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Posts from the Mayor Newsom Category


What Would an Ed Lee Administration Mean for Sustainable Transportation?

Ed Lee with Human Rights Commissioner Zula Jones. Photo: Luke Thomas, ## City Journal##

Ed Lee with Human Rights Commissioner Zula Jones. Photo: Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal

During a dramatic eight-hour Board of Supervisors meeting last night, seven supervisors, including President David Chiu, Bevan Dufty, Eric Mar and Sophie Maxwell, lined up late in the session to support City Administrator Ed Lee for interim mayor. It prompted an angry outburst from outgoing Supervisor Chris Daly, who declared that it would be “the biggest fumble in the history of progressive politics in San Francisco.”

In the end, the supervisors agreed to continue the meeting and a decision on appointing a successor mayor to Friday at 3 p.m. Whoever the current board appoints (it requires six votes) would have to be confirmed by the new board. Four new supervisors are being sworn in Saturday. Even then, all the cards, at this point, seemed to be stacked to favor Lee, who was in Hong Kong and not available for comment.

In several interviews, some transit advocates and others who have worked with the former Asian Law Caucus managing attorney over the years offered nothing but praise, saying that even though some of outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom’s staff might remain in place — something Daly and other progressives predict would mean more of the “same ole’, same ole‘” — Lee would set a different tone and get work done.

“He comes out of a strong civil rights background so I think he would look at transportation from an equity point of view and a transportation justice perspective,” said Supervisor Mar, who is supporting Lee. “Even though he has been a bit distant, in city government, from civil rights or community organizations that’s where his values are in supporting a better transportation system, especially for lower-income people and working families.”

Lee, who would become the city’s first Asian American mayor, has more than two decades of experience in city government, serving as the city’s first Whisteblower Ordinance investigator, executive director of the Human Rights Commission, the director of City Purchasing, and before his current job, was director of the Department of Public Works. When he was reappointed City Administrator in October, the Mayor’s Office praised him for “reducing the size and cost of city government and reducing the vehicle fleet.”

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Leona Bridges’ Nomination to SFMTA Board Headed to Full Board of Supes

Bridges with outgoing Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Bridges and Supervisor Bevan Dufty pose for photos after today's Rules Committee meeting. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Leona Bridges’ nomination to the SFMTA Board is headed to the current Board of Supervisors for confirmation after being approved this afternoon by the Rules Committee. It managed to get through committee on a day when most of outgoing Mayor Gavin Newsom’s nominations to commissions were put off because he is delaying his swearing-in as lieutenant governor in a move to prevent the current board from appointing an interim mayor.

Bridges, a former manager at Barclays Global Investors who oversaw $800 billion in assets, described herself as an independent thinker who has been a lifelong Muni rider. She was nominated to the SFMTA Board last month to fill a seat that has remained vacant since May.

While she doesn’t have a background in transportation, Bridges was praised by the committee and a number of supporters, including leaders of the African American community, who testified that as an African American with financial expertise she will bring much-needed diversity to the board. The Rev. James McCray, whose term expired last year, was the last and only African American member of the board.

“Growing up in San Francisco, I walked to Benjamin Franklin Middle School, rode three buses to Abraham Lincoln High School and rode three buses to San Francisco State University. I have continued to be a lifelong user of Muni transportation. Additionally, I take taxis and I walk many places,” Bridges told the committee. “I have a vested interest in knowing that we have timely, accessible, reliable, affordable and safe modes of transportation and services in this city.”

She identified transit accessibility among her six top policy priorities, along with affordability. “All modes of transportation and parking garages must be affordable, and not disproportionally impact low-income communities. We must serve all communities in this city,” she said.

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Commentary: SF Needs an Interim Mayor Who’s a Leader, Not a Caretaker

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Room 200. Photo: michaelz1

There are a number of highly qualified people on the list of candidates to be the next mayor of San Francisco, and the Board of Supervisors could embark on a nomination process beginning today. What has become abundantly clear to me is that the person replacing Mayor Gavin Newsom should not be a caretaker, but someone who will lead on an issue that touches the lives of every one of our 815,000 residents: transportation.

We are in the thick of a mammoth city budget crisis, and our public transportation system, Muni, is over capacity and limping. We can’t wait until after the election next November for leadership.

