Lee ducks tough questions about Alvarez and diversifying SF's economy

What happens when the bubbles pop? Don't ask Mayor Lee.

For a career bureaucrat who was appointed mayor supposedly as a sort of straight-shooting un-politician, Mayor Ed Lee today once again demonstrated a real talent for addressing tough questions with a whole lot of words that don’t seem to say much at all. First came his non-responsive answers during Question Time at the Board of Supervisors meeting, followed by the hollow filibuster with reporters asking about the Housing Authority scandal as he briskly walked back to his office.

Asked why he continued to stand by Housing Authority Director Henry Alvarez despite the scandals and accusations of mismanagement and unethical conduct on the job that have placed a cloud over the agency, Lee said he’s just waiting for the investigations and lawsuits to play out, dismissing “the so-called cloud that you referred to.”

Given the obvious problems that Alvarez is now having running an agency whose employees and clients have such a problem with his leadership, I asked whether Lee has considered suspending him, to which he responded that Alvarez hasn’t been convicted of any crimes. So, apparently professional misconduct is a personal matter, but personal misconduct unrelated to one’s job warrants suspension. This is all very confusing.

Even more bewildering was Lee’s answer to the question from Sup. John Avalos. He prefaced his question with one from constituent/comedian Nato Green asking what the city is doing to diversify its economy beyond “the highly paid finance or tech jobs and their low wage servants,” noting that City Economist Ted Egan also recently asked that question in a report calling for “a more balanced distribution of job opportunities.”

So Avalos asked, “What is your plan to create living wage jobs in local-serving industries to prevent the City’s working and middle classes from being displaced by people moving to the city for new upper income jobs in the creative (including high tech), financial, and professional services industries?”

It’s a great and important question that has been increasingly raised by those who understand the risks of placing all our eggs in one economic basket, particularly given this city’s experience with the last dot.com bubble bursting.

But even though Lee had plenty of time to think about the issue and develop an answer, he clearly didn’t have a good one, instead singing the praises of the booming tech industry and his Tech.SF program for training new tech workers, just like his main financier, tech mogul Ron Conway, wants.

Now, Lee did cite industry studies that every tech job sustains four other jobs in the city, mostly in restaurants and tourism-related sectors (ie the “low wage servants” Green mentioned). And Lee touted the construction jobs created by his developer buddies, praising Avalos for his local hire ordinance.

But even the much-praised local hire standard of 25 percent means that 75 percent of those workers are living outside the city. It's a similar story for the restaurant, retail, and bar jobs that the influx of well-heeled new residents are creating demand for, none of which answers Avalos’ questions about how to diversify our economy and create good jobs for most San Franciscans.

“Trickle down economics can only get us so far and without a specific and far-reaching plan to create local living wage jobs for San Francisco’s working and middle classes, we’ll see us falling behind,” Avalos told the Guardian after hearing the mayor’s “answer.”

But instead of a plan or a direct answer, we got political platitudes from Lee such as, “We’ll be investing in the greatest asset of our city and that’s the residents, our people, and ensuring San Francisco stays a city for the 100 percent.”

To which Avalos responded, “His comment about the 100 percent really means that by favoring the 1 percent, the 99 percent benefit. Well, as a country, we’ve been doing that for years and wealth disparities have only widened.”


I happened to watch the Mayor's Question Time at today's BOS Meeting.

Yes, Lee gave carefully worded answers that obviously aimed to place his efforts in a positive light. But to say that he was 'non-responsive' is typical SFBG/Steven Jones nonsense.

I guess if you were looking him to say "Hey, I only care about rich tech people....there's a place for the rest of you and it's called Oakland" then yes, you didn't get the response you wanted. To any reasonable person, however, Lee gave a good, coherent account of his objectives.

He said that he was proud of the new tech jobs in the city but pointed to job growth outside of the tech sector. The Tech.SF program that Steven Jones refers to is an effort to work with local schools to provide training in the skills that the tech companies are fighting over. I guess this means that a lot of city kids will wind up with good paying jobs instead of relying on city programs for help, and that is a BAD thing by SFBG logic.

