Garcia: Supervisors cling to bad ideas amid economic crisis 

Here’s this week’s brainteaser: How is it that in a time of budget cuts everywhere, the only agency growing in this part of the country is San Francisco’s Department of Bad Ideas?

It must be an election year.

That would explain the recent exploits of two of The City’s legislative warriors, who are working overtime to locate solutions in search of problems. One of them, Supervisor Chris Daly — the resident man-child on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors — has come up with a brave proposal to have the Sheriff’s Department take over The City’s Police Department, allegedly as a cost-cutting maneuver.

Daly actually believes San Francisco doesn’t need a police chief, and he may be unaware that sheriff’s deputies and police officers serve completely different functions — one is charged with arresting bad people and the other watching over them while they stew in jail.

Daly calls it “outside-the-box” thinking, not realizing that it’s more like inside-the-psych-unit musing. But he’s grabbed some headlines for the proposal, which must be what he wants because it has no chance of passing.

That’s not necessarily true of one of his sidekicks, who suggested the board get to share appointments with the mayor to the Recreation and Park Commission because similar moves have passed muster with our sleepy electorate. But Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s grand plan was exposed as the power grab that it is during a hearing last week, in which the speechifying official nearly talked himself breathless trying to pose it as a good-government measure.

It’s good only if you want to unleash the hordes who want to halt new athletic fields, minimize music festivals and otherwise put a muzzle on the annual cultural events that city residents hold dear, as proven by the fact that anyone who’s ever had a bone to pick with the commission showed up to applaud the realignment attempt.

Those represented included the Telegraph Hill Dwellers, whose members have been trying to block the North Beach Festival because they don’t like to share Washington Square Park, and ever-feisty Ernestine Weiss, who lobbied long and hard for the creation of Ferry Park but is still miffed that she never received a certificate of appreciation from the Recreation and Park Department.

The main flaw in Mirkarimi’s plan is that there’s absolutely no need for it — the commission, in its oversight of Rec and Park, is functioning better now than it has in the past decade. Despite severe budget cuts, it has still managed to introduce several new synthetic turf fields, which have increased playing time for city residents by tens of thousands of hours, and come up with new events, like the Outside Lands concerts, that have raised $3 million for San Francisco.

But the supervisor claims the measure would somehow create “citizen activation” in a city where every citizen is an activist. And that certainly extended to the second part of his plan, which was to allow park permits to be appealed, creating yet another bureaucratic hurdle through which event producers would have to jump.

So many of them turned out to protest the appeals plan, in fact, that Mirkarimi jettisoned it as the afterthought it always was.

But be warned: If the board decides to split appointments, golfers, soccer players, club teams and others will be impacted in ways in which they never could imagine. As it is, several noisy groups managed to delay the installation of a new synthetic turf field at the Beach Chalet this year, citing arguments like the effect night lights would have on migratory birds.

If ever there was a proposal that’s for the birds, this is the one.

Just so you understand why this is a blatant power grab, it appears the hearing was continued so that supervisors could figure out which is more important: trying to take over appointments to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency or the parks department, since both ideas have been floated for the November ballot and that looks just a little, uh, greedy.

It was noted before Daly’s introduction that reasonable minds can disagree on the merits of extreme actions. But that still assumes the presence of reasonable minds.

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Ken Garcia

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