They have issues: Members of the new Board speak


Board President David Chiu touched off a broad political discussion in recent weeks with his statement that officials were elected “not to take positions, but to get things done.” Delivered just before his reelection as Board President with the solid backing of the board’s moderate faction, Chiu’s comment has been viewed in light of City Hall’s shifting political dynamic, a subject the Guardian explores in a Jan. 19 cover story. Politics aside, Chiu’s statement also begs the question: Just what do members of the board hope to get done, and how do they propose to accomplish the items on their agenda?
Last week, Guardian reporters tracked down every member of the board to find out. We asked, what are your top priorities? And how do you plan to achieve them? Some spoke with us for 25 minutes, and others spoke for just 5 minutes, but the result offers some insight into what’s on their radar. Not surprisingly, getting the budget right was mentioned by virtually everyone as a top priority, but there are sharp differences in opinion in terms of how to do that. Several supervisors, particularly those in the moderate wing, mentioned ballooning pension and healthcare costs. Aiding small business also emerged as a priority shared by multiple board members.

Sup. Eric Mar
District 1

*Assisting small businesses
*Programs and services for seniors
*Food Security
*Issues surrounding Golden Gate Park

Elected in 2008 to represent D1, Sup. Eric Mar has been named chair of the powerful Land Use & Economic Development Committee and vice chair of the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee.

Asked to name his top priorities, Mar said, “A humane budget that protects the safety net and services to the must vulnerable people in San Francisco is kind of the critical, top priority.”

It’s bound to be difficult, he added. “That’s why I wish it could have been a progressive that was chairing the budget process. Now, we have to work with Carmen Chu to ensure that it’s a fair, transparent process.”

A second issue hovering near the top of Mar’s agenda is lending a helping hand to the small businesses of the Richmond District. “There’s a lot of anxiety about the economic climate for small business. We’re trying to work closely with some of the merchant associations and come up with ideas on how the city government can be more supportive,” he said. Mar also spoke about the need to respond to the threat of big box stores, such as PetCo, that could move in and harm neighborhood merchants. “I’m worried about too many of the big box stores trying to come in with an urban strategy and saying that they’re different -- but they sure have an unfair advantage,” he noted.

Programs and services for the senior population ranked high on his list. Mar noted that he’d been working with senior groups on how to respond to a budget analyst’s report showing a ballooning need for housing – especially affordable housing – for seniors. “It’s moving from the Baby Boom generation to the Senior Boomers, and I think the population, if I’m not mistaken, by 2020 it’s going up 50 percent," he said. "It’s a huge booming population that I don’t think we’re ready to address.”

Addressing food security issues through the Food Security Task Force also ranked high on Mar's list, and he noted that he’s been working with a coalition that includes UCSF and the Department of Public Health to study the problem. “We’ve had a number of strategy meetings already, but we’re trying to launch different efforts to create healthier food access in many of our lowest income neighborhoods,” Mar said.

Finally, Mar talked about issues relating to the park. “I do represent the district that has Golden Gate Park, so I’m often busy with efforts to preserve the park, prevent privatization, and ensure enjoyment for the many residents not just in the Richmond but throughout the city that enjoy the park.” Although it’s not technically in his district, Mar noted that he is very supportive of HANC Recycling Center – and plans to advocate on their behalf to Mayor Lee.

Sup. Mark Farrell
District 2
*Pension reform
*Long-term economic plan for city
*Job creation
*Quality-of-life issues

Elected to replace termed-out D2 Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, Farrell has been named vice-chair of the Government Audits & Oversight Committee and a member of the Rules Committee. A native of D2, Farrell told the Guardian he believes his roots in the city and background as a venture capitalist would be an asset to the city’s legislative body. “I know at the last board, Carmen [Chu] was the only one who had any finance background,” he said. “To have someone come from the private sector with a business / finance background, I really do believe … adds to the dialogue and the discussion here at City Hall.”

Along those lines, Farrell said one of his top priorities is the budget. “I’m not on the budget and finance committee this time around, but given my background, I am going to play a role in that,” he said.

