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Monday, July 6, 2009

Is Chris Daly the Chief Martin Brody of San Francisco Politics?

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 12:01 AM

Imagine, if you will, that Supervisor Chris Daly is Police Chief Martin Brody. We'll let you figure out who, in this analogy, the toothy fellow behind him is.
  • Imagine, if you will, that Supervisor Chris Daly is Police Chief Martin Brody. We'll let you figure out who, in this analogy, the toothy fellow behind him is.
Examples of Chris Daly behaving boorishly in the Board of Supervisors' chambers and embarrassing even his friends are as myriad as instances of  folks in Daly's district behaving boorishly on the streets of the Tenderloin and embarrassing their friends. So when the District 6 supe publicly berated his pal and protege Supervisor John Avalos last week for supposedly getting played by the mayor's minions -- after the latter was the supes' lead man in sealing a budget deal -- it was easy to shrug it off as more Daly histrionics.

Yet over the Fourth of July weekend -- a holiday that played a critical, even deadly part in the seminal film Jaws -- it dawned on us that this was something more. Chris Daly is like Police Chief Martin Brody of Amity Island warning his fellow citizens and government officials what will happen to them if they dare go back in the water. Could Brody have made his arguments more persuasively? Yes. Did anyone listen to him? No. Was he right? Yes.

It remains to be seen if Daly is right about his warning -- that Mayor Gavin Newsom will, as he has in the past, simply refuse to spend much of the money allotted to  programs "spared" through the Board of Supervisors' "add-backs." Daly's argument seems to be that Newsom has pulled the rug out from under the supes, repeatedly, in the past -- and, for that matter, the statewide voters whom Gavin is wooing won't give a damn about if he pulls a complex, only-in-San Francisco maneuver a few months down the road to stiff some local poor people. They'll only see the phrase "balanced budget" and Newsom's telegenic visage. Actually, that sounds like a pretty good argument. Daly must lead the league in solid contentions presented in such a way that folks only remember his disagreeable behavior.

At the heart of this dust-up is a rather vile little loophole in the city charter that allows the mayor to simply not spend money the supes have allocated. If, say, the supes gather and vote to fund Project A, the mayor can veto it, the supes can override that veto -- and then the mayor can simply allow Project A to die in all but name by not allocating any money to it. We've written about this in the past and noted last month that Daly has proposed a charter amendment that would do away with this nonsense once and for all (he'll get the ball rolling on it today at rules committee). Unless we're misreading something, however, the soonest Daly's charter amendment could become the law of the land is toward the tail end of 2009 -- which won't help a bit in the near term.

And that could be relevant, and quick. As's Paul Hogarth pointed out, Budget Analyst Harvey Rose noted that 41 percent of all the money "added back" to last year's budget by the supes simply went unspent by the mayor. What's to keep this from happening again? Well, apparently, Newsom wrote the supes a letter vaguely promising he'd keep them in the loop. Hoo boy. There are historically minded quips to be made about waving a dubious written promise in front of the cameras, but someone else will have to do it.

Sounds like Daly's got a a pretty strong argument, no? Still, here's how Daly chose to put it. Never mind if he's right -- he could well be -- don't you want to reach into your computer and grab this man by the lapels?

One more thing: Daly is wrong about what happens when you look up the dictionary definition of the word "foolishness." Here it is.

Not that Daly will ever take our advice, but this pattern of undermining his vital message through nastiness and pettiness is getting old, isn't it? In fact, it's odd how Daly berates his colleagues for failing to learn their lessons, but he seems to miss that his repeated bouts of artless boorishness make much more of an impression on people than any point he was trying to argue. Chris -- cut it out! Help us help you.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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