Newsom's one bright spot (and even it's a bit dingy)

As we noted in a cover story last year, Gavin Newsom has always been two-faced, perhaps even multi-faced.

Covering Mayor Gavin Newsom's devious exploits for this story last week, watching as the ever-ambitious Newsom sacrificed the city's fiscal future on the altar of political expediency and his increasingly rigid anti-tax ideology, it seemed as if there was nothing remotely redeeming about this callow, self-serving man. But then he does this, appointing Cheryl Brinkman – a strong and respected advocate for promoting alternatives to the automobile – to the Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors.

I'm not saying this one act redeems Newsom, not even close. In fact, some have speculated that he's trying to coopt a qualified progressive or burnish his green credentials, an echo of the responses to when he appointed San Francisco Bicycle Coalition director Leah Shahum to the MTA board a couple years ago, a tenure Newsom ended prematurely after they clashed over creating more car-free spaces. Or maybe he's trying to head off support for a ballot measure being considered by the Board of Supervisors to split appointments to the MTA. Who knows with this guy?

Yet it's also true that being open to democratizing the streets of San Francisco has been a bright spot in Newsom's otherwise dismal record as mayor. And I think that's because the cost of admission to this movement is so low. He's embraced temporary car-free spaces, supported more bicycling, and moved forward other green initiatives – all of which have little to no cost involved and no real political downside. So it's been easy for Newsom to strike green poses when he chooses, just as it was easy for him to make the supposedly "courageous" decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which involved no heavy lifting and greatly improved Newsom's political prospects.

But we're reaching a moment of truth for San Francisco, a point at which the easy answers are evaporating and the bill is coming due – just as Newsom prepares to leave San Francisco for Sacramento. After doubling Muni fares since he became mayor and reaching a level where they really can't go up anymore without diminishing returns and serious political consequences, Newsom and his appointees have run out of easy options for maintaining Muni in an era of declining state and federal support.

Now, the choices aren't as easy: charge motorists more for parking, permits, or driving in the most congested times or places; cut Muni service or raise rates more; find ever more ways to nickle-and-dime everyone with various fee increases; or find more general tax revenue, which Newsom has been steadfastly unwilling to do, even though the big banks and financial services companies that caused the Great Recession are exempt from city business taxes.

Brinkman, who tells us that the Mayor's Office placed no conditions on the appointment, now has a tough job, as do all of this city's elected and appointed officials. But this is the moment when they must have the courage to make the tough choices about what's best for San Francisco, choices that Newsom has been unwilling to make.


Hey Steven,

Did you get a hard-on with yet another one of your rambling little temper tantrums about Newsom? ... Forgive me if I'm mistaken but wasn't the original intent of your post about Cheryl Brinkman?

Posted by Matt Stewart on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

Something like $10 a year. With more than 100,000 bikes in the city that's a cool $1,000,000+ which could go towards preserving progressive priorities in our city. Think about that - that's the salary + benefits of two city employees working full-time as homeless advocates!

However I have a strong feeling since this fee would impact Steven Jones and most of The Guardian staff it's not going to be getting their support anytime soon. The SFBG only likes fees and increased taxes which don't affect them.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

and self serving than many of the other true believers in the city.

Everyone is a hypocrite, Newsom is no better or worse than a Chris Daly, the true believer can and will do more damage than the opportunist.

As Huxley said...

Idealism is the noble toga that political gentlemen drape over their will to power.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

Brinkman is a lightweight. She is there as an act of tokenism and no way does she have the gravitas to have real influence. This act will maintain the illusion that the Board represents all interests but in practice the big shots will keep Brinkman firmly in her place.

Posted by Folly on Jul. 14, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

Anyone want to put money on whether we see Brinkman's mug on literature this November against the MTA reform Charter Amendment?

"Mayor Newsom had the audacity to appoint the chair of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to the MTA Board, Prop E is working, no reform is needed here!"

Our opponents are playing for keeps, there is too much money in the MTA set aside to allow to go untapped. They know that they can always count on egos and ambition to trump principles and values every day amongst the single issue crowd that can't think strategically.

This reminds me of psychological tests where rats are placed in cages, deprived of nurturing, hooked up to IV cocaine at the tap of a bar, and will dose themselves to death in order to feel anything good.


Posted by marcos on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 9:26 am

Hundreds of emails asking Gavin to help out pushing the Noe Valley Plaza and not one response. The one P2P project that has some real moxie and he's absent when we really needed him.

Please help push on him.

Posted by John Murphy on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 10:42 am

Involves asking people what they want before telling them what they're going to get.

The reason why the Noe parklet is having problems is because Newsom decreed from on high what his bureaucrats thought that the neighborhood wanted instead of working with them to figure out what they wanted and then running with that.

The only democratizing solution now is to take the proposal off of the table and to start anew in the community with a democratic process to determine the use of the streets, no presumed outcomes, no favored scenarios.


Posted by marcos on Jul. 15, 2010 @ 11:09 am

The state doesn't allow bicycle registration fees over $4 for the first year or $2 for renewal. At those prices, it'd cost more to run the registration program than it'd bring in.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2010 @ 5:45 pm