Will narrow business interests continue to dominate SF's political agenda?

Will San Francisco's "success" be broadly shared or narrowly guarded by business elites?
Steven T. Jones

Will the narrow, deceptive, and disempowering “jobs” rhetoric of the last two years continue to dominate San Francisco politics in 2013? Or can San Franciscans find the will and organizing ability to create a broader political agenda that includes livability, sustainability, and affordability?

If it's up to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce – whose perspective has been aired in both the Examiner and Chronicle over the last two days – private sector profits will continue to be our only metric of civic success.

Just take a look at the “Pinkslips and Paychecks Scorecard” that the Chamber released yesterday, rating members of the Board of Supervisors based on a series of 16 votes for tax cuts and public subsidies for businesses, approvals of projects serving the rich, rollbacks of government regulations, business surcharges on consumers, maintaining PG&E's dirty energy monopoly, and blocking an expansion of developer fees to improve Muni.

That aggressive neoliberal agenda, which is shared by Mayor Ed Lee and his big corporate backers, was reinforced by Chamber VP Jim Lazarus in an op-ed in today's Examiner. Ignoring the rising housing and other living costs that plague the average San Francisco, Lazarus uses hopeful language about how we're all “poised for success in 2013,” burying the Chamber's aggressive and exclusive agenda in the subtext.

At the top of his agenda are: “Approval of the California Pacific Medical Center rebuild, reforming San Francisco’s California Environmental Quality Act appeals process, and rule-making for the upcoming gross-receipts tax.” In other words, let CPMC have what it wants, make it more difficult to challenge developers on environmental grounds, and ensure business taxes remain as low as possible.

And to ensure supervisors get the message, he closes by noting that business leaders are “energized and ready” to push their agenda with tools such as the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth, which waged some of the nastiest and most deceptive political attack ads on progressive candidates in the last election cycle.

The progressive movement of San Francisco has its problems and issues, including a recently widening schism between environmental and transportation activists on one side and the nonprofit housing and social justice faction on the other. And in the current economic and political climate, both sides too often find themselves partnering with corporate and neoliberal interests to get things done.

But now, more than ever, San Francisco needs to broaden into political dialogue, and that means a reconstitution and expansion of its progressive movement. That's something that the Guardian has long focused on facilitating and publicizing – something that will be my personal focus as well – and we have some idea percolating that we'll discuss in the coming weeks and months.

Then maybe all San Franciscans can be poised for success in 2013 and beyond.


it's appropriate to look forward to 2013. And in considering that, and the possibility of a change of direction, then it's important to ask whether what the average SF'er wants has changed.

Now, we know that you and SFBG have your own vision and ideology. But I think that even you would admit that you haven't typically done well at the ballot box. The simple fact is that Lee stood on an aggressive pro-jobs and pro-growth platform and garnered a comfortable victory. While Daly and Ross have given way to moderates.

So the question now surely is this. What, if anything, has changed since then? Well, it's only been a year so all we really have to go on is the 2012 election results. And while the state and the nation moved left, locally we really did not. Progressives lost in a couple of key districts and the left-wing corpus elected a decade ago has mostly fizzled out.

So if you want to push your agenda just because it is your and you like it, then knock yourself out. But can you put your hand on your heart and honestly declare that there is an unambiguous mandate from the people to change course? Because I am just not seeing it. Are you hear to listen to the people or tell them what they should want?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Ad Hominem Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

Stephen Troll Jones

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 6:52 am

I would dispute some of your premises, Guest. In San Francisco as well as statewide, polls consistently show people supporting higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations, and sounding concerns about their own economic security. The "jobs" rhetoric only works because most people (oh, say, 120 percent of median wage and below) are barely getting by and they're scared that things will get worse. And to address your question, what has changed in San Francisco since Lee's election is that rents, housing prices, and other costs of living have all increased, adding to that squeeze that people feel. We also have a less diversified economy because of all his focus on tech development, making this city vulnerable to a downturn in that sector, something that City Economist Ted Egan has warned policymakers to address, although none seriously are. So it isn't me spreading fables about what San Franciscans want, it's you, Mayor Lee, and the Chamber of Commerce that are misrepresenting things because it suits their narrow self-interest. All I'm trying to do is speak the truth and spark a conversation about the myopic politics being practiced in this city.

Posted by steven on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

pro-jobs and pro-Lee because they are "scared", you've decided that they don't really know what is best for themselves but that you, miraculously, do?

In other words, if the people assert a preference for a policy that you personally do not prefer, then you want to supplant their thinking with something more "suitable".

Now, I happen to agree that SF should have a diverse economic base. But do you really believe that having world-class entities here like Twitter, Salesforce and so on harms our economy? Any other city on the planet would kill to have such businesses, and Brisbane very nearly did.

