Doublespeak With Forked Tongue

When dealing with Chris Daly and his political objectives, it's best to leave reality behind

Beyond allegations of using employee payroll to staff political campaigns, there's evidence the Romero-led organization may have used its political clout to exact pressure on business rivals. One 2002 letter from a broker engaged by Mission Housing offered to buy a Mission Street building that had been slated to become an apartment complex, after the group's employees, acting as representatives of the Anti-Displacement Coalition, had lobbied public officials to withhold permits for the project.

The broker's letter told the property owner this situation might change if he sold to Mission Housing, which "has the wherewithal and the political juice to complete the project."

In 2002, after the board of directors fired Romero, citing concern that these sorts of activities might be illegal, Daly rousted support for a move to halt payments of government funds distributed to Mission Housing through city programs. And a year ago, Daly and his supporters ordered a city audit of Mission Housing accounts. The audit was released in December.

Remarkably, the audit brushed past allegations of improper use of government-funded company payroll for political ends. Instead, Harrington's office assembled a laundry list of accounting and management complaints. The audit said the group needed to hire more accounting staff, and should hire additional staff employees, rather than negotiating deals with other nonprofit groups, to provide services to residents in apartment buildings managed by the nonprofit group.

Mission Housing, for its part, said they'll beef up their accounting. But the group says that allying with other neighborhood nonprofits has proven a good way to provide resident services.

As fixable as these stated problems may seem, Board of Supervisors committee members last week used the audit as cause to informally request that the mayor permanently remove government funding the group had been counting on. And Matt Franklin, director of the mayor's office of housing, agreed at last week's hearing to find another use for the $360,000 that two years ago had been slated for Mission Housing.

Franklin did not return calls to his office for comment. Calls to the Controller's office went unreturned. Daly tells me he has adopted an official policy of not speaking to me, calling my coverage of issues such as this "unfair."

During the hearing, Harris, the straight-talking Mission Housing worker who identified Daly's Newspeak for what it is, had worn a union T-shirt without being a union member. Daly questioned this choice. Harris tried to respond when Daly interrupted, eliciting the "forked tongue" remark.

Even Harris didn't return a call I placed to his desk line.

And I can't say that I blame him. Publicly speaking the truth in this town is a good way to get in trouble.

The safest bet, for anyone wishing to preserve San Francisco's current political peace, is to exercise doublethink.

In Orwell's words, that's telling "deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies."

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