Port of San Francisco spends to bring in revenue 

It’s burdened by rotting piers, crumbling historic buildings and stalled development projects, but the Port of San Francisco spent close to $80,000 sending its employees around the world, throwing parties for cruise lines and buying meals that cost hundreds of dollars.

But city, Port and business officials were quick to defend the expenses, crediting the trips for bringing in millions of dollars in cruise and cargo revenue.

According to data provided by the city controller, 11 employees at the Port were reimbursed more than $2,500 in expenses in 2009. The highest payments went to Maritime Director Peter Dailey, who was reimbursed $25,000, and Maritime Marketing Director Jim Maloney, reimbursed more than $17,000.

Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said these expenses are directly related to an increase in cruise and cargo business the Port has seen in recent years.

For example, when asked about a $10,700 anniversary party the Port hosted for Princess Cruises last year, which Dailey placed on his personal credit card and was later reimbursed for by The City, Dunn Martin said that figure was miniscule compared to the revenue the Port’s relationship with Princess has brought The City.

Princess Cruise is the Port’s leading cruise customer and has invested $3 million in city-owned dry docks, and also committed to help construct power hookups for cruise ships, Dunn Martin said. Business trips and meetings over meals have helped convince Crystal Cruise Line and Oceana Cruise Line to home-port vessels in San Francisco and Disney Cruise Line to stop in San Francisco for the first time in 2011.

Though The City will see fewer cruise passengers this year than last year — 150,000 compared to 173,000 — in 2011, The City should see a jump to 190,000 passengers. The Port has boasted that every time a cruise ship comes in, tourists spend $275,000.

Despite these successes, Dunn Martin said the Port has reduced its maritime promotion budget by 27 percent this year.

In fact, the Port is operating precisely as it should, and as all other ports do, said Convention and Visitors Bureau President Joe D’Alessandro.

“Every other port is out there doing it, so if you just sit here in San Francisco, you’re not going to get the business. And if you don’t get the business, you won’t get the revenue to fix those piers and historic buildings,” D’Alessandro said. “It’s exactly how the private sector conducts business, and if we don’t let the public sector conduct business like the private sector, they’ll fail.”

In fact, the Port should consider investing more in these travel expenses, said Dennis Conaghan, executive director of the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, which is affiliated with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

“They’re not actually spending very much, from my perspective,” he said. “If you don’t get out there and be competitive and let people know who you are and what you have to offer, you’ll be left behind.”


Airport officials use travel to generate interest in city

The Port of San Francisco isn’t the only public agency in The City with a large expense account.

Employees at San Francisco International Airport were reimbursed $85,676 last year and jetted around the world in an attempt to drum up business for the airport.

The airport paid for trips to France, Mexico, Taiwan, India and Dubai between December 2008 and December 2009.

Airport General Manager John Martin was reimbursed $4,662 for a dinner meeting he hosted for the California Airport Directors in March 2009, and also was paid to travel to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Redding and Washington, D.C.

Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda said the dinner meeting was cleared because all airport directors in the region host a quarterly meeting in a hotel dining area for other directors and their staffs.

“It goes round-robin as to who hosts it,” she said. “Many other jurisdictions give executives credit cards to pay for things like this; in our county we don’t. They must submit receipts through the controller. Our reimbursement procedures are more strict.”

Asked for more details about what the airport gained from the travel, SFO spokesman Mike McCarron noted that, like the Port, the airport is an enterprise agency, meaning that it’s self-supporting and does not draw tax dollars. He declined to comment further.

— Katie Worth

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Katie Worth

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