Friday, October 14, 2005


Tony Hall and the Mayor's Abuse of Power

As the San Francisco Chronicle loves to gloat, Tony Hall just got voted off the island -- Treasure Island, that is. Last night, the Treasure Island Development Authority (the public body responsible for administering the conversion of a former military base and all development contracts on its property) voted to fire their Executive Director, former San Francisco Supervisor Tony Hall, without cause. Today, Hall asked the Mayor to give him his old job back as District 7 Supervisor -- but Newsom just had his staff people laugh at him.

Why did Tony Hall get fired? Apparently because he blew the whistle on the Mayor's sweetheart deals, contracts with Newsom campaign contributors who were ready to rip the city's taxpayers from millions of dollars. After all, Treasure Island sits right in the middle of the bay -- with exquisite views of San Francisco -- every gentrifying real estate developer's wet dream. Unhappy that Hall exposed what seemed to be obvious influence-peddling, Gavin used his cronies at the Chronicle to defame Hall. When that still didn't work, he just had the Board fire Hall. Even the Board members themselves admitted that they were just following the Mayor's orders ...

Treasure Island Director John Elberling: "TIDA is set up as a de facto project of the Mayor's Office... The Mayor appoints all Commissioners. Four are, for heaven's sakes, Department heads, which clearly are his votes. The other three are citizens who serve at his pleasure... If [the Mayor] says I want so and so to be my Director, I am not going to trump his judgment. It is the Mayor's call."

Of course, Tony Hall is no saint himself -- and I won't pretend that he was qualified for the job. And his right-wing politics leave much to be desired.

But what's especially galling to me is how Tony Hall got hired to run Treasure Island in the first place: the Mayor appointed him. Last year, in what became known in local media circles as the "Triple Play," Mayor Gavin Newsom promoted Treasure Island Director Annemarie Conroy to head the Mayor's Office of Emergency Services. He then replaced her with Tony Hall, who was finishing up his first term on the Board of Supervisors representing District 7 (West-of-Twin-Peaks area), and gearing up tu run for re-election. Because the Mayor gets to appoint vacancies on the Board of Supervisors, Newsom chose one of his own political aides (Sean Elsbernd) to replace him. With 11 Supervisors as the city's legislative branch, Newsom has appointed 2 Supervisors since he became Mayor -- and can often rely on 2 more who consistently side with his pro-business politics, enough to prevent the Board from overriding any veto.

To Repeat: Mayor Gavin Newsom

(a) promoted an incompetent hack to head our local equivalent of FEMA

(b) which created a vacancy from her old job

(c) that he chose to appoint a currently-serving elected official

(d) which meant he got to replace that elected official with one of his lackeys

(e) When one of those appointees tried to show some independence,

(f) he uses the Board that oversees that job (of which incidentally all of the members serve at his pleasure) to fire him.

You don't have to like Tony Hall to realize that this is garbage, and a clear abuse of power.

And this isn't the first time that Newsom has used a power play to abuse his role as Mayor to appoint elected officials (who ideally should be chosen by the people.) Last year, he appointed Treasurer Susan Leal to run the SF Public Utilities Commission, which then allowed him to appoint her replacement, Jose Cisneros. Like the Treasure Island Board, the Mayor also gets to appoint both the Executive Director of the PUC and all the Commissioners who allegedly "oversee" the Executive. In fact, the last time someone other than the Mayor appointed a Commissioner to the PUC, it created quite a ruckus.

Susan knows she can't upset the mayor too much -- or else suffer the same fate as Tony Hall!

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