The Truthiness Report

The San Francisco 2008 Election Truthiness Report is co-produced by and The Public Press, and funded through small donations using the Spot.Us “crowdfunding” Web site.

Staff & Credits

SF Election Ad Annotations: Mouse over these scanned ads for pop-up text boxes that reveal the truthiness of it all!

November 3, 2008
“Prop D: Eyeing a Revitalized Pier 70”
By Bernice Yeung
Although development is a perennially hot-button topic in San Francisco due to concerns about gentrification, Proposition D, which would facilitate Pier 70 revitalization, is a seemingly controversy-free measure that has garnered wide support from neighborhood groups, environmentalists, city officials and developers.

October 31, 2008
“Proposition V and JROTC: Lessons in How Not to Listen”
By Tim Kingston
The spat over JROTC is really more about a case of two alternate worldviews. On the one hand there is the moderate/conservative “leave politics out of schoolyard” view, which is focused on saving a local program that teaches leadership skills to youth. Opponents see JROTC as a central part of Department of Defense efforts to recruit and maintain a steady supply of “cannon fodder” for foreign wars, as well as supporting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in gay- and lesbian-friendly San Francisco.

October 31, 2008
“Prop. A: The Specter of a City Without a Lifeline”
By Matthew Hirsch
The proponents of Proposition A want voters to believe that the Nov. 4 election is a matter of life or death for San Francisco’s main public hospital, and the campaign ads feature long endorsement lists and descriptions of health care specialists who provide essential medical services. However, these ads misrepresent some of the facts. And they appeal to the lowest common denominator in politics — quality health care, something everybody supports — without taking on more difficult questions raised by the campaign.

October 30, 2008
“Proposition M: The Latest Battle in San Francisco’s Rent Wars”
By Tim Kingston
Rancorous is always a good way to describe tenant-landlord relations in San Francisco, and the debate over Proposition M — an anti-harassment initiative put on the ballot by tenants’ rights activists — is no exception. The measure has spurred an exchange of pro and con arguments around free speech and the role of lawyers.

October 28, 2008
“Prop L: Political Maneuvering on Community Justice Center”
By Bernice Yeung
Proposition L, which would guarantee funding to San Francisco’s new Community Justice Center, is supposedly an initiative that would “stop efforts to play politics with community justice,” according to advertising paid for by proponents. However, given the heated debate among city officials — rooted in a longstanding feud between Supervisor Chris Daly and Mayor Gavin Newsom — the measure appears to serve a political purpose itself.

October 24, 2008
“Proposition B: ‘Chump Change’ or ‘Massive Budget Hole’?”
By Tim Kingston
An “Affordable Housing Fund” that would take a cut of existing property taxes has spurred a pair of conflicting narratives from the same set of facts. The only thing the pro and con advocates can agree on is the stakes — $2.7 billion over 15 years.

October 22, 2008
“Brass Tax: Propositions N & Q Levy Businesses, Property”
By Tim Kingston
The product of intense negotiations between business groups, Propositions N and Q aim to raise taxes, and tax exemptions, to benefit the city and small businesses. But not all negotiations have winners, and who came out on top defines the pro and con election ads for these measures.

October 20, 2008
“Prop. K: Untested Theories Drive Prostitution Debate”
By Bernice Yeung
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.

October 16, 2008
“Prop. H: Energy Measure Spurs Conflicting Claims”
By L.A. Chung
Go deep on the power plays around this controversial measure, which has attracted $5.4 million in influence advertising. The Truthiness Report looks at bond exceptions, “blank checks,” rate increases and “municipalization” in San Francisco’s latest battle over public power.

Sept. 30, 2008
“The Business of Ballot Booklet Brokering”
By Matthew Hirsch
Campaigner and City Hall insider David Noyolaplaced 22 official and paid arguments in San Francisco’s voter guidebook for the November 4 elections, working separately as legislative aide for Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, and later as a campaign professional.

Sept. 18, 2008
“Alphabet Soup: The Complete San Francisco Ballot Initiatives”
By Greg M. Schwartz
From A to V, presents a complete overview of the 22 propositions that San Francisco voters will consider on November 4 — from public power and Junior ROTC to waterfront redevelopment and legalizing prostitution.

Sept. 9, 2008
“Invasion of the Policy Pushers”
By Matthew Hirsch
Long before San Francisco voters make it to the polls, they’ve been subjected to sustained influence-advertising campaigns that even affect the city-sponsored voter guidebook.

Update from the Editors
“Full Funding for SF Election Coverage!”
We are excited to announce that our initial partnership with Spot.Us has been successful. Our debut Election Truthiness Project, which will fact-check influence advertisements aimed at voters in San Francisco, has been fully funded.


L.A. Chung, Matthew Hirsch, Tim Kingston, Greg M. Schwartz, Bernice Yeung

Leslie Katz, Michael Stoll/The Public Press, Josh Wilson/, Rene Ciriacruz

For KALW 91.7-FM
Holly Kernan, Kristi Coale (Crosscurrents, Evening News for the San Francisco Bay Area)

David Barreda

Saint of Patrons
David Cohn/Spot.Us

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