Just ignore the Chamber of Commerce


The Chronicle made a big deal of the fact that the Chamber of Commerce has a "21-point advocacy agenda" that "could weaken" the city's "boundry pushing legislation and pro-labor policies."

But really, nobody should even care.

The Chamber's been pretty irrelevant to local politics for years now, and there's no way six members of the Board of Supervisors are going to take the backward-thinking group up on its efforts to contract out city services and slow down cutting-edge proposals.

Actually, most of the "21-point agenda" is pretty tame. The Chamber, for example, wants to "Work with city government and advocacy groups to improve the ability of residents and visitors to move efficiently around the City by car, transit, bike and taxis." And it hopes to "Continue to promote San Francisco’s small businesses through formulating favorable public policies and providing ample networking opportunities." Wow. Hold the front page.

As for the things that might actually matter, forget it. Contracting out comes up almost every year at budget time; every year, a unified labor community shoots it down. This year will be the same. And nobody's going to get City Attorney Dennis Herrera to release a public analysis of every piece of legislation before it's approved.

Herrera's better than his predecessors, by far, but he's a lawyer, and lawyers don't like to share with anyone the advice they give their clients. I often wish Herrera's office would release more than it does, but unless the supervisors declare that they no longer want confidential advice from their attorney (which has its charm, to be sure, but also some real downsides) then the current policy will continue. Herrera will privately tell board members that there might be legal risks to some of their bills; the elected supervisors will decide whether to take those risks or not.

While I'm always an advocate of open government, the city attorney is not the Supreme Court. In the really bad old days, a city attorney named George Agnost used to routinely shut down progressive legislation by announcing that it was unconstitutional, leaving even conservative members of the board to denounce him. When the supes pass something, it's a presumptively valid law. If you don't like it, you can sue. The courts -- not the city attorney -- decide what's legal and what isn't.

And I have no idea where the Chamber's Jim Lazarus came up with this:

But prior to Herrera and his predecessor, Louise Renne, city attorneys regularly issued public opinions, said Lazarus, a deputy city attorney in the 1970s who lost to Herrera in the 2001 election.

That's completely untrue. I know; when Agnost was city attorney (in the 1970s and early 1980s) I tried constantly to get copies of his legal opinions. The vast majority were never released. That office was so secretive the city attorney wouldn't even tell you his name if it wasn't written on the door. When I pushed the issue, Agnost told me that copies of every non-confidential opinion he'd ever written were available at the public library. I went there. There were exactly three opinions on file, all of them noncontroversial and unrelated to any pending legislation.

Look, we all know that Gavin Newsom pushed the boundries of law when he approved same-sex marriages. But the California Supreme Court, faced with San Francisco's civic disobedience, changed the law and said marriage was a basic right. And the US Supreme Court is about to do the same thing. Is the Chamber arguing that Newsom was wrong?

The Chamber is yesterday's news. I don't even know why we pay attention any more.





No matter how much it saves taxpayers or whether a private business can provide better quality services. Their agenda is exclusively concerned with protecting the perks of their members, no matter the cost to the general public. They will ride this gravy train until a judge forcibly puts an end to it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

The SEIU is about maintaining and increasing head count, they've been negotiating away the perks for a decade now.

I think that public sector work should be done by appropriately compensated public sector employees, not cheaper private contractors.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 9:41 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

workers far more than a market rate, which comes directly out of our pockets.

Why should we pay a penny more than these people are worth/

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:01 am

Tim references his own blog post about the factuality of this one.

"It's my opinion that this other opinion piece of mine proves the factual status of this one."

Posted by matlock on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

I know. It really cracks me up. He did it in this issue when he says that:

"The Chamber's been pretty irrelevant to local politics for years now"

...and a new reader would think that the link he provides has some data or something behind it.

But if you follow the link it's just another one of his pieces. You don't really know if he can't find anyone else to quote of if he is just talking to himself again.

Whateves...you get you laughs wherever you can nowadays.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

Not to mention the absurdity of calling on people to ignore the Chamber of Commerce by not ignoring the Chamber of Commerce and calling attention to it.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

Yes, it begs the question...if Tim Redmond tells people to ignore the CofC, does it make a sound?

Posted by Troll on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

ever have one agenda - feathering their own nest.

Why would we listen to such an obviously self-serving, singel-issue lobbying group? It is clear that they care about nothing but themselves.

At least the Chamber of Commerce is seeking to build, develop and grow the city's economy, generating prosperity. All the unions want to do is consume that wealth for themselves.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:03 am

Yes, nonprofits getting tax subsidies to advocate for more profit!

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 9:50 am

rental building and then the building no longer has rent control on it, as there is an exemption to rent control for any building that is owned by the government, a charity or a non-profit.


Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Whatever you do, don't mention the Chamber of Commerce!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:06 am

The first rule of Chamber of Commerce is: you do not talk about Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 9:37 am
Posted by matlock on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

You Want Chamber Of Commerce?

You Can't Handle Chamber Of Commerce!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

Go ahead. Make my Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

In space, nobody can hear you Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

In Chamber of Commerce, nobody can hear you scream.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

I'll make you a Chamber of Commerce that you can't refuse.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

Yippee ki-yay, Chamber of Commerce!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Where did all the $ come from to overpay the City's oversized workforce?

Why it came from money that would have been spent on deferred maintenance and was redirected to employee's pockets to pay them above market wages per skill level and gold-plated benefits.

It's not just the Muni system that's falling apart.

What percentage of City residents even know that when the read in the Chron about the inflated wages of City employees that City employees are getting in addition, 30% more in pension contribution? I'd say less than 5%...

What you don't know can't hurt but a big pothole can break an axle...

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 10:45 am

Says the paper owned by the Examiner which hasn't been relevant since 1985.

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

The "City Family" now consumes 52% of the general fund through salaries, guaranteed-benefit pension plans, and healthcare, according to Harvey Rose. That's more than twice the ratio of other US cities with a 1m population.

"City family" workers get free healthcare for themselves and spouses for life after they have worked for the city for five years.

The average "city family" workers retires at the age of 58 with a guaranteed pension equivalent to 2/3 of his/her "spiked" salary.

Good Bless our "City Family!" We do it all for you!

So keep paying those $70 parking tickets.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 1:52 pm

Don't forget the "City Family 10%" fee applied to all permits. The city is gonna get its taste no matter what.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

I don't think 52% is accurate - certainly won't be the case for 2013-14. I'd be stunned if payroll is lower than 60%.

But regardless, it's not accurate because the City isn't even remotely fully funding the "pension and healthcare" commitments you reference. The Chron always reports a $4.4.billion shortfall in health but that figure is three years-old and pension is billions short because SFERS uses a bogus 7.5% investment return assumption.
When Ed Lee says his budget is "balanced," it's not - same as Jerry Brown.

Our City and state officials enjoy an opaque budgeting process.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Detroit is very close, Oakland not far beyond that. The benefits liabilities are stunning and beyond redemption.

It's over for the fat and happy city workers. And screw them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

The sheeple here will always vote to raise taxes on things like real estate transactions and parcels - knowing the chances of most of them ever having to pay those are low. Labor and progressives together know how to push the right buttons when asking SF voters for more money - portray the increase as something most people will never have to pay and display it as a "strike against the wealthy."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

pensions and healthcare into the 22nd century onto a smaller and smaller group of people will backfire. SF may get there well after Detroit and Oakland but, in the end, the rich can abandon SF and live just 10 miles away, avoiding any need to pay for this bottonless pit.

US cities are on the road to doom.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

See LA today- where an unbelievable 9.5% regressive sales tax (holy smokes) is on the ballot. The primary argument of proponents - we'll have to cut cops if you don't pay up.

SF is doing the same thing. City Hall takes the money for road repair (deferred maintenance) and sticks it in City employees' pockets. Then, when our streets soon become riddled with potholes - "well, what do you know" - we need to increase the Vehicle License Fee from 1.25% to 2.00% for road repair. And who could be against a tax to fix our roads??

These are simply regressive taxes on the poor and middle-class to underwrite the gold-plated benefits of public employees, benefits which the poor can only dream about. And they call this "progressive."

People are gullible.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Buh bye, don't let the toll gate hit your Bentley on the way out.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

Orinda, Tiburon or Los Altos will do.

The rich and the poor will leave SF, and the rest will have to pay the bills. Good luck with that.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 6:56 am


Posted by marcos on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 8:02 am

what hit you. Detroit only with better weather.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 8:46 am

"Chamber of Commerce is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful organization I've ever known in my life."

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Mar. 05, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

"SFERS uses a bogus 7.5% investment return assumption."

Yes the 1%-ers and public employees are the only people left who still have defined-benefit pension plans. And the Dow rose 0% between 2000-2010, meaning the return was 2% (dividend payments). So that the 5.5% shortfall has to be paid with General Fund money here in San Francisco. Money that should have gone for roads, schools, libraries, SF General, etc.

The rest of us suffer as best we can with defined-contribution pensions (401K) and Social Security.

"City Family" workers retire at 60 with free healthcare, good (+8.5% annually) pensions....and lots of "thank yous!" from SF residents.

Good bless you, indeed!

Posted by Troll the XIV on Mar. 06, 2013 @ 7:57 am