Nightclub Regulator Blames Mayor for Stacking Commission with Industry Insiders

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Entertainment Commissioner Jim Meko, one of only two members of the city's nightclub-regulation board without direct financial ties to the nightlife industry, says that blame for some of the commission's ethical challenges can be laid with Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The seven-member Entertainment Commission, which oversees permitting and disciplinary measures for the city's rowdy nightclub scene, ostensibly has seats for only two industry representatives. But Meko told SF Weekly that the mayor's practice of appointing industry insiders to seats reserved for other stakeholder groups has contributed to the board's lopsided composition, which many say has resulted in reluctance to punish misbehaving venues.

Meko said he approached Jason Chan, the mayor's liaison to commissions, in recent weeks to discuss his concerns, but was rebuffed. "I tried to talk to Jason Chan about the quality of his whole thinking behind the appointments, and I didn't find him terribly responsive," said Meko, who is a declared candidate in the 2010 supervisorial race for District 6.

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Jim Meko
For example, the mayor's last two appointments to the Entertainment Commission were Nikki Calma and Justin Roja. Calma, who recently resigned, was appointed as a neighborhood representative (the same stakeholder bracket as Meko) but is a hostess at the SOMA nightclub Asia SF. Roja, who was appointed as an urban-planning representative, is co-owner of the nightclub 330 Ritch, which has been the subject of multiple complaints from neighbors to the Entertainment Commission.

Chan did not return a call for comment.

Roja, who is now the commission's president, is facing questions over whether he violated city law last week by seeking to lobby the Small Business Commission on behalf of a consulting client. The law in question prohibits city commissioners and elected officials from being paid to speak to other city officials in order to influence a government decision. Audrey Joseph, the commission's former president, is now the subject of a formal ethics complaint for the same reason.

Meko would not comment in detail on accusations against Joseph and Roja, except to say, "For the public record, we do have to go through two hours of ethics training every single year, so I do hope they paid attention."

Mirrorball photo by Yozza. Jim Meko photo courtesy of www.mekounites.com.

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