Larry Mazzola, Jr.
Photo by Luke Thomas
By Hope Johnson
April 14, 2009
Supervisors loyal to Mayor Gavin Newsom have maneuvered to force the appointment of an unqualified and inexperienced candidate to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District board (GGTD), a Fog City Journal inquiry has revealed.
Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu and Bevan Dufty provided the required four signatures to circumvent a lower level Rules Committee ruling that rejected Local 38 Assistant Business Manager Larry Mazzola, Jr. from appointment consideration on the grounds he is unqualified and lacks the necessary experience to oversee important transportation projects.
Mazzola, himself, readily conceded during a March 5 Rules Committee hearing that he is not knowledgeable of transportation issues, but wants the appointment anyway.
Despite Mazzola’s shortcomings, San Francisco Labor Council Executive Director Tim Paulson said Mazzola remains labor’s preferred and only candidate.
“We have not put any other names forward,” Paulson responded to FCJ inquiry, but declined to comment on whether labor intended to forward alternative candidates for consideration.
Supervisor David Campos, who provided the swing vote against Mazzola’s appointment during a March 19 Rules Committee meeting, said: “I think the process is that, if a committee wants to go forward with someone, then they would make that positive recommendation – and the committee didn’t do that with respect to the main applicant.”
Mazzola’s lack of experience, poor committee interview performance and acquiescence of Local 38′s malicious smear campaign against Supervisor Chris Daly’s 2006 re-election bid, led to the continuation of the appointment item after Mazzola was rejected, to provide time for labor to forward a qualified applicant.
“It was important as much as possible to maintain a labor presence, at least open it up to see if there was anyone else in labor who could apply,” Campos said.
Though the second seat on the GGTD has traditionally been awarded to labor, labor representation is not legally required and it is possible that transportation expert David Snyder, who was rejected by the Rules Committee in deference to labor, now stands to be awarded the appointment over Mazzola when the recalled item is presented for a floor vote during today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Snyder is the Transportation Policy Director for SPUR and former Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
Despite media reports suggesting resistance to Mazzola’s appointment is politically motivated, the Rules Committee discussed at length the qualifications of all applicants.
“The committee has had some pretty extensive hearings on this particular appointment,” Campos said. “We have certainly looked into the matter thoroughly.”
“The Rules Committee acted, as far as I’m concerned, on the labor candidate before us, and it was not to recommend,” Campos added.
How the vote will play out today cannot be easily gauged. Because Mazzola is unqualified and labor has not put forth an alternative candidate, Supervisors will have to resolve an unspoken conflict that pits future labor re-election support against principles of good governance and constituent representation over special interests.
Though the Board of Supervisors has the option to sever the item for a separate vote on both applicants, it is expected the item will be sent back to committee to force labor to do as the Rules Committee previously requested.
“I don’t know what my colleagues are thinking,” Campos said, “but I think I’ve made it clear where I am on this individual candidacy. If they’re asking for an up or down vote, be careful what you ask for.”
Luke Thomas contributed to this report.