SF's new political era - Page 5

What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

Some progressives were not at all happy with that comment. "I thought that was a terrible thing to say," Avalos told the Guardian, arguing the positions that elected officials take shape the legislation that follows. As an example, he cited the positions that progressive members of Congress took in favor of the public option during the health care reform debate.

Talking about getting things done is "a sanctimonious talking point that fits well with what the Chronicle and big papers want to hear," Avalos said. He said the Chronicle and other downtown interests are more interested in preserving the status quo and blocking progressive reforms. "It's what they want to see not get done."

Campos even challenged the comment publicly during the Jan. 11 board meeting when he said, "It's important to get things done, but I don't think getting things done is enough. We have to ask ourselves: what is it that we're getting done? How is it that we're getting things done? And for whom is it that we're doing what we're doing? Is it for the people, or the downtown corporate interests? I hope it's not getting things done behind closed doors."

Chiu said that, for him, getting things done is about expanding the progressive movement and consolidating its recent gains. "I think we all share a political goal. As progressives, we all share a political goal of getting things done and growing mainstream support for our shared progressive principles so that they really become the values of our entire city."

To do that, he said, progressives are going to need to be more conciliatory and cooperative than they've been in the past. "I think it's easy to slip into a more oppositional way of discussing progressive values, but I'm really pushing to move beyond that."

The biggest single issue this spring will be the budget — and it's hard to know exactly where the board president will draw his lines. "I have spoken to Mayor Lee about the need for open, transparent, and community-based budget processes and he's open to that," Chiu told us — and that alone would be a huge change. But the key progressive priority for the spring will be finding ways to avoid brutal budget cuts — and that means looking for new revenue.

When asked whether new general revenue will be a part of the budget solution, instead of Newsom's Republican-style cuts-only approaches, Chiu was cautious. "I am open to considering revenues as part of the overall set of solutions to close the budget deficit," he said. "I am willing to be one elected here that will try to make that argument." But with his political clout and connections right now, he can do a lot more than be one person making an argument.

Chiu has always been open to new revenue solutions and even led the way in challenging the cuts-only approach to both the city budget and MTA budget two years in a row, only to back down in the end and cut a deal with Newsom. When asked whether things will be better this year given his closer relationship to Lee, Chiu replied, "I think things are going to be different in the coming months."

During the board's Jan. 7 deliberation on Lee, Sup. Eric Mar also said that based on his communications with Lee, Mar believed that the Mayor's Office is open to supporting new revenue measures. He echoed the point later to us.

In addition to supporting the open, inclusive budget process, Mar called for "a humane budget that protects the safety net and services to the most vulnerable people in San Francisco is kind of the critical, top priority.

"I think it's going to be difficult working with the different forces in the budget process," he added. "That's why I wish it could have been a progressive who was chairing the budget process."

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