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Last Week, Next Year

by Larry Bush on 11/18/2011

in Merely Rumors

Bully Pulpit

Rose Pak told the World Journal in a post-election interview that she may run for District 3 supervisor against incumbent David Chiu, who she says may be too weak to hold the seat for the Chinese American community because he failed to give due attention to his supporters.

Pak states in the World Journal article that she would have to move into District Three in order to seek election there.

The Epoch Times quotes from its translation of the November 14 World Journal article that Rose Pak “is very worried that next year in the District 3 Supervisor’s race there will be no Chinese candidate. If there’s no strong Chinese candidate with a good chance of being elected, she will consider personally running,”

“The piece said that the recent mayoral election “made her earnestly consider the possibility of running for public office,” reports the Epoch Times.

“Pak was quoted in the World Journal as saying there are several reasons why David Chiu is not likely to be elected for another term in District 3. One is that the recent result showed that he only has 15 percent support, while another is that Rose Pak no longer supports him. Over the last three years, she says, the community has not been pleased with Chiu because he has not been grateful to where his success came from,” according to the Epoch Times.

Although Pak positions herself as the go-between between San Francisco’s Chinese would-be power players and City Hall, she herself is not a registered voter under either the name Rose Pak or at the Beale Street address she claims as her residence in what has been one of kind  below-market rate condo. The Registrar of Voters informs CitiReport that she is not found on their records in the last election – or any election. Affordable housing regulations may require she give up the affordable condo if she moves out as the primary owner

Pak has had citizenship issues in the past, when it was revealed in the late 1980’s that she was not a legal resident. During that time, Pak made a highly publicized public journey to the Immigration and Naturalization Service offices to apply for citizenship. According to media reports, the period for Pak to complete her citizenship application ended in 1993.

Pak acts as a spokesperson for the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and is a leader in the annual Chinese New Year’s Parade committee. However, both groups are required to file statements with the Internal Revenue Service that includes reports of payments to consultants and staff. Pak does not show as receiving payments from either group.

Aside from the complications of residency…in August 2011, the state Fair Political Practices Commission determined that the Chinese New Year Festival Committee is not a 501 (c) 3 committee organized as a charity and that the payments it made in 2009 for travel to China by Board President David Chiu and Supervisors Carmen Chu and Eric Mar failed to qualify for an exemption from the gift limit.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission notified Pak in an August 22 letter that “no public official may accept gifts of any type payments from this organization  (the Chinese New Year Festival Committee) valued in excess of the applicable limit.”

The letter resulted from an FPPC investigation that revealed that the Committee is not a nonprofit under IRS rules for 501 (c) 3 tax exempt and deductible organizations. Unless an organization meets that standard, they are not exempt from the gift limit for public officials.

The Chinese New Year’s Committee paid $6,122 in travel costs for each Supervisor. The applicable gift limit for the year was $420.

In separate letters to each of the supervisors, the FPPC stated that it was placing a “warning letter” in each supervisors file in the event of future enforcement issues but was taking no other enforcement action because, according to the information they provided to the FPPC, the supervisors testified that they believed the committee was a 501(c) 3 organization that was eligible to pay costs above the limit.

Pak, according to the city assessor, also has not registered under the San Francisco law that requires consultants to register and pay an annual license fee. If all of this were to hold up under more intense investigation, political consultants state that it  is a lot of baggage even for a prospective powerhouse candidate closely allied with mayor Ed Lee and former mayor Willie Brown.

Don’t Look Now…The goal of every marketing campaign is to get the public to look at what you want them to see, while making invisible competing options or even defects in your own offering.

By that standard, the campaign against public financing so far has been an absolute triumph. Columnists have opined, editorialists have editorialized, reporters have written stories all singing from the same hymnal: San Francisco’s public finance program deserves a big share of the blame for this year’s election results.

Really? Seriously?

What results were those?

Here are the results that San Franciscans were dealt out of this year’s election funding:

  1. The winning candidate chose to rely on funding from businesses and others seeking favors from City Hall that he could deliver. In the course of the election, Mayor Lee benefitted from contributions into efforts backing him that totaled over $1 million.
  2. The contributors – primarily Internet companies – received a free pass on over $30 million in taxes that would have paid for city services. That includes twitter investor Ron Conway ($176,000), Salesforce founder Marc Benioff ($101,300), Sean Parker ($100,000), Zynga’s Mark Pincus ($25,000) and more.
  3. In September, Mayor Lee announced that the Mirkarimi tax break for these businesses, set to expire in 2013 and intended to provide a basis for evaluating their real impact on jobs, should instead be made permanent, dispensing with a trial period to evaluate the benefits to the city. More money then flowed into these independent committees.
  4. While businesses were promised no new taxes in the mayor’s election year budget, residents were hit with increases that ranged from Muni fares, parking tickets and recreation and park fees while services were reduced.
  5. Businesses were promised that the city tax on them will be “re-evaluated” to be “fairer.” Residents were asked to foot millions more in a sales tax proposal, defeated at the polls, that is by its nature regressive and hits hardest the lowest income workers.
  6. The city’s highest paid employees, police and fire, were promised promotions and an exemption from the actual costs of any changes in their pension program. Close to 75% of them don’t live or vote in the city, but these unions ponied up more than $400,000 in campaign contributions for either Lee or Lee’s proposals and candidates. In fact, the San Francisco Police Officers Association was the top contributor in an election year that was notable for its big spenders. Meanwhile, lower paid city workers – half of whom live in the City – will bear the full brunt of increased pension costs and retirees will lose control over the health benefits they receive.
  7. In the face of public revelations that city contractors were violating local ethics laws by contributing to candidates, the city’s Ethics Commission responded by saying it is too much work to track pay-to-play contributions and Mayor Lee’s office said they wanted the rules changed. Meanwhile the District Attorney was given referrals over a number of such alleged violations.

