Newsom's budget and DCCC hypocrisy

Mayor Gavin Newsom signed the city's 2010-2011 budget surrounded by supervisors and department heads.
Steven T. Jones

Hypocrisy hung thickly in the air at City Hall today as Mayor Gavin Newsom refused to responsively address glaring contradictions on a pair of high-profile policy stances, pursuing naked self interest while cloaking himself in deceptive but high-minded rhetoric. Newsom used the city budget-signing ceremony to effusively praise the labor unions that he publicly shamed into giving back $250 million over two years to balance the budget without tax increases, a budget that cut services and increased various fees and fines.

“Labor has been under attack in this state and country. They've become a convenient excuse for our lack of leadership in Sacramento and around the country,” Newsom said without blushing, defending unions against pension reform measures such as Public Defender Jeff Adachi's SF Smart Reform, which he opposes while continuing to support the need for pension reform.

But Newsom seemed unaware that the layoffs, forced furloughs, and voluntary pay cuts accepted by the unions that he publicly demonized just a couple months ago and now praises – whose support he needs for his current run for lieutenant governor – is connected to his steadfast opposition to new taxes, which he reiterated today: “We balanced the budget without raising taxes. I don't believe in raising taxes, we don't need to raise taxes.”

Despite the fact that just 10 percent of San Francisco businesses pay any business taxes to the city, Newsom opposed and this week helped kill a measure by Board President David Chiu to reform the business tax system in a way that would increase taxes on large corporations, lower them on small businesses, create private sector jobs, bring $25 million per year into the city, and expand the tax burden to 25 percent of businesses, including the large banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions that are now exempt. Instead, labor took a deep hit and the city still faces projected $500 million budget deficits each of the next two fiscal years.

But Newsom's hypocrisy isn't confined fiscal issues. After the ceremony, he told reporters that he was sticking by his November ballot measure to ban local elected officials from serving on the Democratic County Central Committee, even after last night insisting that body give him a seat, which they had to change the bylaws to accommodate.

At last night's DCCC meeting, members of an elected committee that includes four progressive supervisors and three current supervisorial candidates called for Newsom or his proxy John Shanley to explain why he is pushing a policy to ban locally elected officials from serving on the DCCC, a body in which elected state and federal officials automatically get seats.

“This mayor is on record as saying local officials should not serve on the committee,” Sup. David Campos said at the meeting, calling for Newsom to clarify this policy contradiction and offer his reasoning for the policy: “We don't want to do anything that is inconsistent with what the mayor has said so far.”

Chair Aaron Peskin translated Campos's comments as indicating “some level of irony or hypocrisy,” but Campos objected, insisting “it's not a personal attack” but a genuine desire to know why Newsom sought to ban local elected officials after progressives won a majority of the DCCC seats in June.

Both Shanley last night and Newsom today gave the same legalistic answers, noting that he's not serving in his capacity as the mayor, but as an ex officio member who automatically gets a seat for being the Democratic nominee for a statewide office (although the DCCC legal counsel said Newsom wasn't entitled to a seat because the bylaws only award a seat when the current holder of the office being sought is a Democrat).

But DCCC member Carole Migden objected to Shanley's answer, saying of Newsom's effort to unseat duly elected members, “That's picking a fight, if we want to be clear...That effects my vote, I have to say. It's disrespectful and unconstitutional.”

DCCC member David Chiu noted that Newsom's ballot measure would explicitly ban supervisors and the mayor from serving on the DCCC and said that the mayor still had a few days before the deadline for him to withdraw the measure, which he single-handedly placed on the ballot using his authority as mayor.

But today, when asked by the Guardian, Newsom said he had no intention of either withdrawing the measure or explaining it to the DCCC. When we asked about the contradiction in his positions, Newsom said only, “If the voters support it then it would be the right thing to do.”

