Mayor Gavin Newsom rejected the will of the voters — 56 percent of whom said in November they want him to appear monthly at a Board of Supervisors meeting — and instead moved forward with his own plan to hold policy discussions with the public and not The City’s legislative body.
Newsom, who is often at odds with the board’s progressive majority, has publicly criticized the idea of appearing before the 11-member elected body. In a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Newsom said he believed that attending meetings of the board would not advance discussions about city policy.
“Too often inside of City Hall, policy dialogue becomes political theater and the public interest loses out,” Newsom wrote.
Proposition I, authored by Supervisor Chris Daly, an outspoken Newsom critic, was passed by voters in November. Daly said his ordinance was inspired by the British practice of “question time,” a weekly affair within the House of Commons during which the prime minister spends a half-hour answering questions from members of Parliament.
“What Chris Daly wanted to do is create political theater where he could attack the mayor,” mayoral spokesman Peter Ragone said.
On Thursday, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin was prepared to submit legislative language to the board’s Rules Committee to formally adopt the nonbinding voter-approved measure, which suggests, but does not require, that the mayor appear monthly before the Board of Supervisors.
Newsom’s letter stated that he already moved forward with his own interpretation of the voter-approved law and had begun organizing monthly public-policy meetings starting in January. Instead of appearing at a Board of Supervisors meeting, the mayor’s proposal merely asked the Board of Supervisors to participate in his newly planned schedule of town hall meetings.
“This takes the model and puts it at a level where the public can participate,” Ragone said.
The mayor’s plan “flies in the face of what voters approved,” Peskin said, adding that “the plain language that was adopted by the voters of San Francisco very clearly says it will be a meeting at a regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting.”
This is the second time that Newsom’s office has made a pre-emptive move against a policy before the Board of Supervisors. Last month, Newsom vetoed legislation supported by eight of the 11 supervisors that would have increased police foot patrols, announcing on the day of the veto that a plan was already under way to have more patrol officers walking The City’s streets.
Staff writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.