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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

SF Gov InAction: Dirk Dirksen alley is back, non-profits pay surprisingly well, and hey - who wants to build a library?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 2:42 PM


By Benjamin Wachs

What’s that, you say? SF Government InAction is usually posted on Mondays? Yeah, yeah, I know … but … I got so caught up in election fever that I forgot. It was easy to forget: first everybody was driving around leaning out their car windows, shouting “Obama!”, lighting fireworks, drinking very strong medicine, and being so happy that they fogot about irony. (I don't know if that was a cause or an effect) Then, the next day, everyone was so angry, and tearful, and recriminatory, and there was blame in the air, and people were marching, and there was a big march that … yes … the Chronicle really underreported turnout to … and … people were shouting, and there was debate about how to carry the struggle forward …and suddenly everyone was filled with ironic battle plans. …and so yeah, I kind of forgot that government still happens after an election. But… in my defense … the Supes kind of did too. There was no meeting yesterday (Monday) to cover, and of course there’s no meeting today either – since today the Supes honor the veterans they will likely offend tomorrow. There are, in fact, only 3 meetings this week, which is probably good because, honestly, we’ve all got bigger things to think about right now. Did you hear Obama is getting a puppy? But, in the meantime, back to work …. Wednesday, Nov. 12 1 p.m. – Budget & Finance Committee

Hey, did you hear the one about how California is in a fiscal crisis and we all have to tighten our belts? Me neither: this meeting starts off with a measure to sell and use some $36 million in revenue bonds for scheduled library improvements.

Now, I love libraries … they’re the absolute BEST places to pick up librarians … and I love regularly scheduled improvements, but, I dunno – given the current fiscal crisis it kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

On the other hand, given the current fiscal crisis, a whole lot more people might need to use their local libraries real soon. So, okay, library improvements get a pass.

So does another $13 million and change to go to street resurfacing projects next year. I mean, we need streets, right? Where else could bicyclists go to break traffic laws?

But I am awfully curious about a measure proposed by Jake McGoldrick, the board’s soon-departing mad bomber, to limit the use of City funds for non-profit executive director salaries.

What’s that about?

Asking “why” Jake McGoldrick does something is the psychological equivalent of beating your head against a soup kitchen, so it’s probably better just to focus on the bill: it stipulates that no city funds can be used to support a non-profit director’s salary above $131,326 if the organization gets less than $9 million in city funding, and $172,848 if the organization gets over $9 million in city dollars.

And – I must admit – it is just a little shocking to see that the Executive Director of the Asian Art Museaum (which gets over $2 million in city funding) is paid $284,000; that the Executive Director of the SF Symphony (which gets some $2.5 million in city funding) is paid $354,000; and that the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences (which gets over $32 million in city dollars) is paid $350,000.

But, honestly: I don’t know if that’s out of line or not. I’m equally unsure if executive director salaries is a good basis on which to award city funding. Yes, one should rightly be suspicious of organizations that are too top heavy … but executive compensation is only one measure of that.

So while I can approve in a general way of the direction McGoldrick is taking this – I think it’s long past time the city started a very careful examination of its relationship with non-profits – I can’t imagine this is the best measure we have for addressing that broader issue. Bottom line: either the city is getting a good value for the money it spends on a non-profit, or it's not. I'm sure some perfectly incompetent agencies are also poorly paying.

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

If you don’t already have an opinion about the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, the Mirant power plant, or penalties for improper signage use… then nothing I say here can possibly make you care.

Thursday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. – Rules Committee

Many of you will be pleased to know that Rowland Street in North Beach appears on track to be renamed “Dirk Dirksen Alley.”

The Parking and Traffic Department has no objections. The Fire Department has no objections. The Department of Public Works has no objections, and the Police Department has no objections.

In fact, the only person who might object at this point is probably the deceased Dirk Dirksen himself … because “consulting with the relevant stakeholders to insure no objections to collaborative decisions” is just not punk.

Standards, man, standards: I have no objections to “Dirk Dirksen Alley” either, but wouldn’t he be better remembered by an endowment fund to support the heckling of really bad acts?

Anyway …

The rest of this meeting is dedicated to filling appointments: did you know that there are 20 seats available on the “Childrens Collaborative Task Force” and only 13 applicants? Come on, people! Step up! Now’s your chance to collaborate with children!

Otherwise, the Rules Committee seems to have everything pretty well lined up:

There are two seats and two applicants to the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund Community Advisory Committee.

There are four seats and four applicants to the Immigrant Rights Commission.

Seven seats and seven applicants to the Urban Forestry Council.

And one seat and one applicant each to the Redevelopment Agency, and the Commission on the Aging Advisory Council.

That last one’s got to be the biggest deal: it’s a commission AND a council. Pretty swank.

And that’s your government for this week. See you next week, by which time we’ll likely have all gone from angry and euphoric to just plain angry.

Also: happy Veterans Day. Remember: those who stood up to be counted and served a calling higher than themselves are probably even more hopeful and pissed off than we are.

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Benjamin Wachs


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