Roughly a month into his new appointment as mayor of San Francisco, Edwin M. Lee paid a visit Tuesday morning to The Bay Citizen to talk about his five priorities for the year.
He is clearly enjoying the gig. President Barack Obama, who invited Lee to a state dinner last month for Chinese President Hu Jintao, is making time to see Lee when he swings through the Bay Area on Thursday. Coming up with a plan to keep Twitter in San Francisco may also be a big win, for which Lee could be remembered long after he steps out of the limelight.
But Lee’s five priorities feature some hair-raising tasks. First, he needs to address the city’s projected $380 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. Required here, Lee said during his hour-long talk with Bay Citizen editors and writers, will be more layoffs, service cuts and higher taxes and fees. “We’ve cut to the bone” in recent years of relentless budget deficits, he said, and “we keep cutting now.”
Another of Lee's key goals is to devise a fix for the mounting costs of the city’s pension and employee health care obligations. These costs are "the big leak, if you will, in our solvency right now,” he said. “It’s bleeding our whole general fund. That is as serious as it is becoming, because of the amount of money we have to spend to make it solvent.”
Compared to budget-balancing and pension reform, Lee’s other three priorities seem easy.
He is working hard on selecting a new police chief, and said a candidate may be settled on next month.
Lee is also focusing on San Francisco’s local-hiring law, of which he is “a big fan.”
“I want to implement the new ordinance in the right way,” he said. “You’ve got to have a big investment in training and education.”
And Lee will continue to work on the America’s Cup sailing event, which he equates with the Olympics in terms of prestige and economic potential for the city.
Lee said his goal is for San Francisco to be safe, solvent and successful — continuing to attract the residents and employers that make it a vibrant place to live.
Video recording by John Upton. Video editing by Dan Ming.