41st Anniversary Special: Connect the Connects - Page 2

Newsom uses a shadowy private organization to shield his administration's actions from public scrutiny

SF Connect's donors included PG&E, which gave $25,000; Google investor Ron Conway, who gave $100,000; Wells Fargo Bank, which gave $20,000; and Carmen Policy (the former 49ers top dog who was recently named to push a June ballot measure on a new stadium that Newsom wants to build), who gave $2,500. Other donors included Newsom appointees, contributors, and companies that do business with the city.

When we tried to get a current list of donors, staffers didn't respond to Guardian phone calls or e-mails.

We also asked Newsom's office for a complete breakdown of city staff time, money, and other resources that have gone into supporting the Connect programs, knowing that city staff have been involved in their events and e-mails have gone out from city offices.

"There is no line item in any budgets nor any reporting within our office on time spent coordinating with SF Connect," Joe Arellano from the Mayor's Office of Communications responded by e-mail after repeated requests for answers.

That's probably because there seems to be no clear line drawn between where the private SF Connect ends and where the public-sector Mayor's Office begins. Call the phone number on the San Francisco Connect Web site for Project Homeless Connect, and it rings at the desk of Judith Crane in the Department of Public Health.

Even getting a list of privatization proposals by Newsom hasn't been easy. The Mayor's Office cited technical inadequacies when we asked it to search all of Newsom's speeches, press releases, e-mails, and other documents for the words "public-private partnership," a favorite Newsom phrase.

We know that he's unsuccessfully sought to privatize jail health services, security at the Asian Art Museum, and the city's golf courses (see "Bilking the Links," page 22) and to create a citywide wireless Internet system run by Google and EarthLink.

But ask Newsom about it, as we did, and you'll hear his semantic gymnastics: "Privatization is failing, so I'm not pro-privatization. I don't look to privatize. I look for ways to manage more creatively and more efficiently."