The Board of Supervisors held its version of a pasta party last week, throwing everything within its sights onto the wall to see what would stick.
Unfortunately, as often happens when ingredients are brought to a boil, things got a little out of hand, amateur cooks being what they are these days.
There were numerous injuries. Untold numbers of San Francisco taxpayers were slammed. Several unions reported being burned. The City Charter was the most severely hurt, and, as of today, remains in serious condition.
The signs for long-term progress are not hopeful.
For those still recovering from their own private Super Bowl sambas, here’s a quick replay:
A majority of the board last week tossed onto the June 8 ballot a number of measures without any thought to the consequences. There were many embarrassing moments, forcing the board to pull back a lot of them due to a lack of factual evidence.
But despite the multiple misplays, one brave soldier marched on and boldly went where no one in the board’s legislative history had gone before: to call for a measure that would wrest the ultimate control of the budget from the mayor and give it to the board.
Or, to put it another way, it’s the equivalent of giving Supervisor Chris Daly the keys to San Francisco’s vault and telling him to spend responsibly — and then waiting for the bankruptcy filing to arrive.
Of all the bad proposals that erupted from City Hall last week — and there were too many to list — none topped the idea of removing the last security checkpoint of fiscal restraint from a system that has been honored in The City for more than 70 years.
The strong-mayor form of government that has been the mainstay of San Francisco has been chipped at through the wonder of district elections for the past decade, but no one ever believed that the board would make the ultimate power grab by trying to seize control of spending by changing the City Charter.
That is, until last week, when war was declared. And now, that board today will contemplate whether to walk away from another no good, terrible, horrible, very bad idea or face a beat-down in the June 8 election with another certain-to-lose proposition.
Now that a few days have passed since the budget takeover move was first announced, we can only hope that the frenzy has passed and the empowered dreams of the finance committee members have given way to reality.
Wishful thinking, for sure, but you like to give people a way out.
The path that the majority of the board appears to be on is fraught with danger. If not for Mayor Gavin Newsom, supervisors recently would have handed out millions to SEIU workers — money The City did not have.
The mayor rejected the plan, as he had rejected numerous frivolous spending proposals before. It’s the last check in a system that has operated efficiently for decades — with some political fragility — and it has saved The City time and again.
And Newsom has vowed to fight the measure with singular fury if the board somehow decides to go through with it. Labor will back him because the unions (though not SEIU) are more concerned about jobs than getting locked in a protracted political battle.
“I made it clear that if this measure goes on the ballot, then everything else is off the table,” the mayor told me. “This is a direct assault on our city constitution, and it should raise the alarms for everyone.”
That scenario has already played out in other parts of the state, notably a place called Sacramento, where the inability of lawmakers to rein in spending led to California being on the brink of insolvency.
If you think that’s been a good model, San Francisco may offer you another alluring version. It’s called the “make me write bad checks” form of government.