So what’s his plan for closing the budget deficit? In response, he alluded to slashing services. “In the past, there have been views that we as a city don’t provide enough services and we need to raise revenues to provide more, or the perspective that we first need to live within our means and then provide more services. Everyone’s going to disagree, but I’m in the latter camp,” he said. “I do believe we need to make some tough choices right now – whether it be head count, or whether it be looking at …pension reform. I do believe pension reform needs to be part of the dialogue. Unfortunately, it’s unsustainable.”

He also said he wanted to be part of “trying to create and focus on a framework for a long-term financial plan here in San Francisco.”

Secondly, Farrell discussed wanting to put together a “jobs bill.”

“Jobs is a big deal,” he said. “It’s something I want to focus on. There are only so many levers we can pull as a city. I think the biotech tax credits have spurred a lot of business down in Mission Bay.”

Next on Farrell’s agenda was quality-of-life issues, but rather than talk about enforcing San Francisco’s sit/lie ordinance – supported by political forces who organized under the banner of maintaining ‘quality-of-life’ – Farrell revealed that he is incensed about parking meter fines. “It is so strikingly unjust when you are 1 minute late to your parking meter and you have a $65 parking fine,” he said.

Farrell also mentioned development projects that would surely require time and attention. “CPMC is going to be a major dominant issue,” he said. He also mentioned Doyle Drive, and transitional age youth housing projects proposed in D2 – but as far as the housing project planned for the King Edward II Inn, which has generated some controversy among neighborhood groups, he didn’t take a strong position either way, saying he wanted to listen to all the stakeholders first.

Board President David Chiu
District 3
*Preserving neighborhood character
*Immigrant rights
*Preserving economic diversity

Elected for a second two-year term as President of the Board, D3 Sup. David Chiu is rumored to be running in the mayor’s race, after he turned down former Mayor Gavin Newsom’s offer to appoint him as District Attorney. That offer was made after Kamala Harris won the state Attorney General’s race this fall. And when Chiu turned it down, former Mayor Gavin Newsom shocked just about everybody by appointing San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon, who is not opposed to the death penalty and was a longtime Republican before he recently registered as a Democrat, instead.

A temporary member of the Board’s Budget acommittee, Chiu is also a permanent member of the Board’s Government Audits & Oversight Committee.

Asked about his top priorities, Chiu spoke first and foremost about  “ensuring that we have a budget that works for all San Franciscans, particularly the most vulnerable.” He also said he wanted to see a different kind of budget process: “It is my hope that we do not engage in the typical, Kabuki-style budget process of years past under the last couple of mayors, where the mayor keeps under wraps for many months exactly what the thinking is on the budget, gives us something on June 1 for which we have only a couple of weeks to analyze, and then engage in the tired back-and-forth of debates in the past.” Chiu also spoke about tackling “looming pension and health care costs.”

Another priority, he said, was “Ensuring that our neighborhoods continue to remain the distinctive urban villages that they are, and protecting neighborhood character,” a goal that relates to “development, … historic preservation, [and] what we do around vacant commercial corridors.”

*Immigrant rights also made his top-five list. “I was very sad that last November we didn’t prevail in allowing all parents to have a right and a voice in school board elections,” he said, referencing ballot measure Proposition D which appeared on the November 2010 ballot. “I think we are going to reengage in discussion around Sanctuary City, another topic I have discussed twice already with Mayor Lee.”

Another issue for Chiu was  “ensuring again that hopefully San Francisco continues to remain an economically diverse city, and not just a city for the very wealthy.” He spoke about reforming city contracts: “In particular, dealing with the fact that in many areas, 70 to 80 percent of city contracts are awarded to non-San Francisco businesses. … I think there is more significant reform that needs to happen in our city contracting process.” Another economic-diversity measure, he said, was tax policy, “particularly around ensuring that our business tax is incenting the type of economic growth that we want.”

Finally, Chiu spoke about “Creating a transit-first city. This is not just about making sure MUNI is more reliable and has stable funding, but ensuring that we’re taking steps to reach a 2020 goal of 20 percent cycling in the city. Earlier this week I called for our transit agencies to look at pedestrian safety, because we are spending close to $300 million a year to deal with pedestrian deaths and injuries.”

Sup. Carmen Chu
District 4
*Core Services

Chiu has just named Sup. Carmen Chu as chair of the powerful Board and Finance Committee. And Chu, who worked as a budget analyst for Newsom’s administration, says the budget, core services, employment and the economy are her top priorities.

