Tag Archives: SF

The Art of Governance and the Economy – by Tony Hall

It seems that all we have read about these past few weeks relates to employment. One politician talks incessantly about how many jobs he has created. Another politician talks about how many jobs he has saved. A third politician talks about nothing but lies associated with the first two. There seem to be only two job categories that get any positive attention. One is the non-private sector positions supported by taxation. The other, and flourishing, is those employed by the various media spin machines out there doing their best to convince the weary and wary taxpayer of a particular point of view. Once again you, the taxpaying voter, are left trying to figure out the truth and what should be done.
As a father, I can attest to how difficult it is for those who are interested in remaining in our City to actually find employment in their chosen field of study, let alone in a meaningful or contributory fashion. This is the sad reality that underlies the flight of our local talent, discourages families, and takes an eventual toll on our quality of life. When we address these problems and offer realistic solutions, we are immediately classified as prophets of doom, or uninformed disgruntled individuals by the ever so politically correct, pseudo-intellectual elitists that are now running the City. The fact is that no one really needs to say anything but only has to look around. Notice the recent proliferation of vacant storefronts, the lack of buyers in the open shops that beg for customers with almost unbelievable sale promotions, the restaurants and diners less than 20% full, or the drop off in attendance of the various galas, social and charitable events for which San Francisco is so well known. No one knows this better than the small businesses trying to survive here in the City…[Full Article on the Westside Observer]

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TELLIN’ IT LIKE IT IS

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.

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TREASURE ISLAND or FANTASY ISLAND?

Today, I just returned from Treasure Island where I was able to witness the only positive excitement to take place on that fantasyland since I left as Director there. An exciting game of Rugby followed by expert practitioners of the ancient sport of Gaelic football thrilled my heart, not only because of the athleticism involved, or the fact that the idea for the fields for such venues was spawned during my administration of the Island, but more by the fact that something real was actually happening there!

For many of you who have followed the history of Treasure Island, your head must be spinning as fast as the Newsom administration manufactures another fantasy plan to keep the public in a revolving state of hope while he and his biggest political donors milk another unknowing potential investor. With the upcoming Governor’s race getting underway, I suspect that once again “Campaign Newsom” will come up with yet the latest plan to attract attention, dutifully detailed in their “campaign rag” the Chronicle, and affectionately affirmed by the “campaign lackeys” that he has placed on the City payroll, on various commissions, and the Board of Supervisors. (Remember Care not Cash? Well that little spin is now costing you—the taxpayer—about 2 billion annually compared to the 2 million when Newsom took office!) Perhaps his latest plan for Treasure Island might involve a politically correct, ecologically advanced, astrologically aligned, and magnetically balanced center for the study of political exploitation!

You might recall that Darius Anderson, the politically connected Democratic lobbyist and fundraiser, who as the principal of the Treasure Island Development Corporation (TIDC), acquired the exclusive rights to negotiate for the development of Treasure Island by delivering multi-millions to the campaigns of Willie Brown and Newsom. Anderson, who has never built a doghouse, must now dangle his carrot to other builders who might fancy the elusive dream to build on the Island now that the Lennar Corporation seems to have fallen on tough times, and doesn’t seem willing to buy out Anderson’s position in the development scheme. At a recent sighting, the ultimate broker, Aaron Peskin, was seen holding hands with Anderson and none other than what is left of the Residential Builders Association (formerly headed by Joe O’Donahue) at the Washington Square Bar and Grill a few weeks ago at a mysterious fundraiser. See link http://www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/2009/03/16/the-crackberry-chronicles-luck-o-the-irish-edition/#comments

A bit of advice to my Irish brethren: C’mon now lads, haven’t ye been fleeced enough? Don’t let the likes of these scoundrels dip into your pockets!

For those readers who might want to refresh their memories about the corruption at Treasure Island, try reading some of the many articles written by Chuck Finnie 1998-1999 for the Hearst Examiner and later with the Chronicle. They really were quite accurate and well researched and can be found on the net.

Interestingly though, Finnie’s passion for exposing the truth seemed to evaporate at Newsom’s Coronation, and he was most silent during the time when I exposed the “sweetheart deal” that Newsom was trying to get me to go along with as Director of the Island in 2004-5. It is no wonder that the Chronicle is going out of business as a newspaper that reports the facts.

