City Hall Watch: What’s old is new again 

As The City is looking to close a more than $500 million deficit, a controversial proposal was introduced Tuesday to merge the Police and Sheriff’s departments to possibly save tens of millions of dollars a year.

In an old proposal from 2003 that did not gain political traction, Supervisor Chris Daly revived his City Charter amendment that would merge the two public safety agencies, whose combined budgets are about $600 million annually.

The proposal was blasted by the Mayor’s Office, which characterized it as a "vendetta" against police Chief George Gascón, with whom Daly is publicly feuding.

Mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker said it was "another terrible idea from Chris Daly that won’t save tax dollars and will undermine Chief Gascón at a time" when the Police Department is successfully reducing violent crime.

Daly said the "exceptional budget times" warrant reconsideration of the charter amendment that he hopes to place on the November ballot, if he can gain the support of at least five colleagues.

"It is past time that we merge these overlapping functions," said Daly, who estimated it could save The City tens of millions of dollars.

If approved by voters, the public safety agencies would merge by 2012. The move would occur if a required study shows there could be savings and no risk to public safety.

"The sheriff shall assume all the powers and duties of the Police Commission, and the chief of police," the measure said.

"I know that politically no one wants to touch it," Daly said. "I’m not looking for votes from people who are concerned about their political careers. I am going to be looking for votes from people who are concerned about the city and county of San Francisco. Let’s take a look at least at studying a merger between the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office."

As Mayor Gavin Newsom announced plans to lay off and rehire more than 10,000 city workers, Daly said, "We need to be looking big picture. We need to be smart about how government is organized, about consolidations, and to serve the people of The City."

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