Community Frustrated by Mayor’s Veto of Healthy Saturdays Question Mayor’s Open Space, Public Health Commitment to Environment,

by the San Francisco Bike Coalition on May 16, 2006

Supporters of increased safe, healthy space in Golden Gate Park reacted with surprise and disappointment when the Mayor today announced his veto of the Healthy Saturdays initiative.

“We are genuinely surprised by the Mayor’s veto of Healthy Saturdays,” says Leah Shahum, of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “We took the Mayor at his word when he said he would prioritize the environment and public health and more green, open space and when he said he wants to keep more families in San Francisco. It’s clear from his veto of Healthy Saturdays that his actions do not live up to his words.”

Supporters responded to the Mayor’s veto letter with frustration, given that the supposed concerns he raised were addressed through the legislation. For example, disability access was addressed by adding a tram through the car-free areas on both Saturdays and Sundays and 20+ additional accessible parking spaces. Car access to the Conservatory of Flowers was addressed by opening to cars the roads behind the Conservatory and leading to its front door. Of course, the 800-car garage directly under the deYoung Museum and Academy of Sciences serve their parking needs. And the Mayor’s claim that parking and traffic problems would affect the neighborhood are unproven. This would have been tested through the six-month trial he vetoed.

Most disingenuous of all is the Mayor’s claim that Healthy Saturdays would “contravene the will of the voters”. In reality, the voters have never considered a six-month trial program, nor has a proposal been considered that included a completed garage, car access to the Conservatory (from behind), and ADA access via a tram and new parking & drop-off zones. The six-month trial was intended to be an experiment to be learned from and improved upon, if needed. The alternative is Schwarzenegger-style ballot box planning and a less flexible outcome. Finally, car-free Saturdays showed 61% voter support in 2000 polls (Prop. F,) even before the garage was built. The competing and misleading Prop. G split the vote in 2000. Despite being outspent, Prop. F won 45.1% of vote, and Prop. G won 38.1%. This was not a clear, direct vote of the people.

Finally, the Mayor’s claim proved hypocritical as he has a record of championing issues that supposedly “go against the will of the voters.” The best example, and one we support, is gay marriage. That was the right decision then, and it would have been the right decision now.

“The veto of Healthy Saturdays highlights Mayor Newsom’s disappointing record on sustainable transportation,” says Tom Radulovich, Executive Director of Transportation for a Livable City. “Although the Mayor can speak convincingly about making San Francisco a more livable city, Muni is in worse shape than when he took office, and many of the city’s big transit projects, including Central Subway, 3rd Street light rail, Geary Rapid Transit, and Transbay Terminal, are languishing. This veto, like his veto of downtown parking reform, also reveals a troubling tendency within his administration, which favors the narrow interests of wealthy and powerful constituencies over the broad public interest in making San Francisco a better city to walk, bicycle, and ride transit.”

“He presents himself as a ‘Green Mayor’ but when the time came for action on Healthy Saturdays he did what is becoming a familiar trend,” says David Miles, a Richmond resident, father, and longtime Park supporter. “Today he showed his true colors as Green, as in $$$, by standing with the moneyed, NIMBY interests who have supported his past campaigns, rather than with the people who use and benefit from more safe, open space in the Park.”

Kash, a father of two agreed: “I raised two kids in the Sunset District, and we loved Sundays on the closed section of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. If anyone wonders why families in their prime earning years are fleeing San Francisco, blame the shortsighted NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) who torpedoed Healthy Saturdays.”

Despite Newsom’s abdication of leadership on the goals of Healthy Saturdays, which, according to his veto letter, “align(s) with my administration’s goals of increasing health and fitness opportunities for local residents,” the supporters of Healthy Saturdays are committed to move forward with the campaign for safety, healthy recreational space for SF families.

“It’s too bad that the Mayor chose free parking over a better Park,” says Shahum. “But those of us working in the community for a cleaner environment, better sustainable transportation, safer parks, and a healthier San Francisco will move forward with or without the Mayor. San Franciscans deserve nothing less.”

For updates on the Healthy Saturdays in Golden Gate Park campaign, see www.sfbike.org/ggp

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