Thursday, October 04, 2012

Sup. Avalos:
Question Time for Mayor Lee, Not for Me

Over at the SF Examiner yesterday, Joshua Sabatini write a curious story about progressive District 11 Supervisor John Avalos regarding the status quo of question time with Mayor Ed Lee, pictured:

“I’ve been a bit underwhelmed with QT so I thought I’d mix it up and troll for QT from my FB friends,” Avalos wrote on his Facebook page. “Please submit QT questions — serious ones or not — for my staff and me to choose from.”

Since question time began in April 2011 it has mostly been viewed as boring, if not a waste of time, due to rules governing the sessions. But calls for changing those rules did not come until supervisors themselves stopped participating in the exercise. On Sept. 11, Lee was asked only one question . . .

In November 2010, voters approved Proposition C, which required a monthly Q&A with the mayor, but the rules were left to the board and mayor. They agreed that prewritten questions must be submitted the previous Wednesday by noon. 

As scripted and useless as the question time with the mayor is, at least it exists and that's a whole heck of a lot more than can be said about question time with Avalos and his board colleagues. There is no regularly scheduled time by any of the supervisors at City Hall and broadcast on SFGovTV for them to engage in responsive question time with the voters, and there ought to be.

I find it shocking that San Francisco's progressive electorate has not waged a campaign getting our supervisors holding regular town halls either in the district or at City Hall.

Question time with the mayor at the Board of Supervisors, aired on city TV, and doing away with the scripted process? Count me among the strong supporters of making for productive Q&As with Mayor Lee.

But in addition to Avalos gathering suggested queries for the mayor, I'd like to suggest that he show easy and fabulous such question times can be by starting his own. Secure a meeting room at City Hall with cameras ready to broadcast the proceeding on TV and streamed on the web.

Invite D11 constituents and the general public to attend, and engage us with a respectful back-and-forth. Since all supervisors vote on matters that effect their districts and all citizens, they have a duty at such Q&As or town halls to set time aside for all voters to make a public comment.

Avalos could be the change he wants to see at City Hall with the mayor, and taking the lead to have his own Q&As and to enlist fellow progressive District 9 Supervisor David Campos in simply holding question time for the public with them and showing the mayor how it is done. Sabatini at the Examiner reported in September that Campos also wants "meaningful discussion" with the mayor.

If you endorse question time between the supervisors and the mayor, I ask you to also back the supervisors organizing their own question times with the voters.

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