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About two weeks after his re-election as Mayor, Gavin Newsom started ramping up his impressive PR machine and started blowing about the enormous deficit that is to impact our City budget. This was a very clever and necessary political move for him and granted, somewhat risky, because in reality his statements ran counter to the windfalls of the day that should have been giving our treasury a surplus.
Let me explain. During Newsom’s first term, the Assessor’s office was consistently being inundated with one real estate tax “raise,” “gain” or “windfall,” whatever you choose to call it, after another, as real estate prices soared and the resultant sales resulted in unprecedented revenue to the City. This massive change of increased property tax income amounted to at least a $2 billion dollar increase to the City coffers. Now add this to the fact that Willie Brown left office providing annual budgetary surplus to the incoming regime in Rm. 200. That surplus was publicized to be near $65 million. For all his faults, Willie made some deals that were beneficial to the City, as did many of the Mayors before him, and that is because they took their responsibilities to the public seriously.
Newsom, the political empire builder, with little expertise in genuine government administration, and absolutely no concern for the “common good,” makes his move in order to prepare for the next higher office on his agenda. He hires hundreds of political assistants to fill newly invented administrative “middle management” positions, and thus installs his future “army of volunteers” when the run for governor comes around.
As a result, the annual City budget goes up from $4 billion to $6.6 billion as this gross overspending for personnel and, related benefits entwined with a multitude of bogus social programs, creates the small army that he needs to help in his governor’s campaign. As a result, we now end up with a budgetary deficit that exceeds $565 million dollars!
Never at a loss to exploit a current issue, concern or even people in his dedication to self promotion, (remember the homeless in care not cash, or the LGBT community in same sex marriage, etc etc. ad infinitem). He then inherits an easily supplied “blame” point to cite as the cause of the current budget deficit — the economic downturn! Never one to let an opportunity slip by, or reality and truth to get in the way, the very fact that the deficit that he created took place much earlier than the downturn is not even acknowledged or challenged, and his “PR spin machine” just keeps on rolling on!
Meanwhile, he is now cutting all the convenient scapegoat victims out of his misspent payroll scheme by laying off regular City maintenance, recreation, social service, and protective personnel while leaving his “volunteer army” untouched. Services that the public expects from local government are drastically cut in order for them to feel the “pinch” while his favored department heads and political appointments continue on with their empire building. Millions of dollars are squandered and unaccountable with meaningless social programs and development schemes that are only designed to attract media attention. Indeed, his “czar/business guru” for economic development, Mr. Michael Cohen of Hunters Point, Candlestick, Treasure Island and 49er fame, (just to mention a few), has yet to deliver on one single project for the City in eight years! It’s not about results, but the media attention that can be gained in preparation for his next political move. What he personally doesn’t cut in his budget, he then smirkingly forwards in his budget submission to a naïve and overzealous Board of Supervisors to do the rest of the dirty work.
Along with the “cutting” comes new methods of sucking more money out of an already strapped, trusting and yet apathetic public. Muni fares, parking meter rates, parking fines, recreational and licensing fees, and a whole array of new public charges soar to higher plateaus. All possible enforcement actions that could possibly produce new revenue are stepped up as our quality of life here in San Francisco deteriorates. All of this upsurge revenue activity is what one might call Newsom’s “volunteer army tax.” Police and fire services are cut, street and pavement conditions worsen and our recreational and public facilities deteriorate as bona fide civil servants and old school blue collar jobs are replaced with Gavin’s army of untouchable, make work neo-managers who run around engaged in meaningless and nonsensible mini-projects designed to attract attention. Quietly his army of political operatives posing as middle managers remain on the payroll while those who were truly dedicated to working for the public are laid off.
I am no stranger to how these City employed and funded political operatives take to the streets when a political campaign is shifted into gear, having had to fight them in several local campaigns. One only has to look at several of the recently elected Newsom lackeys and yes -men on the Board of Supervisors to understand how the least qualified and most duplicitous of characters can get elected. If you are willing to do his bidding, one can avail him or herself of unlimited campaign resources, and the sad fact is, they usually get elected. I can only imagine how “his army” will be mobilized for a statewide campaign. Thankfully these types of “volunteers” are usually just hacks doing a job for the boss and not heart-dedicated believers, so hopefully genuineness will prevail in the governor’s race.
To repeat, with the $2 billion windfall real estate tax surplus from the 2004-2007 years, and the $65 million surplus that this administration inherited from the former administration, this City today should be enjoying a fine surplus, and certainly be able to withstand the perils of the present economic downturn. Even If we just held our spending to what came in, or double that of Willie Brown’s last budget, plus the $2 billion dollar windfall, we would be in great shape. This of course would require some minor degree of integrity and moral responsibility, as opposed to political maneuvering. The $565 million deficit that we are faced with today was avoidable, is totally unnecessary, and directly attributable to Newsom’s political power needs. Hopefully, his city-funded army of political volunteers will be dismantled when his private army of wealthy backers comes to the inevitable realization that this guy cares about no one but himself.