Commentary

Commentary – Quentin Kopp

Quentin Kopp

A wit named Gerald Barzon observed: “Taxation with representation isn’t so hot either.” I convey that point in light of continuing unbalanced national budgets submitted by President Donald “Bone Spur” Trump to the U.S. Congress while the national debt has increased to more than  $23 trillion!

 COVID-19 will cause another $2 trillion deficit on top of the budget Trump submitted in February containing more than another $1 trillion annual deficit for the first time since 2012.

Meanwhile, a fractured City Hall last month disclosed corruption by Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui, who resigned after suspension by Mayor London Breed. That long-festering city bureaucracy is almost Trumpian in scale, reflecting eloquently City Hall corruption since its unjustified creation in the 1990s by then-Supervisor Angela Alioto’s legislation and a deal with the rogue leader of the Residential Builders Association (Joe O’Donoghue). Prior thereto, building permits and inspection were done by the Department of Public Works. So-called “permit expediters,” a fancy term for City Hall fixers like Walter Wong, didn’t exist. Alioto and O’Donoghue established a new commission to blindly perpetuate practices leading to the end of the gravy train for Hui.

You want more? Former Deputy City Attorney Joanne Hoeper was wrongfully discharged by City Attorney Dennis Herrera in 2014 as chief trial deputy after she reported the City Attorney’s Office Claims Unit was paying building contractors to repair private sewers which didn’t need repair. In February, the California Court of Appeal affirmed Hoeper’s jury verdict of $5 million against the city attorney, who had hired a downtown lawyer charging $875 per hour to defend him against Hoeper’s justified illegal firing suit before a San Francisco jury.

On Franklin Street, the school district superintendent warns staff (not students or parents) of a budget “shortfall” of $31.8 million for the current school year and $63 million by 2020-21. At the same time, Board of Education members ignore the multi-million-dollar cost of iniquitous busing of pupils to schools outside their neighborhoods. And, those members want the Board of Supervisors to submit to voters this November a $200 million general fund appropriation for the school district, disregarding the separate sovereignty of the school district from the City and County of San Francisco. (California voters last month rejected a provision to borrow $15 million in bonds for California’s public schools.)

Happily, another journalistic commentator, Sally Stephens, last month implied that San Francisco should license bicycles and their operators. A former West of Twin Peaks Improvement Council leader, Stephens opined in The Examiner that closing Market Street from Van Ness Avenue eastward won’t have much effect on residents, although the MTA Board Chairman last month informed the public he wants to prohibit automobiles on Valencia and other streets. Since 1922, motor vehicle owners have paid for road construction and maintenance by gasoline taxation. It started at $0.02 per gallon. It was, and should be, a user fee. Bicycle owners, however, using those roads in San Francisco and elsewhere, have paid nothing, not even a cheap license fee. Bicyclists constitute the most demanding Californians as gasoline taxes pay for them to use our streets. Their arrogance is unremitting.

Last year, the State Senate fortunately refused to approve Sen. Scott Wiener’s complex bill to allow high-rise apartment buildings in single-family local neighborhoods on an 18-15 vote, with six abstentions. Wiener’s attempted usurpation of local control was denounced by L.A. Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who charged Wiener’s bill with demeaning “people who have done nothing more than make homes for themselves, raise a family, and play by the rules.” I acknowledge also Bay Area senators – Jerry Hill from San Mateo County, Steve Glazer from Contra Costa County and Bill Dodd from Napa County – as part of the 15 opposing senators. 

The unsavory Wiener effort won’t, however, end. Last month, two Assembly bills, AB-725 and AB-1279, were introduced with Wiener as co-author by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks of Oakland and Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica. (About 70% of the City of Los Angeles is zoned for single-family homes.) I urge readers to submit written opposition to both bills at the State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Lastly, in February, an analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany, New York discussed in The Wall Street Journal a New York state law which maintains a teachers’ union contract, despite any expiration date, until a new collective bargaining deal is reached. It’s called the Taylor Law, and census data disclose that annual per-pupil expenditure on K-12 public education in New York is $23,091 – “the highest in the country.” The Empire State spends about 43% more on each public school student than even Massachusetts with unionized teachers. Virginia public school students, without such a collective bargaining agreement for teachers, boasts higher test scores than New York students in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with per-pupil expenditures less than $12,000. Maybe SF Unified School District leaders could utilize those experiences.

The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat, on March 7, 1976, declared: “Somehow, liberals have been unable to acquire from life what conservatives seem to be endowed with at birth, namely, a healthy skepticism of the power of government agencies to do good.”

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission  and retired judge.

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