Griffin: Budget deal smells fishy 

‘I congratulate the mayor of San Francisco,” Supervisor Chris Daly said at Tuesday’s final budget vote. And he was right. Two of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s pet projects — Kindergarten 2 College savings accounts and a home for Homeless Connect facilities — were restored to the budget, and the rest of the $44 million that the board managed to put back in the spending plan was for “mom and apple pie” items like violence prevention and children’s services.

What’s more, according to Daly, the mayor got supervisors to drop two proposed charter amendments that would have diluted the mayor’s ability to appoint members of the Recreation and Park Commission and the Rent Board.

Taking “items that are unrelated to the budget without a monetary impact and mak[ing] them part of a deal on a budget agreement is not only illegal, but the wrong course in terms of good government,” Daly said, referring to an old memorandum issued by the city attorney. Daly reiterated, “It is clear that it is illegal for members of the legislative body to be doing this.”

So, did some members of the board agree to nix two charter amendments in exchange for a budget deal? Doubtful anyone would admit such a thing, but the vote smells fishier than Pier 39.

For starters, the amendments were listed early on in the agenda, but one by one they were continued until “after the budget discussion.” Daly and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd expressed disbelief. “I am wondering why we would continue several charter amendments until later in the meeting,” Daly said.

I was wondering that myself. Why wait, unless the goal is to use them as leverage?

Then, after hours of Sooper Secwet Budget Negotiations, Supervisor John Avalos announced the $44 million in add-backs that included funding for Kindergarten 2 College and Homeless Connect — both of which had previously been cut.

The budget passed by a vote of 10-1, with Daly voting no because “based on the best intelligence that I have,” the mayor held the charter amendments hostage during negotiations.

Once the budget vote was over, supervisors moved on and voted on those charter amendments that had been continued — the ones Daly predicted would be sold out.

Mirkarimi stood in support of his proposal to have split appointments to the Recreation and Park Commission. Then, David Chiu said he had never been crazy about the idea and voted against it. The final vote was six against and five in favor of the amendment, so it failed.

Thereafter, Supervisor David Campos voluntarily tabled his proposal to change the way the Rent Board is appointed.

Tartar sauce, anyone?


Skipped board’s nine-hour meeting? Here’s what you, er, missed


The Board of Supervisors met Tuesday and ended a two-month budget process by passing a final $6.5 billion San Francisco budget for fiscal year 2010-11. That seems like an accomplishment until you realize that God created the world in only six days and for less money.

For those of you who didn’t watch the nine-hour meeting (all of you), here’s what you missed:

  • A majority of supervisors fearlessly voted to push the line between tenacity and toxicity when they put “mayor’s question time” on the ballot for the third time. Tired of politicians treating the ballot like a seventh-grader treats a science notebook, filling it with leisurely doodles, I called Department of Elections Director John Arntz. He explained to me that ballot cards (the big page where you mark your vote) hold about eight to 10 initiatives per page. Each additional card that has to be printed costs $250,000 to $275,000 — and that’s without counting the added labor costs of tallying the votes. Toss in several thousand dollars to print each page of the voter guide, and it’s clear that putting items on the ballot is expensive. Let’s all remember that.
  • Of the $44 million that were magically discovered in the couch cushions at City Hall and added back to the budget, $1.4 million is supposed to come from the sale of a piece of land owned by the Department of Public Health. Problem is, that property is a gas station with an active tenant, has been a gas station for 50 years and is zoned as a gas station. Know anyone willing to pay $1.4 million for that? If so, send them my way because I’m looking for a sucker to buy my collection of gently used exercise products.
  • Voting on which of three tax measures will go on November’s ballot was postponed until next week’s board meeting. Given the recent poll conducted by the Institute for the Study of the Obvious, er, I mean, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, showing that none of the measures are likely to pass, next week’s meeting should be very exciting, though something shorter than nine hours would be nice. 



Quotes of the meeting

“If there is a real estate transfer tax god that is out there, I want to thank you for helping us close this budget.”
— Supervisor John Avalos, acknowledging that higher-than-expected transfer tax revenue helped balance the budget this year. Sadly, there’s no such deity, only real people and real companies who pay real money in transfer taxes. You can bet some of them are really praying to their own gods that Avalos’ proposed increase in the transfer tax does not go on November’s ballot.  

“We are becoming quite skilled as a body of legislators in navigating around the trends of boom and bust nationally.”
— Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, speaking as if the continued functioning of San Francisco is the fault of City Hall.

“Notwithstanding the fact that it is something the mayor has indicated that he likes, I think it is a good program.”
— Supervisor David Campos, refusing to cut the Kindergarten 2 College program. Grinning as he said it, I appreciated his acknowledgement of the knee-jerk politics so rampant at City Hall. 

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Melissa Griffin

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