Meanwhile, Steven Jones will just publish silly posts with illustrations expressing his longing for the bubble to burst already on this passing fad called the internet.

Maybe our kids should be studying to be telegraph operators instead.

Posted by Troll on Dec. 11, 2012 @ 6:31 pm


Posted by marcos on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 7:56 am

worry too much about making any sense. Although his plan to replace well-paid jobs with minimum wage jobs might bring the end of the world as we know it a little closer.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 8:20 am

Steven Jones will be publish an awkward posts with illustrations expressing his longing for the bubble to burst already on this passing fad called the internet.

Posted by Bosch Power Tools For Sale on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 2:32 am

Can't even hit the softballs.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 11, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

I would hope that if Alvarez is found guilty of crimes which impact his official duties, there will be a successful professional misconduct procedure.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 11:14 am

No such luck, these elite executives move from disaster to debacle always failing upwards.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 11:34 am

Jason Grant Garza ... to GUEST .... you mean like the FOUR SUPERVISORS found guilty by the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE (sunshine task force) case # 11048 that sat in JUDGMENT over ROSS ??? http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=11889

How ETHICAL or MORAL was that ??? What will the CONSEQUENCE be?

Shall I show you the CONSEQUENCE over the SHERIFF's NURSE RATCH letter I received that was sent to ETHICS ??? http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com/master.html

Or maybe what I have gotten from everyone seeking medical care and accountability recently ... http://youtu.be/7cP3jCmJFRo

Yes, in a PERFECT world; however RIGGED is as RIGGED does and all the sheeple keep drinking the KOOL-AIDE.

Enjoy ... the ILLUSION.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:46 am

It's just a matter of time. Wouldn't surprise me if the mayor placed Alvarez on leave and appointed an interim over the holidays. If the mayor had offered a straight story and demonstrated leadership on the controversy, he mighta been able to weather the storm and hold onto the housing director but now that Lee's also in the cross hairs, Alvarez will get the boot. Doug Shoemaker's emails didn't do the mayor any favors either.

There's three hits that will be coming down the pike at the mayor on this issue. 1 - the investigation(s) into Alvarez's behavior, 2 - Alvarez's inevitable payout to leave his job, 3 - the lawsuit settlements.

Heather Knight did a good job on this story and the mayor's funky management of this situation will be repeatedly raised by her in articles during the search and hire of Alvarez's replacement. Its not the end of the world but it will be a steady dulling of a small part of the mayor's shine.

I think Steven's actually right about the economy and Conway issue though. Much bigger challenge for the mayor to have to start saying "no" to folks who've helped him move the ball down field than having to fire an ass of housing director.

Conway's trying to be the BMOC but is limited by his own vision/background and a habit of stepping on toes. He has a wine country style plan for the economy - plant whatever is most profitable today and try to grow that industry, assume support and ancillary businesses will make up for a lack of diversity. That's a great short term play and lousy long term plan. How many times have we seen this same thing in San Francisco over the past 150 years?

This is ripe stuff for the progs to raise and question and is an appropriate civic discussion for where our city is today. My question is whether the mayor will try to ignore, appease and bluster his way through (as appears to be his wont) or actually use his much touted (and promoted) collaborative skills to develop a vision and an actual plan for a diverse economy, which requires a more balanced approach than Conway has been advocating.

Of course, collaboration is also the stronger governing position but, in this case, may not be stronger political position given Conway's election spending and the lack of leadership among the progressives (who seem too busy defending the rights of naked people to bare ass in public).

Posted by BeckyBayside on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 11:25 am

Conway is doing what he knows best, tech. It happens to be a powerful jobs and wealth creator and has been in this area since at least 1939, when HP was founded. The epicenter for his efforts is a semi-abandoned building in a run down section of Market Street.

If somebody has other ideas then they should step forward and try to duplicate what Conway is doing. Do you think that knitting can be a big jobs/wealth creator? Then fine, come up with a plan like Conway and do your thing. Nobody's going to stop you.

Or you can just sit around and talk about how that awful Ron Conway is creating wealth and jobs the way that HE knows best, not the way that YOU think he should.

