The politics of unity and division

Why does Newsom keep stabbing the progressive Democrats whose support he needs?

Democratic County Central Committee chair Aaron Peskin

These are strange days for the San Francisco Democratic Party, which is seeking to overcome bitter divisions on the local level and come together around candidates for statewide office that include Mayor Gavin Newsom, whose fiscal conservatism and petulant political style are the main sources of that local division.

The tension has played out recently around the Board of Supervisors deliberations on the new city budget and November ballot measures and in dramas surrounding the newly elected Democratic County Central Committee, where the battles during its July 28 inaugural meeting previewed a more significant fight over local endorsements coming up Aug. 11.

Almost every elected official in San Francisco is a Democrat. Newsom, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, has been the main obstacle to new taxes that progressives and labor leaders say are desperately needed to preserve public services, deal with massive projected deficits in the next two years, and quit balancing budgets on the backs of workers.

"We balanced the budget without raising taxes. I don't believe in raising taxes. We don't need to raise taxes," Newsom said proudly at his July 29 budget signing ceremony, during which he also effusively praised the labor unions whose support he needs this fall: "Labor has been under attack in this state and country. They've become a convenient excuse for our lack of leadership in Sacramento and around the country."

That hypocritical brand of politics has been frustrating to his fellow Democrats, particularly progressive supervisors and DCCC members. At the July 27 board meeting, Sup. Ross Mirkarimi and Board President David Chiu reluctantly dropped their pair of revenue measures that would have raised $50 million, bowing to opposition by Newsom and the business community.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has become such a vehicle for antitax and antigovernment vitriol that the DCCC on July 29 approved a resolution calling for the organization — which hosted a speech by Republican National Chair Michael Steele in June — to renounce the platform of the Republican National Committee.

"The Chamber is not a knee-jerk right-wing organization," Chamber President Steve Falk felt compelled to clarify in a July 28 letter to DCCC Chair Aaron Peskin, closing with, "Anything you can do to avoid painting the Chamber as a pawn of the GOP would be greatly appreciated — because it just isn't true."

Yet Rafael Mandelman, who sponsored the resolution and is a progressive supervisorial candidate in District 8, told us the Chamber's fiscal policies are indistinguishable from those pushed by Republicans. "They're the leading force pushing the Republican agenda in San Francisco," Mandelman said, calling the stance short-sighted. "It's not in the long-term interests of the business community for our public sector to fall apart."

Chiu's business tax reform measure is a good example of how conservative ideology seems to be trumping progressive policy, even among Democrats. Only 10 percent of businesses in the city pay any local business tax, and the measure would increase taxes on large corporations, lower them on small businesses, create private sector jobs, bring $25 million per year into the city, and expand the tax burden to 25 percent of businesses, including the large banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions that are now exempt. But even the Small Business Commission refused to support the plan, prompting Chiu to drop the proposal and tell his colleagues, "There is still not consensus about whether this should move forward."


If you are a tenant in SF then the only reason you are still here is you got up off your belly and on your hind legs and fought off this criminal gangster landlord pawn of overseas banking traitors. Newsom will rip out your throat and drink your blood if you let him. He is a real estate vampire and all his kind understand and respect are wooden stakes and sunlight.

Giving him even an inch is a huge mistake and you will pay and pay and pay, mark my words. The DCCC probably seated him because they thought he could bring in the money but there isn't enough money to compensate what he will demand in return.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 11:19 am

Good Article Steve. I am reluctant to add comments, yet this is a public forum and regardless of the admonitions of others, comment may add clarity to all. Many in power in the San Francisco Democratic Caucus of the California and National DNC are not real Democrats. Gavin for instance, claims Democratic Values, and acts Republican. No wonder he gets along with Arnold Schwarzenegger so well. Talk or Walk - which do you choose to ascertain the mans motives with? I will take actions over words anyday, especially after all the great "brand" hustle by Barack Obama, and the delivery of GOP mainline programs - anathema to real Democrats. We have a ton of these players locally.

Rafael Mandelman is correct to identify the various individuals & groups and their policy sets proffered, for our relevant determination, of whether we will support both the person's claim of worthiness of support, and the wisdom of their proposed policies in common legal agreement. When Mark Leno and Gavin Newsom pushed and achieved sale of our Commonweal's Public State Park Lands in San Francisco to their Lennar Corporation for private profits, both Leno and Newsom delivered extreme and dangerous precedent: Pubic Officials Sales of Public Property to their Private Corporate Campaign Contributors. I call this clear corruption and misuse of office for personal gain - at the expense of our whole San Francisco Community. So when Leno or Newsom both, speak of their concern for our community interests, how does that jibe with their actions for personal gain and support for Corporate appropriation of Public Property for Private Profits? The same concept applies to the Chamber and Republican Policies. Public Interests? Private Profits? We are all adults here. It's obvious that Newsom is not a real Democrat, regardless of what Willy Brown and John Burton argue. Both Emperor Brown and John Burton have to go. We need new local Democratic Party Leadership. I like Aaron Peskin's claim to be a Real Democrat. Is Aaron actually the eyes and ears as well as hands of Emperor Willy? Well, there is the question.

