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Overheard in Fog City

Luke Thomas
FCJ Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
Photo by Adam Aufdencamp

By Luke Thomas

January 30, 2008

Ain't no Sunshine

Fog City Journal caught up with Stuart Sunshine earlier today to ask him about his decision to step down as Newsom's point man on transportation issues.

The timing of Sunshine's decision begs for closer examination.

Sunshine, who begins his new position in the private sector as a consultant with Parsons Brinckerhoff in mid-March, has been the focus of recent reports slamming Mayor Gavin Newsom for siphoning Muni funds to pay for administration salaries and pay hikes, including Sunshine's $260,000 salary.

But the most questionable salary went to new hire Brian Purchia who developed a web site for Newsom's 2007 re-election campaign.

To make matters worse for himself, Newsom has defended the practice of robbing Muni to reward inner-circle loyalists while at the same time warning city departments to prepare for budget cuts and job losses.

Newsom's supercilious shell-game tactics reek of impropriety and hypocrisy, bordering on taxpayer abuse.

Exit Interview with Stuart Sunshine

FCJ: So, is it true that you're leaving the Newsom administration?

Sunshine: "It is true."

FCJ: When will you be leaving?

Sunshine: "My last day will probably be February 11th, somewhere around there, and I start my new position in mid-March."

FCJ: What's the reason for the sudden change?

Sunshine: "Working in government for sixteen years is not necessarily a sudden change. Clearly this is an opportunity that was presented to me to stay within this field, but to learn and grow in another environment, and a worldwide company such as PB is something that attracted me."

FCJ: If anyone were to ask you if you're being pushed out, what would your answer be?

Sunshine: "Absolutely not."

FCJ: Do you know who your replacement will be?

Sunshine: "That's up to the mayor and (Chief of Staff) Phil Ginsburg to work out."

FCJ: Does this have anything to do with the brouhaha over the Mayor siphoning off Muni funds to pay for administration salaries?

Sunshine: "It has absolutely nothing to do with that."

FCJ: How long have you been actively looking for a position outside of this administration?

Sunshine: "I wouldn't say actively looking. I get recruited all the time, throughout my years of running Muni or Parking and Traffic, or working for the three mayors that I've worked for… you get called all the time and this was an opportunity I just didn't want to pass up."

FCJ: Do you consider this part of a shakeup?

Sunshine: "I don't think it's a shakeup, but I don't get to write the headlines. I'm a longtime city employee who, I think, has a reasonably good reputation and I'm leaving, and people are a little shocked at that. I wouldn't say it's a shakeup."

FCJ: The timing of the announcement has raised questions about your stepping down as being part of a possible shakeup.

Sunshine: "I think that in my career, I have been working for various mayors and I sat on various requisitions and I have done jobs that are related to the requisitions that I sit on. The fact that Supervisor Peskin has raised this issue - you could ask him - it's absolutely not party to me and the value I bring to the MTA."

FCJ: Do you feel in any way, shape, or form, that you're the sacrificial lamb because of the heat the mayor's been taking over funding administration salaries with Muni funds?

Sunshine: "Absolutely not."

FCJ: When did you first tell the mayor that you were thinking about making a move?

Sunshine: "I've had conversations with him for months about my status and my desire to try this new venture."

FCJ: How did the mayor react?

Sunshine: "He's been very supportive."

FCJ: And when did you tell him about your decision to leave?

Sunshine: "A couple of days ago."

FCJ: Do you have a closing statement you would like to share?

Sunshine: "It's been a great opportunity working for three mayors and there's a lot of great people who work in City government and I think we've done a lot of good things, and I'm going to miss it."

FCJ: Will we not be seeing you around City Hall anymore?

Sunshine: "I'll be around."

FCJ: So the next time we see you'll be walking around City Hall wearing a lobbyist identification badge?

Sunshine: (Laughs).

Stuart Sunshine

Wade Crowfoot has a bunker mentality - What's he building in there?

Director of Climate Protection Initiatives Wade Crowfoot recreated a scene out of the movie Fargo today when he fled an interview with Fog City Journal.

Fog City Journal was inquiring about the nature of a complaint filed by Crowfoot with the City Attorney alleging Board President Aaron Peskin had threatened him.

"I'm not comfortable talking about this," Crowfoot repeated to Fog City Journal.

While asking for clarification about the complaint, Crowfoot got up from his desk and fled the interview.

Such actions beg the question: What's Crowfoot hiding from?

What's he building hiding in there?

Peskin responds to Crowfoot complaint

Following Crowfoot's abrupt departure, Fog City Journal tracked down Aaron Peskin to ask him about Crowfoot's complaint.

"The mayor' office is trying to make this about personality," Peskin told Fog City. "I am here to safeguard the money that Proposition-A sent to the MTA."

Peskin continued, "This is not about any individual person. It's not about threats. It's about doing the right thing with the taxpayers' money. It's that simple."

Asked if Crowfoot's characterization of being threatened was accurate, Peskin said, "I consider Wade a friend. We've had our fair share of differences. If he felt threatened, he certainly misinterpreted where I was coming from."

Wade Crowfoot and Aaron Peskin.

Peskin aide Davide Noyola added, "I don't doubt that it's an uncomfortable place to be given that this is money that's allocated for transit uses."

Ballard and Daly trade barbs

Asked what Newsom Communications Director Nathan Ballard thought of Supervisor Chris Daly's proposal to require lobbyists to wear identification badges at City Hall, Ballard said, "It's a little totalitarian isn't it?"

To which Daly responded, "You should ask the mayor's press secretary what he thinks about the State of Rhode Island."







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