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Lee readies for full term

by Matthew S. Bajko
Saturday Jan 7, 2012

After being sworn in to a full four-year term Sunday, January 8, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee plans to focus on job creation and making the city even more of a draw internationally for businesses and tourists in his inaugural speech.

The two goals are key parts of Lee's strategy to deal with another looming budget deficit, last estimated to be $263 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and ensure the city's unemployment rate continues to drop. It fell by 1.7 percent in 2011 to stand at 7.8 percent as of November.

During an interview with the Bay Area Reporter last month just before the Christmas holiday, Lee predicted there would be few surprises in his speech.

"I think, clearly, I will have a message to share with people a little bit about what this year has been like. Then I will spend more time forward looking on what we want to do in the city," said Lee, who defeated more than a dozen opponents in the November election.

He is considering ideas on how to build more affordable housing, particularly for middle-income people, and said seeking a bond measure this year is on the table. Reforming the city's payroll tax is another top agenda item, as is launching a program to help property owners seismically upgrade their buildings.

"We are thinking through those things as we speak," said Lee, adding he wants to create a $5 million small business loan program aimed at the city's neighborhood business corridors.

Due to his having been appointed last January to the position, following Gavin Newsom's resignation to become the state's lieutenant governor, Lee won't have the usual honeymoon period most new mayors are granted when they assume office.

Having broken his word that he wouldn't seek City Hall's Room 200 permanently, Lee enters 2012 facing a potentially more acrimonious relationship with the Board of Supervisors. A majority either tried to oust him from office in the election or backed one of his opponents.

Lee already has been meeting with supervisors to mend fences and find common ground - and projects - they can work on together.

"I think we are going about the business of the city," said Lee, 59.

While neither of the city's two openly gay supervisors backed Lee in the race, both said they believe the board and mayor will be able to put the campaign behind them and get back to work this month.

"I don't see why not. We are all professionals," said District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who endorsed District 11 Supervisor John Avalos for mayor. "We are all grown-ups. At the end of the day whatever differences we may have, we will put those aside and focus on what is best for the city. The campaign is over and now it is time to focus on governing the city."

Campos said the first step is to make sure the mayor has a "good working relationship" with the board.

"There are many of us on the board who want to do that," he said. "I have every expectation he will."

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener agreed. He recently told the B.A.R. that he sees "a lot of opportunities" for the board and mayor to come together policy-wise.

"I am very supportive of the mayor's efforts to roll out the welcome mat to businesses, whether in the Mid-Market area or elsewhere, and being very proactive in letting them know businesses are welcome here and we will work with them," said Wiener, who backed his old boss, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, in the race.

The budget

How to deal with the city's deficit will be an early test of the comity at City Hall. And sparing critical health care services, particularly for people living with HIV and AIDS, will be a key issue as the mayor works to present the board a balanced budget, said B.A.R. publisher Thomas E. Horn, whom the mayor asked to serve on his inaugural committee.

"Maintaining a healthy equilibrium going forward with greatly reduced resources is certainly his greatest challenge," said Horn, a member of the paper's editorial board, which picked Lee as its third place endorsement under the city's ranked-choice voting system.

As he did at the start of 2011, Lee said he plans to once again hold town hall meetings in each of the city's 11 supervisorial districts to gather public input on how to balance the budget.

"I will probably hold even more," said Lee, adding he will be seeking guidance from board members, city departments and nonprofits that provide various services to residents. "I will be inviting people to give us their ideas on how to create revenues without feeing people to death or taxing people."

During the campaign Lee said he saw no need to hire an AIDS czar but would appoint someone within his administration to be a point person on HIV issues. He is still deciding who that person will be as he prepares to make several changes to city leadership.

"We are going through an internal re-organization, if you will, and will bring in new people," said Lee.

He has already hired his gay campaign spokesman, Tony Winnicker, to be a mayoral policy adviser, and has asked his current out chief of staff, Steve Kawa, to stay on board.

He will be recruiting a new city administrator, as Amy Brown, an out lesbian who had replaced Lee in the position, will become Campbell's new city manager Monday, January 9. And this summer openly gay city Public Utilities Commission general manager Ed Harrington is expected to depart when his contract expires, though Lee is deferring to what the longtime administrator wants to do.

"He has the privilege to determine that," Lee said.

New supervisor

Lee's first big personnel decision will be to name a new District 5 supervisor to fill the seat being vacated by incoming Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who will also be sworn into office this Sunday. As of press time Wednesday, January 4 Lee had yet to announce the new board member.

"It is a complex issue," said Lee, whose inaugural ceremony begins at 10 a.m. at City Hall.

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