Mayoral accountability or political theater?

Supes will consider Daly’s measure to force mayor to attend board meeting

Although a proposed law to force the mayor to attend a monthly Board of Supervisors meeting has been called “political theater” by critics, the legislation is just steps away from being placed before voters on the November ballot.

A Board of Supervisors committee decided on Friday to put the proposal before the full board, which will vote on whether it should be placed on the ballot.

The motives behind the legislation have been questioned since its author, Supervisor Chris Daly, is an outspoken critic of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

But following the committee’s decision, Daly said the spirit of the law was conceived three years ago and has little to do with his feelings about the current mayor. Instead, Daly said the law is intended to foster better communication between the city’s legislative and executive branches of government.

While the mayor has the authority to attend any city meeting, Newsom sends his staff, who represent him in his stead. Daly said often mayoral staff members are unable to fully answer questions, leaving Newsom’s position on policy matters unclear.

Daly also said that it would hold Newsom to a greater level of accountability, one more on par with what members of the Board of Supervisors face, as they conduct debate in the public eye on a weekly basis.

The legislation would require six votes from the Board of Supervisors to qualify for the November ballot. It would then require a majority vote to become law.

“I don’t think it will achieve its ends. I think it will deteriorate into more of an entertainment session than an actual policy debate,” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said. “I wish I had more faith, but I don’t. I don’t think it benefits our charter to have some provisions in there that are more about entertaining than about policy.”

Last week, Newsom’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors, Wade Crowfoot, said the legislation was nothing more than an attempt to create a “gotcha session” or “political theater.” The legislation would also conflict with the spirit of the city government’s separate branches, he suggested.

Daly’s legislation is modeled after the British House of Commons, which requires the prime minister to spend time once-a-week answering questions from members of parliament. These sessions are often full of witty barbs and are a source of entertainment for some.

Last week, Daly toned down the requirements of the monthly meetings between the Board of Supervisors and Newsom. Instead of requiring Newsom to answer questions put to him by members of the board, the monthly meetings would be more “give and take.”

The proposed legislation was moved to the Board of Supervisors without recommendation. For the legislation to come before city voters this November, the board would need to take action on it in July.

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