The two Newsoms - Page 2

The candidate for governor bears only a vague resemblance to the mayor of San Francisco
Photo by John M. Heller

Well, we're proving what you already know: it's less expensive to keep people well than it is to treat their sickness," Newsom said in his announcement speech.

"Mayor Gavin Newsom isn't waiting for the politicians in Sacramento to solve this problem — he's created the only universal health care program in the country," reads the Newsom campaign Web site.

It may be true that preventive care saves money over the long run, but that has nothing to do with how San Francisco affords this program. And Gavin Newsom never created it.

First of all, Healthy San Francisco wouldn't exist if then Sup. Tom Ammiano (now a member of the California Assembly) hadn't spent years fighting for a universal health care plan paid for by employers.

And while Ammiano was being savagely attacked over the idea by the business community, a key constituency of the mayor, Newsom sat on the sidelines until Ammiano lined up enough votes to approve the plan. At that point, Newsom introduced his own health plan, worked with Ammiano to merge the two, and has been taking credit for it around the country ever since.

Ammiano credits labor, not Newsom, with doing the hard work of fighting business community opposition to Healthy San Francisco. "The mayor's role was that we would keep him updated, but I don't think he thought it was going to happen," Ammiano told us. "There's no doubt he came along for the ride."

Going through the issues on Newsom's campaign Web site, there are a startling number of claims that don't match his record. A few examples:

"California must be ready for a wide range of natural disasters ... [and] man-made disasters as well — terrorist attacks, hazardous material and oil spills, and biological and chemical threats," said the mayor, whose latest budget includes a 24 percent cut to the Office of Emergency Services and who appointed unqualified (but politically connected) Republican hack Annemarie Conroy to head OES, and who remained on vacation in Hawaii as San Franciscans responded to the Cosco Busan oil spill, the biggest in San Francisco Bay.

"In the midst of a national economic crisis, San Francisco's economy has remained strong ... Mayor Newsom building on his experience in the private sector where he built a thriving enterprise of 15 businesses and created 1,000 jobs — has transformed the city's economy," his campaign wrote. Yet in his latest budget, he argues how weak the city's economy has become and uses the crisis to slash spending on public health, social services, building inspections, and other essential services in the biggest government downsizing in the city's history. Biotech businesses have located in the city, as Newsom has often touted, but they aren't paying any city taxes because of a measure he sponsored exempting them.

"Working largely with existing resources, Mayor Newsom has applied a little common sense and a lot of innovation to help turn San Francisco public schools into a statewide model for educational achievement," writes the campaign. But despite regularly claiming credit for schools in his stump speeches, Newsom has had little to do with the San Francisco Unified School District, which has avoided layoffs mostly because of support from city funds (thanks to a voter-approved measure authored by Ammiano) and a parcel tax spearheaded by downtown financier Warren Hellman and others. Newsom also has done little to help find solutions to the most controversial issues plaguing the school district in recent years, such as eliminating JROTC, school closures, desegregation, and the divisive tenure of former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.