Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

San Francisco politics as usual?

Apparently, in San Francisco, doing your job well and working to do it better are not enough. San Francisco's Director of Emergency Services, Annemarie Conroy, is in the hot seat for having the temerity to attend a homeland security class:

Annemarie Conroy, the director of San Francisco's Office of Emergency Services, was in the political hot seat Tuesday with one member of the Board of Supervisors calling for an inquiry into her management of the office and another urging her to resign. Several supervisors said that learning over the past week that Conroy was attending homeland security classes at the prestigious Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey raised old concerns that she lacked enough training to lead San Francisco's disaster agency. And though Conroy by some accounts has improved the emergency office since taking over, the debacle of hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans has spurred officials here to ensure that San Francisco is prepared.
You'll note that language about Conroy having "by some accounts" improve the City's emergency services. Buried at the bottom of the article is what Conroy has actually done, which sounds pretty damn impressive:
Although she came under initial fire for stepping into her job without disaster experience, she drew up the city's first new emergency operations plan in a decade, conducted monthly disaster drills since last spring and quadrupled the emergency office's staff to 20 with experts in the fields of terrorism, rescue and other skills. Supervisor Fiona Ma said Tuesday that criticism of Conroy was outdated, adding that her office was "doing the right thing." On Tuesday, Conroy unveiled the latest of two dozen "annexes," or detailed additions, to the city emergency plan -- this one a 66-page guideline for providing food and shelter in a disaster. The annex lays out a chain of command for placing as many as 50,000 people throughout the city in shelters, largely run by the Red Cross, and breaks down how much staffing, food and supplies would be needed. "I know when I took this job some people had their doubts, but I think we've done quite a lot since I got here," Conroy said. Newsom said last week that Conroy had made the city "very well prepared." He also noted that she was studying for a master's degree in homeland security at the Naval Postgraduate School, an 18-month program that accepts only about 30 students out of 900 applicants nationwide. Rich Eisner, coast region administrator for the state Office of Emergency Services, said he had been impressed by Conroy's leadership in assembling a Bay Area-wide disaster plan, which is due by January, and would be the first in the nation to coordinate three major urban areas (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose). "I really appreciate what she's doing and her commitment to us, because we don't have the money to do this effort ourselves," Eisner said. "I think she takes her job seriously. I wish other jurisdictions all took their jobs as seriously." Conroy's deputy director, who would take command if she were unavailable, is Rich Shortall, a 27-year veteran of the Fire Department who has commanded rescue and emergency medical squads. Conroy has also brought on a retired Fire Department arson specialist, a former police bomb squad supervisor, the former head of the FBI's joint terrorism task force and the former emergency services director at the Bay Area Red Cross chapter -- Lisa Bennett, who helped coordinate responses at the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks and last year's Florida hurricanes. "We've got a bad-ass team," Conroy said. "I've put together the best and brightest, and these people wouldn't be working here unless they had confidence in the leadership at the top."
What the article doesn't mention, and what I suspect is the real subtext, is that Conroy is a conservative who has somehow managed to remain active in San Francisco politics for almost 20 years. If I remember correctly, she was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in the late 1980s by her uncle, then-mayor Frank Jordan. She couldn't possibly have gotten the position without that political connection, because San Franciscans do not vote for conservatives. Truly, that was a boondoggle. She's hung doggedly in SF politics since then, without any more handouts (the ultra liberal Willie Brown was mayor after Jordan). My impression, gleaned from periodic news stories about Conroy over the past almost 20 years is that she is a foe of government waste, intelligent, mentally well-oganized, and able to carry out a plan. That's probably why Mayor Newsome, who is no fool, appointed her. With regard to her emergency services role, it sounds as if she is serving in a purely management capacity, but surrounding herself with a powerful team. Perhaps I'm stupid, but it seems to me that she can't be expected to be a one person emergency services entity in any event, and what's really important is that she's putting systems (and people) in place and is on top of things. I'd trust her a whole lot more than I'd trust the media's darling, Mayor Nagin. It may well be that Conroy is grossly unqualified to run the city's disaster management plan, but I can't escape a sneaking suspicion that Conroy's real sin is her political orientation. She's a long-standing conservative in a liberal city, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if that makes her a target. Indeed, an S.F. blogger who has picked up on this story (and does raise legitimate points about using taxpayer money to fund Conroy's emergency services education) feels that her Republicanism is worth mentioning -- and he doesn't give that mention a positive spin.