Sure, housing is on an upswing right now. That always happens in good times, and that really helps anyone in SF facing foreclosure (which SFBG has suddenly stopped worrying about, apparently). Higher prices are always the quid pro quo of a great economy, but would you really want to swap places with Detroit? I guarantee you that almost no voters would, if that even bothers you.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

Just as corporate power dominates San Francisco government, their trolls dominate the SFBG website. One side is playing for keeps, our side is not.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

"trolling". If you cannot even handle some mild and constructive criticism from a registered Democrat, how can you ever hope to credibly do battle with real right-wing hardliners?

Seeking to suppress criticism was a hallmark of the ill-fated communist regimes. We have an open society here. Try and understand what that means, and what obligations it places on you to embrace diversity, balance and mutual tolerance.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

Ad Hominem Troll. The issue of this thread is corporate dominance and how to fight it.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

Assumptions are always dangerous.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

You are a troll as the editorial position of this publication, unless it has changed, is that we should contest corporate dominance. Other publications support continued corporate dominance of politics. If you were not a troll you'd be discussing your position with people who agree with you and doing something about it other than disrupting a progressive forum with your libertarian capitalism.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

should ever be made here? Because I checked the site and see no official statement like that anywhere?

You assume, surely, that this organ does not embrace a diversity of opinions, nor welcomes free speech and well-argued challenge? But I see no written basis for that assertion.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

Recall that the Chamber, Scott Wiener, and the Bicycle Coalition want to "reform" CEQA. Wiener wants every project okayed by City Hall to sail through unchallenged, the Chamber wants all profit-oriened projects to get a pass, and the Bicycle Coalition doesn't want the city to have to do any serious traffic studies before it implements all of its anti-car "improvements."

SF progressives are now in coalition with Wiener and the Chamber.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

out-of-control bike lobby. But Wiener really is a good guy and, in fact, a breath of fresh air on the BofS.

We definitely need EIR's done on some of the more aggressive bike lanes that are now being mooted. But anyone who wants to get something done in this town right now doesn't want to get on the wrong side of Wiener. The dude has a way of getting things done.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:06 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

Imp Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

cok gobbling troll

Posted by Erick Brooks on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

Last time you were here, you were a classical caricature of a left-wing loony. Now you seem adept at seeing through them. That puts the "progress" in "progressive" fo shizzle.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

Rob, you are correct. The Mayor and developers have the nonprofits of both tribes, enviro and social justice in their pockets and plays each off of the other to maximize the corporate take while minimizing any benefits.

As a result, all we're going to see is much more development that snarls Muni more than it pays in and decreasing increments of affordable housing, social services and "livability."

The public will be cut out of any meaningful input because, as we all know, staff gets it right the first time all of the time.

These are the kinds of discussions that should dominate this board instead of the mindless right wing gainsaying from the trolls.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:09 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

He gives no quarter to the poverty pimps of Non Profit Inc.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

I think it's disgusting that someone like Randy Shaw can use his influence to get privately-run SRO's shut down on safety or DBI issues, then buy those buildings for a song with taxpayer money, then do them up with taxpayer money, and then rent them out while claiming exemption from rent control because they are technically a "non profit". Nice living if you can swing it, and his Berkeley home is worth 2 million, apparently.

But on the other hand, the non-profits can be bought off which dilutes the most left-wing and dangerous political constituency here, and that's not worth nothing.

So is it OK to throw some bones to the appalling Shaw, Welch et al, in order to save us from being run by a moron like Daly? I have to think, on balance, that it is.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

Troll. The editorial position of this publication is decisively to the contrary of your position. Continuing to troll here espousing opposing positions instead of attacking the settled premise is harassment.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

the editors here that such a position must be maintained without any right of reply.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

Brooks, marcos and lilli have made it abundantly clear from their hundreds of weekly posts that only certain subjects and favored political positions are permitted here. Besides, all of the real organizing and coalition building is being done face-to-face, not on some lame chatboard. Only the losers and socially challenged have to resort to chatboards to make their points.

The people trying to make a difference in the Bay Area are too busy meeting and talking with kindred spirits, or doing the messy work of organizing and compromising with other like-minded individuals. They don't have a lot of time to waste wading into this chatboard where many bottom-feeders flourish. Even more than sfgate, this is the "All hat, no cattle" chatboard, where a profusion of words and name-calling are used to mask a paucity of action by those with few accomplishments. Rent-control. Manhattanization of SF. White men behaving badly. Where have we read about those stories before? Last year? Three years ago? 10 years ago?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

and so your comment ended up being simply ass-clownish.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

achieved anything real? Aren't the real progressives those who actually achieve some progress, rather than whining from the peanut gallery?

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

Lucrecia, what else would an honest observer/participant do? The nonprofity and labor nexus has perfected the art of losing, of compromising for pennies on the dollar and they continue to get rewarded for failing which all be ensures more failure. As noted below by a political opponent troll, my political interests are sabotaged by replacing effective progressives with the nonprofiteers. What would my interests be in supporting that?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Also, Rob, just as Golden Gate Park was Leah Shahum's last Moby Dick and that led to opening the floodgates to luxury condos in and around the formerly industrial areas Mission, Leah is going all Ahab on your ass for being correct on the Bicycle Plan and her "victory" will be Pyrrhic to cyclists.

