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Monday, May 11, 2009

SF Gov InAction: Madatory Composting -- And Your Mother -- Are Back In Town

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2009 at 11:59 AM


Well, that's the thing: I thought my mom would know the Snuggie was a gag gift, but she actually thought it was a real gift. So here I'd planned this completely ironic moment, and she was starting to tear up. She actually said "It looks so comfortable, and I get so cold in winter!" Shit! So what could I do? I ... Oh! Hello! I didn't see you there. It's all right, you're not interrupting anything. I was just explaining how my mother got arrested on her special day. Funny story: Apparently if you just go by her credit card statements, she's working for Al-Qaeda. Of course, in this economy, they might be the only people hiring. If the unemployment rate jumps another few points, people will probably start chanting "Death to America" because it's a networking opportunity. But you're not here to listen to stories about my terrorist mom: You're here to collect on my gambling debts. Or ... for a rundown of this week's meetings. Right. Government. That's happening too. Listen: I'll tell you what the city supervisors are doing this week, but if you see a Bhutanese guy named "Snake" -- tall, leather jacket, tie with a blood stain on it shaped like Sigmund Freud -- I was never here, okay? Do it for my mom. Monday, May 11 10:30 a.m. - City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee The first big item on the agenda is a hearing called by Eric Mar to go over the MTA's policies on disability placards: How many are active, how many get confiscated, how many "proof of valid placard" requests are made, and so on. This is a serious topic, but Mar calls a lot of hearings on serious topics -- and one gets the impression that it's not because he cares about the issues so much as that he can't think of any actual legislation to propose. Besides, not to put too fine a point on it, but the MTA's a little distracted right now. What I'm saying, disability advocates, is that your cause is righteous -- but don't get your hopes up just yet.

Next, the ever immanent nightlife measures come up before this committee AGAIN. After the final passage of the "no loitering outside of nightclubs" bill last week, there's now hope that the proposals by the mayor and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell to change the way entertainment permits and extended hours permits are handled has a chance of finally going somewhere. Could be: But just remember that betting on inertia at supervisors meetings is never a bad wager.

If San Francisco had a nickel for every good idea it never implemented, it wouldn't need to implement them.

1 p.m. - Land Use Economic Development Committee

This meeting starts with a proposal by the mayor to extend the city's rent assistance program ("the Hotel Tax Rent Supplement Program") to two senior living centers (Vincentian Villa and Alexis Apartments) for up to 10 more years, while the city tries to find outside sources to cover the subsidies (both buildings have been rejected for Section 8 housing -- though the Mayor's Office of Housing thinks that Vincentian Villa should be eligible for it soon).

This strikes me, overall, as a nice thing to do for old people. And since it was just Mother's Day, and my own mother is wallowing in a federal prison with only a Snuggie for comfort, I'm not going to make fun of it.

The next measure, proposed by Supervisor David Chiu, is a highly technical amendment to the City's "Real Ownership Opportunities for Tenants" (ROOTS) program. You didn't even know that we had a ROOTS program, and you won't remember what the adjustments are by this time tomorrow, so I'm not going to bother spelling them out for you.

What you might remember is that Sophie Maxwell is proposing an "Ordinance establishing City policy to take all feasible steps to close the entire Potrero Power Plant as soon as possible and urging the Public Utilities Commission to immediately prepare a plan to close the Potrero Power Plant; and establishing clean energy goals; and urging the Public Utilities Commission to update the Electricity Resource Plan."

This is the sort of measure that drives me crazy, because it presumes that the Public Utilities Commission ... which is well aware of how Maxwell feels about these issues ... has been holding off all this time because they just weren't clear if it was "city policy" or not.

The Public Utilities Commission has many flaws, but its members can read. If they bother to read this law, which they might not, what with the circus being in town and all, they will note that it doesn't actually require them to do a damn thing. And while I'm sure lecturing at them from the upstanding moral high ground of City Hall has worked great in the past (it has not worked great in the past), it's wildly optimistic to think this purely symbolic salvo will make a difference ... which Sophie Maxwell doesn't think anyway.

Is it too much to ask that the city officials only pass laws that actually do stuff? Because it would save a lot of paper.

Next Maxwell, David Chiu, and Carmen Chu continue their ongoing hearing on why San Francisco can't manage to get out of small businesses' way. I'm all in favor of streamlining bureaucracy, but this hearing is fundamentally flawed: After all, on the very same day that this hearing will examine how to ease the city's burden on small businesses, the City Operations & Neighborhood services committee is pushing to impose several new regulations on nightclubs and entertainment venues.

Do you see the paradox?

