Monday, December 28, 2009

An "ambitious" progressive agenda in SF?

Benjamin Wachs in the SF Weekly:

What, after all, did the progressives really accomplish this year on a practical level? Certainly they had the deck stacked against them...with a hostile mayor, a wafer thin majority, and a fiscal crisis the size of the San Andreas fault: but the answer is still "nothing." Perhaps they kept certain things from happening, and other things from getting worse, but they didn't lay a single footprint down towards their ambitious agenda.

"Ambitious agenda"? I'd like to see some specifics on exactly what that agenda is nowadays. Progressives have had a majority on the Board of Supervisors since 2000, but they have little to show for it. City voters keep rejecting public power, and, for all their talk about affordable housing, progressives didn't get around to putting a serious housing measure on the ballot until 2008, and it was rejected by voters worried about the deepening recession. Progressives on the Board are now playing defense as the hole in the city's budget grows deeper, trying to save as many union jobs as they can.

Even the progressives' social agenda is often not supported by city voters, since, along with public power, last November voters rejected legalized prostitution and voted for JROTC in the schools. (But city voters will never get a chance to vote on the Bicycle Plan!)

The SF Weekly itself did a nice job listing the consequences of turning the city over to unions and non-profits, a story you would never see in the Bay Guardian. The Weekly lists the expensive city failures---the library, Hetch Hetchy, Laguna Honda, the non-profits, and Rec and Park. Oddly the article didn't mention a couple of emerging boondoggles, the Geary BRT and the city's own Big Dig, the subway to Chinatown from the train depot, probably because they're both still in the planning stage and the city hasn't spent a lot of money on them---yet. The most important consequence of all that bad management and union power in SF is a lot of red ink. At what point do unions become parasitic instead of simply representing the interests of city workers? That point is now.

From the Weekly article, this bit of succinct wisdom: "San Francisco is the city that simply will not hold itself accountable." How true. Even I was taken aback by the fury directed at me when we got an injunction against the city's Bicycle Plan. Evidently it never occurred to the city's bike people and their many enablers in City Hall---including a unanimous Board of Supervisors and Mayor Newsom---that they have to follow the law and do an environmental review of a Plan that would have redesigned many city streets on behalf of their favorite interest group, the SF Bicycle Coalition.

"You can't get San Francisco running efficiently, because that would require large numbers of unionized city workers to willingly admit their redundancy and wastefulness." 

Amen! For example: in spite of the recession and the recent budget cuts and layoffs, there are still eleven people in MTA working in the Bike Program!

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At 5:51 PM, Anonymous kwk said...

This Death By One Thousand Cuts by which the SF Progs have been bleeding San Francisco for almost 20 years could probably be easily quantified if someone wanted to sit down and methodically go through the hundred-thousand-here and few-million-there payout legislations to their friends that they've passed.

"It doesn't have to break the bank," said Tom Ammiano about the $2 million to maintain Toilet Paper Inspectors for the homeless shelters.

Not a "bank breaker," said Chris Daly about the money given local groups involved in aid to the South Pacific.

Guess what kiddies--the bank's broken! You're the one's who did it and you're the one's who are crying the loudest!

And they just love set asides; as Sean Elsbernd noted, Ammiano's Children's Fund had so much surplus funds it's as if they're "coming up with random ideas to spend this money." Supposedly the various advocate groups are poaching clients from one another and double claiming them so they can show "results".

SF has gone way past seeing diminishing returns on investment into these groups, it has reached the point where increased investment reverses any previous positive gains. Claim is that now there are almost more people serving youth, homeless and elderly than there are youth, homeless and elderly in the City.

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just spent a week down in Orange County (admittedly, a reasonably nice part of Orange County, but I think it's pretty typical of SoCal.) There are huge, wide roads, everywhere.... much more pavement per resident, I'd reckon, than we have in SF. And every road is smooth as glass, freshly paved, and pothole-free.

Now I'm not going to argue to merits of the car culture of SoCal vs. SF's transit first policy; I am in complete agreement that we correctly emphasize transit. (They do have bike lanes everywhere in SoCal, which is nice too.) But I don't understand why our roads are a complete mess – in horrible condition, potholes everywhere, pavement markings faded and chipped away – with the population density we have in SF, it should be easy to maintain the streets using a much smaller share of the municipal budget than is required by our neighbors to the south.

The answer, of course, is that there is such waste in our city government, and we throw so much money away on often duplicative social programs and handouts, that we can't even afford to keep up the basic infrastructure of a city, namely its streets.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, our streets are in terrible shape, which is hard on motor vehicles and very dangerous for cyclists.


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