Tuesday, November 15, 2016

London Breed, Dean Preston, and "progressive" leadership

Dean Preston, left,
and London Breed are running to represent District 5 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
Photo: Jessica Christian, SF Examiner

Tim Redmond on the re-election of London Breed as District 5 Supervisor:

And I have to say: The race in D5 was far, far closer than anyone in the mainstream of even progressive political thought expected. I heard all kinds of people who might have been helping Preston say they saw no reason to piss off the current board president when her challenger had no chance of winning. But when you look at the results, if all the folks in leadership positions who so often say that we need a progressive majority on the board had gone out and pushed for Preston, he would have won.

Preston gave District 5 voters little reason to vote for him, since, as I pointed out in February, he essentially ran a one-issue campaign---it was all about housing. His website had no "issues" section to inform voters about where he stood on other issues; it was just about raising money for his campaign.

And why exactly do "we need a progressive majority on the board"? There really is little difference between the so-called progressives and moderates in San Francisco, since all are more or less liberal Democrats. People like Redmond who call themselves "progressives" apparently think they're morally and politically superior to the rest of us mere "liberals," but the actual differences when it comes to voting as a supervisor are often hard to detect.

The danger of running a one-issue campaign: you better convince voters you're a lot better than your opponent on that issue. My prediction on how the housing issue would play out in the Breed-Preston campaign:

Incumbent Breed will probably be able to fuzz the housing issue by essentially agreeing with Preston that eviction is bad and that we need more affordable housing, which means he'll have to define himself by his positions on other issues.

He tried to do a little of that at the September forum, but that late attempt mostly lacked specifics, and he made muddled, mystifying statements like this:

He[Preston] added that his work in community-based planning efforts has given him the skills and experience needed to expand the District 5's pedestrian and bike infrastructure. "We know that our city has never been more congested than it is now," he said. "That's a result not of population increase; it's a result of poor planning."

The population of San Francisco has in fact increased significantly in recent years, and, given City Hall's misguided smart growth development policies, it will be increasing a lot more in the near future. Preston is right that increased traffic congestion is a direct "result of poor planning," but what does expanding "pedestrian infrastructure" even mean? More sidewalks? 

Except for the Panhandle and Masonic Avenue, where specifically in District 5 can more bike lanes be created? And of course Preston never took a position on the dumb Masonic Avenue bike project that is now under construction in the middle of District 5.

Population growth aside, gentrification means more motor vehicles are registered in the city every year, since---surprise!---well-off people tend to own cars instead of riding Muni.

London Breed would have been vulnerable against a candidate who ran an issue-based campaign, since she was wrong---even goofy---on a lot of issues. Alas, Dean Preston wasn't that candidate, which is why he deserved to lose.

As promised, I refused to vote for either of them. The District 5 ballot had Breed and Preston alone on the last page. When I left the ballot blank, and the machine rejected it, a baffled precinct worker asked, "You don't vote for either of them?" Nope! She then pushed the button that allowed the blank card to go through.

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