A Beanie Baby on top of a pile of manure greeted visitors to the Stow Lake boathouse Sept. 15.
“I think it was a red dog,” said my friend, who asked to remain anonymous, “but it was on top of a pile of s---, so I didn’t really get a good look at it.”
Either that was a very determined dog, or the display had something to do with the fact that Bruce McLellan has finally vacated the boathouse after a five-year saga. The new operators, Ortega Family Enterprises, have promised some $200,000 in renovations to the dilapidated structure. McLellan, whose family had run the boathouse for some 68 years, has mounted numerous legal challenges to his eviction, at least one of which is still unresolved.
Despite his efforts, McLellan finally had to pack up and be out by Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. When a group of people went to the boathouse at 5:01 p.m., they walked past the “welcome” mound and into the kitchen, which was spick-and-span except for the following items: a Bible, a stuffed crow and a picture that one friend described as “the love child of Tina Fey and Mike Myers.”
Note to the Ortega family: Hire an exorcist.
When I started writing about San Francisco politics some three years ago, civil grand jury reports were routinely disregarded by City Hall as the unctuous ramblings of paranoid retirees. For example, the committee hearing on the 2009 grand jury report titled “Pensions: Beyond Our Ability to Pay” consisted of three supervisors blindly accepting the testimony by city department heads who swore that nothing was wrong.
Recently, that has all changed.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s opposition to the Central Subway project relies heavily on a civil grand jury report titled “Central Subway: Too Much Money for Too Little Benefit.” And opponents of the school bond measure (Proposition A) cite a 2009 civil grand jury report on surplus property owned by the San Francisco Unified School District that concluded, “The City and county of San Francisco should not allocate to the SFUSD any further Rainy Day or ‘Bail Out’ funds until such time as the SFUSD has sold the properties it already identified as surplus.”
One new report that has rightfully been given serious attention is titled “San Francisco’s Ethics Commission: The Sleeping Watchdog.” A hearing on the findings of that report was held last Thursday at the Government Audit and Oversight Committee. Here is what was discussed:
1. The members of the commission are appointed by elected officials, the very people the commission is supposed to be policing. This led one public commentator to quip, “On the title, it says that it’s a ‘Sleeping Watchdog.’ I would like to suggest a more appropriate description of the Ethics Commission. I would describe it as, ‘A lapdog that kisses [blank] too much.’” Ultimately changing the way commissioners are appointed would require a charter amendment, but Supervisor David Campos appeared open to that idea.
2. The commission meetings are not televised. In a city where even the Port Commission has meetings broadcast on San Francisco Government Television (sfgovtv.org) one would think the body that investigates dicey political intrigue also would be on Channel 26. But one would be wrong. The commission claimed not to have the funds and that other bodies meet in the rooms where filming is allowed. Luckily one commentator was on hand to sing to the tune of “Let it be” — “Whisper words of wisdom and find a spot on sfgovtv.” The commission promised to find the money and a proper location.
3. The commission is mean to the Sunshine Task Force. Since 2004, the task force has sent 18 cases to the commission asking that it enforce The City’s sunshine ordinance. The commission has not held a hearing on a single case.
Now, I don’t know the details of any of the cases, but dismissing every single claim without even a public hearing is downright rude and suspicious. The commission has promised to come back in November for a full hearing on this issue.
Overall, it was great to see the supervisors and the commission responding to the concerns of the grand jury and promising to make modifications. As one commentator stated, “Change is not easy; nobody likes change. Except maybe the baby with the bad diaper. Think of the Ethics Commission as that bad diaper and make some changes.”