SF Gov InAction: Same Old Shit Gets Bigger Tax Breaks; Jake McGoldrick's Charter Amendment Retirement Tour Heats Up, and Did Somebody Say "Peaker Plants?"

By Benjamin Wachs

And the Supes are back! No time off for them this week! Well … okay … actually there’s no committee meeting on Friday, so technically a bunch of them could still have their third long weekend in a row … but you see my point. They are working legislators again! Ready to … ready to … hey wait a minute, that proposal makes no sense …

Monday, June 2,

10 a.m. – Government Audit & Oversight Committee

The day begins on a puzzling note, as the Supes vote on a proposal by the mayor that says businesses won’t have to create new jobs in order to qualify for Enterprise Zone tax credits.

Great! That’ll sure … help businesses … that don’t create … new … jobs …

Hey, quick question: what’s the point of having an Enterprise Zone if you don’t use it to create new jobs? I’m just asking.

According to the legislation (which will also change the language of the city’s Enterprise Zone rules to match the state’s), eliminating the “creates new jobs” rule is likely to encourage more businesses to sign up for the program.

Right: got it.

That, in turn, will result in decreased payroll taxes coming in to the city’s general fund, because the Enterprise Zone program reduces a participating business’ tax burden.

Makes sense. But … uh oh, that’s a bad thing! We need that tax money, right?

No! says the legislation, because giving all these businesses tax breaks will lead to increased employment “which could also reduce City social services costs.”

Fantastic! Except … wait a minute …you’re not requiring businesses to hire anybody to get the credit!

Could we think this through again? Or is the point just to give new tax dollars away to businesses doing the same old shit?

Speaking of giving big ideas a second thought, Bevan Dufty has a motion before this committee that would order the City’s Budget Analyst to review MUNI’s “Proof of Payment” program to see how it’s working.

I’m guessing Bevan doesn’t ride MUNI much.

Still, he has a point: the Supes spent a bundle increasing the number of fare inspectors and fare inspections over the last few years … and according to Dufty’s proposal, haven’t yet seen any reports documenting its effectiveness.

Yeah, it’s probably good to check in on these things from time to time.

Finally, the committee will likely recommend that the city continue to designate the “Examiner” as their paper of record for advertising.

Dammit! I SO wanted that!

Come on, Supes – give SF Weekly a chance! We’ll run anything you’ve got on the back page, in between the promise of easy marijuana and the banner guaranteeing better erections!

That IS what your constituents want.

The Supes will also be designating the San Francisco Bay View to be the … er … official African American paper of the city, and Asian Week the official, um, Chinese Newspaper.

Well, they may be separate but the city assures us those papers are equal.

According to 1994’s Prop J (which requires the city to designate “outreach newspapers” to “to reach out to those communities which may not be adequately served by the official newspaper”), the city will has to designate an official “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual” newspaper, and an official “Hispanic” newspaper.

Unfortunately it looks like there will be no official newspapers this year for the Gay and Hispanic communities, because the city considered all of those newspapers to be “non-responsive” because none of the applying papers are actually printed in San Francisco.

Huh. There’s symbolism here somewhere.

1 p.m. – Land Use & Economic Development Committee

Oh my God, are they STILL talking about permits for sidewalk flower-vending stands? STILL? There has GOT to be a better way for three city supervisors to spend their time!

They started talking about this back in ’06, you know.

Tuesday, June 3, 2 p.m. – Board of Supervisors

Speaking of things we’re still talking about, there are several recent favorites coming back to the Board for another round. The biggest show will probably be the “peaker plants,” which are back up this week with Supes Maxwell, Dufty, McGoldrick, and Peskin sponsoring a bill to move the things forward. There’s no really “good” solution to this debate: build a set of power plants we’ll likely regret in 15 years in order to shut down a power plant we really, really, regret now? Or push for what we really want on the chance we can get a better deal? Even after the votes are in we’ll still probably be arguing about this one for years.

But not far behind for sheer dramatic tension will be Bevan “game on” Dufty’s big push for funding for the Mayor’s proposed “Community Justice Center.” This quest is going to fail big time (it couldn’t clear committee, so Dufty’s forcing it to the full board) for reasons that, in the end, have nothing to do with the merits of the “Community Justice Center” as a concept. There’s some evidence to suggest that a facility like this – in which there will be a court that can hear “lifestyle crime” cases the same day, and a community service center to put people on social services right away – can actually reduce petty crimes.

But the two strikes against this plan are so big that, together, they add up to 3 … or maybe even 3.5.

The first is budgetary: the Community Justice Center has the misfortune to come in a fiscal year that’s floating on a wine dark sea of red ink. The mayor’s warnings of layoffs, cuts, and 10 deadly plagues across the land have got many people wondering why we’d want to spend big money on a program that refers people to social services if we’re also slashing the social services they’d be referred to.

The second is political: the Mayor, as is his habit, announced this plan by fiat, designed it on his own, and threw it to the Board of Supervisors without so much as a consultation. So most of them are wondering: why should we throw any political capital or big bucks towards a plan that the Mayor wrote “Fuck You” on in big bright letters?

Can’t say I blame them. Note to Gavin: if you’d actually talk to the Board of Supervisors, they might like you better.

The other item of note on the agenda this week is the proposal to increase both the fees street artists are forced to pay to set up shop AND the salaries paid to the people who are supposed to inspect them. The argument in favor of this increase is classic “more government is better” thinking: the street artist program needs to pay for itself, and we CAN’T POSSIBLY cut staff (which takes up more than 85% of the program’s budget) or use volunteer inspectors, so instead we pass big fees on to the very artists the program is supposed to be empowering.

The artists, for the record, have some very good recommendations about how the program could save money through budget cuts. But what do they know: they’re just artists. They don’t even have their own community newspaper.

Wednesday, June 4, 11 a.m. – Budget and Finance Committee

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, when we all learn whether rent control will still exist, no one will even notice this committee happened.

Thursday, June 5

10 a.m. – Rules Committee

The Rules Committee, on the other hand, has lots going on. A proposal by Peskin, Daly, and Sandoval would require the city assessor to “post monthly report of any reductions of assessed values of real properties.” A proposal by Mirkarimi would create a “public services advisory board” that would draft a report “on matters pertaining to the performance of public services by private entities.”

But most of the big ticket items are part of Jake McGoldrick’s “Last gasp batch of charter amendments retirement tour.”

What is this now, a dozen he’s proposed in the last month? Two dozen? Seriously – that’s a real question. It could be that high.

One of his proposed charter amendments this week would “eliminate the reference to the number of staff members provided for members of the Board of Supervisors.” Last week he originally proposed a charter amendment to provide Supes with a third staff member … but it looks like that language has changed. Sadly, the exact working of the new charter amendment isn’t available at the time of this writing, so I can’t tell exactly what he’s proposing.

There’s a lot less ambiguity with his charter amendment to make the city treasurer an elected position, though: that one’s pretty clear, and it’s before the Rules committee today, too.

On the other hand, he also wants to create a new Public Works Commission. Why God, why?

Rumor has it that, when McGoldrick’s done with charter amendments, he’ll play “Free Bird.”

1 p.m. – City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee

The war on fun is heating up again, with proposals (originally made back in March) to prohibit loitering outside nightclubs and tighten the restrictions on entertainment permits both making another appearance. The Small Business Committee has made recommendations on them, and the committee will look those over and … quite possibly … put it off for another three months.

It’ll give them something to do during the fall.

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