You get what you pay for, and sometimes that's all you get. This year, Mayor Frank Jordan and the Board of Supervisors instructed City Attorney Louise Renne to run a tab for attorney staff time (at $150 an hour) in yet another effort to rewrite San Francisco's city charter.
The meter is still running (Renne was authorized to bill up to $100,000), but Renne now reveals that the funds won't buy her endorsement of the charter reform effort.
In fact, Renne is agin it.
"I don't see any need," she says.
Renne's opposition could make it strike two for charter reform: Last year's rewrite of the charter -- backed by Jordan and Supervisor Barbara Kaufman -- failed to make it to the ballot when, unexpectedly, a scant majority of the Board of Supervisors opposed it.
Jordan embraced the charter reform to serve as an alibi for why he hasn't delivered the goods to the voters; he can simultaneously use the current charter's weak mayor system as an excuse for not getting more done in the past four years.
Kaufman is charter reform's other big backer. She ran on a promise to reform the city's charter three years ago, and would like to deliver. Such a victory might help her re-election campaign next year by portraying her as a "can do" operator, maybe even making her the top vote-getter and thus the president of the board.
Kaufman chaired a select committee of supervisors this year that attempted to remedy the unsuccessful draft of 1994. Neighborhood hearings on charter amendments were held, and most garnered good attendance.
The current charter draft assuages fears of a mayoral power grab, at the expense of the neighborhoods, by continuing the appointment of members of key commissions to fixed terms rather than allowing them to be replaced at the will of the mayor.
Still, it will be hard to persuade voters to OK the rewrite -- especially when well-regarded figures like Renne and mayoral candidate Roberta Achtenberg won't be on board.
Not that the voters are crying out for charter reform. Last year, a poll showed that voters ranked it 15th out of 15 issues of concern. And small wonder. Few of the changes have to do with citizen participation -- or holding politicians accountable. Among the features still not included, after 60 years of the current charter, are penalties for violating the charter.
Half of life is just showing up, but that's the half of life that school board member Angie Fa isn't able to handle.
Fa managed to sit through only four of 20 school board meetings from beginning to end in 1994, according to board minutes. She missed 25 percent of the meetings entirely.
It must be noted that Fa gave birth to a baby girl last summer, but records show her attendance isn't much improved in the first half of 1995.
And it's an absentee record that no other school board member matches by a mile.
So what votes did Fa miss? The list includes the agreement between the school district and the teachers, the establishment of a public elementary school in the Tenderloin, and the public hearing on the adoption of the school district's budget.
The meeting of Willie Brown's financial backers at the Fairmont Hotel a week ago was billed as a strategy session, but it looked more like a Frank Jordan recovery program. Brown campaign manager Jack Davis, who ran Jordan's last campaign, surveyed the room and called out the names (row by row) of former Jordan supporters now on the Brown bandwagon. Among them: Jordan's Recreation and Park Commissioner Vince Rovetti, Jordan's former Parking and Traffic Commission President Jack Molinari, Jordan's Planning Commissioner Larry Martin, and Jordan Redevelopment Agency Commissioner Leroy King.
Also on board the Willie Wagon/Jordan Recovery program was James Reuben, half of the law firm of Reuben and Cera. Until two months ago, Reuben was one of the officers of the San Francisco Citizens Committee for the Inaugural of the Mayor-Elect, an obvious Jordan front. But then again, as Reuben and Cera noted when it was charged that this committee was a front, the committee name didn't make explicit who the mayor to be inaugurated was.
That may explain why a name tag reading "Hi, I'm James Reuben and I endorse Frank Jordan" was noticeably left behind on the reception table at Jordan's kickoff last week.
Fire One for Me
City managers are shaking their heads over Service Employees Union International 790 President Paul Varacalli's dismissal of two aides recently. The aides had charged Varacalli with abusing his expense account, but they failed to convince the union's board of the wrongdoing. When the board gave Varacalli a clean bill of health, he dismissed the aides on the grounds that he needs a staff that is loyal to him.
"Why can't we do the same thing with 790 city workers?" mutters one bemused city department head. "If I could fire the people I suspect are not loyal to me ..." Or, alternately, if Varacalli had to live with the same system of worker rights and appeals that he insists the city abide by ...