Spendthrift ideals reign 

Perhaps if the illustrious members of The City’s Board of Supervisors didn’t spend money like drunken sailors, a few of their proposed changes to city funding priorities may be taken more seriously. But judging from the lineup of charter amendments introduced this week, they won’t.

Still, it does raise an interesting question: Do these people even talk to each other?

Supervisor Chris Daly, still boiling about some cuts to his union cronies, unilaterally called for a $20 million slash to the salaried ranks of the Police and Fire departments, typical for an official who has overseen the most crime-ridden district in San Francisco for the past decade.

At the same time, board President David Chiu introduced a whopping $652 million bond measure for the June 8 ballot that would, among other things, repair neighborhood fire stations and build a new headquarters for the Police Department.

I don’t know about you, but until buildings start making emergency rescue calls, I’m going to side with the people who fight fires and crime. And given The City’s dire economic situation and that of many of its residents, I’m not eager to tax myself silly again. Maybe I’ll wait until the new Laguna Honda Hospital opens.

In a related event, the San Francisco Weekly made the case that our beloved city is the worst managed in the country, and cites the ridiculous spending on homeless programs, nonprofits and fat union contracts with little to show for it. I’ve been making the same argument for 12 years now, so I’m happy this idea is gaining traction.

Sadly, Supervisor John Avalos now wants to take away the mayor’s power not to spend money the board appropriates — the one thing that has kept the current deficit from mushrooming beyond its current $522 million black hole.

At least one official is actually trying to rein in spending, an idea that has grown increasingly unpopular with the majority of his colleagues. That would be Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who introduced a detailed ballot package to reform The City’s retiree and health care pension benefits. And, he’s pushing a charter amendment that would remove a provision that automatically makes Muni drivers the second-highest paid operators in the nation. Shockingly, he wants salaries to be negotiated.

Elsbernd also wants to increase fines for people who enter animal enclosures. I say anybody who sneaks into a bear or tiger pen gets what they deserve.


Water test tasteless

Anew study ranks the best tap water for America’s big cities, and it turns out California did fairly well for municipalities west of the Rockies. The only problem is the researchers apparently didn’t drink it. That explains how Sacramento came out ahead of San Francisco.

The report by the Environmental Working Group is based on reviews of five years of water quality tests by municipal utilities serving at least 250,000 people. The tests involved a summary of contaminants found in the drinking water.

But it’s definitely not a taste test — not even close.

If there’s better-tasting water than the taps that hook up to Hetch Hetchy, I’d be eager to try it. The same does not apply to many of the cities that came in ahead of San Francisco, including a slew of Southern states and, can you believe it, Texas.

South Bay residents may be very upset to know that San Jose was smacked down in the survey, actually achieving a lower score than Los Angeles. And that would take some doing, because I can’t think of any city in California that has worse-tasting water than L.A., official home of the bottled, five-gallon dispensable plastic jug.


Contest proves hashish is not so hush-hush

Just to underscore how mainstream the views on legalized marijuana have become, last week the annual selection of the best pot was held up north in Laytonville — and most of the growers weren’t hiding.

That wasn’t the case in recent years, when participants in the annual Emerald Cup — a sort of Super Bowl for cannabis connoisseurs — didn’t really gather. They just sent their buds in and hoped to get a prize, but no official visit from the feds.

This year, despite some heavy downpours, more than 700 people showed up at the event, which included several bands and food and vendor booths featuring lots of hemp and, er, other stuff. Yes, smoking was allowed.

Still, old habits die hard. This year’s winner — whose Cotton Candy Kush beat out 99 other earthy, aromatic entries to win a cup decorated with marijuana leaves — asked to only be identified as “Hawaii Dave.”


Ocean Beach is threatening to be a lost coast

If you follow politics in San Francisco, you’d think the sky is constantly falling. It’s not entirely true, but a well-traveled seawall along Ocean Beach is — or soon will be.

Longtime local surfer Dennis Holl reports that the roadway across from the San Francisco Zoo is eroding so quickly that it’s just a matter of time before Great Highway becomes Great Lost Highway. He’s contacted local officials — I know because he copied me on an e-mail — but so far there’s been no response.

“We are facing the first El Niño winter in almost 10 years and the almost imperceptible erosion of the bluff has accelerated,” Holl wrote. “Thousands of people use this road every day, yet no one seems to care if it is lost. When it’s gone, people may want to know why nothing was done to save it.”

A similar thing happened during the last El Niño storms, and the beach erosion has already taken a toll in Pacifica, where this week residents from one apartment building were forced to evacuate.

The road near Sloat Boulevard and Great Highway is packed with visitors every day, and the spot has long been a favorite for surfers.

Holl said one of the sticking points may be who has authority in the area — The City, the National Park Service or the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“I’m not sure if most surfers care — if the road goes, it means that [there will] just be a lot less of them out there,” Holl said.


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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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