The start of today’s Board of Supervisors meeting will have a special order of business: time for a voter-supported discussion between The City’s mayor and its legislative body. Mayor Gavin Newsom, however, won’t be there.
Newsom will be in Davos, Switzerland, this week for the World Economic Forum — a five-day meeting of business leaders from around the globe, along with an assortment of heads of state or government, cabinet ministers, religious leaders, media heads and nonprofit chiefs.
In November, 56 percent of voters gave approval to Proposition I, which asked if San Francisco residents wanted The City’s mayor to appear monthly at a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisor Chris Daly, an outspoken critic of Newsom who authored the ballot measure, said attention has been drawn to the issue due to a larger underlying concern about communication between the executive and legislative branches of San Francisco’s government.
"There’s a total breakdown between Mayor Gavin Newsom and nine or 10 of the members of the Board of Supervisors," he said.
Openly critical of the idea, Newsom sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors in December that said he did not believe attending their meetings would advance discussions about city policy, but instead would result in "political theater." Newsom has also insisted that he has positive relationships with individual board members and an open-door communication policy.
Nonetheless, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation to reserve time for dialogue with the mayor on the third regularly scheduled board meeting each month, "pursuant to the will of the voters as expressed in Proposition I."
At today’s meeting, the special order of business will be called at 2 p.m. and Newsom will be declared officially absent, which will also be noted in the Board meeting minutes.
Earlier this month, Newsom held a community meeting on homelessness, conducted as a panel forum, that he said fit with his own interpretation of the voter-approved law. Invitations to the event went out from the Mayor’s Office and several hundred people attended. Questions were screened. About six Newsom critics in attendance — dressed in chicken suits to infer that the mayor was scared to face the Board of Supervisors — were, for the most part, ignored.
Newsom’s spokesman, Peter Ragone, called the community meeting a success and urged the Board of Supervisors to participate in the future. City officials have estimated that it would cost an estimated $10,000 to $15,0000 to hold an official board meeting at an alternate site; to have an unofficial meeting would violate open meeting laws.
"I think the cost is minimal to have a real community dialogue that includes neighbors," Ragone said.
E-mail Bonnie Eslinger at email@example.com.