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SF Supes Don't Approve Public Advocate Office For Whistleblower Complaints

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted on a handful of charter amendments to be placed on the San Francisco's November ballot, but ultimately shot down one measure that would've created a Public Advocate Office.

The public advocate measure, put forth by Supervisor Gordon Mar, sought to create a new elected office to investigate whistleblower complaints, allegations of corruption in city government, and how city departments interact with the public.

Mar introduced the measure in the wake of a major public corruption scandal that has resulted in federal charges for six people, including former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, in connection with a series of alleged money laundering schemes.

Ultimately, Mar's measure failed 7-4, with supervisors Catherine Stefani, Norman Yee, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safai voting against it.

Supervisors, however, passed four other measures to be placed on the November ballot.

Supervisor Matt Haney's measure to create a Department of Sanitation and Streets will go before voters after supervisors passed it 7-4, with Stefani, Mandelman, Fewer and Yee voting against it. The measure, which aims to increase street cleaning, would also create a Sanitation and Streets Commission to oversee the department and a Public Works Commission to oversee that department.

Supervisors unanimously passed a separate measure for the November ballot that would create a Sherriff Department Oversight Board and Inspector General position, introduced by Supervisor Shamann Walton. The oversight board would be tasked with advising and reporting findings and recommendations to the Sheriff's Department, which currently has no oversight body.

The measure would also create the Office of the Inspector General. The inspector would be appointed by the oversight board to investigate complaints of non-criminal misconduct of sheriff's department staff and contractors, as well as in-custody deaths.

Supervisors also unanimously passed another measure by Yee that would remove the police department's minimum staffing requirement of 1,971 officers and require police officials to report recommendations on staffing to the Police Commission every two years when approving the police budget.

Police Chief William Scott said during the meeting he supports the measure.

Supervisors also unanimously passed a Health and Recovery Bond for the November ballot. If passed by voters, the measure would help secure funding for park renovations, road repair, homelessness and mental health services.

According to Supervisor Dean Preston, funding from the bond would include $207 million for health and homelessness needs, $239 million for parks projects, including $25 million to renovate Japantown's Peace Plaza, $54 million to renovate Chinatown's Portsmouth Square, $30 million for the Gene Friend Recreation Center in the South of Market neighborhood, and $29 million for India Basin in the Bayview.

Additionally, the bond would secure $41.5 million for repaving streets.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, Mandelman and Walton jointly introduced the Health Airport Ordinance, which aims to raise healthcare standards for more than 9,000 San Francisco International Airport workers like food service and security personnel and janitors.

The ordinance would amend a 2001 Health Care Accountability Ordinance to require that SFO employers offer workers and their families insurance that meets minimum standards in accordance with the Affordable Care Act, at no cost to the employee and regardless of whether the employee is a San Francisco resident or not.

"For far too many airport workers, employer-provided health insurance is so expensive that even basic coverage is out of reach. For those who are covered by their employer-provided plan, the high prices of the copay and deductibles mean workers regularly forgo necessary or urgent medical visits because they can't afford to take on thousands of dollars in medical debt," Mandelman said. "And far too many of these frontline workers cannot afford family coverage, leaving spouses, kids and other family without insurance. This state of affairs is shameful, it is also dangerous for workers and passengers alike."

According to Mandelman, the measure is urgently needed as the workers continue to put themselves at risk amid COVID-19. As of July 20, at least 76 SFO workers have tested positive for the virus, he said.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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