Von Bismarck, the German unifier of the 19th Century, supposedly stated, "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made." Not knowing the results of the June 7th election as I write, I can only surmise, based upon hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign spending by so-called "independent expenditure committees" originating from corporations like Airbnb, Uber, PG&E, and other tax dodgers, they will secure ballot approval for an annual earmark for the Recreation and Parks Department in the yearly San Francisco budget, together with a parcel tax on homeowners to benefit giant corporate property owners (Measure AA).
Not knowing the results of the June 7th election as I write, I can only surmise, based upon hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign spending by so-called "independent expenditure committees" originating from corporations like Airbnb, Uber, PG&E, and other tax dodgers, they will secure ballot approval for an annual earmark for the Recreation and Parks Department in the yearly San Francisco budget, together with a parcel tax on homeowners to benefit giant corporate property owners (Measure AA)”
The Board of Supervisors, however, isn't through. Instead of forcefully regulating and preventing Airbnb from overwhelming our neighborhoods with tourist property rentals and facilitating federal enforcement of laws against illegal immigration in favor of law-abiding immigrants, the Board of Supervisors has already embarked upon further city government arrangements which will cost taxpayers even more money, create more bureaucracy, and encourage more direct campaign contributions to politicians and "independent expenditure" committees for purposes designed to win corporate affection from incumbent Supervisors. One example is a charter amendment to create an Office of the Public Advocate. He (or she) would allegedly review administration of city programs, effectiveness of certain city agencies, responsiveness of city agencies to requests for data or information, management and employment processes of city officers and departments, and contracting procedures and practices. It would put the Public Advocate in charge of the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, Office of Citizens Complaints and the alleged Whistleblower Program. The Public Advocate could directly introduce legislation at the Board of Supervisors, with a salary set as the average of salaries of the Mayor, City Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender, Assessor-Recorder, Treasurer, Sheriff, and Board of Supervisors. Note that Supervisors, at over $113,850 per year, are the lowest paid of the aforementioned City officials. The Mayor is the highest at about $265,000 (without counting benefits). The Public Advocate's salary will exceed $150,000 annually. This proposal is disgorged by Supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar. The measure would also earmark a 0.3% minimum of the City's total budget for the new bureaucracy and require appropriation of an amount equal to the annual budget of the Office of Citizen Complaints, or the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, or the Whistleblower Program, whichever amount is largest by fiscal year for each of those three entities.
Nice piece of work for supervisors elected by districts on the theory they would be better able to act as advocates for district residents and businesses. They could take the rest of the day off; as it is, you can't find them at City Hall on non-meeting days. Avalos, Campos, and Mar are lame ducks; they'll need new jobs (surely not in private business) on January 8, 2017. If this depraved charter amendment passes, guess who would try to become the Public Advocate? Not just former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who proudly participated in drafting this insulting-to-taxpayers measure, but Avalos, Campos, and Mar (Kim, running for State Senate, has two more years before saying good bye). Every district supervisor is now elected to perform the same responsibilities they would impose on a new bureaucrat who could also introduce legislation as if he or she were a Supervisor! That's like creating a twelfth Supervisor. The estimated annual cost of the new bureaucracy will exceed $13,000,000 without cutting Supervisors' salaries or the aforementioned departmental budgets. But then, with an annual budget over $9,600,000,000 that's chicken feed.
Speaking of Supervisors, Mark Farrell, fined $191,000 in December 2014 by an unanimous Ethics Commission for illegally coordinating election activity with an "independent expenditure" committee during his 2010 campaign, filed suit against the Ethics Commission and City and County taxpayers last month to stop, by court order, collection of the fine. First, the fine should have been $225,000 based upon the financial wrongdoing by Farrell and his "independent expenditure" committee to win election. Secondly, Farrell's campaign consultant received two donations (in the total amount of $141,000) and was fined by the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento for managing the "independent expenditure" committee for Farrell's benefit. (Note that City law on illegal intercourse between a candidate's campaign and an "independent expenditure" committee is tougher than State law; the candidate may be held personally viable for such illegal communication and transactions whether the candidate knew about it or not under our law.) That's not all. Farrell is currently Chairman of the Budget Committee of the Board of Supervisors, which will vote on the Ethics Commission's budget this month. The Commission's proposed budget request is higher than this fiscal year because finally, with a new and competent Executive Director, it now possesses motivation for investigating city government corruption. Farrell must be recused from participating in any vote on the Ethics Commission's requested budget. If he doesn't and votes to reduce the requested amount, that could result in yet another complaint to the Ethics Commission and/or a Superior Court suit requesting the Court to bar Farrell from participating under State and City conflict of interest laws.
Speaking of the Ethics Commission, note that last month it also fined District Attorney George Gascon, his Chief of Staff and an Assistant District Attorney for soliciting donations from City employees for his campaign in 2014. That's illegal, and the fighting Gascon had attended ethics training classes confirming it. This is the same District Attorney who's never tried a criminal or civil case in his life and who appoints, without benefit of law, a biased trio of judges lacking power to administer oaths or issue subpoenas, dubs them a "blue-ribbon panel," presents unsworn testimony to them, and then proclaims the integrity of their report that our Police Department is a failure.
I register disappointment with Sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who after five months in office purports to reverse the crazed policy of her predecessor prohibiting the Sheriff's Department employees from notifying the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) of scheduled release of illegal aliens wanted for deportation. For months, Sheriff Hennessey represented that she had drafted a new policy that was under review by the City Attorney, which would abolish her predecessor's policy of not informing I.C.E. no matter its desire to deport the convicted criminal. Let us never forget Kathryn Steinle, who was killed by an illegal alien last July, after the lawbreaker's release from jail by the Sheriff although wanted for deportation based on a prior criminal record. Instead of a new policy simply notifying I.C.E. and honoring its request, the new Sheriff compromised with the Board of Supervisors to allow notification only with illegal aliens who have committed violent or serious felonies in the past five years, have been booked into County jail on a felony and only when authorized by a Superior Court judge on a "probable cause" finding. Can you imagine that plethora of obstacles to I.C.E. deportation proceedings? It's a policy that would not even have prevented the murder of Kathryn Steinle, whose family last month sued the preceding Sheriff personally and City and County taxpayers for the wrongful death of their daughter. That'll cost the taxpayers a million dollars or more.
On November 8, 2016, voters in District 7 elect a supervisor. There is an incumbent, although he's rarely seen and seldom acts as a public advocate for voters. I've endorsed and unreservedly recommend Michael Young, a Parkmerced resident for the office. He's a graduate of Roosevelt Junior High, Lowell, Cal, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He was in the Foreign Service for 10 years, U.S. Army Reserve as a paratrooper captain and three years as a budget analyst in the Mayor's office. He's terrific. I also endorse John Farrell, Jr., son of my 45-year friend, ex-City Controller John Farrell, who just decided to run and who possesses ample credentials. I'll discuss it more in the fall, but be receptive to those candidates now.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
It was Harry L. Hopkins, Administrator of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA, who declared in September, 1938: “We shall tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect.” A concomitant observation by George Bernard Shaw in 1944 noted: “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” With those perhaps pithy reminders, I address the June 7, 2016 municipal, state and federal elections.
Five local San Francisco measures confront voters. Propositions C and D justify support. Propositions A, B, and E demand rejection.
Proposition A asks voters to incur $350,000,000 in bonded indebtedness to finance construction, acquisition, improvement and seismic strengthening of various sorts, including community health and animal care facilities, General Hospital (once again), a new ambulance deployment facility, and homeless shelters and service sites. As Controller Ben Rosenfield, one of the few dependable sources of financial information at City Hall, notes, the estimated annual costs of: debt service,” meaning annual interest and principal payments over the 30-year existence of the debt would amount to $10,400,000 annually for five years, then $30,700,000 annually for the remaining 25 years. That’s a total of $757,500,000 to borrow $350,000,000 for 30 years! The only honest man to vote against this proffered indebtedness in February was the supposed left-winger, Supervisor Aaron Peskin. For my tax money, he’s a reliable guide to fiscal discipline, even if he endorses U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States, whom I intend to vote for in the Democratic Party primary for simple reasons I’ll explain later. (The Republicans don’t allow Independents like me to vote in their presidential primary.) The ordinance-submitting Proposition A to voters omits any reference to the 30 years of interest and principal payments on the debt. So, too, has the so-called Legislative Digest and even the Controller’s required analysis of costs. A general obligation bond, of course, causes an increase in property taxation. For all you renters, be advised that 50% of those costs will be, under the Board of Supervisors submittal ordinance, passed to renters as rent increases.
Proposition B violates a 2008 ballot measure the Board of Supervisors unanimously submitted to voters with recommended adoption. That November, 2008 ordinance found that only 18% of revenue to the General Fund of the City and County is available for discretionary spending for any lawful city government purpose and thus “impairs the capacity of the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors” to allocate “the City’s limited resources to best serve the public interest.” The voters overwhelmingly proclaimed they wouldn’t approve any new earmarking (or “set aside,” in City Hall language). Proposition B, using the current Recreation and Park Department general fund allocation of $64,000,000 earmarks non-negotiable funding which increases to at least $94,000,000 in 10 years and continues thereafter for another 20 years. It also extends the unreasonable Open Space Fund, which separately this year amounts to $47,800,000 from property taxation, until 2046. The asserted justification for this example of imprudent fiscal management is that General Fund support for the Recreation and Park Department has declined from 2.1% of the General Fund in 2000 to 1.2% in 2016. That’s, of course, misleading because they don’t tell you that in 2000 General Fund revenue was $1,900,000,000 and has grown to $4,800,000,000 in 2016. Thus, 1.2% of General Fund revenue in 2016 amounts to $57,600,000, which far exceeds 2.1% ($39,000,000) of the General Fund in 2000. The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to submit this example of maladroit public administration to voters as a Charter amendment, claiming it provides over $1,000,000,000 “in new…park funding…without raising taxes.” That’s nonsense. If park funding has genuinely been inadequate, whose fault is that? I’ll answer my hypothetical question: Those same nine Supervisors who dodge responsibility for satisfactory Recreation and Park Department funding and now ask unwitting voters to reward their laziness regarding the Department with spending on “automatic pilot.” Proposition B also authorizes the issuance of revenue bonds, a form of borrowing money without voter approval. Moreover, the Board of Supervisors “would not have the power to adopt, reject, or modify the [Department’s] plans.” The unelected Recreation and Park Commission and Mayor would establish the department budget; elected Supervisors would not, but then, the nine supervisorial slackers who put Proposition B on the ballot don’t care if tax dollars are handled by political appointees and career bureaucrats. Finally, Proposition B eliminates a requirement that new revenues from outside sources like a grant or donation from a foundation be used “only for enhancement of park and recreational programs.” As emphasized in the official voter handbook argument against Proposition B, that allows such donations to be spent “on salaries, perks, or other overhead, rather than on Park improvement!” Let it be noted that the only two Supervisors who saw through this scheme to avoid fiscal responsibility were Supervisors Peskin and Katy Tang of the Sunset District. Need I say more? Vote “No” on Proposition B, as also recommended by the Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods, Sierra Club, San Francisco Tomorrow, San Francisco Taxpayers Association and League of Women Voters. Force these nine supervisors to rectify any funding debility in the Recreation and Park Department, not pass the buck.
Proposition C I suggest a vote for Proposition C simply because it rightfully deletes from the Charter and substitutes an ordinance respecting so-called “affordable housing” obligations on developers. That’s good government. The percentage of desirable “affordable housing” units in a housing development can vary from year to year. Amending the San Francisco Charter is more time consuming and difficult than acting by ordinance to meet changing circumstances. We can argue about the proper percentage of affordable housing, but it shouldn’t be in the Charter.
Proposition D I also recommend a vote for the City’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to conform to comparable state law on the same subject matter. This should be accomplished by Board of Supervisors action, but now voters must approve it because in November 2006, an initiative ordinance on the subject was submitted to and adopted by voters, probably due to Board of Supervisors inaction, or characteristic supervisorial laziness.
Proposition E Another example of Board of Supervisors abandonment of responsibilities and passing the buck to voters is Proposition E, an initiative ordinance presented to voters by Supervisors to amend the Administrative Code to require the Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate all incidents in which a San Francisco police officer “discharges a firearm resulting in the physical injury or death of a person, even if the discharge is accidental.” Proposition E arises from recent shootings by San Francisco cops, all of which have been found justified. The Office of Citizen Complaints is another unnecessary City Hall bureaucracy, created in 1974 by an unholy deal between a then-Supervisor and then-President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association. The Police Department has always used its Bureau of Internal Affairs to investigate and make recommendations to the Chief of Police and Police Commission on police officer misconduct. In my early Board of Supervisors years and before, the Bureau was directed by Assistant Chief Mort McInerny with honesty, integrity, and efficacy. For higher pension benefits, the police union agreed to the establishment of the Office of Citizen Complaints, which now costs us $5,600,000 annually, with 17 civil service employees and increases to $5,900,000 in fiscal year 2016-2017. The shootings, which instigated this duplicative, costly proposal, are already under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the District Attorney. Now, oblivious City Hall officials add yet another entity to duplicate existing efforts. Don’t let them do it. Vote “No” on Proposition E.
Proposition AA Also on the ballot in San Francisco and eight other Bay Area counties is a parcel tax by the newly created San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority to fund water quality, habitat, shoreline access, and pollution reduction on San Francisco Bay. Proposition AA slaps a parcel tax of $12 for 30 years in those nine Bay Area counties. Since 1964, taxpayers have funded the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Now comes a new entity with a tax scheme that would charge Facebook, Salesforce, Chevron, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Twitter, Uber and Airbnb the same amount you and I would pay for our residential parcel. The parcel tax would last for 30 years. The parcel tax collected could be granted to a private property owner like a gift of public funds. Of all taxes, a parcel tax is probably the most unfair, unless you like paying the same amount of tax as the aforementioned billion-dollar corporations. Vote “No” on AA.
Proposition 50 There’s only one state ballot measure, Proposition 50, which amends the California Constitution to allow by a two-thirds vote of the California Assembly and California Senate the cessation of a suspended legislator’s pay and benefits. The California Constitution, contrary to arguments in the official Voter Information Guide, allows the legislative houses on a two-thirds vote to suspend a legislator who then continues to receive a salary and benefits. That’s what allowed one-time State Senator Leland Yee to receive over $95,000 a year in 2014 despite suspension from office. I’ll vote yes on Proposition 50.
State Senator Because of expiration of his two terms in the State Senate, Senator Mark Leno concludes his legislative service December 1, 2016. On July 7, our area of San Francisco will vote for a successor. The two primary candidates are Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener. As President of the Korean War Memorial Foundation Board of Directors, I wrote two letters to each supervisor and the Mayor’s office in an effort to secure a contribution from the City and County of San Francisco for the memorial at the Presidio. Supervisor Wiener was the only Supervisor who responded immediately to my request. (The Mayor and other supervisors wouldn’t reply to the letters.) His efforts were responsible for securing in 2015-16 from the $9,000,000,000 City budget $100,000 for the Foundation. I naturally intend to vote for Supervisor Wiener for the State Senate. (Incidentally, the Memorial is under construction and will be dedicated August 1, 2016 at 10:00 AM at the site across from the National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco. You are invited to attend by me, on behalf of the Foundation Board of Directors.)
Superior Court Judge Because of the retirement of Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith, three San Francisco lawyers seek to replace him. The most qualified candidate by far is Victor M. Huang, Esquire, who lives in the Inner Sunset and has been a practicing trial lawyer since 1992. I heard the three candidates last month. Mr. Huang has tried over 80 jury cases to a verdict, beginning in 1992 as an assistant public defender in Los Angeles, continuing in 2007 as an assistant district attorney in San Francisco, and in operation of his own law firm since 2014. His two opponents, one a City Hall insider, the other a long-time downtown attorney who seems not to understand campaign competition practices, lack Huang’s remarkable experience in our trial courts. He’s a University of California, Berkeley and University of Southern California Law School graduate, married with three young children, who represents the most meritorious of the candidates. I recommend him unqualifiedly on June 7.
Federal Elections There are also two federal elections on the ballot, one for the United States Senate, and the other for President. As noted, I intend to vote for Sanders in the Democratic primary for President, because I abhor his not-even-to-be-identified opponent. Unlike his opponent, I’m confident of his honesty and independence from Wall Street. I also endorse for the U.S. Senate Duf Sundheim, Esq., another honest lawyer, who’s a mediator and whom I’ve known for over ten years. I admire his measured qualities of knowledge and beliefs.
May the foregoing comments assist you in exercising your rights and duty to vote.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
An understated President labeled "Silent Cal" by 1920's media, and whose birthplace in Plymouth, Vermont, now a national shrine I visited in the 1990's, declared in his inaugural address on March 4, 1925: "I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be some much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form."
...no plan exists for the Host Committee or NFL to reimburse even the Sheriff's Department for providing additional security at City Hall for the NFL owners' sumptuous dinner the night before the game!"
San Francisco's government, with its annual budget of approximately $9,000,000,000, should constitute an exquisitely relevant subject for application of those commonsensical statements. On January 15, 2016, the Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst Harvey M. Rose, at the request of Supervisor John Avalos and in accordance with a Board of Supervisors motion adopted on January 12, 2016, issued to the public and their elected supervisors an 18-page report revealing that general fund expenditures for services provided to the National Football League's "Super Bowl 50" public events would cost city taxpayers $4,881,625. The unimpeachable Mr. Rose also reported that city departments had been requested by Mayor Lee to identify $4,375,765 of surplus in their budgetary allocations, and redirect that money, staff time, and other resources from planned projects to support the NFL billionaires and their league, which incidentally, pays its Chief Executive Officer (Roger Goodell) approximately $45,500,000 per year. Mr. Rose further noted the lack of any written agreement between city government and the NFL or the so-called "Host Committee," an entity formed locally for promotion of the Super Bowl, which raised about $50,000,000 for its activities!
Our Budget Analyst also noted the City of Santa Clara, unlike San Francisco, obtained a written agreement with that same Host Committee to reimburse all Santa Clara expenses associated with Super Bowl 50, namely $3,597,300, to pay all additional Santa Clara public safety and other governmental services. Mr. Rose recommended the Supervisors request the Mayor immediately enter into an enforceable written agreement, subject to Board of Supervisors approval, with the Host Committee to obtain full reimbursement of the taxpayer expenditures of $4,881,625, and iterated that failure to secure such agreement "would result in a subsidy to the NFL and the Host Committee…" (Mr. Rose also noted the NFL reported 2013 profits of $9,200,000,000, larger even than the aforementioned 2015-16 City Hall budget of about $9,000,000,000.)
After a flurry of pronouncements by Supervisors Jane Kim, Avalos, David Campos, and Aaron Peskin over introduction of non-binding resolutions to urge our reluctant Mayor to do so, with resulting publicity, no such resolution has been heard in any Board of Supervisors committee and no plan exists for the Host Committee or NFL to reimburse even the Sheriff's Department for providing additional security at City Hall for the NFL owners' sumptuous dinner the night before the game! How about that, sports fans?
Meanwhile, the California First Amendment Coalition and San Francisco Taxpayers Association have transmitted a California Public Records Act demand for production of all records relating to Super Bowl 50 and San Francisco government, the Host Committee, and the NFL. City Hall predictably has requested a two-week extension of the state-mandated ten days within which to produce all such documents. Stay on alert for public exposure of such documents and resultant revelations of the gouging of taxpayers.
