Like my mother yelling and ringing a cowbell at my basketball games, supporters of Ed Lee may have gone a bit overboard.
Reports have surfaced that folks who want to see Lee elected mayor in November set up tables in Chinatown where they marked — or instructed people on how to mark — mail-in ballots for Lee.
Lee’s official campaign has distanced itself from the actions of these self-proclaimed “Ed Heads,” calling for a stop to “any activity that undermines confidence in the election or the voting process.” Which is a hilariously tall order, if you think about it.
Everyone I know who has seen the footage of the extravagantly helpful Ed Heads, which was filmed by a Leland Yee for Mayor campaign staffer, has had the same response, “Whoa! Is that legal? That can’t be legal.”
Well, as Whitney Houston sings, “It’s not right, but it’s OK.”
It would be legal for people openly advocating for Lee but not part of his official mayoral campaign to stand at a table covered in Ed Lee signs and show people who voluntarily brought over their mail-in ballots how to vote for Lee. Under these same circumstances, there is no law prohibiting advocates from marking the ballots on another person’s behalf.
Telling a person whom to vote for when they are filling out a vote-by-mail ballot in a private place is against the law. But this was not a private place.
Causing a person to vote for someone other than the person they intended to vote for is against the law, but at this point there are no reports that anyone thought they were voting for anyone but Lee at the Ed Heads stand. After all, two videos of the operation clearly depict the Lee supporters wearing bright blue shirts festooned with a cartoon image of the mayor’s face.
It would be a violation of state law for the Ed Heads to collect the ballots in order to mail them or drop them off for the voters. Unless illness prevents it, absentee voters have to return their own ballots. Adam Keigwin, the chief of staff for Lee rival Sen. Leland Yee and one of the people who videotaped this get-out-the-vote operation, has alleged that the Ed Heads collected ballots from voters, although it’s unclear whether one of the videos provided to The San Francisco Examiner depicts this. So while District Attorney George Gascón has vowed to investigate the allegations of election law violations, don’t expect any dramatic indictments unless new information surfaces.
If it does, expect the other candidates to break out their cowbells.
Occupy SF participants occupied most of the chambers at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. More than 50 people spoke on behalf of Occupy S.F. during public comment, mostly decrying recent police raids on their encampment and asking for tents. One thing is for sure, it was not dull. Here are some of the quotes that stood out:
“We are inviting you to join us in the greatest experiment in the history of world!”
“The multinational corporations are a direct threat to the American independence as real as George III, the king of England, was.”
(Alleging bullying by the Department of Public Works last week) “Who was genuinely afraid when they had a grenade launcher with multiple barrels pointed at them?”
“I am not much of a political figure, more of an indigenous spiritual factor.”
“I am moved because another world is in birth.”
It was great to see new faces expressing concern for galactic issues and local politics, but I still prefer our very own regular public commentator, Walter Paulson, who donned sunglasses and sang his very own versions of three songs by The Doors: “Touch Me City,” “Come On City Light My Fire” and “Don’t You Love The City Madly.”
Obviously, that’s the only way.
‘I think this is really excessive,” said then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty, in what amounted to fighting words for the diplomatic politician. It was April 2009 and he was referring to the looting of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency budget by various city departments.
“Work orders” are invoices for services that are issued between units of local government. The City Attorney’s Office bills for its legal services, the Department of Public Works for its architectural expertise, and so on. But after voters passed Proposition A in 2007, which fattened the coffers of the SFMTA, other departments got a whole lot more cavalier about billing the agency. “Really excessive” is how Dufty described the San Francisco Police Department’s demand that the SFMTA pay for 87 percent of the cost for traffic law enforcement.
In the midst of digging into the Police Department’s questionable billing practices in 2009, it came to light that there was no actual agreement between the SFPD and the SFMTA. Just take your time with that. A $12 million dollar line item based on a “historical relationship.” Sometimes San Francisco is like Mayberry without the charm.
Rightfully red-faced, the SFPD and the SFMTA quickly signed an agreement in May 2009. There wasn’t much they could do about the “handshake and backslap” system that was in place up to 2009, so that contract requires the parties to use a detailed “approved work order budget” process starting in 2010.
The city services auditor came snooping back around to check on the approved work order budget process and released a new report earlier this month. In it, the CSA found the parties had not implemented the new process, and were still working off of a total amount for police work orders without detailed cost information.
According to the report, “SFMTA did not have any schedules or costs or labor rates for recurring services.” As you might imagine, this makes it impossible to audit the transactions.
Which may be the point.