Commentary: Quentin L. Kopp

No Experience Necessary

By Quentin L. Kopp

A wag has observed: “Two good reasons for a change in government: first, too much overhead; second, too much underhand.”  

As the beat goes on at City Hall, the “City Family” has already begun to arrange office exchanges. Lack of professional experience is no impediment. 

Dennis Herrera, Esquire, has been nominated by Mayor London Breed to replace Harlan Kelly as general manager of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), without experience in managing a municipal water system or other public utilities. Kelley, of course, has been taken out of action by the United States Attorney Criminal Corruption division and awaits trial in U.S. District Court. 

Assemblymember David Chiu, at press time, awaits appointment by the mayor to replace Herrera as city attorney, despite inexperience. Substituting for Chiu in the Assembly will be Supervisor Matt Haney. Mayor Breed will appoint his successor, who must run in the next local election in his/her own stead. 

That omits former Supervisor David Campos, presently vice president of the Democratic Central Committee and chief of staff (without criminal law trial experience) to District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Boudin himself is the object of two or three voter recall petitions because he’s really a shining public defender not a prosecutor! 

Also facing voters for the first time is Joaquin Torres, appointed assessor by the mayor after she appointed former Supervisor Carmen Chu to replace Naomi Kelly, city administrator and wife of the accused Harlan Kelly. Torres, a likable fellow and son of my one-time State Senate colleague, Art Torres, former mayoral appointee to PUC and then SF Municipal Transportation Agency governing boards, emanated from the Mayor’s Office of Workforce and Economic Development. It doesn’t matter that Joaquin Torres has no experience as a real estate appraiser. In fact, the last professionally qualified assessor in City Hall (1979-1991) was Sam Ducca, a career professional appraiser before and after Proposition 13.

The Board of Education continues to flout integrity, common sense and public school pupils’ educational well-being. After violating California’s open meeting law and suffering a swift Superior Court order commanding repeal of a deplorable resolution renaming 44 public schools, the Board of Education received California taxpayer money resulting from Assemblymember Phil Ting’s legislation, which contained funding requirements of in-person instruction by May 15, 2021. 

Instead, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) ignored legislative requirements by not reopening all classrooms for instruction, just a few high schools, and some just one day before graduation. Legislative intent, according to Ting, required SFUSD to bring “everyone in that grade” back by May 15, not just a few students. In most people’s minds, that is lying to obtain taxpayer money, but the president and vice president of the Board of Education claimed complete high school senior returns for instruction. They are blatant liars; the taxpayer money should be reclaimed by the state or yet another lawsuit will confront SFUSD’s thievery. And don’t forget to sign the recall petition to hoist them out before they do more damage to public school children and their education.

Meanwhile, University of California (UC) settled a 2019 lawsuit from “students of color and students with disabilities” by ending use of SAT (Student Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Testing) scores in admission and scholarship awards. An Alameda County Superior Court judge last September enjoined UC from using such tests. Educational dumbing down continues.

California enjoyed a boost from the Biden Administration arising from the $1.9 trillion congressional spending bill in April. The governor had previously announced a $75 billion surplus. Taxpayers earning less than $75,000 a year will receive $1,100 ($600 if they don’t have children), including illegal aliens. That amounts to $12 billion of California’s surplus, while the governor proposes spending $4.2 billion on California’s high-speed rail project, $3.2 billion on electric vehicles, and $12 billion on homelessness.

For those interested, electric automobiles constitute less than 2% of the nation’s automotive vehicles today, but owners don’t need to pay gasoline taxes (68.5 cents per gallon state and federal in California) like those whose taxes built the roadways upon which all cars drive.  

City Hall, however, can match the governor. Its current budget includes $10.3 million in salary and benefits for “public information officers” and associated positions. Except for a campaign, it’s difficult to remember the last time I heard public comments directly from chief executives’ wealth of municipal departments!

Meanwhile, in the Sunset District, as part of a continuing campaign to overwhelm single-family homeowners in RH-1 neighborhoods, developer Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation proposes a 100-unit, 100% affordable, housing project, seven stories high at 2550 Irving St., between 26th and 27th avenues – with only 11 parking spaces! That will exclude teachers, nurses, and firefighters who can’t meet the extreme-low-income criteria. A maximum 40% of units would be reserved for Sunset residents. There’s no minimum. And it’s the first time this developer has tried to include a 20% homeless population in a residential neighborhood. Mid-Sunset Neighborhood Association, San Francisco Community Alliance and Irving Street Merchants Association are just a few of the opponents. Low income housing projects cause a decline in property values if incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood in size, scale, design, and amenities. If you wish to add your opinion, email

I’m reminded of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch’s comment after he was defeated in the 1989 democratic mayoral primary by David Dinkens: “The people have spoken, and they must be punished.” 

An unknown commentator added, “Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you’ve got.”  

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

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