I accepted the job at Treasure Island with the sincere belief that this mayor really wanted to do something with Treasure Island that was beneficial to the City. After a 30 year career of City Service involving many building projects in seven different City Departments, I believed I could initiate a development project that would, after significant seismic stabilization and a true open competitive bidding process as mandated by the City charter, result in a project that would return millions to our general fund every year thereafter. Boy, was I fooled! This mayor, as has his predecessor, only used this dream in the middle of our Bay to raise political capital and exploit those willing to donate.

In short, you might recall that I was released as Director of Treasure Island when I refused to go along with the latest round of corruption involving the Island in 2005. The Mayors Office insisted upon renewal of the contract for TICD (the Anderson group) for exclusive negotiation and developmental rights, despite the fact that that group had not met the terms of its contract, including substantial payment shortfalls for specific developmental milestones, as well as a series of discarded timetable extensions that continue till this day. Needless to say, the mayor engineered my ouster when I refused to sign the contract that would again allow his largest political donors to continue their scam by having the Island administration pick up their expenses while they publicized ever changing plans in their search for deep pockets. I refused to compromise my ideals in favor of an effort to recover integrity for the future of any true development of the Island, but to no avail. His hand-picked, seven-member board of political hacks voted to terminate my services in the midst of considering a raise for me and my staff for a very successful year and a half of management that resulted in businesses and spirit returning to the Island. To justify their actions at that time, they alleged the altering of books at Treasure Island. This false allegation came after the Controller, Mr. Ed “never let the truth get in the way” Harrington, sent an anonymous letter to the Chronicle. The only problem with their play was, that since the Treasure Island Development Authority was under the auspices of the Mayors Office, it was the Controller himself who was handling our books! Harrington is the same cat who is now in charge of the SFPUC and is most responsible for your water rates skyrocketing.

The vindictiveness of this mayor and the “lackeys” that surround him is unprecedented in San Francisco. Anyone who has ever opposed him or his programs has been the subject of a subsequent media smear, investigation by the so-called Ethics Commission, or direct mail hit campaign. Indeed, since my tenure on the Board of Supervisors, they have launched one attack and defamatory allegation after another, all because I dared question the status quo. Much to their embarrassment, their final attempt to besmirch my reputation, a phony Ethics Commission investigation cost that department almost a million dollars to conduct. Because I chose to fight rather than accept their cowardly abuse, their tactics involving perjury and falsification of evidence were exposed. Truth won out and I was exonerated.

The reality and the facts are as follows: 1. Treasure Island today sits as a rotting, decaying toxic parcel of 500 acres of man-made terrain in the middle of the bay. 2. It is still owned by the Navy, who has refused to turn it over to the City, which acts as a caretaker. 3. The Navy has a financial investment and responsibility in the future development of the Island and knows what so many of us now know. They have become skeptical with respect to the sincerity of the City and the ability of the Anderson group to put forth a concrete redevelopment plan after more than twelve years. Take for example, Newsom’s latest fantasy plan that calls for a space- age green development with several 40 to 60 story residential, retail and hotel towers, new low-income neighborhoods, no on-island driving, a ferry terminal (that the State has already nixed) to accommodate the low-income resident boaters(!), and the best of all, a 40 acre organic garden! All of this is going on top of 8 ft. of toxic bay land fill that floods year after year and sits on top of the most active earthquake fault in the bay area! I certainly don’t know what this guy is smoking but this latest fantasy surely isn’t the result of the red wine that he claimed he was addicted to.

My efforts and opinions at this time are being directed to San Franciscans who really care about our City. I am not deliberately trying to deride anyone or prevent him or her from attaining their dream of higher office, but I do draw a line at the cost to the public. In fact, with most of them, the sooner they move on to their great ‘white house in the sky’ the better for those of us who remain. My hope today is that future public servants can be encouraged to emerge who are dedicated to ensuring that San Francisco will rise above the pitfalls of corruptive influences while retaining a growth towards the world class status that our outstanding attractions deserve. My wish for all San Franciscans, is that we can re-establish standards of integrity based upon transparent political accountability that will diminish the dubious empirical exploitations of corruption that have befallen our wonderful City.

