P is for power grab - Page 2

Newsom measure seeks more mayoral control over transportation funds
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Illustration by Chad Crowe

P, which would replace the TA board with the mayor, an elected official chosen by the mayor, the president of the Board of Supervisors, an elected official chosen by the board president, and the city treasurer.

While Newsom was honeymooning in Africa, mayoral spokesperson Nathan Ballard turned up the heat by criticizing the supervisors for spending TA funds on routine travel expenses and office supplies.

"I don't understand why money that is supposed to go to roads is going to couches and cell phones for members of the Board of Supervisors," Ballard told the San Francisco Examiner. But according to public records, Newsom himself charged $14,555 in expenses to the TA while he was a supervisor and a TA board member, from 1997 through 2003.

Jim Sutton, an attorney who served as treasurer in both of Newsom's mayoral campaigns, has formed a committee to support Prop. P, ironically called Follow the Money.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum, whom Newsom appointed to, then fired from, the MTA board last year, said that the TA has a strong record, not only of tracking dollars and winning matching funds at the state and federal levels, but also of making sure that the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians are represented.

"The system we have now is also the most protective of our dollars," Shahum said, noting that the TA is stringent about recipient agencies' meeting deadlines and keeping costs in check.

Moscovich warned that it's important that the city quickly move on from the battle over Prop. P, in light of the ongoing financial meltdown on Wall Street and the federal government's bailout plan.

"This financial tsunami that hasn't hit us yet will make it harder to borrow money to complete engineering projects," Moscovich predicted. "So it's important that we get beyond this and show a unified front, so that our credibility as a city is not in danger."