Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Bay Guardian's identity crisis

Scrolling through the Bay Guardian's endorsements for next week's election is a puzzling experience. For years the Guardian has identified itself as the left-wing voice in San Francisco. No other city publication can flank them on the left on the issues. But when election time rolls around, the Guardian seems to forget all that by making a lot of hair-splitting political distinctions as if their endorsement of mainstream Democratic officeholders can possibly have any effect.

If your identity as a publication is leftist---or "progressive," if you prefer that term---why not endorse leftist/progressive candidates to at least try to create some kind of left-of-center opposition to the politics of those you supposedly despise the rest of the year?

On Governor Brown: After an opening paragraph criticizing Brown on the prison system, fracking, regressive tax increases, and his failure to address growing inequality, we get this:

For these reasons and others, it's tempting to endorse one of Brown's progressive challenges: Green Party candidate Luis Rodriguez or Peace and Freedom Party candidate Cindy Sheehan (see Left Out, April 23). We were particularly impressed by Rodriguez, an inspiring leader who is seeking to bring more Latinos and other marginalized constituencies into the progressive fold, a goal we share and want to support however we can. 

But on balance, we decided to give Brown our endorsement in recognition of his role in quickly turning around this troubled state after the disastrous administration of Arnold Schwarzenegger---and in the hope that his strong leadership will lead to even greater improvement over his next term. While we don't agree with all of his stands, we admire the courage, independence, and vision that Brown brings to this important office. Whether he is supporting the California High-Speed Rail Project against various attacks, calling for state residents to live in greater harmony with the natural world during the current drought, or refusing to shrink from the challenges posed by global warming, Jerry Brown is the leader that California needs at this critical time.

Please name a single issue on which Jerry Brown has shown "courage" as governor. "Vision"? Supporting high-speed rail only shows his stupidity and ignorance, since it's a potentially ruinously expensive project for which no real need has been demonstrated---and the project has changed so much since 2008, it no longer resembles what the state's voters passed with only 52% of the vote. But the Guardian has also always been dumb on that issue. Maybe stupidity is now what the Guardian calls "a San Francisco value."

Like the governor, the Guardian seems unaware of how dubious the high-speed rail project has been from the start, especially the price tag. There isn't even enough money to begin building the first segment in the Valley, and Brown is ready to throw $250 million of the state's cap-and-trade money into that bottomless money pit, an amount that is trivial in a $100 billion project. 

There is no other even theoretical source of money to continue this project. The annual interest payment alone on the $9.5 billion in bonds authorized by voters in 2008 would be $647 million! Nothing Governor Brown has ever said or the Guardian has ever written shows any awareness of the sheer financial scale of this project. Like Micawber, the governor, the Guardian, and the Democratic Party apparently just hope something will turn up.

Just as important, since Governor Brown is sure to be re-elected, why not at least give some encouragement to your comrades and candidates on the left?

On Gavin Newsom:

Gavin Newsom was mayor of San Francisco before he ascended to the position of Lieutenant Governor, and we at the Bay Guardian had a strained relationship with his administration, to put it mildly. We disagreed with his fiscally conservative policies and tendency to align himself with corporate power brokers over neighborhood coalitions.

What "conservative" Newsom policies, fiscal or otherwise, are they referring to? The Bay Guardian left in the city always treated Newsom as an enemy and a Republican, though he's always been a liberal Democrat. Newsom beat the left's candidate, uber-prog Matt Gonzalez, in 2003 in a campaign that featured the homeless issue, about which the city's left was utterly clueless

Newsom understood that people wanted something done about homelessness, and he went about doing it with Care Not Cash, Homeward Bound, Project Homeless Connect, and supportive housing. Not surprisingly the Guardian rarely even mentions the homeless issue anymore. Instead we get the vague attempt above to rewrite city history.

On the David Campos David Chiu assembly race:

As Chiu points out, as supervisors he and Campos have voted the same 98% of the time. Time to apply that excellent, apocryphal quotation to this campaign: "Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." The idea that David Chiu is more responsible for the city's gentrification/housing crisis than Campos is ridiculous. 

Both supervisors support the damaging "smart growth," "transit corridors" development theories that threaten every city neighborhood anywhere near a Muni line. Both support the city's predatory anti-car, pro-bike policies. 

