Two noteworthy meetings took place in the past couple of weeks. One was led by David Chiu, the president of the Board of Supervisors, the other by Ryan Chamberlain, a downtown political consultant. Other than the sfbg.com politics blog, no local media have been paying much attention. But both ad hoc gatherings could have tremendous political significance.
Chiu was trying to solve the budget crisis, or at least get a handle on it. He called together the major stakeholders in the hope that some sort of consensus, or at least reluctant, unhappy common ground, could be found on the worst fiscal crisis in 80 years.
Chamberlain invited a group of downtown power brokers and moderate-to-conservative political candidates to try to map out a strategy to oust the progressives from control of the board in 2010.
If Chiu succeeds, and crafts a budget compromise that most of the competing interests can accept, it will be a huge victory for the freshman supervisor and a big win for the progressives he's aligned with. Governing actually making tough choices in tough times and finding workable solutions is much harder than simply leading the opposition. And if the left in this town can show that we can run things better than the Newsom camp, Chamberlain and his big-money crew won't do much better in 2010 than they did in 2008.
Chamberlain's group is looking for new approaches and new strategies, and they'll focus on things like "quality of life" (read: homeless people on the streets). Chiu ought to be able to tell the downtown folks (who, interestingly, are probably going to both meetings) that the Newsom administration's budget cuts are going to make the homeless problem way worse.
So all this political and policy debate is going on quietly in San Francisco. And what's most interesting is that the person who should have the most at stake in both areas isn't even at the table. He's too busy running for governor.