Newsom's extortion


The mayor really wanted the supervisors to get rid of two reform measures that would have shifted to the board some of the appointments to the Recreation and Park Commission and Municipal Transportation Agency. The landlords really wanted the board to scrap a plan to reform the Rent Board. And both got exactly what they wanted.

I agree that the budget has some good news, that Newsom has agreed to fund more than $40 million worth of necessary services that he initially wanted to cut. But the price was high: The supervisors had to go along with Newsom's attempt to undermine structural reforms at two city agencies. The mayor essentially held the board hostage: If he didn't get his way on issues totally unrelated to the budget, then he'd refuse to pay for a long list of things that the supes wanted. (And these weren't pet projects of board members; we're talking about life-saving essential services. The mayor in effect said that he'd allow desperately sick people to die on the streets for lack of a bed at SF General if the board tried to take away his ability to pack Rec-Park and MTA with his favorite political hacks. Sweet guy, huh?)

Is balanced representation on two important city agencies worth the price of $43 million in cuts to essential programs? That's a nasty question, and the mayor put the board in a very bad position. In the end, the supes could have stood up to his extortion, and didn't.

Meanwhile, the landlords threatened to spend millions to defeat a measure reforming the Rent Board -- and then they threatened to also pour money in to supporting Public Defender Jeff Adachi's pension measure, which labor is really nervous about. And there was always the implied threat that landlord money would go into the district supervisor races. So progressives decided that they couldn't win that battle and the rent board measure died

And, of course, Newsom's sit-lie law and his plan to kick members of the Board of Supervisors (but not himself) off the Democratic County Central Committee are both still on the ballot. He didn't give up a thing.

So the landlords and the mayor won this round, but the supes can still fight back. What Newsom did was unconscionable; it's not as if he was negotiating a tax hike measure against cuts, or a measure that would have mandated new spending against reductions somewhere else. He took two items that had nothing to do with finance and made them bargaining chips in the budget discussions.  If the supervisors did that, they'd be violating state law, which forbids vote trading.

So what San Francisco needs now is a law that bars the chief executive from vote-trading, too. Let's get that introduced and approved -- and see if Newsom wants to veto it.

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