Key figure missing from SF City Hall

January 28, 2009 7:56:11 PM PST
Mayor Gavin Newsom has been out of the state or out of the country for 23 of the last 60 days. Supporters say he is drumming up business for the city, others say his business should be here at home.

The trips include a holiday vacation, followed by a trip to the inauguration and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, then four days in Paris where he toured the French high speed rail system.

Now Newsom is in Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. Despite the mayor's absence his aides say San Francisco is still his first priority.

"The mayor is mayor of San Francisco 24/7, so even though he is out of the state on a trip, he's still able to make sure he's abreast of all events taking place here in the city," Newsom aide Joe Arellano said.

But Paulette Brown is upset the mayor is missing. She holds a daily vigil outside City Hall, to bring attention to her son's murder.

"He hasn't even proved to be a mayor here to the community here and [to] the citizens here, as far as the crime is concerned," Brown said.

And other groups are concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the city's budget crisis.

"We fear, at this point, that with the mayor running for governor, travelling across the world and around the state, that his eyes are set on his political ambition and that he has turned his back on the city's children and families," NTanya Lee, Executive Director, Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth said.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd defends the mayor.

"The mayor doesn't need to be physically present for us to have discussions with him," Elsbernd said.

The Bay Area Council says the mayor's recent trip to China helped San Francisco. The Council organized the delegation, which was designed to forge business ties.

"And he succeeded, he brought some companies over here, some of them pretty big companies," Council spokesperson John Grubb said.

Private donations paid for most of the China trip and will for Paris and Switzerland as well, but taxpayers will pick up the Washington tab for Newsom and three other city workers.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi opposes that.

"We are in a severe economic crisis," Mirkarimi said.

The mayor is scheduled to return on Sunday.