Mullaney’s Word: District Seven Addback Item Shows Unseemly Side of Budget Process

Observant readers contacted me in September about a humdrum article detailing what the District Seven and Eleven supervisors brought back from the addback budget process over the summer.

An item that listed $50,000 for cultural events in Chinatown under District Seven raised the question: Did Supervisor Norman Yee allocate funds to another district?

A query to Budget Committee Chair Supervisor Mark Farrell’s office returned this answer: Yes. “It’s as plain as day,” Farrell’s Legislative Aide Jess Montejano said. “Some supervisors spend all of their add-back in their district. Some don’t.”

It’s true. District Ten Supervisor Malia Cohen allocated funds to the Ocean View. In a district where a worn out complaint is about property owners being the city’s credit card, it doesn’t look good.

Supervisor Yee said he supported the item as a city-wide request along with other supervisors and that the Asian Pacific Islander Council had advocated to them all for it.

“My office provided a list of asks at the beginning of the process and this particular one was listed as city-wide ask and we continued to ask Farrell to move that ask to city-wide throughout the budget process,” Yee said. “It’s obvious that some supervisors are more careful in submitting info to the Controller than others.”

The $50,000 in question is going to  the Office of Economic and Workforce Development for a matching grant program enabling the Chinese Culture Center, according to spokesperson Gloria Chan. It will fund this year’s Dancing on Waverly and the Chinatown Music Festival. (I’ll see you there — and then Washington Bakery & Restaurant!) OEWD has data showing District Seven has a high percentage of residents who frequent Chinatown.

When asked if he could or would relay what his connection to the nonprofit CCC is, Yee made no comment.

A cross-check of CCC’s board of directors and staff directory to campaign records show that five board members and one employee contributed a total $1,650 to Yee’s reelection campaign — and contributed to no other candidates. Of the six, three live in San Francisco. CCC co-chair Gin Y. Ho, a financial adviser at CTBC Bank who lives in San Jose, contributed the maximum $500. Board member Helen Hui, an attorney who lives outside District Seven, contributed $100. Board member Thomas Klitgaard, a partner in the law firm Dillingham & Murphy, LLP who lives outside District Seven, contributed the maximum $500. Board member Warren Seeto, a real estate developer, contributed $350. Board member Garry Wong, a vice president with HSBC who lies in Oakland, contributed $100. CCC employee Darin Ow-Wing of Alameda contributed $100.

Somehow the addback budget persists despite both the Civil Grand Jury’s recommendations and Mayor Ed Lee’s efforts to curb its unseemly impact.

This article first appeared in The Light’s October 2016 print edition. It has been updated.

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