Monday, February 25, 2013

Griffin does Wiener 2


We've had three profiles of Supervisor Wiener in the local print media in less than a month. The latest, in San Francisco/Modern Luxury magazine (San Francisco Giant), is the worst, since it has falsehoods woven into the very texture of its prose:

In a place where government often values process over product (as in, the more “planning meetings” you’ve held with “stakeholders,” the more successful you are), Wiener has earned both enemies and acolytes by pushing through legislation and taking on controversial subjects with remarkable tenacity.

Griffin puts "planning meetings" and "stakeholders" in quotes, but no one in the city has ever said this or believes it. It's just the kind of bullshit that sounds knowing but that only someone who's faking it would use.

He’s doing so much, so fast, in fact, that the makings of what you might call a Wiener Doctrine are starting to take shape. If Bill Clinton’s approach to issues was triangulation, Wiener’s philosophy can be described as “untangulation”—refusing to get bogged down in red tape, activists’ shenanigans, or general procedural BS.

More fakery. Wiener's attempt to undermine city voters' initiative rights is not exactly "procedural BS." Nor is his bogus attempt to undermine/"reform" the public's right to challenge City Hall projects under CEQA. The "activists' shenanigans" is presumably a reference to the naked guys in the Castro issue, which Wiener seemed to enjoy almost as much as they did. Wiener actually screwed up this issue in the beginning with his half-assed "napkin" proposal.

As his sometime opponent Tom Radulovich, the executive director of Livable City and the president of BART’s board of directors, says, “Scott’s favorite term is ‘We’ll agree to disagree,’ and his vibe is ‘Keep it going, keep it going, keep it going.’”

This is the first of several quotations from Radulovich. No indication of what Radulovich has disagreed with Wiener about, but it's safe to assume it either isn't true or the issue was minor. Now if Wiener criticized the Bicycle Coalition or any of the other anti-car groups Radulovich supports, his view of Wiener wouldn't have been so benign. 

Livable City is nothing but a website for Radulovich's anti-car and half-baked "smart growth" ideas. Note that Radulovich took part in writing the Market and Octavia Plan that will bring 10,000 new residents into that already densely-populated part of town---already struggling with the chronic traffic jam on Octavia Blvd.---and 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness. That the M/O plan restricts the amount of parking developers can provide for all that new housing is Radulovich's idea of a "livable city." Let them ride bikes! Or an underfunded, crowded Muni system!

Ending the dialogue—even repetitive, circular dialogue—can be a cardinal sin in the consensus-obsessed world of San Francisco politics. But even occasional Wiener detractors like Radulovich agree that the supervisor should be praised for refusing to feed this toxic vein of the local culture. “Some people,” Radulovich says, “expect superhuman amounts of outreach, and at some point, that’s just a delay tactic.”

Soundbite number 2 from Radulovich. Again no examples of this behavior are provided, because there are none, just like Wiener can't provide any examples to justify his attempts to "reform" the initiative process and CEQA.

He has no problem switching from the highbrow (tenancy-incommon reform, CEQA process streamlining) to the lowbrow (city-run tree pruning, street-furniture cleanups, booting naked guys out of the Castro). Perhaps his efficient approach would be less bothersome if he chose safer—or simply fewer—issues to tackle. “Taking on nudity, food trucks, camping in plazas, taxi service, and historic preservation, he gets the goat of the people on the left,” says board president Chiu, who has known Wiener since both attended law school at Harvard.

Like Wiener David Chiu moved to the city after law school to show us how to govern a major American city. How did San Francisco get by before they arrived? Neither of these hustlers is exactly a credit to Harvard Law. "Streamlining" CEQA? Bullshit. In fact Wiener wants to make it much harder for the public to challenge projects that come out of City Hall, because City Hall knows best, right? These are not necessarily "left" issues---unless you consider people like me and George Wooding on the "left"---nor do they have anything to do with highbrow or lowbrow, which is just more rhetorical fakery from Griffin. Again if Wiener really wanted to show some bravery, he would challenge Chiu and Radulovich's anti-car, pro-bike policies, but he won't because he agrees with all the major policies dominant in City Hall---on planning and development, the Central Subway, and the bicycle bullshit.

“For Scott, if the issue is right and in line with his values, he’ll go for it. Other supervisors are making the calculation, ‘Will I get in trouble? Will I be popular?’”

