Monday, March 05, 2012

Wiener: Raise Threshold for Sunshining
Private Grants to SF City Agencies

My old friend Patrick Monette-Shaw is a skillful and experienced good government watchdog who closely follows City Hall contracts, as part of his larger sunshine and accountability agenda. His watchdogging of city agencies and the Board of Supervisors is a great benefit to the taxpayers and voters of San Francisco.

Monette-Shaw sent an email over the weekend to fellow watchdogs, all about the latest effort by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener to potentially dilute our hard-fought and much-needed transparency regarding grants from private persons, corporations, universities and foundations.

As with most proposals from Wiener, this demands a lot of scrutiny:

I love Rita Mae Brown's and her cat Sneaky Pie Brown's the murder mystery novels. They give me frequent giggles, and light-reading relief from reading government documents.

It's becoming clearer that "Sneaky Pie" Scott Wiener is charging full steam ahead, with more intrigue.

It wasn't enough with Prop.'s "E" and "F" last November. It wasn't enough with the Sunshine Survey he secretly instigated last December.

Now, the Board of Supervisor's Budget and Finance Committee agenda ( for Wednesday, March 7 at 1:00 p.m. in Legislative Chamber Room 250, shows an agenda item in the "Legislation Under the 30-Day Rule" section in which Wiener is proposing to change Admin Code Section 10.170-1 to establish a threshold of $100,000 or more before the Board of Supes conducts Accept-and-Expend ordinances or resolutions — in open-to-the-pubic hearings affording public comment — to approve receipt of grants.

Heretofore, there was no minimum threshold (I believe), and each grant to the City was required to have a subcommittee-level hearing affording public comment — before the full Board (which doesn't take public comment on matters previously heard in subcommittee) accepts any grant.

Wiener proposes instead in the enabling legislation now under 30-day review (, to grant City Controller Ben Rosenfield permission (absolute authority?) to "may" (not "shall," meaning "must") prescribe (issue) rules for acceptance and expenditure of grants less than $100,000.

What does this portend? That grants to the Rec and Park Department, Public Library, Police Department, or Department of Public Health for dubious projects will no longer have public hearings on use of expenditure?

Does it portend that grants will come in at $99,999.99, to keep them one penny under the new, potentially arbitrary, threshold?

That PG&E, or AT&T could "grant" the City money to install unsafe pipes or more cell phone towers, without citizen review (CEQA or otherwise) beforehand, and no oversight afterwards? That the Fisher Family and its City Fields Foundation could make a grant of $99,999.99 to install artificial turf in Golden Gate Park without a Board hearing, with no appeal route available to the public to object through Rosenfield or CGOBOC, or other oversight bodies?

We are on notice that in 30 days, this matter will come before Budget and Finance. One curious thing (among others) is why this isn't coming through the Board's Rules Committee or Government Audit and Oversight Committee ... ignoring not coming thorough Neighborhood Services, or Land Use and Economic Development.

What other concerns do you have (that I may be missing) about Wiener's grant threshold changes?

No comments: