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Monday, December 3, 2007

Hot Bureaucracy on Bureaucracy Action … Day 5

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2007 at 10:42 AM

By Benjamin Wachs

Last week Gavin Newsom announced he was proposing to merge the Taxi Commission with the MTA, which runs MUNI. Two days ago I called up city hall to ask why.

That was all I wanted to know: Why is this a good idea? Is there a particular problem with the way taxis operate that needs to be fixed? Is there money that we’re projecting can be saved through consolidation? Are members of the Taxi Commission prank-calling Nathanial Ford at home? WHAT?

The press release doesn’t say -– and neither did city hall. The mayor’s spokesman said she have to get back to me on that, but would do it right away. That was Tuesday.

Yesterday, I called back to see what the hold up was, and was told my question had been referred to Nathan Ballard, the mayor’s top spokesman, and that he’d be getting back to me soon.

Still hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, I have another question:

Not only “Why is this a good idea?” but “Why is this such a hard question to answer?”

Is giving a basic explanation for a proposed policy so hard that they need to pass me up to the guy at the top?

You would assume … wouldn’t you? … that Newsom actually has a policy reason for wanting to do this: that some investigation or study or review process indicated that merging these two entities will do something good, and that all he’d have to do is give the findings to his staff, any one of whom could pass them on to me.

You’d think.

But … while we’re waiting to see if that actually happened this time, it’s worth reviewing all the times in just the last few months when it hasn’t. Newsom unfortunately has a history of proposing major policy initiatives … such as HOPE SF … such as the Small Business Assistance Center … and such as any number of crazy zoning issues … that have no good policy explanations at all.

At all. I mean, you call them up, ask “Why is this a good idea?” and they got nuthin’. They say something like “It’ll help people.” You say “How? Why would we think this’ll work?” -- and then they accuse you of being a Republican.

City Hall’s behavior now is looking a lot like that. So, while I’ll still give Ballard a chance to set the record straight (should he ever call) it’s looking more and more like Newsom hasn’t got a good reason for his latest major departmental merger.

Maybe Newsom just likes to propose stuff. It would explain a lot.

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David Downs

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