SFGate, February 4, 2014. City College of San Francisco spent $503,000 on an advertising campaign - everything from billboards to spots on Cartoon Network - to stop the flood of students leaving after the school's accreditation was threatened.
Records show the college spent $98,000 on cable TV and Xbox ads, $87,000 on digital billboards (most notably at the foot of the Bay Bridge in Oakland), and $56,000 on bus and trolley placards and digital radio.
The college spent thousands more on community and foreign-language newspapers, postcards, social media and mainstream radio.
The biggest beneficiary may have been a Wisconsin ad firm, Interact Communications, which was paid $165,000 to produce the campaign.
"The name of the game is enrollment," said Larry Kamer, the $10,000-a-month public relations crisis manager whom City College recruited in May to fight the school's closure. "We were hemorrhaging and had to do something very fast."
Officials estimate that about a third of the college's 31,000 students exited in the past two years. The school credits its ad blitz with a 34 percent boost in enrollment since the campaign was launched in late December, which translates to $4.6 million.
But enrollment is still 15 percent lower than it was two years ago, when City College's accreditation troubles began.
See no evil: At the height of the Bay Bridge bolt boondoggle, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a "top to bottom" outside review of Caltrans.
Well, last week the report came in - and it included not a single mention of the new eastern span, the bad bolts and how they got there, or any of the political and management snafus that contributed to the bridge's $6.4 billion price tag.
In fact, from the get-go, the governor and state transportation officials decided that the biggest Caltrans mess-up in modern times was not to be covered by the 100-plus-page report.
"There were plenty of other people and reports looking into the bridge," said Gareth Lacy, spokesman for the California State Transportation Agency, citing the reams of reports on the busted bolts by the media and the legislative analyst.
Instead, it was decided that the report should be "looking much more broadly at how Caltrans works," said report co-author Eric Sundquist of the University of Wisconsin's State Smart Transportation Initiative.
And after hundreds of hours of interviews, the report's authors determined that Caltrans, "once a national leader among state transportation agencies, has fallen out of step with current 'best practice' policies ... and the express aims of California state policy." They also concluded that the department frequently "runs on process rather than outcomes."
"In other words, Caltrans is in need of both modernization and organizational culture change," the report said.
For this, we paid $270,000.
Home team: San Francisco sent four cops at a cost of about $10,000 to the Super Bowl to help plan for when San Francisco plays host city to the championship game in two years.
The actual 2016 Super Bowl will be played at the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, but San Francisco will host most of the festivities.
Police Chief Greg Suhr said the department sent officers to New York from the tactical unit, the bomb squad and the department's press office.
"It's in the best interest of planning to invest a little money on the front end, rather than get caught with something (unforeseen) in two years," Suhr said.
Slap shot: The San Francisco Ethics Commission signed off on a settlement of the conflict-of-interest charges against Juliet Ellis, deputy boss at the city Public Utilities Commission - but not without giving her a good tongue-lashing first.
Ellis agreed to pay an unprecedented $8,500 in fines to the Ethics Commission and state Fair Political Practices Commission for a conflict of interest in steering a $200,000 city contract in 2012 to a nonprofit organization that she ran at the time, Green for All.
At the same time the group was paying her $2,000 a month - both as acting executive director and board chair - Ellis was employed full time as the utilities commission's deputy for external affairs, at $195,000 a year.
Ellis has insisted she didn't knowingly violate the city's conflict rules. Her boss, commission General Manager Harlan Kelly, has stood by Ellis, noting that her economic disclosure form "transparently listed her monetary stipend from Green for All."
Not everyone is buying it.
"I'm not convinced there wasn't deliberate misconduct here," said Ethics Commission member Ben Hur, who said Ellis should have been fined more.
Commissioner Peter Keane said he supported the settlement, but that "to continue employing someone like this would be very strange."