I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the opening night performance of the (fabulous) new musical “Tales of the City,” based on two books by Armistead Maupin and performed at our very own American Conservatory Theater. During intermission, I spotted Mayor Ed Lee and his wife, Anita, looking dapper and unassuming as ever.
Well, readers, you’ll be happy to know that I was not going to let a little thing like manners come between me and a scoop, so I strolled over and said hello and blurted out the question that, as a fellow audience member, I knew for a fact he had not been asked in at least one whole hour: “Will you run for mayor?”
He (and his wife) shook their heads no while sporting the same weary look that I imagine on Matt LeBlanc’s face when people ask him to say, “How you doin?' ”
So, fine. I get it. He wants to go back to being city administrator, leader of the Department of the Obscure, defender of somethingorother. But there’s still a chance that little plan may go awry.
The Board of Supervisors has passed legislation that allows Lee (or any interim mayor) to go back to his former position, but it doesn’t mandate that Lee get that position. Whoever is elected mayor in November gets to appoint the city administrator, and that person may or may not choose Lee.
This issue is only going to get stickier as the election nears. With candidates jockeying for Lee’s endorsement, anyone he snubs might return the favor if they win. This may explain why he has yet to endorse anyone and also why he is sucking up to political insiders — perhaps making nice with all constituencies in City Hall to make sure that whoever is the next mayor will be pressured to give Lee his old position back.
Exhibit A is his nauseating overuse of the term “city family” to describe the group that produced his little pension reform proposal. Aside from Warren Hellman, several supervisors and public employee unions, I don’t know who is in the “city family” he keeps talking about, but it’s fairly clear that San Francisco civilians, many of whom are lucky if we have 401(k)s, are not.
Then again, we aren’t the ones with the power to ensure Lee is reappointed to his position as city administrator.
Harvey Rose, The City’s esteemed budget analyst, rarely issues a “no” recommendation on any proposal, wisely preferring to lay out the facts and let the supervisors use his numbers to do whatever they were going to do in the first place.
So it was significant that a recent report by his office on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s proposal for a new headquarters contained this little Bronx salute: “Given the SFMTA’s existing and projected financial and budgetary concerns, including an estimated projected budgeting shortfall of $22,000,000 in FY 2011-2012 this Budget and Legislative Analyst questions the propriety of the SFMTA to incur such additional expenditures at this time. For all these reasons, the Budget and Legislative Analyst cannot recommend approval of the proposed new lease.”
What was the proposal that generated what are (trust me) harsh words from the analyst?
The agency currently occupies about 16,500 square feet of office space (I’m going to round numbers here for the sake of our collective sanity) at a monthly rental cost of $21,000. This total number is actually divided up between five different locations, and in further proof that I am in the wrong business, the agency paid $150,000 for a study that says those locations should be consolidated and upgraded. (You think?) Another $60,000 study evaluated nine locations, and the agency settled on one at 1455 Market St.
The new location is large (40,000 square feet) and fancy (though we’ll have to pay $9.5 million in upgrades) but not cheap at $100k in rent and $20k in operating costs per month. But it might be worth it if we were giving up the other 16,500 square feet in office space and moving all our stuff to the big, new place, right? We’d save all that other rent money! But that’s not the proposal. No, the agency wants to keep 12,500 square feet of that old space in addition to the 40,000 square feet in new space, for a total new playground of (exactly) 52,273 square feet. The total monthly occupancy costs will thus go from the present $21,000 to $141,000.
Now, I’m all for upgrades at the agency. If the state of our transportation is any indication, I picture their office equipment consisting of Etch-a-Sketches and tin cans tied to string. But, as my mother said about Kenny Roger’s plastic surgery, “It just seems like a bit … much.”
When the matter was before the Budget and Finance Committee, supervisors Jane Kim and Ross Mirkarimi voted against authorizing the lease and supervisors Carmen Chu, David Chiu and Scott Wiener voted in favor of the lease. The full board will vote on the issue today. Here’s hoping they listen to Rose’s reasoned recommendation.
Since 2003, board rules have required the clerk of the board to annually check on subordinate city bodies (committees, task forces, councils) that are supposed to meet regularly to see if they have met at least once every four months. The clerk must then direct the city attorney to draft legislation dissolving any group that cannot show it has met at least that frequently.
On May 27, the clerk wrote to the City Attorney’s Office reporting eight groups are slated to be eliminated for delinquency. Among them, the citywide Alcoholism Board and Drug Abuse Advisory Board. I, for one, eagerly await their explanations.