Thursday, April 2, 2009
City Attorney Dennis Herrera Meets with BOMA San Francisco PAC and GAPAC Members
City Attorney Dennis Herrera met with BOMA San Francisco's Political Action Committee (PAC) and Government and Public Affairs Committee (GAPAC) yesterday to discuss his office's accomplishments, the ever-changing environment in City Hall, his other concerns, and future plans. Here is a summary of the dialogue:
On the role of the City Attorney's Office:
The City Attorney's Office advises both the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors regarding proposed legislation and any potential legal problems they may cause for the City of San Francisco. The office also plays an important legal advisory role for all city departments.
On the accomplishments of the City Attorney's Office:
Stimulus Spending Task Force - Mr. Herrera established the City Attorney's Stimulus Spending Task Force recently to coordinate legal compliance by San Francisco departments, and guarantee maximum transparency, efficiency and accountability for City investments made possible by the federal government's recently enacted $787 billion economic stimulus package. In Mr. Herrera's view, the City Attorney's office is perfectly situated to provide this level of oversight.
Prop 8 Litigation/Marriage Equality - San Francisco and more than a dozen other local governments have sued in state Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 8, the narrowly-passed measure that would deprive gay and lesbian Californians of their fundamental right to marry.
Gang Injunction Cases - In an effort to protect public safety in some of San Francisco's most violence-plagued neighborhoods, the City Attorney has obtained civil injunctions against notorious criminal street gangs.
On the changing environment in City Hall:
With massive budget deficits looming in the future, the current environment in San Francisco is a trying one. Indeed, the City's budget has ballooned from 2.5 billion to 6.5 billion in just 13 years--do we receive better services because of it? Not in Mr. Herrera's opinion.
So what can the City Attorney's office do to make San Francisco more business friendly? In other words, how can we create more jobs in San Francisco?
To help make this happen, Mr. Herrera convened a Contractor's Task Force in 2008 to review and simplify the City's contracting process. The recommendations of the task force are now being implemented by his office.
On City spending on CBOs and non-profit organizations:
The City spends $600 million a year on community benefit organizations (CBOs) and other non-profit groups. Mr. Herrera and former DPH Director Sandra Hernandez (now the President of the San Francisco Foundation) have set up a task force to study the CBO/non-profit contracts with the aim of creating a model format for tracking their progress and expenditures in a transparent, publicly-accessible way. Mr. Herrera said he wanted to be sure that the CBOs and non-profits were using the most efficient service delivery models possible.
A report on this is currently being produced with input from the affected stakeholders that will address what structural reforms are needed.
The City Attorney's office can prosecute offenders on the civil side of the law. If a case has merit then his office will pursue legal action against the offender. He supports tougher laws for graffiti vandalism.
On public safety:
Mr. Herrera said that public safety was a “big deal” to him, although he questioned the efficacy of the city’s security camera program. He did voice support for the Community Justice Center as a better way to deal with quality of life crimes.
On budget set-aside reform:
There are legal hurdles to set-aside reform, but Mr. Herrera suggests that it can be done. In his view, the City needs the budgetary flexibility to deal with deficits. As such, his office will work with the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor on this issue. Indeed, the City Attorney's office has assigned staff to review set-aside reform.
On cost-savings in the City Attorney's office:
Mr. Herrera said he is trying to run the City Attorney's office like a private law firm and has reduced his workforce accordingly (currently 185 attorneys). In fact, his office now provides city departments with monthly billings as opposed to year-end reconciliations which has reduced his office’s hard money costs by 50%, and made city departments more aware of their legal costs. Mr. Herrera has also formally institutionalized their internship program.
Mr. Herrera’s final comment to BOMA: The City Attorney’s office expresses its political priorities by the lawsuits it initiates. It does not make policy recommendations in its analyses of proposed city ordinances.
BOMA San Francisco thanks Dennis Herrera for this time and we look forward to working with him in the future.