Ed Lee has been mayor for six weeks. Does his administration represent a change — or more of the same?
GREEN, WITHIN LIMITS
Lee's two children are in their early 20s, and the mayor said he takes seriously the goal of being proactive on environmental issues in order to leave them with a more sustainable San Francisco. He trumpeted the city's green achievements, saying, "We're now on the cutting edge of environmental goals for the city."
Leading bicycle activist Leah Shahum of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition had praise for Lee on bike issues. "I'm really encouraged by his very public support of the new green separate bikeways on Market Street and his interest and commitment to creating more," she said. "I believe Mayor Lee sees the value of connecting the city with cross town bicycle lanes, which serve a wide range of folks, including business people and families."
Yet some proponents of green causes are feeling uncertain about whether their projects will advance under Lee's watch.
On the issue of community choice aggregation (CCA), the ambitious green-energy program that would transfer Pacific Gas & Electric Co. customers to a city-run program with a cleaner energy mix, Lee — who helped determine rates as city administrator — seemed lukewarm. "I know Mr. [Ed] Harrington and his staff just want to make sure it's done right," he said, referring to the general manager of the city's Public Utilities Commission, whose tepid attitude toward the program has frequently driven him to lock horns with the city's chief CCA proponent, Sup. Ross Mirkarimi.
Lee noted that CCA program goals were recently scaled back. He also said pretty directly that he opposes public power: "We're not in any day getting rid of PG&E at all. I don't think that is the right approach."
The controversial issue of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center's pending eviction from Golden Gate Park still hangs in the balance. The Recreation and Park Commission, at Newsom's behest, approved the eviction despite overwhelming community opposition.
Lee said he hadn't looked at the issue closely. "I do know that there's a lot of strong debate around the viability, what that operation attracts and doesn't attract," he said. "I had the owner of HANC here along with a good friend, Calvin Welch, who made a plea that I think about it a bit. I agreed that I would sit down and talk with what I believe to be the two experts involved in that decision: Melanie Nutter at the Department of the Environment and then Phil Ginsburg at the Rec and Park." Nutter and Ginsburg supported HANC's eviction.
Welch, who is on the board of HANC, noted that Lee could be swayed by his staff. "The bunch around Newsom had old and bad habits, and old and bad policies. In dealing with mayors over the years, I know how dependent they are on their staff. They're in a bubble, and the only way out is through a good staff. Otherwise, Lee will come to the same conclusions as Newsom."
HANC's Jim Rhoads told the Guardian he isn't feeling reassured. "He said he would keep asking people about it. Unfortunately, if he asked his own staff, it would be a problem because they're leftovers from Newsom."
Speaking of leftovers, Lee also weighed in on the debate about the city's waste-management contract — and threw his support behind the existing private garbage monopoly. Campos is challenging a perpetual waste-hauling contract that Recology has had with the city since 1932, calling instead for a competitive-bidding process. When the Department of the Environment recommended awarding the city's landfill disposal contract to Recology last year, it effectively endorsed a monopoly for the company over managing the city's entire waste stream, at an estimated value of $206 million per year.