There are 16 candidates in this year’s San Francisco mayoral race, including the interim mayor, two city supervisors, and a state senator. There’s an educator, an entrepreneur, and an entertainer. The city’s public defender, city attorney, and assessor recorder. A taxi cab driver, a former nightclub owner, a formerly homeless man, and two former city supervisors.
And then there’s Tony Hall, whose credits include many of the above. Hall has worked in the city government for 35 years. He’s a former city supervisor, the former head of the Treasure Island development project, and while he’s never been mayor, he’s run afoul of a few. And, he’s a wedding singer.
As part of our series of conversations with every candidate running for mayor of San Francisco, today we’re going to hear from one of the most outspoken: Tony Hall.
* * *
BEN TREFNY: I’d like you to begin by telling us about where you live in San Francisco.
TONY HALL: I live in the Forest Hill extension neighborhood which is close to West Portal – kind of a single-family residence type of neighborhood if you will. A lot of blue-collar, working-class people.
TREFNY: When did you get involved in politics?
HALL: Well, I’ve worked for the city for 35 years; I’ve always been on the fringes of it. I was an administrator, an executive administrator in nine different city departments counting Treasure Island. And after 35 years of working for the city, I developed a platform of six different elements that I consider absolutely essential for good government.
TREFNY: Well let’s get into those right away.
HALL: Sure. Number one is the absolute eradication of systemic corruption. Anybody who lives in this town knows who’s been running this city, the pay-to-play insiders for the last 15 years.
TREFNY: So who are some of these corrupt people?
HALL: I’m not hear to name names, but you know what I’m talking about.
TREFNY: But if you were mayor and you were going to eradicate corruption, then you would have to name names at that point.
HALL: If I’m mayor, I don’t even have to name the names; I’d just get rid of those people.
TREFNY: How do you get rid of them if you’re already entrenched?
HALL: Most of them are appointed, most of them have not come to the civil service rank and file, pay-for-performance type of thing that we haven’t had in this city in 15 years. Our workforce has been inflated by 10-15% by political appointees of the last two administrations. They would go. So if you asked me to name the names, we’re probably looking at 2,500 names here. There’s a number of department heads that I’d be looking very closely at who I consider doing nothing but the wheeling and dealing of the pay-to-play, special interests that are running this town.
TREFNY: You have five other points that are part of your platform.
HALL: Second point is probably the most important one for San Franciscans: How do we use our local government to increase jobs? Seventy-eight percent of the people employed in this town are employed by small business. We do that by eliminating the red tape, the hidden costs, the hidden fees, and the indifference associated with setting up and running a small business in San Francisco.
TREFNY: What’s the third point on your platform?
HALL: The third thing is budgetary and fiscal responsibility. We have a budget right now that is three times higher at $6.8 billion than it was 20 years ago when Frank Jordan was mayor, at $2.3 billion. Now anybody out there in San Francisco that tells you that we’re getting three times more services from our local city government is crazy. But I think we need to return to zero-based budgeting. You’re going to hear all the other candidates talk about zero-based budgeting – most of them don’t know what they’re talking about. Government zero-based budgeting means you identify everything from zero for the coming fiscal year. And you also have to have an appropriation for a line item entry.
TREFNY: Let’s go to number four then.
HALL: Administrative accountability – super, super important. Without administrative accountability, you don’t have a government that’s functioning.
TREFNY: It seems that a lot of your points have to do with accounting for where money goes in the city and maybe auditing the city to some extent.
HALL: Absolutely. That comes under the budgeting thing. Auditing each department on an annual basis to find out where their money’s going. Is it serving the people? But administrative accountability is how you administer the city. Two big areas are penchant reform … let me draw a parallel if I can. It’s like there’s a brick wall up there – it’s called bankruptcy – and many cities have hit that wall. We’re heading at that wall at 100 miles an hour. Ed Lee’s plan slows the car down to 95 miles an hour, but we hit that plan in seven years, we hit that wall. Jeff Adachi’s plan slows the car down to about 90 miles an hour, but we still hit the bankruptcy wall because in six to seven years, our unfunded liabilities are going to be $12 billion. We’re going to go bankrupt.
Under my plan, and it’s not on the ballot, it’s something I would do as a mayor is fundamentally restructure the whole plan so the city doesn’t hit the wall – we don’t go bankrupt. If I want to be like the rest of the candidates in this race, I’ll go tell the people whatever they want to hear. This is a problem, but I also have 35 years of experience, and my campaign is based upon six elements. I’m just through part of them here...
TREFNY: That’s right. Let’s move on to number five.
HALL: Under administrative accountability: the homeless. Our approach to homeless care. I want the homeless people to be the beneficiaries of our charity. Right now under Care Not Cash, which was the biggest spend ever put forth to the people of San Francisco, our costs are escalating at ten times more than they were ten years ago.
TREFNY: Gavin Newsom put those forth...
HALL: Absolutely. It was nothing but a total con to get him to the next higher office. The non-profit homeless industry service providers are taking the bulk of the money, and I’d rather see the $40,000 a year we’re spending per person in Care Not Cash go to them directly. To be honest with you, their business is what? It’s homelessness. So the more homeless people we got here, the more money they make. That’s gotta stop. We have to look at the root causes of homelessness, treat those people in a humane and sane way, and get them out of that cycle rather than just pouring more money into it.
And I want to say I’m not against the homeless – I want them to be the beneficiaries.
Okay, number five: safe and clean streets. My plan as mayor is to set up a consistent appropriation for safe and clean streets that can only be used for that.
Sixth element: an honest, open, transparent government.
of , which is