Leah would rather cast her lot with developers to get back at you even if it means that bike projects where an initial review indicates an environmental impact of transit delay will still need to do an EIR. The whole point of this exercise was to relieve bike projects of EIR because of auto delay. You taught us that bike projects can delay transit as well. I find it annoying that Shahum signed onto an editorial "putting transit first" when she's pushing an effort to slow down transit due to ending most CEQA project level analysis.

And when transit is slowed down, that shifts mode to autos disproportionately which makes cycling even more dangerous.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:16 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

The "disempowering jobs rhetoric" has not been disempowering to those that have found (and hope to find,) good paying construction jobs in both the public & private sectors. It is critical for us as progressives to embrace the thousands of local residents (many people of color,) who find job security, healthcare, pensions, hope, etc. in development projects, instead of the NIMBY (and hardly diverse,) minority.

Posted by Sflaborrep on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

Yes, but developers need to pay for their projects' full impacts to Muni and other city infrastructure, as well as providing affordable housing funding and other mitigations to ensure their profits don't come at the expense of San Francisco's diversity and long-term stability. Too often, the building trades have been willing to support bad deals for city residents -- negotiated by people in the Mayor's Office who don't understand the idea of leverage or brinksmanship -- simply because maybe a quarter of the construction jobs projects create are going to city residents. Going forward, we should take smart stances somewhere between the NIMBY and "all growth is good growth" perspectives.

Posted by steven on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Steven, unless you're willing to use the SFBG to enter progressives into a progressive 12 step recovery program to take an inventory of what led us to the position where the Mayor is running roughshod over us, analyze what fragments of the progressive coalition add value and which elements subtract value, promote the former and sack the latter, and what other constituencies can be incorporated into a new coalition, then it really makes no difference whether you speak the truth to power.

Power makes the truth and knows it full well. It no longer even goes through the motions of listening.

Either we figure out how to build a new electoral coalition to contest corporate dominance or it is going be major dildo action with us on the receiving end from here out. Our first problem is cleaning house. That will involve stepping on your relationships. I don't think that you have the ability to be confrontational required to clean house in you.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

Actually, Marc, I am interested in that very goal. Stay tuned.

Posted by steven on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

puzzling mish mash progressive world view at it's pinnacle.

The progressive bemoan the lack of opportunity, jobs, and upward mobility, for denizens of the city. They also bemoan that opportunity for the working classes doesn't also include the progressive mish mash of entitlements elsewhere.

Having dozens of city citizens get well paying jobs that could last their lifetime is bad if MUNI has to carry those people to work. It would be much better if the city was paying them to watch color TV. It's an atrocity if people get well paying jobs and pay higher taxes, if property values go up and thus property taxes because some people were employed to upgrade properties then the world is nearly come to an end.

Some progressive examples

The progressives want the poor and downtrodden to move up, but not at the cost of actually moving up. People that make more money use up more energy, it's better that they are poor.

Women and minorities should move into the board room, but corporations are evil. So it's better that there is a glass ceiling so that progressives can blame everything on white men.

Don't ask don't tell is an atrocity but the military is full of baby killers. We should ban JROTC from our Campos-es because theu don't let gays into the military, until they do let in the gays so we should ban them because???


Nothing pisses off a progressive more than a person leaving the reservation.

Posted by Maybery RFD on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

Nice, Steven, finding the middle, that is the key.

Posted by Guestsflaborrep on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

Construction employment in a small city is not sustainable unless the city is constantly rebuilt. That is neither economically nor environmentally sustainable. Relying on construction in San Francisco for a steady stream of jobs is like the Pacific Northwest relying on clearcutting of old growth virgin forests, it has been proven impossible.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

In fact, in most cities, homes and buildings get replaced much more frequently than here, where many buildings are now 100 years old, and where space is limited.

A good quake, of course, will need the whole city to be redeveloped. I guess you're hoping that doesn't happen for purely political reasons.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Other than just tax the bejesus out of anything that moves?

Posted by D. native on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

One where progressives self marginalize so that corporate power can finalize its decisive play FTW.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

adjectives add nothing other than what the writer wants you to believe.

So had you started your piece with "Will the “jobs” rhetoric of the last two years continue to dominate San Francisco politics in 2013?", I probably would have been more receptive to the remainder of the article. After all, yes, Lee stood for office on jobs and won handsomely. That's a fact.

But instead of course you started with:

"Will the narrow, deceptive, and disempowering “jobs” rhetoric of the last two years continue to dominate San Francisco politics in 2013?"

Thereby breaking two of the golden rules of good writing. (The other being putting the word "jobs" in quotation marks to indicate you think it's somehow fraudulant. You turning a perfectly valid fact into a value judgment.

Can I send you a guide to writing style as a late Christmas present?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 5:32 pm


Posted by admin on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 6:04 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

"Jobs" is a proxy for corporate welfare.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

Lee won a landslide on a pro-job platform. But then why would you care what the voters want? It's all about what you want?

Posted by anon on Jan. 09, 2013 @ 2:57 pm