Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wiener's Machinations Force
Cancellation of SF's Sunshine Panel

Castro Supervisor Scott Wiener has forced the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force into a non-operational state and as far I can see, not one of his Board colleagues has written a public statement condemning the dormancy of this vital city commission. With only a terse substance-free statement the SOTF issued this announcement late last month:

Notice is hereby given that the regular meeting of the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force scheduled for Wednesday, August 1, 2012, at 4:00 p.m., 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 408, City Hall, San Francisco, California, has been cancelled.

Because of Wiener's backroom engineering to rid SOTF of experienced and impartial members unable to pass his political litmus test, including former disabled member Bruce Wolfe, and newly installed members are tied up in bureaucratic knots of their own making with great assistance from the City Attorney's office, the task force is in total dark until further notice.

The key reason the SOTF cannot meet is because it is not in compliance with having a disabled member at all times and the Supes' Rules Committee has no plans to consider a disabled advocate to replace Wolfe. A mess all around.

A public school advocate and parent with no background in sunshine and no traceable public pushing on any sunshine matter, Todd David, is one of Wiener's new appointees. David's a decent fellow and would make a terrific appointment to an education or Noe Valley neighborhood advisory committee, but this is his first such appointment and he's terribly unqualified for SOTF duties.

When David was mentioned as a potential SOTF member, I thought he allowed his name to be put forward by Wiener because he saw gain in being his puppet, but after digging into his political donations I believe David's appointment is two-fold. Serve as Wiener's puppet and get his first step on the local political ladder.

At the state level, David's donations to candidates and PAC comes to almost $2,000. He's given $250 to Phil Ting and Mark Leno (Wiener's political mentor), $100 to the SF Democratic Party and $1,365 to ACT Blue California for a total of $1,965. He's made no local donations in his name, however, he's an integral leader of a group that raises and gives thousands of dollars to campaigns.

David was instrumental in the founding of the public education advocacy San Francisco Parent PAC where he currently serves as policy director and Gillian Gillett, a former Wiener aide, handles fundraising. The in-house attorney for the SF PPAC is notorious anti-sunshine, conservative, downtown powerbroker Jim Sutton who has links to Wiener according to a 2010 article in the Bay Guardian:

[D]owntown groups were far outspending their progressive counterparts through a series of independent expenditure committees, most of which are controlled by notorious local campaign attorney Jim Sutton (see "The political puppeteer," Bay Guardian, 2/4/04) in support of supervisorial candidates Mark Farrell in District 2 [and] Scott Wiener in District 8.

The SF PPAC's filings with the Ethics Commission show that from 2010 through June 30 of this year they've received $15,325 in contributions, have $1,322 cash on hand and that most of their expenditures go to Mitchell Lester Connect, a local campaign consultant. The largest outlay of funds, $7,401, went to Margaret Brodkin in 2010 in her losing bid for a Board of Education seat.

I mention all this to show the inter-connections of David, Wiener and lawyer Jim Sutton, which I don't believe are healthy for a functioning and unbiased SOTF.

The matter of trust is crucial at the SOTF. Citizens who file complaints need to know the members voting on complaints are highly knowledgeable and are not puppets for any Supervisor, downtown lawyer or political action committee. In his testimony to the Supes' Rules Committee in May, David said:

I think transparency is incredibly important. I think that transparency breeds a sense of trust and so there's nothing more important for government than to be transparent so that the voters who have elected you know that you're making really good decisions.

Yes, transparency is crucial to good government and helps build trust in those making key decision, so are clear qualifications for the job.

David said in an email, where I questioned his sunshine credentials:

I am president of the my neighborhood association, Friends of Noe Valley. And, I am a leader in SF's public school advocacy community. I have advocated for years for more transparency from San Francisco Unified . . . I am a strong believer that sunshine and transparency are key components to creating trust between citizens and public servants. I believe that my advocacy for more transparency at SFUSD . . . makes me qualified to fulfill my responsibilities as a Sunshine Ordinance Task Force Member. 

As stated above, there is no traceable online record of David's alleged advocacy for greater transparency from our local public schools. Simply stating such previous advocacy is not enough for me to have trust in David on the SOTF, not when his appointment was put forward by Wiener.

David would do sunshine and good government, and himself, a huge favor if he would step down from the SOTF and put his public education advocacy and skills to better use on another advisory committee at City Hall.

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