Mayor's Truthiness Is Lacking When It Comes to Proposed Daly Charter Amendment

Categories: Politics
Gavin by Brainchildvn.jpg
But who's counting, Mr. Mayor?
The other day, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn't seem to be using Earth-years to calculate his government tenure. He's been helping to rule this city since 1996, but has been repeatedly prefacing his statements of late with the qualifier "In my 15 years" at City Hall.

That wasn't the biggest Newsom fabrication in that article, however. Regarding Supervisor Chris Daly's proposed charter amendment to keep the mayor from arbitrarily overriding the repeatedly expressed will of at least eight supes, Newsom put it this way: "It could walk us right off a financial cliff."

That isn't just misleading but dishonest. We give both Newsom and Daly plenty of lumps on this page, but this is a case in which Daly is in the right and Newsom is clearly using a particularly anti-democratic loophole in the city charter to tweak the wishes of a supermajority of the board of supes. In fact, one could argue that the mayor's statement is every bit as disingenuous as his claim of "15 years" of work in government. Here's why:

Far from marching us "off a financial cliff" and contrary to the Web vituperations of the troglodytes stirred to action by all things Daly, this is not an amendment that would permit the supes to strong-arm the mayor into doling out money to every crack-addled, homeless, illegal alien who asked for some -- preferably via a piƱata.

Instead, the amendment would force the mayor to actually spend the money allocated by the supervisors -- which he currently need not do, even if eight of the 11 supes override his mayoral veto. As things currently stand, the supes can approve the spending of, say, $1 million on Project X, only to have the mayor veto it. Then the required eight supes can turn back that veto, and the law can pass into effect without the mayor's signature. But -- and this is the rub -- the mayor can still not allocate any money to Project X, allowing it to die in all but name. In fact, the mayor need not even wait for an override of his veto -- he can simply allow laws to pass into effect minus his signature and then not fund them. As a result, 41 cents of every dollar "added back" to last year's city budget by the supes simply went unspent by the mayor according to the supes' budget analyst.

Obviously, this is no way to run a healthy democracy; as others have pointed out, both Presidents Nixon and Reagan were successfully sued when they failed to allocate money to programs Congress opted to fund over presidential objections. And, when it comes to marching off any allegorical cliffs, let it be known that the supes have only put their differences aside to override a mayoral veto twice since Newsom took office in 2003.

Newsom's final quote to the Chronicle is far more accurate than his resume-padding or blather about sauntering off cliffs. If the charter amendment lands on the ballot, he notes, "we'll do anything in our power to defeat it." Now this is the truth. And it's also a good bet that the combination of the amendment being crafted by Daly -- whose petulance has so turned off many city dwellers that if he praised the use of water they'd cease bathing -- and a soft money bonanza will push things Newsom's way. That's how it went in 2007, by the way, when Daly proposed the mayor be compelled to attend board meetings monthly and actually converse with the supes -- hardly a revolutionary concept in other towns.

As we've written many times before, Daly is often his own worst enemy -- He presents good ideas in a malevolent, boorish manner, and even when he's a perfect gentleman the memory of past awful behavior has soured so many voters outside his district. It will likely be all too easy for Newsom et al. to present this proposed charter amendment as nothing more than a chance for Daly to enshrine fiscal irresponsibility and personal nastiness in law.

What a shame. The real nastiness is the status quo -- and Newsom's exploitation of it.

Photo   |   Brainchildvn


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