Has Gavin Newsom Found a New Bright Idea (Hatched By Someone Else)?

Those of you who grew up here in the Bay Area may feel a nostalgic tear run down your cheek when you view the above video: A 1970s-era KTVU "Charley and Humphrey" Bits & Pieces short culminating with the message "1,002 stupid things to do: borrowing without asking!" Perhaps Gavin Newsom didn't watch KTVU as a kid.

Now, if Newsom or any other politician can find policies or practices not necessarily of his own devising and employ them to help the people -- who could object? Franklin Roosevelt didn't invent Keynesian economics -- that would be Keynes -- but you could argue it sure helped a lot of people during the Great Depression.

That being said, FDR didn't pass off Keynes' ideas as his own -- or tout them as a key campaign tool. And that is what the mayor's critics have accused him of doing, repeatedly. The most obvious example is Healthy San Francisco. Much has been written here and elsewhere how the city's universal health plan, which Newsom has made a cornerstone of his gubernatorial campaign, was actually created largely through the effort of then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano. In fact, Ammiano, peeved by Newsom's "boasting and overselling" of the plan recently told SF Weekly that the mayor has "tainted" Healthy San Francisco.  

Glancing at the agenda for next week's U.S. Conference of Mayors in Providence, R.I., it seems Newsom may have found a new intriguing program conceived and implemented by someone else.

For whatever reason, the task force on hunger and homelessness -- co-chaired by Newsom -- will not be offering a progress report as it did both last year and during the mayors' January winter meeting. Since homelessness is likely to only become an even bigger problem as the economy deteriorates, this is confusing. Our call to the conference's organizers has not yet been returned.

Newsom is on the schedule, however, to speak about the city's innovative Bank on San Francisco Program, which helps poor, "unbanked" families avoid the predatory charges of check-cashing outlets and keep more of their hard-earned money. And it warrants mentioning that this program is largely the brainchild of city treasurer Jose Cisneros. From a December, 2007 Chronicle story on the program:

"It tore me up that people were taking $100 or $200 checks to check-cashing stores and were losing upward of $30 to $40," said Cisneros, who led the creation and implementation of the Earned Income Tax Credit incentive and Bank on San Francisco programs. "The goal was to help families, not for them to get ripped off." 

Don't worry Ammiano -- Newsom hasn't forgotten you! He's also scheduled to speak in his capacity as the chair of the conference's healthcare reform task force. The title of his speech: "Healthcare Reform: Mayors at the Forefront."

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