Friday, September 07, 2012

No choice in District 5

The campaign for president provides the country's voters with a choice between candidates who stand for clearly different politics and policies. Too bad District 5 voters won't have a similar choice when they vote for supervisor in November. As I pointed out the other day, all the candidates are groveling before the Bicycle Coalition. I suppose they could all claim that their support for everything the coalition and City Hall want to do to our streets is based on conviction, but that would only show how GroupThink dominates the city's political community.

The story in the Chronicle the other day tried to breathe some life into the D5 race by quoting Aaron Peskin, who argues unconvincingly that the political stakes are high:  
The races in District One and District Seven may offer the starkest contrasts between moderates and progressives. But former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who was termed out in 2009 and remains politically active, argues that the District Five contest "is the most important race in San Francisco." Peskin and some other leading voices on the left have questioned Olague's allegiance to their cause. They highlight her support for the 8 Washington waterfront condominium project and support for the mayor's reappointment of pro-development Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini as cases in point. Peskin said the progressive camp should be able to rely on the vote of the District Five supervisor without question. "The real question in this election is whether or not the voters want to have checks and balances," Peskin said. "I think District Five is the indicator---the canary in the coal mine."

Whether Julian Davis---Peskin's candidate---or someone else wins, there's no indication any of the candidates have any doubts on "development" or other important city issues. Except for 8 Washington, how do Davis and the other candidates differ with Mayor Lee on transportation and development policy?

I'd like to hear more specifics on exactly what the progressive "cause" really is in San Francisco, since "smart growth" and "dense development" along "transit corridors" is what has been guiding, if that's the word, our Planning Department and City Hall for years with little dissent from city progs.

When he was President of the Board of Supervisors, Aaron Peskin bragged about the highrises he was willing to allow---not in his North Beach, mind you, but in other parts of the city. Chris Daly's Rincon Hill highrises couldn't have happened without the support of Peskin, Ross Mirkarimi and other prog supervisors. Only the Bay Guardian made a lame and late dissent when the highrise luxury condos were a done deal.

City progs made a fuss over Mayor Lee's reappointment of Republican Antonini to the Planning Commission, but how exactly have his votes been any different than Olague's? And how have all the large developments okayed by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors in the last ten years---Rincon Hill, the UC development on lower Haight Street, the Market/Octavia Plan, Treasure Island, and Parkmerced---deviated from the dumb "smart growth" doctrine supported by Peskin, Mirkarimi, Olague and other city progs?

When you look at the context of 8 Washington---backed by much taller buildings okayed by the city---it's hard to see what the fuss is about, since, like a number of other housing projects in the city, it will provide market-rate housing for the well-off.

The previous Chronicle story on the November election put the District 5 race in a more realistic perspective:
"District Five is probably the most far-left district in the city, and you're going to get some flavor of progressive winning the supervisor's race," said David Latterman, a political consultant and public policy lecturer at the University of San Francisco..."The fact that we're having this conversation that Olague isn't left enough is crazy," Latterman said. "She is a progressive with a long track record."

Yes, but her support for Mayor Lee and her appointment as supervisor will doom her at the polls just like her relationship with Mayor Brown doomed Juanita Owens in 2000.
In short the District 5 election, regardless of who wins, will have no real political significance in the city. "Peskin said the progressive camp should be able to rely on the vote of the District Five supervisor without question."
Davis will provide that unquestioning vote. He opposed allowing UC to rip off the extension property on lower Haight Street, but he's been silent on the issue since the 2004 campaign. Davis evidently learned his lesson: If you want to run for office in Progressive Land, best not to dissent from "the progressive camp."


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