Posted by Troll on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

Every heard of Levi's or The Gap? Both those companies were founded here and created SF jobs and wealth. Despite being longtime corporate staples in SF and sticking around as others fled, they didn't benefit from the mid-Market tax breaks that Conway pushed. Do you dump your old friends every time you make a new one?

And it's ludicrous to say that simply because a tech guy is making plays that we shouldn't have a more diverse economy or that a balanced approach isn't necessary. That's the difference between a private industry like technology and the public arena. In civics, one needs to balance many competing constituents and industries whereas in the private sector, one mostly needs to keep new and current customers buying.

Oh and many folks are doing things not related to Conway or technology. The guy's only moved back to town ten minutes ago while some of us have been trying to do things here for much longer. Part of that effort is reminding our political leaders that focusing so much energy and attention on a single (non-elected) person's vision or industry isn't smart planning or good for our city. Even our discussion in this little corner of the internet helps raise that discussion. Thanks for participating.

Conway had a decent election and a profitable couple of years but he's going to find himself on defense moving forward unless he broadens his efforts to include more people and businesses. And it's not just the lefties mumbling about this... Debate, ignore or deny...whatever. This conversation is happening.

Posted by BeckyBayside on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

someplace else where the political leadership will be entranced by his beady cobra-eyes and powerful person of color credentials - despite his abysmal career track record. Afterwards the City of San Francisco will be stuck paying off the employees he mistreated, as have several other housing authorities in OR and TX which have had the extreme misfortune to hire this man.

Meanwhile the SFHA will be burdened with another appointee hired on the basis of patronage or political correctness but utterly lacking in the skills to make such an endeavor a success. Might I mention Christina Olague as a possible candidate? As a "working class woman of color" she already meets the most important qualification and more importantly - she badly needs a job.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

Mayor Ed Lee's "for the 100 percent" talking point sounds extremely similar to Mitt Romney...

Posted by SFSU Student on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

polls show his approval ratings have risen since then.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

manipulate the voting of the elderly. Opinion polls may be more significant if they don't smell like ass.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

In other words about 3 votes in every five.

All the sides are that Lee will get another term as well, given there are no real alternatives.

Better get used to it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

Jason Grant Garza here ... Avalos and Company did NOTHING on my complaint regarding PUBLIC HEALTH ( a letter sent to them by their CLERK - Angela Cavillo ) ... I did NOT even get PLATITUDES ... ZIP, nothing.

Want to see what I got from the SHERIFF http://youtu.be/xax7ksytpu4 ... talk about platitudes but NO HELP, NO ADVOCACY, NO ACCOUNTABILITY ... note the MAYORS OFFICE on DISABILITY part.

So much CONCERN from Avalos ... where is the CONCERN over the "OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT" for the FOUR SUPERVISORS found guilty by the MINISTRY of SUNSHINE (sunshine task force) that was sent to ETHICS?

Yes, GREAT propaganda ... we care, we ask questions, we accomplish NOTHING, we promise the world and when we fail ... we ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE. Keep drinking the KOOL-AIDE.

Nothing new under the SUN just looking for MORE gullible people to perpetrate their wares and collect their paycheck ...

Talk ... meaningless words = PRICELESS
Self promotion and self interest = OFF the richter scale.

Go to http://www.myownprivateguantanamo.com to see how the city plays.

Keep drinking the KOOL-AIDE.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:28 am

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Posted by Property agents gurgaon on Mar. 07, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

Nothing new under the SUN just looking for MORE gullible people to perpetrate their wares and collect their paycheck ...

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Posted by Buliders and Developers on Sep. 09, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

Not only for Lee every bureaucrat is struggling with uncertain questions being raised against them and in a very uncertain economic situation that the world is is in. Even the economic specialists within the administration is finding it tough to cope up.

Posted by windows update 8 on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 2:40 am

In civics, one needs to balance many competing constituents and industries whereas in the private sector, one mostly needs to keep new and current customers buying.

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Do not really understand the question about alvaraez diversifying? What is your take.

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