BY PAT MURPHY
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
Copyright © 2008 San Francisco Sentinel
One local elected official yesterday offered a straightforward, if head-scratching, explanation why he postures indignation over routine San Francisco budget shifts.
Those shifts to fund City payroll are not right, he said.
Just because line item shifts have always been done within a budget that remains balanced doesn’t mean it’s right, Supervisor Aaron Peskin told Board of Supervisors colleagues Tuesday.
“I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is
going on in here!”
Peskin directed the remarks toward recent staff reorganization within the Newsom administration.
As Newsom began rolling out his second term, the mayor reallocated $749,242 within City budget to pay salaries for Mayor’s Office staff reassignments and one new hire.
Just as quickly, District 3 Supervisor Peskin disdained both personnel and salaries as “gold-plated political hacks,” and Peskin went public criticizing salaries being drawn from the Muni budget rather than from the Mayor’s Office budget allocation.
Board of Supervisors President Peskin, according to Peskin former legislative aide Wade Crowfoot, manifested most visible disdain at Crowfoot himself.
After a hiatus from Peskin’s office to attend the London School of Economics, Crowfoot joined the Newsom administration in a senior position as the mayor’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors.
When Peskin first learned of Crowfoot’s recent assignment as director of Climate Protection Initiatives — and funding source — Peskin twice threatened Crowfoot with getting Crowfoot fired, Crowfoot publicly alleged Tuesday.
Indeed, Crowfoot two weeks ago asked the City Attorney’s Office to determine illegality of the threats, mayor’s press secretary Nathan Ballard confirmed.
And Newsom yesterday went livid.
“Why is it that he threatened to get rid of — I’m going after you — to his former staffer?” Newsom smiled over gritted teeth.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom takes on Supervisor Aaron Peskin following Tuesday press conference in the Bayview District highlighting local Olympic Torchbearer applications
Photo by Bill Wilson © 2008
Newsom took major media coverage to task.
“Ask that staffer. Ask Wade Crowfoot and why don’t you go to the 20 other staff members…” suggested the mayor.
Newsom scored Peskin as a hybrid of insincerities, citing Peskin two-term intimate knowledge of the City budget.
“None of these positions is new… it’s quite alarming… when in fact the Board, individuals on the Board, that have a personal issue… brought up something that in fact they had a chance to dialoque and discourse about, not once, twice, three, five, ten times,” Newsom maintained.
“None of these positions are new FTEs that weren’t approved by the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s about attacking the mayor and it’s about the politics of personality.
“And it’s about a willingness of the media, candidly, to blow things out of proprotion that it looks like there is a story when there is none.”
The San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, and KGO-TV adhere to a form of journalism cited as balanced by including opposite points of view, frequently the harshest opposite perspective.
Yet coverage often is driven by event immediacy rather than from long-term context.
Newsom pointed to Peskin long-term history.
“The individual that’s responsible for going out of his way to make this an issue not only supported the budget that included these positions but actually forced us to create one of these positions,” recalled Newsom.
“The Board… approved the budgets over and over again.
“There was never a problem.
“They knew exactly who Stuart Sunshine was. They knew exactly what he did. They had no problem.”
The Newsom second term is rooted in closer collaboration by City department heads and staff. Both Sunshine and Crowfoot now share Muni improvement duties.
“He’s (Peskin) a supervisor that claimed to be the author of legislation, Prop A, that was approved by the voters that requires an actual plan to be done by Muni — an environmental plan — so I hired somone of incredible competency, Wade Crowfoot, who has the ability to work with the Public Utilities Commission, the Department of Enviornment, and Muni, to actually develop that plan and to build our environmental legacy in the City.
“Forty percent of that salary comes from Muni, 40% of that salary from the Public Utilities Commission, and 20% from the Department of The Enviornment.
“It’s par for the course of how you govern in the City that you work — and this has been done for decades and the (Peskin) Board has approved it every year — and so in the spirit of Prop A that the same author of the same initiative to lay me out — we actually hire someone, who happens to be his former chief-of-staff.
“So he threatens… but the Charter doesn’t allow (Peskin) to go after him so he’ll try to go after the position.
“And it’s great media circus… what was the word you guys used, ‘raid’ (of Muni budget)?”
The San Francisco Examiner referenced the incident as a “raid.”
“Which is a remarkable adjective to describe something that the (Peskin) Board approved, the positions that everyone has known exist with the exception of the new one that we decided was too important — Wade Crowfoot because of the mandate of Prop A — so I am not only satisified with the team we’ve got but I’m satisified with the way we conducted it.
“I think you guys need to do a little bit of background and research as to where this is coming from and why because that’s the interesting story here.”
The interesting story “is why has the Board approved these positions and now has a problem,” continued the mayor.
“And why it is that a particular supervisor doesn’t like his former staffer, tried to get rid of him, couldn’t get rid of him, now trying to find a convenient way to connect all these dots when that staffer has done a great job and doing a job that the voters prescribed under Prop A — the same initiative that that same supervisor initiated.”
Ballard described the unfolding scenario as retaliation against Newsom for proposing legislation to prevent shake-downs.
“The mayor put some good government ballot initiatives forward a couple of weeks ago that would prevent shake-downs by politicians,” said Ballard.
“A lot of the maneuvering that you’re seeing in the last couple of weeks has been in retaliation for putting those good government ballot initiatives forward.”
Sentinel Editor & Publisher
In his youth, Pat Murphy worked as a General Assignment reporter for the Richmond Independent, the Berkeley Daily Gazette, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He served as Managing Editor of the St. Albans (Vermont) Daily Messenger at age 21. Murphy also launched ValPak couponing in San Francisco, as the company’s first San Francisco franchise owner. He walked the bricks, developing ad strategy for a broad range of restaurants and merchants. Pat knows what works and what doesn’t work. His writing skill has been employed by marketing agencies, including Don Solem & Associates. He has covered San Francisco governance for the past eleven years. Pat scribes an offbeat view of the human family through Believe It or What. Email Pat at SanFranciscoSentinel@yahoo.com.
Bill Wilson is a veteran freelance photographer whose work is published by San Francisco and Bay Area media. Bill embraced photography at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR). Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past four years. Email Bill Wilson at email@example.com.
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