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Ruminations of a Former Supervisor / Quentin Kopp

Quentin at his desk
Quentin at his desk Photo courtesy Bill Snyder for Senior Beat

District Elections, Ward Politics, Hidden Gas Taxes & the Ministry of Truth

• • • • • • • • • • October 2023 • • • • • • • • • •

Quentin Kopp
Quentin Kopp

Words of wisdom include the observation that a criminal doesn’t care who makes the laws of this country so long as they are not enforced.

Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court in the 1950s and ‘60s (who swore me in as a lawyer entitled to practice law in the U.S. Supreme Court, which I never did!), when governor of California, began a political address thusly: “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to see the dense crowd here tonight.” A voice from the back shouted: “Don’t be too pleased. We ain’t all dense!”

Thanks to Sunset District resident Robert Guichard, San Francisco voters who aren’t dense will have the opportunity to restore electoral sanity to our beleaguered (if not beloved) Board of Supervisors next year. After the California Supreme Court’s August decision in a case in which the Pico Boulevard Neighborhood Association challenged under the California Civil Rights Act of 2012 the City of Santa Monica’s election of City Council members by at-large (all city voters) selections and remanded the case to the Court of Appeal for further action. Guichard, advised by election laws specialty lawyers, produced a proposed Charter amendment to abolish district election of our 11 City Hall “beauties.” At press time, the city attorney was reviewing the proposal with 49,000 registered voters’ approval needed for the March 4, 2024, election. I anticipate endorsement of it by the San Francisco Taxpayers Association, of which I am president. 

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Instead of requiring at least 100,000 votes for success, we San Francisco voters now also have “ranked-choice” voting which means someone can be elected to our governing legislative body with a paltry 8,237 votes, as Supervisor Matt Dorsey amassed last year to join these elite second floor of City Hall “mavens.”

Guichard, not a politician, may be remembered by “old-timers” as the chief architect of the 1980 initiative restoring at-large supervisorial elections to San Franciscans and later an initiative that mandated the top supervisorial vote-getter as president of the Board of Supervisors. All this occurred after voters were hoodwinked by radical proponents of a “ward” system into abolishing at-large selection of supervisors and substituting election by 11 different districts. That prevailed until 1997 when then-Supervisor Barbara Kaufman persuaded the Board to revert to the district (i.e., ward) system. 

Instead of requiring at least 100,000 votes for success, we San Francisco voters now also have “ranked-choice” voting which means someone can be elected to our governing legislative body with a paltry 8,237 votes, as Supervisor Matt Dorsey amassed last year to join these elite second floor of City Hall “mavens.”

The only difference in the complete restoration of our historic system arises from that 2012 state law regarding civil rights which requires candidates to represent 11 different districts after being elected by voters throughout our city. Existing California law requires such a system which Oakland used years ago regarding its City Council. Telephone Mr. Guichard at 415-661-7000 or me at 415-681-5555 if you would like to aid signature-gathering of registered voters or donate money to the campaign costs, and stay tuned!

I neglected to inform readers last year of an ominous effort by President Joseph Biden to establish a new federal agency called the Disinformation Board, which would’ve been part of the Department of Homeland Security. A coterie of opponents, Republicans, libertarians and even liberals, condemned the plan, comparing it to the “Ministry of Truth” from George Orwell’s novel “1984.” The White House quietly announced the board’s creation in April 2022 to fight the spread of “disinformation” from agents of Russia, China and Iran. It can happen here. 

Meanwhile, California’s gasoline tax soared in July 2023 to 57.9 cents per gallon, up from 53.9 cents per gallon, the highest in the nation. Remember when gasoline service stations posted signs telling customers the amount of gasoline taxes included in the price per gallon? No longer do customers with those evil non-electric motor vehicles receive such relevant information. And the smooth roadways that state gasoline taxes finance seem non-existent in much of San Francisco. One lovely exception exists on Junipero Serra Boulevard between Sloat Boulevard and Brotherhood Way: an antidote to the long-beleaguered Taraval Street from 19th Avenue to Sunset Boulevard. 

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States said it best: “That government is best which governs least.” That’ll nourish many of us until Halloween and, maybe, Thanksgiving.

A nurse registering a new patient asked: “When is your birthday?” “Aug. 22,” replied the patient. The nurse asked: “What year?” “Every year,” answers the patient. Tra-boom!

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, SF Ethics Commission member, president of the California High Speed Rail Authority governing board and retired Superior Court judge. 

October 2023

Quentin Kopp
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