Dollars and Sense
It has been a new year at City Hall where Supervisor Aaron Peskin from Telegraph Hill was elected president after 11 roll call votes by our district heroes, almost tying Congressman Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield for roll call votes. This columnist wishes President Peskin two years of leadership achievement. My hero, U.S. President Harry Truman, once reminded Americans: “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, imagination and all the unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
The mendacity of some elected officials continues. Late last year after the November election, serious misuse of taxpayer money by Nate Albee, legislative assistant to San Francisco Assemblyman Matt Haney, was exposed. Before employment by the State of California, Albee was a paid lobbyist for Juul and a campaign consultant for various local ballot measures and candidates, including those supported by, and featuring, Haney. Thereafter, Albee received payment for political services from Honey Mahogany for Supervisor and No on B (a proposed S.F. Charter amendment) and thereby more than doubled his monthly state salary. As of Oct. 22, 2022, he had received $7,400 from the No on B campaign and $42,603 by loser Mahogany’s supervisorial campaign, a total of $50,003. (Haney, naturally, publicly supported both losing campaigns!) Albee continues to solicit clients by means of his Albee Strategies website for political campaigns and “consulting” in violation of California Government Code Section 19990(b), prohibiting a state employee from working on a political campaign during working hours and Assembly rules barring conflicts of interest. Following a formal complaint by new Board President Peskin and the San Francisco Taxpayers Association, the Assembly Committee on Legislative Ethics is investigating the obvious legal violation.
Peskin also spearheaded garbage collection competition for the first time in San Francisco history, albeit only for city and county properties, of which there are many – like City Hall, Golden Gate Park, the Veterans Building, Davies Symphony Hall and Opera House. The low bid ($10 million per year) was from Allied Waste Industries, Inc., nee Republic Services, which, among others, collects Daly City garbage on a low-bid contract, having thwarted Recology’s previous monopoly. Taxpayer savings will now occur.
Ratepayer savings for residential and commercial properties must also occur. Controller Ben Rosenfield’s investigation of former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru’s corruption from 2017 until 2021 resulted in Recology, Inc.’s agreeing to reimburse ratepayers $23.4 million for more overcharges after paying ratepayers $94.5 million in 2021 for overcharges. Peskin and his colleagues must now enact an ordinance requiring competitive bidding for residential and commercial trash, plus recycling. Present rates have expired after five years and Rosenfield plays to promulgate and implement new rates this summer. A new ordinance empowering the controller to set rates or creating competitive bidding should occur. I trust Rosenfield. I don’t trust elected officials who thirst for campaign contributions.
Last November, the Wall Street Journal noted the District of Columbia’s next mayor might “be elected by votes from illegal immigrants.” The City Council passed a bill authorizing any adult with 30 days of D.C. residency to vote. Thus, foreign college students in D.C. can vote this year, unless the Congress objects with a joint resolution of the Senate and House, which hasn’t happened. One reader points out that D.C. license plates contain the slogan “End Taxation Without Representation,” meaning D.C. Congressional representatives who can vote, adding that a Russian diplomat just posted to Washington won’t pay U.S. taxes irrespective of his or her time in such post, thus resulting in representation without taxation instead of taxation without representation. Another advocates giving them “a chance” (to vote) observing they can’t do worse than D.C. voters who elected a city council that enacted “such nonsense in the first place.” I concur.
New York State’s legislature gave unsuspecting taxpayers their own legislative Christmas gift last month, raising their annual salary 29% from $110,000 to $142,000. (Is inflation that high in the Empire State?) That’s more than California legislators receive at $119,000, plus a per diem of $214 for each day of session. (The D.C. City Council again leads the nation at $152,813 and $210,000 for the chair. Our local legislators receive about $158,000 annually for leading the “City Family.”)
Congratulation to the Examiner editorially for characterizing city government as “bloated” and “inefficient,” comparing S.F. with 38,403 city employees, and total wages of $4,097,629,775 for our 842,754 residents to Los Angeles, with 65,261 city employees and $6,109,152,580 total wages for 3,819,538 residents. San Diego, with 1,374,790 residents employs just 12,305 employees, costing taxpayers $963,764,091 in wages. As of Jan. 1, however, Delaware raised its exemption from taxation on retirement and military pension income from $2,000 to $12,500 for those 60 and older, Rhode Island elevated its similar exemption from $15,000 to $20,000, and even Illinois increased its Child Tax Credit to 20% from 18% of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). When, if ever, will City Hall catch tax reduction fever from San Diego, L.A., Delaware, Rhode Island and Illinois. I guess “tax reduction” is not in the Progressives’ playbook. That brings to mind an old observation concerning the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrat raise taxes and spend. Republicans cut taxes and spend.
Eight hours into his criminal trial, the defendant pled guilty. The trial judge asked: “Why didn’t you do that at the beginning and save the court’s time?” “Well,” replied the defendant, “until I heard all the evidence, I thought I was innocent.”
Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.
I am constantly amazed at the bloated and ineffective government we have in our city.
How can the people of this city, continually vote for more taxes. The city budget should be decreased by 50%. More than 700 million dollars a year for the homeless and nothing gets done. Each agency within the city just expands exponentially and continue to approve of this by more self imposed taxes. Wake up people!