Paying for the mayor's China trip


You'd think the mayor would know better by now. After all the allegations of cronyism and undue influence, you'd think that he'd make sure everyone involved in his trip to China was playing by the rules. You'd think the last thing he would want is this.

Now: So far this is just a complaint, and noting has been proven. But still: It sure looks bad. And it's entirely unnecessary.

If the mayor really belives that he needs to go to China to do the city's business, why doesn't he go on the city's tab? Seriously: I would much rather that my tax dollars went for this trip than have the mayor inundated and unduly influenced by corrupt actors who want his ear. If he was going for fun and sightseeing, he could pay his own way; if he's there, as his office says, on official business, then why is he taking private money?

When Dennis Herrera went to Washington DC for the Supreme Court hearing on same-sex marriage, the city paid his way. That's appropriate: He's directly involved in the case, as are some of his staffers. They were meeting with co-counsel, doing practice runs ... working. He stayed at a midrange hotel at the government rate ($200 a night) and was allowed to spend a set per-diem on meals. That's the same rules any city employee follows on official travel.

If you think he shouldn't have gone (as Michael Petrelis clearly thinks), then that's a political discussion. It's appropriate to ask about it, to point out how much money was spent on the trip, to analyze his expenses, and to challenge him about it when he's next running for office. But it's not a corruption probe -- and frankly, I'm happy that some corporate bond-counsel firm that wants the city's legal business didn't pay for the trip and send a lobbyist to hang out with Herrera the whole time.

The city sends people on trips. It's fair to ask if they are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. But if the trip is worth taking, then the mayor should justify the expense -- and not take corporate and lobbyist money instead.


That's a step up for you, so well done.

But what you are suggesting is that private money should never help pay for city officials on any trip, and there is quite simply no basis for that.

sure, it should be disclosed, and it must have been otherwise you would not know about it. But beyond that, so what?

Lobbyists are a part of our system, and it is hypocritical of you to say they should not exist, when you clearly support the role of activists and advocates who are "on your side" and who are essentially trying to achieve the same extra-democratic influence.

Given the choice, I'd rather Lee went on these important trips without my taxes paying for it. As long as it is all out in the open, which it clearly is.

You're wrong again on the issue, Tim.

Posted by anon on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

"Lobbyists are part of out system & it is hypocritical of you to say they shouldn't exist" - - - REALLY?!?!?!?!
Wow that's possibly one of the stupidest comments I've ever ever read anywhere..........
YES it should be paid by the City (which in the long run is us) IF it is to benefit the City & it's residents

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

also going to whine about activists or the SFBG. Both try and finesse the democratic system in their favor.

There is no problem with making gifts to politicians as long as it is disclosed, as in this case.

I would fight just as hard for your right to give gifts to someone like Avalos, again, as long as it is disclosed.

If Lee's trip to China brings rewards then it will have been worthwhile regardless of who paid and I would always prefer to not pay for something if I can help it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

When the Guardian advocates, what does it get in return, any direct financial advantage the way that Lee's corporate junket would benefit the corporate actors involved directly, financially, with contacts and contracts?

The comparison is ludicrous on its face.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

unlike with Lee, it isn't required to be disclosed.

How much of Brugmann's fortune was furnished via "friends", for instance?

What perks does Tim get from unions and non-profits?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 5:54 am

I'm happy to disclose everything.

All the money the Guardian gets is from ads. (Well, we get a few hundred dollars a year from a handful of subscriptions, very few since the postal service cut our second-class permits and made it too expensive to mail papers out. And on rare occasions we do an event (in public) that brings in a few thousand dollars). You can see who is paying for the Guardian by picking up the paper and looking at the ads. That's it; that's where all the money comes from.

Our poor ad sales reps will tell you that we don't write what the advertisers want, either.

There were no "friends" giving Bruce money. Life would have been much easier if there were.

These days, I get a salary from the SF Newspaper Co., which owns the paper. That's it. I get no "perks" from anyone. Nobody pays me to go on trips, nobody buys me fancy meals or drinks.

All I get is shit from the trolls. They don't even offer to buy me a drink. Sigh.

Posted by tim on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 10:07 am

donate to charity and other "worthy" non-political groups?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 12, 2013 @ 8:04 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

All he did was threaten a few entitled people's white privilege and all of a sudden he's under attack. A strong man of color often threatens others - it's the same old Mandingo complex all over again.

