John Diaz, editor of the Chronicle's editorial page, was happy to report last Sunday (So much for 'wacky' S.F.) that the city isn't getting bad press of late because "civility" in local politics is now the norm, "zaniness" is absent, and a "calmer atmosphere" prevails in City Hall:
Perhaps the epiphany came when I saw that the only nonbinding resolution on the ballot was to implore the city to negotiate for lower drug prices. Or maybe it was while unopposed Treasurer José Cisneros was telling our editorial board about his tax collection efficiency goals, or when unopposed Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu was meticulously detailing her efforts to streamline homeowner appeals. Unopposed? In San Francisco, where wannabe politicians are as eager for audiences as poets, proselytizers, grifters and guitarists? Believe it. There was just one challenger against four incumbents this fall: Ivan Seredni, who is taking on District Four Supervisor Katy Tang. If you haven't heard of Seredni, perhaps it's because he doesn't have a campaign website or a listed phone number, and hasn't bothered to raise a dime, answer e-mails from us or show up for endorsement interviews at any of the city's major political clubs.
Of course the offices of Treasurer and Assessor are non-political and rarely involve any real political debate or opposition. And Supervisor Tang, like her predecessors Fiona Ma and Carmen Chu, is a political cipher whose main qualification for office in District Four is that she's ethnically Chinese. (That's why carpetbagger Jane Kim ran in District 6, not in District 4.) Like her undistinguished predecessors, Tang will keep her head down and never say anything interesting or, more importantly, dissent on important city policy and projects. She will then move on to the next rung in her career ladder, where she will repeat the process.
It wasn't so long ago that the silliness quotient was so off the charts that it was hard to turn on cable television without stumbling upon a San Francisco politician making a fool of himself. Classic cringe-worthy moments included Supervisor (now Judge!) Gerardo Sandoval trying to explain on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" in 2006 that the United States does not really need a military and Supervisor Eric Mar in 211 serving up his ban on Happy Meals for mockery on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."
Yes, Sandoval is now a judge, narrowly elected over a more-qualified candidate by the kind of people who take the Bay Guardian's recommendations into the voting booth. Supervisor Mar is still a dim bulb. The other day I heard him excitedly tell his colleagues about touring the future site of the Transbay Terminal and standing where high-speed rail
trains will never arrive or depart.
But it's really Chris Daly that Diaz is talking about:
[Chris]Daly, for those who forget, was the former supervisor and bad boy of the left who made his adolescent pugnacity a point of pride. At one point he even declared that he would use the f-word at every board hearing. Yes, he tended to draw what the PR types call "bad press."
What Diaz and the consensus-mongers want to forget is that, bad language and arm-waving aside, Daly rarely differed from Mayor Brown or Mayor Newsom on the important issues---the Central Subway, Rincon Hill, the Bicycle Plan, Smart[sic] Growth, the Market/Octavia Plan, allowing UC to rip off the old extension property on lower Haight Street, etc. The only issue Daly differed with Newsom about is homelessness.
Today's progressive bloc is less openly combative and mostly devoid of Daly-like paranoia. Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Eric Mar are unfailingly gracious, thoughtful and accessible. They're smart enough to avoid the flights of zaniness that made Daly and their other progressive predecessors so susceptible to ridicule (Mar's Happy Meals fiasco being an exception).
That these folks aren't at all "thoughtful" or "smart" was illustrated by their reaction to the mayor's attempt to destroy Ross Mirkarimi. After voting to allow Mirkarimi to keep his job, Supervisor Avalos, the major prog candidate in the last mayoral election, said this
It doesn't appear Mirkarimi would have much support from[Supervisors] Campos or Avalos. They said they'd probably stay neutral. "I've already spent months of my life anxiously awaiting a vote that I knew would upset everyone in San Francisco, and I'm not really looking forward to going through that again," Avalos said. "I would probably stay out of it."
Why vote to keep Mirkarimi on the job and then "stay out of" a recall campaign? Because it's clear what really bothered Avalos was having to make a controversial vote that "upset everyone." It was all about him, not justice for Mirkarimi and his family.
Supervisor Kim, who also voted to allow the Murk to keep his job, was dumb in a slightly different way:
Kim issued a statement Wednesday explaining her vote, and she went out of her way to note that the “electorate has every right to recall the sheriff, an action which I would support.”
That is, Kim voted to allow Mirkarimi to keep his job but still supported recalling him!
And there's growing evidence that these supervisors are not only dumb but also spineless, as evidenced by their silence during the appeal hearing on the Fell/Oak bicycle project.
And then silent again on the Polk Street bike project. As candidates all these folks---Avalos, Kim, Campos, and Mar---told the Bicycle Coalition that they supported the Polk Street bike lanes, but when crunch time came and serious opposition in Polk Gulch appeared, they were silent, leaving Supervisor Chiu to defend the half-baked version of the project that resulted from the neighborhood opposition.
Of course Diaz quotes SPUR's Gabriel Metcalf, who supports all the dumb policies and projects that are damaging the city:
Gabriel Metcalf, director of the public-policy group SPUR, had predicted at the beginning of the year that the sudden acceleration of growth in San Francisco might lead to a populist backlash. So far, he said, it hasn't happened---which makes him wonder if residents have become more open to the reality that an urban area must change to remain vibrant. "I don't know if it's true or wishful thinking on my part," Metcalf said.
How and where would people in San Francisco express "a populist backlash"? Not in the Chronicle, where Diaz and company think things are looking pretty "vibrant
." Not at the Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, or the SF Examiner. The supposedly leftist Guardian had only a tepid dissent
on the Rincon Hill highrises, the Market/Octavia Plan
, and UC's rip-off
of the extension property---and little to say about the Smart Growth
projects on Treasure Island and at Parkmerced.
Labels: Aaron Peskin, Chris Daly, City Government, David Chiu, Jane Kim, Media, Polk Street, Right and Left, Ross Mirkarimi, SPUR, Willie Brown