Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Malia Cohen: progressive?

C.W. Nevius on Malia Cohen, the new District 10 Supervisor:

Like Jane Kim in District Six, she will take office in January unencumbered by political IOUs. She can make her own deals, carve out her own niche, and be a critical swing vote. "Yeah," Cohen said. "But the downside is, I can only be unencumbered once." She's right. Soon enough she'll have to pick her causes, align herself with people and groups, and lay down a voting record. Every group will make an offer, and every supervisor will have a pitch. The battle for Cohen's political soul has begun...Now the question is: Will she fall on the left or on the right?

The main encumbrance both Cohen and Kim have as new supervisors is a knee-jerk leftist ideology that won't help them come to grips with city issues. Cohen supports public power, opposed sit-lie, opposes the gang injunctions, supported the vehicle tax, the hotel tax, and the real estate transfer tax.

On the other hand, she grew up in District 10 and is familiar with its problems, which she demonstrated in an interview with the Bay Guardian lefties several months ago. She worries about gun violence and would like to see a new gun buy-back program; she sees the district as a "food desert" that doesn't have enough markets; she would like to change "the culture of Third Street"; she doesn't like litter and blight and would like to organize "community clean-up" days; and she would like to make helping small businesses a priority. A "progressive" ideology won't be any help on those district issues.

When Cohen begins grappling with citywide issues is when city progs will try to impose their ideas on the new supervisor, like Bruce Brugmann and Tim Redmond tried during the Guardian interview. (There was also a young woman interviewer, but she wasn't identified. Rebecca Bowe? Redmond and Brugmann didn't identify themselves, either, but Redmond's byline is on the interview, and Brugmann's voice and his obsession with public power make him easy to identify.)

Cohen was remarkably good-natured during the brow-beating "interview" conducted by Brugmann and Redmond, but I bet the experience didn't endear her to the Bay Guardian or its political perspective. Redmond pushes his class struggle politics, and Brugmann pushes---guess what?---public power and an anti-P.G.&E. perspective, even though Cohen had already said that she supports public power. She was hazy about "community choice aggregation," but she learned from Redmond and Brugmann that it's essentially public power through the back door.

At one point, in response to a full-court press by the Guardian's ideologues, Cohen made an intelligent response that her know-it-all interrogators are incapable of: "I don't know." That's the proper, skeptical, open-minded approach to the city issues she'll find useful when she takes office, as opposed to the intellectually deficient, partyline approach of the progs at the Bay Guardian.

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High speed pork to Fresno

Randal O'Toole

The federal government’s most recent $900 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority came with a string attached: most of the money had to be spent, not in Los Angeles or San Francisco where most potential rail patrons are located, but in the central valley. Handed out just before the election, the grant was a blatant attempt to help the re-election effort of U.S. Representative Jim Costa. It might have made a difference, for despite the fact that Costa’s district leans heavily Democrat, he won over an unknown Republican candidate by a mere 3,000 votes.

But now California has to deal with the fact that it only has enough funds to build a high-speed train to nowhere. The authority expects to vote tomorrow on whether to start construction from Borden to Corcoran. To be fair, the route would go through Fresno, but it wouldn’t take anyone in Fresno to anywhere they might want to go at a high speed: Borden is barely a dot on the map, while Corcoran is the home of Charles Manson and his fellow prisoners.

Fiscal conservatives hope to derail this project before so much money is spent that Congress will feel obligated to come up with another $20 or $30 billion just to finish the project. Surprisingly, one of the critics is Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who represents Merced. In a letter to Secretary of Immobility Ray LaHood, Cardoza called the plan a “gross misuse” of taxpayer funds.

Of course, rail advocates think that anyone who questions this project is a right-wing ideologue. What does that make them?