Chris Daly was correct on the corruption and questionably illegal procedure of our Supervisors in their recent City and County Budget agreements with our young Republican Mayor. Scandalous? Yes. Normal? Sadly, yes again. For Chris Daly to criticize was correct, but the criticism is polluted by residences in Fairfield, and Elected Service in San Francisco. Ed Jew was sentenced for more than 5 years in prison for the same offense. Common knowledge? Yes. Legal action? No. Local corruption? Yes. So how do we ever remove the Corporate claws from our City and County when our champions act illegally in office and the ones who see that illegal conduct, themselves can't even keep it clear whether they live in the City or not. Come on Chris. Give it up. This is not about a legal residence address, but about where your wife, kids, and you keep your home and schools, shopping for food and normal residential stuff we all have. If your in Fairfield, as your family is, you used to live in San Francisco. If your supporting the Chamber Gavin, you are Republican and should join Michael Steel as your colleague, along with Meg Whitman and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mark Leno? Does the term "Mugwump" ring a bell in your consciousness?

We have to organize a whole new grassroots base of real Democrats to take over the California Democratic Party. I am at work on that effort now. For many, the work will begin November 3rd, 2010. Our Local Leadership and State Leadership have failed, and our National Leadership needs no comment. OFA #2, and the DNC have failed at every single race they have competed in support of since November 4th, 2008. That is a 100% losing streak. What does anyone see for November 2nd, in 2010? It's a joke, and the rank and file are the brunt of Fake Democrats who sold out to the Corporate Money Trusts. I see that the CFR and the Money Trusts bounce real political power back and forth between sell out Democrats and sell out Republicans, to keep any serious leadership and power out of the hands of the real owners of our Governments, Local, State, and Federal.

Politics is often considered the venue of compromise. Really? Why sell out all that is good - to a team who simply needs to be voted out of power? I see a California Republican Party sweep this year, not as inevitable - but in response to corruption in the California Democratic Party. The Republicans don't try to hide it. The voters are sick of it. I am also. The only silver lining in the politics of 2010 will be the ability to organize against clear opposition from November 3rd forward - the Republican State Constitutional Officers and their GOP teams. To be effective, we need to clean up - purge and clear out the Old Guard from the California Democratic Party, and start over from the bottom up. I am game for that. Locally, dirty back room deals must end - or the elected officials need to face the Federal and State Charges for illegal graft and corruption.

Posted by Paul Currier on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

Why can't the Sups ever come up with a jobs bill that would lower the work week in SF
for all city employees,
to a 30 hour work week
so as to create 1 million new jobs.
That would make a positive effort
offering leadership to cities in the
rest of the nation.
Youtube: paul8kangas

Posted by Dr 8 Kangas on Aug. 06, 2010 @ 7:24 pm


They tried a 35 hour maximum working week in France thinking it would create new jobs and the effect was the exact opposite. So they reversed that move.

Since there are fixed costs in hiring each employee, it is considerably more expensive to have the same number of hours performed by more workers. So hiring 1,000 20-hour part-timers is costlier than hiring 500 40-hour workers.

And since the big problem now is the City workers' generous pension and health benefits, adding more employees would compound the unaffordibility of that problem.

So, sorry, won't work.

Posted by Folly on Aug. 08, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

The merits of various proposals get lost at City Hall because of the immature behavior of the leading actors, especially Aaron Peskin, Chris Daly, and Gavin Newsom.

They love shafting their opponents, grabbing territory for themselves, and posturing for attention. It's the sort of scene you find in kindergarten.

Each is also beholden to special interests. With Newsom, it's the corporate plutocrats. With Peskin and Daly, it's the nonprofit political complex, the unions, and the cannabis capitalists.

There are no heroes here, but a diversity of banalities, all covered with self-righteous veneers, and each highly polished by spinners and surrogates.

In other words, politics as usual.

It's not good enough anymore.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 06, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

Newsom keeps stabbing "us" because "we" keep on giving him knives and presenting our bared backs to him.

Evans is correct. Progressivism in San Francisco has devolved from any semblance of a popular movement into a racket that delivers security to a few activists and precious little to San Franciscans.

Without access to resources to challenge corporate power, and without delivering results to the broader constituency of progressive voters, we'll continue to see the abandonment of progressive values and policies in exchange for a meal ticket and tepid compromise.

Others are better suited for the politics of pushing the merry-go-round than I.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 07, 2010 @ 9:39 am

What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 07, 2010 @ 9:45 am

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