A reader would go blind trying to find coverage that shows how the recent mayoral campaign was actually funded and its costs to residents. Ergo, an overwhelming success! Small wonder that the Election Night Victory Party was hosted by Ron Conway, angel investor who advised Lee on the social media tax breaks, and Chronicle columnist and City Hall fixer, with a buffet that included steak.

Ask Not What Your City Can Do For You…

Less than 24 hours after the election, Mayor Lee told reporters that the results show “that the voters of San Francisco want four more years of what we have been doing.”

Um, not so fast, Eddie.

Four more years of the same? Citizens no likey so much, according to the City Survey by the Controller than you probably never saw.

It was released October 6, and doesn’t seem to have shown up in a news story in the Chronicle, at least.

The report, found here (, says that satisfaction with the city’s performance is at an all-time low and decreased by almost ten percent from two years ago (from 43% to 34%).

Phil Ting’s Reset San Francisco web site notes (in a post the day after the election) that a Leo McCarthy Institute study showed that San Franciscans are more negative about their outlook toward city government than any other Bay Area city.

A local blog,, gives the most detailed review of the report.

The City Controller’s Barometer, a second type of report, gave additional insight behind the numbers:

Violent crimes increased by 6.8 percent from June 2011 to August 2011 and by 5.2 percent since August 2010, property crimes increased by 5.5 percent and decreased by 6.9 percent during the same periods.

Percentage of life hazard or lack of heat complaints responded to within one business day decreased from 100 percent in August 2010 to 87 percent in August 2011. This decrease in response time is partly attributable to staff reductions.

San Francisco had the lowest satisfaction rate with the quality of its infrastructure among five benchmark cities to which it was compared: Boston, New York, Oakland, San Jose, and Seattle.

* Overall satisfaction with San Francisco city streets, sidewalks, and infrastructure rated a woeful 31 percent, according to the survey — far below other cities. In fact, San Francisco’s rating for infrastructure was also lower than both statewide and national averages.

* San Franciscans were least satisfied with the condition of pavement citywide, with nearly 44 percent of residents grading city performance “poor/failing,” and another 38 percent describing it as merely “average.” Only 18 percent rated infrastructure “good” or better.

·Satisfaction with MUNI fares dropped from 55% in 2009 to 32% in 2011. There were two fare increases during that period;

* Feelings of safety on the MUNI system also dropped by 12% to 30% of riders rating safety “good” or “excellent;

*Recreation and Parks scores declined in two areas. The quality of interaction with staff and the convenience of recreation programs dropped by 10% and 3% respectively.

CitiReport notes that two of the areas with the sharpest drops currently are headed by managers facing controversy.

The Department of Public Works is headed by Acting Director Mohammed Nuru, who faced ethical challenges for misusing city funds to help elect Gavin Newsom in 2003.

The Recreation and Parks Department is headed by Phil Ginsburg, embroiled in controversies ranging from the Botanical Gardens fee arrangements to the handling of Sunshine Complaints and Stowe Lake.

The report found some traction in campaign statements because Lee was the head of the office for streets and sidewalks where customer satisfaction fell markedly.

It seems that for Lee, however, the response will be to do more of the same.

Garbage In, Garbage Out…

And who will haul that garbage? Retired Judge Quentin Kopp has turned in sufficient signatures to win a place on the June ballot for a new system that could result in the end of the monopoly currently enjoyed by Recology.

A mere cloud on the horizon, look for this to be a wing-ding of a campaign when it comes to spending by Recology, and pointed remarks from the retired judge, who has never kept his opinions to himself (to the joy of some and misery of others).

Recology briefly surfaced in the recent mayor’s contest after the company issued a statement apologizing for its involvement in the Ed Lee “Run Ed Run” committee, something apparently arranged by Rose Pak.

The company stated that its employees, on official time, had circulated some of the petitions for Run Ed Run, but did not name the “senior executive” who decided to authorize that. While Pak was identified publicly as seeking their role, despite the law that forbids city contractors from involvement, it also can be noted that Recology’s attorney has been Willie L. Brown, Jr.

Wonder what will show up in Brown’s Chronicle column.  Wonder what Mayor Lee will do.

No Show on the Mayor’s No-Show List of City Commissioners

Mayor Lee promised to create a public list of attendance by city commissioners, but so far, the promise hasn’t been met.

The issue arose after CitiReport and then others did a survey showing a significant percentage of members of city boards and commissions were not showing up for work. That in turn led to a reminder that the city can remove commissioners who don’t show up for work.

The mayor’s office promised that the first report would cover the first quarter of the new fiscal year, July 2011-September 30, 2011. But by the election, five weeks after the close of the fiscal year, the mayor’s office said it was still working on the report and it wasn’t ready for the public.

One problem appears to be that the mayor’s office doesn’t seem to know who serves on commissions. The official list of vacancies, found on the 3-1-1- web site, continues to list commission vacancies that don’t exist.

At the same time, Mayor Lee held off on appointing people to seats that expired during the campaign season, something that cynics suggest was a strategy to milk candidates for contributions. The vacancies, according to the city’s web site, include such high profile seats as two on the Redevelopment Commission.

In January, the city’s Ethics Commission, under fire throughout the year, will have two openings. These appointments are spread among various city elected officials. The current mayor’s appointee, Beverly Hayon, holds a seat that expires in January and is eligible for re-appointment. The District Attorney’s appointee, Charles Ward, announced at the recent Ethics Commission meeting that he is stepping off a year before his term ends, creating the second appointment opportunity. Last year the Board of Supervisors named Dorothy Liu to the seat that they appoint.

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