San Francisco electorate split on the pair of propositions on Tuesday's ballot.
Voters gave the thumbs up to a Prop B, a non-binding measure aimed at protecting the historic murals in Coit Tower. Meanwhile, they overwhelmingly rejecting Prop A, which would have broken up Recology's monopoly on trash collection in the city.
Prop A's failure wasn't exactly a surprise. The measure was opposed by virtually all of the major players in local politics--the Democratic Party, the Republican Party (we're using a broad definition of "major," zing!), organized labor, environmental groups and so on.
The Recology-backed organization fighting the measure not only posted ads all over the city imploring voters, "Don't Mess With Success," but also sponsored the slate cards of a wide-ranging array of local political groups from the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club to the SF teachers union. It was an expensive, well-coordinated campaign that Prop A's comparatively underfunded backers couldn't hope to match.
"We've all heard of David and Goliath, and the reason we've heard of it is because it's one of the few times Goliath lost," activist Tony Kelly, one of the driving forces behind getting Prop A on the ballot, told the San Francisco Examiner. "Goliath won today."
Since the early 1930s, the city charter has split San Francisco up into 97 separate parcels, and whichever company owns the rights to each parcel gets to manage waste collection there. The company that would eventually become known as Recology quickly gathered the rights to all of the parcels, largely through mergers and acquisitions, and used that collection monopoly to gradually extend its reach to include every aspect of the city's garbage and recycling streams.
Prop A would have broken up that system into five separate, competitively bid contracts and mandated that a single company be prohibited from winning them all. San Francisco is the only municipality in the Bay Area not to employ competitive bidding for its waste collection and, as Kelly explained to The Huffington Post, the implementation of competitive bidding typically reduces costs to consumers by 25 percent. However, Recology campaigned hard on its role in San Francisco having the best recycling diversion rate in nation (an impressive 77 percent), and that fact ultimately convinced over thee-quarters of voters to reject the measure.
Support for Prop B, on the other hand, was less clear cut.
The non-binding policy statement urged the city's Recreation and Parks Department to redirect all money generated at Coit Tower back to the iconic Telegraph Hill landmark. It also prevented said landmark from generating additional funds by hosting private parties during hours when the tower is typically closed to visitors.
The measure originated out of complaints from an influential neighborhood group, the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association, that the Parks Department had neglected the upkeep of a series of historic Depression-era murals displayed inside the tower's base.
"The vote shows that people of the entire city, not just Nob Hill or Telegraph Hill, adore Coit Tower," Jon Golinger, a spokesman for the proposition's supporters, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Both the Parks Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance opposed the measure, arguing that by preventing money earned by one of the city's few revenue-generating parks from flowing throughout the rest of the system, it would deprive many lower-profile parks, particularly in minority and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, of much needed funds.
Even though Mayor Ed Lee announced the establishment of $1.7 million fund dedicated to restoring the murals last month, something that many of the Prop B's opponents thought might undermine the proposition's support, the measure still passed with 53 percent of the vote.
Take a look at the murals in question below: