Thus, then, does Mayor Gavin Newsom’s veto of controversial legislation that would have forced alcohol distributors to help pay for alcohol treatment strike many as hypocritical: after all, it was Newsom who, at the climax of the messy Rippey-Tourk affair, pleaded drunkenness and checked into alcohol rehab.
The fee, proposed by Supervisor John Avalos, would have required alcohol distributors to pay an estimated $16 million to the city annually, money that would help pay for the city’s existing alcohol treatment services. Bar and restaurant owners staunchly opposed the fee, saying that it they would have no choice but to pass on the added costs — up to a nickel per drink — onto their customers.
Late Tuesday, Newsom’s press office issued a release entitled “MAYOR VETOES UNNECESSARY ALCOHOL FEE TO PROTECT JOBS, SAN FRANCISCO’S ECONOMY.”
‘I cannot support this unnecessary and harmful new fee that will hurt our City’s economy and cost us jobs at a time when we most need them,” the mayor wrote. “It is in these times of struggle that we need to stimulate our local economy – not pursue policies that will stifle growth and put our county at a competitive disadvantage with every other county in California.”
Newsom’s veto came as no surprise: he’d pledged to do it before City Hall went on its August recess. Avalos and others knew the fee was doomed last week, when only seven supervisors voted in favor of it (eight votes are needed to override a veto). And for many, the alcohol fee was silly: what, after all, is the connection between someone having a glass of wine at Zuni and someone else passed out face first on Market Street after a bout with a bottle of Royal Gate vodka?
Even so, for some it is too much: Newsom’s success as a wine merchant and now principal of PlumpJack Group; Newsom’s party-boy days that ended in rehab; Newsom tut-tutting at the idea of asking alcohol merchants, whose product is already marked up significantly in the city’s bars and clubs, to help out.
“The Mayor knows the value of our treatment programs,” Avalos said. “I’m surprised he’s not willing to do what it takes to ensure we have the funding for them.”