Dinner with David Chiu Auctioned for $500. Batch of S'mores: $800.

Categories: Politics
What might a developer, city contractor, union leader, or other person with a financial stake in the decisions of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors pay for a one-on-one night on the town with the president of the board?

It can cost millions to go through the political hoops necessary to get a building permitted in this city. Schemers have been toiling for years to privatize the city's $4 billion worth of golf courses. And the Public Utilities Commission is in the process of putting to bid billions of dollars worth of water system retrofit work. In the past, the board has been known to sign off on billion-dollar illegal tax-shelters, airport consulting contracts that serve as money laundering fronts, and purported sweetheart lease agreements involving the Port of San Francisco.

So dinner with Board President David Chiu ought to be worth, what? A quarter mil -- $750,000?

Sunday night just such a prize was up for grabs at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's annual fund-raising party.

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That's the star attraction above, caught in the smarmiest-possible pose: drink in hand, starched white collar open, Vegas Rat-Pack style.

Bicycle Coalition program director Andy Thornley made no bones about the prize's potential for influence seekers.

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"We were really up front about it," said Thornley, seen here to Chiu's left. "I said, 'here's your chance to get some face time, and give some input.'"

But the bidding stopped at $500. That's not a typo: a measly 500 dollars? That's the price of maybe 15 minutes with one of the denizens of downtown lobbyists whose job it is to get Chiu's ear.

Is Chiu is seen as so uncorruptible it's barely worth paying to spend an intimate evening with him? He hadn't returned a call asking this question by press time.

But consider this point of reference. The next auction item went for more than $800. It consisted of a $210 Burning Man ticket combined with a s'mores party -- that's right, someone makes graham-cracker-chocolate-and-marshmallow sandwiches for you and your friends.

"Maybe that says something about the political climate," Thornley said. "We're more marshmallows now."

I have no idea what that means. (Thornley and the rest of the Bike Coalition staff had been up late at the fundraiser, which included complimentary New Belgium beer.)

But it's nice to think that at least one San Francisco city father is seen as nearly worthless -- literally.


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