Newsom’s latest hopeful big plans

Typically enough for Mayor Gavin Newsom — and for San Francisco politics in general — the plans he announced at his second-term inauguration speech Tuesday were more of a wish list than a to-do list. But also typically, Newsom’s lofty goals were considerably more reality-based than many of the pipe dreams we have heard from The City’s politicians in past years.

As befits the mayor’s long-visible ambitions for higher office, his overall theme was a pledge to continue having San Francisco attempt to lead the way on a number of high-profile national issues — including basic health care for local uninsured, a green city environment, family residence incentives and easing downtown traffic congestion. He also promised action to remedy The City’s thorniest problems, such as homelessness and the decade-high homicide rate.

Many of these inauguration proposals only updated current city efforts such as court-stalled Healthy San Francisco medical coverage and the multipronged green city initiative, which intends to make city government carbon neutral by 2020 via a combination of solar panel incentives, carbon tax credits and offsets, green building requirements and a 100 percent municipal biodiesel fleet.

Other priorities included second attempts at earlier failed programs such as citywide free wireless Internet access. Newsom would now seek to assemble a network of the unofficial neighborhood services that have been springing up, rather than contracting, with a major provider.

Among the new ideas premiered in the second-term speech, the mayor called for revamping the homeless shelters to provide basic social services for getting people off the street, plus a combination of community service for public high school students and a $500 Baby Savings Bond invested for the college tuition or first home of all newborn San Franciscans if their families remain in The City.

Probably Newsom’s most controversial new policy approach was his announced backing for downtown traffic congestion-pricing tolls, such as have apparently been successful in London for reducing vehicle tie-ups and pollution within the central district during business hours.

One hopeful sign the mayor might perhaps be ready to take tougher actions during his final term would be some key appointments he made last week after demanding resignation letters from all department heads last autumn.

Kevin Ryan, fired as Northern California U.S. attorney in last year’s controversial White House shake-up, can be expected to bring high-profile new energy as head of the previously quiescent Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

And Ed Harrington, The City’s highly respected chief financial watchdog for 17 years, seems like the right choice to oversee the $3.6 billion reconstruction of the Hetch Hetchy regional water delivery system asgeneral manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Based on past history, The Examiner hardly expects every one of the mayor’s programs to become reality — especially when The City now faces a $229 million budget deficit. But if even some of Newsom’s worthier ideas do get accomplished, City Hall could point to a partially successful year.

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