Why Question Time is boring

What -- he can't handle a couple of unscripted questions?

So Sup. Jane Kim isn't sure Question Time is useful. And the press and some other board members think that, to quote Sup. John Avalos, it's "deadening."

Well, there's a reason for that -- the mayor doesn't like the idea of appearing in an unscripted forum with board members, where he could face tough questions he doesn't expect and engage in some real debate. And led by Board President David Chiu, the supervisors intentionally created a system that guarantees nothing valuable will happen.

The board sets the rules for Question Time. It's in the law. And the mayor has to follow those rules.

The whole idea, when Sup. Chris Daly first brought this up, was to mandate that the chief executive interact with the board -- and to provide an opportunity for the supervisors to engage in public discussion and debate with the occupant of an office that under Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom had become increasinly imperious.

Lee's nowhere near as bad -- but still, what Daly envisioned, and what the voters approved, was an open forum. Instead, we got a farce, a pre-scripted scene where the supervisors submit questions in advance, the mayor reads from a prepared answer, and there's no follow-up or back-and-forth.

Yeah, it's boring. No, it's not useless. It's just broken, because the supervisors didn't have the guts to put into practice what the voters wanted. It's simple: Change the rules. Get rid of the requirement that questions be sumitted in advance. Let the supervisors ask, challenge, debate, follow up. That would be a public service.

And the idea that the mayor can't handle a few unscripted questions is insulting. Lee handles press conferences just fine. And I suspect the supes would be no worse than those wild, unpredictable hordes in the City Hall press corps.


See what happens when David Chiu plays nice when he tries to curry favor for his ill-fated mayoral run?

Posted by marcos on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 10:43 am

Their questions are submitted in advance too. This isn't a job interview Tim and some of us, apparently most of the population of SF, don't have the lust for drama that you appear to have.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 10:51 am

average SF Supervisor who typically combines a room-temperature IQ with the temperment of a slab of over-cooked pig's liver.

Non issue.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 11:01 am

And remember - the Board of Supervisors is usually a jumping off point for most of its members, who start looking at higher office the moment they're sworn in. The really good supervisors, like Elsbernd, work hard and don't grandstand because they have no interest in scampering up the political ladder. But for Supervisors like Jane Kim, David Campos and John Avalos - the Board is but a layover on the way to what they view as far greater things (like the mayor's office or the Assembly or state Senate). I wouldn't even put it past Jane Kim to already be angling for Nancy Pelosi's seat when she retires after her final term in 2014.

Posted by Troll II on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 11:33 am

Term limits for supes (or any other political office) is against the public's interest. Let's say a supe wins re-election and serves two terms then leaves office (usually to run for the state legislature and usually successful at winning).

So for 50% of the time in office, that supe is not accountable to the voters at all - for, other than a recall, the constituents of that supe have no leverage against the supe because the supe can't run for re-election.

The result is that as soon as a supe gets into office, he or she is eyeing the next office (either a plush job with a mayor they kiss ass to to get on the mayor's good side - another argument against term limits or usually the state legislature).

In addition, since the supe knows he or she may not be living in SF after his or her supe term is up, his or her concern for SF's future is not as strong as someone who plans on staying here.

Term limits, the more one thinks about it (I found more arguments against them just writing this post), is sooo idiotic. It's nothing more than something big money loves since they can then control (or have a big say in) who replaces the incumbent. Without term limits, you get supes who actually have some independence and care for the future of SF.

A movement should be started to repeal term limits. Notice how little this is ever mentioned by the power brokers in SF like the Chronicle? Yet CW Nevius (of the Chron) loves to bring up repealing district elections which would be really dumb for it would take accountability away from the ppl of a district of a supe. It just almost proves how term limits is a huge favor to the rightwing in SF and against the general public's interests.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

the problem of entrenched power for all the reasons you list and more.

District elections and public financing for campaigns (with limitations to candidates who can establish a baseline of public support, so as to avoid the debacle of the last mayoral election cycle) is the true fix.

On the state level where the lobbying system is highly developed, term limits mean that lobbiests are the "old hands" manipulating the wheels of government, writing laws, marshalling votes, while our representatives are newbies looking for guidance from them.

I'm sure Troll II will agree.

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

scripted. OK, not totally scripted - there can be follow-up questions. But the questions are submitted to the PM beforehand, so he can prepare and have the correct facts and figures ready, as you'd expect.

And most of the questions in British QT are really speeches anyway, but in the form of a question, such as:

"Will the Right Honorable Gentleman agree with me that . . .then follows tediously long speech".

It's a gimmick, albeit sometimes an entertaining gimmick.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 10:54 am

Because Ed Lee is unable to deliver Da Mayor's responses with panache.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 7:54 am

Question time was originally conceived by Chris Daly as a way to torment Mayor Newsom in a free-for-all gotcha session. Now that both Daly and Newsom are gone, the fizz has gone out of the idea.

More importantly, the present Board of Supervisors, including its progressive members, doesn't really have any major political differences with the mayor. That's why question time is so boring now, not the lack of spontaniety. Some please provide a single important policy question that is going unanswered.

Come to think of it, what were the real political differences between Daly and Newsom? They agreed on the essentials: the anti-car bike fantasy, condos for the rich on Rincon Hill, Smart[sic] Growth in general, which spawned the Market/Octavia Plan, allowed UC to rip off the extension property on lower Haight Street, and the Central Subway.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 8:35 am