But Campos gets credit for supporting Prop. B, on which Chiu, who opposed the 8 Washington project, has refused to take a stand. Hard to see what Chiu's calculation is. Does he think voters will see that as a courageously "moderate" position? On the other hand, the stand has apparently gained Chiu a lot of union support, since even bad projects on the waterfront and elsewhere create jobs, which is all the unions really care about. 

Like all the other supervisors---Chiu at least supported the MTA's "compromise" proposal---Campos was silent on the Polk Street bicycle project after significant neighborhood opposition surfaced, even though like his colleagues he promised the Bicycle Coalition that he would support the project that will take away a lot of street parking to make bike lanes. 

Campos voted against removing Mirkarimi from office because he thought the law allowing the mayor to do that was murky, that the city would likely lose in court if it was litigated. Chiu voted against Mirkarimi. I won't vote for either of these guys, based on their support for anti-car policies and the dumb smart growth development policies.

On Nancy Pelosi:

This is the silliest, most confused Guardian recommendation. First, we get a bill of indictment against Pelosi, who the Guardian thinks is "way too moderate for our tastes":

Over her 21 years in Congress, she has presided over economic policies that have consolidated wealth in ever fewer hands and dismantled the social safety net, environmental policies that have ignored global warming and fed our over-reliance on the private automobile, and military policies that expanded the war machine and overreaching surveillance state, despite her insider's role on the House Intelligence Committee.

"Presided over"!? You would think that Pelosi had been president, not just one member of Congress. For most of her years in Congress, she's either been in the minority or served under a Republican president. After a paragraph praising Pelosi's left-wing opponents, the Guardian endorses her, even though she supposedly "presided over" all the wicked policies listed above that made it sound like she should be in jail:

But we've decided to endorse Pelosi in this election for one main reason: We want the Democrats to retake the House of Representatives this year and for Pelosi to once again become Speaker of the House...Pelosi and the Democrats aren't perfect, but at least they're reasonable grown-ups and we'd love to see what they'd do if they were returned to power. So Nancy Pelosi has our support in 2014.

This after pointing out earlier that "Everyone knows that Pelosi will win this race handily..." and acknowledging that their endorsement can't possibly affect the outcome of the race!

Confusion and massive intellectual failure---and a political failure---by a publication that supposedly represents a leftist perspective.

Two Davids: Not a dimesworth of difference

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At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

-Campos was silent on the Polk Street bicycle project


At 9:32 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Not a very convincing cop-out. These bike projects have citywide impacts. Even though we have district elections, supervisors are still obligated to act in the interests of the whole city.

Like every other supervisor, when running for office, Campos promised the Bicycle Coalition that he would support the Polk Street project.

At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"These bike projects have citywide impacts."

Yeah, the do. They reduce traffic, reduce parking demand, make biking safer, reduce air pollution, reduce noise pollution--the list goes on. We need more of these projects.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Then Campos should speak out in favor of these projects, right?

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes he should. And so should you.

At 1:37 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

No, since I have always opposed these projects, while Campos promised to support them when he was running for office.

At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if they do all these things: They reduce traffic, reduce parking demand, make biking safer, reduce air pollution, reduce noise pollution

Then why are you against them Rob?

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

They don't do all of those things. They do the opposite, and riding a bike in the city is an intrinsically unsafe transportation "mode."

At 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Downtown traffic seems worse, but studies show it moves faster"

"Instead of more traffic, the reason the streets may seem more crowded is that they're busier. But not with cars. With transit ridership up and more people walking, the sidewalks and crosswalks are full."

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

On the other hand, the article says: "Speeds through 95 percent of the intersections monitored in the city's core remained the same (58 percent) or decreased (37 percent)."

The increases in traffic speed cited in the story are of dubious significance. The SFCTA's Tilly Chang is just singing for her supper by promoting the perception that her agency's anti-car policies---and those of the MTA---are successful.

And then you have a typical falsehood from this reporter: "The number of bike riders has jumped 14 percent over the last two years and 96 percent in the past seven."

Those numbers from the SFCTA/MTA are only from the city's annual bicycle count during commute hours, not of "bike riders" overall. This reporter is typical in that he likes to rely on official sources and never does any real digging on numbers like that.


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