People who walk and bike around this great city in increasing numbers are getting hurt every day by drivers congesting our streets, on top of the colossal toll traffic takes on our health and our environment. The “cars first, people second” mentality remains pervasive in city government.

The interim mayor needs to come in and get right to work on strengthening the leadership structure of the SFMTA, which manages Muni and our streets, and work on empowering those progressive transportation planners within the agency who have been stifled by a culture of fear.  The talented city planners who really want to transform our streets are sometimes afraid to do anything bold because they fear management doesn’t have their backs. A mayor who really believes in the city’s Transit First policy should pick advocates and transportation professionals who have strong convictions about livable streets as department heads and managers instead of old-school traffic engineers resistant to change.

We need an interim mayor who can unambiguously and steadfastly show leadership on sustainable transportation — someone who won’t cave in to a few complaints about removing parking spaces to re-balance the streets for people who bike, walk or take transit. Supervisors should appoint a mayor who won’t buckle on extending parking meter hours to evenings and Sundays, or at the very least allow the pilots to move forward (they were killed by Mayor Newsom) in those commercial districts where they’re sorely needed and SFPark is already in place. It will boost business and make it easier to park.

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New SFMTA Board Nominee Could Face Uphill Battle for Confirmation

Leona Bridges. Photo: Barclays

Leona Bridges. Photo: Barclays

One of the prevailing questions surrounding yesterday’s nomination of Leona Bridges to the SFMTA Board of Directors — a vacancy the Mayor’s Office has struggled to fill for seven months — is whether she can drum up the six necessary votes on the Board of Supervisors for confirmation, under the current board or the new one in January.

Bridges, who has no background in transportation and is not familiar to transit advocates, was picked for her financial experience and because she “rides the 38 Geary bus frequently.”

“Leona Bridges will bring valuable financial knowledge and investment experience to the SFMTA Board,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “She may not be a City Hall insider or professional activist, but she’s a regular bus rider, churchgoer and longtime San Francisco resident whose background and financial expertise will enormously benefit the Board. I’m grateful for her willingness to serve San Francisco’s transit riders and help improve our City’s public transit system.”

According to the press release, “Bridges is currently retired and formerly a Managing Director of the Global Index and Markets Group at Barclays Global Investors, one of the world’s largest asset managers. Bridges put herself through school working evenings at Crocker Bank and started her career in securities lending and investment at Wells Fargo.”

In addition, “she is committed to education and has created an endowed scholarship in the SFSU College of Business to support economically and educationally disadvantaged students.”

But some public officials and advocates are already questioning whether she has the right qualifications for the job at a time when the SFMTA, particularly Muni, is facing a horde of challenges.

“If there’s someone who’s being appointed to the MTA without the expertise, I really question why that person is being put on the board when we have such an incredible need for the best and the brightest to be on there,” said Supervisor John Avalos.

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SF’s Mint Plaza Takes Home EPA Smart Growth Award for “Civic Spaces”

Flickr photo:

Flickr photo: David Lytle

In its annual Smart Growth awards ceremony, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded San Francisco’s Mint Plaza with its “Civic Spaces” prize, honoring the City and County of San Francisco, as well as developers and architects that transformed the former Jesse Street alley into a busy public realm. The award was announced yesterday in Washington DC, in coordination with the EPAs 40th anniversary festivities, where San Francisco joined New York City and Portland among others receiving commendations.

Mint Plaza was the result of a public-private partnership that used private funding to build a public plaza owned by the city, with relatively little city investment. According to the EPA’s announcement, the project cost $3.2 million to build, of which only $150,000 came from public funds. The balance was raised by Martin Building Company, which created a Community Facilities District (much like a Community Benefit District), levying a 30-year special property tax on certain buildings around the plaza to leverage tax exempt bonds. Martin also established Friends of Mint Plaza, a non-profit organization that raises funds to manage ongoing maintenance and programming at the plaza.

Jason Elliott, policy adviser to Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the EPA award was an honor and said Mint Plaza “represents people taking affirmative ownership in their micro neighborhoods.”

