Watching City Hall #384 (7-23-05)
"I didn't threaten anyone's job cause no one has those jobs!"
(Aaron Peskin deconstructs Aaron Peskin)
When Michela Alioto-Pier and her handlers are through with the San Francisco Board President, he'll likely be sitting on a curb in U.N. Plaza in his underwear, muttering to himself about the unfairness of it all. It was a thing of wonder to watch Peskin lose it in Rules Committee this past Wednesday.
Oh, it's not really Pier, of course. She's not that smart. She's the spoiled brat sitting in Peskin's chair, squealing with glee as she pulls the wings off another butterfly. No, it's not her. It's Downtown's boy, Ed Harrington, our City Controller and that pesky 'Clean Streets' legislation (Prop I) that you all were dumb enough to vote for last year. I said at the time that anything presented by and paid for by Warren Hellman's SFSOS crowd couldn't be good for anyone but Hellman & Fisher & Blum & Goldman et al. As usual, and unfortunately, I was right. 'Clean Streets', my ass. It was a bold grab for the powers of the Board Presidency and it has succeeded.
'The Office of Economic Analysis'
They're already calling it the 'OEA' and that's gonna be an acronym that all good people of the world will come to hate and all the evil doers will love. (OK, it's not quite that bad but I go for drama when I'm short on comprehension.) It's one of those 'Devil in the details' things that come back to bite you in the ass when you don't listen to me. It works this way.
Billionaires have a need to control absolutely everything. They are forever studying huge piles of money (think federal, state & local budgets ... the Social Security and private retirement funds ... think the proceeds from successful bond proposals to fund capital programs ... these are things that run into the trillions) ... they study the caches of money and try to figure out ways to funnel every penny of it into their own bank accounts. No matter what the cost of suffering to the poor and infirm may be.
That's why people like Richard Blum get themselves appointed to oversee the CALPERS retirement fund. It's why Warren Hellman is the head of Arnold Schwarzenegger's team of economic advisers. It's why Walter Shorenstein is active on art boards. They don't just sit there. They bring in teams of economic advisers to show them how they can direct these trillions of dollars to their favorite contractors and supervisors and dancers and the like. That's basically how the game works.
Preferrably, their advisers are paid with public monies. In the case of the SF and LA School Districts, SFSOS 'donated' the services of Chief Financial and Chief Facilities officers. Whatever it takes to seize and maintain control of the purse strings. Remember, if you are successful, you can choose what people read in the newspaper. You can decide to have roads and sewers built to the edge of your vacant lots for free. Then, you can have the value of your lot reduced for tax purposes.
What is "Material Economic impact legislation"?
It's whatever Controller, Ed Harrington says it is and once he's decided (after a nice lunch with SFSOS) that a piece of legislation meets that criteria, only a two-thirds vote of the Board of Supes can keep him from assigning it to an 'OEA' audit in which ole Ed's appointees will determine just how the targeted proposal affects Walter Shorenstein, et al. That's the difference.
You wonks will immediately note that the Board's Budget Analyst (Harvey Rose) has been doing the same kind of economic analysis for over 30 years. You'd be right and you'd be wrong. Harvey and his unending line of gorgeous staffers have been feeding the Board numbers ... BUT, they always close each evaluation with the same disclaimer: "We consider this decision to be a policy matter for the Board.". Anyone who thinks that the new OEA is gonna be as subserviant as the OBA (Office Budget Analyst) is a fool.
While trying to play down the potential effect of the new gorilla in the dining room, Harrington (who is said gorilla) noted at one point: "The Budget Analyst looks at everything over around $200,000. We'd expect OEA to look at things worth at least a million."
The problem with that is that almost everything is worth at least a million in a 5.3 billion dollar budget. Certainly, the issue of whether to support a resolution as to whether to home port the U.S.S. Iowa here would have triggered a month's delay for an OEA study by the people that Dianne Feinstein's SFSOS (she was the founder & her husband is Richard Blum) ... a study by people recruited by Feinstein's organization who would be looking at a favorite Feinstein project (putting the Iowa here). ... Hey, the Board rejected the Feinstein project soundly. Would it have been different if they'd been looking at an OEA report in favor of the Blum/Feinstein project?
Does this confuse you? That's probably because it confuses me and I'm the one explaining it to you. Still, you deserve some early warning when another giant slug reaches the outskirts of town, no matter what kind of slug it turns out to be.
Closing points on this matter
Peskin got an awed Ross Mirkarimi to join him in ammending the requirement that the Board need a super-majority to bypass an SFSOS/OEA study. As it stood when they adjourned, now the Board President can waive a matter past this new Downtown roadblock. That will last until Sandoval's replacement in District 11 next year goes with a new Board majority to ammend it.
The things that amazed me most were the gleeful cruelty of Pier and the loss of composure by Peskin. The two were very much related. Peskin got up and left the chambers for a quick breather after threatening the loss of jobs that didn't yet exist. The zinger there was that according to Pier, "We" had already hired a couple of economists. She kept calling Harrington back up and reminding him about when "We' were writing Prop I this and that, and "didn't we say that the elephants wouldn't have triggered an OEA study?". Harrington agreed that they'd discussed that but that: "If you tried to close the Zoo, that would trigger a report.". Weird shit. Could this be a first move by Downtown to get rid of Harvey Rose?
Personally, I was more than surprised to hear that Pier and Harrington had created this enabling legislation without consulting the President of the Board of Supervisors. It surprised him too. And, it's getting to be a regular thing. The reason it surprises me is that Pier is so inferior to Sean Elsbernd whom I'd have expected to be riding point on anything this important. Michela's beauty hides an ugly streak. The more she comes out of her shell, the more obvious it becomes.
I'm going out of town with Rachel to soak in a river north of here, so I gotta go. I wanted to get in one comment on the piece of shit story the Chronicle ran yesterday on the 'I' Hotel. Once again, John Diaz rewrites history with his red pencil. It is a tribute to great wealth that any newspaper could write a story about the 'I' Hotel and never mention Richard Hongisto or Walter Shorenstein or arson or murder or the Mandalay Corporation. Remember what I said about being able to control what was written in the newspapers if you had enough money? Well, Walter Shorenstein was the guy who evicted the poor filipinos from the hotel. It was the last piece of land in his way and he pulled out all the stops. He had the Sheriff (Hongisto) arrested and jailed when Hongisto refused to evict the poor immigrant tenants. He was the owner when an arsonist removed the last tenant by burning him to death. He immediately transferred the property to and gang of go ons from out of Thailand called Mandalay. None of that made the paper. Hongisto didn't get there because he was a progressive hero. Shorenstein's name was left out because he was a greedy ogre (still is) but he did endow a baseball scholarship at Santa Clara for Gavin Newsom.