Editorial: Appointees missing in action 

One of America’s oldest political jokes advises us, in multiple variations, that the health of the republic was never more assured than when Congress was out of session. There may be some bedrock wisdom behind the laugh, as politicians forswear the physicians’ oath not to do inadvertent harm.

We’re not really sure, for example, that California is a more blissful place now that it boasts a full-time Legislature. And, our pride in home-towner Nancy Pelosi notwithstanding, we don’t expect the next 100 hours on Capitol Hill to usher in an era of tranquility once she’s speaker of the House.

Here in The City, likewise, we’ve tumbled to an interesting story that could blossom into an all-out controversy as this year’s mayoral election approaches. It seems many of the appointed members of the more than 50 oh-so-necessary commissions and boards often find better choices among San Francisco’s smorgasbord of amusements than to sit through soporific official meetings.

The puritans among us want these mercifully absentee busybodies to get cracking. There’s an airport to oversee, after all, and a zoo — not to mention a taxi commission that denies anti-competitive "medallions" to innovative entrants into the jitney business when all they really need are keys to an insured motorcar.

Mayor Gavin Newsom wants these commissioners, many of them his own appointees, to achieve a 90 percent attendance rate. Presumably the $50 to $100 honoraria per meeting have lost their allure. We shan’t mention that the Board of Supervisors would be thrilled were the mayor to attend nine out of 10 of its meetings.

Film Commission should cut to the chase

Speaking of commissions, The City has one devoted to filmmaking within its varied precincts. Perhaps it enjoys perfect attendance among its appointees, but the commission’s executive director, Stefanie Coyote, laments that Hollywood hasn’t come courting this past year — this despite all the fee breaks and other bureaucratic greasing her office makes available to producers.

Worse, in 2005, with three locally sited films in the can, Mayor Newsom declared "film in San Francisco is back." Uh, not exactly.

Now, we love tricked-out cars flying over The City’s paved slopes as much as the next guy. We admit we even enjoyed "Mrs. Doubtfire." And if "Rocky Balboa" can come back, surely "Dirty Harry" can as well.

But there’s an object lesson here. Call it the failure of a microcosmic experiment in planning an economy. You see, over the last decade, cities everywhere, in this country and abroad, created look-alike film commissions, all to bring cinematic luster to their communities and boost their economies.

Alas, with everybody doing it, competition grew more intense than trendy planners expected. It bears repeating: Government isn’t clairvoyant enough to "target" industries of the future, and why subsidize an industry awash in capital? Government should assure reliable property rights, sit back — and be surprised. Popcorn, anyone?

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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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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