Where to now, SFPUC? - Page 3

War of words surrounding Susan Leal's removal offers more heat than light

"No other place in the nation, to my knowledge, has digesters within 25 feet of people's homes."

Noting that Controller Ed Harrington, whom Newsom has nominated as the next general manager of the PUC, has a financial background, Maxwell says the question of what to do with the digesters should not be about money.

"We need to do the best we can for people, in the most economic and financially prudent was possible, but people must come first, "Maxwell told us.

Maxwell said these recent power struggles at the PUC convinced her to join seven other Supervisors in placing a charter amendment on the June ballot that will make it easier for supervisors to block mayoral appointees to the agency and will also require that PUC nominees have appropriate awareness and skills.

With a proposed $4.3 billion program in the works to upgrade the aging Hetch Hetchy system, which provides water to 2.4 million Bay Area residents, will the newly nominated Harrington be able to address water conservation, efficiency and recycling, without causing further harm to the Tuolumne River — all while dealing with battles over public power and wastewater concerns?

Noting that he began his City Hall career as Assistant General Manager for Finance at the PUC, a position he held for seven years before becoming City Controller 17 years ago, Harrington told us, "This is not the perfect way to walk into a position. Susan and I are old friends, she's been very gracious, and has made it known that I had nothing to do with her removal. And I'm trying to be gracious. There's no need to criticize her."

Leal, who calls Harrington a friend, said she believes Harrington "will push a little bit, but how much independence he can take and preserve remains the question."

Neither Sklar nor representatives from the Mayor's Office returned calls from the Guardian. But Sup. Chris Daly, who saved Sklar's neck by leaving the board one vote short of the supermajority required to reject a PUC mayoral appointee, told us, "I don't think Sklar is Newsom's tool. He's bigger than that. If I thought he was not independent from PG&E, I wouldn't have voted from him."

In fact, he said perceived lack of PG&E independence was why he joined seven other supervisors in voting against reappointing Ryan Brooks, who Newsom then nominated to the Planning Commission on the same day Leal was fired.