What committee picks mean for city 

The 2010 Board of Supervisors committee assignments are in! Remember that committees are where the magic happens. A bill can change or disappear in a committee like white socks in a washing machine, which is no big deal until something you care about is being heard in a committee and you end up with one pink sock. So pay attention.

Supervisors are allowed to request assignments, but board President David Chiu makes the ultimate decisions.

Here’s what you need to know:

Public Safety Committee

This committee will be a den of political posturing that will both amaze and bore all who dare to watch. Chiu made himself chairman — a move that only fuels rumors that he’s angling to be the next district attorney if Kamala Harris is elected as state attorney general. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is the vice chair, and he’s mulling a run for sheriff in 2011. The third member of the committee is mayoral hopeful Bevan Dufty. Expect fiery speeches, needless hearings and a dramatic increase in eye-rolling-induced injuries among police officers.

Budget and Finance Committee

Progressives will dominate this committee by a safe margin. Supervisors John Avalos, Ross Mirkarimi and Sean Elsbernd are the regular members, and supervisors Sophie Maxwell and David Campos will join in once budget negotiations begin this summer. Expect a lot of 4-1 votes with Elsbernd — as the only member with a demonstrated ability to understand math — on his own.

Joint City and School District Committee

If the hearings by this committee were aired on CBS, it would be called “Two and a Half Meetings.” It’s supposed to meet twice a month, but only got together seven times last year. The good part of three of those meetings was spent trying to talk about The City’s school assignment system without using the word “cluster” (no easy task). That committee may get interesting this year because it has a new member: Supervisor Chris Daly. It’s his only committee assignment.

Before you go thinking that Daly’s singular committee position is somehow punishment for his recent run-in with Chiu about Daly’s use of “that” word, think again. This setup actually allows Daly to be much more effective.

Allow me to explain. Each committee has three members. If two members of the same committee get together to talk about politics, that’s enough members to be a quorum — which is a Latin word meaning, “Eh, enough to get business done.” Where there’s a quorum, there’s effectively an official committee meeting. And where there’s a meeting, there has to be all kinds of bells and whistles like official notice and a chance for the public to be heard. 

Rather than risk running afoul of the rules, most supervisors simply don’t talk to fellow committee members about politics outside meetings. Last year, for example, Daly and Campos were both on the Rules Committee.

“I haven’t had a substantive conversation with [Campos] in a year. Campos and Avalos are my best hopes for carrying out my role on the board after I’m gone, so I really need to be able to talk to them,” Daly told me.

Now you see where I am going with this. When he’s not at the school committee trying to ban that book about environmental terrorism called “The Giving Tree,” Daly can groom his successors without worrying about violating the rules of the board. He’ll also have time to work on other campaigns. According to Daly, “[former Supervisor Aaron] Peskin needs me raising money.”

 

City officials wage war against cell phones

A few weeks ago, we learned Mistermayor will endorse a plan to require radiation levels to be listed next to cell phone prices at stores. In reading about this problem, I learned that one way to avoid the supposedly harmful effects of cell phone radiation is to keep the device away from you (read: text, don’t call) so part of me is glad to have a “real” reason to avoid human interaction. But at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, The City’s war on radio frequency energy went to a new level.

First, Supervisor David Campos introduced a resolution urging “the federal Environmental Protection Agency to study the health impacts of wireless facilities and if appropriate to establish a safe level of exposure to radio frequency radiation emissions.”  

According to Campos, “There remains considerable debate and a degree of uncertainty within the scientific community as to possible health effects to people, especially children, from exposure to extremely low frequency electromagnetic and radio frequency radiation.” 

Campos also is a co-sponsor of legislation proposed by Supervisor John Avalos on Tuesday that would “create new aesthetic standards for cell phone antennas.” The reason for the new rules is a “concern about proliferation of unsightly, ungainly cell phone antennas placed on our telephone poles.” Apparently, a working group that involves the Department of Public Works and the Planning Department has been drafting new guidelines and we can expect hearings on the proposed rules in the coming weeks.

To sum up City Hall and cell phone radiation:

They do not like it in our phones.
They do not like it near our homes.
They think antennas should look pretty.
These are the problems of our city.

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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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