“My hope is that this year the budget is going to be a very collaborative and open process,” Chu said.

Chu believes workers benefits will be a central part of the budget-balancing debate.
“Any conversation about the long-term future of San Francisco’s budget has to look at the reality of where the bulk of our spending is,” she said.

Chu noted that the budget debate will have to take the state budget into account.
“At the end of the day, we need to take into account the context of the state budget, in terms of new cuts and taxes, because anything we do will be on top of the state level.

“We need to ask who do these measures really impact,” she added, noting that there were attempts to put revenue measures on the ballot last year.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi
District 5
* Local Hire / First Source / Reentry programs
* Budget / generating revenue
* Infrastructure improvements
*Reversing MTA service cuts

With only two years left to serve on the Board, D5 Sup. Ross Mirkarimi has been named chair of the Board’s Public Safety Committee and vice-chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

“One of my top priorities is building on and strengthening the work that I’ve already done and that Avalos is doing on mandatory local hire and First Source programs,” Mirkarimi said. He also spoke about “strengthening reentry programs for those coming out of the criminal justice system, because we still have an enormously high recidivism rate.”

The budget also ranked high on Mirkarimi’s list, and he stressed the need for “doing surgical operations on our budget to make sure that services for the vulnerable are retained, and looking for other ways to generate revenue beyond the debate of what’s going on the ballot.

“For instance, I helped lead the charge for the America’s Cup, and while the pay-off from that won’t be realized for years, the deal still needs to be massaged. What we have now is an embryonic deal that still needs to be watched.”

Mirkarimi mentioned safeguarding the city against privatization, saying one of his priorities was “retooling our budget priorities to stop the escalating practice of privatizing city services.”

 He spoke about “ongoing work citywide to make mixed-use commercial and residential infrastructure improvements, which coincide with bicycle and pedestrian improvements.”

Finally, Mirkarimi said he wanted to focus on transportation issues. “As Chair of the Transportation Authority, if I even continue to be chair, to take the lead on signature transit projects and work with the M.T.A. to reverse service cuts.”

Sup. Jane Kim
District 6
*Economic Development
*Small Business
*Pedestrian Safety
*Legislation to control bedbug infestations

Elected to replace termed-out D6 Sup. Chris Daly, Kim has been named chair of the Rules Committee and a member of the Budget & Finance committee.

Kim believes that she will prove her progressive values through her work and she’s trying to take the current debate about her allegiances on the Board in her stride.

“The one thing I learned from serving on the School Board was to be really patient,” Kim told me, when our conversation turned to the issue of “progressive values.”

“I didn’t want to be President of the School Board for the first few years, because I loved pushing the envelope,” Kim added, noting that as Board President David Chiu is in the often-unenviable position of chief negotiator between the Board and the Mayor.

But with Ed Lee’s appointment as interim mayor, Kim is excited about the coming year.
“There are a lot of new opportunities, a different set of players, and it’s going to be very interesting to learn how to traverse this particular scene.”

Kim is kicking off her first term on the Board with two pieces of legislation. The first seeks to address bedbug infestations. “Particularly around enforcement, including private landlords,” Kim said, noting that there have also been bedbug problems in Housing Authority properties.

Her second immediate goal is to look at pedestrian safety, a big deal in D6, which is traversed by freeways with off-ramps leading into residential zones.
“Pedestrian safety is a unifying issue for my district, particularly for all the seniors,” Kim said, citing traffic calming, speed limit enforcement and increased pedestrian traffic, as possible approaches.

Beyond those immediate goals, Kim plans to focus on jobs, economic development and small businesses in the coming year. “What can we do to create jobs and help small businesses? That is my focus, not from a tax reduction point of view, but how can we consolidate the permitting and fees process, because small businesses are a source of local jobs.”

Kim plans to help the Mayor’s Office implement Sup. John Avalos’ local hire legislation, which interim Mayor Ed Lee supports, unlike his predecessor Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Everyone has always liked the idea of local hire, but without any teeth, it can’t be enforced,” Kim observed. “It’s heartbreaking that young people graduate out of San Francisco Unified School District and there’s been not much more than retail jobs available.”

