To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

Meeting Information

Budget and Policy Committee

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 



Budget and Policy Committee

Elections Commission

March 2, 2005




  • 1.CALL TO ORDER:  Chair, Michael Mendelson called the meeting to order at 7:00 pm.


  • 2.ROLL CALL:  Present were Commissioners Michael Mendelson, Richard P. Matthews and Gerard Gleason. Also present was John Arntz, Director of the Department of Elections.


  • 3.Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes for the Budget and Policy Committee meeting of January 18, 2005.  Commissioner Matthews MOVED to approve the minutes, Commissioner Gleason SECONDED.  Motion CARRIED.


  • 4.Discussion and possible Recommendation regarding the Department of Elections’ draft Budget for fiscal year 2005.  Director John Arntz reported that the Budget had been presented to the Controller’s Office on February 22nd.  The expenditures can decrease, but not increase except through the Mayor’s Budget Office.  The DoE’s division managers were responsible for submitting their expenses for staffing, equipment and materials.


Chairperson Mendelson called to the Committee’s attention that the process is being conducted pursuant to Section 19.05 of the City Charter, which states that it is up to the Board of Supervisors to determine what the Department’s budget will be.


  • 5.Discussion and possible action regarding the report by Commissioner Richard P. Matthews regarding: (a) his communications with the Newspaper Guild regarding their desire to participate in the nomination of a Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC) member; (b) the possibility of seeking nominations from other organizations; and (c) the possibility of seeking a per diem for BSC members.  Commissioner Matthews reported that he has not yet communicated with the guild, however he has learned that the Chairperson of the BSC, Ms. Betty Packard, has been able to locate an additional member for the Committee.  The Director added that he had spoken with the director of the guild who was receptive to nominating the candidate that Ms. Packard proposes.  The Director made it clear that he is not actively involved in the selection but did make the initial contact with the guild about the need for an appointment and a possible candidate.


Commissioner Matthews said that he has two goals for his involvement regarding the BSC; (1) to cast a wider net for membership and (2) to question the propriety of having an appointing body for membership be involved in the endorsement of the language for issues and candidates on ballot measures.  He said he wants to move toward a system where active political groups are not participants in the appointing process. 


  • 6.Discussion and possible action regarding the report by Commissioner Gerard Gleason regarding the status of his investigation of rates for paid arguments in the Voter Information Pamphlet (VIP) to reflect the actual cost of publication, or eliminating paid arguments altogether from the pamphlet, to realize significant cost savings.  Commissioner Gleason reported that he spoke with former Commissioner Brenda Stowers who had researched this issue and produced a previous written report of her findings.  He said that, as he found out from former Commissioner Stower’s report, the decision to allow paid arguments was approved by the City thirty years ago and that changes in election law and budget issues cause this issue to be revisited once again.   Currently the Department has reached the end of maximum production efficiency such as lighter paper for postal sorting that could reduce the cost of the VIP.  There are no real, additional savings to be realized considering the current format.   If there is an election where several controversial items are on the ballot, the DoE could easily end up with a three-hundred and sixty page VIP which would put the book over a pound in weight.  When this happens, the Department will be in trouble.  Commissioner Gleason said that he and former Commissioner Stowers discussed that the previous forum of discussion regarding the issue, was at an election Commission meeting where interested parties were only able to give 3 minutes input and there was no back-and-forth discussion to come up with possible remedies.  The real solution may be a future forum or summit where interested parties could discuss their points of view for more than three minutes and allow for a dialog to come up with a possible solution.  He reminded the Committee that the Commission cannot take any action other than to make its recommendation known to the Board of Supervisors.  Commissioner Gleason suggested that a sit-down discussion or summit was necessary.


Not only is there the cost issue, but a fairness issue as well, he said.  The fairness comes into play when the VIP is so big that delivery to each voter by the post office is difficult.  In areas with condensed housing structures, the delivery to each citizen will be more time consuming for the postal delivery person than the single dwelling homes in areas like Pacific Heights.  The larger the book gets, the more difficult it is to fairly deliver to all voters in the same time period.  While the Department of Elections can monitor postal deliver, it cannot control this distribution once it’s in the post office.  The production and dissemination of the VIP accounts for 9% of the DoE’s budget. 


Public Comment.  David Pilpel stated that costs for the VIP should be covered by those who submit arguments.  Further, he said that if the costs are not covered by the submitters and that the Board of Supervisors should examine all the costs and determine what the rate for the paid arguments should be.  If the Board set the rate at an amount lower than the actual costs, then the balance should come to the DoE from the General Fund.


Commissioner Gleason said that he would be willing to take the lead to organize a forum on this subject sometime in the future. 


7.         Discussion and possible action regarding the report by Commissioner Richard P. Matthews regarding obtaining the help of the survey department of the Political Science Department of San Francisco State University to assist in the survey of voter regarding the usefulness of the VIP.  Commissioner Matthews reported that he had spoken with semi-retired professor of the Political Science Department, Rich DeLeon,  who advised that a firm called PRI, in Daly City, will be conducting a citizen survey on behalf of the Contoller’s Office, and perhaps the DoE can partner in the survey and insert three to five questions regarding the usefulness of the VIP.


The two issues for which answers will be sought in the survey are: usefulness of the VIP and how citizens would feel about an all-postal-return ballot.


Commissioner Matthews stated that, with the approval of the Budget and Policy Committee and after conferring with the Director regarding what the Director wants to study regarding paid argument, he would set a meeting with the Controller to suggest the partnership in the survey.


Public Comment.  David Pilpel said the citizen survey is of residents, not voters.


  • 8.Discussion and possible action to recommend that the Elections Commission approve an Election Plan Template.  San Francisco Charter section 13.103.5 requires that the Elections Commission approve an Election Plan in advance of each election.  The template would be used by the Department of Elections to prepare the Election Plan for all future elections.  Commissioner Gleason said that his goal for the template was that be approximately 80% boiler plate and that it could be used for each election, with minor changes such as names and dates of elections.


Commissioner Gleason suggested that there be a map of the precincts at which there will be bi-lingual poll workers. 


            Public Comment.  David Pilpel said that he would like to see observers mentioned in the election plan.


            Commissioner Mendelson suggested that there be a notation on the Election Plan template that reads, “This election plan is merely a plan, has no legal force and effect and is non-binding and is for informational purposes only.”


            Commissioner Matthews MOVED that the Committee recommend to the full Commission that it approve the draft template as edited at the Budget and Policy Committee meeting of March 2, 2005, for submission to the Director for his use to create his election plan.  Commissioner Gleason asked to add that the template would be re-evaluated after the election to assess its success and to determine whether to continue use of the template.   The MOTION CARRIED.



9.         Discussion and possible action regarding the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPCs) filings at the Department of Elections with a goal of making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  Director Arntz stated that he did not want the Commission to make a recommendation to the Board at this time.    Item was HELD TO THE CALL OF THE CHAIR.




ADJOURNMENT was at 8:13 pm.