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Monday, July 21, 2008

SF Gov InAction: Supes find New Ways to Threaten Newsom. Plus: Can You Feel the Ground Shaking? That's this Week's BIG Meeting!

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2008 at 10:31 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

Monday, July 21

10 a.m. – Government Audit and Oversight Committee

Last week the Mayor announced that he'd close a big stretch of the Embarcadero to cars during two of the busiest weekends of the year so that we, the people of San Francisco, can all pretend to go and enjoy it.

But hizzoner, as is his way with things, didn’t really talk this one through with anybody...apparently he’s not big on the concept of “buy in,” or “cooperation,” or “other people knowing stuff,” and now the Board of Supervisors is giving him an ultimatum: We’re taking over your street closings, and if you try to stop us a 50 foot tall Aaron Peskin will crush the Embarcadero as part of an orgy of destruction so great that it will forever be remembered in both history books and anime form as “The Great Peskin Destructo-Tsunami PowerPunch Legislative Attack!”

Michela Alioto-Pier is co-sponsoring.

Pretty much everything else on the agenda is old news, and has been covered before.

Run, run for your lives.

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

Now if I ran the Land Use & Economic Development Committee, Treasure Island would become the world’s largest Monkey Observatory: waaaaaay bigger than any Monkey Observatory the Republicans have.

I would lure new businesses to SF with the promise of free smoothies. And more free smoothies where that came from.

But, mostly, I would replace San Francisco with “Trump San Francisco,” the world’s most extravagant progressive casino and resort.

You think tourism is big now? Wait until Golden Gate Park is filled with the loosest slots on the West Coast! The Embarcadero would have five...five! major protests every day! What are they protesting? Anything you want, big spender!

Critical Mass would have fireworks! Homeless people would offer to refresh your drink! The Richmond would be for table games, the Sunset would be covered in penthouse suites, and the Marina would be basically unchanged. And every night our beautiful sex-positive showgirls will take to the stage to explain empowerment.

My close friend The Donald (in this scenario I saved his life during an Arctic expedition) is very eager to make this happen.

But sadly, I’m not in charge. The Supervisors are. And what do they do with this precious opportunity? They repair your water system. WATER SYSTEM! At Trump San Francisco every faucet would drip gin!

A proposal before this committee would give the Public Utility Commission authority to repair damaged devices that protect our water supply from contamination. Then, of course, there’s Michela Alioto-Pier’s proposal to increase the rates that landlords can charge tenants for water: that’s been bouncing around committee for so long it’s earned a gymnastics merit badge.

Moving away from water, a proposal by Supes Daly and Ammiano would create a need-based rental housing subsidy for homeless families. The idea is to move homeless families not only off the streets but out of SROs and other transitional housing, which is considered bad for young children (in Trump San Francisco kids could play in North Beach, which would be renamed “KidVenture!” and include the world’s largest solid gold trampoline). The subsidies would be for $500 per family and, unlike the current subsidy on the books, would have no sunset provision (except as the family’s income goes up). How many subsidies offered per year would be up to budgetary limits.

Meanwhile Supervisor Jake McGoldrick wants an update on what the Planning Department is doing to keep chain retail outlets off our streets (I’m gonna guess “planning”), and Gerardo Sandoval wants a hearing to find out what’s going on with the injunction blocking the city from implementing its “bike plan.”

Okay, time for a rant. This always bugs me about the way things work at city hall: WHY THE HELL CAN’T A SUPERVISOR JUST CALL UP A CITY STAFF MEMBER TO GET THE ANSWERS TO BASIC QUESTIONS LIKE THIS? What’s so hard about saying “Hello, Mr. Planning Department Director? This is Mr. Ego over on the Board of Supervisors: I have a question about the status of our bicycle plan – could you answer it for me quickly over the phone?” WHY DOES THERE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE A PUBLIC HEARING THAT WASTES EVERYBODY’S TIME AND PROBABLY INVOLVES A LESS DIRECT CONVERSATION SINCE NOBODY WANTS TO TELL THE TRUTH IF IT WILL BE EMBARASSING IN FRONT OF THE PUBLIC?

Honest to God, the very notion that an elected official has to call a public hearing to get an answer from a city staff worker is madness.

It would never happen at Trump San Francisco – that’s for damn sure.

Tuesday, July 22

10 a.m. – A Very Special meeting of the Budget & Finance Committee

Jake “Chuckles” McGoldrick stares down the table at the Mayor’s Budget Office. Behind him stands Aaron “Big Zoning” Peskin and Sean “The Kid” Elsbernd. They didn’t look happy. But then, Elsbernd never looks happy.

