Mayor Ed Lee’s meeting last Wednesday with polarizing Chinatown figure Rose Pak made some headlines, and not just because Pak, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce head who famously convinced Lee to take the mayor’s job, exited the meeting on crutches.
Opponents of Lee in the November election like venture capitalist Joanna Rees blasted the meeting as an example of Lee’s government conducting business in secret, as the meeting with Pak was not on the mayor’s schedule of public events.
The meeting was, however, on a second mayoral schedule. There’s a schedule of events that the public can receive after the fact — the so-called “Proposition G” schedule (so named because Prop G was the 1999 law under which the public can request government documents), as mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey pointed out to The Appeal on Friday.
In this case, Pak was on hand to help the mayor welcome to San Francisco the mayor of Shaoguan, one of the bigger cities in southern China’s Guandoung Province, according to Falvey.
“It was a meet-and-greet, and on the mayor’s [Prop G] schedule” for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, she said. “This is something the mayor does several times a month, welcoming dignitaries.”
The problem is that that’s not why Pak herself says she was there. Pak was at City Hall to discuss the Central Subway with the Mayor, according to an interview Pak gave with the San Francisco Examiner, and made no mention of an international meet-and-greet.
Did Pak forget the meeting with the mainland China officials, or did she have unscheduled business with the mayor thereafter?
This continues to rub the Rees campaign the wrong way. “That meeting was not on the public calendar,” said Rees campaign manager Nick Panagopoulos, who repeated an earlier Rees statement that “citizens should not have to file a sunshine request to find out where and with who the Mayor is meeting with.”
As for the inconsistent stories as to what Pak’s purpose in City Hall last week was, Panagopoulos offered up a barb: “Before they start making up desperate excuses for their lack of transparency Rose Pak and Mayor Lee should get on the same page.”
Then there’s the transparency question. Rees last week issued a press release in which she blasted the Mayor’s Office for ignoring a Sunshine Ordinance request she’d filed in May. Rees says she never received a response.
The Mayor’s Office countered, saying that the documents Rees requested have been ready for pickup since May 18; Rees never responded to a message left at a telephone number she provided when she filed the request.
“We have a person in the office every day responding to Sunshine requests,” said Falvey, who added that Rees is free to pick up the documents she requested at any time. “I don’t want the impression out there that” Sunshines are ignored, Falvey added.
As for that? Rees requested a “line item budget,” with detailed information on spending, and received back instead links to the Controller’s budget, which includes such vagaries as categories for “other spending” and general descriptions as “salaries” for tens of millions of dollars in city spending.
“More than 40 departments responded and all of them referred her back to the vague and difficult to read Controller’s budget that contains massive line items of miscellaneous money and no real details on how our money is spent,” Panagopoulos said.
“If anything, this highlights the need for a completely transparent city budget that is available online and easy for any citizen to see and understand.”