Proposition B — November 2020

From the San Francisco November 2020 Nonpartisan Voter Guide.

This charter amendment would split the Department of Public Works in two by creating the Department of Sanitation and Streets. Street cleaning and trash removal are currently managed by Public Works, but would become a new department under the measure, with the goal of improving sanitation citywide. The other part of the amendment is an attempt to improve oversight: Both departments would be overseen by commissions. The measure would also require the controller’s office to do a performance audit and cost and waste analysis for both departments every year. 

The mayor and Board of Supervisors would be responsible for filling those commission seats, and there are a few stipulations about who should sit on them. For example, one seat must be filled by someone with project management experience, and another by someone with a background in auditing.

Proponents say having a department dedicated to sanitation would improve street cleanliness throughout the city, and new reporting requirements and oversight bodies would help eliminate corruption and waste.

Opponents say this merely adds more government functions and takes power away from citizens, since the measure would give the power to change the responsibilities of these departments to the mayor and Board of Supervisors. SPUR, an urbanist think tank that opposes the measure, also adds that putting the people who design and build public infrastructure in a different department from the people who maintain it goes counter to best practices for cost efficiency. 

The controller estimates that the measure would add between $2.5 million and $6 million a year in costs.

This restructuring effort comes in part in response to the ongoing saga of an FBI probe uncovering alleged corruption in San Francisco government, which began with revelations that the FBI arrested the head of the Department of Public Works. For a primer on what the initial arrests meant for the city, listen below to Mission Local’s Joe Eskenazi, who has kept a close eye on the scandal.