“This is a community coming together to invest in their own public realm,” said Elliott, who highlighted the trial traffic diversions on Market Street and said they can complement destinations in the neighborhood. Without creating destinations like Mint Plaza, he said, the public would have nowhere to bike and walk to, neighborhoods would not be revitalized. “We can do a lot of the things we think we’re good at, but when we have the private sector step up and take the proactive responsibility for reinvigorating their own communities,” it expands on what the city can accomplish.

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Better Market Street Project Announces Citizen Advisory Committee

mayor_blick.jpgMayor Newsom and Blick's Edward Ogorzaly. Photo: Mayor's Press Office.
On the same day San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced yet another intervention along central Market Street aimed at rejuvenating the beleaguered section between 5th and Van Ness, the Department of Public Works (DPW) announced it was convening a citizens advisory committee (CAC) to help steer the long-term vision for remaking the city's most iconic street.

Newsom joined the owner of Blick Art Materials in a ribbon cutting yesterday for a new flagship store at 979 Market, near 6th Street, and announced a weekly arts market as part of a Central Market Arts District. The new market opens today at U.N. Plaza and will be co-sponsored by Blick, in what the city hopes will anchor a new art and theater corridor. The city pointed to a recent survey by Theatre Bay Area that found approximately 75 performing arts groups in the Bay Area are interested in expanding or relocating to Central Market. Newsom's administration hopes to lure them to the corridor by establishing a $11.5 million loan fund for commercial projects catered to artists and by providing assistance with identifying space, feasibility studies, and other financing opportunities in the arts district.

"Blick’s opening on Central Market and the weekly Arts Market at U.N. Plaza are major new milestones in our efforts to foster the growing cultural arts district in Central Market," Newsom said in a statement. "Blick and the Arts Market will be cornerstones in attracting artists and arts entrepreneurs to the area and continue its economic and physical transformation."

The current initiative catalyzes several trials to bring art to Market Street storefronts that have been shuttered because of a down economy and is part of the broader Better Market Street Project, a joint effort by the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, The DPW, The Planning Department, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which runs Muni. The Art in Storefronts trial combined with the People in Plazas concert series were instituted to fight the perception the neighborhood is dangerous and depressed and bring levity at a low cost. The trials also coincided with private automobile traffic diversions meant to speed Muni and improve safety for bicycle riders with separated green bike lanes and reduced traffic conflicts.


New Report Impugns Texas Oil Companies Funding California Prop 23

AB_32_presser_8_10.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, No on Prop 23 Chair Tom Steyer, and Ella Baker Center Green-Collar Jobs Campaign Director Ian Kim at the microphone. Photo: Matthew Roth.

UPDATED: 10:00 pm, 8-11-10

The fight against Proposition 23, which qualified for the November ballot and if passed would suspend California's pioneering climate law AB 32, got testy today as San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called out Valero and Tesoro, the Texas oil companies spending the lion's share of the money for Prop 23, and said political candidates like Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina were standing in the way of progress for cheap political gain.

Mayor Newsom joined with the No on Prop 23 campaign, the California Nurses Association, and the California chapter of the American Lung Association at a press conference in the Bayview to highlight a new report, "Toxic Twins" by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the California Environmental Justice Alliance. The report details the numerous environmental violations perpetrated by Valero and Tesoro as well as the toxic chemicals they spew legally and illegally into the air.

As the report shows, Tesoro and Valero combined have four facilities on the list of the top 15 worst polluters in California, with Valero's Benicia refinery at number 4 and Tesoro's Martinez refinery at number 8. Both companies have also repeatedly violated pollution laws in California and continue to do so, settling with government agencies like the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The report also notes the people most impacted by the pollution are people of color and low-income communities.

"Just like BP cut some corners in the Gulf Coast to make a little extra money with disastrous consequences, we know with this report today that these nasty Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro are cutting corners in California every day to make a little more profit," said Ian Kim, the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign Director for the Ella Baker Center.


FTA Boss: “Paint is Cheap, Rails Systems are Extremely Expensive”

newsom_central_subway.jpgSFMTA Chair Tom Nolan, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi at the groundbreaking for the Central Subway. Photo: mayorgavinnewsom.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff has been shaking up transit agencies across the country in the short year he has headed the FTA, from working with advocates in the Twin Cities who wanted additional stops added in under-served communities along the Central Corridor rail route to his decision to deny BART the $70 million it requested for its Oakland Airport Connector.

