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Mayor Gavin Newsom has of late been banging the drum not-so-slowly, repeatedly asking the Board of Supervisors to schedule discussion on three measures — a payroll tax break, a tax credit for biotech firms, and tax incentives for small businesses which provide healthcare — that, according to Newsom, will bring jobs and reduce San Francisco’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate, guaranteed.
A response of sorts was issued Tuesday from the lips of Supervisor John Avalos, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. Newsom’s ideas are “bailouts for rich companies” with no guarantees of job creation, Avalos said. What’s more, it took Newsom’s team months to schedule a meeting with Avalos on the three items (finally held on Friday).
And during the meeting, Newsom’s team brought no written documentation supporting the proposals, according to Avalos. With no metrics to back up Newsom’s assumptions, the Mayor has presented “a faith-based tax break plan, and we can do better than that,” the supervisor said.
Avalos said that, when prompted, the Mayor’s team could not say how many graduates of the city’s extant biotech workforce development program had been placed in jobs. Nor could the Mayor’s team provide written documentation or analysis as to how the programs would work. Avalos did say he’d received telephone calls from “local” firms like Genentech, urging he support the measures, and that perhaps rankled him the most.
In other words: Avalos is asking why bail out biotech firms or encourage hiring at white-collar places like that when San Franciscans can be put to work repaving roads, rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital, or otherwise doing stuff that won’t profit private biotech firms?
“If we want to put people to work, let’s put them to work on public infrastructure projects,” said Avalos, who would be the first to point out those projects are legion.
“Instead, the Mayor is asking us to use public assets to offer bailouts to the biggest corporations, the largest businesses in San Francisco so that they can maybe provide jobs? That’s not the way we should be using our public assets.”
The Appeal has asked the Mayor’s Office for a response to Avalos’s pointed criticism, and will update once we hear back.
UPDATE 5:22 p.m.: We just had a pleasant sit-down with Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker (whose office walls are both sadly empty and sadly in need of spackle, left pockmarked with tack scars and other holes by its former occupant).
Responding to Avalos’s criticisms below, Winnicker poses the question: why not have this pointed debate in Board chamber at a hearing examining Newsom’s tax and job-creation proposals, which is exactly what the Mayor’s been asking for all along?
In terms of public infrastructure jobs, those are on the way: billion-dollar bond measures rebuilding both the water infrastructure and SF General Hospital have been approved, guaranteeing jobs, and more public infrastructure jobs are on the way, what with rebuilds at Treasure Island and the city’s fire stations on the way. So why not give a boost to private-sector jobs — which are what most folks have anyway?
“We’d like to have this debate at the Board of Supervisors, not in the newspapers,” Winnicker said. “But for some reason, we can’t get it to the Board.
“And since when,” Winnicker added, “does a committee chairperson get to deny a hearing to legislation he doesn’t like?”
Good questions, all. Fun budget year already, isn’t it?