San Francisco is the hydra: For every burdensome regulation you cut down, two shall take its place. That's why "activist" government always requires more inspectors than "libertarian" government. It's just the nature of the beast. We voted for it, San Francisco: Let's please not pretend we can have a government that is both "progressive" and "un-intrusive." That might be possible at the quantum level, where government is not bound by the rules of time and space (Chris Daly's district) -- but for the most part local government is depressingly Newtonian, and every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Tuesday, May 12, 2 p.m. - Full Board of Supervisors

Almost everything exciting about this week's meeting was already done first last week: the final vote on the highly dubious solar power contract with Recurrent Energy; the final vote on the "no loitering outside of nightclubs" legislation; the final votes on Sharp Park. There's no real drama here, no one expects the votes to be any different this time, but those are still the most interesting things on the agendas.

A few other items of note:

· A closed session to update the Supes on the labor negotiations between the Mayor's Office and city workers. I should regretfully point out that unions which endorsed Gavin Newsom in the last election have only so much room to complain. Bet Quintin Mecke looks pretty good now, eh?

· A call by Supervisors Bevan Dufty and John Avalos for the Controller to audit the performance of the J-Church metro line. Apparently it has yet to achieve an on-time performance rate of more than 69 percent. That's bad -- lthough I hear it has a "performance matrix," so the actual results don't matter.

· David Chiu would like to declare May 17-23 "Public Works Week" in San Francisco, "acknowledging that the San Francisco Department of Public Works is an integral part of the community and has produced significant achievements; encouraging all San Francisco residents and businesses to work in collaboration with the department." In honor of this important time, everyone should build a berm, take a union break, and reflect on how empty and meaningless your life would be without someone constantly repairing the elevator at Civic Center.

Wednesday, May 13

11 a.m. - Budget & Finance Subcommittee

If you can only sleep through one meeting this week -- and why limit yourself? -- sleep through this one.

1:30 - Budget and Finance Committee

I bet that all anybody will talk about after this meeting is whether the Supes really are going to reject the MTA budget, thereby forcing Gavin Newsom to convince somebody else's transit system to pay for 311.

But, in case you're wondering, yes, other stuff will happen.

In addition to the usual round of "you cut WHAT?" there will be a hearing about a report from the County Welfare Directors Association (they throw GREAT parties) and the California State Association of Counties (they bake GREAT cakes) entitled "Human Services in a Time of Economic Crisis -- An Examination of California's Safety-Net Programs and Related Economic Benefits for Communities."

I haven't actually read that report, but, I'm willing to predict its approximate conclusion: "Should an asteroid strike the earth, plunging the skies into darkness, turning the summer to winter, and wiping out half of the mammalian life, adequately funding human service departments will be more important than ever."

Thursday, May 14, 1 p.m. - Government Audit & Oversight Committee

Hey, remember how -- about eight months ago -- Gavin Newsom announced that he was going to make recycling and composting mandatory for all citizens of San Francisco?

The plan - as it was outlined back in those heady days when San Francisco was still viewed as "a model for the nation" instead of "a debt-ridden municipal carcass, covered in Progressive fleas, in a doomed state" - was to have trash collectors root through everyone's garbage looking for evidence that they were not properly recycling and composting. Violators would face stiff fines .

Well, that's coming back up for discussion at this meeting. In fact, it's the only item on the agenda.

It's hard to know where to start with a proposal like this, but ... okay ... here are a few questions:

1) Is it legal for the government to routinely send agents to root through your trash looking for evidence to use against you, when there is no reasonable suspicion that you've committed a crime?

2) If it is legal, could we get former members of the East German secret police to do the work? Because they were great at it.

3) If you throw out pornographic magazines or sex toys, are the government agents rooting through your trash for evidence to use against you allowed to tell their friends about your sex life?

4) If not, how will this prohibition be enforced? Or will this be one of those government policies ... like ticketing the Mayor's SUV when it's illegally parked ... that's on the books but never really happens?

5) How will the SF Stasi (if I may call them that) determine which tenant in a multi-unit dwelling unit inadvertently put an apple core in his general trash? Will they question the residents? Set up a sting? Fine the landlord? Fine every building resident?

6) What about people who put their trash in their neighbor's receptacles? That happens all the time in this city -- how will the law take that into account? Or won't it?

There are plenty more problems where that came from. Still, the poor quality of an idea has never stopped Gavin Newsom from implementing it before. Anybody remember the Civic Center victory garden? Yeah, that sure advanced the cause of organic food.

For the record, I'm pretty sure we'd save more recyclable products if, instead of passing this measure, city officials just promised to stop passing laws that don't actually do stuff.

Seriously, they should look into that.

So, what have we learned this week? More importantly, what have our mothers learned?

Frannie from the Mission has learned that soon her sons won't be able to make their living loitering outside of nightclubs selling MTA disability placards, and instead will have to loiter outside of college campuses selling Translink cards.

Amy from North Beach learned that it is not official city policy to have DPW workers leer at her teenage daughter, but that they are entitled to do so while on break.

Sonya, from the Sunset, learned that if her 9-year old son keeps tossing things in the garbage without first checking to see if they're recyclable, her whole family will suffer.

And Jennifer, from Bayview, learned that services that help her family are being specifically targeted by city government for cuts. Apparently she once cut off the wrong politician in traffic.

Is that a week? I think it is.

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Benjamin Wachs


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