With h brown
Court Jester reviews Rules Committee hearing
March 16, 2007
"OK. We'll find out later what this is really about."
(Ammiano prefaces vote for Peskin ordinance)
The whole crowd laughed because they were all thinking the same
thing: Board prez Aaron Peskin shimmied through another ordinance
yesterday that more than doubles the power of the Assessment Appeals
Board 2, and extend jurisdiction into Chris Daly's district.
District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Ominously, it was Item
Oh, Tom voted for it, but he was suspicious, as was everyone
in the audience (I actually attended) who has watched Peskin of
A suspicious Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Rules Committee Chair
That was at Rules Committee today.
The new ordinance will allow anyone who owns property in that
portion of Daly's district downtown or SOMA and wants to appeal
a tax assessment on a property either: worth up to 50 million
dollars, or: having 4 units or less, to be considered before AAB2.
Aaron laid it off as "balancing the work load" but I
couldn't help wondering who this change might benefit. And, who's
on Board Two? For that matter, who's on Board One? Or, even more
importantly, who's on third?
Marcia Rosen looked fab
Normally I don't flirt with married women. OK, that's not true
but it's the right thing to say.
I always sneak a wink at Rosen when I'm in the Board's den and
she's there presenting some matter or other for the Redevelopment
Authority she heads. She always smiles and chuckles.
Redevelopment Executive Director Marcia Rosen
Don't believe I've ever exchanged a word with the lady and that's
kind of cool. I mean, I've always pretty much despised everything
connected with Redevelopment, so it's nice to see at least one
lovely rose sprouting in that minefield.
Who is Linda Cheu?
Next Tuesday the Board will confirm her as the newest member
of the Redevelopment Authority's ruling body. I watched her sail
through the committee and then I went home to google her name
and see if she came up working for Warren Hellman.
Darn, I'm good. Seems she works as a Senior Associate of some
sort for the 'Economics Research Associates'. Founded by? Why,
it's Warren Hellman.
Recall the time a couple of years back when this body pushed
Hellman's buddy, Tom Wiesel's bid to have San Francisco cover
the cost of his SF Grand Prix bike race? Anyway, Economics Research
Associates predicted Wiesel's event would not only pay for itself,
but bring in millions. Course, it lost money and you picked up
So, anyway, that's where Ms. Cheu worked and now she's going
to bring that good judgment to Redevelopment where billions are
doled out to people like Wiesel. But, I'm sure she'll be impartial
and that Hellman will have no influence over her whatever.
$5.43 million for vulnerable voting machines
My buddy, John Arntz was there to "capture" 5.43 million
in federal HAVA funds (Help America Vote Act). HAVA was set up
by Republicans, as best I can figure, to automate election fraud.
Yeah, it's hard to fill out all those absentee ballots. Anyway,
the kernel here is that these machines can be programmed to throw
an election, erase their fix and no one will know.
That's because they aren't 'open source' programs which would
allow them to be checked for accuracy. They have labeled how they
count your votes as being none of your business (proprietary).
Arntz assured the committee that he wasn't going to use the
money to order the shaky technology. Not just yet.
The main attraction
The coolest people came to see the hearing exploring the needs
of the sorely understaffed, Ethics Commision. Executive Director
John St. Croix was a man tip-toing over a razor sharp picket fence.
Ethics' Executive Director John St. Croix
Hey, his department is sorely understaffed. However, it is intentionally
understaffed so's it can't do what the voters wanted it to do
when they passed Prop K that created it. You'd think St. Croix
would want a full staff.
On the other hand, the man is an 'at will' employee and that
means the commission can fire him at anytime. And the commission
(appointees of Mayor, Board, Public Defender, D.A. and Assessor)
is dominated by a Downtown thinking majority that doesn't want
a stronger commission.
Oddly, the Mayor, as a supervisor, supported making the Ethics
boss independent and free of influence from Room 200. Now, as
Mayor, Gavin's changed his mind.
So, you get the Civil Grand Jury Foreperson (Mary McCallister)
that studied Ethics and suggested full staffing and other changes
to properly implement Prop K. And, Joe Lynn, Ethics guru (spent
most of the last decade working at Ethics, first as staff, then
as a commissioner), describing best practices at similar agencies
around the state.
Civil Grand Jury Foreperson Mary McAllister
Ethics guru Joe Lynn, dutiful defender of ethics in governement
And, Bob Planthold from the Sunshine Task Force (formely, Chair
of the Ethics Commission). And, Rick Knee who is also with the
Sunshine Task Force. And, a number of City employees with anecdotal
evidence of the inadequacy of Ethics.
Transparency in government defender Bob Planthold
First Amendment defender Richard Knee
You get all of these people calling for full staffing (they've
been at 50% for 4 years because first, Willie Brown, then Newsom,
refused to budget staff for them). And, you get St. Croix saying
that he simply "wouldn't know what to do with them"
if the Board voted full staffing.
It was sad. St. Croix seems like a nice enough guy but he came
all the way from Boston and, let's face it, he's got one of those
mythological swords hanging over his neck 24/7. Ammiano finally
got him to say that perhaps he might be able to absorb another
half dozen or so of the sorely needed infusion of workers as long
as only two of them were investigators.
Lynn said that the best first step should be to put meetings
of the commission on SFGTV. For 32k, they'd have another couple
of thousand sets of eyes watching (and, re-watching) every hearing
and analyzing same.
So, I'm guessing that a half dozen new hires and TV coverage
is the best the City is going to get in the way of Ethics reform
this year. We're gonna see.
Daveed, from Peskin's office was friendly enough. I asked him
if he'd found out how much the breakwater in the Marina was going
to cost and he said it would be cheap. I asked if he'd seen tape
of the last hearing the Board had on the issue 5 years or so back
in which experts predicted a disaster if the City built the same
breakwater. He hadn't.
Peskin glared at me. He's pissed at me for suggesting that he's
hen pecked. I apologize, Aaron, and will leave family members
out of future columns until one becomes a candidate.
A glaring Board Prez Aaron Peskin
Elsbernd was friendly. He was surprised that I had bathed and
was wearing a tie. So was I. Ammiano was in a good mood and that's
a good thing. He'll be much better than Leno in the Assembly but
I ain't backing Campos to replace him.
A friendly and widely respected Supervisor Sean Elsbernd (left)
Michael Strickland was snapping pics for his civiccenterblog.com
(something like that) and was also in a great mood. What a gorgeous
Master of digital capture Michael
Even Barbara Meskunas was all aglow. This lady is one of the
quickest wits in the City and Ed Jew has wisely brought her in
to da Hall as a legislative aide (she's a past prez of the umbrella
group, Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. I think that
was Howard Epstein she was talking to in the hall. Maybe a twin.
All those silver fox Republican guys look alike to me.
Boris Delepine nodded gravely as he passed. Hell of a guy. John
Avalos sat in the back row with me for a few minutes.
I ran into Michael Cohen on the stairs as I was leaving (you
gotta cut back on the smoking, dude) and made my usual bad (big
kernel of truth) jokes about him being the head of the Dome's
'Billionaire Boys Club'.
Cheaper than a movie
Even if you don't know anyone, a couple of hours at City Hall
is fantastic entertainment. It's such an amazing building. I just
wander looking at the ever-changing art exhibits on the Ground
floor, all the way to the hearing rooms on 4. The light courts
(thanks for saving them, Willie) make you proud to be a resident,
and don't even get me started about the Board Chambers and the
h. brown is a 62 year-old keeper of sfbulldog.com,
an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h
is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and
a hard-living satirical muckraker. Email
h at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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