July 17, 2002




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Hall Monitor

Newsom under fire: Advocates for low-income tenants were dismayed to learn that Sup. Gavin Newsom had put the brakes on a new requirement mandating sprinklers in all single-room-occupancy hotel units by July 1. "It's just really frustrating," said Sam Dodge, an organizer with the Central City SRO Collaborative. "On the front end, he gets all this nice press about doing something nice for SROs and poor people, and on the back end he's cutting all these deals and extending deadlines."

At the July 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, Newsom argued that the six-month delay would encourage more owners to comply. Sam Patel, president of the Independent Hotel Owners and Operators Association, agreed. "This is going to cost the property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said. "There is no funding or anything available. All the owners are on their own."

But opponents say every minute counts. Just last month a three-alarm blaze forced 200 low-income residents out of their Sixth Street hotel. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sprinklers reduce mortality and property loss by one-half to two-thirds – but only when they're actually installed. (Cassi Feldman)

Car trouble: You'd think the Department of Human Services, which is facing major frontline budget cuts, wouldn't be worried about having spiffy new cars. But the department, which already has 109 vehicles for ferrying clients around, requested 11 replacement vehicles this year. Even worse, the Board of Supervisors seems to support the idea. Although budget analyst Harvey Rose recommended denying the purchase entirely, Sup. Aaron Peskin convinced his colleagues on the Budget Committee to throw the department a bone by replacing any car with more than 75,000 miles. The net result is five new vehicles at a cost of approximately $26,000 each. Peskin told us that the DHS needs reliable cars and a percentage of the cost will be covered by state or federal funds. The ever frugal Sup. Jake McGoldrick wasn't convinced. "I've been very much made aware of the difference between funding something that has an optional aspect to it compared to just raw necessities of life" he said. (Feldman)

Up for grabs: public financing: for supervisor campaigns is finally here, but it might not be as popular among San Francisco's big-spending politicians as voters anticipated. In fact, only 1 of 30 intended supervisorial candidates has signed up for the campaign cash thus far.

Passed as Proposition O in November 2000, the new program gives qualifying candidates up to $43,750 in matching funds for the general election and additional funds for a runoff. In order to receive the funds, candidates must agree to participate in one debate and to abide by the $75,000 spending cap for the general election. And to keep the money local, only contributions less than $500 made by San Francisco residents are eligible to be matched.

The $1 million pot is enough for about 25 candidates, but Andy Draheim of Common Cause, a longtime public-financing advocate, estimates that only half of it will be used this year. Many of the candidates, he says, have yet to raise the $7,500 in small donations – $10 to $100 – required to qualify by the Aug. 9 deadline. The Ethics Commission, which administers the program, is holding a free public-financing workshop for candidates Thurs/25, 10 a.m.- noon, 30 Van Ness, Suite 3900, S.F. (415) 581-2300. Reservations must be made by Mon/22. (Julian Foley)