Some ten years ago, certain members of the Board of Education successfully abolished the Junior ROTC program at San Francisco's public high schools. Among abolition leaders were then-Commissioners (now Supervisors) Eric Mar and Norman Yee. Supporters of Junior ROTC literally revolted, qualifying as voters an initiative on the 2008 November ballot, Proposition V, and then securing its passage. The measure requires the Board of Education to restore the Junior ROTC program as it previously existed, which included physical education credit for student participation and so-called "central funding" from School District headquarters to defray those costs not covered by the Department of the Army. A majority of the Board of Education has for eight years defied the voters' will. As a result, the School District supports only one JROTC instructor at several schools in which the Federal government requires two (one instructor supervises over 100 Junior ROTC students). Board of Education Commissioner Emily Murase, a Merced Manor resident and product of San Francisco public schools, now leads an effort to restore physical education credit for Junior ROTC participation and central funding, noting that graduation, suspension and expulsion rates of Junior ROTC students are better in all respects than such rates for students not in Junior ROTC. Commissioner Murase is joined by Commissioner Jill Wynns, the senior member of the Board of Education and devoted public school advocate, and Commissioner Rachel Norton. The Board of Education Budget Committee on March 7, 2016 referred Commissioner Murase's proposal to the full board with "no recommendation." On April 6, 2016, that same Budget Committee will hear the resolution again. On April 19, 2016 at 6:00 PM at the Board's headquarters, the matter will be presented to the full seven-member elected Board of Education for decision. I urge people to communicate to the other four members of the Board of Education support for complying with Proposition V, the voters' will in 2008. I intend to testify personally. Incidentally, Junior ROTC is available at Lowell, Washington, Burton, Balboa, Lincoln, Galileo and Mission High Schools.
There will be two contested Board of Supervisor elections involving incumbents in November. One will occur in our own District No. 7, presently represented by Supervisor Yee (not Leland). Three non-incumbent aspirants have already met with me, namely Michael Young, Ben Matranga, and Joel Engardio. Andy Lee, a prior candidate, has also filed his candidacy. In due course I expect to endorse one of the non-incumbents for good reasons.
Supervisor Yee canceled his appearance at the West of Twin Peaks Central Council on March 28, 2016 claiming a "conflict." On March 17, 2016, he announced he would "convene a working group to reduce chronic absenteeism in San Francisco schools." That's strange. The School District, as noted, is governed by an elected seven-member Board of Education whose responsibilities are not those of the Board of Supervisors or any of its members. Yee's activities will waste taxpayer money and duplicate administrative time and efforts as he attempts to perform duties of elected Board of Education members. A salutary action by Yee would consist of assisting Commissioner Murase in her efforts to restore all Junior ROTC program features to their prior status as required by Proposition V in 2008. Will Supervisor Yee do that? I doubt it. (The other incumbent with a well-qualified opponent is Board President London Breed, opposed by Dean Preston, a Yale graduate.)
If it hasn't already died a deserved ending, the effort by Supervisors David Campos, Kim, Avalos and others to declare a "homeless emergency" and install homeless shelters in such location as the public parking lot in the 200 block of West Portal Avenue, at property adjacent to Lake Merced Boulevard, and a space on Claremont Boulevard will be a subject of next month's column. Meanwhile, I still await from the newly elected Sheriff her order revising the edict of her predecessor forbidding Department employees from notifying federal immigration personnel before releasing from county jail any illegal alien who is wanted by the I.C.E. for deportation. On March 23, 2016, I was informed by her Chief of Staff that City Attorney approval of the alleged revised policy would occur any moment. Let's see if it occurs this month and in what form, or if this is just another empty gesture to lull the public.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In 1928, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting from the majority decision in Olmstead et al. v. United States, wrote: “Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously.” Many applications of that unforgettable principle apply in today’s world of government, local state, and federal.
In 2005, then U.S. Senator Obama tried to prevent a U.S. Senate vote in a filibuster against President George W. Bush for the nomination of present U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.”
In 1992, as Chairman of the State Senate Transportation Committee and member ex officio of the California Transportation Commission, I introduced successfully legislation to begin establishment of high-speed rail transportation in California, meaning an electrified system capable of achieving 220 miles per hour on tracks dedicated solely to high-speed trains. The measure was passed by the Senate and Assembly. Governor Pete Wilson vetoed it on the ground that it was unneeded. In 1995, I sponsored a bill to form the California High-Speed Rail Authority with nine members (five appointed by the Governor, two by the State Senate, two by the State Assembly) with the explicit responsibility of building a true high-speed rail system between Northern and Southern California. A bond measure was approved by the legislature for voter approval after I became a Superior Court Judge. It expressly provided for a system capable of traveling from here to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes and from Sacramento to Los Angeles in two hours and 20 minutes, with a maximum of 24 stations and no taxpayer subsidies. That resulted in a November 2008 ballot measure embodying those requirements and authorizing $9,950,000,000 of general obligation bonds, of which $950,000,000 would be allocated to connecting other state railway systems, local and regional, to the high-speed rail system.
On November 4, 2008, voters approved the measure by about 53% to 47% despite organized opposition.
The broadcasted business plan was to build the first segment from San Francisco to Anaheim, and the second segment south to San Diego and north to Sacramento. Having retired from the Superior Court, I had been appointed in 2006 to the Authority board by the State Senate and elected board president three years. My term expired in 2010. A new Governor was elected, and the business plan was changed by the force of Peninsula politicians, namely Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, of Palo Alto, and then-State Senator Joe Simitian, also of Palo Alto, to prohibit acquisition of 50 feet of right-of-way for dedicated track, usable only by high-speed trains to achieve voter-mandated speeds. The cities of Atherton, Menlo Park, Burlingame, and Palo Alto succeeded through Eshoo and Simitian in changing the high-speed rail system in violation of the 2008 bond measure by requiring high-speed trains to share the existing Caltrain tracks on the San Francisco Peninsula with Caltrain, the commuter system. In order to obviate taxpayer subsidies for operating expenses, the High-Speed Rail Authority knew it must operate at least 10 high-speed trains per hour from 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM and again from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM, to achieve sufficient ridership and consequent revenue to pay operating expenses. Contrast all 28 public transit agencies in the nine-county Bay Area and others in California, which require taxpayer subsidies, ranging from 90% of expenses to 40% of expenses, as is the latter case with BART. It outperforms in fare box revenue all other public transit systems in the state. That means high-speed trains on the existing Peninsula right-of-way, even as electrified, would share the tracks and be limited to four trains per hour in peak hours, with Caltrain commuter service of six trains in the same periods.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority has now lost many, if not most, of its historical supporters. The United States House of Representatives enacted legislation two years ago prohibiting any federal funds for California’s now-bastardized system. In February, the High-Speed Rail Authority announced it was changing the first section from Los Angeles to Northern California in favor of San Jose to Bakersfield, thereby trying to represent to Californians that the project was still extant and viable. It is not. Only the Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, and San Diego Union Tribune devote space for accurate reporting on the project. Local press ignores it, except for public relations announcements from Authority “tax eaters.” On February 11, 2016, in Sacramento County Superior Court, the most devastating of the numerous environmental and other lawsuits against the present plan was heard and taken under submission by the trial judge. Kings County and two ranchers alleged eight distinct violations of the November 2008 ballot measure by the current Authority board. State law requires a court decision by June 12, 2016. I predict a decision for Kings County.
Meanwhile, again without any mention in local daily press, a voter initiative was released by the California Attorney General on January 30, 2016, for voter signature collection and submission to California voters this November. The initiative allocated some $10,700,000,000 for statewide water storage and amends the California Constitution to provide that drinking water and irrigation shall be primary water use priorities under an elected board from eight districts in our state. The initiative redirects $8,000,000,000 from the remaining unspent high-speed rail bond fund and $2,700,000,000 in previously authorized (2014) water bond funds for such purposes. The initiative creates no new debt or tax burdens on the state or taxpayers. A Golden State Poll – Hoover Institution poll shows that 53% of Californians would vote for such ballot measure, and water storage construction ranked as the first state priority by 62% of probable voters. The initiative must qualify by May 1, 2016. It will.
Last month, I referred to the District Attorney’s January announcement that he will pursue corruption cases against city government and other related actors. Previously, text message exchanges among 10 San Francisco Police Department officers were revealed during a federal investigation, which contained comments indicative of bias and racial and homophobic prejudice. To address the alleged corruption the fighting District Attorney formed without Board of Supervisors or mayoral action a so-called “Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement” (“Panel”). He appointed three former judges, namely, Judge Thelton Henderson, U.S. District Court retiree, Judge LaDoris Cordell, Santa Clara County Superior Court retiree, and recalled one-time California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. He asked the Mayor for taxpayer funds for such panel and its proceedings. The Mayor refused, having requested and secured a United States Department of Justice investigation of those allegations about the police officers. That investigation should be more than enough, but there are further inherent defects in the District Attorney’s publicity stunt. The District Attorney was Chief of Police at the time some of the police officer messages were exchanged! As the assumed presenter of evidence to the Panel, he has a conflict of interest. He convened the Panel, which will investigate conduct occurring while he was Chief of Police. If the Panel finds bias in the San Francisco Police Department at such time, that finding will presumably implicate him as Chief of Police. The perception that he is investigating himself undermines Panel credibility. He should recuse himself and ask a district attorney from another county to appoint and oversee any such panel, a body clearly superfluous in light of the U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Additionally. Judge Cordell must recuse herself. If she were still an active judge assigned to such a matter, her public comments would disqualify her from hearing the case. On December 23, 2015, for example, she tweeted, “Ten racist texting cops in SF get their jobs back?” That refers with an apparent opinion on her part upon the same matter ostensibly by the Panel. Commenting publicly about a matter before her would cause a judge’s disqualification under California law. Federal law would also require disqualification because her “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” While Cordell is no longer an active judge, her comments substantially undermine public confidence that she would be objective and impartial in her role on the panel.
Finally, one notes the controversy over replacement of U.S. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia by President Barack Obama. The expected U.S. Senate Republican demand that the President submit no replacement for confirmation during his remaining term of office sounds unjustifiable and even unprecedented. It’s not. In 2005, then U.S. Senator Obama tried to prevent a U.S. Senate vote in a filibuster against President George W. Bush for the nomination of present U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. He was in good company. So did U.S. Senators Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and “Chuck” Schumer. There is an expression in politics and life: “What goes around comes around.”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
On January 26, 1799, Vice President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Elbridge Gerry: “I am for a government rigorously frugal & simple, applying all the possible savings of the public revenue to the discharge of the national debt; and not for a multiplication of officers & salaries merely to make partisans, & for increasing, by every device, the public debt, on the principle of its being a public blessing.” With the revelation by San Francisco Budget Analyst Harvey M. Rose in his January 15, 2016 report to the Board of Supervisors, uncontradicted by the City Controller, that San Francisco taxpayers will subsidize billionaire National Football League owners in the amount of at least $5,000,000, one discerns no Jeffersonian atmosphere in the Mayor’s office or city government. Set aside the impossible traffic conditions on lower Market Street, the Embarcadero, and nearby neighborhoods. Bear in mind, however, that the Super Bowl Host Committee, which has voraciously raised from corporate Bay Area over $50,000,000 in tax-deductible donations and that the small City of Santa Clara obtained some $3,600,000 from the NFL to pay its Super Bowl-related expenses and hold harmless Santa Clara taxpayers. On January 26, 2016, Supervisors John Avalos, Jane Kim, and Aaron Peskin introduced a non-binding resolution asking the benevolent Mayor to renegotiate San Francisco contractual relations with the NFL and Super Bowl Host Committee. The resolution is late because our devoted Supervisors canceled their January 19, 2016 meeting because Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was the day before and Supervisor Mark Farrel thwarted enactment by causing its referral to a February 11 committee hearing! Since the tardy resolution won’t be acted on until after the Super Bowl and its passage can’t be assured, the Mayor should be charged with taxpayer malfeasance. We can’t expect action by the NFL or the multi-million dollar Super Bowl Host Committee. (For Super Bowl XIX in January, 1985 at Stanford Stadium, with over 86,000 spectators, not the lesser 65,000 at Levi Stadium, the Bay Area Super Bowl Task Force, which I organized and chaired, raised and spent $175,000 without taxpayer cost.)
...San Francisco taxpayers will subsidize billionaire National Football League owners in the amount of at least $5,000,000 ... however, that the Super Bowl Host Committee, which has voraciously raised from corporate Bay Area over $50,000,000 in tax-deductible donations.”
Additionally, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, employing about 5,500 people, asked employees to volunteer three hours of service during their working hours to the Super Bowl Host Committee and NFL. Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin claimed that doing so wouldn’t cost MTA any money, meaning no supplemental Board of Supervisors appropriation would be needed. Reiskin, responsible for a five-month delay in completing the Central Subway Project, ignores the expected absence from work of MTA employees from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. between January 20 and February 9, 2016, requiring the filling of approximately 250 shifts, or 1,000 working hours, added to San Francisco taxpayer costs.
Meanwhile, a District Attorney who in five years of holding office hasn’t pursued a single corruption charge involving city government, audaciously represents to San Franciscans in a January 6, 2016 speech that he will pursue elected officials “and the politically powerful.” He analogizes himself to San Francisco’s 1906 District Attorney who successfully prosecuted the infamous Abe Ruef. Having disregarded requests in 2011 and thereafter for prosecution of those responsible for mayoral campaign contribution “laundering” antics involving Recology employees, the “fighting” District Attorney actually filed a criminal complaint alleging bribery and money laundering by former Willie Brown Human Rights Commission personalities, one an exCommissioner, one a former employee, as well as a one-time Board of Education member already convicted in U.S. District Court of attempted bribery of an undercover FBI agent. In April 2012, Human Right Commission Contract Compliance Officer Zula Jones was tape recorded by the FBI agent, stating in reference to Mayor Ed Lee: “Ed knows that you gave $10,000 . . . he knows that . . . he knows that you will give another $10,000. He also knows that we had to break the $10,000 up. . . . Ed is aware that you’re the one who’s a big donor.” The Mayor’s memory is “hazy” regarding a subsequent meeting with such undercover FBI agent. The problem for the District Attorney is that Jones is represented by a premier defense lawyer, John Keker. If you like to bet, consider doing so on Keker showing the newly-invigorated corruption-fighting District Attorney how to try a criminal case!
Last September, I wrote about the devastated killing of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 on July 1, 2015 by an illegal alien convicted ten times of crimes in the United States before his unjustified release from County Jail on April 15, 2015 by the then-Sheriff, assertedly pursuant to Board of Supervisors and mayoral legislation first adopted December 23, 1985, then reaffirmed four times later under Mayors Dianne Feinstein, Frank Jordan, and Ed Lee. The last Sheriff embroidered those measures by ordering his staff on March 13, 2015 not even to furnish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “information or access” to public records about County Jail inmates, having declared in May 2014 the Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t honor requests to detain County Jail illegal alien inmates for deportation without an actual arrest warrant or court determination of probable cause. In the aftermath of such killing, Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a resolution supposedly requesting that the Sheriff “abide by San Francisco’s City Policy and federal law” and rescind his order barring communications with federal immigration authorities. That motion was tabled on a divided vote by the Board of Supervisors. A moment later, a rival resolution reaffirming the current San Francisco policy consistent with the then-Sheriff’s aforementioned order was adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, including a vote for it by Supervisor Farrell, the ultimate hypocrite. We now have a new Sheriff, the Honorable Vicki Hennessy. Although reluctant during last fall’s campaign to announce publicly a reversal of her opponent’s disgraceful order, Sheriff Hennessy’s leading assistant assures me Sheriff Hennessy will abolish that policy once she obtains legal approval to do so. We will follow that repeal and report accordingly to readers next month. Meanwhile, Kathryn Steinle’s family has sued the City and County of San Francisco for her wrongful death. Her Burlingame lawyer, Frank Pitre, as capable a trial lawyer as John Keker, was forced by Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to abandon his hosting of a Hillary Clinton for President fundraiser, featuring former President Bill Clinton. It was changed from his home to a Congresswoman’s Hillsborough home, presumably because it’s politically incorrect to sue San Francisco over its “sanctuary city” policies. In any case, San Francisco taxpayers can expect another sizeable bill due to such policy later this year. Ah, Mr. Jefferson, where are you?
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Except for continuing exposure of the inept, greedy, destructive activities of Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Bay Bridge chicanery by a reporter named Jaxon van Derbeken, the San Francisco “Comical” and other media outlets have ignored the questionable conduct of important public officials. One example is California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, an ambitious candidate to replace Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate. Not a word has been uttered in the local media about a 63-page complaint filed against Harris personally, and in her official capacity as Attorney General of the State of California by Prime Healthcare Services, Inc. (“Prime”) in the United States District Court in Sacramento. The complaint charges Harris with “illegal and corrupt conduct…” The case arises from the financial need of the Daughters of Charity Health System (“DCHS”) to sell the six California hospitals it owns and operates, including Seton Hospital in Daly City, once known as Mary’s Help Hospital on Guerrero Street, San Francisco. In early 2014, with a financial crisis looming, DCHS, a Catholic nonprofit entity, decided to sell Seton, Seton Coastside, a skilled nursing facility in Moss Beach, O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynnwood, and St. Vincent Hospital in Los Angeles. After a competitive 13-month bidding process and evaluating over 200 bids, the Daughters of Charity selected Prime as the only bidder whose $843,000,000 offer for those hospitals best ensured its continued existence.
It alleges she participated in a corrupt scheme … because Harris is beholden to the union for campaign money. It constitutes the most damning lawsuit against a state elected official I’ve ever personally seen … Maybe, just maybe, local media, so in love with the “allegedly corrupt” Attorney General, will enlighten readers”
Under California charity law, the California Attorney General must review Prime’s offer and decide whether it is in the best interests of the people of California to permit the sale of any nonprofit hospital, exercising reasonable discretion and without other limitation or governing standards, or explaining or justifying her decision. The sale to Prime was opposed by two unions representing California hospital workers. On October 10, 2014 the Daughters of Charity selected Prime as the successful bidder based upon its history of restoring financially distressed hospitals and its commitment to maintaining Seton Hospital in Daly City and the other five Daughters of Charity hospitals.
Unions have for six years or more engaged in labor disputes with Prime because Prime refused to require all its employees to join unions. Harris last February “approved” the transaction, but with conditions so onerous Prime was effectively prevented from consummating the transaction and then managing Daughters of Charity hospitals with its financial problems. Harris’ list of over 300 conditions consumes 77 pages and required Prime to operate all but one of the Daughters of Charity hospitals in its current state for 10 years without regard to operating losses, or whether all the hospital services were essential. The conditions would facilitate unionization of all of Prime’s 28 hospitals, including its 10 in California.
In suing Harris, Prime minces no words. It alleges she participated in a corrupt scheme with the United Health Workers Union unlawfully to preclude Prime from buying such hospitals, because Harris is beholden to the union for campaign money. It constitutes the most damning lawsuit against a state elected official I’ve ever personally seen. The case won’t be tried until spring 2016. Maybe, just maybe, local media, so in love with the “allegedly corrupt” Attorney General, will enlighten readers.
