Griffin: Gaga for summer camps 

For reasons I don’t fully understand, and probably owing to someone else’s last-minute cancellation, last week I was invited by General Manager Phil Ginsburg to be a judge at a Recreation and Park Department talent show.

That my singing sounds like a kangaroo trying to speak English didn’t stop me from eagerly accepting the invitation. Hey, if Rush Limbaugh can judge a beauty pageant ...

I arrived and was told that, per Ginsburg’s love of the show “American Idol,” we would have to pretend to be celebrity judges. “You be Lady Gaga,” Ginsburg said, pointing at me.

I looked down at my navy-blue sweater set. “Obviously, I get confused with her all the time,” I said, agreeing to do it, and took my seat.

What followed was an hour of sweet hilarity as five Rec and Park employees performed songs each had written to promote the department’s summer camps. We clapped, sang along and generally had a ball. The winner’s song will be taught to the kids who attend the camps. (No, I can’t give it away!)

Earlier that day, Mistermayor and Ginsburg had announced a major expansion in The City’s summer programs for kids. The department is offering more than 28,000 total slots in 57 camps and has a robust scholarship program to ensure that no child is turned away because of an inability to pay. In fact, The City is offering free camp slots to all children living in public housing.

With the kind and enthusiastic (and brave) souls I watched that Tuesday night in charge of the summer programs, Rec and Park camps are an option parents and their children should seriously ­consider.

Tell your kids Lady Gaga said so.

Likely illegal, pricey voting move pitched

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, board President David Chiu introduced a charter amendment for the November ballot “that would allow parents who have children in our San Francisco public schools to vote in school board elections regardless of ­citizenship.”

According to Chiu, “At this point, one out of three children in our public school system has an immigrant parent. Many students are citizens whose needs are being left behind because their parents don’t have a voice in their children’s education.”  (Actually, you don’t need proof of citizenship to speak out at a school board meeting, talk to teachers or lobby current Board of Education members.)

In November 2004, voters narrowly rejected a charter amendment that would have permitted “San Francisco residents who are 18 or older to vote in school board elections, whether or not the resident is a United States citizen, if the resident is a parent, guardian or caregiver of a child in the school district.”

According to the 2004 voter pamphlet, then-City Controller Ed Harrington estimated that the cost of voting materials, training for poll workers and time to separately register noncitizens would cost at least $700,000. 

In addition, the California Constitution says that only citizens may vote. There may be an exception for certain local elections, but a court would probably end up having to rule on Chiu’s proposed measure.

For most people, a school board election is like any other election: People you’ve never heard of make a bunch of vague promises and then, if they win, do whatever they want to do anyway. Allowing greater participation in that system may be of some help to noncitizens, but will be a great help to politicians who appeal to noncitizens. Know of any?

Supes try to take transit power away from mayor

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, board President David Chiu announced plans to change the way members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors are appointed. Currently, all seven are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Board of Supervisors. Chiu’s proposal would give the mayor three appointments, supervisors three appointments and have one chosen by joint agreement of the mayor and the president of the board.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced his intention to alter the way members of the Recreation and Park Commission are appointed. Right now, the mayor appoints all seven members. Mirkarimi’s proposal would mandate three appointees by the mayor, three by supervisors and one chosen jointly by the mayor and the board.

Finally, Supervisor David Campos introduced a measure to amend the method of appointing Rent Board members. The current five-person board would be expanded to seven and instead of the mayor appointing all members, he or she would appoint three, the Board of Supervisors would appoint three and the mayor and board president would jointly agree on one final member.

And let’s not forget that Proposition C on the June 8 ballot would split the appointments to the Film Commission. Instead of all 11 being appointed by the mayor, the mayor would appoint six and the Board of Supervisors would appoint five.

Are you seeing a trend here?

Section 3.100 of the City Charter gives the mayor the power to appoint members of boards and commissions “unless otherwise specifically provided.” Under that section, the mayor makes the appointments and the Board of Supervisors can remove those appointees by a two-thirds vote. Membership to at least a dozen bodies is handled this way.

However, increasingly the appointment process is being “otherwise specifically provided” to create a shift of power away from the Office of the Mayor and toward the Board of ­Supervisors.

Since 2000, the charter has been amended to allow more control by supervisors to decide the membership of the following:

  • Board of Appeals: March 2002
  • Planning Commission: March 2002
  • Police Commission: November 2003
  • Public Utilities Commission: June 2008

Now presented with changes to the Film Commission, SFMTA board, Rent Board and Recreation and Park Commission, we must be cognizant of the bigger picture. Are structural changes to government the proper way to respond to a dislike of the current administration or their appointees? Will more input by supervisors fix the purported problems? Will there be unintended consequences?

With Room 200 up for grabs in the near future, the answers to these questions will only become more important.

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Melissa Griffin

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