Tourk's clients sully Herrera's mayoral campaign

Consultant Alex Tourk was a Newsom Administration insider before leaving to represent a host of corporate and downtown clients.
Courtesy of Ethics Commission

Does anyone really believe that lobbyist and campaign consultant Alex Tourk isn't talking to City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose mayoral campaign Tourk is running, about the biggest clients and issues that Tourk is representing? Honestly, do they believe the public is that stupid?

Apparently so, because that's the story they were feeding to the Chronicle and its readers today, denying that the two men had ever talked about the Stow Lake Boathouse vendor contract or California Pacific Medical Center and its controversial plan to build a new hospital and housing project on Cathedral Hill.

I mean, c'mon, Tourk even filed documents with the Ethics Commission stating that they had talked about those issues and clients, only to now deny it after realizing that it's actually illegal to lobby one of your campaign clients. Luckily, Herrera had the good judgment to refer the matter to the Oakland City Attorney's Office to investigate, considering that this city's hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual Ethics Commission has abdicated its watchdog responsibilities in favor of repeatedly rubber-stamping every ethics waiver that comes before it, making a mockery of itself and contributing mightily to culture of political corruption that has been on the rise in San Francisco.

This is a problem that runs far deeper that just the Recreation and Parks Department steering the Oretega family vendor to Tourk, who then used his insider connection to get them the contract, which is unseemly enough. No, that's just the tip of the iceberg with a consultant who has deep connections to monied interests and who has been hired by a mayoral candidate who actually hopes to gain some progressive support.

Consider Tourk's client list. CPMC is perhaps the most controversial project facing city approval this year, one in which a powerful corporation is making big demands that are being strenuously opposed by a wide swath of working class San Franciscans. Whether Herrera would support this project as mayor and what modifications he would make are important litmus tests to determine what kind of mayor he would be. Yet his campaign consultant is simultaneously advocating for CPMC.

How would Herrera be on police issues, ranging from officer accountability to pension reform to whether to retain new Police Chief Greg Suhr? And can we really have faith that whatever stands Herrera takes weren't influenced by the fact that the San Francisco Police Officers Association is another Tourk client?

Other Tourk clients include Civil Sidewalks, which advocated for the sit-lie ordinance that police are now struggling with how to legally implement; CH2MHill, the Lennar subcontractor who exposed Hunters Point residents to carcinogenic construction dust; Medjool Restaurant, whose politically connected owner has pushed projects that clash with local planning codes; Prado Group, which has a number of development proposals in SF; Target Corp., which is doing a controversial remodel of the Metreon; and many others.

Is Tourk touting his inside access to man who may be the next mayor? Will Herrera's campaign benefit from that cross-pollination? I've left messages with Tourk and Herrera to ask these questions and others, and I'll update this post when the call back, but what do you think they're going to say? And, based on their credibility-stretching comments to the Chron today, will anyone believe them?

UPDATE: Herrera called back, but he wouldn't discuss these issues on-the-record, instead just giving me a quote similar to the one he gave the Chron: "I was surprised to read that Alex Tourk listed me on his lobbying disclosure forms because he never lobbied me on any of those clients and issues."


I've always admired Rep. Speier...but she's hired this guy to run her campaign?
I can't vote for her if she keeps him.

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

Bay Citizen just revealed that Rec & Park head Phil Ginsburg was the one who instructed Nick Kinsey to recommend Tourk to the Ortega enterprise to help it win the Stow Lake bid.


Posted by Eric Brooks on May. 10, 2011 @ 4:19 am

alex tourk is abousing the systemm again with his connection in the family court

Posted by Guest on Jun. 28, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

Maybe Herrera's telling the truth when he says that Tourk never lobbied him directly. Sometimes these "scratch-my-back-and-I'll scratch-yours" relationships are just understood. It's still a conflict of interest.

Posted by Greg on May. 05, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

In the Chronicle article, Alex Tourk is quote saying "I was unaware of the code". As Mr. Tourk was the Mayor's Chief of Staff (thus on the City payroll) when the ordinance was signed by the Mayor, one must wonder what he was doing in City Hall. Sleeping like the air controllers?

