Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tom Ammiano and city progressives

Last week's Bay Guardian cover story (Tom's legacy) quotes Tom Ammiano confronting then-Governor Schwarzenegger and telling him to "kiss my gay ass!"

The Guardian's story on Ammiano is in effect a long, lingering smooch on Ammiano's gay ass:

Ammiano's positions derive from his progressive political values, which were informed by his working class upbringing, first-hand observations of the limits of American militarism, publicly coming out as a gay teacher at time when that was a risky decision, standing with immigrants and women at important political moments, and steadily enduring well-funded attacks as he created some of San Francisco's most defining and enduring political reforms, from domestic partner benefits and key political reforms to universal health care.

These are all important issues Ammiano can take credit for supporting, and it was courageous to come out as a gay teacher at the time.

On the other hand, "at important political moments" in San Francisco, Ammiano and city progressives failed dramatically. One of those moments happened more than ten years ago, when the city was struggling with a growing, seemingly intractable homeless problem. 

Then-Supervisor Newsom rose to the occasion with Care Not Cash on the November, 2002, ballot. He got himself elected mayor in 2003 with a campaign featuring the homeless issue and then began implementing Care Not Cash, which the city's progressive leadership declared nothing but a war on the poor. He followed up with Homeward Bound, supportive housing, and Project Homeless Connect.

According to a report from the Controller's office, Care Not Cash had some early success, but you rarely hear any progressive leaders in the city talk about homelessness anymore. Gee, I wonder why?

What was the left's approach to the city's homeless problem before Care Not Cash and Gavin Newsom? Food Not Bombs and the Biotic Baking Brigade, nothing but political theater that implied that there was nothing much to be done about it, that city residents would just have to put up with it as part of the capitalist system, etc.

Ammiano's response to Care Not Cash? He and three other progressive supervisors---(Gonzalez, McGoldrick, and Peskin) put Proposition O---Care Not Cash was Proposition N---on the ballot at the last minute as a poison pill for Care Not Cash without any hearing or real public input, whereas Care Not Cash was an initiative that had to get signatures to get on the ballot.

The city's left has never really recovered from Newsom's victory over uber-prog Matt Gonzalez in 2003.

The Guardian hopes Ammiano will come back and help "revive the city's progressive spirit."

He acknowledges that things can seem to [be] a little bleak to progressives right now: "They're feeling somewhat marginalized, but I don't think it's going to stay that way."

What kind of leadership can he provide on city issues?

Ammiano of course supports the Bicycle Plan, but that and anti-carism is already the most important part of the progressive agenda, which is not necessarily a good thing. Nothing new he can offer there.

Ammiano was a leader in the successful attempt to take down the Central Freeway overpass in Hayes Valley, a dubious achievement that he and city progs want to duplicate on Masonic Avenue with a bike project that will eliminate 167 parking spaces. This project is a political time bomb that will detonate next year when the project is implemented.

Ammiano opposed the sit-lie legislation passed by city voters to deal with street punks on Haight Street. He even proposed a Homeless Bill of Rights to counter the sit-lie legislation.

Along with every other city progressive, Ammiano was a big supporter of Proposition K in 2003, which saddled city---and state and federal---taxpayers with the Central Subway boondoggle.

Naturally, Ammiano also supports the dumb high-speed rail project. Gavin Newsom, his old political opponent, is the only prominent Democrat to come out in opposition to it.

Ammiano said the city is desperately in need of some strong political leadership right now, something that he isn't seeing from Mayor Lee, who has mostly been carrying out the agenda of the business leaders, developers, and power brokers who engineered his mayoral appointment in 2011. "Basically, he's an administrator and I don't think he'll ever be anything but that," Ammiano said. "We are so fucking ready for a progressive mayor."

The routine conversational vulgarity is offensive and not the kind of leadership that folks like Guardian editor Steve Jones really need. City progs seem to think that being an authentic progressive requires them to sprinkle their conversation with obscenities (See this and this.)

But how specifically does Ammiano differ with Mayor Lee on the issues? It would be helpful if a progressive leader offered a thoughtful critique of the city's foolish "smart growth" development policies, but Ammiano has never voiced any opposition to turning the city into Highriseville.

Ammiano said he's been too busy lately to really think about what's next for him...Ammiano is talking with universities and speakers bureaus about future gigs and he's thinking about writing a book or doing a one-man show. "Once I get settled, I'll look at the mayor's race and [Sen. Mark] Leno's seat," Ammiano said, holding out hope that his political career will continue.

A prediction: Ammiano will not run for mayor. He's more likely to run for Leno's senate seat. Like Willie Brown before him, he's now more comfortable operating in Sacramento than San Francisco, which is a much tougher political environment.

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At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avalos=married with kids, cheated on wife with his own employee.

Sheriff Ross= well we all know about this one...but i will not say anything cause i know how you feel about it.

Jane Kim= First order of business as new supervisor, formed a committee to study the impacts of bed bugs...all this while people were (and still are) killed almost every other week in her district.

Eric "Happy Meals" Mar= what more needs to be said.

Compos= lol

I could go on, but why bother.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's not the personal morals of our supervisors that worries me. Their spinelessness and intellectual shortcomings are the real problems.

Avalos whined about having to vote on reinstating Mirkarimi, as if his job didn't include casting tough votes every now and then.

Then he and other prog supervisors were silent during the hearing on the Fell/Oak bike project and the Polk Street bike lane controversy, even though, when campaigning for office, they all promised the Bicycle Coalition that they supported the Polk Street bike project.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Here's a functional link for the silence of the progs.


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