By Steven T. Jones
Sup. Sean Elsbernd is the smartest conservative on the Board of Supervisors, but he may now be regretting his latest effort to challenge city spending. This afternoon, he took issue with a $642,000 budget appropriation intended to offset federal cuts in funding for AIDS programs. Given the city's commitment to provide universal health care this year, Elsbernd said, "We need to be very cognizant of how we spend Department of Public Health money." He wasn't convinced that the programs actually needed the money, a stand that drew impassioned replies from several supervisors in defense of the city's barely adequate response to this deadly epidemic. Ultimately, only newbie Sup. Ed Jew joined Elsbernd in voting against giving more money to help fight AIDS in San Francisco, a stand that probably took more balls than brains.
It wasn't a banner day for the board conservatives. Jew also lost on his effort to send back to committee a proposal by Sup. Jake McGoldrick to ask the Municipal Transportation Agency to reduce the price of MUNI Fast Passes for 18-24 year olds. On Feb. 21, Jew and McGoldrick were the only members present on the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee because Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier was absent once again. The two men deadlocked on whether to pass the measure on the full board, so McGoldrick later exercised his right to get the signatures of three other supervisors and call the measure to the full board. This prompted Jew to write a petulant commentary in today's Examiner. McGoldrick was willing to continue the matter for a week (which the board ultimately did) so there wouldn't be an appearance of trying to avoid a full public debate, but Jew and Alioto-Pier insisted on sending it back to committee. It was a fairly audacious stand for Alioto-Pier, who has by far the worst attendance record on the board, but hardly surprising. Jew, for his part, once again proved himself a quixotic and ineffective rookie. But hopefully he's learning his lessons.