Political football season - Page 2

Battles between the mayor and the supervisors are starting early

One includes a photo of Peskin alongside extracts from a five-month-old letter that was possibly leaked by the Mayor's Office (the confidential letter was copied to Newsom chief of staff Phil Ginsburg) in which Port of San Francisco director Monique Moyer alleges that Peskin made bullying late-night phone calls last August, when the Port was trying to get a measure passed to increase building heights along the Embarcadero — a land-use issue that was resolved last year.

But Peskin isn't the only elected official to get his wrists slapped by the mayor in recent weeks.

In mid-January, Newsom upbraided San Francisco's entire delegation in Sacramento for lending their support to the board-approved affordable-housing City Charter amendment, which will be on the November ballot and seeks to set aside $33 million annually in affordable-housing funds for the next 15 years.

As Sens. Carole Migden and Leland Yee and Assemblymembers Fiona Ma and Mark Leno noted in a Jan. 7 letter to Peskin, local voters have not approved a renewal of the 1996 housing bond, and the board's proposed amendment builds on prior successful ballot measures to fund libraries, parks, and children's programs, which have been successfully implemented without significant budget impacts.

But Newsom wrote the delegation Jan. 11 to express his "disappointment."

"I cannot support the Charter Amendment, because it has significant implications for the future fiscal health of our City and the backbone of our public health care system — San Francisco General Hospital," Newsom claimed, noting that the General Hospital bond is also on the November ballot. Then again, Newsom is also backing a Lennar Corp.–financed measure that would approve the building of 10,000 housing units at Candlestick Point but wouldn't guarantee affordability levels (see "Signature Measures," page 10).

Meanwhile, fearing that Newsom is seeking to exert excessive control over several key commissions, the Board of Supervisors' progressive majority is seeking to ensure that the seven members of the MTA board are elected officials beginning November 2009 and to divide the power to nominate members of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission between the supervisors and the mayor.

These moves are coming at a time when Newsom has decided to replace three members of the MTA board who had alternative-transportation credibility but whose loyalty he apparently questioned: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum, Peter Mezey, and Wil Din. To fill those slots, Newsom appointed disabled-rights activist Bruce Oka, attorney Malcolm Heinicke (both of whom served on the Taxi Commission, which Newsom hopes to merge into the MTA this year), and Jerry Lee, a member of the Transportation Authority's Citizen Advisory Committee.

But the Board of Supervisors can block the mayor's MTA picks — and that showdown looks likely, in light of Newsom's alleged misuse of MTA funds and his refusal to heed Peskin's call for a mayoral representative to appear before the board to explain Newsom's vision for the MTA.

Meanwhile, Sup. Jake McGoldrick told the Guardian he introduced a Charter amendment to make the MTA board seats elected positions. He argues that Prop. A not only increased the MTA's budget but also reduced the board's MTA oversight, so the body now needs to be more answerable to San Franciscans.

"It's about not having accountability at the legislative branch," McGoldrick said.