Newsom’s Muni Budget Shell-Game Not New

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By Will Harper

By now you've probably read that Mayor Gavin Newsom is using money from other cash-strapped departments to pay the salaries of some of his aides. As Friday's Chron story conceded, Newsom isn’t the first mayor to engage in this budgetary shell-game. What the story doesn’t mention is that the issue came up last year during the budget process, but nothing ever happened.

Last April we wrote about how Stuart Sunshine, the mayor’s point-man on transportation, was drawing $128,388 (or 60 percent) of his $213,980 salary from MTA. At the time Supervisor Chris Daly had asked the budget and finance committee to examine the propriety of MTA paying part of Sunshine’s salary. (There was also a question as to why Sunshine was making more money than Newsom since the charter prohibits underlings from making more than the mayor.)

But the budget committee never ended up discussing Daly’s item and the whole matter quietly went away. It makes me wonder if the mayor’s numbers-crunchers saw that no one gave a shit about where Sunshine’s salary came from (from where the sun don’t shine?), so they figured no one would care this time around either.

The other day I called Daly and asked him why he gave up on the salary issue last year. He said he’d been battling with the Newsom machine over several things at the time and, well, you all may recall that Board Prez Aaron Peskin yanked Daly off the budget committee in June.

Around the time I wrote about Sunshine’s salary, the mayor’s office supplied me with a list of aides getting paid by other departments: Dan Sider, Newsom’s “greening director” ($99,476 from the Planning Department); David Miree, one of the mayor’s press flacks ($71,708 from the Human Services Department); Mikail Ali, then-head of the mayor’s office of criminal justice ($105,820 from the Police Department); Hydra Mendoza, the mayor’s education adviser ($112,398 from the Department of Children, Youth and Families).

This time around, seems like the mayor might not get off so easy. Supervisor Tom Ammiano told the Chron: "I and others have real concerns that the MTA budget is being used as a slush fund to pay for positions not related to the MTA. I think this is something that the public will care deeply about, and I'm hoping it will be cleared up."

Photo | L Taraval, circa 1979, courtesy of http://world.nycsubway.org


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