It's been quite a political year in San Francisco. And 2007 is going to be better.
I was talking to my friend and colleague Steve Jones just before Christmas about the folks in the Mayor's Office (and elsewhere) who still think a progressive vision for San Francisco a city where the rich pay their fair share, where the public sector provides a wealth of services to the public, where money doesn't rule politics and elected officials are accountable, a place where tenants are protected and land use is determined by community needs and not developer demands, a city that serves as a model for the rest of the country is just some sort of wild and pointless fantasy. And Steve and I agreed: in 2006 the progressives won a lot of the key battles, and the so-called moderates who have no vision at all were on the defensive most of the time.
We've had setbacks. Things aren't perfect. But I've been living in this city and watching politics for a long time now, and I can honestly say that we're making progress.
San Francisco has a program that's aimed at providing health insurance to everyone. San Francisco has a living-wage law. San Francisco has laws that require sizable payments to tenants who are being evicted and that require employers to offer sick days. San Francisco is going to elect its next mayor under a public-financing system that might actually allow genuine candidates who lack downtown money to compete.
San Francisco is demanding that cops actually walk beats in high-crime areas and seriously talking about demanding that almost two-thirds of all new housing be available at below-market rates. San Francisco is moving to provide public power in Hunters Point and at Treasure Island.
And none of that came out of the Mayor's Office.
The policy debates in this city are happening at the Board of Supervisors, where district-elected representatives are pushing progressive ideas that would never have gone beyond the wild-dream stage 10 years ago.
We're not all the way there. We still fight with each other and let our egos get in the way. We're still trying to figure out how to deal with the fact that state and federal laws limit how far we can go to raise money and protect the vulnerable. We still aren't quite willing as a city or a progressive movement to commit to income and wealth redistribution (at home here, not in Washington or Sacramento), a cause that defines all that we think about and do and we need to, or in the end nothing else matters.
We haven't kicked out Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and created a full-on public power system yet. Black kids are still dying from gunfire in record numbers. We don't have a candidate for mayor.
And all of the people who read this will think of other things we haven't done, because we in the progressive movement love to complain and argue and we're never satisfied which is, in the end, a good thing.
And the big-money greedheads who have had their greasy paws on the levers of power in this town since the Gold Rush aren't about to surrender. Every step forward is still a struggle.
But we kicked their asses in District Six and that was one where both sides were in full-court press and everyone knew it mattered. They have come to realize we are not just crazy dreamers.
I love this town. Happy new year. *
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