SF Board of Supervisors debate security costs

San Francisco City Hall

December 15, 2009 7:16:22 PM PST
The price tag for protecting city officials in San Francisco is now costing taxpayers millions every year. Most of that money is being spent to protect Mayor Gavin Newsom. Last year, San Francisco's security costs were quadruple that of Los Angeles, something the Board of Supervisors was debating Tuesday.

Compared to recent San Francisco mayors, Newsom has used the most police escorts. His use of them during non-city business, including at his Montana wedding and on a sister city trip to Paris, has come into question. One supervisor is now suggesting that at the very least, any elected official who takes officers along on the campaign trail out of state should foot the bill.

Where ever he goes, Newsom usually has a police escort. There were two officers on hand when he was in Southern California discussing the governor's race and later when he was a candidate.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi believes taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab.

"If any elected officials is campaigning for state or federal office out of the State of California and brings SFPD, then we'd like to ask for recovery of cost, simple as that," Mirkarimi said.

Mirkarimi had first suggested reimbursement for in-state campaigning. He is still insistent that candidates divulge the cost.

San Francisco Police Department Chief George Gascon has produced some figures. Just over $2 million was spent on Newsom, other city officials and visiting dignitaries for the fiscal year 2008-2009.

Mirkarimi compared that to other cities; his research shows that Sacramento spends $90,000 on the mayor's security, $450,000 in Los Angeles, and $339,000 in Houston.

Gascon says he will provide monthly numbers but he is opposed to Mirkarimi 's legislation.

"The problem is, when you're a public official, you're a public official around the clock, whether you're playing golf or campaigning or doing the day to day business of your office," Gascon said.

But several supervisors feel with the city facing a budget deficit of more than $500 million, it is time for a change.

"They have campaign funding that could pay for that security and I think it's reasonable that they pay for it," Supervisor John Avalos said.

The mayor was out of state Tuesday, presumably with police security. His spokesperson says the proposed ordinance is nothing more than politics.

"Putting the job of security in the hands of politicians is just dangerous," Joe Arellano said.


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