But that’s not all daily media has suppressed about Harris. In the wake of Prime’s lawsuit against Harris, a subsequent offer to buy the Daughters of Charity hospitals occurred, this one by a hedge fund, Blue Mountain Capital Management. According to the San Francisco Business Times, Harris has strangely delayed decision on a “system restructuring and support agreement” that would confer effective control of the Daughters of Charity hospitals on this $20,000,000,000 hedge fund, changing the system’s name to Verity Health Service, and eliminating its connection to the Daughters of Charity Catholic order, with an option for the hedge fund to buy the hospitals in three years at about $250,000,000. Daughters of Charity must repay or refinance a $125,000,000 loan by December 15, 2015. Bankruptcy is the only other option. Remember that Prime offered $843,000,000 nine months ago. About 7,000 jobs are at stake. It’s asserted by “experts” the hedge fund could make millions in tax benefits from its proposed transaction. Many readers of this estimable newspaper and their families and friends use Seton Hospital. The alleged conduct of Harris is sickening.
There are other omissions in daily media reports to readers, listeners, and watchers, much less editorial condemnation of the transformation of college campuses into restricted free speech zones. My alma mater, Dartmouth College, is one. In the fall semester, institutions such as Cal, Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth and Williams all suffered the shattering of free speech law. I’m prejudiced. I’m on the Board of Directors of the California First Amendment Coalition. I’m the author of the revision of the California Brown Act, guaranteeing open meetings of all public bodies in California, the strengthening of the California Public Records Act, and a 1972 San Francisco charter provision prohibiting City Hall conflicts of interest. On many college campuses today, mini-mobs denounce, even suppress, students who disagree with mainly liberal, radical pronouncements by other students, and invade libraries and other academic buildings and spaces to suppress opponents. Supine academic presidents, deans (whose ranks soar every year with resultant tuition increases), and student leaders permit such desecration of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Wall Street Journal on October 23, 2015, published an extract from the then-forthcoming November, 2015 issue of The New Criterion, stating: “Williams College (Tuition and fees: $63,290) has undertaken an ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ Speaker Series…to provide intellectual diversity on a campus, where like most campuses, left-leaning sentiment prevails…How is it working out? The conservative writer Suzanne Venker was invited to speak…But when word got out that an alternative point of view might be coming to Williams, angry students demanded her invitation be rescinded. It was.” The article rightfully observes that Venker joined a long list of people who were first invited and then disinvited to speak on a college campus, concluding: “It’s been clear for some time that such interdictions are not bizarre exceptions. On the contrary, they are perfect reflections of an ingrained hostility to free speech-and beyond that, to free thought-in academia.” (Williams College is an elite school in Williamstown, Mass.)
I conclude with the latest example of City Hall hypocrisy. Amidst hullaballoo, Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a resolution last fall urging the now-defeated Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to “Immediately rescind his department-wide memorandum of March 13, 2015,” which ordered Sheriff’s Department employees to stop communication with any federal immigration employees except in very limited circumstances. That is the infamous memorandum which led to the death of Kathryn Steinle on July 14, 2015 by an illegal alien. Last October, Farrell’s resolution was tabled 6-5 by the Board of Supervisors. What happened then? Another resolution, introduced by Supervisors Campos, Avalos and Mar, confirming Board of Supervisors support for so-called “sanctuary city policies” which violate federal law and bar city employees from transferring illegal aliens in law enforcement custody to federal immigration authorities, was immediately presented for vote and passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, including the chest -thumping Supervisor Farrell! That resolution additionally rejects the federal “Priority Enforcement Program,” which U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (who as mayor in 1985 approved the first San Francisco law undermining detection and deportation of illegal immigrants despite my negative vote), had publicly urged the Sheriff and San Francisco to adopt. The Board of Supervisors resolution characterized the federal “Priority Enforcement Program” as “yet another mass deportation program that separates families, undermines community trust in law enforcement… and has been shrouded in similar misinformation and lack of transparency.” False assumption of virtue continues to exemplify the Board of Supervisors, and there was no media comment on Farrell’s hypocritical acquiescence in reiteration of the law-defying San Francisco policy which he supposedly had sought to change. It’s little wonder people don’t trust government or that the November, 2015 election turnout in San Francisco was merely 29% of all registered voters.
Happy Hannukah (December 6th), Merry Christmas (December 25th), and Happy New Year (January 1, 2016).
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress. But, I repeat myself. That’s not my creativity; it’s attributable to Mark Twain. Meanwhile, we have survived yet another municipal election, with the usual clamor (and disgust) about campaign spending and those single issue or special interests who generate most of it. My favorite example is Proposition F, an effort to tame the voracious appetite of Airbnb to forfeit integrity of our neighborhoods by motivating homeowners and tenants to become hotel owners. Another example is the contributions to the Mayor’s $310,000,000 to benefit the subsidized housing and high-rise residential developers, together with their sycophantic architects, engineers, contractors, public relations operators, and so-called nonprofit entities like SPUR, whose special interest bias has never been exposed.
…Mayoral flunkies were charged with the same acts of fraudulent activity in completing absentee ballots for elderly Chinatown voters and then delivering them to the Department of Elections. Gascon conducted a superficial investigation that led to no criminal charges being brought.”
It also involved the supervisorial election in North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Polk Gulch, Chinatown, and Russian Hill, contemporarily known as “District 3,” between my friend, Aaron Peskin, and the Mayor’s appointed and dutiful lackey, plus a perpetual neighborhood candidate. Astonishingly, more money was spent by the two major contenders for a Board of Supervisors election than ever in history, including at-large supervisorial elections in a bygone, but sorely missed era. At the end of the campaign, one of the incumbent Mayor’s obedient clubs (Asian Pacific Democratic Club) claimed that the Chinatown Community Development Center, an asserted nonprofit entity which probably couldn’t exist without City Hall money, had collected under false pretenses absentee ballots from elderly Chinese-speaking voters, marked the ballots for Peskin and then deposited them illegally. The District Attorney’s office declared it was “looking into” the allegation emanating from a mayoral organization political consultant. Let’s contrast District Attorney George Gascon’s attention to a matter in 2011 after the newly-chosen (by the Board of Supervisors) Mayor had appointed him our City and County Prosecutor. Mayoral flunkies were charged with the same acts of fraudulent activity in completing absentee ballots for elderly Chinatown voters and then delivering them to the Department of Elections. Gascon conducted a superficial investigation that led to no criminal charges being brought, which would have affected his benefactor, the Mayor, adversely. Let’s see what happens now.
Despite the bumbling tactics of the campaign manager, one Michael Terris, the San Francisco Giants prevailed in persuading voters to approve Proposition D, enabling construction of hundreds of housing units, parks, and stores at Mission Creek, presently a parking lot owned by the Port of San Francisco. Political campaign managers are historically suspect in their tactics and truthfulness; the Giants happily prevailed despite their ill-advised retention of one of the worst practitioners in today’s San Francisco.
Finally, one notes the eagerness of the San Francisco Department of Elections to purvey ballots in languages other than English. Simple logic informs us that a voter must be a citizen. A citizen must demonstrate proficiency in English and understanding of our governmental system. Nevertheless, the Department of Elections spends money on a mailer happily informing voters they can use three versions of the ballots, Spanish, Chinese, and now Tagalog.
Unknown to most San Franciscans, the San Francisco War Memorial Veterans’ Building at Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street no longer can be identified as a resultant of honor to our World War I veterans and thereafter World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, despite the 1921 conveyance from the University of California Regents to San Francisco to honor and provide a structure for World War I veterans. Unfortunately, the War Memorial Trustees, appointed entirely by the Mayor, includes but one veteran, and he has scolded the American Legion Post for objecting to reduction of space for veterans to approximately 8% of the entire building following a renovation completed in August. The building instead is consumed by the Arts Commission and similar entities. Swords into Plowshares,founded by Vietnam War veterans for employment and other services to Vietnam War veterans, is excluded. So is the Korean War Memorial Foundation, of which I am President. The American Legion Post, however, sued the mayoral-appointed trustees for a court order confirming entitlement of patriotic organizations to office and other related space in the War Memorial Veterans’ Building. The case was heard in San Francisco Superior Court on November 2, 2015, and is under submission to the probate court judge for decision.
Two short items merit expression: (1) The City of Los Angeles is the largest employer in a population of over four million people, with 41,000 full-time employees, averaging $78,139 per year in salary before overtime or bonuses are added. San Francisco, with some 840,000 people, employs almost 35,000 full-time employees, without a peep from the media or almost all neighborhood associations. (2) I thought, and maybe you did too, that redevelopment agencies in California had been eliminated and there’d be no more taking of one person’s private property or transfer to another entity or person for such needed works as automobile row, golf courses, or entertainment arenas. We were all wrong. Last month, Governor Jerry Brown, who had led and advocated ending redevelopment and its eminent domain powers four years ago, signed Assembly Bill No. 2, which allows cities to create new such entities and to issue bonds (at taxpayer expense) for claimed affordable housing, economic revitalization, and infrastructure, using eminent domain and thereby restoring power to destroy one person’s property rights in favor of another. The new law, of course, uses soothing language such as “community revitalization investment authorities,” another way to describe corporate welfare and destruction of private property rights, all under the guise of helping the poor. The law exempts any public property from acquisition for redevelopment without consent of the public entity (in helping the poor, California now treats private property as fair game, while exempting governmental property).
In 1764, the French philosopher and author Voltaire wrote: “The art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.” Or you may rely on humorist Will Rogers, who declared: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the acts.”
>Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
H. L. Mencken, the literary sage of the 1920s, accurately observed: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
That old chestnut, often repeated over the past 90 year or so, characterizes the November 3, 2015 Municipal Election, which features no contest for Mayor, District Attorney, City Attorney, or Treasurer. To dispose of those anointments, I declare resolutely to vote for Dennis Herrera as City Attorney and Jose Cisneros as Treasurer. The Mayor and District Attorney have cleverly concealed basic facts from San Franciscans, including the rising crime rate attributable to policies of the California Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney, if not the Mayor, who may soon be in a public “tizzy” over alarming crime statistics of which he has knowledge. Here’s a disclaimer: I am internally discouraged from endorsing any of the three candidates for Sheriff because my criminal defense lawyer son, the estimable Shepard S. Kopp II of Los Angeles, represented the incumbent Sheriff successfully four years ago in thwarting the Mayor’s attempt to secure the incumbent Sheriff’s impeachment at the Board of Supervisors.
The Mayor and District Attorney have cleverly concealed basic facts from San Franciscans, including the rising crime rate attributable to policies of the California Attorney General and San Francisco District Attorney, if not the Mayor, who may soon be in a public “tizzy” over alarming crime statistics of which he has knowledge”
No such family inhibitions attach to my evaluation of 11 ballot measures.
Proposition A is yet another borrowing “doozy” from the Mayor and his political allies. It’s a $310,000,000 bond issue for “housing.” It follows wise rejection in 2002 and 2004 of similar debt. The ballot measure is vague; it lacks specificity on how and in what manner $310,000,000 of debt will be spent. It uses the phrase that money “may be allocated” to certain uses; it avoids promising voters that millions of dollars “shall” be spent on specified types of housing. In June, 2014, the Civil Grand Jury reported an abysmal record of new housing, not just “market rate,” but so-called “affordable” housing. Borrowing $310,000,000 by floating general obligation bonds means repaying the $310,000,000 plus about an additional $275,000,000 in interest. I strongly recommend a “No on A” vote on this “blank check” to City Hall which will otherwise donate our money to its favorite developers.
Proposition B increases the municipal budget and taxpayer cost by providing 12 or 16 weeks of paid leave for City employees after the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. It’s a tempting idea for decent taxpayers to do so, but it’s a benefit generally not duplicated in private employment at a time in which San Francisco’s City employees exceed a record 28,500. I’m voting “No” on B.
Proposition C Thanks to former Chief Deputy Public Defender, ex-Golden Gate University School of Law Dean, and Ethics Commission member Peter Keane, Proposition C closes a loophole created by the Board of Supervisors in 2010 when our heroes repealed a law requiring public disclosure of lobbyist spending to influence City Government decisions, directly or indirectly. (In establishing the Ethics Commission by a charter amendment, voters bestowed on the Commission the power directly to submit any tightening of ethics rules at City Hall directly to voters without first obtaining Board of Supervisors affirmation. That’s how Proposition C made the ballot.) Proposition C will apply the same requirements to nonprofit entities that are required of all other lobbying practitioners, namely, reporting all money in excess of $2,500 spent monthly to influence government decisions. Talk about howling like a “stuck pig.” Nonprofit entities under Proposition C can no longer conceal their expenditures to obtain financial and other emoluments from City government under the guise of immunity based upon nonprofit status which enables such entities to pay their administrators salaries in six figures or more. That’s why many nonprofit corporations (and their lawyers) oppose Proposition C. Voters should pass it.
Proposition D is a large building project of the San Francisco Giants on the waterfront near AT&T Park for hundreds of rental units, offices, retail stores, and eight acres of parks on a cheerless City government waterfront parcel now used only for parking. I’ve endorsed it, despite its raising of height limits, because it is now zoned for a park with a zero height limit, and under voter-adopted law, any waterfront building project exceeding current height limits on the waterfront needs voter approval. The Giants competed against four other organizations to rent the parcel for 75 years at current market value and develop it. There’s no public subsidy, and sales and other tax payments to the City should constitute about $25,000,000 per year.
Proposition E is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It sounds innocently as a measure to increase “civic participation” by requiring live remote dissemination of Board of Supervisors meetings and all City commissions, committees, and boards, with enormous electronic technology expenditures. It purports to increase painlessly electronic display of all their public meetings with citizen testimony from remote locations, while pretending to require minimum expenditure. In fact, however, open meeting and public record champions oppose it. The California First Amendment Coalition opposes it. Bruce Brugmann, the long-time publisher of the Bay Guardian and singular advocate of public access to meetings and government records, opposes it. The Ethics Commission does not support it. City government already spends nearly $3,500,000 to broadcast board and commission meetings. This would increase the length of already unduly long hearings. It’s not fair to those who take time to attend a hearing or even to board and commission members who would need to delay debate and votes. It’s sponsored as an advertising promotion by a man who intends to run for Supervisor in the Richmond District in two years. As a State Senator, I sponsored State and City law permitting public testimony at every Board and Commission meeting. That’s been effective and economical. Proposition E would be an expensive, unnecessary time-waster. Vote “no” on E.
Proposition F represents an effort to protect single-family housing neighborhoods. The practice of renting extra rooms in single-family residences is based upon units illegally converted to serve as hotels. This is an Airbnb specialty with about 60 other entities promoting use of illegal units for commercial purposes, and doing it without paying the City hotel tax much less registering such “short-term rentals,” as legally required. Proposition F requires quarterly reports of each such unit’s address and nights rented with a maximum 75 nights per year after registration and payment of the hotel tax. I resent the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Airbnb to bamboozle voters. As of September 23, it reported donations of $7,965,000 plus non-monetary contributions of $381,000, a total of $8,346,000! Vote “yes” on Proposition F and thwart the lawbreakers who destroy residential neighborhoods, including those west of Twin Peaks.
Propositions G and H now constitute ballot “litter.” G is sponsored by Electrical Workers Local 1245, which is in bed with PG&E in trying to delay so-called “clean” energy like sun and wind power. The union abandoned Proposition G a month ago, and Proposition H is now the favorite of City Hall. You can play their silly games by not voting on either or voting for Prop H and against Prop G.
Proposition I is essentially in the same “silly” league. It’s an effort by the most left wing San Francisco Supervisors to stop housing construction in the Mission District for 18 months. I’m voting against it.
Proposition J sorrowfully is an “only in San Francisco” measure. It establishes a Legacy Businesses Historic Preservation Fund, which will cost taxpayers $3,700,000 this year, rising to as much as $94,000,000 annually by 2040. It allows businesses and even their landlords, once nominated by any supervisor or the Mayor to obtain taxpayer money. Not even the “People’s Republic of Berkeley” gives away taxpayer money to pay landlords and keep certain (but remember, not all) businesses in existence. Proposition J enables City Hall-chosen businesses and their landlords to secure annual taxpayer grants even though, as the Libertarian Party of San Francisco notes, they “make a lot of money on their own . . .” As many as 300 businesses will be eligible annually for taxpayer money. Grants to landlords could reach $63,000,000 annually by 2040, says the City Controller. Businesses open and close. Businesses are successful and unsuccessful. Businesses like the City of Paris, W. J. Sloane, the Flytrap, Hungry i, and Capp’s Corner come and go. If an enterprise is genuinely “healthy,” to use City Hall’s ballot argument, it will continue to exist. Why should taxpayers subsidize landlords and businesses like Boudin Bakery or Recology, which are the largest donors? I’m voting “no” on Proposition J. I strongly urge readers to do so, too.
Proposition K Lastly, Proposition K signifies yet another City Hall effort to control who receives the benefit of taxpayer assets, in this instance taxpayer-owned real estate deemed surplus by City Hall bureaucrats. It establishes a percentage quota for the always-clamoring subsidized housing parasites instead of simply selling taxpayer-owned assets for market value. The city budget for 2015-2016 is almost $9,000,000,000. It exceeds Los Angeles, which has a population of approximately 4,000,000 people, by several million dollars. That’s chiefly due in our city of 850,000 residents to financial disregard and catering to special interests, whether technology billionaires or nonprofit City Hall regulars. Proposition K is yet another instance in which “pork barrel” projects will be enriched by the proceeds of surplus public land sales. Taxpayer-owned land should be sold at market value, not for subsidies. That’s why I urgently recommend a vote against Proposition K.
To summarize, it’s “Yes" on Propositions C, D and F and “No” on A, B, E, I, J and K. Don’t waste your time on G and H.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Maybe it’s summer and “the living is easy.” At least, the living seems to be easy for high elected officials who feign innocence and operate hypocritically with virtually no critiquing, less condemnation, from “mainstream media.” During The Observer’s summer absence, a Mexican national accused of killing 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle at Pier 14 on July 1, 2015 was exposed as an illegal alien convicted ten times before his unjustified release from county jail on April 15, 2015 by the Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff, however, is but one of many elected San Francisco officials who are complicit. The illegal alien’s past crimes include four narcotic felonies (heroin possession, drug manufacturing) and three illegal reentry convictions after deportation to Mexico. Starting in 1991 in Arizona, the illegal alien had been deported five times and in federal prison approximately 15 years for illegal entry to the United States. The illegal alien (Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez) was arrested in December, 1995 by San Francisco police officers on two charges of trafficking in marijuana. He was released without bail pending trial and thereafter fled. A $5,000 warrant for his arrest was thereupon issued in San Francisco Superior Court. Subsequently, the illegal alien continued to enter our country illegally, was arrested by federal law enforcers and served a 46-month sentence in a federal prison near San Bernardino. That ended in March, 2015. Still trying to enforce the San Francisco Superior Court arrest warrant of December, 1995, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on March 23, 2015 requested the illegal alien be detained (or “held”) by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons so the Sheriff’s Department could obtain custody of him. That occurred on March 26, 2015, the Sheriff paying a private firm with taxpayer money to take custody of LopezSanchez. On March 27, 2015, the 20-year-old marijuana-trafficking case against Lopez-Sanchez was unsurprisingly dismissed at the Hall of Justice for lack of witnesses and other evidence.
…the incumbent Mayor Lee approved an ordinance barring San Francisco police officers from detaining any illegal alien on the basis of a federal civil immigration detainer after the illegal alien becomes eligible for release from custody, except for an illegal alien convicted of a violent felony within the previous seven years who is currently charged with a violent felony and poses a public safety risk. Mayor Lee even helped write that law.”
