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Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving at City Hall: SFGovernment In Action

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2007 at 8:19 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

What is Thanksgiving really about? Is it about the genocide against American Indians, as the cultural studies department at New College lectured me? Is it about slaughtering helpless and innocent animals, the way the vegan activist on the corner shouted at me? Is it about being patriotically American, the way a flyer from the Republican National Committee told me I should if I know what’s good for me?

So many choices. Like most San Franciscans, I don’t think the city government has any answers at all, but I’m happy to ask them for money in between their sermons about how I should live my life. As this week’s Board of Supervisors meetings show, I’m not the only one with the holiday spirit.

Monday, Nov. 19:

11 a.m. – Government Audit and Oversight Committee

Forget everything you think you know about the Government Audit and Oversight Committee – ignore the rumors about them ratting out Anne Frank, throwing a rock at Matthew Shephard, or flying a third airplane on 9/11. None of that happened.

I’m going to tell you the real 411 – this committee knows how to pack a meeting full of warm government juiciness right before Thanksgiving.

If the Pilgrims had had a Government Audit and Oversight Committee on board the Mayflower, that’s how they would’a done it. They’re doing everything but handing out smallpox-infected blankets.

First, Michela-Alioto Pier is proposing

an increase in the “gate fee” that taxicab companies can charge their drivers for renting a cab for a 10 hour shift – from $91.50 to $110. Somewhere in this proposal is a mention of the fact that this money might go to give taxi drivers health insurance, but mostly it looks like she wants to help the cab companies make more money.

To be fair, the cost of running a cab company has surely gone up over the last few years. But according to the comptroller’s analysis, this increase will come out of either the taxi drivers’ pockets or ours.

If it comes out of the taxi drivers pockets, driver income would be estimated to fall 12% - about $5,000.

If they raise taxi fees to make up for it, then it’ll cost San Francisco consumers about $19 million a year. Which will definitely reduce my drinking.

Next, Alioto-Pier – not content with helping just one big business – will hold a hearing investigating the city’s recent decision that airlines have to pay the standard hotel tax for their employees staying over in San Francisco.

Key issue here: will that cause many airlines to stop putting their crews in SF hotels, and instead stash them in … Oakland? Berkeley? Alioto-Pier says this will be “inevitable” – in fact, the language of the hearing specifically states that this is “inevitable.” And if that’s true then, yeah, okay, maybe this is a good point. BUT, I would just like to point out that the hearing papers contain absolutely no documentation … at all. It would be nice if they found some before they started throwing around words like “inevitable.”

All that, plus an investigation on Lake Merced AND deciding whether the city should create a new “special utility fee” to pay for putting more utility pipes and cables underground


Mmmmmmm … that’s some damn good pre-Thanksgiving government oversight!

1 p.m. – Land Use and Economic Development Committee

Ah man, there’s interesting stuff happening at this committee too! Cut that shit OUT, people! It’s a simple equation: the less relevant stuff you do, the sooner we can all go back to bed!

In the interest of brevity, I’m only going to go over two items: first, the Metro Theater will almost certainly take a giant step towards becoming a San Francisco landmark.

Second: the city is taking aim at its health care providers. All medical institutions already need to create an “institutional master plan” – now the city wants a health planner to go over all the master plans to make sure citywide health care needs are being met.

Wow – what an extraordinarily good idea. I mean, it just so … sensible. It actually makes me want to stand up and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Of course, this being San Francisco, it’s almost certain to turn into a gigantic bureaucratic boondoggle as new committee’s are created, citizen input is fecklessly heeded, and every department in the phone book demands oversight.

Still, at this early stage, while it’s just a sensible idea, I’d like to celebrate it as an example of what this great country of ours can do … in principle.

Tuesday, Nov. 20

2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

The writer’s strike is still going, and the Board of Supes is still in re-runs. Let’s see: have we already written about the effort to create “Fringe Financial Service Restricted Use Districts?” Check. Have we already written about centralizing workforce development efforts? Check.

Municipal ID card? Who hasn’t written about that?

The effort to prohibit cooking, creating shelter, and sleeping in parks? Check.

Chris Daly’s morality crusade? Check and Check. This one’ll be interesting, actually: it’s the bill outlawing sex between city managers and city employees. It should be a fascinating test of character to see who votes for and against it.

And the financing of bonds to pay for SPUR’s snappy new headquarters? Check. But, you know, this deserves another word: I like SPUR, and that’s probably because they pretend to like me. I’ve usually found them to be a thoughtful and sensible think tank. But, seriously now, how can we expect them to give honest feedback to the government if the government is financing its loans?

If this financing package goes through, I’m going to apply for a loan too. Why not? I also tell the government how to do its job – obviously the doors are open.

And isn’t that what Thanksgiving’s all about? Coming to a new place, finding nice people willing to help you, and then screwing them over. Happy holiday.

(SFGovernmentInAction tells you what's on The Man's agenda every week on Monday morning. Bookmark it, deltas.)

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