City politics browning the green

The smashing success of The Presidents Cup proved that San Francisco can operate a world-class golf tournament with surprising ease. But when it comes to managing its own municipal courses, The City always finds the rough.

The PGA Tour, the ruling body of men’s professional golf, fell club-over-heels in love with San Francisco and Harding Park — its municipal jewel of a course — as did a global television audience that saw 36 hours of a pretty city at its most sparkling. At least 125,000 people turned out to watch some of the best players in the world, millions of dollars were spent in city venues and all involved said they want to do it again soon.

Oh, if dealing with San Francisco politics were so easy.

Some park activists and their allies on the Board of Supervisors are still fuming that Harding took so much money to be re-done, of which about $16 million has still not been repaid. Add in the fact that Harding and its municipal course brethren run at a deficit due to payments on the $16 million, and you have a partial reason why there have been organized efforts to turn some of the city-run courses back to nature preserves or swamps — whatever Mother Nature decides.

And that would be tragic, not only because it would undermine all the great work that has gone into making Harding one of the best public golf courses in the United States, and certainly worthy of more PGA events, but also because The Presidents Cup is going to make local courses even more popular — an issue that deserves to be addressed.

The problem with The City’s golf courses is that they’ve never been properly utilized or maintained because there simply isn’t enough money to do so, and some city leaders would rather send general fund revenue to Samoa whenever a tsunami hits than spend it on returning Lincoln Park to its former splendor.

“We are just not in a position to commit the public resources that are required to preserve this great tradition of municipal golf,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Parks Department. “But the trick is to get all these people influential in the golf community involved.”

But San Francisco is going to have to fall in line with other cities and consider turning over management of its public courses to private operators. It’s the best shot for the future of golf here.

Republican candidate just needs the funds

Tom Campbell, erstwhile candidate for the GOP’s ticket for governor, has the know-how, the experience and apparently the public support to win the ticket. If only he could raise money.

Campbell certainly raised a lot of eyebrows after a recent Field Poll found him in a statistical dead-heat with presumed frontrunner Meg Whitman — she with a once-a-decade voting record and $25 million in largely self-funded contributions to her campaign chest.

Campbell is mostly a centrist on social issues and without doubt, a fiscal conservative, which would put him in line with the mainstream of California voters. And he’s probably the smartest candidate in either party, having served as a law professor at Stanford University and most recently as the dean of the Hass Business School at UC Berkeley.

But brainy ideas don’t translate into votes, and Campbell has hardly raised enough funds to send out a mailer. Oh, and he’s running on a platform of big policy plans. In this day and age, what could he possibly be thinking?

Of course, big spending hasn’t stopped Whitman from an early meltdown, and Steve Poizner is trailing badly in polls. Campbell’s supporters might tell him to stop talking and start dialing. 

Time is up on absurd meter extension plan

The idea of extending parking meter hour enforcement is upon us, and it’s time this idea was finally expired.

That won’t necessarily stop the “progressive” brood that never met a tax it didn’t like for pushing for longer hours and longer days of forcing car owners to saddle up with change — or face a hefty parking ticket. And it’s no surprise that the planners over at the Municipal Transportation Commission gave a green-light to the idea, since more meters and more parking tickets to cover their annual operating deficit is as creative as they ever get.

But the plan has already been verbally nixed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who knows the meter idea is a political loser for anyone who wants to stay in office. Oakland went through months of public agonizing over a similar plan that had business owners and residents howling about increased parking hours, and the city council received so much heat that last week they repealed the plan.

What’s really gnawing is that many of the same officials pushing for extended meter hours are the same ones who scream whenever Muni officials ask for a quarter or 50-cent fare increase, acting as if most of those riders don’t own cars.

It makes no sense to raise meter hours during the middle of a recession, when businesses are hurting for customers and spare dollars are tough to come by, but tell that to a bunch of planners who work on studies outside the real world.

First lady caught cell-handed

In the age of entertainment television and the growing paparazzi presence, you’d think celebrities would be more careful about their public activities. That would include the governor’s wife, Maria Shriver, who was caught, not once but twice, talking on her handheld cell phone while driving — which, she might know, is against the law.

Shriver was caught cell-handed by unknown photographers and the pictures were posted on the celebrity-gotcha Web site One of the photos was dated July 12 and the other was shot on Sunday, according to TMZ, which carried a story under the headline, “Maria, Maria, cell phone cheatah!”

When informed of the legal breach, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger twitted a message to TMZ that “there’s going to be swift action,” and sure enough, the ebullient Shriver texted a quick apology to the press.

Any bets that California’s first lady starts driving an SUV around with tinted windows?










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