Follow the money, not the switcheroo in Ed Lee narrative

As predicted, Ed Lee is looking to drop the “interim” from his title and conveniently announced this fact Monday, around the same time a poll was released showing Lee ahead of all other candidates by more than a mustache.

In the poll, 35 percent of respondents said Lee was their first choice for mayor, and the candidates who are not Ed Lee got between 1 and 10 percent of respondents’ first votes. The poll of fewer than 600 people was conducted by robocall and did not ask about second and third choices for mayor. So, don’t call your bookie just yet.

Lee is in good hands, though, with political consultant and Willie Brown favorite Ace Smith,  who cut ties with mayoral candidate Joanna Rees back in March. He just happened to have a spot on his dance card for Lee. Convenient, huh?

And I have to hand it to Lee, whose timing could not have been better. He delayed an announcement long enough to get the Board of Supervisors to work with him on a unanimously passed budget. And with the board now on recess for a month, whatever damage Lee’s announcement did to the kumbaya atmosphere at City Hall won’t be visible until September.

Some candidates are already crying foul over Lee’s decision, and perhaps they have good reason. But allow me to send a note on behalf of non-City Hall dwellers: We don’t care. Well, maybe we care a little, but not enough to write him off. Besides, asking about Lee’s change of heart just gives him an excuse to talk about that time he was at the White House with the president and Giants and Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked him to run. The only person missing from his story is Oprah. Giving him an excuse to talk about this is not smart.  

Candidates who want to attack Lee are better off aiming at power broker Rose Pak or former Mayor Willie Brown, who are alleged to have engineered this whole switcheroo. This mayor’s race is a war of gentility brought to you by ranked-choice voting, and Lee is the only person with a proxy or two for other candidates to attack. “Will people really care about the Pak/Brown connection?” I asked my consultant friend.

“It’s all about the money,” he said. “With enough money I can make Rose Pak look like Genghis Khan.”

Oh, dear. Game on.

SF plays musical chairs with old, empty buildings

What do you do when stuck in an expensive lease for an empty warehouse? If you are San Francisco, you buy it.

The story begins about 10 years ago when, as part of a Laguna Honda Hospital construction project, laundry facilities were to be demolished and the cleaning duties outsourced. The employees union fought the loss of jobs, and in 2006 a labor arbitrator ordered the creation of a new laundry facility to protect the positions.

The City therefore entered into a 10-year lease for a 33,000-square-foot space at 1 Newhall St. in the Bayview. The cost? A cool $30,700 per month.  At the time, only Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Ed Jew voted against the lease.

The City appealed the arbitrator’s award and won, so the new facility was ultimately unnecessary, as was the $2.5 million we had already spent on jumbo laundry equipment. Having already leased the space, the hospital used it to store flotsam and jetsam during construction — everything from kitchen appliances to art. The laundry equipment was in a separate, $7,000-per-month storage facility for six years until it was sold at auction in 2009 for $800,000. The Newhall space has now been empty for about two years, though we have still been paying $30,700 per month in rent.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our chief Medical Examiner’s Office, built in 1960, apparently still looks like the set of “Quincy, M.E.,” and at 16,000 square feet of space, it’s about 10,000 square feet too small. The National Association of Medical Examiners is not amused by our “retro” look and has warned that accreditation of the CME is in jeopardy if we don’t come up with a plan to upgrade by 2012.

The new plan is thus: purchase the Newhall space for $5.3 million and make it the new CME facility. The money has already been allocated in this year’s budget.

Of course, giving Newhall a CME makeover will cost $35 million to $44 million. Expect this to be part of a bond measure in 2013. Assuming everything goes as planned (and doesn’t it always?), the CME would occupy the space sometime between October and December of 2016.  

Until then, unless someone at City Hall can find a use for the space, it will remain empty.  

Roll camera on the show at City Hall!

Last Tuesday, Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced legislation to extend The City’s film rebate program to reality television shows. Here are my suggestions for possible reality TV that should be filmed in San Francisco City Hall:

  • ‘Smear Eye for the Straight Guy’: Watch as political consultants turn a fresh-faced do-gooder into a cynical, backstabbing candidate.
  • ‘What Not to Wear’: There’s no joke for this one. This is an actual show that would have a field day in our city capitol.
  • ‘ElimiDEBT’: Budget and Finance Committee chairwoman Carmen Chu is wooed by department heads looking to keep their budgets from being slashed. Suitors are cast off one by one, until only the fire department is left.

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