Rachel Gordon, S.F. Chronicle,
Thursday, July 21, 2005
It's not always easy giving money away.
Actor and comedian Robin Williams and his wife, Marsha, want to donate $80,000 to the San Francisco Department of Public Works to repair a retaining wall and spruce up the landscaping on city-owned land near their home in Sea Cliff.
The plan was up for consideration by the Board of Supervisors last month, but at the request of Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval it was blocked temporarily and sent to committee for a hearing.
That hearing was held Wednesday before the board's Rules Committee, and after Sandoval got to ask a Public Works official a few questions about the project, the donation was headed back to the full board for a vote.
Sandoval received assurances that the city wouldn't expend any public funds on the project and that the couple's request had received no preferential treatment. He also wanted to make the point that he didn't want the city to start "down the slippery slope'' of putting projects that are privately funded ahead of others.
Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who represents the Sea Cliff neighborhood on the city's northwest edge, said she was happy the Williamses were willing to put up the money so the city could devote its resources to less-affluent neighborhoods.
Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who represents the Sea Cliff neighborhood on the city's northwest edge, said she was happy the Williamses were willing to put up the money so the city could devote its resources to less-affluent neighborhoods._______________________________________________________
It's admirable that rather than use his celebrity to demand that the city shore up the retaining wall using taxpayer dollars, Williams and his wife were willing to put their own money up. And while Sandoval's hold on the plan was on its face, altruistic, it isn't self-righteously, irritatingly so.
On the other hand, Sea Cliff Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier's statement about the city "[devoting] its resources to less-affluent neighborhoods" sounds like typical San Francisco City Hall fog. Firstly, while landscaping problems may be purely aesthetic, repairing retaining walls is essential for shorefront properties. Has anyone forgotten the unforgettable, heart-rending images of the SoCal flash landslides, or for that matter, the majestic Sea Cliff mansion at the edge of the Presidio that collapsed under a broken water main, tipping it over like a handcrafted doll house off a table? Infrastructure concerns are infrastructure concerns, regardless of the wealth of the residents in the neighborhoods in need of them.
Secondly, San Francisco is not in the habit of using its money wisely. City Hall always seeks the assistance of budget maven Harvey Rose, and just ignores him. I can't believe anyone seriously thinks that someone is dedicated to taking the 80K's the city is saving and doing something truly useful for the "less affluent." But maybe I'm being too hard on Alioto-Pier; maybe she's just fallen victim to the Robin Hood mentality that afflicts Supervisors. They like the concept of robbing the rich to give to the poor. In this case, the rich dropped a bag of cash in the Supes' hands, and Michela reflexively started running off like a bandit.