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Truth Wins Out

At long last, my campaign committee and I have been vindicated, and found not guilty of any violations of FPPC rules and regulations. In my 30 years of public service, I have always fought against such abuse and injustice, and those of you who know me, and have helped me accomplish so much over the years, know the truth. To you and your unwavering support I am grateful. Yes, truth is the most powerful weapon against those who seek to advance their own careers by disparaging others. At long last, our efforts in pursuit of what is right and legal have won out over that which is corrupt and politically motivated.

It’s unfortunate that the most important aspect of the four-year, million-dollar investigation, some have called it a “witchunt,” conducted against us was not reported accurately by the mainstream press. This is no coincidence, since the purpose of this injustice was to destroy my reputation. Mayoral sympathizers did not figure that I would fight and that two very savvy attorneys, David Waggoner and Peter Bagatelos, both honorable men, would donate their time and expertise.

The mainstream dailies, dutifully reported the charges against me, then ignored the vindication of those charges or the criminal violations including perjury and tainted evidence perpetrated by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd’s Aide, Olivia Scanlon, the Ethics Commission’s star witness. Not one word was printed regarding the origin of the anonymous, bogus complaints alleging that we had committed some $300,000 worth of campaign violations. Not one word was printed about the “ethics” investigator Richard Mo, who led a commission of political hacks, chaired by wannabe Judge, Susan Harriman without regard for due process, on their four-year campaign of character assassination. Even when the truth was uncovered, the “press” failed to report it, and the committee continued their million dollar taxpayer funded folly regardless. As a final gasp, the committee imposed a nominaly face-saving token fine, against my election committee without support of any findings of fact or law.

When a so-called “ethics” commission is nothing more than a Kangaroo Court for those currently in power, and the only people “investigated” are those who have been critical of the current administration, then we have corruption. When the press doesn’t report the facts, citizens are deprived of the right to know and reputations are severely damaged. I sincerely thank David and Peter for having the guts to stand with me.

How all of this come about? In 2004, after I conducted a very successful re-election campaign in District 7, Mayor Newsom repeatedly asked me to take over and develop Treasure Island. I had a successful record of developing facilities, such as Civic Center Courthouse, Hall of Justice and related court renovations, Harding Park, Lake Merced, Youth Guidance Center, and various neighborhood improvements. I realized that if Treasure Island were developed properly, it could yield tremendous revenue to the City, so I accepted the position. I knew I could accomplish more than I could in four years as the Lone Ranger on a left-leaning Board of Supervisors with a weak Mayor. Little did I realize that the Mayor’s biggest monetary donors were in line to be gifted the exclusive right to develop the Island without public review, engaging in the mandated process of bidding, or even being held accountable for the millions that they already owed the Project. When I questioned these sacred cows, my reputation was attacked and the Mayor orchestrated my ouster by another one of his handpicked Boards.

Treasure Island was, and is, in reality just another “dream” that Newsom “spins” to the public while exploiting it as personal political capitol. The project remains a decaying junkyard that even the Navy has refused to go along with. On reflection, Newsom successfully maneuvered me off the Board of Supervisors, to silence the only moderate voice that scruitinized him from the other side of the political spectrum. My foolish mistake.

When I opposed “care not cash” as a supervisor, I felt Newsom was exploiting the homeless issue as a politically expedient campaign tactic. As I predicted, it would gouge the taxpayer and would not work. Today, we are spending over 2 billion dollars per year to provide the “care” that was formerly costing 200 million dollars for the exact same number of homeless individuals roaming our streets in 2004. The homeless are no better off now than they were before. Now they are imprisoned in a never-ending cycle of induced dependency for city services, without any “cash” and we still have panhandlers.

Newsom moved on to exploit the LGBT community. Same sex marriage was never an issue in San Francisco’s live-and-let live atmosphere. It became another campaign tactic for Newsom in his quest for higher office. The resultant Prop 8 now pits neighbor against neighbor in never ending court battles while Newsom searches for his next exploitation.

Our city budget is 3 times what it was 5 years ago when Newsom took office, 10 times higher than it was 10 years ago, and is projected to be at least 600 million in the red for next year, with no change in population.

Exploitive spin for political expediency does not pay the bills. This era of political exploitation will end when we elect officials who want to serve the common good rather than their own careers. Knowing how to “fix the city” would be a bonus.

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