Mayor Chicken - Page 2

Gavin Newsom is terrified to face real political debate. That's bad for the entire city

Peskin's motion aimed to make space on the board's agenda for the mayor every third Tuesday so he could address the supervisors on policy matters — a matter he planned to discuss at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Rules Committee.

But two days earlier the mayor took his first jab at ducking the intent of Prop. I. He sent the supervisors a letter in which he claimed that to truly serve the public interest "we should hold these conversations in the community."

Next, Newsom sent staffers to the Rules Committee hearing, where members discussed how not to force the implementation of Prop. I down the mayor's throat — and the mayor's staff claimed they'd be happy to work with the committee to that end.

As a result of this "kumbaya moment," as Noyola calls it, the Rules Committee decided to continue the item to the following week to have more productive conversation. Meanwhile and unbeknownst to them, 19 minutes into the hearing, the Mayor's Office of Communications issued a press release outlining Newsom's intent to hold a town hall meeting in the Richmond District on Jan. 13 — which the mayor said would substitute for complying with Prop. I.

"The Rules Committee was blindsided by the mayor's press release," Noyola says.

The mayor, of course, said that all the supervisors were welcome to attend his town hall event and participate in the discussion, giving the appearance he was happy to debate but wanted to do so out in the neighborhoods. But that was a lie: Newsom and his staff knew very well that under state law, the supervisors were barred from participating in any such event.

According to the Brown Act, if a quorum of supervisors wants to be somewhere to discuss business that may be before the board in the future — such as homelessness — and if it wants policy interactions, the clerk must give notice that the supervisors intend to hold a special meeting.

The board actually discussed Newsom's invitation, and board clerk Gloria Young estimated it would cost $10,000 to $15,000 to staff. It also raised serious procedural and legal questions for the board.

In other words, Newsom knew the supes couldn't just show up and ask questions.

"But if the mayor wants people to just sit and attend a presentation in the background, like at a speech or a Christmas event, then special meeting notice isn't needed," notes Noyola, explaining why Peskin ultimately dismissed the mayor's invite as "childish" — and why Peskin now says he'd support making question time a charter amendment, thereby forcing the mayor to comply with the will of the voters.



While the Newsom camp continues to dismiss the Daly-authored Prop. I as "political theater," the supervisor is quick to counter it's the Mayor's Office that's playing games.

"They claim political theater, but if that's what it takes to get serious policy discussions going, then so be it," says Daly, noting he has had one private discussion with the mayor in two years, while Sup. Geraldo Sandoval has not talked to him at all. "Newsom claims he has an open door to his office, but so do I — and he's never been to mine. For the mayor to refuse to discuss important policy items and hide behind 'I'm afraid of Chris Daly' is pathetic. Willie Brown probably would have come."

Daly also observes that San Francisco's government is structurally unique within California because it represents a city and a county.

"It's an awkward setup in which there is little formal communication between the board and the mayor," Daly says, "other than when the board forwards legislation to the mayor for him to approve or veto."

Also from this author

  • SF's new political era

    What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

  • The nativists are restless

    Chronicle stories and controversial award trigger a new round of anti-immigrant anger

  • Six aren't enough

    The Board of Supervisors' new progressive majority won its first big vote, but rougher roads lie ahead