San Francisco may repeal costly, ‘utterly ineffective’ red-state boycott

After losing a ton of money, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering repealing the red-state boycott banning city-funded travel to 30 conservative states that ostensibly passed laws affecting LGBTQ issues, abortion access, and voting rights.

The ordinance was passed in 2016. Chapter 12X was voted into existence in the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision and it took aim at states that passed so-called anti-LGBTQ legislation. The boycott was amended twice in 2019 and 2021 to add additional states which passed restrictive abortion and voting rights legislation.

It was seen as a way to pressure states into reversing such legislation. It was also meant to prevent the city from doing business with other cities and states whose values didn’t align with San Francisco’s.

City Administrator Carmen Chu’s office issued a report on February 10 that contended the law was costly and ineffective. Only one state has been removed from the boycott list so far.

According to a 16-page memo that the City Administrator’s Office sent to the Board of Supervisors on February 10, its exact impacts “are not clear.” The memo was sent in response to a request from five of the board members last October that it review the 12X policy. The office informed the board that it “was not able to find concrete evidence suggesting 12X has influenced other states’ economies or LGBTQ, reproductive, or voting rights,” according to the Bay Area Reporter.

The review found that the 12X policy “has created additional administrative burden for city staff and vendors and unintended consequences for San Francisco citizens, such as limiting enrichment and developmental opportunities.”

“Since 12X became operative, the number of banned states has grown from 8 states in 2017 to 30 in 2022. This increase suggests that the city’s threat of boycott may not serve as a compelling deterrent to states considering restrictive policies,” the report stated.

The report also found that the ban has caused San Francisco’s contracting costs to jump by approximately 10-20%. It is expected they could go even higher if more states are added to the boycott.

The report laid out five alternatives to the boycott. They include repealing the ordinance entirely or repealing the contracting ban but keeping the travel ban in place.

During a Feb. 13 committee hearing to exempt construction contracts from the ordinance, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí introduced new legislation.

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey not only agreed with Safaí on the need to scrap the contract ban but also indicated his support for ending the travel ban as well.

“At a time when the city is facing a $728 million budget deficit over the next two years, ensuring the cost of construction projects are not inflated due to 12X could mean other priorities like keeping libraries open and HIV services funded do not get cut in order to balance the budget,” Dorsey argued, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

“There has been a lot of frustration over the years about how cumbersome and expensive and labyrinthine our contracting processes can be. I am convinced if San Franciscans had any idea how much money, how much of their taxpayer dollars we are wasting on processes and the performative things we do with our contracting, they would be furious about it and rightfully so,” he added.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he will introduce legislation to repeal the ordinance entirely.

“It’s an ineffective policy that complicates the business of San Francisco government and makes it very likely that we pay more than we should for goods and services,” Mandelman asserted.

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