Resolution creates a pointless scuffle 

Each week, the Board of Supervisors can consider items on an “imperative agenda.” Resolutions on that list escape usual public notice requirements because they are, supposedly ... imperative. That is to say, there is an immediate need to pass them.

Despite its name, items on the agenda are rarely urgent. “Proclaiming April 2009 Autism Awareness Month” and “celebrating the opening of the new Portola Branch Library,” along with commending retiring employees, all have been called “imperative” and then passed by the board. This is allowed to go on because the public doesn’t really care that we were not given 30 days’ notice that July 1 of this year was going to be declared “Julie Ledbetter Day.” 

That all hell broke loose because of an imperative agenda item Tuesday was therefore very surprising.

It all began simply enough. On Nov. 18, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier introduced a resolution declaring the obvious: San Francisco is an abortion-rights city. And as such, we are opposed to the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts Amendment to the Affordable Health Care for America Act being considered by the U.S. Senate. (The Stupak amendment prohibits federal funding for “any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion,” with some exceptions.)
At the Nov. 24 board meeting, Supervisor Chris Daly asked to be added as a co-sponsor of the resolution and requested a committee hearing on this super-duper important matter.

On Friday, having learned that the Senate was planning to vote on the amendment Dec. 23 or 24, Alioto-Pier, along with the other two female board members — Carmen Chu and Sophie Maxwell — pulled the resolution out of committee (where it had yet to be heard) and put it before the full board at the last meeting of the year so The City could be on record as opposing the amendment in time for the vote.

No big deal, right? The full board would just approve the resolution at the Dec. 15 meeting, a copy would be sent to Washington, D.C., and a congressional aide would use it as wrapping paper on a gift for a Republican friend.

But Daly really wanted the committee hearing. And he was not at all happy that he didn’t get that hearing. He said he’s concerned that the amendment is a straw man that will be dropped by Republicans in the Senate in exchange for Democrats removing the public option from health care reform legislation. Apparently, that would have been discussed in a hearing. His suggested alternative to the resolution was a letter to Congress stating that the public option should be preserved, along with women’s reproductive rights.

Alioto-Pier seemed surprised at Daly’s refusal to support the resolution without a committee hearing. Even I was wondering what the fuss was about. I mean, the board can (and did) pointlessly demand troop withdrawal from Afghanistan without a hearing, but not this?

Aside from the fact that there is absolutely zero love lost between Daly and Alioto-Pier, at one point Daly called her maneuver to pull the bill from committee and put it before the full board a “Bill Barnes creation.” Barnes, you may remember, used to be Daly’s legislative aide and is now Alioto-Pier’s legislative aide.

Later, claiming that it was not urgent enough to be on the imperative agenda (unlike, say autism month), Daly was the sole vote against the resolution. Imperative agenda items need a unanimous vote in order to pass, so Alioto-Pier’s proposal failed.

“I think that he has some personal stuff there that he needs to work through,” Alioto-Pier told me. “But he should not be working it out at the board meeting, and shouldn’t be taking it out on the women of San Francisco.”


Committee brouhaha brewing among progressives, moderates

The deadline to submit proposed City Charter amendments for the June 8 ballot has come and gone, leaving seven initiatives in its wake. We are still early in the process of sorting out the ballot, but you can bet voters will be weighing in on several major proposals — right alongside candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee.

The committee decides which ballot initiatives and candidates for office get the (very important) Democratic Party endorsement. In June 2008, progressives won enough seats to take control and leadership of the committee, electing former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin as chairman.

Moderates want control back, and progressives want to keep — and expand — their own numbers. The only problem is that elections to the committee are in June, when no one wants to vote.

So, as the June 8 ballot takes shape, watch as moderates and progressives alike offer up charter amendments, ordinances and policy statements aimed at getting their supporters out to the polls.

 

Board off-days stop short

When the Board of Supervisors didn’t meet Sept. 29 on account of Yom Kippur, nerds like me could not pass up the chance to make fun of the fact that the sole Jewish supervisor (Bevan Dufty) was at City Hall working that very day because the holiday ended the day before.

Far from being outraged by yet another example of government employees enjoying a celebrity schedule, most of the feedback I got was positive.

“Let ’em take the rest of the year off!” and “One less day for them to cause trouble” were typical responses.

Back in September, board President David Chiu assured snickering, inquiring minds that he would look into removing the Jewish holiday for next year, and he did. On Tuesday, the board passed its official calendar for 2010.

Next year, the board’s schedule will be unaffected by Yom Kippur. Instead, there will be no meeting on the Tuesday after the Fourth of July — one of 34 total days off for the board in 2010.

I have a hunch that for many of my fellow San Franciscans, that won’t be nearly enough.

 

Correction

Melissa Griffin’s Nov. 23 column said, “Calling 911 from a cell phone in San Francisco gets you a police station in Vallejo.” Approximately 30 percent of all calls to 911 from a cell phone in San Francisco go to a California Highway Patrol office in Vallejo. The remaining 70 percent are answered by The City’s own 911 dispatch center.

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Melissa Griffin

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