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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

SF Gov InAction: Who Wants to Play on Moscone Center's New Waterslide?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 9:05 AM


By Benjamin Wachs

It could just be me, wading through the hell of Gavin Newsom's fevered imagination the way Peary crossed the arctic, but I kind of feel like all of San Francisco is governmented-out this week.

The Mayor pummeled us with 7.5 hours worth of speeches last week, not a single minute of which is relevant to the current fiscal crisis we face.

So today, I promise SF Gov InAction will go easy on the government. We deserve a break. Hey, who wants to play Jenga?

Monday, Dec. 8

10 a.m. - Government Audit & Oversight Committee

There are some fun things happening at this meeting.

Just keep telling yourself that.

The Supes will (presumably) "reaffirm" the "feasibility" of the Exploratorium's project to redevelop and move into piers 15 and 17 - and they'll do it by learning about magnetism.

According to the Exploratorium's director "We'll also make a presentation about the solar system. I'm sure the Supervisors will take away the right message - or at least start asking the right questions."

If all goes right, this could be the beginning of a lifelong learning process for Sophie Maxwell. I once asked her about the polar ice caps, you know, and got nuthin'.

That all sounds pretty fun.

The Supes will also appropriate $45 million in bonds for Moscone Center improvements. With any luck, the new designs will include a water slide. Who doesn't love a water slide?

The Supes will also set themselves a few "prevailing wages" for things like janitorial work, solid waste hauling, and "theatrical or technical services." Man, do we let the market settle anything around here?

Setting prevailing wages is to San Francisco what a barn raising party is to Wichita, so you know they'll have a good time. Sean Elsbernd is expected to bring his famous "Moderate triple-fudge brownies." You know, the ones that have a fiscally prudent amount of chocolate in them, as determined by a third party consultant, but absolutely no more. Mmmmmmm: responsible.

But the Supes will also do some things that are less fun. In fact, that are downright dull.

Yes, it's true.

I refer specifically to their intent - with everyone but McGoldrick and Chu signing on - to create a "San Francisco Self-Insurance Surety Bond Fund," and then to mandate that departments contribute to said fund on an annual basis.

Actually, according to the agenda, they're going to require that departments contribute to said fund on an annual basis first, and THEN establish the fund itself ... another example of what I have in the past referred to as "quantum zoning causality." Put simply: time does not follow a linear path in legislative chambers, unless required to do so by a two-thirds majority.

What, you may be asking, is a "San Francisco Self-Insurance Surety Bond Fund," and what does it do?

I am not glad you asked. I am not glad you asked at all. May monkeys pester your children.

In so far as I understand this ...and I have to warn you that I could be so bored that I'm making stuff up in order to numb the pain... the Supes have, for some time, had a program which encourages small local businesses to compete for government contracts by assisting them with the purchase of surety bonds... bonds that insure the city against work that is incomplete or defective and so forth. So basically the city helps contractors pay for the insurance they'll need should the contractors do something wrong.

Strangely, I am not making that part up.

According to the city, these bonds are awfully expensive, and so helping local contractors acquire them makes city contracts more competitive to local entities. It also protects against the evil wizards of Voldemort, who frequently attack plumbers who work after 11 p.m.

I did make that part up.

The establishment of this fund --the program for which is under the auspices of the Human Rights Commission (not making that up)-- would save the world from Superman's nemisis Darkseid, lord of the planet Apocalypse (making that up), and further codify the program (not making that up). The program will be paid for by city departments who hire contractors for public works, and they would be required to contribute to the fund whenever they have a project ... or by searching out the lost gold of the fearsome pirate Calico Jack (making that up) whose ship was sunk 150 years ago by Phinneus Peskin, great great great grandfather of Board President Aaron Peskin (making that up) and whose ghost still haunts Peskin Manor to this day, howling about the state of his pension fund (not making that up).

Let's move on now. I felt a sudden chill.

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

Speaking of fun, the Land Use & Economic Development Committee has a few gems tucked between parcel improvements and railway easements (not making this up).

