Monday, February 18, 2013

Another front-page story on Scott Wiener?


Now that Chris Daly and Gavin Newsom are gone from City Hall, journalists who write about local politics are so desperate for story ideas that Supervisor Wiener is getting a lot of ink even though he's achieved nothing of significance---except getting a lot of publicity for himself.
 
After the Guardian's recent front-page story on Wiener, the SF Weekly does the same in the current edition. Maybe that's the new defintion of competition in Todd Vogt's stable. In The story Joe Eskenazi assumes that Wiener is deserving of all this attention, that he is in fact a serious "reformer." Like his 2011 front-page story on the failure of city progressivism, Eskenazi's profile of Wiener shows little interest in the actual issues. He gets soundbites from pseudo-authorities like Corey Cook and Rich DeLeon and has a lame riff on Scott McKenzie. It's surprising that Eskenazi didn't get any soundbites from other Usual Suspects, like Leah Shahum and Gabriel Metcalf. 
 
But he gets one from another phony "moderate," Sean Elsbernd: "Scott's real skill is, I have never seen him cave on his principles."
 
What principles? The only one visible so far in Wiener's brief political career is self-promotion.
 
Eskenazi buys the version of himself that Wiener is successfully selling: 

Scott Wiener, a man who has been chewed up and spit out by this city's political process, has less reverence for it than most. Those who embrace rituals meant to extract concessions while slowing (or outright halting) change have little use for Wiener's efforts at "streamlining" or, worse yet, "reform."
 
City voters did "spit out" Wiener's attempt to dilute the initiative process, since his Proposition E was rejected by a more than two to one vote---an overwhelming margin not mentioned by Eskenazi---in large part because voters rightly don't trust City Hall enough to allow it to tamper with measures they pass. And his CEQA "reform" was rejected unanimously by the Planning Commission, also unmentioned by Eskenazi, because it was clear to the commissioners, who deal with CEQA issues every week, that Wiener didn't know what he was talking about. On both these issues, Wiener failed to provide valid examples of the problem he was supposedly addressing.
 
Eskenazi mentions the nude issue, of course, but he fails to note that Wiener botched it in the first place with his original solution: make the exhibitionist creeps put a napkin under their privates when they sit in public.
 
Eskenazi does note that Wiener is in favor of all the housing planned for District 8, claiming that his pro-development stance makes "him the rare pro-development supe unafraid to push for construction in his own district." Eskenazi still doesn't understand that everyone on the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor is pro-development, including the allegedly more "progressive" board that preceded this one. But then Eskenazi lauded the Market and Octavia Plan in his "Progressively Worse" story in the SF Weekly as a prog triumph.
 
Unmentioned too is the support by Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin, and Ross Mirkarimi for the luxury highrise condos on Rincon Hill. City Hall has been aggressively pro-development for years, but the policy is now cloaked in PC terminology, like Smart Growth and Transit Corridors. Eskenazi quotes uberprog Supervisor Avalos on the issue, but he fails to ask Avalos how he disagrees with that policy. He doesn't, any more than Mirkarimi, Daly, and Peskin did.
 
That's the real story about what's happening to San Francisco: massive development along with goofy anti-car, bicycle projects, as if the thousands of new residents City Hall is building housing for will ride bicycles and not drive cars when they get here. And of course Muni continues to be underfunded, since the Market/Octavia project---and UC's massive housing development on the old Extension site on lower Haight Street---that Eskenazi thinks is so progressive provides no money to help Muni handle the 10,000 new residents the project encourages even as it restricts the amount of parking developers can provide for the 5,000 new housing units.
 
Eskenazi quotes another pseudo-expert on local politics, Tom Radulovich, who he describes generously---accepting Radulovich's definition of himself---as a "transportation and environmental activist," though he's really just another anti-car guy, which is what being an "activist" in SF boils down to:
 
"He throws everything but the kitchen sink in there," notes transportation and environmental activist Tom Radulovich. "That creates rancor. But it works." Radulovich, in fact, has been happy to pass material to Wiener, whom he characterizes as "a very effective legislator."
 
Wrong! His two major policy moves---on initiatives and CEQA---were poorly conceived and complete failures. Wiener's only major success so far is at self-promotion. According to Matier and Ross this morning, he's going to run for the State Senate. Good. At least that will get him out of our hair. Let him go to Sacramento, where he can schmooze with other hustlers and former supervisors, Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, and Fiona Ma.

The SF Chronicle also accepts Wiener's version of himself. From an editorial last month:
 
Supervisor Scott Wiener, emerging as a voice for government reform, said there may be times when four or five supervisors cannot get something passed even though there is "a critical mass" of public support for the idea. Still, Wiener said the process is "highly flawed" because it allows poorly drafted measures to advance without vetting that might identify legal problems or unintended effects. "You can't change one comma 30 years later without going back to the ballot" once it passes, said Wiener, author of an unsuccessful 2011 measure to allow the mayor or supervisors to revise their measures after they submit them.
 
If this is such a big problem---so important that Wiener felt compelled to get it on the ballot---why can't he provide a single example of what he's supposedly trying to fix? Because it's all bullshit. Scott Wiener is not about policy; he's about promoting Scott Wiener.

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