Now, in a speech delivered this week in Boston, Rogoff set off another heated debate among transit advocates and operators about the federal government's role in funding expansion projects when the agencies building them don't have enough operating money to run their existing systems.

Rogoff asked how wise it is of the FTA to put money into new transit capacity, particularly expensive rail capacity, when virtually every operator across the nation has raised fares and cuts service because of lower sales tax receipts and ubiquitous cutbacks in city and state transit funding levels.

"At times like these, it's more important than ever to have the courage to ask a hard question: If you can't afford to operate the system you have, why does it make sense for us to partner in your expansion?" asked Rogoff.

He went on to question some rail expansion projects when a bus rapid transit system would be far cheaper and could achieve similar ridership benefits.

"Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive," said Rogoff.


“I Bike SF” Campaign Encourages Shopping Locally by Bicycle

In honor of Bike Month this year, Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and local businesses have teamed up with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) to promote shopping by bicycle in various neighborhoods across the city. As part of the I Bike SF campaign, participating businesses in Hayes Valley are offering discounts throughout the month of May to cyclists who bring in their bicycle helmets or bike lock keys when they shop or eat out.

According to Mari Hunter, an intern who organized the campaign for the Mayor's Climate Protection Initiative, I Bike SF is modeled on a national program called Bicycle Benefits.

"The idea simply is to encourage cycling and support local businesses," said Hunter, who added that the focus for the Mayor's Office was to make the program as easy as possible for businesses and to have them benefit through a boost in sales.

Tim Papandreou, the SFMTA's Deputy Director for Planning, said beyond meeting the city's goal of encouraging cycling, I Bike SF would help reduce congestion in business corridors where parking is at a premium. Papandreou said Hayes Valley was a perfect pilot location because it is relatively flat, close to Market Street and similar bicycle corridors, and because the neighborhood is congested with cars looking for parking.

For Elizabeth Leu, who owns the children's store Fiddlesticks on Hayes Street, the idea of promoting bicycles makes sense for San Francisco, along with starting the pilot in Hayes Valley, a strongly proud neighborhood that has voted to forbid chain stores.

"I think it's spot on to be rewarding bikes and people who bicycle," said Leu, who's offering a 15 percent discount on non-sale items to bicycle riding customers. She was doubtful, however, about the impact it would have on business. "I don't know about the redemption. 
The jury is still out on whether bikers will be taking advantage of the program."


Tea Partying and Beanbagging on Shotwell

tea_kettle_6475.jpg24th and Shotwell Tea Party

The citywide Stand Against Sit Lie campaign Saturday March 27 was a big success by all accounts. The website claims over 100 events took place on San Francisco sidewalks, and over 1000 people participated. That doesn’t sound overwhelming at first glance, but if you recall that this began as a brainstorm in a bar just a couple of weeks ago, and relied heavily on Facebook and personal networking, it is an impressive beginning.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, Police Chief George Gascón, and the S.F. Chronicle suburban-values attack-dog C.W. Nevius have been drumming up an Astroturf grassroots effort to criminalize sitting on sidewalks. The focus has been the Haight-Ashbury, where there are actual homeowners who have been contributing their energy to this effort. The joke at our 24th and Shotwell sit-in was that these same upscale homeowners in the Haight have been trying for over 30 years to “clean up” Haight Street. They had an organization for a while in the 1980s called RAD (Residents Against Druggies) and you could reliably buy pot or acid by looking for them, and then seeking the cluster of dealers who trailed them around the neighborhood!

Anyway, these folks, egged on by the powers-that-be, are clamoring for a new law to give police carte blanche to evict anyone they want to from the neighborhood’s sidewalks. The proposed ordinance is drawn very broadly, allowing for police to accost anyone on any sidewalk in the city and fine them and, if there’s a second offense, have them jailed for 30 days. This is being promoted as a means to enhance public safety, despite the fact that there are already laws against blocking sidewalks and aggressive panhandling. It’s unclear what purpose this new ordinance is supposed to fulfill, other than a new tool of arbitrary power for the police to use against “undesirable” populations.