Firefighters hot about brownouts
By Rachel Gordon Friday, March 11, 2005
|The San Francisco Fire Department, with the OK of Mayor Gavin Newsom, has been taking certain engines and trucks out of service on a rotating basis since last summer. The brownouts, as theyre called, save money on staffing costs. If there arent enough people to staff the rigs on regular duty, brownouts are enacted to reduce the need to call firefighters in on costly overtime.
The firefighters union has fought the practice from the get-go, making a public relations play, saying that brownouts are bad for public safety. The concern: If a rig is browned out in one neighborhood, firefighters may have to be deployed from another station, resulting in a longer response time.
Now, union officials are looking to go to the ballot with a measure dubbed The Neighborhood Fire Protection Act that would prohibit brownouts.
Word around City Hall is that Newsom, faced with closing a $113 million - plus deficit for the coming fiscal year, is not happy. The budget already has voter-sanctioned carve-outs that cant be touched for Muni, libraries, police, parks and childrens services. Adding another would tie the hands of the mayor and the supervisors even more when it comes to setting spending priorities apparently just what the firefighters want.
And who has firefighters union president John Hanley sought for political advice on the proposed measure? None other than consultant Eric Jaye Newsoms longtime political strategist. And thats what makes San Francisco politics so much fun.
The clock is ticking: City Administrator Bill Lees term is up March 28, which means the mayor will have to decide whether to keep him.
Were seeing whats a good fit for him, said Newsom.
Lee, first appointed to the high-ranking administrative post in 1995 by Mayor Frank Jordan and reappointed to a second five-year in 2000 by Mayor Willie Brown, said hed like to stay.
But names already are surfacing as possible replacements, among them: acting Recreation and Park chief Yomi Agunbiade; Newsom administration Chief of Staff Steve Kawa; Public Works Director Ed Lee; and Darryl Burton, who serves under Bill Lee.
Yet theres the possibility the mayor may try to eliminate the position - - once one of the most powerful in city government, overseeing such areas as public works, elections and purchasing but weakened substantially as part of a City Charter overhaul 10 years ago.
Another possibility: Newsom may look to empower the city administrator once again.
Although the call is Newsoms to make, booting Lee, one of the most prominent Chinese Americans in city government, wont be easy in this age of demographic politics. The mayor is getting pressure from some Chinatown leaders to keep Lee in place.