He was similarly dismissive when other reporters continued to ask about the controversy, gesturing toward me with a dismissive wave of his hand as he said, “Certain people with certain newspapers major in the minor.”

After being told that Newsom is sticking by his DCCC ballot measure, Chiu told us, “I hope the mayor can move beyond the politics of personality and build a party vehicle that is about unity.”



Does not augur well.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 29, 2010 @ 8:29 pm

Many voters resent paying any more in taxes unless the public sector workers concede and compromise their pay and benefits, which many regard as excessive.

So it is an achievement for Newsom to get a budget passed without tax hikes or layoffs, and to achive that consensually.

I cannot seriously imagine that the BG expects Newsom to pursue a high-tax, left-wing aganeda. He is doing what he is supposed to do i.e. lead, act as a cconter-weight to the BofS and take into account all of the people of this city, and not just factional parties with narrow agenda's.

I don't always agree with Newsom but he definitely pulled off a coup here.

Posted by Folly on Jul. 29, 2010 @ 9:37 pm

Folly, if you read my post more carefully, you'll see that labor has compromised on pay and benefits to the tune of $250 million and still took hundreds of layoffs. And Newsom threatened to simply not spend another $40 million that progressives, labor, and community groups worked hard to add back into Newsom's proposed budget, which would have devastated the social safety net. There was nothing consensual about his approach: after supervisors did all the heavy lifting to balance this budget without gutting core public health and social services, Newsom used extortion to get the rest of what he wanted. Perhaps you're right that was a coup, but it was a personal coup for Newsom that wasn't in San Francisco's interests.

Posted by steven on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 9:36 am

Newsom clearly holds no ideals. Time and time again he's proven himself capable of supporting any cause if he thinks it'll advance his political career. From the day he took office, he's been in bed with the special interests--unions and now wall street.

For example, Newsom stated: "I don't know about a more important progressive issue than pension reform. There is no discretion left in our budgets to advance our progressive values of investing in people and investing in place if that discretion is taken up to meet our (pension) obligations.”

However, he refuses to support Adachi's pension proposal, which is the most progressive, game-changing measure an elected official has put forward in years. It's so sad that the Mayor of San Francisco spends more time worrying about a different city... Sacramento.

Posted by RC3po on Jul. 29, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

Put on a measure that banned city employees from serving on commissions, DID HE NOT???


Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 8:51 am

Here's the difference: one is the people electing leaders they want to represent them on the DCCC, the other a political patronage system in which the mayor rewards public employees for their loyalty to him and uses them to do his bidding in a commission system that is supposed to be independent, knowing he can eliminate their positions in the next budget cycle if they cross him. That's a big difference.

Posted by steven on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 9:44 am

BULLSHIT...the other is Peskin trying to remove a particular someone from a particular commision. Most of your readers have tunnel vision but NOT ME!!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

political parties are private institutions that use the government to hold their elections.

the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association should trump any law that seeks to restrict association by electeds as pertains to serving on a party central committee unless there is a closely drawn nexus with corruption, which i don't see.

clearly it is a conflict of interest under current management theory to appoint a city worker to serve on the city commission which oversees the department for which they work and hence the contiuned funding of their own position. there are models where employees can serve on corporate boards that oversee their work, such is commonplace in Germany, but but are not so under our laws.

as steve points out, the entirety of the mayor's executive authority is used to pursue his agenda, and if the mayor has power over an employee's meal ticket, then that employee would do the mayor's bidding on a commission which takes a big dump on the public's entitlement to boards and commissions that provide some modicum of checks and balances, sunshine, over the executive departments.

that said, you can't shame the shameless like gavin newsom into doing what you want. further attempts to do so will only get us screwed over and again. there is no playing nice with him, that is only a distraction that further marginalizes the progressive agenda.


Posted by marcos on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 10:41 am

I thought it was funny that in the Bay Guardian's Best of the Bay issue this week, the readers' poll had Gavin Newsom listed as favorite politician.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

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