Just One Problem With Supes' Approved Plan To Defund $510K From Opera, Ballet, Theater — It Wasn't Legal

While the supes voted to strip $510

On San Francisco's fiscally sinking ship, a majority of our supervisors voted Tuesday to toss the record player overboard via half a million dollars in cuts to the city's opera, ballet and American Conservatory Theater. But while men frantically hurling items off a failing sea vessel aren't bound by a city charter, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors is — and that measure violated it.

“The board has the authority to appropriate or de-appropriate city funds,” explained city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey. “They are prohibited from funding or de-funding specific expenditures within executive departments.”

What's that mean? Well, hypothetically, the board could send a message to, say, the city attorney's office that they want this Dorsey guy gone by reducing the department's budget by the amount of Dorsey's salary. But the decision to fire or retain Dorsey can only be made by the department head — in this case, City Attorney Dennis Herrera. 

So the board's specific targeting of the opera, ballet, and ACT was just as egregious an overstepping of its authority as the above hypothetical. City funds are distributed to artistic organizations by Grants For The Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. And the only one who can decide how to allocate those funds is GFTA executive director Kary Schulman. 

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