Supes' discretionary spending comes under fire

Each member of the county Board of Supervisors gets $3.4 million a year to spend on pet projects and doesn't have to account for it to the public — or share much info at all, according to a Times story on the website tonight. Reporter Garrett Therolf met resistance in every office, it seems, but came way showing the Supes spend the money on drivers, other staff salaries, projects in their districts and various community groups and activities. Just how much and why isn't available. The accounts have amassed a balance of $27 million, which the story says is sure to rankle when the county starts cutting its budget and laying off workers. (It's enough to pay for 216 social workers for a year, per the story.)

All five supervisors come in for some scrutiny, but I was curious to see how Therolf handled the news website that Zev Yaroslavsky began last year. After all, what I call ZevWeb is essentially competing with Therolf for stories on the county beat. Well, he dismisses it as mostly writing about Yaroslavsky's initiatives and policy positions — which isn't what I see there. I find a range of stories that have little direct connection to the supervisor and seldom if ever quote him, though I don't know how many of the topics actually run counter to Yaroslavsky's priorities. "With newspapers cutting so deeply, we can't rely on places like The Times to get the story out anymore," spokesman Joel Bellman explains in the story.

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