Political wonks who either visit London or watch C-SPAN on their cable TV tend to be impressed by the rapier-quick repartee at the British House of Commons during the traditional weekly visits of the prime minister. Perhaps the San Francisco Board of Supervisors saw themselves in that same exalted parliamentary status on Jan. 10 when they voted 10-1 for a toothless rule that the mayor should appear for questioning at the third board meeting each month.
The board’s vote followed up Proposition I, a nonbinding resolution passed on The City ballot in November 2006. However, the net result of this mayoral summons since then has been a monthly 30-second announcement by the board clerk, generally followed by a supervisor’sjoke about the mayor’s perfect record of nonattendance.
Sensibly enough, Mayor Gavin Newsom has never showed up to be used as a punching bag by his bitterest enemies, which would be a totally losing decision for him. San Francisco tends to have toxic relationships between its mayor and the 11-member board of lawmakers.
Make no mistake, The Examiner is all for maximum transparency of political processes. But under the reality of San Francisco’s take-no-prisoners governance, we think true openness is better achieved via direct and consistent exposure at news conferences and town-hall meetings. The supervisors’ attempt to pin down the mayor for regular verbal mauling was too obviously directed toward embarrassing a popular political rival. It is difficult to believe that truly useful information would have emerged from such a rancorous forum.
Surely it comes as no surprise that the entire effort was driven by Newsom’s archenemy, Supervisor Chris Daly. And soon it became apparent that the mayor was going to boycott the supervisors’ Q&A sessions. (He promised instead to make himself available at town-hall meetings around The City.) In response, Newsom’s most determined opponents on the board placed Proposition E on last November’s ballot — which would have made the mayor’s appearances compulsory.
However, this time city voters defeated the measure by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent, as the mayor and his backers campaigned actively against it. We congratulate the public for their common sense in blocking a proposal that would essentially waste the mayor’s time and distract the supervisors from dealing with San Francisco’s many real-world problems, such as next year’s projected $229 million deficit.
Now, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, the only board member who voted against the original January motion, has introduced a new resolution to revoke the 10-1 “command appearance” rule — on the grounds that voters rejected Proposition E. The Alioto-Pier correction is now in committee and is expected to win passage by the full board.
We recommend that the supervisors accept the inevitable and officially put an end to yet another silly episode in City Hall feuding. Voters have shown they are losing patience with pointless municipal grandstanding.