Soundbite number 3 from Radulovich. Again no names or specifics are provided because there are none. Besides, if Radulovich provided names he might make someone in City Hall mad, and he's too chickenshit to risk that.

Asked why he’s not afraid to touch the sticky subjects, Wiener responds in typically vanilla fashion: “I’ve chosen to be a public official. If I’m just going to be a bump on a log and be timid and not actually push to make change, then why am I doing this?” Grinding through controversial proposals can be a risky path, of course, but if one’s goal is to propel oneself to citywide prominence, it’s an extremely good course of action. Then again, Wiener doesn’t seem to be modeling himself on particularly flashy folks.

None of the issues Wiener has taken on are likely to disturb many people in District 8, which is much more conservative than District 5, for example, where many are likely to oppose his fiddling with their initiative rights. ("Tellingly, only one person, a nudist named George Davis, has announced plans to run against Wiener next year when he’s up for reelection.") Recall that Wiener's predecessor was Bevan Dufty who often supported Mayor Newsom against the Bay Guardian left, in particular on homelessness and Care Not Cash. The left targeted Dufty when he ran for reelection, but he cruised easily to a second term.

In 2002, he left the [law]firm to join the city attorney’s office and then ran for the Democratic County Central Committee. He got his first taste of political chicanery in 2006 when, as the DCCC chairman, he selected his friend David Chiu to fill a committee vacancy, only to be doublecrossed when Chiu voted to oust him as chairman. Chiu’s vote—the deciding one in the election, it turned out—went to Aaron Peskin, whose endorsement Chiu sought as he gunned for the soon-to-be-termed-out District 3 supervisor’s seat on the board.

Yes, I blogged about the DCCC struggle at the time. I even supported Wiener in that instance, but that was before I knew anything about him. It involved the "moderate" Wiener against the supposedly more progressive Chiu and Peskin, though Chiu has turned out to be just another power hustler. Like Mayor Newsom, Wiener is fortunate in his left-wing opposition---though these folks are all members of the Democratic Party---which quickly endorsed a bunch of fringe-left issues that city voters rejected: public power, decriminalizing prostitution, and dumping JROTC from public schools. As I pointed out above, Supervisor Dufty also got a ration of shit from the left for supporting Care Not Cash, which actually helped him in District 8.

How is banning public nudity brave? Any sensible politician would love to have opposition like that. No one cares much about food trucks,  except brick-and-mortar restaurants that rightly resent the fact that they have to pay rent and food trucks just drive away when they're done serving their walk-up customers. CEQA is relatively obscure to most people, except for the Sierra Club types and the Bay Guardian left who understand that developers---and big retailers like WalMart---find it burdensome to have to do any kind of environmental review of their projects. And the Bicycle Coalition hated it when Judge Busch told the city it had to do environmental review of the massive Bicycle Plan. Like WalMart and developers, the Bicycle Coalition's talk about CEQA "reform" is crudely self-serving. Obviously Wiener, like Gavin Newsom, welcomes opposition from the Bay Guardian, but both politicians cater to the Bicycle Coalition.

His enemies may rail about Wiener’s supposed conservatism (the ever–hyperbolic Peskin recently told the Bay Guardian that Wiener is “fundamentally a very ideologically conservative person. He’s radical in his conservatism”), but what they really seem to hate is his pragmatism. Ideologically, he’s a tough guy to pin down. Speaking of his former Harvard classmates Chiu and fellow board member David Campos, Wiener quips, “I would say we’re left, lefter, and leftist. We’re all liberal Democrats here. But for some people, that is not left enough.”

This is one thing that Wiener gets right: the left-right analysis is not helpful in dealing with city issues. The Bay Guardian isolates itself from the rest of the political community with their paleo-leftist class struggle approach to issues. It may be hard for some people to grasp, but Chris Daly, Aaron Peskin, Gavin Newsom, Willie Brown, Scott Wiener, and I are all members of the Democratic Party---the Big Tent Party! Wiener doesn't have an ideology any more than I do. He takes these issues---all politically safe issues for him---one at a time. The problem is that he doesn't take the time to understand them before he acts. That he still can't provide some real examples of why his initiative and CEQA proposals are necessary shows that. Law school is the last time a lot of lawyers do any real studying, which seems to be the case with Wiener.

Appended to the end of the San Francisco magazine piece are some notes telling us that Wiener is a Taurus, that he has a cat, that he eats peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and likes ginger cookies. Odd that Griffin neglected to ask him about his favorite color or what kind of tree he would be.

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