Friday, September 17, 2010

The "admirable" Dennis Herrera?

Ken Garcia thinks that Dennis Herrera has been "admirable" as City Attorney:

Let the record show that Dennis Herrera has been a fine city attorney for San Francisco, a strong advocate for consumer rights and vigilant watchdog for the role of good government. Let the record also show that Herrera has proved himself to be a man of high principle, honest and generally even-handed when it comes to representing The City, its myriad clients and juggling its often-complex litigation.

But the record on how Herrera handled the litigation on the city's Bicycle Plan is evidence to the contrary. As soon as Judge Warren issued his injunction against the city way back in 2006, Herrera knew that, sooner or later, the city would have to do an environmental impact review (EIR) of the ambitious project that proposed redesigning city streets---taking away traffic lanes and parking spaces to make bike lanes---to benefit cyclists to the detriment of everyone else who uses city streets.

Herrera knew that you can't get an injunction in the first place without convincing a judge that you are likely to prevail when a hearing on the merits is held, which the City Attorney's website confirms: "June 20, 2006: Judge James L. Warren grants petitioners’ request for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the City from implementing projects contained in the Bicycle Plan, finding that they would likely prevail in their argument that the City was required to prepare an EIR for the plan."[emphasis added]

If you're a lawyer in private practice, you would be guilty of malpractice if you pursued litigation at your client's expense with little chance of prevailing. At the very least, you have to inform your client that he has little chance of prevailing. But when you're City Attorney you can freely spend the taxpayers' money to engage in litigation pursued for political reasons. Herrera should have told the Board of Supervisors way back in 2006, when the injunction was first issued, that the city would eventually have to do an EIR on the ambitious Bicycle Plan project, that it would be sensible to do it then and save everyone a lot of time---and a lot of the taxpayers' money.

If you want to be Mayor of San Francisco, however, you want to have the powerful Bicycle Coalition on your side, or, at the very least, you don't want to appear to be lukewarm in support of their agenda. The Bicycle Coalition of course never thought that an EIR on the Bicycle Plan needed to be done, that the injunction and the eventual court order requiring the city to do the EIR was merely an unnecessary obstacle in the pursuit of its agenda.

The Bicycle Coalition kept the political pressure on the city to try several times to lift the injunction before the EIR was finished. Those attempts were mostly unsuccessful, and they cost city taxpayers a lot of money. But Dennis Herrera won't have to worry about opposition from the city's bike people when he runs for mayor of San Francisco next year.

Herrera then hits us with a big bill for the city's compiling a completely unnecessary adminitrative record, which sends an intimidating message to other uppity citizens or neighborhood groups, whether "progressive" or not, considering litigation against the city.

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