The mayor's horrible deal

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The Supervisors should pass legislation outlawing vote trading for all local elected officials, including Newsom

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom put the supervisors in a terrible position — and showed the worst kind of political arrogance — when he held $43 million worth of critical services hostage to his desire to continue packing commissions with political hacks. The deal he presented to the board was shameful, and the supervisors should have rejected it. And now they should pass legislation to make this sort of logrolling illegal.

The mayor's original budget plan included sharp cuts to a wide range of services. The supervisors' Budget Committee found a way to add back more than $40 million in funding for things like psychiatric beds at SF General Hospital, violence-prevention programs, and public financing for the next mayor's race.

But under the City Charter, the mayor can simply refuse to spend that money — and that's what Newsom said he would do. That is, unless the board would agree to reject two proposed charter amendments to reform the Municipal Transportation Agency and the Recreation and Park Commission.

Let's remember: the MTA and Rec-Park measures have nothing to do with the budget. The board wanted to overhaul those departments (and give the board some appointments) because they're a mess; the Rec-Park Commission, appointed entirely by the mayor, is a rubber-stamp agency that votes with nearly 100 percent unanimity on every issue. The MTA has served as a slush fund for the police department at a time when bus lines are cut and fares keep going up.

Newsom told board members that he could, indeed, restore the funding they wanted; the money was there. But he wouldn't. In other words, he would allow desperately ill people to be turned away from SF General for lack of a bed — if the board didn't stand down on its reforms. And by a 6-5 margin, with Board President David Chiu providing the critical vote for the mayor's agenda, the board went along with the deal.

Even worse: Chiu and his colleagues gave up their charter amendments. But the mayor didn't give up his: a Newsom measure that would prevent elected officials (like Chiu) from serving on the Democratic County Central Committee is still on the ballot.

Five of the progressives on the board hung tough, and Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, Chris Daly, Eric Mar, and Ross Mirkarimi deserve credit for refusing to accept a bad, embarrassing deal.

But in the end, the board got rolled. The mayor played tough and a majority of the supervisors folded. If a supervisor proposes trading one piece of legislation for another, it would violate state law. That doesn't apply to the mayor — but it should. The board should immediately pass legislation outlawing vote trading for all local elected officials, including the chief executive. Let's see if Newsom wants to veto that.

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