SF's new political era - Page 2

What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

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Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

But by the Jan. 4 board meeting, five of the six had coalesced around Sheriff Mike Hennessey. Chiu, however, was supporting Ed Lee, someone he had known and worked with in the Asian community and whom he considered a progressive candidate. And once it became clear that Lee was headed toward victory, Sup. Eric Mar announced that he, too, would be in Lee's camp.

A few days later, when the new board convened to choose a president, the progressive solidarity was gone. Sups. David Campos, John Avalos, and Ross Mirkarimi, now the solid left wing of the board, voted for Avalos. Chiu won with the support of Mar, Sup. Jane Kim, and the moderate-to-conservative flank.

Now the Budget Committee — long controlled by a progressive chair and a progressive majority — will be led by Carmen Chu, who is among the most fiscally conservative board members. The Land Use and Development Committee will be chaired by Mar, but two of the three members are from the moderate side. Same goes for Rules, where Sup. Sean Elsbernd, for years the most conservative board member, will work with ideological ally Sup. Mark Farrell on confirming mayoral appointments, redrawing supervisorial districts, and promoting or blocking charter amendments as Kim, the chair, does her best to contain the damage.

You can argue that having independent-minded supervisors who don't vote as a caucus is a good thing. You can also argue that a fractured left will never win against a united downtown. And both arguments have merit.

But you can't argue any more that the board has the same sort of progressive majority it's had for the past 10 years. That's over. It's a new — and different — political era.

What happens now? Will the progressives hold enough votes to have an influence on the city budget (and ensure that the deficit solutions include new revenue and not just cuts)? What legislative priorities will the supervisors be pushing in the next year? How will the votes shake out on difficult new proposals (and ongoing issues like community choice aggregation)?

Mayor Lee has pledged to work with the board and will show up for monthly questions. How will he respond to the sorts of progressive legislation — like tenant protections, transit-first policies, immigrant rights measures, and stronger affordable housing standards — that Newsom routinely vetoed?

How will this all play out in a year when the city will also be electing a new mayor?

 

IDENTITY POLITICS?

When Sups. Chiu, Mar, and Kim broke with their three progressive colleagues to support Chiu for board president — just as Chiu and Mar helped clear the path for Ed Lee to become mayor days earlier — it seemed to many political observers that identity had trumped ideology on the board. There's some truth to that observation, but it's too simple an explanation. There's also the fact that Chiu strongly supported Kim, who is a personal friend and former roommate, in her election, so it's no surprise she went with him for board president.

And the phrase itself is so laden with baggage and problems that it's hard to talk about. It has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. "Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context," says the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, an ongoing research project by the students and faculty at Stanford University.

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