Instead of notifying U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) so it could deport the illegal alien for yet a sixth time, as requested by I.C.E., the legal division of the Sheriff’s Department condoned the illegal alien’s release April 15, 2015. Two-and-a-half months later, Kathryn Steinle was shot to death.
The incumbent Sheriff, the San Francisco Mayor, supervisors, and even a U.S. Senator all tried to avoid responsibility for the calamity. In May, 2014, the Sheriff by press release had publicly declared he wouldn’t honor I.C.E. requests to detain County Jail inmates “unless . . . supported by judicial determination of probable cause . . .” or an actual arrest warrant. In a memorandum dated March 13, 2015, he ordered Sheriff’s Department staff not to furnish I.C.E. personnel “information or access” to public records about County Jail inmates, such as status, citizenship, court arrest papers, or jail release dates. The Sheriff claimed publicly that a 2013 city ordinance adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors and signed, of course, by Mayor Edwin Lee, required discharge of the illegal alien once the marijuana trafficking accusations were dismissed. The Mayor, who detests the Sheriff, claimed the ordinance doesn’t bar the Sheriff’s Department from notifying I.C.E. agents on its own before a jailed illegal alien is released.
Then, to elevate the “hand washing,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein on July 7, 2015, after the so-called San Francisco “sanctuary” law became a national scandal, wrote the Mayor a two-page letter expressing her “deep concern about the release of convicted felon Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an action that led to last week’s tragic death of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco.” She blames the Sheriff for not notifying I.C.E. before the criminal’s release and recommends “participation in ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program, . . .”
Now, let’s examine the history of San Francisco’s virulent sanctuary law. When do you think it began? Would you be surprised that the local sanctuary law began in 1985, with a resolution urging Mayor Feinstein to declare San Francisco TO BE A CITY OF REFUGE. It recited the Geneva Convention, ratified by the U.S.A. in 1956, and the Refugee Act of 1980, referred to an estimated 100,000 Central American refugees in San Francisco and resolved that “city Departments . . . shall not jeopardize the safety and welfare of law-abiding refugees by acting in a way that may cause their deportation.” (Emphasis added.) It passed on December 23, 1985, 8-3, by the Board of Supervisors and was approved on December 27, 1985 by Feinstein as Mayor. (Voting against the declaration of San Francisco as a sanctuary city were Supervisors Bill Maher, Wendy Nelder, and me.)
By October 24, 1989, the Board of Supervisors unanimously, including Maher and Nelder, had enacted an ordinance affirming that San Francisco is “a city and county of refuge.” (I had been elected in November, 1986 to the State Senate.) It also prohibited any city department, commission, or employee from assisting in the enforcement of federal immigration law or disseminating information about the immigration status of anyone “in the City and County of San Francisco, unless such assistance is required by federal or state statute, regulation or court decision.” It forbade assistance or cooperation with any Immigration and Naturalization Service “investigation, detention, or arrest procedures, . . . relating to alleged violations of . . . federal immigration law.” In 1992 and 1993, then-Mayor Frank Jordan approved further ordinances which, among other things, reiterated the “serious concerns” of the Board of Supervisors (and him) about cooperation between San Francisco and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Elected San Francisco public officials weren’t through. In 2009, yet another ordinance was enacted with different supervisors, some of whom are still in office. Aimed at the immigration status of a juvenile convicted of a felony as an adult in Superior Court, the ordinance emphatically states: “However, no officer, employee, or law enforcement agency of [San Francisco] shall stop, question, arrest, or detain any individual solely because of the individual’s . . . immigration status.” Finally, on October 8, 2013, the incumbent Mayor Lee approved an ordinance barring San Francisco police officers from detaining any illegal alien on the basis of a federal civil immigration detainer after the illegal alien becomes eligible for release from custody, except for an illegal alien convicted of a violent felony within the previous seven years who is currently charged with a violent felony and poses a public safety risk. Mayor Lee even helped write that law. No wonder San Francisco merits the embarrassing national denunciation of policies protecting illegal alien lawbreakers as part of City Hall’s continued disregard of national immigration laws. For 30 years, San Francisco City Hall elected officials celebrated refuge and sanctuary status, scorning federal law and those federal officials responsible for enforcement. The result is an unspeakable calamity.
Along with the malignant civic conduct described above, in August, lawyers representing the infamous “Shrimp Boy” (Raymond Chow) in a federal prosecution for racketeering in San Francisco, filed a motion to dismiss the case based upon doctrine of selective prosecution, meaning the failure of federal authorities to prosecute Mayor Lee for alleged illegal acts while charging their client, Chow, with similar such acts. The FBI used undercover agents in 2011 and 2012 and conferred over $10,000 on Lee’s 2011 election campaign through two San Francisco Human Rights Commission officials. The FBI employed wiretapping to record statements from them. One told undercover FBI agents: “Ed Lee knew he was taking money illegally.” In a wiretapped telephone conversation, a former commissioner declared: “Ed knows you gave the $10,000 . . . he knows you will give another $10,000.” In a separate wiretapped conversation, a one-time commissioner observes: “You pay to play here . . . we are the best at this game . . . better than New York . . . He [Lee] was pretty much trained and developed by Willie Brown and the same as myself, and were trained to get the job done.” Once the recorded statements were publicly disclosed in U.S. District Court, and subjected to reporting by The Examiner and even The Chronicle, Brown denied even knowing such Human Rights Commissioner. Let’s assume that’s accurate! Even so, the recorded statements demonstrate to San Franciscans the sordid attitudes of City Hall and squalid transactions underlying City government. (The Mayor, trying to cover the money-laundering allegations, donated $1,500, presumably to the City’s general fund, representing three separate $500 contributions from the two aforementioned Human Rights Commissioners.) While the “Shrimp Boy” motion to dismiss the case against him for selective prosecution was denied, the wiretapped conversations and allusions to the Mayor cannot be denied and are now public record.
It’s saddening that San Franciscans’ indignation doesn’t seem to exist, much less any action from a supine District Attorney, disrespected by police officers who must depend upon him for prosecution of lawbreakers they sometimes risk their lives to arrest. The District Attorney, once a Republican, owes his promotion to City Hall and runs for reelection unopposed, as does Mayor Lee, practically speaking. Perhaps the FBI can somehow preserve civic virtue; City Hall surely cannot.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Do you have any feelings about the term “public service” or the term “public servant?” If government employees are public servants, they enjoy a high degree of, if not complete, freedom. Think of such public servants as the Bushes and the Clintons.
The Mayor of San Francisco, for example, has presented taxpayers with a 2015-16 budget, which amounts to almost $9,000,000,000. The City of Los Angeles, with almost 4,000,000 residents, in May enacted a budget of nearly $8,600,000,000. San Francisco’s population is about 840,000, or about 18% of Los Angeles’s residents. (It’s not a true comparison because San Francisco city government assumes responsibility for a sheriff’s department with only custodial duties, public health, and public welfare, unlike California cities in general.)
…last month that San Francisco’s arrests decreased 42% the last five years, including serious or violent crime arrests, while on the other hand, the first five months of this year serious or violent crime rose 16% and property crimes 20%, including arson, which increased 48% from 2014.”
Often when people hear the term “public service” they are likely to conjure a state of selflessness and sacrifice to the persons who suffer taxes for government employees’ pay and pensions, and do not hold a government employee in servitude! Professor David Barash of the University of Washington discussed altruism in the Wall Street Journal last month. The word was derived from a Latin word, “alter.” Professor Barash quotes an author who declares altruism leads to the increase of success of another, and concludes that it exists throughout our natural world and history, while selfishness “is at the heart of most of the problems we face today; the growing gap between rich and poor, the attitude of everybody for himself which is only increasing, and indifference about the generations to come.”
City Hall last month lavishly celebrated the 100th anniversary if its existence, with “goodies” financed by huge corporations such as Wells Fargo Bank, Twitter, and PG&E. That’s one way to foster influence at City Hall. Another way is through a donation to Mayor Lee’s favorite activities and projects. There’s a name for that kind of sly favor seeking; it’s now called “behested payments.” That means PG&E contributes a payment to some favorite activity, public or private, of Lee’s at his behest, and PG&E then will do just fine on that pesky contract it wants. It’s not altruism as the motivator. With few exceptions, the San Francisco media remains mute on that type of usurpation of pathways to influence city government.
I thought I was alone in detecting and inviting attention to a district attorney without court or jury trial experience who supported capital punishment as a police officer, then changed his mind as an appointed district attorney facing liberal San Francisco voters. I’m not. The San Francisco Police Officers Association has published further instances of his effort to gain political power. It is common knowledge at the Hall of Justice that the Public Defender’s Office performs far better than the chameleon District Attorney. (Upon appointment as San Francisco Police Chief, the District Attorney proclaimed he was a Republican, then re-registered as a Democrat.) Public Defender Jeff Adachi must be pleased by the District Attorney’s lack of performance; he has endorsed the District Attorney for reelection and co-sponsored a fundraising party for him. No opponent has sought to contest such reelection.
Information showed last month that San Francisco’s arrests decreased 42% the last five years, including serious or violent crime arrests, while on the other hand, the first five months of this year serious or violent crime rose 16% and property crimes 20%, including arson, which increased 48% from 2014. The District Attorney sought unsuccessfully in June an appropriation for a panel of three hand-picked, famously liberal retired judges to investigate the possible dismissal of about 3,000 convictions on the premise many resulted from “racism” by San Francisco police officers, regardless of whether the convicted were guilty.
The common current mantra of civil liberty speakers is mandating body cameras for all San Francisco police officers on the streets. The Police Department must write a policy on usage. Guess what? At a public hearing on June 17, 2015, people complained that the same cameras could violate the privacy of private persons, which reminds one of the hoary adages “you can’t have everything” or “be careful lest you get what you asked for.”
A June 1, 2015 interview in The Dartmouth Review (Dartmouth is my alma mater) raised a question about academic “studies” programs as follows: “Is there a reason to have Asian, Black, Gay, Women, Hispanic, Native American studies other than to segregate and foster the tribal anti-intellectual? They aren’t math, science, language, or history; they are racial and sexual as their names clearly demonstrate. This isn’t higher education; this is lower education and the lowest and crudest of the low…Does progress come from the free association of the individual or forced association of the group? The reason for success and progress around the world is liberty, and that has zero to do with racial identity, sex, sexual preference, or anything else that lies completely outside the intellectual or the hard work of the individual.”
That says it all for my reflections from now until September, when I will have the pleasure of iterating, neatly but not gaudily, the reasons I hope one-time Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin is elected to the Board of Supervisors in November by voters in North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Polk Gulch, and Chinatown, now known as District number 3. I heartily endorse Mr. Peskin, even from our refuge six or so miles away, because, among other qualities, he is altruistic.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
Henry Ward Beecher, in a sermon on December 3, 1882, presciently stated: “Any law that takes hold of a man’s daily life cannot prevail in a community, unless the vast majority of the community are actively in favor of it. The laws that are the most operative are the laws that protect life.” Some might characterize that statement as a truism. So be it. It still reflects the lessons of experience and morality.
In a decade which features constant denunciation of those who protect us from the criminal, pertinent news is regularly distorted by elected officials and so-called “activists.” (That, incidentally, is one of several lazy, contemporary media words which deserve a holiday. Regular participation in civic issues should not an “activist” make!) San Francisco, unsurprisingly, reflects the excessive use of unelected committees, with members not sworn to protect life, as experts and arbiters of law enforcement conduct.
The result is preordained by the District Attorney’s decision to upstage the Police Commission, the Chief of Police, the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and even the Mayor. Yet, not a single member of the Police Commission possesses the independence and integrity to object, let alone comment, on such interference and self-aggrandizing by this district attorney, who also faces the voters November 3rd.”
Two months ago, in the aftermath of allegations of San Francisco sheriff’s deputies encouraging, even compelling, county jail prisoners to assault each other, a daily San Francisco newspaper reporter claimed a rising movement existed to establish yet another “civilian” San Francisco committee, this one to advise and probably order the elected San Francisco Sheriff and such department how and in what manner to execute its duties. It doesn’t matter that the Sheriff is elected by San Francisco voters and can be turned out of office by those same voters if he or she is incompetent. As I reminded readers last month, in the 1970s the Board of Supervisors and then-Mayor allowed the establishment of the Office of Citizen Complaints to issue pronouncements about behavior of San Francisco police officers who function under direction of a Chief of Police selected by a five-member Police Commission answerable to the elected mayor, and to some different degree, elected Board of Supervisors members. The Office of Citizen Complaints usually duplicates efforts of the Police Commission and now contains a staff of 35, spending approximately $5,162,717 just this fiscal year as part of an ever-swelling City budget.
Coincidentally, the incumbent Sheriff is running for reelection on November 3, 2015. Two other candidates, including the former Chief Deputy Sheriff, who has retired, will contest his reelection. If voters believe the incumbent Sheriff incompetent, they can act accordingly in five months with their ballots. They don’t need a costly committee to decide whether the Sheriff should be deposed.
Similarly, last month the San Francisco District Attorney, a man without any criminal trial personal experience as a lawyer, after announcing in April he would investigate San Francisco police officer bias, decided to appoint three retired judges to constitute his means of interfering and usurping the Chief of Police, the Police Commission, and even the limpid Office of Citizen Complaints.
He selected three non-San Francisco judges. Let me tell you about them. One is a one-time California Supreme Court Justice, Cruz Reynoso. He is a pronounced liberal from Southern California who has the distinction of being one of only three California Supreme Court Justices ever recalled from office by California voters. That was in 1986. A second appointee is a one-time Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, described in some circles as a “feminist” who, while a Superior Court Judge, openly opposed the so-called “three-strikes law” adopted by California voters fed up with repeat criminals in 1994. She resigned as leader of the Sierra Club’s vaunted Legal Defense Fund on the grounds of inadequate effort for minorities affected by environmental matters. Astonishingly, she was appointed later as San Jose’s Auditor of Police, denying bias against police officers. (I don’t believe it!) The third is a former U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles who three years ago as a member of the Los Angeles County Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence condemned the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
If you’re a San Francisco police officer, do you rest easy with a prosecutor who chooses three well-known historical adversaries of police officers to investigate bias in San Francisco police officers by reviewing thousands of arrests and decide whether such arrests culminated in unjustified convictions? Their report could even result in guilty criminals, whom these three “worthies” believe were convicted by reason of bias, being released from confinement after sentencing! The result is preordained by the District Attorney’s decision to upstage the Police Commission, the Chief of Police, the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and even the Mayor. Yet, not a single member of the Police Commission possesses the independence and integrity to object, let alone comment, on such interference and self-aggrandizing by this district attorney, who also faces the voters November 3rd.
More than 35 years ago, as a Board of Supervisors member, I advocated that all negotiations of city employees’ collective bargaining agreements be conducted publicly, and not behind closed doors. That concept had been advocated by a Yale Law School Professor of Labor Law who had been a law school classmate of mine. The concept should apply to all government worker labor contracts. (Note that the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that pay of public employees nationally has increased 21% over the past 15 years, while private employee pay has risen only 9% in the same period.) My Board of Supervisors colleagues, with the exception of John Barbagelata, rejected the notion.
Times, however, are changing. In April, Idaho enacted a law requiring public negotiations of all state labor contracts. Colorado passed a similar bill for public school district contract negotiations. Similar laws are pending in Washington and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Senate passed a bill, which requires independent cost estimates of state government employee union contracts be publicly disclosed before adoption. A second measure requires state public employee union contracts to be placed on government websites at least two weeks before gubernatorial ratification. A similar bill has been passed by the Nevada legislature. The Wall Street Journal reports that 12 states provide some degree of public access to public employee union negotiations. Public employee union officials in Pennsylvania have denounced such laws as “anti-labor, anti-worker legislation.” But, the Albuquerque Teachers Federation supports public contract meetings on the theory it enables the public to better understand the positions of the teachers union. There’s no question that conduct of collective bargaining openly and publicly is in the public interest. It’s good government and common sense, because taxpayers pay those salaries, pensions, and health benefits. Their elected representatives, on the other hand, solicit and receive campaign contributions from the very employee unions whose pay agreements they approve.
Speaking of the November 3 election, voters can pass judgment on a project of the San Francisco Giants called the “Mission Rock Affordable Housing, Parks, Jobs and Historic Preservation Initiative.” The initiative is required under Proposition B, adopted by San Francisco voters last year, since it allows construction of buildings on a 28-acre waterfront site that will exceed the present height limit. Since the site is now used as a parking lot, and zoned only for a park, the height limit is zero. The project includes between 1,000 and 1,950 housing units, mostly rentals, with one-third affordable to low and middle-income households, together with about eight acres of parks, pedestrian plazas, and rehabilitated public piers and wharves. Pier 48 will be renovated. The three housing structures will rise 240 feet each. Obviously, new housing is desirable and the tax benefits through the new businesses, temporary construction jobs, and thousands of new permanent jobs are persuasive of approval. That’s why I have endorsed the initiative and have signed the petition to qualify it for the ballot.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In 1948, Carl Sandburg wrote in the epilogue to Remembrance Rock: “If she (America) forgets where she came from, if the people lose sight of what brought them along, if she listens to the deniers and mockers, then we’ll begin the rot and dissolution.”
Sandburg’s words apply to the now-numerous instances these past months of protests protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article I, Sections 2 and 3 of the California Constitution, destroying and damaging personal property of non-participants and injuring many persons, mostly peace officers. Forgotten frequently, if not entirety, are the rule of law, the judicial system, and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt regarding those accused if violating laws, even police officers.
With legislative bodies throughout California, and particularly San Francisco, allowing crude, disruptive behavior at their public meetings, today’s society finds no boundaries for behavior, eventually resulting in hostile attitudes towards peace officers.”
In California, a few public officials, none of them elected, have condemned such heartbreaking unlawfulness, notably the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and Sheriff of Alameda County. The Governor, state legislators, mayors, supervisors, councilmembers, and most other Bay Area elected officials have been mute.
San Francisco is fortunate to escape the kind of destruction that Oakland emblemizes, as go media “regulars” like Baltimore, New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. It continually saddens me that relatively few people, including most journalists and electronic media reporters, possess scant knowledge of fundamentals of the American system of law. It shows in their reporting.
Even more sadly are revelations about a relatively few San Francisco Police Department sworn peace officers engaging in racist, derogatory comments. Besides the police officers’ union (the San Francisco Police Officers Association), not one elected local official has publicly reminded us of the burdens of protecting the public’s safety, and enforcing the California Penal Code and other governmental rules on conduct.
