The machine - Page 4

Sup. Scott Wiener is relentless, driven, prolific — and changing San Francisco in sometimes alarming ways

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Scott Wiener follows Harvey Milk, Harry Britt, and Bevan Dufty representing a neighborhood that's changed profoundly.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY KEENEY + LAW PHOTOGRAPHY

"He's very busy. He's amazingly prolific legislatively. I can't keep up with him and I don't know what his agenda is," said Sue Vaughan, who works with the Sierra Club and sits on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's Citizens Advisory Council. "It just seems like everything he focuses on disempowers the voters and empowers the [wealthiest] 1 percent."

 

 

POLITICS AND PERSONALITY

 

Even his critics have positive things to say about Wiener. "He's a nice guy, and I have to give him credit for going out of his way to work with us," Temprano said, praising Wiener's advocacy on queer, nightlife, and small business issues and saying, "He's a really good legislator."

"That said, we have a fundamentally different approach to politics," Temprano said. "A huge bone of contention is his handling of public space, including the nudity ban and removing the public benches" in the Castro.

Temprano criticizes Wiener for allowing social services to be slashed while local corporations get tax breaks and focusing more on the convenience of those middle class and above than the needs of those on the bottom, often by presenting "false choices," as Wiener did in opposing free Muni for youth by saying that increasing efficiency in the system was more important.

"The folks who have more basic needs are being pushed out of this city," Temprano said. "There are just so many needs right now, and so many of them come down to funding for social services and other things...We should be starting to re-fund programs that have been slashed in recent years."

Wiener has served on the Budget Committee throughout his tenure on the board, presiding over the rollback of city services and maintaining of historically low levels of business taxation.

In fact, Temprano said Wiener's engaging personal style and points of agreement with progressives make Wiener more effective in sometimes pushing issues that are hostile to progressive values. "It's occasionally difficult to play hardball on some of these other issues," Temprano said, noting that Wiener doesn't seem to have a problem switching gears and playing hardball in undermining progressive reforms, something that requires those of the left to be ever-vigilant and take advantage of Wiener's open-door policies. "We need to be incredibly vocal and incredibly organized."

Adds Radulovich: "There's something about him that's refreshing. He's different than the moderates of the past...He's a moderate, but he's the new generation of moderate."

In fact, Radulovich said that progressives could learn lessons from Wiener in terms of broadening their base and reaching across the aisle on certain issues that needn't be as polarizing as they often are in San Francisco, even around such emotional issues as growth and development.

"If you do anything differently, you get kicked out of the progressive camp," Radulovich said, half-jokingly adding, "If you had an original idea since 1978, you're suspect."

In fact, Radulovich compared Wiener to a former supervisor who is his political opposite: "Scott is effectively driving the conversation in proposing things. Chris Daly used to do that."

Peskin said that Wiener's legislative success so far has less to do with his skills and strength than it does with the weakness of the progressive movement over the last two years.

"He's only one supervisor, and it's just that his colleagues need to stand up and start questioning his legislation. He backs down when people rise to the occasion," Peskin said, noting that progressive activists may have become complacent after a decade when progressives had a majority at the board. "It's a big wake-up call for activists and everyday folks in San Francisco who have not had to go down to City Hall to stop bad things from happening in 10 years."

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