I expected a lot of talk about togetherness at the mayor's inauguration, but Ed Lee went a step further: He acually announced that he wants to be the mayor "for the 100 percent." That's a remarkable statement when you think about it, and it indicates to me that Lee doesn't want to be, and isn't going to be, and activist leader.
It's nice to talk at political events about how we're all in this together, how everyone in San Francisco is part of the same nice big city family, how we all really love each other and can hold hands and build a better city and all that happy horsehit. But the truth is, we aren't, and we can't.
San Francisco is a divided city, increasingly split between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. The politics are bitterly divided -- and not because the progressives fought with former mayor Gavin Newsom. No: There are people who are used to getting their way in this town, and they have been for years, and they make up an oligarchy that stands with big landlords, and big developers, and big corporations, often using terms like "job creation" to disguise an agenda of tax breaks, minimal regulation and a disdain for social justice.
That's not conspiracy theory; it's fact, and anyone who has been a part of this city for a long as me knows it.
It's about political power. An activist, progressive mayor would acknowlege that fact -- and the fact that power is never surrendered voluntarily. Sorry to spoil your spirit of togetherness, Ed, but Willie Brown and his clients, including Pacific Gas and Electric Company, have very little in common with me; I want to kick PG&E out of San Francisco and replace it with a publicly-owned utility. There is no compromise here, no middle ground -- PG&E has to lose for us to win.
Not every issue in San Francisco is like that -- some of the 1 percenters are all in favor of bicycle lanes and same-sex marriage and a lot of other wonderful things. There are plenty of areas where everyone in San Francisco can work together for the glory of our collective greatness.
But there are also issues that involve, yes, class warfare. Ed Lee must know that; he's been around long enough, fought enough bad guys, stood up for the poor people. But he also apparently thinks he can be mayor and be pals with Brown and the billionaires -- and still be on the side of the 99 percent. And it doesn't work that way. Not if you want to make economic justice a part of the local agenda.
I think Lee's going to be a lot better than Gavin Newsom, who was intractable and a jerk. But this notion that you never have to pick sides, that there is no 99 percent on one side up against a 1 percent on the other, is either cluelessness or bullshit. And I don't think Lee is clueless.
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