Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Bay Guardian and the failure of the left

In a postmortem on the Bay Guardian's death, the Chronicle quotes former supervisor Chris Daly:

In what Daly called “the biggest fumble in the history of progressive politics in San Francisco,” the board[of supervisors] elected Lee, the administrator who then proceeded to break his promise not to run for a four-year term. Lee’s focus has been on job creation and tech promotion and less on issues paramount to the progressives: homelessness, tenant protections and the environment.

Chris Daly is wrong. The biggest progressive political fumble---maybe the biggest political fumble in city history---happened more than ten years ago, and it was on homeless policy. Daly was complicit in that failure, since he was one of the loudest opponents of Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash, passed by city voters in 2002. Daly and other city progressives compounded that failure by continuing that opposition long after Newsom's homeless policies were showing some success.

After getting Care Not Cash on the ballot and passed by city voters in 2002, Newsom ran a successful campaign for mayor that featured the homeless issue. His opponent in 2003, was Matt Gonzalez who blathered about the "root cause" of homelessness, which was apparently our wicked capitalist system. From a letter to the editor to the Chronicle I wrote after Newsom was elected mayor in November, 2003:

If, as Matt Gonzalez claims, the campaign for mayor is an “ideological battle,” he and progressives have already lost. A majority of city voters have made it clear they want something done about homelessness and the squalor on our streets. Progressive ideology, on the other hand, evidently involves the tacit assumption that homelessness is something we have to live with under our wicked capitalist system, which is apparently why Gonzalez has offered nothing substantive to counter Gavin Newsom’s proposals to deal with the problem.

Newsom understood that people in the city wanted something done to deal with a growing homeless problem on city streets. I was here and was dismayed at the squalor on city streets and in city parks when I returned to the city in 1995. As a lefty myself, I was shocked that the Bay Guardian left had no serious policy proposals to deal with the issue, which I wrote about in the Anderson Valley Advertiser and in letters to the editor here in the city.

It's apparently a myth deeply embedded in the Chronicle that homelessness has been and still is a serious concern of city progressives. C.W. Nevius repeated the myth several years ago:

San Francisco has a huge problem with getting people into housing. But not in the way you think. The homeless guy living under the freeway underpass? We know about him. The city, prompted by an outcry from the progressive community, has taken steps to get that person---the extremely poor, unemployed, impoverished homeless camper---into some kind of housing.

City progs were even seriously annoyed when Angela Alioto accepted Mayor Newsom's appointment to chair the Ten Year Council to come up with a new city policy on homelessness, which it duly did in its report. When Alioto and members of the council presented their final report to Mayor Newsom in June, 2004, not a single progressive city politician or leader was there.

After that, and when Newsom's policies began showing signs of progress in dealing with homelessness, the Guardian rarely wrote about the issue, except to snipe at the mayor.

Over the last ten years, I've written about all the other policy failures at the Bay Guardian. The notion that the Guardian has been fighting the good fight to make the city a better place is simply untrue. Instead its been wrong on so many issues it's been hard to keep track of them all, though I tried to do a scorecard a few years ago.

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