Bear in mind that a San Francisco police officer’s conduct is subject not only to investigation by the Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau, which I’ve respected ever since the era of then-Captain Mort McInerney; the Office of Citizens Complaints, an always-growing bureaucracy arising from a political deal in the late 1970s by a then politically-motivated union president and a now-forgotten San Francisco Supervisor; the District Attorney on the prowl for reasons to reelect him; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and even the Federal Department of Homeland Security. With legislative bodies throughout California, and particularly San Francisco, allowing crude, disruptive behavior at their public meetings, today’s society finds no boundaries for behavior, eventually resulting in hostile attitudes towards peace officers. Legislative bodies are premised upon the deliberative process, not the signage, chants, and vulgarity of easily identifiable members of vox populi. Those adverse conditions won’t change without attention by elected officials, legislative and executive.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) was established by the State legislature and then-Governor Goodwin Knight in 1957. It consisted of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties (Santa Clara County was in the original legislation, but requested deletion). By 1961, BART directors were ready to submit their final engineering plan to the five remaining counties for approval, but in December 1961, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, under pressure from the largest shopping center developer in the county, withdrew from the District. Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco realized the District-wide tax base would thus be so reduced that the cost of Marin County service across the Golden Gate Bridge could not be supported. Marin County departed the district in early 1962. In November 1962, Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco voters approved a $792,000,000 general obligation bond to build about 72 miles, including 31 miles of aerial construction, 24 miles of grade construction, 11 miles of subway, 5 miles of tunnels, and 4 miles of sub-aqueous tube. The bond was approved in all three counties by 61.215% of approximately 750,000 voters (the founding legislation required but a 60% voter approval, not the customary 66.7% for general obligation bonds.) The original system was partially opened on September 11, 1972, with service from Fremont to North Oakland. By 1973 all sections were complete, including service to Daly City, in non-District member San Mateo County, one of 33 stations; trans- bay service didn’t commence until September 16, 1974, after operational safety was certified by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Subsequently in the 1990s, BART service was extended in San Mateo County to stations in Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno and Millbrae. (BART now consists of 104 miles.) Thus, San Mateo County residents have received BART service without participating in the original indebtedness of taxpayers or the extra half-cent sales tax imposed upon Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco by the Legislature in April 1969, after the original $792,000,000 bond proceeds proved insufficient to pay for the original 72 miles.
A recent column by the Regional Policy Director of TransForm, an Oakland nonprofit “that promotes transportation choices and walk able communities to help connect people to opportunity,…and address our climate crisis” informed readers that BART needs almost $5,000,000,000 for track replacement, repairs, new cars, and other improvements. He advocates a property tax increase for taxpayers in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco to support a $4,500,000,000 general obligation bond in 2016.
Since the extension of BART to Millbrae, BART, with financial contribution from Santa Clara County, has also decided to extend service in the East Bay to San Jose. Santa Clara County will defray some of that $1,000,000,000 expenditure. Therefore, if the ever-increasingly used BART system submits a 2016 general obligation bond to its three membership counties, it is time for San Mateo County and Santa Clara County taxpayers to participate fully. That should be the message to the San Francisco BART directors. San Francisco taxpayers are tired of subsidizing San Mateo County taxpayers. Present any general obligation bond to all five of the counties, not just Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco.
Taxpayers should also know of an obscure but separate taxpayer- supported transportation entity, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (“WETA”). Ever hear of it? I didn’t think so. It was calculatingly established after I departed the State Senate in 1998 at the instigation of the developer of a project on Alameda Island to enhance selling points for his condominiums. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, having repaid its original bonds, went into the transportation business in the late 1960s, not just with buses, but by buying ferry boats, thereby requiring the continuation, and steady increase, of tolls to subsidize passengers.
Ferry boat transportation represents a glittering reminder of times preceding the 1936 opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but requires tremendous subsidization by toll payers and taxpayers. After many years, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District began to recover about half of the ferry service expenses from fares (commonly called “fare box recovery ratio”). Except for the Vallejo ferry service (54% fare box recovery), other such services from the East Bay have either failed completely (Richmond and Berkeley after the October 17, 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake) or consumed enormous amounts of taxpayer subsidy. By comparison, the Alameda/Oakland ferry operates with a 56% fare box recovery rate, but the Harbor Bay service is still struggling, only showing a 40% fare box recovery rate. The South San Francisco ferry service however, which never should have begun after major South San Francisco employers like Genentech declined to participate monetarily, after three years still requires 86% of its operating costs from taxpayer subsidies, a 14% fare box recovery ratio, according to its fiscal year 2014-15 budget. In that same budget, $275,000 will be spent on the South San Francisco terminal (at Oyster Point) “Mitigation Study,” whatever that means.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission was established by the Legislature in 1969 as the planning and programming agency for all Bay Area transportation operators. No sound reason exists for allowing the (“WETA”) to exist, with its multimillion dollar administrative budget from federal funds, state funds, even bridge toll revenues, other local funds, and fare box income to the tune of over of over $2,252,000, plus the tax subsidies of over $22,660,000 for riders. Wouldn’t it be nice to see one governmental entity eliminated in the Bay Area? Don’t hold your breath.
Expanding ferry boat service willy-nilly, as advocated in an article last month by the president of the Bay Area Council, comprising large Bay Area corporations, constitutes a foolish way to put taxpayers in more debt and extract more money from them. Commuting by ferry is an acquired taste which needs temperate encouragement, not reckless throwing of money at it which occurred with tolls from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District from the 19780s until the early 1990s, or the Berkeley and Richmond services which simply shut down for insolvency. It must be done carefully, slowly and under the rubric of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, not another unneeded bureaucracy.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In September 1952, Adlai E. Stevenson, then governor of Illinois and Democratic Party candidate for president of the United States against retired General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, stated at the Los Angeles Town Club: “Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensible to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.”
That may explain polling results, which show dwindling faith in the federal government, whether it’s the 40% or so who think President Obama executes his responsibilities laudably, or the 11% or so who evoke favorable reviews of the Congress. Similar poll statistics evolve from voter surveys about the state legislature, although Governor Jerry Brown, whose loss of his beloved older sister Cynthia Brown Kelly of Magellan Avenue saddened all who knew her, receives majority approval.
Shame on Schwarzenegger and Nunez for abusing the power of their offices to prove to the (victim’s) family that there is one system of justice for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else.”
One example of why we disrespect public officials is Vice President Joe Biden, a favorite target of conservative radio and television commentators. In her October 23, 2014 column, New York Post writer Michelle Malkin observer about Biden’s youngest son: “Everything you need to know about Beltway nepotism, corporate cronyism and corruption can be found in the biography of Robert Hunter Biden…” who made news last week after The Wall Street Journal revealed he’d been booted from the Naval Reserve for cocaine use. His drug abuse was certainly no surprise to the Navy, which issued him a waiver for a previous drug offense before commissioning him as a public affairs officer at the age of 43.
Despite the disgraceful ejection from our military, Hunter’s Connecticut law license won’t be subject to automatic review. Because, well, Biden!
Or, let me remind you of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger distorting and disgracing our criminal justice system in 2010 before they left office. Nunez’ son was convicted of killing Luis Santos in San Diego County in 2008. Schwarzenegger, the Republican flash, commuted young Nunez’ state prison sentence to but two years, leading Kern County’s public defender to allow that the story “leaves me sick” and a Los Angeles Times reader to disclaim: “Shame on Schwarzenegger and Nunez for abusing the power of their offices to prove to the (victim’s) family that there is one system of justice for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else.”
Meanwhile, an erstwhile San Francisco District Attorney, now California Attorney General but looking for the more powerful pasture of the U.S. Senate, Kamala Harris, falsely accused an impeccable professional United States Attorney (Melinda Haag) of “unethical tactics” and “bias” while representing as a private attorney (without charging a fee) an accused murderer in Los Angeles County in 2006. Late last month in an appellate court document Harris, a sworn officer of the court, admitted her accusation had been “improvidently filed” and her “spokeswoman” (don’t you love these taxpayer-supported shields of elected public officials?) refused to explain while Harris uttered no apology to a genuinely non-political prosecutor, the only one in San Francisco.
Another example is the current local district attorney, George Gascon, former police chief and lawyer, who’s never tried a criminal case in any court, but whose appointment served the interests of this mayor, former mayor Willie Brown, and Chinatown’s vituperative Rose Pak, the puppet-mistress. After revelations of misconduct by deputies at the County Jail (encouraging inmate fist-fights), police officers exchanging racist and homophobic e-mails, and police department laboratory personnel failing DNA testing, the putative DA, seeking re-election this November, proclaims formation of a “task force” to investigate such allegations. He wants to upstage our Police Chief, Greg Suhr, whose Internal Affairs operation had already begun probing the e-mail episodes. A retired policeman and ex-police union president appropriately characterized Gascon “an ambitious lunatic.” It’s common knowledge at the Hall of Justice that the Public Defender’s Office, led by St. Francis Woods resident Jeff Adachi, runs circles around Gascon’s office in criminal cases. Gascon’s election year foray represents another abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Finally, amidst all the staged agitation nationally, regionally and locally by the usual forces of victimhood over tragic shootings of blacks from New York City to California by mostly white police officers, no attention is bestowed on a study published online in the Journal of Experimental Criminology on May 22, 2014. Interviewing over 300 police officers, the academic researchers found the cops felt more threatened by black men but were less likely to shoot black or female suspects than white or Hispanic suspects. One researcher, a University of Missouri at Saint Louis professor, David Klinger, stated: “I’ve had multiple officers tell me they were worried in the wake of a shooting because they shot a black person, and I’ve had multiple officers tell me that they were glad the person they shot was white, because then they knew that weren’t going to have to be subjected to the racial harangue.” That study demonstrates just the opposite of racial bias, but did you ever read or hear of it in San Francisco or Oakland? Heck, no!
Finally, let’s extol City Attorney Dennis Herrera for suing, for money, Port Commission member Mel Murphy who allegedly, while a Building Inspection Commission member, violated multiple City ordinances on three different parcels and committed fraud with respect to permits and other official documents. Maybe there is a beam of integrity in City Hall. Let’s call it “Herrera integrity” and venerate it as a beacon of repentance for Biden, Harris, Gascon and Murphy.
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) published in 1893 The Kingdom of God Is Within You. He observed: “The good cannot seize power, nor retain it; to do this, men must love power. And love of power is inconsistent with goodness; but quite consistent with the very opposite qualities –pride, cunning, cruelty.”
Last month, I mentioned the continuing financial craftiness of Board of Supervisors members who, with easy acquiescence from the Mayor since 2012, have controlled directing $1,100,000 of tax receipts within his/her district to chosen entities or persons. You won’t find that $1,100,000 in the Board of Supervisors budget itself. Instead, my inquiries reveal the Supervisors appropriate such money to themselves through the Controller’s Office! That facilitates political support from constituents associated with various activities to which each supervisor distributes our taxpayer money. It’s not quite the practice of New York’s legendary Boss Tweed, but it’ll do as an approximation. The Supervisors in their role as the 11-member governing board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority also have effectually doubled the ante with another $100,000 for each supervisor to direct under the rubric of “neighborhood-based transportation planning.” You won’t find that money in the Board of Supervisors budget either. Not a whisper about such obvious Board maneuvering arises from a complacent local media or elected holders of the public trust.
... a charter amendment introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener to decrease voter ability to qualify an initiative for the ballot. It requires voters to present any proposed initiative to the Board of Supervisors before collecting signatures. It increases the number of citizen signatures to qualify an initiative.”
Additionally, the BART Board of Directors on February 12 countenanced lawlessness by adopting a motion requesting the Alameda County District Attorney cease any effort to recover $70,000 taxpayer/fare-payer damages stemming from a November 28, 2014 closure of most of the BART system by 14 lawbreakers previously charged by the District Attorney with criminal trespassing on BART property. The law enables any crime victim to recover damages arising from criminal conduct as part of the criminal case prosecution. BART estimates it lost approximately $70,000 in revenue on November 28, 2014 from such unlawful conduct. Yet, five directors voted to abandon damage recovery; two of the four who voted “no” did so only because they wanted to instruct the District Attorney to dismiss all cases entirely! Yes, “love of power is inconsistent with goodness.”
Meanwhile, the Chronicle and it’s readers flagellate Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for instructing church school teachers to follow church doctrine publicly. I’m not Catholic, but I do understand the United States and California constitutional doctrines of separation of church and state. Eight California legislators and a couple or more San Francisco Supervisors have publicly criticized and issued demands on Archbishop Cordileone, manifestly symbolizing government intrusion in religious affairs. If the Archbishop’s execution of his responsibilities offends the beliefs, religious or otherwise, of these intrusive legislators, I recommend they reread the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article XVI, Section 4 of the California Constitution. Our nation and state were founded on separation of state and religion.
I alert readers to a charter amendment introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener to decrease voter ability to qualify an initiative for the ballot. It requires voters to present any proposed initiative to the Board of Supervisors before collecting signatures. It increases the number of citizen signatures to qualify an initiative. The California Constitution and our City Charter require 5% of voters in the last gubernatorial election or San Francisco mayoral election to sign, and thus qualify, an initiative for placement on the ballot. Wiener concocts his own formula from voter registration figures. Henceforth, initiative efforts to limit campaign contributions, increase governmental transparency or protect our waterfront from unnatural high rise development of luxury condominiums, sports arenas, and the like would be limited. Wiener will undoubtedly persuade power-loving colleagues to present his anti-democratic measure to November 2015 voters; I invite all readers to join efforts to stop the silencing of voters by voting “No” on Wiener’s sly scheme this November.
Lastly, let’s burst a professional football balloon. As founder and chairman of the Bay Area committee which secured the 1985 Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium, I claim modest credentials to forecast taxpayer subsidies in Santa Clara County for the February 2016 Super Bowl at the 49ers stadium there. In 1985, my committee raised privately and spent but $175,000 to sponsor that Super Bowl. The National Football League paid for night lights at Stanford Stadium and other expenses. An economic study thereafter estimated about $116,000,000 of visitor spending before and after the game. In 2008, the small city of Glendale, Arizona lost more than $1,000,000 from Super Bowl XLII. Glendale’s mayor predicted this year Glendale would lose more than $3,000,000 in taxpayer money on the 2015 game. It lost more. All that glitters is not gold in contemporary America, which Santa Clara will find true next year.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Carl Bernstein is a longtime journalist, known for collaboration with Bob Woodward in the Washington Post in 1973 and 1974 to expose Richard M. Nixon’s shoddy conduct in the 1972 presidential campaign with White House staff which the media dubbed “Watergate.” Bernstein was quoted last year in The Dartmouth Review writing this truism:
“We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.”
Hybrid and electric car usage has also caused declining revenue for the building and maintenance of roads. You don’t pay for roads from income, sales, or property taxation; it’s illogical to abandon a proven user fee. With surprise and approval, I thus note two Republican Congressmen have proposed consideration this year of increasing the federal gas tax. The state legislature must also act. Both should include bicyclists who use the gas tax products (roads, streets, and even highways), but pay no fee. Our battered streets and highways need repair and augmentation now.”
Proof of Bernstein’s observation exists across our Bay Area tableau. The University of California Bears graduation rate for football players is the lowest among all National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I institutions. Other Bears athletic team graduation rates are mainly in the lower tier nationally. The Board of Regents last month considered imposition by U.C. President Janet Napolitano, ex-Arizona governor and federal Homeland Security director, of new team eligibility requirements based on higher grades. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor demanded even better academic performance and graduation results. Ultimately, elevated standards were postponed indefinitely, but not before a regent named Eddie Ireland declared openly: “A college degree is not the goal of every athlete who comes to the university.” I kid you not! That’s an ignoramus’ manner of disregarding the taxpayer subsidy of Cal football players and other university athletes. Does the University of California purpose include financing future members of professional sports teams? And remember, regents such as Ireland are gubernatorial appointees for 12-year terms. Pity the taxpayers.
In July 2012, the Board of Supervisors and mayor combined to add over $1,000,000 to the 2012-13 San Francisco Budget Ordinance to enable each of 11 supervisors to distribute $100,000 within his/her district. Thereafter, for example, Supervisor Mark Farrell conferred tax money upon a treasure hunt at Aquatic Park! Each fiscal year since 2012-13, the practice has continued. Former Board member and president Aaron Peskin, who will run again in North Beach and Telegraph Hill this November, stated in 2013: “It is the most preposterous piece of public policy…giving themselves $100,000 to hand out in little tidbits to buy political support? It’s like a TV game show.”
These same supervisors are paid over $100,000 annually without voter approval needed. Moreover, they receive compensation from membership on a plethora of regional and local government boards, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation Agency, the Peninsula Rail Corridor Joint Powers Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Maintenance District, the California Coastal Commission, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and the Transbay Terminal Authority. They qualify for the City’s Health Service System and Retirement System. And they call it “public service” to induce taxpayers to believe elected officials are somehow sacrificing themselves for all San Franciscans. A favorite term of City Hall figures is “political family,” which evidently begins with City Hall and operates like family members who protect each other. It’s supposed to convey togetherness. Maybe it does, but it surely doesn’t include taxpayers. Others rightly label it the “political class.” These days, district supervisors represent only about 75,000 people, unlike citywide supervisors of yore. Yet they drew voters a decade ago into granting them a third aide at up to $100,412 per year; and I defy you to telephone a supervisor’s office and be greeted by any human being, let alone a living supervisor.
My last example of the accuracy of Carl Bernstein’s observation is the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART)’s impending surrender of $70,000 in taxpayer and fare payer money. Last November 28th (Black Friday) the BART system was unlawfully forced to close by protesters of events in Missouri and New York. Police arrested 14 lawbreakers. BART asked the Alameda County District Attorney (Nancy O’Malley) to recover its damages ($70,000) as restitution in the criminal prosecutions. Left wing demonstrators demanded BART dismiss such claims. Last month BART director Rebecca Saltzman introduced a motion to do that, seconded, of course, by San Francisco director Tom Radulovich. BART’s board will vote on the motion February 12. It will tell the Alameda County prosecutor to forget our $70,000 in costs and damages. Such stupidity will thus invite more law-breaking and BART closures in this era of the “idiot culture.”
A Los Angeles Congresswoman (Janice Hahn) last December declared that an alternative to the gasoline tax, namely a tax on miles driven, should be considered. I agree. The gasoline tax constitutes a user fee. Many people don’t realize that commencing in 1922, California’s highways, freeways, county roads, and city streets were funded from national and state gasoline tax revenue. The federal rate hasn’t been changed since 1996; the state’s hasn’t since 1994. Current politicians are afraid to increase gasoline taxation because most lack knowledge of history. They look for legislative “gimmicks” (usually borrowing through bonds) to avoid a user fee increase. Hybrid and electric car usage has also caused declining revenue for the building and maintenance of roads. You don’t pay for roads from income, sales, or property taxation; it’s illogical to abandon a proven user fee. With surprise and approval, I thus note two Republican Congressmen have proposed consideration this year of increasing the federal gas tax. The state legislature must also act. Both should include bicyclists who use the gas tax products (roads, streets, and even highways), but pay no fee. Our battered streets and highways need repair and augmentation now.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
It seems always appropriate (and even inviting) at the end of a calendar year to reflect on vagaries. One of those vagaries is the monopoly possessed by Recology, Inc. on San Francisco’s garbage collection and recycling service. In my decades of public office and private experience, I know of no other major city not utilizing competitive bidding for such major local responsibility. Once upon a time, a garbage monopoly could be “sold” to captive customers as a genuine small, locally-owned and operated business. That can’t be done now, and no better example of why it can’t be done now was presented last month in Daly City. While it excoriates any effort to open San Francisco garbage collection and recycling to competitive bidding, Recology, Inc. bids competitively throughout the nation and specifically in California, including, most recently, Daly City. There, the City Council on November 21, after reviewing intensively bids from two other companies and Recology, Inc., voted 4-1 to reject the City Manager’s recommendation of Recology, Inc. (perhaps influenced by her former Public Utilities Commission managerial position in San Francisco) and awarded a 15-year contract to a Recology, Inc. competitor. The City Council did so despite concerted lobbying efforts of such San Francisco political hotshots as Willie Brown, John Burton, and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, together with Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Instead of utilizing their political positions to ensure a favorable (to Recology, Inc.) City Council vote, our political luminaries offended at least four of the five council members with their meddling.
