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from San Francisco Examiner, December 22, 2003

Mayoral transition team gets to work
By Adriel Hampton

Mayor-elect Gavin Newsom's ponderous transition team today will break into 16 agile work groups to begin crafting plans of attack for the new mayor's policy goals.

Before Newsom's inauguration Jan. 8, he will be briefed by each group, according to Joyce Newstat, policy director for the Newsom campaign. The format follows work the campaign did leading into the election, where policy groups unveiled 21 papers that comprised Newsom's platform.

Newstat said that Newsom first wanted to reach out to a diverse group of people to get their help assessing how city departments perform, finding out what community members would like to see improved and strategizing how to address budget problems.

The 183-member transition team "brought in people who didn't support the mayor-elect but who want to see a better San Francisco," Newstat said.

Newsom's transition team, led by former city attorney Louise Renne, is made up of a host of private sector and nonprofit workers, environmentalists, current and former city commissioners and other political activists. Many of the names on the list are familiar to City Hall watchers, while some are surprising.

In one break from political culture, Newsom named Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.com, to help with a customer-service team designed to implement Newsom's 311 plan. The telephone number would provide a single access point for all city services, with high measures of accountability and follow-up efforts to make sure taxpayer's concerns are addressed.

Newmark, who spent 17 years at IBM before founding his internationally known Web site about nine years ago, said he not only wants to see 311 make the government more responsive but allow for bottom-up input.

"The culture of the Internet is such that large organizations can start listening to their customers and that department heads will start listening to their line workers," Newmark said. "It's the line workers who know how to run an organization."

Newmark said he is committed to creating a Web-based interface for the "tens of thousands of people around here who prefer the Internet" over the phone. Leading Newmark's team is Wade Randlett, head of the downtown civic group SFSOF, which has used the Internet to allow citizens to more easily lobby City Hall.

Also on Newsom's list are plenty of transition veterans, advocates and civil servants who've seen mayors come and go.

Paul Boden of the Coalition on Homelessness and other members of his advocacy organization have participated in transitions for the last three mayors, Art Agnos, Frank Jordan and Willie Brown. Boden said his group, which has clashed repeatedly with Newsom on his homeless policies, is pleased to have a voice at this stage.

"The coalition will get input from homeless people and frontline staff and will deliver that to the committee," Boden said.

How the coalition interacts with the Newsom transition team depends on how homeless people react to the new mayor's proposals, he added.

"If that means we fight, we fight, if it means we work together, we work together," Boden said.

The transition team also includes former mayoral candidates Treasurer Susan Leal and former police chief Tony Ribera, Port Commissioner Michaela Alioto, who is the daughter of mayoral candidate Angela Alioto, and most of the candidates rumored to fill Newsom's District 2 supervisorial seat. These include Megan Levitan, a member of the local Democratic Party steering committee, Jim Lazarus, a longtime City Hall hand who now heads the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, and Janet Reilly, wife of political consultant Clint Reilly and a board member for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

Renne, who served alongside four mayors, will head up the process of collecting resumes for commission spots and City Hall jobs. Job seekers can e-mail transition@gavinnewsom.com or visit http://www.gavinnewsom.com/.