Newsom prioritizes politics over parks

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After starting his day by warning the Mayor’s Open Space Task Force not to propose a big expenditure for new parks in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom then canceled a noontime rally and press conference in support of the big parks bond on Tuesday’s bond, Proposition A, in order to attend tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles.

“We are all about collaborative innovation,” Newsom told a room filled with department heads, parks advocates, and leading academics, clutching a disposable Starbucks coffee cup as he spoke. “If this task force comes back [at the end of the year when the report is expected] and says we need hundreds of millions of dollars, I’d say don’t waste your time.”

A waste of time was the label that many attendees applied to the meeting – which was called for by the Neighborhood Parks Council and SPUR but organized by Mike Farrah, a close mayoral confidante who Newsom recently named as head of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services – as mostly mid-level staffers from various city departments offered basic and fairly tedious information about existing recreational inventories and possible opportunities.

Yet the stakes couldn’t be higher on the overdue $185 million bond measure, which has wide support but needs a two-thirds vote to be approved. Newsom made oblique references to the measure, which he’s supporting, during his speech but was careful not to run afoul of electioneering laws and advocate for it inside City Hall.

I’ve questioned Newsom’s priorities before, and this seems like another good example of putting his personal political ambitions ahead of the city’s interests. But apparently he got a call from Hillary Clinton’s campaign – considering his daily schedule was modified at 10:50 a.m. to drop the rally (which representatives from five different environment groups were scheduled to attend) and add the debate – and quickly flew down to help out.