The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved in a purely procedural second and final vote Tuesday legislation which requires residents who want a phonebook to request a copy (aka an “opt-in” program) and blocks any mass distribution of books. The effort has been championed by board president David Chiu who has already announced plans to run for mayor . Now he has his environmental green card stamp to begin his run for higher office.
The law doesn’t go into effect until May 2012, and while I don’t have an specific knowledge of what’s next, I am willing to bet you will see much more legal action filed by publishers against this new law should the mayor not veto it.
What’s most disappointing about this whole effort by the city is how short sighted and fundamentally stupid it is. In a statement released after the vote, His Eminence Mr. Chiu said “…this legislation reaffirms San Francisco’s nationwide leadership on environmental policy.” Seriuously?? If that was the case, what is the city doing to remove things like newspapers, cardboard, plastic bottles, and baby diapers from their waste stream, all items which cost them significantly more to process than phone books.
The city government also seems very short sighted that the mass distribution of a directory was the only way to ensure all local residents received key information on disaster planning, what to do in times of crisis, and even contact information for all city agencies. This from a city which has a long history of nasty things called earth quakes.
In the effort to fight this an interesting coalition formed which included groups such as Valley Yellow Pages, AT&T, Seccion Amarilla, the IBEW labor union, The Utility Reform Network, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, ADP association, Chinese Yellow Pages, Rainbow Pages, and other local consumer advocate and business groups. All of them had the same message – IF YOU PASS THIS LAW IT WILL COST JOBS AND HURT SMALL BUSINESSES, HINDERING THEIR EFFORTS TO COST EFFECTIVELY PROMOTE THEIR BUSINESSES. Can all of these groups be wrong?? Not likely.
The industry has pointed out time and time again its successes in improving recycling rates and providing a simple, efficient opt-out program for those that really don’t want books. As a result, last year according to the EPA, directory recycling rates improved from 22% to 35%. Wonder what the newspaper recycling rate is, or how about the cardboard that is used in the packaging of nearly everything you buy. The efforts by the Yellow Pages industry represent a dramatic shift in both source reduction and recycling rates. All accomplished without any government intervention.
There is some hope for San Francisco. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd opposed the bill (thank God). He has said he believes the legislation is illegal and he worries about the impact on businesses – finally, someone gets the message. Now the bill moves to the Mayor for signature. Given his record, I’m not hopefully he will veto it.
So other than lawsuits (which are unavoidable), what else can the industry do?? I suggest an all-out boycott of the city of San Francisco. In effect let’s opt-out of city. That means no conventions there (LSA, Kelsey Group, and ADP can you hear us), no personal travel there, no doing business with anyone in the city area, etc. – and then letting the 10 city Board of Supervisors who voted for this legislation know we’re not coming to their city to spend money.
The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau says that in 2010, San Francisco hosted 15.9 million visitors who spent $8.3 billion during their stay – that’s more than $22.8 million a day. That makes tourism one of our most important industries for the city. As a result, visitor dollars generated over $485 million in taxes and fees that support The City’s “…general budget, health and safety, arts and cultural organizations, recreational facilities and low-income housing.” This also means that visitor dollars supported about 67,122 jobs in the hospitality and tourism industries, or put another way, about $1.88 billion in local payroll (excluding tips).
An industry wide boycott including family and friends should put a little dent in all that don’t you think??
Are you with me? Say NO to San Francisco…