Meanwhile, a whistleblowing former em-ployee lawsuit against Recology, Inc. in San Francisco Superior Court for cheating San Francisco and California taxpayers in recycling activity, which resulted in a $1,800,000 jury verdict last July in San Francisco Superior Court against Recology, Inc. and for the benefit of taxpayers, continues. The trial judge granted Recology, Inc.’s. post-trial motion to set aside such verdict, a highly unexpected act after a tedious four-week trial.”
Meanwhile, a whistleblowing former employee lawsuit against Recology, Inc. in San Francisco Superior Court for cheating San Francisco and California taxpayers in recycling activity, which resulted in a $1,800,000 jury verdict last July in San Francisco Superior Court against Recology, Inc. and for the benefit of taxpayers, continues. The trial judge granted Recology, Inc.’s. post-trial motion to set aside such verdict, a highly unexpected act after a tedious four-week trial. The whistleblower, who was fired by Recology, Inc. after reporting such cheating to the Brisbane Police Department, has appealed that court order, and his wrongful termination case proceeds to trial against Recology, Inc. next month in San Francisco Superior Court. Recology, Inc.’s obvious hypocrisy in preventing competitive bidding in San Francisco while participating in it elsewhere should be lesson one in any Good Government course.
Meanwhile, the Bay Area Toll Authority, composed of no Bay Area public officials of whom you’ve ever heard, announced its plan to build a bicycle lane on the Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena Island to San Francisco at a cost of approximately $500,000,000! We know the new eastern bridge span has cost about $6,500,000,000, approximately $5,500,000,000 more than its 1997 estimated cost before Oakland’s then-Mayor (Jerry Brown) and San Francisco’s (Willie Brown) caused lengthy delays on construction commencement, and subsequent Chinese-supplied (and flawed) steel was added to costs. Included in the bill to tollpayers and California taxpayers in general was an expenditure of over $100,000,000 for a bicycle lane from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island. We know bicyclists pay no registration or license fees, unlike motorists and truckers. Their exclusive lanes and the roads and streets they use are provided by motorists and truckers through gasoline taxation. Although the Toll Authority identified no source of the proposed $500,000,000 new bicycle lane on the western span, it revealed it was paying a “consultant” $10,000,000 to speculate on financial sources for (1) an additional $10,000,000 to comply with the California Environmental Quality Control Act and (2) the chimerical $500,000,000 for construction. Upon its 1936 opening, Bay Bridge tollpayers were promised tolls would cease once bonds for construction were fully repaid. Ha! Ha! Tolls on the Bay Bridge were raised over 15 years ago to furnish approximately half the money (with State gasoline tax revenue providing the other half) to build the new eastern span. Now the Toll Authority embarks upon a bicycle project, which, I fearlessly predict, will trigger higher tolls within three years.
The last transportation item to contemplate is the revelation last month that the Peninsula Joint Powers Board (that is, Caltrain) electrification project is already $200,000,000 over its original budget, with anticipated completion more than a year behind schedule. The electrification cost was originally fixed as $1,200,000,000. It’s now about $1,500,000,000, of which some $750,000,000 is supposed to emanate from the California High-Speed Rail general obligation bond of $9,000,000,000 approved by California voters (for high-speed rail, not Caltrain) in 2008. There’s a problem, however: Caltrain’s Environmental Impact Report on such electrification uses the present San Francisco Caltrain station at Fourth and King Streets as the San Francisco terminal. The always-grasping Transbay Terminal Joint Powers Authority uses its pending First and Mission Streets dream as its San Francisco terminal, having already obtained and presumably spent $400,000,000 from President Obama’s vaunted 2009 stimulus bill to dig a big hole in the ground, which may resemble that infamous Alaskan “bridge to nowhere.”
Now, let’s apply ourselves to the happier notions of Hanukkah, Christmas, and a New Year called 2015. I wish all readers and their families, AND our esteemed publisher, Mitch Bull, a healthy and joyous celebration of those respective events.
In that same vein, let’s convey warm best wishes and congratulations to B’nai Emunah in the Outer Sunset District upon its 65th anniversary, replete this month with special dinners, religious services, entertainment, and parties, parties, parties!
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7x
In the aftermath of last month’s local, state, and federal elections, I began to read a remarkably insightful book by a Fordham Law School professor (Zephyr Teachout) entitled Corruption in America. (I purchased it from our wonderful West Portal Bookstore.) Corruption in the years of the founding of our Republic and promulgation of the United States Constitution was considered in a more stalwart manner than contemporary law, society, and politics have transformed it today. Of the same genre is a 2013 book by Peter Schweizer, a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, entitled Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, And Line Their Own Pockets. (It’s also available at the West Portal Bookstore).
…today in an era in which independent expenditure committees and newly-minted billionaires in San Francisco, in California and throughout the United States flood our mailboxes, televisions, radios, and internet with their propaganda.”
In September, a former Virginia Governor (Robert McDonnell) was convicted after several weeks of trial of extortion, based upon expensive gifts and even cash loans from a businessman. The prosecution convinced the jury that the Governor bestowed benefits upon the businessman, such as hosting benefits for him at the Governor’s Mansion to extol the business in return for the businessman’s largesse. Under the law, the prosecution was required to establish a specific relationship between the cash loans and expensive gifts to the Governor on the one hand, and the Governor’s deed for the businessman on the other hand. That was not always the rule in American law. As Professor Teachout reminds us, the United States Supreme Court in 1991 reversed the criminal conviction of a West Virginia legislator seeking campaign contributions in return for introducing a bill on the ground the legislator’s receipt of money was not “made in return for an ‘explicit promise’ to do (or not do) an official act.” The legal standard now renders it much more difficult in every state and county to prosecute a public official for corruption.
That wasn’t the case in 1787. Article I, Section 8 if the Constitution of the United States declares explicitly: “no Person holding any office for profit or trust…shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Why? In 1785, two years prior, the French King Louis XVI conferred a diamond-studded snuffbox containing the King’s portrait on Benjamin Franklin upon conclusion of Franklin’s service as our Ambassador to France. Public indignation ensued. Professor Teachout observes the public was indignant despite the fact that Franklin was not a member of the Continental Congress and had not granted any monetary or non-monetary favors to King Louis XVI or France. A corrupt intention was not necessary to finding a public official’s independence had been weakened or annulled. The mere gift riled the populace. Constitutional Convention Delegate George Mason of Virginia declared at the 1787 Constitutional Convention: ”If we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end.” That’s not merely a truism; it remains a reflection of human behavior today in an era in which independent expenditure committees and newly-minted billionaires in San Francisco, in California and throughout the United States flood our mailboxes, televisions, radios, and internet with their propaganda. Particularly searing local examples were the attacks upon Supervisor David Campos, for not voting to impeach the Sheriff in 2011, to secure his opponent’s election to the California Assembly, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to subvert Proposition H.
Professor Teachout details the development of lobbying in the United States. Paying lobbyists was prohibited or declared contractually void in state constitutions and appellate court decisions in the 19th Century. An 1874 U.S. Supreme Court opinion regarding lobbying stated: “If any of the great corporations of the country were to hire adventurers who make market of themselves in this way, to procure the passage of a general law with a view to the promotion of their private interest, the moral sense of every right-minded man would instinctively denounce the employer and the employed as steeped in corruption …” That changed. Commencing in 1890, state legislators enacted lobbyist-registration statutes. Lobbying contracts were enforced by courts from 1927 to the present. Two U.S. Supreme Court cases in 1946 characterized lobbying as free speech.
In 1974, as a Board of Supervisors member, I successfully secured passage of an ordinance establishing campaign expenditure limits for Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. For Mayor, it was approximately $121,000; for a Board of Supervisors campaign (at-large, not by district), it was approximately $46,000. That ordinance applied to the 1975 mayoral and supervisorial campaigns and would probably endure to this day with limits increased by the cost of living index increases for San Francisco. In 1976, however, the United States Supreme Court invalidated a New York state campaign expenditure limit law, asserting it violated First Amendment free speech rights. Since then “reforming” campaign spending has been a losing proposition with failed experiments, including taxpayer financing, which provide work for lawyers, accountants, and other specialists, but no respite for the body politic or our republic (or city). My 1974 ordinance was, thus, invalidated by the United States Supreme Court decision. The law now allows only a limit on contributions, not on expenditures, and permits “independent” expenditures of the sort witnessed in last month’s elections. As Professor Teachout asserts, citizens must reassert what she calls the “anti-corruption principle” of public officials honoring civic welfare, not just private interests.
I’m reminded of that in the recent campaign for the BART Board of Directors. One candidate, the 24-year incumbent, was a Republican; the other a Democrat. Nevertheless, the Republican was endorsed and supported in glaring ads by such Democratic luminaries as House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Attorney General Kamala Harris, and even California Democratic Party Chairman John L. Burton. The answer can be found in campaign contribution records since 1999, demonstrating the incumbent’s family contributions to such Democratic worthies, including even Democratic presidential candidates. It is, therefore, easier to understand why the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee voted “no endorsement” in such election, thus showing a lack of integrity in committee endorsements. Perhaps a future president can use the “bully pulpit” to restore the values and principles of the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention where James Madison declaimed: “Are we not struck at seeing the luxury and venality which has already crept among us?”
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Having last month recommended, convincingly or otherwise, positions on the 12 San Francisco ballot measures confronting voting readers on November 4, 2014, I now pronounce judgment on the six California propositions designed to improve life for all citizens, if not elected public officials. Of the six State measures, three constitute voter (or special interest) initiatives, one is a State general obligation bond issue inspired chiefly by the Governor and massaged by industry, environmental, and governmental entities, one constitutes a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature, and one is a bona fide referendum from various gambling and other special interests. (Contrary to most media reporters and analysts lacking language integrity, a referendum represents submittal to popular vote of a statute passed by the Legislature, while an initiative represents a procedure enabling a specified number of voters by petition to propose a law for approval by the electorate.)
To reiterate, on San Francisco ballot measures, I recommend as follows:
Proposition A: No
Proposition B: No
Proposition C: No
Proposition D: Yes
Proposition E: Yes
Proposition F: Yes
Proposition G: No
Proposition H: A big “YES”
Proposition I: An even bigger “NO” to another City Hall trick upon voters
Proposition J: Yes
Proposition K: No
Proposition L: Yes
Proposition 1, the State general obligation bond proposal, asks voters to approve $7,500,000,000 of indebtedness to build structures and facilities improving Californians’ access to water, whether for drinking, bathing, growing crops, fishing, boating, drilling, or otherwise. A general obligation bond represents borrowing money and repaying it with interest. Assuming a 30-year loan at about 3.5% interest, Californians will repay the $7,500,000,000 bond with accumulating interest of at least another $8,000,000,000. Is it worth it? I think so. Included in purposes for which bond proceeds will be spent are construction of reservoirs, thus holding water otherwise escaping to the sea or elsewhere because of insufficient containment facilities. Proposition 1 arises from a compromise between California interests who need water, including local governments, farmers, and industrial entities. I’m voting for it without hesitation.
Proposition 2 is arcane. Don’t try to read the text—your eyes and mind will rebel. It requires annual transfer of revenue from California’s general fund to a “budget stabilization account.” Half the money will be allocated to repay state debt, and the remainder will be spent only on emergencies or prospective budget deficits. It will also cause smaller local reserves for some school districts, but on the whole, it requires expenditure of a minimum amount each year to pay pension and retiree health benefit debts and local government and state debts. A minimum of $800,000,000 annually must be spent for repayment of existing state debts (the law requires no such payment presently) and if capital gains tax revenues are high, $2,000,000,000 must be applied to repay state debts annually. Proposition 2 enhances state fiscal responsibility, which is my goal in supporting it. Vote yes on Proposition 2.
Proposition 45 constitutes an initiative spawned by a consumer group in Southern California. It grants the California Insurance Commissioner power for the first time to approve (or disapprove) health insurance premiums, just as the Commissioner has done since 1988 with automobile and homeowner premiums. It also prohibits health, automobile, and homeowner insurance companies from setting premiums based on lack of prior coverage or credit history. California’s present Insurance Commissioner is extremely partial to the insured (and plaintiffs’ tort lawyers). One wants to believe he and successors will administer the Proposition 45 power fairly. I’m willing to do that, having never understood why the sponsors of the 1988 initiative which conferred such power regarding automobile insurance premiums on the Commissioner didn’t include health insurance at that time. Proposition 45 is opposed by health insurers, the California Chamber of Commerce, and insurance defense lawyers, because it does bestow much power over health insurance premiums and benefits to an elected Insurance Commissioner. (I tried unsuccessfully as a State Senator to effectuate repeal of the 1988 constitutional initiative clause which made the Insurance Commissioner an elected office, rather than appointed by the Governor.) On balance, I believe Proposition 45 is justified, despite possible political overlay.
Proposition 46 should have been a simple initiative to amend the 1975 legislative statute which established a maximum of $250,000 in a medical malpractice suit for general damages, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” Proposition 46 should have merely adjusted the $250,000 for inflation, the cost of living index change since 1975. Proposition 46’s sponsors have tried three times to persuade the Legislature to do so, without success, and have unsuccessfully challenged the $250,000 limitation in the courts, but, for reasons known to Proposition 46’s sponsors, the initiative includes a detailed provision about drug and alcohol testing of doctors and requires doctors to report any other doctor suspected of drug or alcohol addiction, claiming that numerous doctors have caused deaths and injuries to patients because of their own drug or alcohol addiction. Sure, pilots, bus drivers, and some other vocations must submit to random drug testing, but that problem, assuming it exists, should have been addressed in a specific proposal to the Legislature, not tied to increasing the $250,000 limitation on medical malpractice pain and suffering damages. I represented victims of medical negligence as a lawyer, and I sympathize with such lawyers and their clients’ frustration with that general damage limitation, but I must vote against Proposition 46 because it’s an unnecessary attack on the integrity of medical doctors, intended as a guise for the unfair damage limit.
Proposition 47 is anything but “The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Tax.” As the California District Attorneys Association points out, it “unfairly misleads the public into believing that the Act will strengthen criminal laws to protect neighborhoods and schools.” It does the opposite. It reduces a plethora of crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It allows release of imprisoned felons with serious or violent criminal records. It ignores the costs of its provisions and costs of recidivism to our cities and counties. It changes the burden of proof on resentencing convicted criminals; it requires a judge to resentence an imprisoned convict unless the convict is found to pose “an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” Currently, under the 2012 revision of the so-called “three strikes” law, a convict can be resentenced as a “second strike” offender if the convict’s “third strike” was nonviolent and non-serious, and the convict, through his lawyer, must bear the burden of so proving. Proposition 47 switches the burden from the convict to the prosecution and lessens judges’ exercise of discretion. It also allows a convict who has completed a felony sentence that would be a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 to file a written application to have the felony designated as a misdemeanor without a court hearing, which violates the victim’s constitutional right to be present in court and be heard by a judge. Theft of most handguns will become a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. It’s no wonder district attorneys and police chiefs oppose Proposition 47. I’m voting “no.”
Proposition 48 would override a bill passed by the Legislature in June 2013 allowing gambling for the North Fork Rancheria (Mono Indians) and the Wiyot tribe and exempted certain gambling projects from the California Environmental Quality Act. I have always opposed gambling legalization in California, beginning with the state lottery in 1985. California voters in 2000, however, amended the California Constitution to allow Indian tribes to operate slot machines, card games, and lottery games. Proposition 48 entitles the North Fork tribe to build a casino in Madera County and introduce gambling, not on tribal lands, but also off of reservations. I say a “pox on all their houses.” It’s a fiction that gambling improves the lives of California’s American Indians. It doesn’t. It’s a sham for the benefit of casino professionals. (There are presently more than 60 casinos in California.) I’m voting “no” on Proposition 48; I hope you’ll do so, too.
I’m only genuinely interested in a couple of statewide candidates because most of the races are one-sided. I don’t know him, but I think Pete Peterson would be a responsible Secretary of State. He will not use the office as a stepping stone for some other office. I also believe strongly that Marshall Tuck should be elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, a non-partisan office. He’s not a captive of the California Teachers Association and he’s a leader in establishing nine successful public charter schools in Los Angeles’ most difficult neighborhoods, increasing graduation rates by 60%.
If you’re in that Assembly district, please vote for David Campos for the Assembly. Be sure to vote for Nick Josefowitz for the BART Board of Directors, so we can benefit from a vibrant, conscientious, honest businessman instead of a 24-year incumbent who leaves the meeting room to avoid controversial votes after participating in the unions’ picket line during last year’s strike against BART, which left tens of thousands of San Franciscans high and dry. Finally, I recommend Daniel Flores, Esquire unreservedly for San Francisco Superior Court. He is an experienced trial lawyer; his opponent is not, as noted by the Bar Association of San Francisco.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7.
An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.” That’s attributed to the English author, George Eliot, in a book first published in 1866. Or, as an anonymous wit decried in a manner certainly attributable to contemporary America, “The cheapest way to have your family tree traced is to run for public office.” With that foundation, I fearlessly approach the November 4 Municipal Election, containing 12 ballot measures. One is an extremely expensive General Obligation Bond issue, three are proposed Charter Amendments, six are proposed ordinances and two are non-binding Declarations of Policy. Since absentee voting commences on October 3, 2014, I carefully furnish my recommendations and the reasons therefor.
In 55 years of reading general obligation bond measures, City and State, I’ve never seen a vaguer measure. ‘Nuff said'.”
Proposition A was submitted by the Board of Supervisors and Mayor. It constitutes a $500,000,000 borrowing by taxpayers, if approved by two thirds of votes cast November 4. With interest over the 30-year life of the proposed bonds, at a likely 3.50% interest rate, taxpayers will pay $17,500,000 annually in interest or $525,000,000 over the life of the bonds, thus costing about $1,000,000,000! For what? Read the ballot measure and you still won’t know. Buried in the gobblygook is a statement that said bond proceeds will be spent on an undefined S.F.M.T.A. “Transit Effectiveness Project” not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act because Proposition A constitutes “Establishment of a governmental financing mechanism that does not involve any commitment to specific projects to be constructed with bond funds …”! Proposition A merely proclaims that a portion of bond proceeds “may” be applied “to constructing improvements,… that will improve Muni service reliability and reduce travel time on Muni.” It declares that a “portion” (without specifying any amount) may be allocated “to deliver pedestrian safety improvements at locations throughout the city where the majority of pedestrian injuries and fatalities occur.” City Hall doesn’t build anymore; it “delivers.” Voters and taxpayers are not informed of location of any such expenditure. Proposition A further declares that an unspecified portion of bond proceeds “may be allocated to more effectively manage traffic congestion…, improve the overall reliability of the transit system and improve pedestrian safety by replacing obsolete and deteriorating signal infrastructure.” Again, no identification of cost, amount or location of improvements is specified. Proposition A states: “ A portion of the Bond may be allocated to fund the City’s share of needed improvements to CalTrain’s infrastructure.” CalTrain is the Peninsula commute rail system, used by few San Franciscans. Santa Clara and San Mateo County residents comprise about 88% of its ridership, but Atherton, Hillsborough, Palo Alto and Woodside property owners won’t defray this $1,000,000,000 bond issue’s cost.
