Behind the tweets - Page 4

How the Twitter tax break grew into an expensive giveaway that involves police patrols, a new Muni line — and a lot of real estate

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In 2009, Twitter vowed to stay in SF, something it now says it won't do without a multimillion-dollar tax break

Yet the documents show that OEWD had been developing two options for the legislation, total jobs and "net new jobs," since well before Kim got involved.

The OEWD also sold the deal to supervisors and the public during the month of January with figures it couldn't support — such as repeatedly claiming that the creation of 300 jobs at Twitter would create 400 additional jobs and $174 million in economic activity. Yet when the OEWD finally checked those figures with Egan on Feb. 2, he wrote that "it is only 100 additional jobs" and "not sure where you get $290,000" as the economic value per job.

Yet for the OEWD and the other proponents of this deal, the record shows a determination to get the deal done — and then make it sound good. "Make the narrative as strong as possible," Cohen wrote to Matz on Feb. 1, passing on the concerns expressed by Kim's office. "Ultimately, we need to be able to show that this is not a net loss, it is a net gain."

But behind the scenes, the actual cost to taxpayers of retaining Twitter is being obscured by a variety of financial mechanisms and budget decisions by city departments.

Even Kim's shortening of the program brought new demands by Twitter. In a Feb. 9 e-mail from Matz to Chiu and Kim, she wrote, "Twitter told me that they agreed that the six-year time frame works only if 1) their short term cash flow issues are addressed and 2) the exemption for stock options is extended to eight years." So Matz said she would "noodle on other financial mechanisms, including Mills Act Historic Tax Credit and New Market Tax Credits."

The public won't get a chance to weigh in on these details. On Feb. 4, when an OEWD staffer wrote to Matz that the City Attorney's Office recommended the legislation call for another public hearing after OEWD develops rules and regulations for implementing the policy, Matz replied simply, "No!"

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