Words You Need to Know
by the Ballot Simplification Committee
Behested: At the direction, request or suggestion of a public official.
Charter: The Charter is the City’s constitution adopted by the voters of San Francisco, relating to how the City is governed. The Charter can be changed only by a majority of San Francisco voters.
Charter amendment: A Charter amendment is a change to the City’s Charter. The Charter is the City’s Constitution. The Charter can only be changed by a majority of the votes cast.
Citizens’ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee: A nine-member body that monitors the City's use of funds generated by issuing general obligation bonds. Members of this committee are appointed by the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the Controller and the Civil Grand Jury.
City Administrator: The City official responsible for managing services within the City’s executive branch.
Controller: The City’s chief accounting officer and auditor. The Controller is responsible for the City's financial systems and financial procedures, processing payroll for City employees, managing the City's bonds and debt portfolio, and processing and monitoring the City's budget.
Department of Building Inspection: The City agency responsible for enforcing, administering and interpreting the City's Housing, Building, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Codes.
General Obligation Bond: A promise issued by a government body to pay back money borrowed, plus interest, by a certain date. The government body repays the money, plus interest, with property taxes. General obligation bond measures must be approved by the voters in San Francisco by a two-thirds vote.
Infrastructure project: A permanent change or repair to improve a public asset, such as a building, road or rail line.
Initiative: A proposition placed on the ballot by voters. Any voter may place an initiative on the ballot by gathering the required number of signatures of registered voters on a petition.
Local elected officials: Assessor-Recorder, City Attorney, District Attorney, Mayor, Public Defender, Sheriff, Treasurer, Member of the Board of Supervisors, Member of the Board of Education for the San Francisco Unified School District or Member of the Board of Trustees for the San Francisco Community College District.
Ordinance: A local law passed by the Board of Supervisors or by the voters.
Permit expediter: A person paid to contact staff at the Department of Building Inspection, the Entertainment Commission, the Planning Department or the Department of Public Works to help a permit applicant obtain a permit.
Proposition: Any measure that is submitted to the voters for approval or disapproval.
Provisional Ballot: A ballot cast at a polling place that will not be counted until the Department of Elections verifies the voter’s eligibility to cast that ballot.
Public Utilities Commission: A City agency that provides water, wastewater and municipal power services to San Francisco.
Qualified Write-in Candidate: A person who has completed the required paperwork and signatures for inclusion as a write-in candidate. Although the name of this person will not appear on the ballot, voters can vote for this person by writing the name of the person in the space on the ballot provided for write-in votes and following specific ballot instructions. The Department of Elections counts write-in votes only for qualified write-in candidates.
Recall: A process voters can use to remove an elected official before the end of the official’s term in office.
Recall petition: The document that recall proponents use to collect the names, addresses, and signatures of registered voters who wish to support a recall.
Refuse: Trash, recyclables and compostable materials.
Refuse rates: Rates charged for the collection and disposal of refuse.
SFMTA: The City department responsible for the management of all ground transportation in San Francisco, including Muni (Municipal Railway), parking and traffic, pedestrian and bicycle safety and the regulation of taxis. Muni is the City’s public transit system, consisting of the City’s buses, light rail trains, streetcars and cable cars.
Spare the Air Alert: An alert called when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy in the Bay Area.
The Utility Reform Network (TURN): A nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that focuses on essential utilities such as electricity, gas and telephone services.
Vote-by-mail ballots: Ballots mailed to voters or given to voters in person at the Department of Elections. Vote-by-mail ballots can be mailed to the Department of Elections, turned in at the Department of Elections office in City Hall, or turned in at any California polling place on Election Day. Also known as absentee ballots.