In other words, Proposition A represents a “blank check” to city bureaucrats. It mentions a “citizens’ oversight committee;” it doesn’t, however, establish one. It weighs undefined administrative code time requirements. It contains no specific purpose, contrary to the California Government Code, and is probably vulnerable to legal challenge. Contrary to City Hall assurance, it contains no prohibition against selling the bond before a comparable amount of General Obligation bonds are repaid by taxpayers. If you’re a tenant, don’t think you’ll receive a “free ride” if A passes. The ballot measure requires half the principal with interest to be repaid by tenants! In 55 years of reading general obligation bond measures, City and State, I’ve never seen a vaguer measure. ‘Nuff said.
Proposition B amends our Charter by increasing Muni funding as population increases. It’s another example of diminishing the City’s General Fund by automatically taking money for a special purpose. The aim may be noble; the method constitutes a common bane of responsible governance. I’m voting against it.
Proposition C amends the Charter to prolong another bit of special funding called the “Children’s Fund.” The same pernicious policy exemplified in Proposition B impels my vote against C.
Proposition D provides health benefits for former Redevelopment Agency employees who were discharged after Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated by Governor Brown and the Legislature. It probably adds a slight amount of unfunded health liability for future taxpayers. I’m still inclined to vote for it.
Proposition E imposes a tax on “sugar-sweetened” soft drinks. Battling over E are “nanny government” lovers and the giant corporate makers of beverages which sensible people eschew. The blustering tactics of the soft drink industry are repulsive. Their paid political operatives have figuratively bought endorsements from bastions of “progressivism” (whatever that word means), while virtuous would-be dictators of proper food and drink ingestion minimize the financial effect on low-income consumers. I’ll vote for Prop E while risking slanderous accusation as a “nanny” because I’m offended by corporate opposition tactics.
Proposition F arises from successful enactment last June of Proposition B, requiring voter approval of any project which exceeds existing waterfront height limits. Pier 70 comprises a conglomeration of dilapidated structures and emptiness, except for one existing building 90 feet high. Forest City, Inc. will build 300 housing units, public parks, office space and retail stores. Forest City needs voter approval for any structure exceeding the current 40-foot limit, while planning to build no higher than the current 90-foot structure, which will be retained as a historical landmark. I strongly support that project; so do all the other initiators of last June’s Proposition B. I know of no opposition!
Proposition G proposes an additional transfer tax on residential property, with minor price exceptions, sold within five years of its purchase. Put on the ballot only because of a Charter provision, which allows four supervisors to submit an initiative to voters, it avoided, for example, the arduous voter approval represented by Proposition H. Proposition G was submitted by Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Kim and Mar. The transfer tax has always lacked logic in my strong view. I opposed the original transfer tax as a Supervisor in the 1980’s. If government wants to charge a fee for servicing the transfer of real estate, charge the amount of money it costs to process a real estate transaction, not an arbitrary tax. Why shouldn’t people possess the right to buy and sell real estate with all of the transactional cost without government demanding a tax? Proposition G attempts to punish people who buy and sell residential property as a business. That’s not justified. I’ll vote “No.”
Proposition H constitutes a true citizen initiative, qualifying for the ballot with about 15,000 voters signing a measure circulated by volunteers West of Twin Peaks and elsewhere. Proposition H stops violations of law, namely the assiduously-promulgated Golden Gate Park Master Plan and the Western Shoreline Area Plan. Both were scrupulously adopted to protect natural values at the western end of Golden Gate Park by requiring the city to maintain all athletic fields therein as natural grass and barring night time field lighting in such areas. To subvert Proposition H, Supervisors David Chiu, Katy Tang, Mark Farrell, Eric Mar and Scott Wiener (remember these names) submitted an initiative, Proposition I, as a “poison pill” intended to confuse voters and defeat H. Proposition I arguably denies the Recreation and Park Commission discretion to consider other city policies before approving a project, clearly limits the powers of citizens and their Board of Supervisors and perhaps prohibits future voter initiatives on the subject matter. The proposed Beach Chalet soccer complex project would remove seven acres of living grass, removes over 55 trees and inserts an acre of concrete paving in our historic park. It’s a trick. I don’t like politicians’ tricks. I’m voting “yes” on H and “no” on I.
Proposition J increases the minimum wage governing San Francisco workers from $10.74 per hour to $15 by 2018. I’m voting for it.
I’m voting against Proposition K, another meaningless housing statement by City Hall.
I’m voting enthusiastically for Proposition L. It’s a policy declaration, which contains therapeutic value in demanding restoration of balance in San Francisco’s transportation policies by simply proposing that traffic laws should be enforced equally for everyone using San Francisco’s streets and sidewalks. Do you realize that San Francisco taxpayers, through their Federal, State and regional taxes and fees, pay nearly half of the vaunted Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s annual budget and motorists pay most of those taxes and fees. Muni riders pay only 22.42%, another 4.90% emanates from traffic fines, rentals and advertising. Bicyclists pay 0.0%. The U.S. Census, in its latest five-year estimate (2008-2012) concludes that of the 409,015 San Franciscans who work outside their residences, 164,017 drive alone to work, 142,350 utilize public transportation, 43,363 walk and only 14,833 ride bicycles to work. Although bicyclists’ constitute just 3.6% of San Francisco commuters, eliminating traffic lanes and street parking is seemingly the priority transportation objective of city government. I know Proposition L won’t mandate the force of law, but its passage should affect City Hall decisions and establish equality of treatment for taxpayers who pay the bills.
Finally, I note my vigorous endorsement of Supervisor David Campos for Assembly and a fine San Franciscan, Nicholas Josefowitz, for BART Board of Directors representing most of San Francisco. Next month, I examine State ballot measures and candidates.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
A bane of civic engagement and democracy, whether local, state or federal, is a lack of accurate information. Author Nathaniel Hawthorne, once observed, “Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty; inaccuracy of dishonesty.” San Franciscans have historically depended upon a strong, usually accurate press, since the 1920’s on radio, since the 1940’s upon television, and in the 21st century on the Internet. With two small exceptions, all those sources of accurate information patently failed San Franciscans last month.
Did you read anything about this case in the Chronicle, Examiner, even the Guardian or San Francisco Weekly? I didn’t. No one did. Gone are the investigative reporting days of Charles McCabe, Dick Nolan, Russ Cone, Bruce Brugmann, Tim Redmond, Lance Williams, Arthur Caylor, much less Ambrose Bierce or Mark Twain.”
We have all been subjected to regular utterances from Recology, Inc., the monopoly garbage collecting multi-corporation, and City Hall-approved proclamations of recycling excellence, which serve the commercial purpose of Recology and the puffery of City officials from the Mayor to the City Environmental Health Office. If you believe those sources, San Franciscans recycle over 80% of our collective waste and will soon achieve 100%! There is one problem: It isn’t true, and city government perpetuates such inaccuracy. It remained, however, for one honest citizen and two supremely stalwart lawyers to put the lie to such City Hall and Recology misrepresentations. Brian McVeigh is a native San Franciscan, once employed by Recology, Inc. at its recycling operations on Tunnel Road near Brisbane and Pier 94. Because of his vigor, diligence and competency, he was promoted to supervisorial responsibility in 2008. He observed dishonest labeling of contents and quantities of containers delivered by Recology, Inc. from San Francisco to California’s Redemption Value Program in return for State taxpayers’ money. He observed removal of cement at Recology’s Tunnel Road facility for inclusion in recycling material and its subsequent repaving. He’s a “whistleblower.” He’s honest. He reported such overpayments to the Brisbane Police Department. He was admonished to eschew such activity, and then fired.
Obtaining legal representation from David Anton, Esq. and John Scott, Esq., he sued Recology for wrongfully discharging him. He also sought permission from the California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, to file a qui tam legal action for City and State taxpayers under California law. Harris refused to act on his request, which was supported by a plethora of facts, for over one year. (By law, Harris could have pursued such suit herself or, failing that, authorized McVeigh, as a taxpayer, to proceed.) Finally, in 2010, McVeigh was permitted by Harris to proceed.
Despite numerous pre-trial delaying motions by Recology’s attorneys, a Washington, D.C.-headquartered firm of 1,000 or so lawyers, Mc Veigh’s qui tam action was tried to a San Francisco Superior Court jury last month. (His wrongful discharge suit against Recology, Inc. will commence before a San Francisco Superior Court jury on September 8, 2014.) Besides cheating California of taxpayer money, Mc Veigh’s suit involves fraudulent payments by San Francisco’s Environment Health Office of $1,300,000 to Recology, Inc. in 2008 as a recycling “bonus.” Recology’s contract, awarded, of course, without competitive bidding, authorizes a bonus payment for any year in which citywide recycling supposedly surpasses a predetermined amount. After three weeks of grueling trial, and seven days of jury deliberations, on June 9, 2014, an honest whistleblower and his dogged attorneys achieved success. The jury found that Recology, Inc. had defrauded San Francisco taxpayers in 2008 regarding recycling quantities, and awarded damages of $1,300,000 to McVeigh, who is entitled to receive some of such money for having the guts to bring legal action, and the remainder to city taxpayers. Under California law, Recology, Inc. must pay interest at 10% per year from 2008, the year of its false bonus claim, on $1,300,000, or about $780,000 more, and attorneys’ fees of Messers. Scott and Anton, which will be considerable. Moreover, California law mandates trebling of the $1,300,000 fraudulent payment to Recology, Inc. by the Environment Health Office, which means a verdict of $4,900,000, plus interest and legal fees.
Regrettably, the jury decided in Recology’s favor on the charge of cheating the State. McVeigh’s lawyers intend to file and pursue a motion for judgment on that charge notwithstanding the jury verdict; Recology’s attorneys will surely file a similar motion to upset the verdict against their client. Such motions will be heard on July 24. 2014 by the same judge who presided over the trial.
Did you read anything about this case in the Chronicle, Examiner, even the Guardian or San Francisco Weekly? I didn’t. No one did. Gone are the investigative reporting days of Charles McCabe, Dick Nolan, Russ Cone, Bruce Brugmann, Tim Redmond, Lance Williams, Arthur Caylor, much less Ambrose Bierce or Mark Twain. While interviewing Mc Veigh’s lawyers, I was vexed by the assertion that the City Attorney “could have helped (Mc Veigh’s lawyers) but didn’t.” I also note that under the business-as-usual atmosphere at City Hall, ratepayers will probably foot the bill for Recology, which in its next rate increase will include this judgment of nearly $6,000,000 against it in its cost of operation. The Director of the Department of Public Works routinely grants Recology its costs plus about 10% as profit.
Meanwhile, the Mayor and Board of Supervisors are on their way to enacting by July 31 an annual budget of $8,600,000,000! On June 23, the City Tax Collector reported that the payroll tax exemption conferred by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors upon Twitter and similarly situated companies in Mid-Market resulted in revenue decrease of $4,200,000. In 2011 and 2012, total payroll tax not collected from Twitter was $1,900,000. In 2011 the estimated uncollected payroll tax from Twitter was $22,000,000 over the six-year exemption period, exclusive of payroll tax on stock options. A CPA last year estimated such tax break as $56,000,000 if stock options were included. As some readers may recall, for years on the Board of Supervisors, I tried to eliminate the payroll tax, which represents illogic, meaning every time you hire an employee you pay city government a tax for doing so. Consider businesses not located Mid-Market who pay the payroll tax while Twitter et al do not. Because of litigation against the City, the payroll tax has been abandoned as part of the resuscitated gross receipts tax. The point is that “tax breaks” for businesses inevitably create disparity between businesses favoring politicians’ business du jour, and not others. It’s political expediency, for which City Hall politicians, beginning with the Mayor, are obviously experts.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
In early 1998, the late Babette Drefke, a Potrero Hill leader for decades, Peter Byrne, an investigative journalist, and I sponsored an initiative measure known as the City Hall Cost Saving and Good Government Act of 1998. In November 1996, San Francisco voters had approved a ballot measure which the Board of Supervisors represented as a "cost-saving and good government measure." That measure's proponents justified such assurance by declaring the city would "save money by moving rent-paying departments into space formerly used by the Courts on the 3rd and 4th floors of (City Hall)." The San Francisco Ballot Simplification Committee, which exists because of my 1972 ordinance inspired by a suggestion from my late father, disseminated a similar assurance by stating in the Voter Information Pamphlet: "The City plans to use this money to convert space formerly used for courtrooms to office space." The ballot measure presented a General Obligation Bond for approval by 1996 voters, who did so.
On May 26, I requested an investigation by City Attorney Dennis Herrera as to the number of years that such illegal expenditures of taxpayer funds have occurred since 1999 and the total amount of such expenditure, noting that his office should recover all such expenditures of taxpayer money and direct the Mayor and San Francisco Airports Commission to cease such expenditures immediately. I await his response.”
By early 1998, however, it was apparent from published rehabilitation plans for City Hall that San Francisco voters had been misled. The Mayor and Board of Supervisors intended to convert much of City Hall into yet another venue for politicians and wealthy supporters to stage parties for San Francisco's elite. City Hall would no longer be the principal place of business of city government. Hence, our initiative was prepared so as to require all city departments which occupied City Hall before the Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989 to return unless a department could demonstrate to the Board of Supervisors and Mayor a financially compelling reason not to occupy City Hall. In that event, a three-fourths majority vote of the Board of Supervisors would be required to exempt any such department from returning to City Hall. Additionally, a new $1,500,000 appropriation of taxpayer money for nine new civil service employees for the Mayor's Protocol Office would be repealed and abolished because at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, and until July 1, 1997, the Mayor's Office of Protocol operated effectively with voluntary contributions and financial assistance. Section 4 ( c ) of the City Hall Cost Saving and Good Government Act of 1998 provided expressly that the positions and appropriations of the Office of Protocol were abolished, and that all operations of such office would be conducted in accordance with the practices and laws existing as of October 17, 1989, the date of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
With thousands of San Francisco voters signing the Initiative measure petition, the initiative easily qualified for the June 1998 Municipal Ballot and was convincingly approved by San Francisco voters. The purpose was plain, namely, to stop the use of taxpayer funds for private parties. I almost completely forgot about that law, adopted 16 years ago by San Francisco voters, until last month, having been informed by an online report that the Mayor, the City Administrator, the General Services Department and the Airports Commission have colluded to evade the law through concealed use of two supposed non-profit entities named the "San Francisco Host Committee" and "San Francisco Special Events Committee." City Controller records show that at least $760,000 in taxpayer dollars have been handed during the last three years alone to such entities. One Matthew Goudeau, who possesses a job classification as Director of Protocol (in the Mayor's office) and whose salary of approximately $113,900 per year is paid from funds of the San Francisco Airport Commission, evidently presides in a City Hall office as Director of Protocol, in violation of the City Hall Cost Saving and Good Government Act of 1998. Moreover, the San Francisco General Services Department, under a "grant agreement", has conferred the past three years upon the San Francisco Host Committee $250,000 per year. For the fiscal year 2013-2014, which ends June 30, such amount was increased to $260,000. The General Services Department presumably oversees such grants. In March 2014, a San Francisco citizen filed a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Taskforce over non-adherence to another law which requires non-profit entities receiving $250,000 per year or more from City Hall to conduct two open and public meetings each year. The same person leads the San Francisco Host Committee and the San Francisco Special Events Committee, and the person identified as the contact for purposes of each entity's Internal Revenue Service required annual form, one Pam Miller of Menlo Park, manifestly isn't even a San Franciscan. The complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force arises from an alleged refusal of the two peculiar entities to respond to public records law requests from a San Francisco citizen. On May 26, I requested an investigation by City Attorney Dennis Herrera as to the number of years that such illegal expenditures of taxpayer funds have occurred since 1999 and the total amount of such expenditure, noting that his office should recover all such expenditures of taxpayer money and direct the Mayor and San Francisco Airports Commission to cease such expenditures immediately. I await his response.
Assembly Bill 2372 is noteworthy. It cures a weakness in Proposition 13, which has been exploited by countless corporations and some limited liability partnerships since 1978. Proposition 13 was added to the California Constitution by voters in 1978 to save homeowners from the tax appetites of elected City, School District and Special District officials. Before Proposition 13, homeowners, many of whom subsisted on fixed incomes or were retired or earning modest wages, were taxed increasingly every year on their homes, which produced no income unless and until the home was sold. A residential property is a non-cash asset. The assessed value of homes produces nothing by way of income to the property tax-paying owner. Yet assessments and property tax rates were constantly raised. That was why people passed Proposition 13 enthusiastically. Proposition 13 logically provides that if a home is sold or otherwise transferred to a non-spouse or child, the Assessor can legally reassess its value as the sale price. A corporate property owner, however, differs, from individuals. As a State Senator, I tried twice unsuccessfully to effectuate a Proposition 13 amendment which would declare the transfer of real estate owned by a corporation or limited partnership occurs if stock ownership of the corporation or partnership changes by 50% or more. Then, the property could be legally reappraised by the county assessor. Assembly Bill 2372 uses a different formula than my legislation, but the principle is the same. That's the reason the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association doesn't oppose AB 2372; it's the reason other homeowners and I support AB 2372 while also, understandably, continuing to support the logic of Proposition 13, despite the caterwauling about it from local politicians and media who couldn't even vote in 1978 as homeowners faced huge assessments and property tax increases every year. Proposition 13 has preserved the financial survivability of millions of California homeowners and will continue to do so.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
emember the elevated Embarcadero Freeway? It annoyed hundreds of thousands of San Franciscans and Bay Area residents and visitors for over 25 years, obstructing views of San Francisco Bay. On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the environmental monstrosity, thus leading within two years to its demolition and the 1990 voter-adopted height limits upon Embarcadero buildings. Those range from zero to 130 feet. R
SPUR’s policy positions are conspicuously guided by contributors and current law doesn’t require developers, contractors, engineers or lawyers to disclose donations to that organization.”
For example, the San Francisco Giants’ intended project of five high-rise buildings, at least one of which would rise about 370 feet high, is presently zoned for park use with a zero height limit. Recognizing their dismal chance of violating those height limits, the Golden State Warriors last month abandoned their notion of blocking the Bay at Piers 30-32 in favor of purchasing private property in Mission Bay from Salesforce Inc. and constructing a new arena and the usual conglomeration of fancy shops and similar accoutrements to attract “the Yankee dollar,” to paraphrase a popular World War II song. The Warriors promise to eschew taxpayer money. Let’s ensure that our Mayor, whose “legacy” has vanished, and pliant supervisors, enforce such promise, because the Warriors’ plan, with Mayor Lee’s embrace, at Piers 30 - 32 would have included about $250,000,000 from taxpayers, including annual interest on a loan to city government at 13 percent per year. (In any private transaction not involving a public entity, such usury would be illegal in California.)
That decision underscores the importance of enactment of Proposition B at the June 3 election. Proposition B, as voters increasingly know, simply requires that any project on the waterfront which would exceed the 1990 voter-adopted height limits must be presented to San Francisco voters for majority approval. Developers with justifiable waterfront projects, like Forest City Enterprises at Pier 70, have nothing to fear from voters, and thus, don’t oppose Proposition B. Other parties, like those who tried unsuccessfully to obtain a court order eliminating Proposition B from the ballot, will show their stripes this month with encouragement from the Chronicle’s fatuous columnist, C.W. Nevius, who makes arrogance a fine art. Proposition B warrants strong support. I recommend it unqualifiedly. Also on the Municipal ballot is Proposition A, a $400,000,000 General Obligation Bond issue for cisterns, pipes, tunnels, other earthquake safety measures and police stations. It requires a super majority two-thirds approval. I intend to vote for it.
