San Francisco's Presidio receives unnatural interest from New York representative 

When a politician says, “I proposed this amendment without any disrespect to any member of this House,” you can bet that the opposite is true. And that’s just what Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said when last week when he proposed cutting $15 million in federal funding from the Presidio Trust, which oversees the Presidio park here in San Francisco. (Note that Rep. Nancy Pelosi says she’ll get the money put back in the Senate version.) Of course, Reed would have us believe that it had nothing to do with sticking it to our representative Pelosi, whose name he pungently invoked while campaigning for the congressional seat he won in November 2010.

Reed explained that his focus is not on Pelosi, it is on staving off Armageddon. He proposed cutting the Presidio funds because “we face a national crisis that goes to our very existence for generations to come, a nation that won’t be here for our children and our grandchildren.” Funding the final year of a public-private park partnership (the Presidio must be financially independent by 2012) will mean the end of the United States? Well, you just can’t argue with that logic.

You see, Reed has apparently spent some part of his first four months as a congressman for western New York investigating the finances of a national park in San Francisco. For no particular reason, I’m sure. According to Reed, “My staff and I have uncovered that this park is at the point where it can be self-sufficient on its own.” Of course, this was his duty, as he explained, “No line of our spending shall be left under stones. We shall uncover each stone.”

Of course, Reed’s status as a world-class stone uncoverer might make more sense if he had not just voted against saving $415 million this year (and $10 billion to $12 billion in the next decade) by eliminating defense funding for the V-22 Osprey, a clumsy hybrid helicopter/airplane that even Dick Cheney called “a turkey” and tried repeatedly tried to kill when he was Secretary of Defense.

Or if he had supported a bill proposed by fellow Republican Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., that would cut $502 million from various procurement, research and innovation programs in the defense department budget. Or the one proposed by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would have cut $18.75 million from the $75 million spent annually by the Department of Defense to pay 65 boards and commissions for studies and advice.

It looks like throwing uncovered stones is easier when you live in a special high-grade glass house built by the Defense Department.

With Hennessey done, Mirkarimi off to the races

The arresting hurrah you heard last Friday was Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi reacting to the news that Sheriff Mike Hennessey will not run for re-election this November.

Mirkarimi has made no secret of his aspirations for Hennessey’s office, but as long as Hennessey wanted the position, no one could unseat the popular sheriff, and few dared to even try.

Mirkarimi’s term is not set to expire until January 2013, so if he were to win the race to be sheriff, whoever is elected mayor would appoint someone to take Mirkarimi’s seat as District 5 supervisor for about a year.

Should that person be a moderate, the landscape of the board would tilt to five moderates and five progressives, with Supervisor Malia Cohen as the swing vote.

I expect Cohen will sport a tasteful “Mirkarimi for Sheriff” button this fall.

Special elections aren’t ringing our Bell

On March 8, voters in the City of Bell get to recall and replace the City Council vampires accused of slurping from the public trough while 16 percent of its citizens were unemployed. (Three of the council members, inexplicably and inexcusably, refuse to resign.) If only all the special elections this year were so fascinating. Here is the outlook for other election calendars.

- Next Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to put the San Francisco Board of Education pay raise Charter Amendment before the voters on June 7. That proposal authorizes salaries for School Board members at a rate of $25,000 per year from the school district budget with no health care or pension benefits. (Also set for a June 7 ballot is a charter amendment that would allow Ed Lee to return to his nerdatorium as the city administrator after his tour of duty as interim mayor expires. However, the Ethics Commission and the Board of Supervisors can get together and authorize this special reappointment without the voters and they probably will, thus removing this issue from the ballot.)

- On the state level, we have Gov. Jerry Brown, who early on in his tenure promised to hold a special election for revenue measures to fill about half the state’s budget gap. June 7 is the oft-cited election date, in part because the state’s budget year is from July 1 to June 30, so whatever the voters pass can get added right into the thirsty treasury. However, getting the two-thirds majority vote required to call a special election is no easy task and, while the exact deadline is debatable, the text of any measure for a June election has to be ready to go by the end of March.

The latest rumor is that Brown and his supporters need more time to get the right tax proposals and the two-thirds vote, so there may be a push to pass a patch of a budget to get us from June to September and then have a special statewide election in the fall.

- In special elections being held throughout the state on either March 8 or May 3, no fewer than 11 school districts (but not San Francisco) will vote on whether to assess themselves a parcel tax to fund local schools. The amounts vary, but almost all are in the $100 per parcel range and would remain in effect for anywhere from four to eight years. All of these parcel taxes would require a two-thirds vote to pass. San Francisco passed parcel taxes for educational resources in June 2008 and June 2010.

In a wobbly economy and with voter frustration still simmering, special elections in this city and throughout the state in 2011 will be big fights over little resources. The only measure guaranteed to pass is the one being held in the City of Bell.

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Melissa Griffin

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