I’m writing a longer piece to keep up our valuable discussion from before, but I had a couple of drive-by observations:

  • In last week’s column, which continues to attract a lot of feedback, I pointed out that the trash strewn about Sunset Cliffs was the symptom of an infection at City Hall that had yet to clear up. Well since then, as you might have noticed this week, the city has found a way to replace some of the trash cans along that scenic area and in other areas. The litter has been reduced.

    This doesn’t mean that the city’s fiscal problems have been cured. But it is nice.

  • Hueso: Take this job and shove it.

    Is anyone else bothered by this news? Let’s review the chronology here: Ben Hueso decides he wants to be the City Council’s president. His supporters go through a major fight to install him over others on the City Council who are very interested in the job and fundamentally committed to the city. He gets the gig. He insists he’s most interested in that job and his district. And now he decides he wants to run for assembly? What the?

    Remember, Hueso also maintains a seat on the California Coastal Commission. He’s the City Council’s president. He’s the representative of District 8. And now he’s going to be running for Assembly.

    The other day he canceled his weekly media briefing because he was in Sacramento so he could attend a meeting of the League of California Cities.

    All the while Councilman Tony Young has been managing a series of public budget-planning meetings and trying to get ahead of this fiscal storm.

  • Finally, another interesting point. Councilwoman Marti Emerald is having a little trouble with consistency.

    Read this memo again:

    Implementing the following reforms from the Council Governance Report is an important step forward in improving the process of and public access to the City Council …:

    • Any item requested by three city councilmembers in writing shall be docketed at full Council within 45 days of the request (not counting legislative recess weeks)…

    So, on Feb. 3, Marti Emerald says a new rule allowing three council members to get something on the docket without the council presidents support is an “important step forward in improving the process of and public access to the City Council.” And yet, a month later, she votes against it.

    Why?

    Even Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who signed the memo with DeMaio, Frye and Lightner to docket the item, said this was a “new council” and people don’t seem to have “their heels dug in.”

    “We did get four signatures, so the system does work,” Emerald said.

    So let’s review: Emerald helped Hueso preserve the council president’s power but now he’s already tired of it.

    Then, I had to chuckle about this nugget the U-T had in its blog yesterday:

    Councilwoman Marti Emerald used a strong O-word – “outrageous” – last week to describe a proposal by Mayor Jerry Sanders to spend 20 percent of the city’s expected $13.37 million in federal grants for administrative overhead.

    On Tuesday, she reversed herself and voted along with her colleagues to spend $2.67 million on administrative costs. In explaining her change of mind, she said the more appropriate O-word that should be used in the discussion about the 20 percent overhead is “oversight.”

    Emerald: Yeah, what I said before, not so much anymore.

    Things change quickly in Marti-Land.

  • Finally, some links. Seth’s story on the county’s hedge fund goring is here. Most interesting part:

    SDCERA was an early backer of hedge funds, which are private pools of capital that employ sophisticated investment strategies. The pension fund adopted its “alpha engine” strategy in 1998.

    In the last fiscal year, the alpha engine had grown to more than $1.3 billion, nearly 20 percent of the fund. The pension board voted in December to reduce the alpha engine to 14 percent of total assets, saying hedge funds had become too risky.

    For all their flash, SDCERA’s hedge funds haven’t delivered. Over the past 10 years, the pension fund’s alpha engine earned 3.2 percent, falling short of its benchmark, the London Interbank Offered Rate, which is the interest rate banks pay for their cash.

    It costs county taxpayers a fortune to invest in these hedge funds with all the risk they have. And they have only earned 3.2 percent in 10 years? Why are government funds being used in risky investments? I just do not understand this. It seems like public money should be deployed in only the most conservative of fashions.

  • Another link: Congratulations Emily. I second Andrew’s point: She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen and it’s a pleasure to have her around.

OK, thanks again for all of your feedback on last week’s column. We had a great forum yesterday on public pensions and despite a few disagreements it was relaxed and insightful. I believe with all of my heart that there is a middle ground between taxpayers and public employees. And I won’t give up on it.

SCOTT LEWIS

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