She noted that jobs, land use and the budget are the three overarching items on this year’s agenda. “I’m a big believer in revenue generation, but government has to come half-way by being able to articulate how it will benefit people and being able to show that it’s more than just altruistic. I think we have to figure out that balance in promoting new measures. That’s why it’s important to be strong on neighborhood and community issues, so that folks feel like government is listening and helping them. I don’t think it’s a huge ask to be responsive to that.”

Kim said she hoped the new mayor would put out a new revenue measure, enforce local hire, and implement Sup. David Campos’ legislation to ensure due process for immigrant youth.

“I think Ed can take a lot of the goodwill and unanimous support,” Kim said. “We’ve never had a mayor without an election, campaigns, and a track record. Usually mayors come in with a group of dissenters. But he is in a very unique position to do three things that are very challenging to do. I hope raising revenues is one of those three. As a big supporter of local hire, I think it helps having a mayor that is committed to implement it. And I’m hoping that Ed will implement due process for youth. For me, it’s a no brainer and Ed’s background as a former attorney  for Asian Law Caucus is a good match. Many members of my family came to the U.S. as undocumented youth, so this is very personal. Kids get picked up for no reason and misidentified. People confuse Campos and Avalos, so imagine what happens to immigrant youth.”

Sup. Sean Elsbernd
District 7
*Enforcing Prop G
*Pension & healthcare costs

With two years left to serve on the Board, D7 Sup. Sean Elsbernd has been named vice-chair of the Rules Committee and a member of the City Operations & Neighborhood Services Committee. He was congratulated by Chinatown powerbroker Rose Pak immediately after the Board voted 11-0 to nominated former City Administrator Ed Lee as interim mayor, and during Lee’s swearing-in, former Mayor Willie Brown praised Elsbernd for nominating Lee for the job.

And at the Board’s Jan. 11 meeting before the supervisors voted for Lee, Elsbernd signaled that city workers’ retirement and health benefits will be at the center of the fight to balance the budget in the coming year.

Elsbernd noted that in past years, he was accused of exaggerating the negative impacts that city employees’ benefits have on the city’s budget. “But rather than being inflated, they were deflated,” Elsbernd said, noting that benefits will soon consume 18.14 percent of payroll and will account for 26 percent in three years. “Does the budget deficit include this amount?” he asked.

And at the afterparty that followed Lee’s swearing in, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who caused a furor last fall when he launched Measure B, which sought to reform workers’ benefits packages, told the Guardian he is not one to give up lightly. “We learned a lot from that,” Adachi said. “This is still the huge elephant in City Hall. The city’s pension liability just went up another 1 percent, which is another $30 million.”

As for priorities, Elsbernd broke it down into district, city, and regional issues. In D7, “Hands-down, without question the biggest issue … is Parkmerced,” he said, starting with understanding and managing the environmental approval process. If it gets approved, he said his top concerns was that "the tenant issue. And the overriding concern of if they sell, which I think we all think is going to happen in the near-term – do those guarantees go along with the land?”

Also related to Parkmerced was planning for the traffic conditions that the development could potentially create, which Elsbernd dubbed a “huge 19th Avenue issue.”

Citywide, Elsbernd’s top priorities included enforcing Proposition G – the voter-approved measure that requires MUNI drivers to engage in collective bargaining – and tackling pension and healthcare costs. He spoke about “making sure that MTA budget that comes to us this summer is responsive” to Prop G.

As for pension and healthcare, Elsbernd said, “I’ve already spent a good deal of time with labor talking about it, and will continue to do that.” But he declined to give further details. Asked if a revenue-generating measure could be part of the solution to that problem, Elsbernd said, “I’m not saying no to anything right now.”

On a regional level, Elsbernd’s priority was to help CalTrain deal with its crippling financial problem. He’s served on that board for the last four years. “The financial situation at CalTrain – it is without question the forgotten stepchild of Bay Area transit, and the budget is going to be hugely challenging,” he said. “I think they’ll survive, but I think they’re going to see massive reductions in services.”

Sup. Scott Wiener
District 8
*Reasonable regulation of nightlife & entertainment industry
*Pension reform

Elected in November 2010 to replace termed-out D8 Sup. Bevan, Wiener has been named a temporary member of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee and a permanent member of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee.

