Ken Garcia: Supes look to extinguish S.F. Olympic flame before it’s lit

Let me see if I have this straight — San Francisco officials have been working for two years on their Olympic bid, and now that they’re headed to the finish line, a few members of the Board of Supervisors want to let voters say whether the bid should be pursued?

As they like to say up in the broadcast booth, let the games begin!

I realize that anything that would be a potential feather in the cap for the mayor and San Francisco would automatically be targeted — Cheney-like — by certain members of the board. But the 11th-hour political entry into the Olympic race is a little like placing the put before the shot, or the bow in front of the arrow.

While I fully understand why dour Supervisors Gerardo Sandoval and Ross Mirkarimi would want to treat the upbeat news that San Francisco is one of three U.S. finalists for the 2016 games by immediately stomping on it — San Francisco officials have a long tradition of reacting before the facts are in — I find their stated reasons a bit curious.

The supervisors want to threaten The City's bid out of a matter of fiscal restraint and prudence? This from a body that just approved a nearly $6 billion budget with enough fat to harden the fiscal arteries of every tax-paying citizen in San Francisco.

This from members of a panel that just got sued by business community leaders for failing to follow voter-mandated guidelines requiring them todo economic analysis of legislation that they pass.

This from a body that tried to take $30 million from city coffers to pay for a bunch of unknown and undeclared services to prevent homicides — even though funding for job creation and social programs is at an all-time high. (The voters did weigh in on that measure and gave it and its author, Supervisor Chris Daly, a big thumbs-down.)

This from a group that had no ethical concerns about raiding the city budget of $6.5 million to publicly finance mayoral campaigns — essentially taking taxpayer money to give it to themselves.

And this from a board that has never met a tax it didn't like and has no problem seeking out new ones, no matter how many companies they might drive out of business.

So forgive me if I'm a bit puzzled by the recent assertions that fiscal conservatism is alive and well in San Francisco, since as we all know, conservatism of any kind is not sanctioned here.

There are, indeed, lots of real concerns for any city potentially hosting a major international event — security, congestion, price gouging and the financial ability to meet the many demands. And that's why the U.S. Olympic Committee goes to great lengths to vet the offers from the competing cities to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Sandoval has rightly noted that some cities have lost their civic shorts by breaking the bank to host the Olympics — building expensive venues for a three-week event that sit empty for years after the game. Athens and Montreal are still in debt over their Olympic misadventures.

But Los Angeles made a small fortune by hosting the games in large part because they used existing facilities or utilized new ones after the games ended. San Francisco’s bid is counting on a new 49ers stadium, but most of the other sports venues between here and San Jose already exist, so we stand a much better chance of avoiding the host-city curse.

Yet politics can vault a potential bid right out of the running. New York lost its chance for the 2012 games largely because the state Legislature declined to approve a new $2 billion stadium. No such spending plan is being requested here, but the Olympic committee might not take too kindly to a popularity poll — which is essentially what Sandoval wants to place on the ballot — that says 35 percent or 40 percent of San Francisco voters would like the games to be transported to another city.

And as we know from history, at least one-third of The City’s voters will be against anything. The legislative analyst’s office said it would not be possible to determine how San Francisco would be impacted by the games because it hasn’t even drafted its final bid. So should we be asking voters a question that they can’t answer without any information? As they like to say down at the supervisors’ chambers — details, details.

This city has survived major earthquakes, fires, assassinations — even two Republican conventions. Certainly it could handle the pressure of hosting an international sporting event.

Somehow, Lillehammer, Norway, made it through, and most people couldn’t even find it on a map.

Ken Garcia’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends in The Examiner. E-mail him at or call him at (415) 359-2663.Bay Area NewsLocalNews Columnists

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