San Francisco Measures Voters to decide on banning guns, military recruitment

CAMPAIGN 2005: San Francisco Measures
Voters to decide on banning guns, military recruitment
Ballot also addresses firehouse hours, mayor's authority

- Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2005

From banning firearms and keeping firehouses open, to opposing military recruitment in public schools, San Francisco voters will decide on a variety of measures on election day that keep true to the spirit of San Francisco politics.

A coalition of anti-war groups placed Proposition I on the Nov. 8 ballot, which they say would make San Francisco the first city in the country to have a policy that opposes military recruiting in public schools.

Supporters hope to continue the momentum of last year's Proposition N, in which San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to call on the U.S. government to withdraw all military personnel from Iraq.

"We see this as a way of ending the war," said Ragina Johnson, spokeswoman for College Not Combat. "If they don't have new recruits to join the military, ultimately in the long run they won't be able to continue the war."

Though the measure is largely symbolic and would not forbid recruiting, opponents say it ends the wrong message to young people.

"This measure would bring the erosion of respect for our military armed forces, and I don't want to entertain one change," said Gail Neira, president of the San Francisco Republican Alliance.

Another hot-button issue on the ballot, gun control, is sponsored by four members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Proposition H would make it illegal for city residents to possess handguns and would ban the manufacture, distribution, sale and transfer of firearms and ammunition within the city.

The National Rifle Association has spoken out against the measure, though local opponents say the group is not part of the official opposition.

"The possession of firearms by law-abiding people is not the problem," said Mike Ege, a board member of the Coalition Against Prohibition, who said crime rates would rise if handguns were banned. Criminals will know people are not armed and protecting themselves, he said.

Supporters who want San Francisco to join the ranks of Washington, D.C., and Chicago, the only cities in the country with such a ban, say too many innocent people die as a result of gun violence.

"Banning handguns alone is not gong to stop the violence, but it's a big step," Supervisor Chris Daly said.

Voters also will decide on Proposition F, a measure backed by the politically powerful San Francisco firefighters union that would end the brownouts that closed firehouses on a rotating basis during tight budget times and require all 42 firehouses in the city to stay open.

The brownouts began under Mayor Gavin Newsom, who nonetheless supports the measure that would forbid them.

"It's a dense city built of 150-year-old wood, and these fires engulf structures very, very quickly," said Eric Jaye, a spokesman for the Yes on F campaign, who also is a political strategist for Newsom. "It's not just an issue of minutes that matter in response; seconds matter. These brownouts have affected response times."

The city controller estimated that implementing Proposition F could cost up to $6.6 million a year in firefighter salaries and benefits. And opponents say that's money that could be used on other expenses.

"Proposition F is not going to protect public safety," said N'Tanya Lee, executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. "It's an effort to distract the public from the inefficiencies in the fire department that would justify reducing the number of fire houses permanently."

Six other measures are on the ballot, including two bond measures.

Proposition A would allow the San Francisco Community College District to borrow $246.3 million by issuing general obligation bonds to pay for capital improvements. Proposition B authorizes the city to borrow $208 million by issuing general obligation bonds to pay for major street and sidewalk improvements and to add bike lanes.

Proposition C would give the city's Ethics Commission, which is responsible for enforcing local campaign and lobbying laws, more independence in setting its own budget and limit the mayor's power.

Another measure, Proposition D, takes a stab at mayoral authority by rescinding the mayor's ability to appoint all seven members to the board that oversees the Municipal Railway.

Proposition E would change the election date of the city's assessor-recorder and public defender from the statewide primary election in June to the municipal election the next November.

Proposition G gives city voters a say in the politically charged issue of traffic in Golden Gate Park. The ballot measure, sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and his 10 colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, seeks to restrict traffic to one lane in each direction on Ninth Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive within the park between Lincoln Way and Concourse Drive.

If approved, the measure would permit an entrance and exit for an underground parking garage being sought by the Golden Gate Concourse Authority to serve visitors to the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the California Academy of Sciences.

E-mail Cecilia M. Vega at

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©2005 San Francisco Chronicle

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