It appears to be a leaderless organization with multiple representatives and no discernible agenda. No, I’m not talking about Occupy SF; I’m referring to The City’s leadership in dealing with Occupy SF.
Police Chief Greg Suhr, Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and Mayor Ed Lee himself have alternately set rules and deadlines without any unified commitment to enforcing them. The result was on display Thursday as protesters cavalierly took the barricades put up by an unsure police force and used them to make fun sculptures. To be fair, since Occupy SF began on Sept. 17, the Police and Public Works departments have managed to be consistent on the prohibition of tents in front of the Federal Reserve Bank and the “bridge” — a stretch of concrete real estate on Market Street. But when it comes to the main camp at Justin Herman Plaza, the message has been schizophrenic.
Who can blame the occupiers for treating city law enforcement like a joke? They’ve been given more chances than Lindsay Lohan.
“Tents, overhead tarps and/or wooden pallets are not to be within the demonstration area unless appropriate permits are obtained,” warned Suhr in a letter dated Oct. 11. After a raid on the plaza Oct. 16, tents went back up the next day and have stayed there.
Nuru recently jumped out front when Public Works issued more than 130 citations for heath and safety violations. About a week ago he claimed to be ready to enforce city codes, saying, “We want our park back and we are going to get our park back.” Nuru then gave the campers until noon last Thursday to take down the tents.
That deadline came and went, with Lee basically saying “not my deadline.” According to his spokeswoman Christine Falvey, “The mayor is going to be patient with the group.” The only action in the plaza that night was the aforementioned game of patty-cake with barricades that left the camp entirely intact.
His office insists that Mayor Mugwump has been consistent: “The mayor has said since Day One that longtime overnight camping [in the plaza] is not sustainable,” Falvey said. Paradoxically, Lee has also said from Day One that “We will enforce the law.”
While city leadership has sent more mixed messages than a married Kardashian, Occupy SF has been remarkably consistent. Back in October, when the plaza encampment was in its infancy, occupier Nicole Ghanbarzadeh said, “Once we reorganize to a place where we can have tents, we’re going to really grow. … We’re not going away.” And that is precisely what has happened.
Lee once lamented that negotiating about the plaza encampment is difficult because Occupy SF doesn’t have leadership “as solidified as we expected them to be by now.” Now there’s the pot calling the kettle whack.
Workers’ wacky antics going largely unpunished
The City’s whistle-blower report is out, and it shows that the City Controller’s Office has had a very busy year investigating alleged transgressions by city employees. The report, which covers July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011, doesn’t name names, but it is chock-full of fun little stories about the exploits of our civil servants. Entries include tales of employees who were found sleeping while on the job, taking extended breaks, showing up late, falsifying payroll records and hiring relatives. One employee was busted for going home during work hours and another for going to someone else’s home during work hours.
Employees using city vehicles apparently have the most fun. In addition to generally using the vehicles for “personal business,” the following violations were found: picking up kids from school, letting an animal ride in the vehicle, using the vehicle to move one’s own refrigerator, parking in a handicapped space and parking in a no-parking zone.
But my favorites are the two cases where employees made two jobs out of one. According to the report, “A city employee maintained additional full-time employment during their city work hours” and another “was operating a side business that virtually mirrored their city responsibilities.”
So what happened to these mavericks? Most were counseled. The only employees who were terminated were the two people hired by their relatives. Two other employees resigned and a third worker retired. And the best part? None of the former employees lost the taxpayer contributions to their pensions or access to lifetime retiree health care. In San Francisco, crime may not pay, but it does come with benefits.
Supervisors won’t give up on war of words
Step aside, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has something to say about international relations: End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Monday, the committee passed a resolution urging an end to the wars so we can have more money for services. It will be voted on by the full board next week, where it will surely pass. Apparently, the two anti-Iraq War policy statements endorsed by voters in 2004 and 2008 weren’t enough. And the Board of Supervisors’ resolutions urging the withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007 did not have the desired effect. Nor did the 2009 board resolution demanding an end to the war in Afghanistan.
Supporters now labor under the collective hallucination that this eighth declaration “urging” action will be meaningful. They say this resolution is important because our local economy is impacted by the wars. But the wars are clearly not impacted by resolutions of a particular Board of Supervisors — especially one that is a national laughingstock thanks to its focus on Happy Meals and cat declawing while ignoring basic services.