Supervisors chide mayor for his no-show

Without input from Mayor Gavin Newsom, a proposal that would require The City’s mayor to come before the full board for a monthly question-and-answer session was difficult to discuss, members of a Board of Supervisors committee said Thursday.

Some said the absence of the mayor — who did not send a staff member in his place — at the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee meeting highlighted the need for the charter amendment, which was proposed by Supervisor Chris Daly.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano said he didn’t feel strongly that a charter amendment, which would need voter approval, was necessary to facilitate communication between The City’s legislative and executive branches. He added that he hoped a compromise agreement could be worked out.

“That might have been possible, ironically, if the Mayor’s Office was here now,” Ammiano said.

Daly said his ordinance was inspired by the British practice of “question time,” a weekly affair within theHouse of Commons during which the prime minister spends a half-hour answering questions from the members of Parliament. The exchanges can often become quite heated, which makes for popular entertainment for the British.

The forum would be conducted within one of the Board of Supervisors regularly scheduled meetings, and only board members, not the public, would get to make inquiries. According to Daly, the legislation’s intention is to facilitate communication between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, as well as generate public interest in the workings of the government, because it would “generate significant excitement when the mayor appears.”

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, responding to Daly’s own admission that he “possibly has the worst relationship” with Mayor Newsom, said, “Amending the charter because there are individuals that don’t get along with the mayor is a mistake.”

Elsbernd added that he was also concerned that the discussions between the board and the mayor would “not be something used to educate the public, but something that will be used to attack.”

Currently, the mayor has the authority to attend any city-sponsored meeting to speak, although Daly said, to his knowledge, Newsom has never spoken as mayor at a Board of Supervisors meeting. The mayor regularly sends members of his staff.

Reached after the meeting, Peter Ragone, Newsom’s press director, called the charter amendment “a solution in search of a problem.”

“The mayor has an open-door policy for all elected officials. Perhaps they could stop by the office, say hello and get their concerns off their chests.”

The Rules Committee will continue their discussion on the charter amendment June 23. In order to qualify for the November 2006 ballot, the full board would need to ratify the proposal by July 11.

beslinger@examiner.com

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