ARE WE POISED IN SAN FRANCISCO TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE WITH HONESTY, TRANSPARENCY, AND ACCOUNTABILITY? (11/19/11)
This great City and County of San Francisco has just elected its first Chinese American Mayor and I suppose the Mayor is poised to review the significant and pertinent policies to better our Great City and County of San Francisco.
I attended the Citizens‚ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee Meeting today at City Hall in Room 263. There are plans to build our brand new Safety Building at Mission Bay. Neighborhood Fire Stations. Auxiliary Water Supply System, upgrading the related Infrastructure. Upgrading and building new libraries some 22 have been addressed and two more to go.
It is not easy in these dire economy times to go to the polls and beg the constituents to vote for Bond Measures. Overall our constituents have been astute and have voted on many Bond Measures mostly when the economy was vibrant. But, as I said when the economy is dull, questions are asked, and the tax payers want the best results for their buck.
I remember well some years ago over $2.4 Billion Bond Measure was put on the ballot to revamp the Water System Improvement Project and the Sewer System Improvement Project. Of course initially the simple name given to the two projects was the Clean Water Project and the other was called the Waste Water Project. The good old times when Mr. Richard Sklar and Mr. Dennis Normandy were on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
Even though the constituents voted in favor of the $2.4 billion Bond Measure to revamp both the Water System Improvement Project and the Sewer System Improvement Project; the authorities that be - decided to drop the Sewer System Improvement Project, deferred it, and stuck only with the Water System Improvement Project. Various reasons; were given but the matter of fact is that the tax payers of San Francisco were shafted and were told one thing only to be handed an altered project; something else on the platter.
The Citizens‚ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee consists of so called experts and I have seen such bodies dime a dozen. Most of them have been appointed because they serve the pleasure of someone, the Mayor, some Senator, some Big Developer, the Unions who have a hidden agenda.
The ordinary citizen is left out and during the so called Public Meetings the agenda items are convoluted, lots of beating around the bush, and general statements made; someone saying something to mean another. One of two will act smart and it is these ones that ruin it for those that know better. Others will pretend and say they know little; but really they are there to act like the smart ass alley cats.
For the Safety Building and some of the related project some $412 million is needed and arrangements have been made to ask the Tax Payers for this money through a Bond Measure. We often see projects being brought before the various committees like the Land Use, the Budget and Finance, before the Planning Department - and Bond Measures issued. The Enterprise Department mostly the San Francisco Airport and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are pretty savvy when it comes to issuing Bonds and getting their projects on track. They often brag that they have good Bond Ratings.
The layperson is rarely given a detail presentation and always on the sideline are the vultures the Big Financial Institutions - J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, the bigger banks; Wells Fargo, the Bank of America, and so on. It is all about Greed and it is always all about money and doling favors.
In previous meetings of this nature I have witnessed drab and shallow questions asked by the panel. Most of them are appointed to fast track the Bond Measures and the talk sometimes mentions about looking out for the common person, the San Franciscan, the constituents, it must be taken with a pinch of salt.
When it comes to our Infrastructure one must be cognizant what we are talking about? The „cisterns‰ mentioned at the meeting held on November 17, 2011 at 9:30 am in room 263 at City Hall are old wells built after the 1906 Earthquake. Circular and lined with bricks; there are hundreds of them all over the City. Their main purpose to backup the hydrants when the pressure fails in any emergency. Then you have the large Reservoirs, the water tanks up one Twin Peaks, at Potrero Hill, near McLaren Park and in other places. These truly can back up the water hydrants and come to the rescue of the Fired Department and other Emergency crews in times of any major emergency.
Our two key Reservoirs one at University Mound in the Portola District and the other one in the Sunset are very large and have been repaired, and upgraded. The company - Montgomery Ward and others were tasked to do a good job and hopefully when everything is inspected - all will be well.
I say this because the project under discussion mentioned the name of AECOM and I hear their name a lot - and trust they will deliver with the Infrastructure Projects tasked to them and linked to the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bonds. This is our tax payers‚ money and we want our hard earned money spent well.
I served three General when I worked at the Presidio of San Francisco and learned a lot. I took part in establishing the creation of the Infrastructure Group and the Maintenance Technical Support Group when the National Park Service took over after Sixth United States Army and Presidio of San Francisco got deactivated. I was glad to be part of the transition and I am proud to address the situation at hand when any important situation - warrants.
