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Better Late Than Never:

Matier & Ross get the story on this year's budget...
six months late

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Chris Daly, special to Fog City Journal

Reprinted with permission

December 4, 2007

In our first months in office in 2001, Matt Gonzalez announced his proposal to take over the Housing Authority. The proposal certainly had merit - a HUD audit found serious mismanagement and federal indictments rained on the agency's Section 8 program. But I expressed concern to Matt about the political repercussions. Certainly Willie Brown's political machine would counter with strong resistance and even accusations of racism, and besides, we didn't seem to have the votes.

Matt answered me, "Even if we don't win, time will prove us right," and forged ahead with my support. The principled but impolitic stance did not win enough votes on the Board of Supervisors, but it did provide a pillar for Matt's energetic, populist campaign for Mayor 2 years later.

June was a rough month. Standing alone at the Board of Supervisors, I challenged Gavin Newsom, his "white bread budget," and his $80 million giveaway to the Police Officers Association. Newsom cut my supplemental appropriation for affordable housing and programmed the monies into more police and pet projects.

In a speech at the June 19th Board meeting (that didn't get the same attention that a speech a couple of hours later did), I took issue with both Newsom's priorities and timing of making huge giveaways to campaign supporters during an election year. Newsom was blowing through enormous amounts of public money and, at the same time, racking up big endorsements for his reelection. However, in the newspaper editorials, it was only "Daly's Political Games" taken to task, and at the Board of Supervisors, I was removed from the Chair of the Budget Committee. Nothing of Newsom's maneuvering.

Mayor Gavin Newsom

Queue ahead six months. Matier & Ross finally get the budget story.

A cursory review of the Controller's budget math shows Newsom blew through over $150 million of our money in only 8 months - with the largest chunk, $30 million, going to the all-powerful Police Officers Association and another $13 million to symbolically important firefighters. Not that the contract giveaways were just for tit-for-tat support of the Mayor's reelection.

They're really gifts that keep on giving.

This year the San Francisco Firefighters PAC ponied up the first $5000 for Gavin's "Let's Really Work Together Committee". The POA followed with a $5000 check of their own. Firefighter President John Hanley told me that that was just the "cost of doing business." And to think that I thought that heroes weren't supposed to put themselves before others!

While it's clear that the Mayor's Office and the corporate press buried the story of Gavin's drunken spending until after Elections counted all the ballots, the Mayor's Budget Office released their budget instructions weeks earlier than normal this year. This may be a part of their attempt to block placement of the Affordable Housing Charter Amendment on next November's ballot.

They've painstakingly placed language of the increased burden of "$72 million in voter mandates" in every article and editorial on the subject - despite the fact that most of any increase in mandates comes just as a percentage of increased revenues to the City.

When asked where the Mayor's Office came up with $72 million anyway, Todd Rydstrom, Director of Budget & Analysis for the Controller, could only speculate that they added voter mandates and baseline growth line items which would produce a figure of only $65 million. Regardless, once again the Mayor is using the budget to run his political game.

This time I hope that the rest of us are a bit more on top of it.





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