Peskin's political playbook


By Steven T. Jones
Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin helped engineer the placement of some solid progressive measures on the fall ballot yesterday -- and unsuccessfully tried to derail one that would give sick days to all SF workers. The Golden Gate Restaurant Association had been trying to weaken the measure with fewer sick days (five, rising to 10 after an employee works three years in the same job, which few in this category of worker do) and exemption of part-time employees (which, again, is most workers who don't get sick days). Measure advocates say they were willing to compromise a little on the former request, but not the latter. So Peskin at the last minute not only said he won't support the measure (after advocates say his aides said he probably would), but he also convinced Sup. Sophie Maxwell to pull her support, even though she'd already signed on the dotted line. That might have left advocates without the four supervisors needed to place the measure on the ballot, but they convinced Sup. Jake McGoldrick to lend his support. But in the end, election law requires all sponsoring supervisors to agree to let a colleague withdraw, and since Sup. Tom Ammiano couldn't be found as the 5 p.m. deadline neared, the measure ended up going to the ballot with supervisors Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, Ammiano and Maxwell as sponsors.
So what happened here? Well, it's more than meets the eye.

Sponsors of the sick days measure weren't happy with Peskin's last minute power play, but he tells the Guardian that he was just trying to avoid unnecessary fights on an already contentious ballot.
"While I'm very supportive of the concept, I felt like phasing it in was a better policy idea that would have still been a model for the rest of the country and would not have been a major political battle," Peskin told me.
That may be true, but there's more to the story. You see, Peskin has for months been doing polling on a series of progressive measures that he hopes will:
A. Win and make this city more progressive
B. Increase lefty voter turnout and help him keep his majority on the board.
C. Divide and conquer the big money attacks and candidates that downtown will be sponsoring
And along come these well meaning kids to mess up the well laid plans of our would-be kingmaker. Maybe he's afraid that GGRA will now join the fray, or maybe he felt like he was saving Sophie's ass from as-yet-unseen threats, or maybe he's trying to score points with GGRA for his own political ambitions, whatever they may be at this point (it's certainly no secret that he'd like to be mayor one day).
But as impolitic as his maneuvers seem on this measure, the rest of the ballot package looks great: a tax on downtown parking garages that could be used for "transit first" improvements, expansion of our selective ban on chain stores, an eviction protection measure, and (my personal favorite) a vote on whether San Franciscans want Congress to start impeachment proceedings against the Bush Administration.