The best way to involve the public in local government issues is to rile them up with an asinine idea. That being said, it’s astonishing that San Francisco isn’t littered with protest signs.

San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos proposed a tax on alcohol in an effort to cover city costs resulting from alcohol abuse. The vote for the proposal is set for Sept. 7.  

Melissa Griffin wrote for the San Francisco Examiner about the booze tax. She helps makes the point that even those not interested in politics get riled up over this tax.

‘I heard that Avalos is trying to start taxing my consumption of alcohol. Is that true?” one of my civilian friends asked.

I call him a civilian because he’s not generally interested in local politics. He’s a fancy lawyer whose e-mails usually relate to our shared love of offensive cartoons. However, Supervisor John Avalos’ proposed alcohol tax, er, “fee” has made even the most disinterested San Franciscan sit up and take notice of the Board of Supervisors.

The tax is a drunken idea that will knock the city’s biggest industry, and in turn cost San Francisco more money than the tax would collect.

As I wrote in a column last month, the proposed alcohol fee would be imposed at the point of wholesale, which will knock up prices to restaurants, hotels and bars – and eventually consumers.  This leads to shrinking sales, shrinking wages and benefits, and eventual job cuts.

Here’s the part that really weirds me out: Gavin Newsom and I actually agree on this one. A Wall Street Journal article published on Thursday wrote about the clash in San Francisco City Hall over the alcohol tax.

“This could really hurt those businesses, particularly ones who are barely keeping the doors open in this environment,” Mr. Newsom said in an interview, adding that San Francisco’s food and wine industry is a major driver of the city economy. “It creates a very uncompetitive environment for local merchants” compared with other Bay Area cities, he added.

Newsom also noted that an alcohol fee would likely result in a lawsuit by the alcohol industry – one that the city would likely lose. According to the article, Newsom won’t sign the alcohol fee even if the supervisors pass it and it would take eight of the 11 Supervisors to override a mayoral veto (currently, seven supervisors support the measure).

There’s a lot of other great information in the article too, including the fact that the fee would violate state law since local governments aren’t allowed to regulate or tax alcohol.

The more I learn about San Francisco’s alcohol tax, the more I realize the measure is heading towards a dead end. 

It’s a bad idea – even Newsom and “the civilian” agree.

James Spencer can be reached at