Brass Tax: Propositions N and Q Levy Businesses, Property

By Tim Kingston
The Truthiness Report: No. 6 in a series on election advertising. Propositions N and Q, which would increase and modify San Francisco’s property transfer and payroll expense taxes, were the product of intense negotiations between different business groups. Not surprisingly, the winners and losers in those negotiations define the pro and con election advertisements. The laws are simple enough: N would increase the property transfer tax from 0.75 to 1.5 percent on properties worth over $5 million, while Q ensures that partners in law firms have to pay payroll taxes.

Prop. K: Untested Theories Drive Prostitution Debate

By Bernice Yeung, Public Press
Proposition K, which seeks to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco, has spawned a heated debate over how to curb human trafficking and protect the lives and health of sex workers. A close look at campaign advertising around the proposition reveals sharp disagreements between supporters and opponents over what the local impacts of the law would be, as well as a schism in feminist circles over prostitution itself. Drafted by the Erotic Service Providers Union (ESPU), a local sex workers’ alliance, Proposition K would require San Francisco law enforcement to disregard state laws prohibiting prostitution. The measure also calls for the estimated $1.6 million to $3.2 million currently spent on prostitution-related arrests and prosecutions to be directed toward other crimes, including violence against prostitutes. Despite an impact that would be purely local, the dialogue surrounding the proposition reflects the increasing globalization of the sex industry.

Attack on Muslim Cemetary Comes Amid Rightist Gains

The Times of London reports that over 90 graves in a Muslim cemetary were “severely damaged” in Traun, Austria, during a general election that saw big gains for anti-immigrant political parties. Austrian police attribute desecration to far-right extremists, whom officials say attempted to shield themselves from association with the crime by spraying Jewish symbols over some of the graves. The Freedom Party and The Alliance for Austria’s Future captured almost 30 percent of the vote, boosted by young populist voters concerned about what they deem as an ongoing “Islamisation” of Austria and Europe. The Freedom Party campaigned against headscarves, burkas and ethnic foods, while both pledged to ban the construction of mosques and minarets. The International Herald Tribune reported that mainstream parties such as The Social Democratic Party and the People’s party remain prevalent, but are increasingly unpopular.

The Business of Ballot Booklet Brokering

Campaigner and ex-City Hall aide David Noyola illustrates how insiders spin local elections
By Matthew Hirsch, Public Press
Like many who work in San Francisco City Hall, David Noyola last month was answering two phones, a land line for his official duties, and an iPhone to talk politics. Noyola has since left his position as a legislative aide for Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, and for election 2008 has put his specialized knowledge to use as a professional campaigner. His work in these two capacities illustrates how insiders can have sizable impacts on local elections. In Noyola’s case, his influence is currently most visible in the city’s voter information guide — the thick booklet published before each election that lists all the candidates and initiatives, as well as the official and paid arguments in support or opposition. Working separately as a partisan electioneer and as an aide for Peskin, Noyola placed 22 arguments in the voter guide, collectively supporting of five propositions.

Women on Top in Rwandan Parliament

Women will form the majority in Rwanda’s national parliament, making it the first country in the world to have more female legislators than men. According to the Independent, women have won around 56 percent of the seats in parliament after four days of peaceful elections. Women will have at least 44 of the 80 total seats. “The problems of women are understood much better, much better by women themselves,” one female voter said. President Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front secured a majority in the elections — only the second since the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 people there.

San Francisco Voter Propositions for November ’08

By Greg M. Schwartz, Public Press
Editor’s Note
This overview of the twenty-two propositions on San Francisco’s Nov. 4 ballot includes regularly updated contextual links, as well as reader comments. Truthiness Update
San Francisco Election Ad Annotations
Prop D: Eyeing a Revitalized Pier 70 (Nov. 3)
Prop. V and JROTC: Lessons in How Not to Listen (Oct.

Sidebar: Swaying Voters at $2 a Word

• Main Article: “Invasion of the Policy Pushers”
Here are the most lopsided campaigns in the fall 2008 San Francisco voter information pamphlet, with a well organized group on one side dominating the paid argument pages. Measure A: funding construction and renovations at San Francisco General Hospital
FOR: 39 arguments, submitted mostly by Whitehurst Campaigns
Measure H: promoting public power and alternative energy
FOR: 9 arguments
AGAINST: 30, submitted by a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. campaign committee and Citizens for a Better San Francisco, an affiliate of the San Francisco Republican Party
Measure L: establishing a special court to handle petty crimes
FOR: 17 arguments, submitted mostly by Storefront Political Media, run by a San Francisco mayoral aide
Here are the most evenly matched campaigns:
Measure B: establishing a public fund for affordable housing
FOR: 7 arguments
Measure K: decriminalizing prostitution
FOR: 9 arguments
Measure V: reverse a policy to phase out JROTC, military training program in public schools
FOR: 10 arguments
–Matthew Hirsch

Invasion of the Policy Pushers / Interest Groups Spin SF Ballot Arguments

By Matthew Hirsch, Public Press
• First in a series fact-checking 2008 election ads in San Francisco
• Sidebar: “Swaying Voters at $2 a Word”
For the November 4 election, San Francisco’s voter-information booklet will be packed with dozens of paid arguments around hot-button topics such as housing and public power. Many of these ballot ads are signed by community and small-business leaders and appear to reflect widespread participation in the public debate. Yet the people who sign the paid arguments don’t always pay for or submit the ads themselves. San Francisco legislators changed the election rules in 1997 so voters could find out who was footing the bills. But most voters don’t know that paid arguments are often bundled by professional campaign consultants whose aim is to manufacture a showing of broad support for particular ballot issues, and who sometimes have their own, undisclosed interests.

World's Youngest Republic Swears in Maoist Prime Minister

Following years of turbulence and the end of its traditional monarchy, the newly minted Republic of Nepal swore its first prime minister into office on August 18 in Kathmandu. The Times of India reports that former Maoist rebel Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known popularly as Prachanda, took his oath of office “in the name of the people” rather than “in the name of God” — a break from tradition that acknowledges his communist leanings. In his mid-fifties, Prachanda was once a guerilla fighter that led the Maoists’ decade-long insurgency to abolish the monarchy. His Communist Party of Nepal won a majority in the nation’s Constituent Assembly in April, and his swearing-in ceremony brought dignitaries from the United Kingdom and the United States. Both countries formerly supported Nepal’s monarchy in the fight against Prachanda’s Maoists.