Taxi Cabs Hauling Trans-Fats to Budget Hearings; That's Right, the Board of Supervisors Are Back! It's ...

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By Benjamin Wachs
Finally! After a three week hiatus, the Board of Supervisors are back! Did you miss them?

Today they’re sitting down in their big comfy chairs again to help write laws and hold public hearings. But, don’t worry, they’re starting off slowly so as to avoid straining themselves. Lawmaking’s hard work, you know: you’ve got to train into it if you don’t want to pull a muscle.

Monday, January 7, 10 a.m. – Government Audit and Oversight Committee
The Supes start out slow this week with only one meeting on Monday and only one item on the agenda: Michela Alioto-Pier’s long-standing proposal to raise the “gate fee” for taxicabs.

I’ve written about this before, and not much has changed: right now each “full-service” taxi company can charge its drivers $91.50 for each 10-hour shift. Under Alioto-Pier’s proposal, they could charge $110. According to Alioto-Pier, this would help cab companies pay for incremental increases in the cost of doing business. According to the city Comptroller this would either: (a) cut into taxicab drivers’ income by about 12% or (b) force rates up to pay for the increase, costing taxi-taking San Franciscan’s about $19 million more each year.

What’s most interesting to me today is the language of the proposal. The bill is bursting with bureaucratically regulated hysteria.

Without a large “gate fee” increase, taxi companies may need to “curtail if not eliminate transportation services which are critical to both disadvantaged individuals citywide and numerous neighborhoods already suffering from perceived transportation deficiencies. The failure or the continuing impaired financial operation of full-service taxicab companies threatens the health, welfare, and safety of the people of the City and County.”

Oh the humanity! Whole neighborhoods could go without adequate taxi coverage! Who will keep us safe now?

Tuesday, January 8, 2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors
There’s a lot of old business at the first Supes meeting of the new year. They’re still talking about authorizing a skate park in Golden Gate Park; banning alcohol from children’s play areas; stop signs; traffic regulations; parking regulations; putting warnings on cough and cold medicine for young children; setting the permit fee for how many outdoor tables and chairs restaurants can have; prohibiting cooking and camping in city parks at night; and even more minutia that nobody cared about last year and still won’t care about now.

If they just didn’t do all that stuff, would anybody notice?

They’ll also be debating the affordable housing charter amendment again … but that you can expect people to pay attention to.

Wednesday, January 9, 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance Committee
Today begins the deliberations over the mayor’s budget proposal. Look for six more months of ugly, aggressive wrangling — 2008’s an election year, kids, and budget battles are always nasty in election years. Today it’s a public hearing called by Supes President and Budget Committee chairman Aaron Peskin. Tomorrow — just you wait — it will be war. Even if Chris Daly weren’t around, it would be war.

The committee will also examine a proposal by Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Ross Mirkarimi requiring city-hired companies that run shelter services to keep said shelters up to city-determined standards.

How amazingly sensible. Why don’t we do that already?

Thursday, January 10, 1 p.m. – City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee
San Francisco’s not exactly declaring war on trans-fats, but it’s definitely asking all its friends to point at them and say “fatt fatty fat fat!” whenever they walk by.

An ordinance proposed by Supervisors Maxwell, Peskin, and Ammiano would make banning trans-fats voluntary. Their “Trans Fat Free Program Ordinance” would “encourage restaurants located in the City and County of San Francisco to discontinue the use of artificial trans-fat in food served to customers by creating an incentive program.”

Too often in San Francisco “encouraged” means “there’s a man with a bucket of red paint just waiting around the corner, so we encourage you not to wear fur,” but this doesn’t seem to be one of those times. Instead, it means “if you want to participate in the latest health movement, pay the city $250 for the right to have us inspect your restaurant periodically (more than we already do). In return – if you qualify - we’ll give you a sticker designating you a ‘Trans Fat Free Restaurant.’”

Um … okay … if you really think it will help …

But, for the record, I don’t “encourage” you to do it.

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