SF Gov't InAction: Bye-bye Taxi Commission, hello Peaker Plants?

By Benjamin Wachs

Monday, May 5, 10 a.m. – Government Audit & Oversight Committee

Every once in a while you come across a meeting so packed with government that you think “It would take a crowbar to wedge one more relevant item in here!” Then you realize it could happen because there’s a crowbar appropriations bill right there on the agenda.

This is one of those meetings.

First let’s start with the big numbers. Did you know it’s expensive to renovate an airport?

The Supes will be appropriating $593,490,962 in bond revenue for capital improvement projects at the airport, and another resolution would approve the issuance of another $718 million “for the purpose of financing and refinancing the construction, acquisition, equipping and development of capital projects undertaken by the Airport constituting part of the Airport’s capital plan.”

That’s over $1.3 billion, for those of you who are keeping track. Yikes. Have we considered not improving the airport? I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, I’m just asking: have we at least considered it?

Other big numbers: A $73.1 million contract we’re making with the California Department of Health Care Services to get reimbursed for care provided to Healthy San Francisco participants. Yep – the state will actually pay us to implement Healthy San Francisco. Actually, the state will pay us federal dollars they were awarded to fund Healthy San Francisco, but who’s keeping track? Well, obviously somebody – and to them I raise my glass. Keep up the good work and find us lots more funding.

There will also be not 1, not 2, but 4 proposals on the controversial “peaker plants” that you’ve heard so much about (the debate rages here and here) - if you're in to this kind of thing. (WARNING: "Peaker" is not a sexual term).

If politics creates strange bedfellows then this is the kind of issue that makes for political porn: no one wants the new peaker plants … natural gas may be natural, but it's not "green" … but many Supes are on board because, if we build them, the city can shut down the Mirant Portrero power plant, which is to air pollution what the Cosco Busan was to drinking water.

So Michela Alioto-Pier has proposed a measure get an independent analysis of the proposal to build the plants, and another measure to conduct a fiscal feasibility study of it: she’s hoping to bury the project under a pile of paperwork so deep that it will be mistaken for the world’s largest recycling depot. Supervisors Maxwell , Dufty, and McGoldrick, on the other hand, have proposed two measures pushing the project forward.

Ladies and gentlemen: to your corners.

Finally – and start looking for your crowbars now – the Mayor has proposed a measure that would eliminate the city’s Taxi Commission and put all its authority under MUNI. This walks, talks, and smells like a giant power grab to me … but when Newsom first floated the idea many months ago an aid to Aaron Peskin told me his boss was on board because it just makes sense to have all the departments that handle traffic under one roof. Peskin and Newsom together are pretty much unbeatable in this town, so everybody roll down your window and wave goodbye to the Taxi Commission.

Man that’s a meeting.

Tuesday, May 6, 2 p.m. – Full Board of Supervisors

And then there are meetings that you can watch while you shop online. Today the Supes will debate Ross Mirkarimi’s climate change “action plan” (hey I’ve been looking for that CD!), the SOMA Community Stabilization Fund (that is the ugliest sweater in the world!), and adding four new restaurants to the Haight’s commercial district (you’ll never ship THAT across state lines).

They will also debate waiving sidewalk display fees for the Small Business Week Sidewalk Sale; giving “rainy day funds” to the city school district; and the conditions under which they will extend the deadline for pot clubs to file their permit applications … which is critical because you just can’t expect people who run pot clubs to do their paperwork on time. It’s not reasonable.

Let’s move on, shall we? eBay, take me away!

Wednesday, May 7, 1 p.m. – Budget and Finance Committee

The solar power incentive program is back on the docket for discussion today – as is a measure by Jake McGoldrick limiting some of its implementation “pending information to the finance committee on the overall implementation and structure” of the program.

I’m confused: Don’t you want that worked out before you pass it at all? Who says “Well, we’ll pass your major program, but we’re going to limit certain funding to $3 million this year until you fully explain how this works”? I know $3 million isn’t airport-reconstruction kind of money, but ,still … isn’t this the kind of strict parenting that only lets the kids get away with murder if they promise to do their homework?

Also on the docket for today – the Supes continue to play this year’s edition of “You cut WHAT?” by getting budget status updates. Expect hand-wringing.

Thursday, May 8, 3:30 p.m. – City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee

The entire purpose of this meeting is to waive the fee for occupying street space with a sidewalk sale during the Small Business Week sidewalk sale.

Remember, we fought a revolution to have the freedom to do this.

Think about that all week.

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