8) Establish a new commission or an ad hoc committee if there is a critical unmet need.

Civil Service

Objectives of this position:

Support an efficient, equitable and modern personnel system that:

1) Provides financing that maintains adequate staffing levels;

   a) Annual performance evaluation of all employees;

   b) Restriction of all provisional appointments;

   c) A regular, on-going and dynamic recruitment program;

   d) Promotional examinations to allow all qualified employees within the system, regardless of class, to take the promotional examination and when only a few employees within the system are qualified, allow eligible applicants outside the system to take the promotional examination;

   e) Flexible programs that allow all applicants to be trained for regular entrance examinations, with qualified staff to implement such programs and;

   f) Improved examination procedures through the use of standardized examination.

2) Amend Charter to permit at least rule-of-three;

3) Evaluations of all job classifications to occur cycle at least every five years. 

Financing San Francisco Government

Objectives of this position:

Support measures that promote effective and equitable methods of paying for city services which:

1) Provides effective control over expenditures.

2) Reduce expenses of government by:

   a) Streamlining government through:

      i) Establishing a comprehensive computer network to coordinate all city departments:

      ii) increasing efficiency of the offices of assessor and tax collector:

    b) Eliminating duplication of functions among departments.

    c) Evaluating the way salaries and benefits are set.

Budgetary Systems and Procedures

Objectives of this position:

Support a budgetary process, which is effective, transparent and responsive to the needs of the community.

1) Require a budget process that includes:

   a) Public discussion of community priorities before budgetary decisions are made.

   b) Open hearings at all levels of decision-making; departmental, commission, Mayoral and Board of Supervisors;

   c) Define departmental objectives by using:

      i) Program planning;

      ii) Procedures that consider city wide priorities and coordinate planning and spending among departments.

2) Support a budget that meets the following criteria:

   a) Understandable to elected officials and interested citizens;

   b) Provides visible relationship between expenditures and objectives so that effectiveness and efficiency can be evaluated.  

   c) Retains the current level of services by increasing taxes and fees if necessary.

   d) Reflects realistic planning, so that so that supplemental appropriations are used only to meet unforeseeable requirements.

San Francisco Public Library System

Objectives of this position:

Support a free public library system that meets the informational, educational and recreational needs of all city residents.

1) Support library functions that educate and inform the electorate, thus facilitating citizen participation in government decision-making.

2) Support measures to improve patron service, including:

   a) increase automation e.g. automate acquisitions;

   b) increase the size of the book and non-print collections;

   c) hire additional staff e.g. more pages;

   d) increase hours at the branch libraries;

   e) encourage cooperation between the library and the San Francisco Unified School District.

3) Support a variety

Voting Rights and Office of the Director of Elections

Objectives of this position:

Support measures that increase information to the voter of about voting rights and available voter services.

The Department of Elections shall serve the voters and provide accurate information to the public in an efficient and courteous manner. Steps should be taken to:

1) Improve office procedures by providing:

   a) up-to-date job and procedural manuals;

   b) special training for employees who give information to the public;

   c) seminars for supervisory personnel;

   d) regular staff meetings;

   e) training in the use of electronic data processing.

2) Formulate and put into effect an active outreach registration program.

3) The position of Director of Elections should be:

   a) a separate position;

   b) appointed rather than elected;

   c) open to candidates outside San Francisco Civil Service as well as those within Civil Service.

4) The qualifications for the position of Director of Elections shall:

   a) include knowledge of electronic data processing;

   b) include experience with election laws and procedures.