A noteworthy race involves the 17th Assembly District, geographically relevant to voters in Forest Knolls, Twin Peaks, and Miraloma Park. Two contestants, Supervisor David Campos and Supervisor David Chiu, are the favorites because of their name recognition and campaign funds. Under current law, if neither obtains 50% of the votes on June 3, the two top candidates must run again on November 4, 2014. For those interested voters within ambit of the Westside Observer, I recommend Campos, despite his leftish philosophy and one glaring hypocritical act. Campos rightly condemns the property tax exemption for Twitter and other technological businesses located in the mid-Market area, engineered by the superficial Mayor. (Who can, or should, forget his promise not to stand for Mayor if he were appointed Acting Mayor after Gavin “Hair Boy” Newsom’s departure for Sacramento?) Property tax favoritism to one local business and not another represents an erroneous public policy, which eventually causes ill feelings from unfavored businesses. Throughout our history, however, facile politicians have subsidized chosen businesses with taxpayer dollars. Campos now declares opposition to it. Campos, however, sponsored in 2011 an ordinance to exempt from San Francisco’s one-time payroll tax the stock options conferred upon technology “hotshots” by their employers, usually as part of a public stock offering. Chiu, on the other hand, has developed a reputation in his several years of Board of Supervisors membership as unreliable and untrustworthy. (See below) Both candidates are “politically correct” politicians; I find Campos more dependable. He is my choice.
More important is electing to the Superior Court Daniel Flores, a tested, experienced civil and criminal trial lawyer. A Marine Corps reservist, Mr. Flores is endorsed by 29 other local judges besides me, and even the Democratic County Central Committee and the Republican County Central Committee! He’s a “straight arrow” who works hard and stays late. Vote for him.
In July 2013, almost one year ago, City Attorney Dennis Herrera requested from Chiu, as president of the Board of Supervisors, introduction of an ordinance to amend the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code in significant respects. Herrera’s sponsored legislation requires so called “permit consultants” and “expeditors” to register with the Ethics Commission and file regular reports about their consequent contacts with officers or employees in the Department of Building Inspection, the Entertainment Commission, the Planning Department and the Department of Public Works. It would also require major developers to disclose donations to non-profit organizations. It would limit the attorney exemption to communications regarding potential or actual litigation, thus compelling attorneys who lobby city supervisors, officials and employees to report quarterly all communications to and from those supervisors, officers and employees. Permit expeditors at the Building Inspection Division are infamous for their stealthy, concealed exercise of “influence.” At the request of a former Board of Supervisors’ president, I testified at a hearing on the proposed ordinance on February 28. So did Herrera, whose ordinance would also require project developers for which the Planning Commission has certified an environmental impact report to disclose the identity of any non-profit corporations to which a developer has transmitted cumulative donations of $5,000 or more in the one year before application for environmental review was filed with the Planning Department. Instead of acting on the ordinance promptly, Chiu caused the committee to postpone action indefinitely, claiming amendments proposed by ordinance opponents needed analysis and discussion. It’s now May, and Chiu refuses to set the ordinance for action in a committee which he chairs. The reason is influence of non-profit organizations like the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), the Chinatown Community Development Center and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition which exist principally because of financial contributions from developers, contractors, engineers, public relations “consultants”, lawyers and others for whom the ordinance represents a threat of public exposure. City Attorney Herrera is powerless to advance the salutary, needed law. Only Chiu, its author, can do so. SPUR’s policy positions are conspicuously guided by contributors, and current law doesn’t require developers, contractors, engineers or lawyers to disclose donations to that organization. Other City Hall influence exerters like the San Francisco Human Services Network, the HIV/AIDS Providers Network and the Council of Community Housing Organizations oppose the ordinance. All of them regularly seek taxpayer money, lobbying without public disclosure. Maybe Chiu can be shamed into scheduling the ordinance for hearing and action forthwith. Those of you in the 17th Assembly District can send him that message before June 3 – or on June 3 by voting for Campos.
Finally, I note one of the most inexcusable expenditures of public money this year. Using ratepayers money, the Mayor authorized the Public Utilities Commission to pay a Yale University and Harvard Law School graduate $310,000 over three years to analyze and report the cause of declining African-American population in San Francisco. Theodore B. Miller, who uses “Theo” as a first name, receives taxpayer money as Senior Advisor on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Office of the Mayor, and as Manager for Policy and Government Affairs in the PUC. Maybe the Mayor and the PUC should hire a Hibernian to explain the reasons San Francisco’s Irish-American population has declined. (In the late 19th century, approximately one-third of our residents were Irish. Now it’s about 5%.) Perhaps the Mayor and PUC can waste money on the decline in Italian-Americans, Jewish-Americans and German-Americans the past 60 years. It’s appalling, but that’s the way of City Hall wastrels.
P.S. On June 3, I also intend to vote for Propositions 41 and 42 on the Statewide ballot, and for Pete Peterson for Secretary of State and Betty Yee for Controller.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
For lovers of the venality in government, March was a dazzling month. In the state legislature, an attempt partially to repeal a foundation of the state constitutional amendment (Proposition 209) adopted by California voters in 1996, by bestowing preferential treatment because of an applicant's race in admission to state institutions of higher learning, stalled in the Assembly because of Chinese-American legislators, including two of our local "heroes." Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA5), sponsored by a Southern California Senate Democrat (Ed Hernandez), had received the minimum super-majority 27 votes, all from Democrats, required by California constitutional law, to present a proposed California Constitutional Amendment to voters. (All Republican members of the Sate Senate voted against it.) Included in the affirmative votes was State Senator Leland Yee, who represents part of San Francisco and half of San Mateo County. The San Francisco Chronicle pontificated editorially about the desirability and need of SCA5, claiming " a so called color-blind system is not providing equal opportunity for Californians." The professed rationale for SCA5 was the alleged decline of African-Americans on University of California campuses, and the failure of the Latino student population to increase more than slightly despite status as California's most prolific increasing minority, while the percentage of Asian-American students had risen strongly. Suddenly, in the middle of March, Mr. Yee and Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco abandoned SCA5. The Chronicle, in a second editorial, condemned Yee and Ting (invoking the word "shame") "for their roles in the demise of the measure." The Chronicle noted that Yee and Ting "insist they favor affirmative action-just not right now." (As "situational politicians" their reason for deserting SCA5 is understandable; if our taxpayer-supported higher education system functions on merit and non-preferential principles based on race [or gender or ethnic or sexual orientation], which are then changed to prefer applicants because of race, of course Asian applicants [and Caucasian applicants, God forbid] will be disqualified from admission. I care less that our high school beacon of academic excellence, Lowell, boasts a student body over 50% Asian! They're qualified.)
Proposition B is logical and will pass in June, unless the Giants, construction unions and real estate developers spend millions to thwart voters.”
Prior to 1996 and Proposition 209, any California state and local governmental entities financed by all taxpayers used "quotas" in government hiring, promotion, contract awards and higher education admissions. "Affirmative action" was the rage at the expense of qualified students. Proposition 209 demonstrates that a color-blind system creates equal opportunity for California students because the word "opportunity" means an even chance for admission to a California State University and UC because of demonstrated ability, not racial identity or "identity politics." I'm pleased SCA5 was shelved by the Assembly Speaker utilizing the expedient ruse of forming a committee to "study" the issue for three years. Meanwhile, on March 28, Yee and 25 co-defendants were charged in Federal Court in San Francisco with some 147 counts of gun-running, legislative extortion and other serious felonies. One of the co-defendants, Keith Jackson, is a former member of the San Francisco Board of Education - if you can imagine. And, Yee was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for California Secretary of State until shortly after his arrest. Wonders never cease.
Last month, I mentioned the June ballot measure, Proposition B, which requires any construction project exceeding voter-adopted 1990 height limits on the Embarcadero to obtain approval by voter majority. I mentioned the filing of a lawsuit to force removal of the measure from the June ballot. The case was argued in San Francisco Superior Court on March 18, and three nominal plaintiffs (fronting for developers and unions), financed by the San Francisco Giants and construction industry unions lost their effort to deny San Franciscans the vote. They then sought to overturn the decision in the California Court of Appeal, which on March 27 rejected their claims. Proposition B is logical and will pass in June, unless the Giants, construction unions and real estate developers spend millions to thwart voters. Only then will it be close.
The San Francisco Ethics Commission, with the exception of Commissioner Peter Keane, former dean of Golden Gate Law School, former Chief Deputy Public Defender, trial lawyer par excellant and still a law school professor at Golden Gate and Hastings Law Schools, showed its impotence again. On March 24 Keane introduced a resolution for the dismissal of Public Utilities Commission Deputy General Manager Juliet Ellis, who was found guilty of awarding a $200,000 taxpayer-funded contract to a non-profit operation called Green for All, supposedly to obtain jobs for minority people. At the time, Ellis actually ran Green for All! Ellis' violation of conflict of interest laws was thereafter exposed. She admitted her unlawful act, the $200,000 contract was terminated and she was fined a record (for the Ethics Commission) $8,500. But she kept her $145,000 PUC job. At the March 24 Ethics Commission meeting, Keane's resolution was attacked by Ellis' superior, PUC General Manager Harlan Kelly, former Supervisor and NAACP president Reverend Amos Brown, Charlie Walker, a notorious shakedown felon with a Federal extortion conviction, and CNN television commentator Van Jones, who founded Green for All and is infamous for having been forced to leave the Obama Administration as "Special Advisor for Green Jobs" for the White House Council on Environmental Quality after his alleged near-Bolshevik views and public statements were published by the media. Reverend Arnold Townsend, who ought to know better, even analogized Keane's resolution to "another black lynching."
In introducing the resolution Keane remarked he had previously expected the PUC to dismiss Ellis for her "corrupt conduct" by which she had "disgraced herself." Eventually Keane was forced to withdraw his resolution. Even the Commission President, Ben Hur, who is a partner in a law firm with a high reputation for probity, criticized Keane for his principled resolution. It's events like that which appall and destroy the morale of San Franciscans who expect honest government, intellectually, financially and otherwise. Maybe spring will restore ideals and ethics in city government and the State Capitol. Wanna' bet?
Probably the most significant measure on the June 2014 San Francisco Municipal Election ballot protects the right of San Franciscans to authorize any vertical desecration of our waterfront.
In the post-World War II era of waterfront devastation and general freeway spread throughout the state and nation, San Francisco political leaders and businessmen, together with the California Department of Transportation, facilitated the construction of the so-called Embarcadero Freeway. For about 30 years, many (if not most) San Franciscans clamored for removal of that waterfront impediment. The best that such like-minded people could accomplish was prevention of a freeway through the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park, and another one through the Marina to the Golden Gate Bridge.
No sooner last month was the measure certified for the June election than special interests filed a lawsuit to prevent San Francisco voters from voting on it. The suit is financed by the San Francisco Giants and big Labor Union organizations. It is scheduled for hearing in San Francisco Superior Court on March 13th.”
On October 17, 1989, however, the world changed for the Bay Area in the form of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which expunged a portion of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (that will always be its name, notwithstanding venal politicians and their lackeys) and damaged other local freeways. Eventually, the Embarcadero Freeway was demolished and the real property upon which it was constructed was transferred to San Francisco by a State Senate Bill I introduced. Previously, the Port of San Francisco's administration had been divested by the State of California to San Francisco under the so-called public trust doctrine, which essentially signifies that San Francisco must utilize all port properties for public benefit, and not simply to make money.
Last November San Franciscans rejected an effort by high-rise condominium developers to construct a skyscraper commonly called 8 Washington Street. That parcel was across the road from the water, not on the Bay itself. Almost all the political "big shots" attempted to enable such a view-hindering structure's construction. The vote against it was approximately 66.6%. In the aftermath, many sincere citizens promulgated an initiative ballot measure for June 2014 with a simple requirement, namely, any future development on the Embarcadero which exceeds the current limits of approximately 50 feet must be expressly approved by a majority of voters at an election.
The signatures required to qualify such initiative ordinance were collected in a majestic three weeks. No sooner last month was the measure certified for the June election than special interests filed a lawsuit to prevent San Francisco voters from voting on it. The suit is financed by the San Francisco Giants and big Labor Union organizations. It is scheduled for hearing in San Francisco Superior Court on March 13th. I expect that regardless of the Superior Court ruling, the losing parties will seek review and reversal by the California Court of Appeal in expedited fashion. The principle is clear; it's mystifying to believe California law stops voters from adopting a local ordinance, despite the opponents' claim that the state statute transferring the Port to San Francisco only allows the mayoral-appointed Port Commission to set rules for waterfront land use. I predict the initiative, led by Jon Gollinger of Telegraph Hill, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, former Mayor Art Agnos of Potrero Hill, and Sierra Club President Becky Evans, will pass with as much as a 70% affirmative vote, (barring court rejection).
Last month, 12 California legislators revealed they had formed a "Jewish Caucus," even if three of the asserted members are not Jewish. That reminded me of history; it also reminded me of the continuing degradation of American culture (does anyone remember the "melting pot"?). On my election to the California State Senate in 1986, I discovered existence of a "Jewish Caucus"; I qualified as a Jew to attend uneventful meetings. The chairman was a non-Jewish Assemblyman from Los Angeles, whose wife was Jewish and a conspicuous Democratic Party fundraiser. There were perhaps eight members, including a Republican Assemblyman from Marin County who decided in 1988 to seek election to the United States House of Representatives. The Democratic chairman of the "Jewish Caucus," covertly and unknown to the other members of the group, lent his name to a Primary Election Campaign flyer for the Republican Assemblyman, proclaiming his status as "Chairman of the Jewish Caucus." Upon discovery by other caucus Democratic members, indignation raged. The late Senator Leroy Greene, a Sacramento Democrat, demanded a meeting at which the offending chairman was excoriated for unauthorized conduct, and the "Jewish Caucus" was, thankfully in my strong opinion, dissolved on Senator Greene's motion and my second. Senator Greene properly observed that a "Jewish Caucus" represented separatism, not the unified American culture the California Legislature should signify. We know that history repeats itself, whatever the professed motivation, in a legislature which I discovered already contains a Black Caucus, A Women's Caucus, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, an Outdoor Sporting Caucus, a Republican Women's Caucus, a Latino Caucus, an Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, an Animal Protection Caucus, an Environmental Caucus, an Inland Empire Caucus, a Rural Caucus, and a San Gabriel Valley Caucus, plus a Mental Health Caucus with but two members! One expects in a legislature a Democratic Caucus and a Republican Caucus. That's logical. (As the Legislature's only Independent during most of my 12 years, I didn't have a caucus.) Those do exist and employ at taxpayers' expense numerous staff members. Now taxpayers' increasingly must support additional state employees for proliferating special interest caucuses. That's foolish and contributes to disrespect of the California legislature.
Here's how progress overcomes history. In 1987, I organized, qualified for the ballot and secured passage of a San Francisco initiative ordinance forbidding imposition of San Francisco's infamous utility tax on any residential utility consumers. (Commercial ratepayers can claim an Income Tax deduction). After passage, the initiative ordinance was challenged in Superior Court unsuccessfully, then in the California Court of Appeal unsuccessfully. Last month I noticed on my mobile telephone bill a "San Francisco Telecom Utility Tax." Outraged at first, I discovered upon investigation that our cell telephones are not considered residential telephones and are, therefore, subject to the San Francisco Utility Tax, unlike our "landlines." Is that progress? Why didn't I cover that in 1987?
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Amidst disagreements between motorists and bicyclists in San Francisco and other California entities and pundits in local newspapers, biased in favor of bicyclists, or less so, annoyed by bicyclist behavior, one quintessential fact is overlooked. If you purchase gasoline in California, you pay an 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax and a 39 cents-per-gallon State of California gasoline and sales tax. The proceeds of the federal gas tax are deposited in the Highway Trust Fund, created by the United States Congress and then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to pay costs of construction and maintenance of the Interstate Highway System. That same financial mechanism has been utilized in California since 1922; thus, all proceeds of the California gas tax are deposited in the State Highway Account. The purpose of that account is similar to the federal gas tax concept; the State Highway Account money is applied to pay costs of building and maintaining the State Highway System.
Both the federal and state gasoline tax highway funds have, outrageously, been raided and distorted to finance uses unrelated to streets, roads, or highways…spending over $105,000,000,000 in fiscal years 2012-13 and 2013-14 for “surface transportation programs” which are not just roads and bridges, but also include “transit, bike and pedestrian” projects.”
Additionally, California vehicle owners pay a registration fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles, proceeds of which are used to support the expenses of the DMV and the California Highway Patrol. Furthermore, the possessor of a California driver’s license, whether for trucks, motorcycles or automobiles, must be licensed by the DMV and pay a driver’s license fee. Proceeds of the driver license fee are utilized for, among other purposes, defraying the costs of the California Highway Patrol. To the contrary, however, owners of bicycles do not need to register such ownership with any entity, state, county or city. Bicyclists, additionally, need not possess a license to operate bicycles. Nevertheless, bicyclists use the city streets, county roads, and even state highways, which have been built by motor vehicle owners and drivers, both trucks and automobiles. (Would you call that a “free ride?”) Gasoline taxation of motorists, both owners and drivers, has, additionally, been stripped of its original user fee status, a philosophy based upon the concept that those who use a public or governmental structure such as a street should pay for its construction and upkeep. Both the federal and state gasoline tax highway funds have, outrageously, been raided and distorted to finance uses unrelated to streets, roads, or highways. One example federally is the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” enacted by the Congress and President in July 2012, and spending over $105,000,000,000 in fiscal years 2012-13 and 2013-14 for “surface transportation programs” which are not just roads and bridges, but also include “transit, bike and pedestrian” projects. As Lawrence J. McQuillan of the Independent Institute in Oakland has noted, “Walking is now a Surface Transportation Program.” Approximately $800,000,000 of Federal Highway Trust money was appropriated to the OneBayArea Grant Program dealing with housing, transportation, and land use in the nine-county Bay Area through 2040 after approval by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments in July 2013. About $10,000,000 of such money was routed to “priority conservation areas,” which represent city and county purchases of land for “long-term protection.” Thus, taxes from motorists are blatantly diverted to general government uses. Gasoline taxes will finance parks, bicycle paths, pedestrian walkways, scenic overlooks, viewing areas and even parking lots in the nine Bay Area counties, not better or more (God forbid!) streets, roads, or highways. Potholes be damned. Bicyclists be revered; they must be exempted from paying to use streets, roads, and highways.
And then there exists the problem of stolen bicycles. The San Francisco Police Department recovers thousands of stolen bicycles annually. The owners can’t be located because they don’t need to register their bicycles or obtain a license for their (sometimes) unsafe operation of bicycles. Motorists subsidize bicyclists, and no elected or appointed official demonstrates the integrity of rectifying such illogical public policy. Logically, bicycle owners should be compelled to register bicycles in the owner’s city or county of residence or business. Bicycle operators should be required to possess a license. Violations of safety ordinances and statutes, local and state, by bicycle owners and operators should be treated as owners and operators of motor vehicles are treated for asserted violations of law. To do otherwise constitutes unequal treatment of those who pay for public structures which bicyclists use without tax or fee. If the gasoline tax is abolished as a user fee (which has occurred in large part) and continually spent not for road-building and repairs, but for current societal fads, it becomes a regressive tax similar to the sales tax, meaning that it is paid in greater proportional amount by those less able to do so than a progressive income tax which is levied on one’s financial ability to pay the costs of government.
Retired former Supervisor, State Senator and Judge
Quentin Kopp lives in District 7
Quentin Archive 2011 - 2013
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