Getlin, Josh: Moscone and waste water management
Getlin: Yeah I thought it was a model example of what a smart mayor would do faced with a genuine crisis his very first hour in office. He recruited a very capable person from the outside, Richard Sklar, who had dealt with waste water issues in Cleveland and other cities. He was well known to him politically through various acquaintances. He was brought immediately into the mayor's office and what was good to see was that as much as George was determined to act quickly on this, Richard Sklar understood the issue. He spoke the language, he talked the talk, in what was a, I think, you know, important politically, not substantially for the issue itself, but I think Dianne Feinstein was perhaps the only member of the board sensed the gravity of what was at stake, was very impressed with him at least initially. That they had a simpatico, they were able to talk about the various issues and I think it was important for her to sense that, you know, somebody had been appointed immediately who was going to grab the bulls by the horn, the bull by the horn, and really almost from the get go, set in motion what had to be done. Which was to show, as I recall, that a waste water unit had to be constituted, that had to be taken away from Myron Tatarian and the Department of Public Works. It was a free standing unit that had to be traded somewhere within the bureaucracy. It was very much under the auspices of the mayor's office because Sklar was a political creature who was answering directly to George, at least in the initial stages of his responsibilities. You couldn't ask for a better response and the proof is in the pudding, because I think very quickly the Feds backed off. What had become a Draconian threat to just prevent any building permits anywhere in the city from being granted and eventually what had to happen was, if I'm not mistaken, a ballot measure was approved which basically institutionalized, not only waste water standards, but how the city was going to deal with in the future. Lines of communication, bureaucratic responsibility, it was a complete overhaul of the way the city had approached the issue. It was a model of how an enlightened mayoral administration would respond, and I thought that was one of the finest things that George was identified with in the beginning. The problem I think for people who are his close political advisors was it was not the sexiest issue in the world, I mean, people don't realize how serious a threat that was to the city and, you know, if you certainly can no longer have a building permit, very soon it would be a domino ripple effect and it would be a calamity for San Francisco. But the mere fact that you said “well we're not polluting the water as much as we used to and we have a we've hired some smart bureaucrats”, you know, while it might not play out on the hustings is the greatest political thing in the world, in reality it was a major thing that he did on behalf of the city. I think a handful of people on the inside gave him credit for it and that he deserved it.
The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.
Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library
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Getlin, Josh, "Getlin, Josh: Moscone and waste water management" (2009). Moscone Oral Histories. 225.