Security measure clears committee

| December 04, 2009

The cost of campaigning — for themselves or others — could increase for San Francisco mayors.

City officials would have to pay out of their own pockets for police protection if they travel outside The City and engage in campaign-related activity, under legislation headed to the Board of Supervisors.

The cost of a security detail for the San Francisco mayor has long remained a secret. But legislation approved Thursday by the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee would bring a portion of those costs into the public domain and force the mayor to pay for some uses. 

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who introduced the legislation, estimated the Police Department spends about $1 million annually on the security detail.

The law, if adopted, would require an elected city official who travels outside San Francisco and engages in campaign-related activity to publicly declare the amount of time spent on activities and meetings and how much was associated with
campaigning.

The elected official would have to reimburse The City for the cost of the security detail during campaign-related activities. That includes activities not only related to a mayor’s run for office, but also any activity or meeting advocating for a candidate for city, state or federal elected office, or fundraising for one.

Supervisor Michela Alito-Pier, who voted against the legislation, said, “I don’t really want the mayor to be in a situation where he has to sit there and think ‘How much money out of my own pocket is this going to cost to represent the people of San Francisco when the president is in town?’”

Supervisor Chris Daly supported the legislation — along with Supervisor David Campos, the committee chairman — saying residents should not foot the bill for security when the mayor “decides he or she wants to throw their weight behind a candidate for office and help them raise money.”

The Police Department opposed the legislation, saying that it could “increase the threat level” and have a “significant negative impact” on security.

Mirkarimi amended the legislation to address some of those concerns by setting a flat rate for reimbursement to keep secret the exact level of security during different activities.

The full board is expected to vote on the legislation Dec. 15.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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