Outgoing Mayor Mark Farrell’s dream to bring low-cost, high-speed internet to all San Franciscans is likely to fade to black when he leaves office.

The reason is the cost.

Internet-for-all service is pegged to cost anywhere from $850 million to $1.9 billion, and even with a private partner to pick up a portion of the tab, any deal would require some sort of public subsidy.

Farrell is set to leave office July 11, when London Breed takes over as mayor, and advisers say the last thing he wants to do on the way out is throw away his reputation for being fiscally prudent by serving up voters a bond measure for the November ballot that could go down as the most costly in the city’s history.

Plus, having given up his Board of Supervisors seat to step temporarily into the mayor’s job, Farrell will no longer have the political mantle to lead the campaign for a ballot measure.

And then there is the polling.

A voter survey conducted by Farrell’s political team found public support for a fall measure iffy at best. The poll of 900 voters taken in May showed support for low-cost service at above 60 percent, but it was still below the two-thirds mark required for approval of new taxes to pay for it.

A separate David Binder poll of 500 likely voters commissioned by telecommunications giant AT&T, which would have to compete with other providers to run the service, showed 67 percent support for the idea of the city building its own system.

But after survey respondents heard arguments for and against the plan, including the potential cost to residents, approval dropped to 48 percent. The poll was conducted April 19-23, and has a 4.4 percentage point margin of error.

“The strongest message against the proposal makes the case that San Francisco has higher priorities than building its own fiber-optic network and argues that the estimated $1.6 billion would be better spent on improving city services like education and transportation,” according to Binder’s analysis.

Whatever the case, Farrell insists he’s not abandoning the effort, even if it won’t happen on his watch. In fact, he still got the Board of Supervisors to put $750,000 into the new budget to pay for more studies.

“All options are on the table to help continue to move this project forward,” Farrell said. “Our city and low-income communities deserve a more equitable future, and this project will help achieve that.”

Spare change: Tourist industry officials are hoping that news of a major medical convention leaving town may finally lead to changes on the city’s scary streets.

“There is something about the news of a convention leaving that really resonated with people,” said San Francisco Travel President and CEO Joe D’Alessandro, who estimated that losing the five-day convention cost the local economy about $40 million.

Unlike the locals, who have grown accustomed over the years to the sight of people sprawled on the sidewalks, tourists and conventioneers are shocked by what they see.

“They feel their safety is at risk because they are seeing so many people with issues,” said Hotel Council Executive Director Kevin Carroll.

D’Alessandro, Carroll and others have joined together to lobby the Board of Supervisors in the hopes of changing the picture — and recently helped persuade the supervisors to agree to hire more police.

“What we need are more foot patrols,” D’Alessandro said. “Visible foot patrols so that people feel safer and people don’t act out.”

“How about enforcing existing laws?” suggested Carroll.

San Francisco Travel is also working with the local charity Tipping Point to get more mental health services on the street level.

In the short run, however, tourism chief D’Alessandro would be happy if the city would just beef up its street-cleaning operations.

“Other cities have homeless,” he said. “Denver, for example, has a homeless problem, but the streets are clean, so it just feels safer.”

Stepping up: Planning for next Wednesday’s inauguration of London Breed as San Francisco’s 44th elected mayor is well under way, and we’re told at least one big tradition will remain intact.

After her swearing-in on the steps of City Hall, Breed is expected to greet the public in her office.

Typically, inaugural greeting sessions of past mayors have lasted several hours — with family, friends and ordinary citizens all lining up and waiting for a chance to shake hands or to embrace the incoming mayor.

The meet-and-greet can be a real test of the mayor’s endurance as well.

“I was greeting so many people for so many hours that my jaw and the muscles around my face were sore at the end of the day from smiling and saying hello,” former Mayor Art Agnos recalled of his 1988 swearing-in.

Then again, Agnos said the adrenaline rush and “joy of the day” make up for any physical discomfort.

Still, Agnos does have one bit of advice for Breed: “I hope she has some comfortable shoes, because standing like that for hours can be taxing.”

San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call 415-777-8815, or email matierandross@ sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @matierandross





READ SOURCE

SHARE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here