I have known Ed Lee who is our current Mayor of San Francisco. The large projects all will require the expansion of large sums of money. At times we go in for Bond Measures, only to fall short - the Laguna Honda Project comes to mind. Right now we are dealing with the San Francisco General Hospital and that project too will demand extra money to fulfill a need to cater to the needs of an emergency - if we have an Earthquake and any calamity such as a Tsunami.
WEBCOR has made a fortune on the 525 Golden Gate Avenue - San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Building, it building the new SF General Hospital, is all over the City and County of San Francisco making hordes of money. Many contractors, especially the Truckers were taken for a ride; performed their work and were not paid for months on end - some were paid after six months.
The Safety Building at Mission Bay sounds good; but we have serious issues with „liquefaction‰ on the land where the building will stand that was once wet land, filled in to create a mass of soggy land to build piers and related buildings that have long disappeared; fallen in disrepair.
A simple inspection of the roads that have been recently created and asphalted bulge in places, crack in others, and as one slowly drives on these recently built roads it is not uncommon to see the road - waving up and down as if pointing to those concerned what lies underneath. And what lies underneath is the wet and soggy land trying to announce itself and will at a moment‚s notice.
These dire economic times call for participation by the ninety nine. The One Percent has sucked our blood. The many who work for our City do that all the time; some say twenty six thousand City Employees but it is more like thirty three thousand. Some of us advocates have one choice only; to be with the people, the people who have been disfranchised - the people were once Middle Class but now are poor, the poor that are many, and have no time nor the tenacity to deal with sell outs and the very corrupt. City Hall is not friendly as it once was - not with corrupt, haughty SF Board of Supervisors taking bribes.
Big Developers, who with City Employees placed in positions to better their own interests, encourage bribes and bribery that is their forte; I know what is happening because I am told what is happening. The same old names Willie L Brown Jr., Dwayne Jones, Richard Blum, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein. For some time no one mentioned Walter Shorenstein and I puzzled until someone took me aside and said he was no more. Well, our City is Great but no large or smaller project goes by without the corrupt on the side line wanting a piece of the pie.
These so called committees, these so called experts all pander to the common denominator - GREED. In years past there was some normalcy, there was some standard, but now it is all about making hay while the sun shines. The Middle Class has been hard hit and thousands of decent families that are father, mother, and children have left San Francisco. The demographics have changed; the Elders that are many are on fixed income and starving.
When I walked to speak during Public Comment the Citizens‚ General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee was wondering what I was there to say and comment upon. The City Employees know of me and so does the Controller Ben Rosenfeld. We people of San Francisco are astute and know more than most other constituents - because of our higher education and pertinent experience. What most have realized over time; and in recent years; is that we the people of San Francisco are being taken for a ride more badly, shafted.
People listen to the meetings on Public Government Channels and do not like what they hear; they especially do not like when Public Comment is made difficult and people are forced to give Public Comment for one minute and two minutes - when three minutes is the norm.
Mayor Ed Lee joined the fray and joined the City Government as a Whistle Blower. He was Director of the Human Rights Commission. He was City Administrator. Not too long ago I saw him outside City Hall; as I was about to enter City Hall through one of the doors in the basement.
Mayor Ed Lee then Interim Mayor - had already entered his waiting car; but got out to shake my hand - and had in mind what meetings were going to be held that day. He announced to me that he knew why I was there. I know the man does his home work, is aware of advocates, and favors meaningful and diligent advocacy. Mayor Ed Lee is accessible to all San Franciscans; he truly has an open door policy.
The recent Mayoral Race has not been clean and even though the Mayoral Race is over; the infighting, the back stabbing still goes on. However, we must always remember in San Francisco, we are called to a higher standard, and in doing so; we must have the better interests of San Francisco. Our City is named after Saint Francis Assisi, a man who was humble, so humble - that the birds and animals recognized his innocence, his Karma.
Our City is already in the hole. The year to year Budget Deficit may be less than $100 million but we have Billions of dollars of Unfunded Expenses linked to pensions, deferred maintenance, court cases that are pending in the hundreds, and other liabilities that are sought by those that know that our City has deep pockets.
We must NOT take the route of Bond Measures as an escape to address deferred maintenance, poor decisions in planning, and a vision that lacks vitality and progress. Again and again past Mayors and corrupt politicians have not represented the issues, the policies, Quality of Life Issue and adversely impacted decent San Franciscans. Safety and Health and all that it is linked with come to mind.
This land all of it belongs to the Ohlone. Once this land was pristine the streams, the air, the land, the Bay and all that one could see and touch that was natural. No more, someone came and made „contamination‰ his middle name, „corruption‰ his first name, and GREED his lasting name. Aho.