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News + PoliticsCity HallWalton calls out Breed for her attacks on the Board of Supes

Walton calls out Breed for her attacks on the Board of Supes

Simmering clash between the mayor and the supes breaks into the open after Breed attacks the board for asking tough questions of her department heads.


The Mayor’s Office has been attacking and refusing to work with the Board of Supes for some time now. Mayor London Breed refused – for no apparent reason – to spend the money the voters approved for rent relief. She threatened to go to the ballot if she didn’t get everything she wanted, immediately, on (of all things) parklets.

Her public comments about the supes have been just this side of hostile. One board member recently told me the relations between the two branches of government have been “toxic.”

Sup. Shamann Walton said he is sick of disrespect from the Mayor’s Office.

All of that broke out into the open Tuesday.

It started with Sup. Aaron Peskin announcing he was seeking treatment for alcohol dependency. That led to a series of Chron stories in which the mayor and members of her staff (and the Chron reporters, on their own) talked about how the supes, incuding Peskin, were awfully mean to poor Phil Ginsburg, the head of the Department of Parks and Recreation, at a hearing earlier this month.

That, from my perspective, was nonsense. Ginsburg was ducking key questions all during that hearing. He appeared to acknowledge, eventually, having at least advance knowledge of a threat by a private organization to try to defund a park in the district of Sup. Connie Chan. (The move by the Parks Alliance is what I would define as “bullying.” And Ginsburg was, several supes suggested, connected to it.)

This is really important information for the board and the public to know. Ginsburg has been all about privatizing the parks for years now; his role with a private contractor that may be linked to an ongoing corruption scandal is the public’s business.

He’s a department head. He makes $200,000 a year. It’s fair to ask him tough questions, which is what the supes did. (Not just Peskin, but Board President Shamann Walton and Chan.)

Peskin’s use of alcohol has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the questioning of Ginsburg.

But with the help of the Chron, Breed tried to suggest that the board needs to be nicer to her appointees.

I have watched almost every meeting of this board, with Walton as president. It’s an effective, professional operation. Board members are generally very respectful to mid-level staff; they are tougher on department heads. That, Walton noted at Tuesday’s meeting, is their job.

But he went a lot further. His remarks on the issue were a stunning rebuke to the mayor and her senior aides.

I will quote some of it here:

There has been a lot of media pressure to turn members of the Board of Supervisors against each other lately. I have done everything in my power to be tactful and respectful, but I will not allow the mayor to disrespect or speak on my name again without a response. Enough is enough!

Our board meetings have never been more efficient and respectful than they have been under my presidency. More so than when the mayor was board president and was steadily attacking people. Several members of her staff have secretly reported bullying; some have been reduced to crying.

 The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, several of her staff members and most certainly some of her department heads are the true bullies. I will not fear bullying from people in the Mayor’s Office. I have been very respectful but will not allow members of this board to be mistreated.

We will continue to conduct the business of the City in an orderly fashion and will not allow departmental leaders, nonprofit leaders or the Chief of Staff to mistreat our colleagues and aides. It is our job to understand city contracts and how resources are allocated. I hope we can move forward without threats.

Then, since it was monthly Question Time, the mayor got to come to the board and speak.

She talked about the value of city employees who have opted for a career in public service, and how they should look forward to speaking before the board. “They deserve better,” she said.

Then she said “I want to work with you, and not against you.”

Many of the supes would say the same – but that the mayor has been the one refusing to work together.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. If the city gave Rec and Park adequate funding, fund raising would be less of an issue.
    Also, Connie Chan is an embarrassment to the city. Calling the entire Rec and Park Department racist was uncalled for, and not one Supervisor even attempted to correct her.

  2. I like that they’re doubling down with the suspicious conduct of guilty perps as the feds continue to root around municipal corruption, racking up indictments and pleas.

    This is what I posted on Mission Local:

    After Peskin called Phil Ginsberg of Rec and Park a liar for straight up lying to a Board of Supervisors’ committee recently, that’s when the Chron tried let the hammer down to whack Peskin like they whacked Mirkarimi, like they whacked Tony Hall, like they whacked the non-machine, unsanctified corruption of Ed Jew and Leland Yee, like they tried to whack Sanchez and Daly in the previous epoch.

    Peskin, more shrewd and adroit while smashed at a level most of us could only dream of while sober, quickly sought safe harbor as Newsom did when Gavin’s drinking led him to boink his best friend’s wife, in rehab. By the way, what ever happened to Newsom?

    Newsom, like Joanne Hayes-White, were members of the City family in good standing. Thus, the court stenographers at the Chronicle afforded them every consideration in their “private matters.” By the way, whatever happened to Joanne Hayes-White?

    How many department heads have rolled over the past 18 months? That would be six. How many rolled as a result of investigative reporting by the SF Chronicle? That would be zero.

    So when the Chronicle has a choice on how to allocate reporting resources, not only do they divert resources from nonexistent investigations to hold the corrupt accountable, the Chron aggressively expends resources in smearing the elected official who actually began to hold a corrupt department head accountable in public session.

    Chron writers know which side their bread is buttered on, and hope for the kind of golden glide path that Rachel Gordon gets flacking for DPW/Nuru or Cote gets flacking for the Consligliere of the Famiglia, Herrera.

    Playing the role of court stenographers at the Chronicle for corruption has an upside and takes much less work than investigative reporting.

    Politics is war by other means. When politicos police tone, that means they’re losing the policy debate and want to invoke a distraction to disqualify an effective adversary.

  3. Ginsburg helped Newsom get revenge on the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council’s recycling center in Golden Gate Park as payback for opposing Newsom. That was the first time I learned of him. Since the, I observed that he was quite willing to serve as an “enforcer” for Newsom, and that he seemed to be determined to favor corporations over long time providers. The boat franchise at Golden Gate Park, the concession stand at Coit Tower, the Warming Hut at Crissy Field, issues tech bros being given favored access to facilities, soccer fields being replaced with artificial surfaces, and most recently the obscenely large wheel in the park. And I know I am forgetting some. He is a lot like Mohammed Nuru, corrupt and an enforcer for the mayor.


  4. Thanks for clarifying what to many has been obvious for some time. The priorities at City Hall are not aligned. The public servants need to sometimes be reminded who they work for as they seem to forget. The public must be informed and the only way to get at the truth is to shine a light on the process.

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