I hope he's returned to his position with a fat salary increase and immediate vesting in the city's pension system! Then he goes on to run for mayor!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 6:33 pm


As far as I know, Herrera has not posted any info on his site about the expenses of his junket to DC where he and his staffers didn't argue before the Supreme Court. Very curious where you got your info from about how much was spent on his hotel, per diem, etc. Can you share the link to where that info is located?

You might also expand your vision to look at how sites maintained by city agencies do not currently share info about their travel expenses. How about calling for all city agencies to post quarterly reports on their sites regarding all-city funded trips taken by staff, purpose of the trip, release of calendars, costs and accomplishments?

No doubt the City Attorney's office has been a party to the Prop 8 case, but that's no reason to give them a blank check to head off to DC for the historic hearing.

Frankly, since neither Herrera nor any of his staff joined Ted Olson in arguing before the justices, it was clear they were just observers, and I can see no justification for their junket, I'd rather the city dollars that were spent on the trip instead when toward opening the long-aborning queer youth shelter in the Mission.

Last Sunday, a beer bust was held at the Lone Star Saloon to raise funds to finally open that much-needed shelter.

Why are there plenty of city dollars for Herrera and staff, including his press secretary/press agent, to junketeer but the queer youth shelter is dependent upon the kindness of drunks?

Posted by MPetrelis on Apr. 09, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

Michael, I agree 100 percent that every dollar of public money spent should be immediately and fully disclosed. I also think the city should fund the youth shelter. I think if we closed the twitter tax loophole and forced airbnb to pay its hotel taxes, we'd have more than enough for both.

Posted by tim on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 10:11 am

limited period, no? Five years? So you could not legally close it before that contractual period ends, but you could refuse to renew it.

Then again, some of us actually believe that it is money well spent to keep state-of-the-art successful companies in SF rather than to the south.

The taxes for transient stays are still owed even if AirBnB cannot reasonably be imposed upon to collect them. You simply have to go after the tenants who are doing this.

So, Tim, do you want that youth shelter enough to harass a bunch of rent-controlled tenants for the taxes they owe?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 10:38 am

Not really sure how kicking AirBNB and Twitter to Brisbane would help pay for any youth shelter.

In Tim's world if we went to Twitter and said 'Guess what, we're going back on the deal that we made to keep you here' then Twitter would just shrug and start paying.

And if we told AirBNB that we want to start a precedent saying that they are liable for taxes all over the planet for properties that they don't own; something that doesn't exist for Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, you, AirBNB...that they would be properly chastised and start complying.

BTW, the Twitter thing is working great...just the other day Warner Interactive opened offices in the city because they like the workforce here.

Mayor Lee's approval rating is in the 60s and Tim Redmond is complaining...both are great news for San Francisco.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:14 am

weird idea that businesses leaving SF would provide MORE tax revenues.

It's a stunning example of cognitive dissonance.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 11:31 am

I know...if I was the mayor of Brisbane or San Mateo or San Jose or, for that matter, Austin Texas I'd be spending every possible minute raising funds to get Tim Redmond elected as Mayor of San Francisco. Knowing that Tim's highest priority would be creating misery and inventing taxes for any job in San Francisco that didn't exist before 1990.

Posted by Troll on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

The perfect job for a nattering nabob of negative NIMBY'ism.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 10, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

The revelation that Willie Brown has his fingers in the immigration scheme for foreign millionaires explains a lot.

While the Hispanics are in a hard scrabble fight to win respectability and a right to citizenship, on the world market, legal immigration can be bought.

The irony is that the Chinese purchasers are buying privileged status with our money, gambled by banks packaging loans bought by the Bank of China. So, when all cash is paid for that home in Pacific Heights, and no one moves in, look for China money. Maybe when enough money is paid to the right agencies, a new neighbor will appear.


Posted by SFreptile on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

immigration can be "bought". Any foreign investor who is willing to bring in (I believe it is) 2 million gets a green card.

Why does this shock you? Which nation does not want inward investment?

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

Did I say I was shocked? No, I'm just curious who the players are in this game. Like, is Richard Blum a player too?

Posted by SFreptile on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

(AFAIK) in every other western nation.

I heard a rumor that part of why people like money is because it can buy you stuff. Cannot confirm, naturally.

Posted by anon on Apr. 11, 2013 @ 2:46 pm