McGoldrick straightens his tie. “Nyah,” he says. “Nyah, see, I’m the boss around here, see, and this is how it’s gonna be, nyah.”

“You better listen, yous mugs,” says Elsbernd, pointing his law degree at them. Peskin just cleans his fingernails with a switchblade.

“I said this is how it’s gonna be!” says McGoldrick. “Nyah! So you tell your boss, you tell him from me, that Chuckles says he can have his little Community Justice Center. He can have it …”

At this point Peskin puts a suitcase on the table and opens it up. Inside is a stack of unmarked $100 bills totaling $498,145.

“If he says out of our budget!” McGoldrick finishes. “If he stays out of it! Nyah! But if he crosses me …”

Peskin closes the suitcase.

“Then it’s war! War! And he’ll be lucky if we don’t turn room 200 into affordable housing!”

Elsbernd makes a “gun” motion with his fingers, then turns to Chuckles. “I’ve, ah, got another meeting,” he says. “Can we wrap this up?”

McGoldrick sighs. “Yeah, okay.”

“I’m VERY important,” says Elsbernd.

Peskin rolls his eyes.

2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

This is the big one. This meeting is HUGE. The only way it could get more important is if there’s an earthquake during Public Comment.

“Colleagues,” Ross Mirkarimi will say, “I’d like to propose a motion that we flee the city.”

Peskin shakes his head. “While the chair would support such a motion, colleague, new motions cannot be taken during public comment. However, we will ask the people speaking to limit their remarks to one minute, in the interest of surviving this nightmarish act of God.”

“That’s outrageous!” Chris Daly says, standing up. “Colleagues, we are NOT fleeing America’s most progressive city! What kind of message would it send to people in the Midwest?”

Sophie Maxwell stands up. “Colleagues, even if this earthquake does destroy us all, poor and minority areas will be destroyed first – probably – and I believe we must appoint a task force to examine issues of seismic racism.”

Sean Elsbernd snorts. “We don’t have money for that in a tight budget year! We need to save money so we can privatize the process of sorting through the rubble?”

Michela Alioto-Pier raises her hand. “I would like to propose a motion that the rubble be handicapped accessible.”

Peskin bangs his gavel. “Colleagues, I must remind you that this is public comment!”

Mirkarimi looks crestfallen. “Come on … are you serious?”

Daly hits him in the arm. “The REPUBLICANS are watching!” he hisses. “United front!”

Peskin rolls his eyes. He looks at the crowd. “Can we have the next speaker please?”

A familiar face steps forward. “Supervisors,” he says, “ I stand before you again to say that the Public Library is subverting democracy by leveling unlawful and illegal fines that you, the people’s representatives, have not authorized …”

End scene.

Even if that doesn’t happen, this meeting will still be that big. All that stuff they’ve been talking about for weeks will be up before them this week, on deadline. Measures proposed at this meeting can be divided up into 6 categories:

1) The Supes agree to pay city workers something (usually by accepting agreements with the various unions)

2) The Supes set a departmental budget (like the MTA or the Redevelopment Agency)

3) The Supes agree to allocate funds from one part of the budget to another (like moving Hotel Tax revenue from the Low Income Housing Program budget to the General Fund: as a general rule this year everything is going into the General Fund)

4) The Supes increase fees (like for renting the botanical garden facilities, Chlorofluorocarbon Recovery and Recycling, and everything else you can imagine)

5) Bond elections (like $887 million for improving earthquake safety and other features at the hospital)

6) Charter amendments (like whether or not to have municipal elections in even numbered years and the Clean Energy Act)

There’s no way I’m going to try go into a detailed summary of the 84 (and counting) items that might be of interest it: read the last 6 weeks or so of SF Gov InAction, because in most cases they’ll be giving the final vote (probably) to that.

Then read a book. It’ll be good for you.

Wednesday, July 23, 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance Committee

After a board of Supervisors meeting like that, there’s no way a Budget and Finance Committee can be anything but anti-climactic. So while we probably should be talking about the measure regulating employee overtime work to only 80 hours a week (yikes!) except in critical or emergency situations; a $50 million bond to create a new facility for the Institute on Aging; and a $185 million bond for parks improvement – you know we won’t. Even if we mean to, it probably just won’t come up.

Although I could be wrong. These two guys have turned the article I wrote about the Mayor’s push to privatize hospital security into a two-man discussion of the pros and cons of private security. It’s quite interesting, actually.

So okay, let’s talk about this stuff. Why do we bond out money for routine improvements in our park system? Isn’t that something that should be budgeted for regularly, or not done at all? And what’s with the new home for the Institute of Aging – it includes an 87 car garage. Do the elderly need that many parking spaces?


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Benjamin Wachs


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