Ross Mirkarimi's mammoth measure to "establish a music and culture sustainability policy for city government" comes back up the very same week that some of his colleagues say they'll cut the city's funding for high culture in half. The cognitive dissonance alone could power a thousand fluorescent bulbs for an hour... if they were part of a performance art project called "Mauve Iraq war protest #15."

To review, this bill would adjust the permitting system, change the function of the Entertainment Commission, and establish a process to review and revise city codes to make them more arts-friendly, among other artsy stuff.

Next there's a measure by Michela Alioto-Pier that would declare the intention of the Supes to designate the San Francisco Reservoir as open space ... although technically since that's the Public Utility Commission's call, it would "urge" the PUC "to preserve the property for public recreation and open space."

Then there's the Mayor and Jake McGoldrick's "Below Market Rate Condominium Conversion" program - and word is that it might finally make it out of committee today. If that's the case, you can catch the pre-fireworks here.

See? Fireworks! Government's not so bad!

Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m. - Full Board of Supervisors

I want you to know: the only reason I'm reporting on this meeting is that I heard there would be nudity.

There's actually very little else to occupy my mind: most of this stuff has been gone over with a fine tooth comb by now. All of the new stuff is boring. None of this is really surprising: after all, there are only a few legislating-days left before Christmas, and the 2008 model Supervisors are trying to get all their old chestnuts passed. There's no time for new chestnuts.

I hate chestnuts.

So instead of covering individual items, I'm going to try covering items in pairs, and seeing if anything poetic emerges.

For example:

The Supes are planning to pay $19,326,260 for five years (a one year term with four one-year extensions) worth of security services,

The de-appropriation of the Community Justice Center - which is also up for a vote today - would save only $761,021.

Based on this math, what you have to ask yourself is: is the Community Justice Center worth 15 part-time rent-a-cops?

Likewise, we get a little sin midway through the meeting, as Jake McGoldrick's proposal to ban smoking in vehicles for hire is right next to Bevan Dufty's plan to tighten the certification requirements on massage parlor employees.

Curiously, both are followed by Michela Alioto-Pier's "Hazard Mitigation Plan."

The symbolism is devastating.

Aaron Peskin has a measure to oppose the location of the Presidio Fine Arts Museum, right next to Ross Mirkarimi's measure urging the State Legislature to operate a "Do Not Mail" registry. Speaking as someone who already gets too much mail from arts organizations, I couldn't be happier.

Still, this is not nearly as much fun as nudity.

But, it won't be a total loss: they'll be certifying the results of the Nov. 4 election. Somebody's got to do that, right?

$50 says a masked man who looks suspiciously like Gavin Newsom swings through the legislative chambers on a rope tied to the chandelier and snatches them out of the clerk's hand at the last minute.

Any takers?

Wednesday, Dec. 10, 1 p.m. - Budget and Finance Committee

It doesn't really matter what else is on the agenda: Jake McGoldrick's hearing on mid-year budget cuts will pull all the attention to it. Like a giant pulling thing.

Why? Because people are desperate - desperate - for any sense of what's to come, and so far the Mayor's office isn't offering anything. The city's financial crisis is looming over us, and the only thing bigger than the deficit is the leadership vacuum in room 200. The city's executive is out to lunch, repeatedly refusing to say anything about what's going to happen - so people will find clues where they can.

Jake McGoldrick, take it away.

Just remember, he's crazy.

He also has nothing to lose, so when he calls another hearing - as he will - to look at the "number, location, and effective date of, and reasons for leases or permits between third parties and City departments which are month to month," anything can happen.

What's he looking for? What's he want? There's no telling: could be anything. Personally, I think he's trying to hunt down the secret of Phinneus Peskin's gold. According to the treasure map, it's located in a rented government building somewhere in SoMa.

Alternatively, he could think the city's taking in too little in rent, and be looking to put the squeeze on.

Speaking of squeezes, the Mayor's asking for $887.5 million in bonds. Anybody remember Prop A? We passed it?

Yeah, well, that's happening.

Try not to look.

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Benjamin Wachs


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