Friday, November 29, 2013

The Chronicle rewrites recent city history

Supervisor Wiener, SFBC photo

This is what last Sunday's Chronicle (Big ideas out at City Hall, nuts-and-bolts issues in) calls "ground-breaking legislation":

Not long ago, the domed building[City Hall] was a veritable factory of love-it-or-hate-it policies that were the first of their kind in the nation: the thousands of illegal same-sex weddings in 2004, mandatory sick leave in 2006, universal health care and a ban on plastic bags in 2007, a ban on cigarette sales in drugstores in 2008, mandatory composting in 2009, the ban on free toys in Happy Meals in 2010.

Gay marriage and health care are big issues, but the rest are more or less trivial. Odd that the long article doesn't mention homelessness or Care Not Cash, which was put on the ballot in 2002 by then-Supervisor Newsom, who then rode the issue into the mayor's office in 2003. Especially odd since the Chronicle that year ran Kevin Fagan's fine Shame of the City series on homelessness.

Odd too that the Chronicle quotes former supervisor Angela Alioto without referring to her important role as a Newsom appointee in reforming the city's policies on homelessness.

"The supervisors had the guts to do them[big issues] even though they weren't pothole, local issues," she said, saying she doesn't see that same kind of bravery now. "There's not a lot of passion going on."

Alioto is being kind. The present supervisors are dim bulbs too timid politically to tackle anything that strays from the City Hall "family" party line. They are all keeping their heads down and waiting for a chance at higher office.

The Chronicle throws another bouquet to Newsom for his gay marriage initiative in February, 2004, even though that provided Republicans with a national issue that helped re-elect President Bush in November. The callow, newly-elected mayor---who soon showed other serious impulse-control issues---was so eager to make headlines he couldn't wait until after the November election.

Asked to name their signature pieces of legislation, the current supervisors came up with a list that'll never earn them a guest appearance on "Nightline"---or "The Daily Show." Many of them hemmed and hawed, and then finally came up with legislation including changing the way the city funds retiree health care and reforming the California Environmental Quality Act appeals process, the way in which citizens can seek supervisors' help in blocking construction projects over environmental concerns...

Supervisor Wiener's bogus CEQA reform actually makes it harder for "citizens" to oppose bad City Hall-approved projects. Still waiting for Wiener to provide some actual examples of abuse of the CEQA process, since the examples he provided---the North Beach library and the Bicycle Plan---are obviously false.

Wiener, who is proud of his CEQA efforts, said, "It's not about whether something is the first of its kind. It's about whether we're being productive making public policy." He added that he and his colleagues may not be full of pizzazz, but they're focusing on important measures---like the 2011 voter-approved streets bond to pay for filling potholes---that previous boards neglected. "Some of them are just things that are decades overdue that this board and this mayor have been able to get done that past boards and mayors have not been able to get done," he said.

Supervisor Wiener is more of a media slut than a serious reformer. Like Newsom's poorly-timed gay marriage initiative, a number of his initiatives were poorly-considered. And the street bond pushed by Wiener was a dubious achievement: the $248 million bond will end up costing city taxpayers $437,249,617 when the interest is added.

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