A new department would have one job — keeping our haggard sidewalks clean — under Supervisor Matt Haney’s proposal to break up the scandal-plagued Department of Public Works.
Not long after the Mohammed Nuru kickbacks, corruption, and lavish gifts scandal broke, we wondered if the perennial poop on the sidewalks problem might be connected to Nuru’s alleged corruption. The thinking was that the gigantic, no-oversight budget over which he had control was being used disproportionately to just placate the mayors he worked under (one of whom he slept with) to empower his hold on the Department of Public Works purse strings while the San Francisco “poop problem” remained a persistent national media obsession.
But with Nuru’s cronies now cooperating with feds and copping plea deals, there’s clearly a public appetite to shake up business as usual at the DPW. We informed you in February that District 5 supervisor Matt Haney wanted to break up the DPW and create a new Sanitation and Streets Department whose sole job would be street and sidewalk cleaning. Now the Chronicle reports that Haney is trying to put that proposal on the November ballot, and the tea leaves indicate he’s got a pretty clear path to doing so.
“I believe this should be done to clean up our streets and to address what has become an international embarrassment for San Francisco — streets covered in feces, trash and urine,” Haney told the Chronicle. The DPW would still exist, but as a smaller entity focused on engineering, design, and infrastructure.
This would of course cost more money, at a time when we’re back in deficits as far as the eye can see territory. An analysis from the city controller says that if passed, Haney’s plan “would have a significant impact on the cost of government, ranging from $4 million to $10 million annually beginning September 2021 depending on future implementation decisions.”
Current interim DPW director Alaric Degrafinried is against the move, unsurprising considering it would represent a significant loss of clout and budget for his position “These types of estimates — very rarely do they wind up on the low end,” he said in an obvious understatement to the Chron. “We lowball the costs, and years later we realize we understaffed, so we have to build more and more.”
In response to the budget concerns, Haney has pushed the implementation of the change out to to July 2022, in hopes the economy and tax revenues would be in recovery mode by then.
Haney’s proposal went before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee today, a subcommittee obligation for new laws like this. But the measure has five co-sponsors, and therefore needs only one more vote to pass the full board. So it's likely to make it to the ballot, in a year when we’ll have fewer ballot measures just because there hasn’t been much petition-signing or signature gathering under shelter in place. But November’s election is something we’ve been waiting for awhile, so local turnout is likely to be at historic levels.
Image: @sfpublicworks via Twitter