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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Newsom Looks to the Future and Beyond

Posted By on Tue, Jan 8, 2008 at 6:58 PM

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By John Geluardi

Did you know San Francisco City Hall’s dome is nearly one foot taller than the United State Capitol Building? That’s right, it is. And some say it is one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts classical architecture in the country.

So why shouldn't the ambitious Mayor Gavin Newsom use all that ornate polished marble to remind people he's interested in higher office?

Well that's just what he did Tuesday at his second inaugural address. And he did not miss an opportunity to use that fancy French interior to imbue his image with plenty of presidential pomp.

With a gold-tasseled United States flag presiding nearby, Newsom’s father, retired Judge William Newsom, swore in his son while the mayor’s actress fianceé executed the classic upward gaze of awe and devotion. And because the imposing polished marble staircase that ascends from the rotunda floor wasn’t quite regal enough as a background, it was covered with specially purchased royal blue carpeting to let everyone know that Gavin Newsom is going places… royal blue places.

To further lend the mayor an aurora of gravitas, the first few rows of the audience were stacked with important personages; U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and State Sen. Carole Migden were in attendance along with former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and his wife Charlotte Smith Mailliard Swig who sat close to Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and former mayors Willie Brown and Frank Jordan (ahhh yes, remember Mayor Jordan. Such a simpler time, eh?).

Newsom’s nearly 50-minute inaugural address held out few surprises. To round out his national-like agenda, he mentioned the city’s strides in creating affordable housing and an aggressive environmental plan that would make San Francisco “carbon neutral” by 2010.

Locally, he wants to gift every newborn child with a $500 bond, which could be used toward a college education or to purchase a home.

Then he addressed the issue that has dogged him since his last inaugural speech; the surging homicide rate. It was one of the key issues he idealistically promised to tackle four years ago and the streets have only become bloodier.

However, he vowed to continue the battle though his tone and comments - no doubt seasoned by four years of frustration and impotency - were a bit more measured.

“Our struggle to make San Francisco safer is not over, it will never be over, but our commitment to the task will never waiver,” he promises.

To that end, he says he would like San Francisco to be a model for the rest of the country when it comes to reducing violent crime. He didn’t mention that under his administration, San Francisco is already a trend bucker. With 98 homicides in 2007, the city reached a 10-year high, a statistic that flies in the face of homicide trends in other major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston, all of which have been steadily reducing their murder rates.

Newsom also forgot to mention that San Francisco taxpayers are paying more per capita for police services than nearly every other large city in the country.

According to an opinion piece by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi recently published in the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s 2007-08 police budget is $406, 970, 908 which means each city resident will pay $495. Citing U.S. Department of Justice statistics, the next highest is New York where taxpayers will fork over $470 each this year, followed by Boston at $385.

And the police department won’t be getting any cheaper. Newsome says 250 more police officers will be hired in the coming year, which will ratchet up next year’s budget by $2 to $3 million. That’s not going to be much help to that pesky a $229 million budget deficit.

Newsom touted a regional emergency plan to fight violent crime that was jointly developed with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and other Bay Area city officials.

“One thing we know is that here in San Francisco, we may be a peninsula, but we recognize we are not an island,” Newsom says. “So when it comes to public safety, make no mistake about it, we won’t act like one.”

Well that’s promising. I always say the first step in effective crime fighting is a solid grasp of geography.

Contact John Geluardi at john.geluardi@sfweekly.com

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John Geluardi

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