Newsom's transparency is admirable 

This is good. At least a start. Mayor Gavin Newsom’s post-scandal candor — scandor? — is nice to witness in a politician. Honesty and openness can expiate a world of, well, sins, and when the mayor last week owned up to his failures and promised redoubled efforts to advance The City’s welfare, many San Franciscans found themselves in a forgiving mood. Witness his healthy fundraising efforts.

It’s satisfying, sadly so, when Newsom acknowledges the climbing murder rate. Earlier this year his office allowed local media to believe, owing to mysterious methodology, thathomicides in The City had actually fallen over his reign. They had, but over a single, one-year period. In fact, over a period of years there has been a significant increase.

In 2003, the year before Newsom took the mayor’s oath, 69 murders were committed in The City. The following year: 88. The year after that: 96. Last year: 85. In the first month and a half of this year: 20. The numbers don’t exactly cover the mayor’s policing policies in glory.

"I’ve failed you," the mayor told members of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. "We’ve seen an increase in homicides since I’ve been mayor and I need to reconcile that. Every mayor in every big city in America would say the same thing. ... But that doesn’t make it right, and it’s not an excuse."

That’s a good posture, an honest one, and we recommend it to elected officials everywhere.

Another admirable gesture: Newsom has made 369 policy promises since his 2003 campaign. Perhaps smarting from making too many promises, he has posted them on a computer database, accessible to anyone at www.sfgov.org, and encouraged citizens to track their progress toward fulfillment. That’s bold and novel, indicating that advances in technology really have forced accountability on political leaders.

Newsom may be learning the new world of transparency well ahead of other politicians. He has not, however, downshifted from his promise-making speed, perhaps supposing that a flurry of new pledges distances him from his troubles. Nor has his office become any more willing to share public information in general, and despite his welcome comments at the SPUR speech the mayor himself has been less accessible than usual.

The mayor already is talking up his favorite brainstorms: a new coliseum adjacent AT&T Park or in Bayview-Hunters Point, a park patrol in Golden Gate Park, a campaign to entice filmmakers to The City, a one-year Muni Fast Pass, more tinkering with The City’s tax regimen, a possible revenue or general-obligation bond to fill a $35 million to $50 million gap in The City’s branch library improvement program ...

Stop!

What? Obligate taxpayers to cover what could be municipal mismanagement? While we like the mayor’s public statement of accountability, there remains an unlearned lesson — namely that accountability requires a more modest role for government.

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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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