The man chosen to lead San Francisco’s most powerful political body, the Board of Supervisors, laid out an aggressive plan for the next year and questioned the leadership skills of the mayor as The City faces the loss of the 49ers and a continually high homicide rate.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin was unanimously supported by his colleagues Monday as they voted him president of the legislative body for a second two-year term. The 11-member board flexed its political muscle against Mayor Gavin Newsom on a number of key political issues in 2006, often setting the agenda instead of following the mayor’s lead, according to Peskin.
“I think the members of the board have really hit their stride. We have become a cohesive body that has, on issue after issue, led The City,” Peskin said during an interview with The Examiner.
As key funding for The City’s groundbreaking universal health care access program is threatened by a lawsuit filed by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Peskin expressed frustration with the mayor’s inability to get business on board with the plan.
“I thought that when the mayor embraced the initiative that had come out of the board, that the mayor was going to bring some of his closest supporters with him. Clearly, despite representations to the contrary, that was not the case. Now we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and figure out whether or not we can fix it,” Peskin said.
The solution to funding the plan may come through restructuring The City’s business tax by doing away with the payroll tax, which Peskin said discourages job growth, and replacing it with a gross receipts business tax.
Peskin’s agenda also includes adequately funding The City’s infrastructure needs and basic beautification projects, such as improving the Broadway tunnel. He said the board “made the internal trade-offs of balancing social services with meeting the infrastructure needs of The City.”
As The City’s housing market expands via high-rises in the South of Market area, Peskin said two issues will continually need to be addressed: transportation and affordable housing. He touted the board’s success in reaching agreements with developers that increased the number of affordable housing units in new buildings.
“As San Francisco becomes more dense and more urbanized, an excellent public transportation system is going to be key for the livability. We have to make those investments now or The City is going to become so congested and unusable that it’s going to have a huge adverse economic impact in the decades to come.”
While relations have become somewhat strained between Newsom and the board, Peskin acknowledged that the two branches of government more often agree than disagree. “Ninety percent of what goes on is done with unanimous agreement of the board and the mayor,” Peskin said. “It’s the other 10 percent of things that become the issue of speculation and contention.”
However, Peskin took the opportunity, when asked, to criticize Newsom’s handling of the negotiations with 49ers owner John York as the team threatens to abandon Candlestick Point for Santa Clara.
“I’d be less than honest if I said that the mayor didn’t mishandle it. He has continued to mishandle it,” Peskin said. “This latest proposal, they sent in the mail. That’s not how you do business with a national football franchise. You have them in your office and you sit down and work through it together.”
The major political battle between the board and Newsom was legislation the board drafted and passed requiring regular foot beats around eight of the 10 district police stations. Newsom vetoed the foot-patrol legislation, only to have his veto overridden by the board in a 9-2 vote.
Leading up to the board’s vote, Newsom had supported an alternative plan drafted by police Chief Heather Fong that was unveiled days before and said city supervisors should not dictate the deployment of police officers.
“Even though the mayor vetoed the legislation his veto message said that he supported the notion of community policing and foot patrols. It was more about posturing than it was about governing,” Peskin said.
However, on Monday during Peskin’s swearing-in, both spoke of working closer together to accomplish “the people’s business.”
In accepting his second term as president, Peskin vowed the board would be “the vanguard for progressive legislative ideas and innovative solutions to San Francisco’s most difficult and vexing problems.”
Position: President, Board of Supervisors
Sworn in: Jan. 8, 2007, for his second term as board president
Represents: District 3 (Chinatown, North Beach, Polk Gulch, Nob and Russian Hill, the Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf)
Committees: Budget and Finance Committee, Government Audit and Oversight Committee, Transportation Authority
» Bay swimming with South End Rowing Club
» Hiked 200 miles on John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney
» Yoga twice a week for an hour and a half
Residence: Telegraph Hill