Maybe this plan by San Francisco supervisors to dig themselves deep into a giant hole over the budget is actually a good idea — so better yet for The City to get a jump on the Central Subway project.
But otherwise you might have to wonder why any group would bypass new savings and revenue plans and instead revert to a series of unwanted tax proposals, wayward politics being what they are these days.
The last time I looked, people were desperate for jobs and money, not new ways in which to feed the voracious appetite of a city government that is providing fewer services at ever-steeper costs. Of course, this being San Francisco, the budget is being treated as if its full of Monopoly money where you pray to never land anywhere near Broadway or Park Place.
I rarely use the word remarkable to describe my favorite city officials, but this year the so-called progressive supervisors are going that extra mile to bring both pathos and comedy to the budget process. If you spent the last few weeks gearing up for the Pride Parade, you may have missed the fact that the board has taken a balanced budget from the mayor, rejected $21 million in new revenue and savings and now is looking to fill that gap of its own making with tax measures that could be rejected by voters in November.
That lacks a little rationality, not unlike trying to make ends meet by planning on winning the lottery.
We’ll give the board members a little wiggle room on the fuzzy math since many of them have never had real jobs. But it’s a formula that can’t win for any number of reasons, not the least of which being that there is no groundswell of support for new taxes, especially since they’re not needed.
This whole misadventure may play out in the board chambers Wednesday, when this “something’s got to give” approach finally gets given. But it’s a pretty cynical approach to governance, since the board is playing politics with but a pittance of the monstrous $6.5 billion budget that San Francisco calls its treasury.
Last week, the board’s majority rejected Mayor Gavin Newsom’s idea to raise $8 million through a one-time condo-conversion fee that is opposed by the tenant’s union, which is made up of about six people. The basis of that resistance is that somehow it would impact The City’s “rental stock” by allowing people to buy a home rather than renting it.
This specious argument is but a cover for the real reason supervisors blocked it — political power. They believe homeowners would oppose their tax and spend notions rather than increasing the numbers of a group that literally buy into The City, fight for the improvement of public schools and create instant property-tax revenue for a city in desperate need of it.
And it’s worth noting that most of the board members are themselves homeowners, or are trying to be.
The rest of the $21 million question can be answered by the refusal of supervisors to contract out services such as jail and museum guards to save up to $13 million, a proposal resisted by members of the Service Employees International Union, which acts like it has a seat at the board — and judging by its sway over The City, apparently does.
It’s pretty much the same argument the same union used to block a previous plan to outsource laundry jobs at Laguna Honda Hospital — even when there was no longer laundry service at the hospital.
The mayor is not trying to cut jobs or service through the proposal, it’s just asking to change the provider. But reason won’t prevail in this argument, because reason rarely does.
So now it’s just a waiting game to see which and how many tax proposals San Francisco voters will face in November, the easy solutions being anathema to The City’s reigning political practitioners.
It does make for good theater, however, until you realize you’ve actually been taken to the cleaners.