The machine - Page 7

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

Scott Wiener follows Harvey Milk, Harry Britt, and Bevan Dufty representing a neighborhood that's changed profoundly.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum gives Wiener lots of unqualified credit for his leadership on transportation issues. "We've been really impressed with what a strong grasp he has of the city's transportation needs, and he's been willing to push in certain areas behind the scenes," she said, contrasting the grandstanding that most politicians do on transit issues with Wiener's more substantive position. "He comes in with a lot more policy understanding, and it's clear he really rides Muni regularly."

But even on transportation issues, some progressives fault Wiener. "We need to be really concerned about transit equity in this city, and that's something I'd like to see more from him on," Temprano said, calling on Wiener to show as much concerns for the needs of low-income communities that truly rely on Muni as he does with the needs of better-off Castro residents. "I'm always fighting with the MTA because they're not doing a good enough job on Muni," Wiener said. In fact, Wiener said he's in contact with that supposedly independent agency almost every day, pushing them to make changes he wants: "To its credit, MTA does care about what the mayor and the supervisors think, and I give them a lot of credit for that because they could take a more blow-off kind of attitude with me, and I haven't seen that, at least in my interactions with them."

Wiener said his relationship with MTA head Reiskin is "very positive. I mean, I push him, but we have the kind of relationship where I can be very frank and tell him when I think he's wrong, and he can be very frank and tell me when he thinks I'm wrong." Reiskin agrees that his relationship with Wiener is a good one, because of Wiener's hectoring as much as in spite of it. "My relationship with him is very good. He's someone who really cares about the transportation system, particularly Muni, and he understands the importance of Muni to the city," Reiskin said, praising Wiener for his willingness to get personally involved in the struggle. "He's extended some political capital for it."

Yet on the TIDF fight, the capital Wiener extended split the progressive movement and burnished his arguments that he's independent from downtown, so the net result of that losing fight only served to strengthen Wiener politically. "There were no conversations on the front end, I can tell you that. It was sprung on us," said Cohen, whose CCHO ended up partnering with the business community against transportation activists to defeat the measure. "It did not have to become as adversarial as it was and that was really disheartening. It's hard to think that it wasn't intentional." Reiskin also said that issue was mishandled by his agency. "We failed in that process," he said. "The fact that we're pitting improving transportation against social services is not good."

Yet both Wiener and Shahum cast it as a fight worth having. Wiener said they discussed dropping it when it was clear the votes weren't there: "My gut was already telling me let's do the vote, and she said, 'You know, people need to say where they are on this.' So we agreed to move it forward."

And that was a vote he cited when I questioned him about his pro-business agenda. "You always have to be willing to disagree with your allies," Wiener said. "So people say, 'You always do what the Chamber of Commerce says,' but that's not true. I think I was number five on their scorecard this year because I supported CCA, I supported classifying banks as formula retail, and they scored on the TIDF."