News site 48Hills recently reported something that would appear shifty if it weren’t ubiquitous: Our alleged mayor held a campaign event that doubled as a community presser. He did it for Julie Christensen, and now for Ahsha Safai, who is running for District 11 Supervisor against Kim Alvarenga.
Supervisor John Avalos, the Mayor’s Office and Safai worked together to help the nonprofit Mission Childcare Center buy its building so they don’t get priced out. It’s a sweet success, but Mayor Ed Lee made the event a showcase for the heroic leadership of Safai with no mention of Avalos.
Such is Safai’s modus operandi: His would-be patrons hand him a succession of patronage appointments that allow him to take credit for other people’s work. He’s managed to lurk around San Francisco politics for more than a decade and rack up an impressive résumé of credits with minimal actual achievements, but has maintained his family’s brisk real estate business.
When Safai ran for supervisor in 2008, he claimed to have “saved St. Luke’s Hospital” on his doorhangers, when, in fact, he made no effort. In 2007, Sutter Health revealed plans to close St. Luke’s Hospital. On behalf of the California Nurses Association, I was involved in building a broad labor-community coalition that worked with practically everyone in San Francisco but Safai to save St. Luke’s. By 2008, Sutter faced a political uproar that imperiled plans to build a new hospital on Van Ness and Geary, so they backtracked on the closure of St. Luke’s.
In the midst of the backtracking, Sutter appointed Safai as a “community representative” to an ad-hoc community advisory board, and then he promptly took credit for saving St. Luke’s. There were countless interminable hearings, rallies and meetings on the way to saving St. Luke’s, yet we never saw Safai. It gave the impression that Sutter appointed him to this role just to give him something to tout on the hustings.
In 2010, Safai was appointed to the Housing Authority Commission by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. The commission is responsible for fiscal and operational oversight of the agency and accountability for the director. Safai and four other commissioners so failed in these basic oversight functions that Mayor Lee replaced them before their terms ended.
In March 2013, the Budget and Legislative Analyst Office issued a report that, among other things, was scathing about the Commission:
“The SFHA Board of Commissioners allowed the financial condition of the authority to reach a critical point, largely as the result of its own inadequate oversight. The Commission did not review SFHA’s financial statements in the 17-month period from October 2011 through February 2013, and did not address financial risks highlighted by the financial statements.”
One might wonder what Safai and other commissioners did during 17 months of meetings besides reviewing financial statements, but they were one of the few city commissions that didn’t care to record its meetings, so no one knows. According to the report, because of these shortcomings, the housing authority lost millions in federal dollars, missed rents from its own tenants and failed to maintain units. The report explains how the commission allowed then-director Henry Alvarez to expand his authority, which he abused. The agency was hit with three lawsuits for discrimination and retaliation, for which The City paid handsomely, and it led to the firing of Alvarez.
In sum, Safai’s most recent act of government service was on a commission that totally failed in its mandate, costing The City millions of dollars and making life worse for thousands of people relying on public housing.
Safai is a nice guy. Maybe he has a deep mastery of policy. His website is thin on details of what he would actually do if elected. All we can go on is his donors, which make him seem like a wholly owned subsidiary of Willie Brown-Newsom-Lee, and his actual record of public service, which seems to consist of nothing.
Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer, and, like Safai, is also a consultant for SEIU, but supports Alvarenga. See Nato’s movie-mocking show Riffer’s Delight ridicule “The Happening” at the Alamo Drafthouse on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
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