Bad faith

Newsom and his business allies work to kill proposed revenue measures by any means necessary

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu speaks at a July 6 rally for labor unions seeking an increase in the hotel tax

Mayor Gavin Newsom and his business allies are actively trying to sabotage the various revenue measures that have been put forth by the labor movement and progressive members of the Board of Supervisors, employing deceptive rhetoric, sneaky tactics, and a refusal to bargain in good faith.

In fact, Newsom — the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor — is so averse to supporting anything that could be called a "tax" that he rejected a hard-won compromise measure created by powerful developers, affordable housing advocates, a pro-business think tank, the building trades, and his own directors of housing and economic development.

Just as that story was breaking in the New York Times (produced by Bay Citizen) on July 9, members of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee discovered that Newsom's proposed ballot measure to close loopholes in the city's hotel tax that favored airline employees and online travel companies — a widely supported change, but one worth just $6 million per year — contains language that would nullify any increases in the hotel tax. Earlier in the week, labor unions turned in signatures on an initiative to increase the hotel tax by 2 percent, which would bring in more than $30 million per year.

"This poison pill is an intentionally deceptive, underhanded move," Gabriel Haaland, an organizer with Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which sponsored the hotel tax, told us. "It's so frustrating. It's not even a good faith fight. He's trying to create confusion and fool the voters. If our measure passes fair and square, it should be implemented."

Meanwhile, Newsom and business groups have been attacking a reform measure by Board President David Chiu that would make the currently flat payroll tax more progressive, exempt more small businesses from paying it, and create a commercial rent tax to spread the tax burden more widely than the 10 percent of businesses who now pay tax to the city.

Critics complained that the measure would hurt local businesses — but that's just not true. The city's Office of Economic Analysis concluded that Chiu's original proposal would have no effect on private sector jobs and would generate $34 million annually for the city, preserving some government jobs and spending.

Then Chiu amended the measure to spare even more small businesses. Now the OEA says that the measure would actually create private sector jobs — and still bring $28 million in to the city. Yet Newsom and the business community are still withholding their support.

This trio of Machiavellian moves comes just a week after Newsom pulled out of budget negotiations with board progressives concerning about $40 million in board add-backs to programs that Newsom proposed to cut after they wouldn't agree to his precondition that they withdraw unrelated measures proposed for the November ballot, such as splitting appointments to the Rent, Recreation and Park, and Municipal Transportation Agency boards and requiring police officers to do foot patrols.

The series of events has led many progressives to say that conservative ideological blinders — a knee-jerk opposition to anything that saves government jobs and services or that Republicans might criticize — is the only logical explanation for the intransigent stance adopted downtown and by Newsom.

"It's ideological. It's not economic, and it's not even political," said Calvin Welch, the affordable housing activist who helped negotiate the transfer tax compromise with developer Oz Erickson, San Francisco Planning Urban Research Association director Gabriel Metcalf, Mayor's Office of Housing Director Doug Shoemaker, and others.