Fulfilling a campaign promise to focus his four-year term on job growth, Mayor Ed Lee has proposed one of the most business-friendly pieces of legislation to come down the pike in quite a while.
Speaking at his monthly, voter-mandated "question time" before the Board of Supervisors, Lee outlined a plan to introduce a ballot measure amending the city's charter that would empower the Small Business Commission to put the brakes on any piece of legislation deemed a "job killer."
While the exact details of Lee's plan remain tentative, it would essentially require that a city economist review all pending legislation coming from the Board. If the economist determines that the legislation would adversely impact the city's overall number of jobs, the Small Business Commission would then hold a public hearing regarding the legislation and also have the opportunity to submit an alternative, undoubtedly more pro-business, proposal.
The law seems targeted directly at curtailing the legislative power of Board's progressive wing, which has often been accused of being inhospitable to the city's business community.
"It is City Hall's responsibility to help small businesses grow and promote job growth in the private sector," said Lee to the San Francisco Business Times.
Many of the structures implied in Lee's legislation already exist under the current system, but only serve advisory roles. Presently, the Small Business Commission reviews legislative and policy changes, however, it merely makes non-binding recommendations to the Mayor, the Board and other city agencies regarding the way that the changes would affect San Francisco's small business community.
Similarly, the Office of Economic Analysis, which was created by 2004's Proposition I, issues reports on all legislation with the potential to have an economic impact on the city--focusing on issues including business attraction and retention, tax revenues and, yes, job creation or elimination.
Supervisor David Campos argues that Lee's proposed legislation would be ineffective because of problems with the composition of the Small Business Commission. "The commission as a whole is out of touch with the small-business community," Campos told the San Francisco Examiner. "I don't think they represent the interest of many small merchants in the [city's] various neighborhoods."
The seven-member commission consists of six current or former small business owners or operators and one representative of a neighborhood economic organization or an expert in small business finance. Four of the commissioners are appointed by the mayor and three by the Board of Supervisors.
This proposal was one part of the 17-point "Jobs Roadmap" Lee rolled out during his campaign. Other campaign promises in the document included a reformation of the city's payroll tax and the implementation of a $5 million small business loan program.
The mayor hopes to obtain the six votes from the Board of Supervisors required to get this measure on next June's ballot.