Saturday, November 06, 2010

City voters disappoint progressives---again

Challenging the myth that SF voters are left-wing, Chronicle reporter Heather Knight lists the recent issues that show city voters are more moderate: two years ago they rejected public power, rejected legalizing prostitution, and kept JROTC in city schools. 

Last Tuesday city voters passed the sit-lie measure, voted to make Muni drivers negotiate their contracts like everyone else, and again rejected allowing non-citizens to vote in school board elections. Knight talked to former supervisor Aaron Peskin, who provides a muddled, "progressive" analysis of recent elections:

Aaron Peskin, chair of the city's Democratic County Central Committee, said measures like the sit/lie ban are clear attempts by downtown groups to motivate moderate voters in the hopes they'll elect moderate members of the Board of Supervisors. While it was too early to call the supervisors races, Peskin said it looked like the effort had failed. Progressives were leading in three of the four open races. That happened two years ago too when voters trended moderate on measures, but elected four liberal supervisors.

Of course city voters are more moderate on ballot measures than they are in electing supervisors because of district elections. Liberal districts elect people to the Board of Supervisors who would have a hard time winning a citywide election, including Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, and even Peskin himself.

Sit-lie had nothing to do with electing supervisors. Like Care Not Cash in 2002---another big defeat for city progressives---the sit-lie measure was designed to address what a majority of city voters clearly think is a serious street punk problem in the neighborhoods. Whenever city progressives lose on a ballot measure, they invoke the wicked, shadowy, "downtown" groups as an explanation. To hear them tell it, they never lose a vote on the merits of an issue.

Peskin makes a disingenuous claim about why important city issues often have to be settled by city voters with ballot measures:

He[Peskin] said the larger lesson is that there are simply too many measures placed on the ballot by politicians who should deal with the issues themselves. "The people of San Francisco would benefit from shorter ballots, and the vast majority of these initiatives should be vetted in the political process without being put before the voters," he said.

Peskin knows that the sit-lie measure was put on the ballot by Mayor Newsom because progressives on the Board of Supervisors refused to do so. Instead, the supervisors (Avalos, Campos, Chiu, Daly, Mar, Maxwell, and Mirkarimi) put poison pill Proposition M on the ballot to counter Proposition L, the mayor's sit-lie measure. City voters weren't fooled, and they passed Prop. L and rejected Prop. M.

Something similar happened with Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash back in 2002. Newsom had to get the measure on the ballot by gathering signatures, while progressive supervisors (Ammiano, Gonzalez, McGoldrick, and Peskin) put poison pill Prop. O on the ballot to counter Prop. N, Care Not Cash. The outcome was similar: city voters, concerned about homelessness and the growing squalor on city streets, passed Prop. N and rejected Prop. O.

Knight also talks to so-called homeless advocates, who continue to conflate homelessness and the sit-lie issue:

Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, said her group will likely join others to file a lawsuit against the measure on the ground it levies too steep a punishment (up to $500 and 30 days in jail for repeat offenders) and will be applied by police selectively. "People get frustrated, and they see homeless people and they look for quick solutions," she said. "Unfortunately, we're kind of doing the same thing over and over and over again. It's proven not to work."

The reality is that the street punk problem addressed by the sit-lie measure is not about homelessness at all, and Care Not Cash has had some real success in dealing with homelessness over the years, as both the Grand Jury and the Controller concluded a couple of years ago.

But Paul Boden takes the prize for his succinct statement of the delusional progressive interpretation of sit-lie and homelessness:

Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, agreed[with Friedenbach], saying "The closer poverty is to your face, the less liberal people tend to be. They see the righteous peasant in El Salvador, but it's a bum when it's the person in your doorway, and politicians play off that constantly."

Next time you see a street punk panhandling on Haight Street for money to get drunk/high, try not to laugh when you compare him to "the righteous peasant in El Salvador."

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