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

The Tourk-Herrera story first broke in the Northside SF paper, in an editorial written by gutsy Susan Dyer Reynolds. It's not easy taking on these well connected, power hungry, always image conscious guys. She's writing a wonderful series of exposes about Recreation and Parks and the whole "back channel" lobbying that went on vis a vis the Stow Lake Boathouse concession lease. R & P memos prove that R & P staffer, Nicholas Kinsey, referred the Ortega souvenir chain from New Mexico with no boating experience to Tourk specifically, to polish them up for hearings, get "supporters" to the hearings on their behalf, etc... well before the winning bidder was announced or approved by the R& P Commission. "Pay to play" is a new sport R & P is offering these days. Ortega paid Tourk $15,000 for either one or two months of Tourk's "guidance" through the process.
Disgusting abuse of the public trust and taxpayer $$$s.
Phil Ginsburg, R&P manager should be fired and run out of town...

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

It's All Bad...
Dennis Herrera had his fund-raisers on the Medjool rooftop--everyone did.

The go-to people inside helped move these along-- inside the Departments. Including the Ballard connection.

Straight from Department to CPMC project lobbyist, contrary to rules.
People threatened by Brett Gladstone.

It goes on and on...

Posted by Guest on May. 05, 2011 @ 8:09 pm


You've all figured it out. So, what are you going to do about it?

Go Giants!


Posted by Guest h. brown on May. 06, 2011 @ 12:04 am

morning h
Vote Yes on No
Vote No on Yes
Pigasus 4 President.
Have a wonderful Sunday you Mother.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on May. 06, 2011 @ 6:41 am

It's not that complicated.

Posted by Guest on May. 06, 2011 @ 8:19 am

Rumors are that Phil Ginsburg is trying to keep everyone calm about this corruption scandal, but at the same time all staff have been threatened with firing if they speak to any media or outside. Phil is relying on his buddies at the City Atty's office to cover his tracks in the Stow boat house bid fixing. Looks like a real game of "Survivor" is afoot at City Hall these days....

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2011 @ 8:38 am

Ginsburg's soft spoken,

Don't forget that he was Gavin's Chief of Staff for a couple of years. I used to think that he ran the City but it wasn't true. He's not nearly aggressive enough to play in the same league with people like Eric Jaye and Willie Brown and h. brown. OK, OK, maybe I'm underrating him.

The real power on the ground in Park and Rec now is Mark Buell. He's the pretty face married to Susie Tompkins who gives treasure to the Democrats so that the President will do an occasional sleep-over.

When you think of the Park, don't shoot the messenger. Phil's only fronting for Dede Wilsey and Buell and Hellman ... why gosh, the Usual Suspects.

Go Giants!


Posted by Guest h. brown on May. 07, 2011 @ 10:05 am

Fire the messenger AND force Mark Buell and all the other pigs out of the trough!

Stop the privatization of our parks and public spaces.
We can save a fortune by firing all the $100,000 per year middle managers and consultants Ginsburg and his predecessors put in place.
Another $2 million a year can be saved by disbanding the useless and redundant Rec and Park Rangers led by a corrupt cop forced out of Oakland, whose main goal is to line their own pockets.

Posted by Guest on May. 07, 2011 @ 10:30 am

Ginsburg is not in any way, shape, or form an innocent. He knows damned well what he's doing, and is -aggressively- in hearing after hearing on item after item, greasing the skids for private businesses to take over and make profits off of our public spaces. He is also, unfortunately, very good at it.

Ginsburg should not only be fired, he should be investigated for possible criminal misuse of his position, subverting local and federal laws, to enrich private interests.

Posted by Eric Brooks on May. 07, 2011 @ 11:12 am

I don't totally buy Mr.Tourk's arguments as he bills his clients like an attorney--accounting for his activity and time.

In that self-auditing process--which now, thanks to disclosure reported to Ethics as required by the Ammiano voter passed initiative fought by Industry--Mr.Tourk surely must have wondered about his revolving doors which, after all, worked well for his pocketbook.

