Mayor must stay — for San Francisco 

If anyone wants to know why Mayor Gavin Newsom would consider running for an office that he all but sneered at not long ago, the answer comes in three parts: availability, opportunity and tradition.

As in, a nothing job in politics is still better than no job at all.

Two weeks ago, I doubt Newsom was really considering a run for lieutenant governor, especially after setting his sights on the Governor’s Office, only to walk away with one of the biggest disappointments of his career. But it also sheds light on his seemingly recent about-face — politics is now his career, and winnable open seats don’t pop up overnight like pot dispensaries.

It’s not just the polls that suggest Newsom could all but walk into the seat, or even that he doesn’t have to raise nearly the amount of money needed to run for the top spot (a role he clearly hates). He knows he’s a mayor in his final term who’s facing the prospect of grappling with the worst budget deficit in city history. He could stay in the Mayor’s Office until January 2012, or move into a statewide post and try to raise his profile during the next four years, if elected.

"The inevitable is here whether I want it to be or not," Newsom told me. "I won’t be mayor forever, and my passion is politics. That’s something I clearly need to look at — and see if I could make that job have some impact."

Newsom told me he was making the first serious calls to officials this week about the race to see where the endorsements were lined up, and he’s putting together a team for a potential run.

Currently, Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles city councilwoman whose family is a mainstay of that’s city’s political establishment, is the nominal front-runner for the post. Newsom knows that whatever decision he makes, he’s going to upset lots of people — but none more than supporters who will see a run for lieutenant governor as an abdication of his duties since, if he wins, the Board of Supervisors will pick his replacement.

That’s about as scary as it gets, and why business officials are trying to convince Newsom to stay.

"Honestly, that’s my biggest concern," he said.

And it should be. For the good of The City, he needs to put his ambitions on ice.


Mayoral hopeful Dufty is key vote on garages

Next week, San Francisco supervisors will vote on a law to prohibit new garages in the North Beach-Russian Hill area, legislation that will have an impact well beyond that corner of The City.

Some of the social engineers on the Planning Commission already said they think this is a swell idea,
one that should be copied in other neighborhoods.
And if you want to give up your property rights and have the Board of Supervisors determine whether you can build an addition on your house, then this is the opening salvo.

The key to the vote rests with mayor-wannabe Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who wavered when the ordinance came up for its first reading, saying he had concerns with it — particularly the potential cost to homeowners. The legislation will almost certainly pass without Dufty’s vote, but if he gives it a thumbs down, Mayor Gavin Newsom probably will have enough votes to veto it, which he likely will do.

Supervisor David Chiu, author of the legislation, said it’s needed to stop Ellis Act evictions in his district. But most people who have looked at the planning documents believe the number of evictions has been greatly exaggerated.


Lack of Tasers for SF officers nearly criminal

Police officers in almost every big city in America have been using Tasers for years, and San Francisco is just now getting involved in the debate.

Who knows, maybe we’ll make laptops available to our officers someday.

It borders on criminal that our officers are not armed with stun guns, which are almost universally thought to be a less-lethal weapon for disarming suspects. The fact that police Chief George Gascón’s push for officers to be equipped with Tasers is considered controversial just shows how out of touch San Francisco is with the rest of the country.

And no, that’s not a good thing.

The Police Executive Research Forum, which studied the use of Tasers in departments across the country, found nearly an 80 percent drop in officer injuries and a 40 percent drop in suspect injuries when the devices are deployed — which is to say, they’re a lot safer than guns. That statistic was born through a study of the San Francisco Police Department, which concluded that one-third of 15 officer-involved shootings might have been avoided with Tasers.

Even the Sheriff’s Department uses Tasers, and officials there say they are a mighty effective deterrent since being zinged with electricity is not an act most people generally embrace.

The faster the Police Commission adopts the use of Tasers, the sooner it can get on with its real business: clearing out the backlog of disciplinary cases, some of which probably should have been dismissed four years ago.


Do Oakland A’s know the way to San Jose?

Maybe we can make a deal with our South Bay neighbors — they can have the Oakland A’s as long as they give up their dream of grabbing the San Francisco 49ers.

And they can keep the Sharks.

Now that Santa Clara has high hopes of landing the football team, San Jose has started a new push to give the A’s a different area code. But there’s a little sticking point: The San Francisco Giants have sole rights to the San Jose market through the ruling body of Major League Baseball.

The San Jose Mercury News opined this week that San Francisco’s claim on the South Bay baseball market is "specious."

That may be so, but it’s still real, and no amount of huffing and puffing will make it go away. For that to happen, it will take 75 percent of the 30 owners of major-league teams.

Negotiations, anyone?

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Ken Garcia

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