Da Mayor, local hire advocate

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Da Mayor
GUARDIAN FILE PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

Even as Sup. John Avalos continues to be raked over the coals by San Francisco Examiner columnist Melissa Griffin for his so-called “peacocking, disrespectful demeanor” and “flexible hate speech standards,” the progressive District 11 supervisor nevertheless earned something akin to praise May 22 from an unlikely figure: former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

The San Francisco Chronicle columnist, attorney (Brown mentioned in his speech that he paid $50 a semester for law school), sometimes PG&E consultant, self-proclaimed “buddy” of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and all-around power broker delivered his Annual Lecture on Political Trends at the Commonwealth Club yesterday. He plugged his own column, saying, “On Sunday, you can read a column that can’t be disputed. Because it’s my version of the facts.”

Brown is known for his cozy relationship with Mayor Ed Lee and is politically at odds with Avalos, who ran against Lee in 2011. Emphasizing his support for Lee, Brown lauded him for clinching the city's right to host Super Bowl 2016 events in San Francisco. He pointed out, “That Super Bowl is going to be exactly when he’s possibly seeking reelection.”

Brown also mentioned accompanying the mayor on a recent trip to China, where Lee was reportedly “treated as if he was the president of America instead of just the mayor of San Francisco.”

However, Da Mayor had a bone to pick. He launched into a tale of how he often wanders down to the city’s bustling construction sites, marked by “these 24 or 25 cranes that you see around town” (presumably he finds time for this aimless wandering this between international excursions, dining with the Gettys in North Beach, and palling around with his “buddy” Schwarzenegger?). “Invariably I take a look at the cars, the crews,” he said, and has concluded that “they’re not San Franciscans.” Not only are private development projects being built by out-of-towners, he said, no local hire requirement was imposed upon the city’s Central Subway contractors. 

Giving voice to a cause long championed by Avalos, a progressive who fought doggedly to enact a local hire ordinance, Brown expressed frustration that locals aren’t the ones scoring gigs in the city’s construction bonanza.  

Then he gave Avalos a sort of backhanded compliment, calling him “the strongest advocate for local hire,” but saying “he hasn’t followed up the way he should follow up, to ensure that people who live here get the jobs.”

It seems unfair to lay the blame for this at Avalos’ feet, but Da Mayor seems to be on the money as far as this point is concerned: As long as SF has embarked on a building frenzy, shouldn't it be residents who reap the benefits of decent paying construction gigs?