For access to Elected or major appointed officials is what it is all about!

Posted by Charley_sf on May. 07, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

Threats to staff to keep quiet sounds like the Planning Department, where "Pay to play" was invented and now functions as little more than a PR machine. Talk about saving taxpayers from $100,000 middle managers and consultants!

It's the revolving door. Like SF is just some holding company for Friends of the Newsom administration: Nathan Ballard's wife at Rec Park greasing the skids for Ortega, the (Friends of) Library projects, the CPMC gang, Macris proteges, or the lovelies associated with Medjool and Vanguard. Staff-now-consultants or consultants-now-staff? They feed off the fees and public dollars while they privatize streets and sidewalks, parks and public land, violating the public trust.

Asking Ethics or the City Attorney's Office to help goes nowhere.
What about a Grand Jury? (and not just for Wreck Park)
Which Mayoral candidates have credibility and ways to end trough-feeding?

Posted by Guest on May. 08, 2011 @ 9:29 am

Let's vote for a Mayor who will clean out the pigs!

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

No one has made the connection of Phil Ginsburg's big support of turning the very large area of the western end of GG Park where the four giant grass soccer fields to ASTROTURF AND putting up bright lights there ON TOP OF POLLS 90 FEET HIGH so that until 11 pm at night, the whole area WILL NOT BE DARK as the park is supposed to be. Anyone who gives a damn about GG Park should be outraged at this stealing of our park like this!

And why is Rec & Park's Phil Ginsburg so eager to turn OUR BELOVED Golden Gate Park into astroturf and put up extremely bright lights on 90 feet polls???

Because the Fields Foundation (funded by the late Donald Fisher) wants it that way (soccer teams from all over will be paying $ to use it day and night - don't know if the Fields Foundation hopes to get a % of that money - why else would they be funding it???).

So Phil Ginsburg, who's supposed to be representing the PEOPLE of San Francisco as the General Manager of the Rec and Park, is, INSTEAD, representing a very rich private interest TO THE DETRIMENT of the PEOPLE of San Francisco (and outside San Francisco as well) and Golden Gate Park!!!

Join me and others in fighting Ginsburg's effort to turn a big chunk of Golden Gate Park into astroturf and putting up massively bright lights that go WAY UP HIGH so that it will no longer be dark at night. That astroturf is loaded with lead and other toxic metals. It will get into the surrounding soil to the detriment to the wildlife and ecosystem there (and not very good for young kids breathing the dust that will be generated and kicked up from playing soccer on it).

Here's the main group fighting it:

Here's another good site about this outrageous "project" of Phil Ginsburg and Donald Fisher's Fields Foundation:

Hey Phil Ginsburg - you're being paid by the City of San Francisco to represent the People of San Francisco, NOT the late Don Fisher and the Fields Foundation!!! That's called CORRUPTION!

Contact if you want to join the battle to STOP Golden Gate Park from being natural soil and natural grass to ASTROTURF and BRIGHT LIGHTS AT NIGHT (outrageous!!!). Those fighting this outrageous destruction of GG Park will soon be holding strategy meetings - come on and join the fight by sending an email to the above email address.

We can't let them get away with this because if they do, our precious GG Park will be ruined FOREVER!



Posted by Bill on May. 10, 2011 @ 2:13 am

Y'all were late to the party on this, and have little to add to the story. Bay Citizen and others beat you to it.

Posted by Toledo Mudhen on May. 11, 2011 @ 12:04 pm


Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

Why is he running for Mayor??

Posted by Guest on May. 12, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

Maxwell Szabo was directly involved in the Stow Lake crimes, but he's still working for Herrera and Tourk at the same time?

Maxwell Szabo, an employee at Ground Floor Public Affairs, Tourk's consulting firm, who worked closely with Tourk on the Stow Lake bid, transferred to Herrera's campaign to become his field director. The Herrera campaign would not comment on Szabo’s future.
Source: The Bay Citizen (

Posted by SunsetOuter on May. 16, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

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