Reinventing San Francisco - Page 4

We need to make sure development isn't just code for finding new ways to gentrify neighborhoods and displace existing residents


Specific proposals will address how the city and community-based nonprofits deliver critical health and human services to our neediest residents. We propose making this an integrated part of the budget process, not a last-minute afterthought. Toward this end, the Community Congress will present actionable proposals to create innovative "resident/government" partnerships to improve local government responsiveness and efficiency.



One of the keys to unlocking the city's stagnating economy is progressive revenue generation and more democratic participation in budgeting. We must enlarge the public pie while reapportioning it in a way that stimulates job creation and shifts the tax burden onto the large businesses that reap vast private benefits from public goods and services. The city's budget process must be dramatically reshaped and democratized. Communities need a seat at the fiscal table when the budget is being crafted — instead of lobbying tooth and nail at the end of the process just to retain funding that barely keeps programs afloat.

How can we build a participatory budgeting movement that brings residents and communities into the process? For instance, community budget councils composed of elected and appointed residents from every supervisorial district could assess neighborhood needs and incorporate them into drafting the budget. Whatever form this takes, the goal is to put the needs of residents at the forefront of how the city spends its resources.

The Community Congress can also help redefine fiscal responsibility. Taxing and spending must be accountable and transparent and respect the fact that this is the public's money. Let's be honest: much of what passes for government excess is due to management and executive bloat at the top, not salaries of frontline workers like bus drivers, social service providers, and hospital workers. True fiscal responsibility also means investing in prevention: education, healthcare, and services that help people build their lives.



It's time to reclaim the public sector as the sphere of our shared interest. Rather than thinking in terms of the old paradigm that counterpoises "government" and "the market," let us envision a new citizen movement to create a more participatory, democratic, and accountable system of self-government.

The San Francisco Community Congress is about bringing people together — community activists, those working in the trenches of our increasingly strained social services, our environmental visionaries, our artists, the urban gardeners and permaculturists, poets, bicycle enthusiasts, inventors ... in short, assembling our pool of collective knowledge and wisdom, and yes, our differences — in a forum to discuss, debate, share concerns and viewpoints, and ultimately produce a working template that is both visionary and can be implemented.

The Community Congress will create a space for all of us to participate in defining our own vision of San Francisco. It is a first step toward reasserting popular control over economic development. It is an invitation to be visionary, rethinking in fundamental ways what it means to live in the 21st century city, and a forum for creating real, practical platforms and proposals that can be implemented using the powers of local government.

We want to propose a new vision of urban governance. Not more bureaucracy, more commissions, more departments, but the creation of new institutions that are democratically accountable and place new kinds of economic and political resources in the hands of ordinary citizens.



Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work for the past several decades. Over the past several years, Welch has folded for each and every profitable development scheme that the Newsom administration has cooked up. Since Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work, the position of working San Franciscans has fallen further and further behind.

Calvin Welch is the last person to whom San Franciscans should look for guidance on how to move forward because his fifteen minutes should have been up once he has failed to adapt to changing circumstances and others suffered for his arrogance.

None of what is to be discussed at these meetings will ever see the light of day until San Franciscans organize before, during and after elections to make it so.

Currently the between elections organizing is relegated to the "community based organizations" of the nonprofit constellation in San Francisco.

These nonprofits are dependent on City money and don't bite the hand that feeds them. The advocates frame their approach in terms favorable to the Mayor and bureaucracy. They also jealously guard their political territory to ensure that nobody else competes for the cash.

We've learned over the past decade that once elected, progressive pols need to be coerced into keeping their promises through organized force. It is the nonprofits who are sponsoring this event who have failed to follow through on that and are using events like this to mobilize to elect friendly supervisors who will continue to feed them through the add back process at the expense of moving the broader, non poverty progressive agenda.

"Imagine the world of the possible" sounds great until you realize that these people have been the ones who have refused to move on those goals for the past decade but still get paid.

Just like labor is realizing what happens when the spread between public employee compensation and benefits increases to unsustainable levels, so will the nonprofiteers see a similar day of reckoning when the coalition who benefits from their services dwindles past the point of political relevance, and they discover that San Francisco's reserves of liberal guilt have long since been depleted.

I warned labor years ago and was dismissed as anti labor. You all have been warned.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

Its hard not to be cynical, who is going to show up at this? The same old faces bemoaning developers, bankers, capitalism etc. I find it hard to believe that this will be a true Community Congress, when the majority of the community won't be there; most SF residence enjoy a good life style in SF because of capitalism.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

The answer from the "community" will be to do what they progressives have already done to drive away jobs, just more of it.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:41 am

No cynicism here, just a fresh dose of reality slapping you in the face. We know that showing up with good ideas is not sufficient. If all you needed were good ideas, I'd be Mayor of San Francisco for life. No, it takes much more to deliver progressive policies. In order to bring progressive change, enough people must be mobilized after the election to give the electeds no other choice. Otherwise, corporate San Francisco will continue to succeed and push their policies in the other direction because they have more money that god and are working 25/8/366 to fuck us.

Nonprofit employees and their slim constituencies are not sufficient in numbers to effect this kind of change. Amongst the bulk of the progressive constituency, the reserves of liberal guilt have been depleted to nil. Tim Redmond's incessant hand wringing about how our electeds are folding early and often like chairs only digs us in deeper. Those who have a "good thing" under current deteriorating arrangements are loathe to embrace any steps which might cut them out of that "good thing."

Thus, instead of pleading for the plight of the most vulnerable, progressives are going to have to expand the scope of activism to include those who are not vulnerable yet who are excluded from the corporate governing coalition. This is basic mathematics.

Not only are the policy priorities going to have to accurately reflect the breadth of the progressive coalition so that constituents feel as if they're bought into the project as full and equal partners, but the door is going to need to be taken off of the hinges and the entire coalition is going to have to be invited in. Otherwise, the nonprofits will continue on their path to take the ship down with them so long as they get paid.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 8:09 am

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity"

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:56 am

Can't you just skip these intermediary steps and move straight to the mass suicide?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

I agree with Marc on this - he says it all here.

Posted by mark on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

Libertarian market chaos is not anarchy.

If similar disrespect were shown for the ideology of the poverty nonprofits or of whatever ideology drives the primacy of immigration as a local issue over other immigration issues (H1-B) or issues that directly effect voters, the professional left would be up in arms.

Apparently, pretending that immigration law does not exist does not qualify as anarchy to the leftist.

Anarchy would mean that communities would be able to take steps on their own to check bulbous accumulations of wealth that drive gentrification, private speculative property rights, what property rights?

Such intellectual disrespect lends credence to the notion that community congresses like these are organizing events thrown by latter day Leninists who think that they are of the vanguard and act on behalf of and in the interests of the vaunted working class. One nonprofiteer asked me how we would fund activism if not with city money through nonprofits? Indeed.

Anarchy also denies the validity of nation states and borders, so don't even go there.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 9:27 am

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