Tuesday's municipal elections here are expected to push certain social policy issues - and Mayor Dianne Feinstein as well - into the national limelight. Among issues on the ballot are: a referendum on a city smoking ordinance; local policy statements designed to communicate to Washington the city's position on the issues of bilingual election ballots and military involvement in El Salvador; and an attempt to require a complete overhaul of the city's master plan, which could halt downtown development while planners devise tighter controls on growth.
Mayor Feinstein, who resoundingly defeated a recall attempt last spring and effectivley discouraged any major challengers in this month's election, is expected to win a second four-year term. She has been mentioned as a possible Democratic vice-presidential nominee, and this second vote of confidence within a year is expected to strengthen her new national political profile as she heads toward the highly visible role of hosting her party's national convention next summer.
The mayor, who came into office just as Proposition 13 cuts were hitting California cities yet managed to keep a surplus in the city's budget, claims she isn't cultivating a national profile. But she is likely to be expanding her activity outside San Francisco for the first time. She has received a marked increase in out-of-town speaking invitations - 41 since September, says an aide.
Meanwhile, San Francisco continues with its tradition of a raft of initiatives and referendums. The city's charter, drawn to increase government accountability during a period of corruption in the 1930s, allows city ordinances to be created by voter initiatives. Consequently, San Francisco is constantly voting on issues most city governments would handle. The process also allows city officials to steer clear of controversial issues by letting voters decide on them. Voters in the Tuesday election here will be considering 15 issues.
Proposition P, a referendum on an ordinance passed last summer, regulates smoking in the workplace and requires employers to adopt a policy to accommodate both smokers and nonsmokers. If a compromise can't be reached, the preference of nonsmoking employees prevails and smoking is prohibited. Nonsmokers groups suggest that this initiative will provide a rallying point for nonsmokers in other communities, whether it is passed in San Francisco or not.
The federal law requiring bilingual ballots and voting materials for elections will face its first test at the polls here. If passed, Proposition O would require the city to urge Congress to change the law so San Francisco could print ballots in English only. San Francisco, known for a liberal bent and ethnic diversity, is considered an excellent city to test public support for the law, says Stanley Diamond, West Coast representative of former US Sen. S. I. Hayakawa's US English, an organization trying to make English the official United States language.
Proposition N, another issue designed to send Washington a sense of community mood, would require San Francisco to ask the US government to withdraw military aid and personnel from El Salvador.
Proposition M - the San Francisco Plan - is an attempt to revamp the city's master plan in one action. The plan would halt all development here - in one of the nation's biggest office development markets - until a new plan is completed. People dislocated by a building would be the responsibility of the developer. Developers would also be expected to help expand affordable housing and public transportation and help preserve small businesses and jobs affected by development.