Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chris Daly and the progressive agenda

The progressive agenda Chris Daly and other progs talk about has several different aspects. There's the part that has already been rejected by city voters: public power, legalizing prostitution, and getting JROTC out of city schools. Last November city voters also endorsed the sit-lie ordinance to deal with street punks, another defeat for city progs.

Then there's the part of their agenda that city progressives have already failed on, like homelessness, an issue that Gavin Newsom took possession of way back in 2002, when he got Care Not Cash on the ballot. He then rode that issue into the mayor's office by defeating Matt Gonzalez, the last serious progressive candidate for mayor. Except for sniping from the sidelines, city progressives have had nothing serious to say about homelessness since Newsom's election in 2003, as he went about implementing policies to cope with the growing squalor on our streets and in our parks. It's still not okay for progressives to admit that Newsom's homeless policies have had significant success, though both the Grand Jury and the Controller have documented that reality.

Just as important, there are policies that have and/or are being implemented about which progressives like Chris Daly and Mayor Newsom agreed: the Rincon Hill highrises, the trendy "transit corridors" and density approach to development in the city, and the anti-car policies epitomized by the Bicycle Plan. The highrise and dense development theories pushed by the Planning Dept. are exemplified in the Market/Octavia Plan and allowing UC to hijack the old extension property on lower Haight Street for a massive housing development (neither plan has been implemented since the Great Recession has made getting construction loans difficult).

None of these policies have been thoroughly debated in San Francisco, which means voters citywide have never had a chance to vote on them, even though the transit corridors, dense development approach to housing threatens every city neighborhood anywhere near a major traffic corridor.

Though I'm not a progressive---like most city voters, I'm what progressives derisively call a "moderate"---I think it would be good for the city if a plausible SF progressive joined the campaign for mayor, since it might lead to a debate on issues like the city's approach to development and the anti-car policies that Mayor Newsom and progressives have agreed on but on which city voters, given the opportunity, might have a different opinion.

Now that Supervisor Mirkarimi is a declared candidate for sheriff, the campaign for mayor still lacks a card-carrying San Francisco progressive. Chris Daly would neatly embody/personify all these flawed progressive policies very well, and he's threatening to run if no other prog enters the race, though that's probably just hot air to drum up business for his bar.

Daly complains about the influence of Rose Pak and Willie Brown, but he doesn't question the Central Subway boondoggle, the main legacy of their collaboration. What exactly is the progressive agenda for San Francisco? The answer: dense, high-rise development, ignoring quality-of-life issues, and anti-car policies to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to drive in San Francisco. That's what SF progressives have supported since they became a majority on the Board of Supervisors with the advent of district elections in 2000.

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