“Transportation is a top priority,” Wiener said. ‘That includes working with the M.T.A. to get more cabs on the street, and making sure that the M.T.A. collectively bargains effectively with its new powers, under Prop. G.”

“I’m also going to be focusing on public safety, including work around graffiti enforcement, though I’m not prepared to go public yet about what I’ll be thinking," he said.

“Regulating nightlife and entertainment is another top priority," Wiener continued. "I want to make sure that what we do is very thoughtful in terms of understanding the economic impacts, in terms of jobs and tax  revenues, that this segment has. With some of the unfortunate incidents that have happened, it’s really important before we jump to conclusions that we figure out what happened and why. Was it something the club did inappropriately, or was it just a fluke? That way, we can avoid making drastic changes across the board. I think we have been very reactive to some nightclub issues. I want us to be more thoughtful in taking all the factors into consideration.”

“Even if we put a revenue measure on the June or November ballot, we’d need a two-thirds majority, so realistically, it’s hard to envision successfully securing significant revenue measure before November 2012," Wiener added. "And once you adopt a revenue measure, it takes time to implement it and revenue to come in, so it’s hard to see where we’ll get revenue that will impact the 2012 fiscal year. In the short term, for fiscal year 2011/2012, the horse is out of the barn”

“As for pension stuff, I’m going to be very engaged in that process and hopefully we will move to further rein in pension and retirement healthcare costs.”

Sup. David Campos
District 9
*Good government
*Community policing
*Protecting immigrant youth
*Workers’ rights and healthcare

Elected in 2008, D9 Sup. David Campos has been named chair of the Board’s Government Audit & Oversight Committee and a member of the Public Safety Committee. And, ever since he declared that the progressive majority on the Board no longer exists, in the wake of the Board’s 11-0 vote for Mayor Ed Lee, Campos has found his words being used by the mainstream media as alleged evidence that the entire progressive movement is dead in San Francisco.

“They are trying to twist my words and make me into the bogey man,” Campos said, noting that his words were not a statement of defeat but a wake-up call.

“The progressive movement is very much alive,” Campos said. “The key here is that if you speak your truth, they’ll go after you, even if you do it in a respectful way. I didn’t lose my temper or go after anybody, but they are trying to make me into the next Chris Daly.”

Campos said his overarching goal this year is to keep advancing a good government agenda.

“This means not just making sure that good public policy is being pursued, but also that we do so with as much openness and transparency as possible,” he said.

As a member of the Board’s Public Safety Committee, Campos says he will focus on making sure that we have “as much community policing as possible.

He plans to focus on improving public transportation, noting that a lot of folks in his district use public transit.

And he’d like to see interim mayor Ed Lee implement the due process legislation that Campos sponsored and the former Board passed with a veto-proof majority in 2009, but Mayor Gavin Newsom refused to implement. Campos' legislation sought to ensure that immigrant youth get their day in court before being referred to the federal immigration authorities for possible deportation, and Newsom's refusal to implement it, left hundreds of youth at risk of being deported, without first having the opportunity to establish their innocence in a juvenile court.
‘We met with Mayor Lee today,” Campos told the Guardian Jan. 18. “And we asked him to move this forward as quickly as possible. He committed to do that and said he wants to get more informed, but I’m confident he will move this forward.”

Campos also said he’ll be focusing on issues around workers’ rights and health care.
“I want to make sure we keep making progress on those fronts,” Campos said.

“It’s been a rough couple of days,” Campos continued, circling back to the beating the press gave him for his "progressive" remarks.“But I got to keep moving, doing my work, calling it as a I see it, doing what’s right, and doing it in a respectful way. The truth is that if you talk about the progressive movement and what we have achieved, which includes universal healthcare and local hire in the last few years, you are likely to become a target.”

Sup. Malia Cohen
District 10
*Public safety
*Preserving open space
*Creating Community Benefit Districts
*Ending illegal dumping
Elected to replace termed-out D10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell, Cohen has been named chair of the City & School District committee, vice chair of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee and vice chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Cohen says her top priorities are public safety, jobs, open space, which she campaigned on, as well as creating community benefits districts and putting an end to illegal dumping.

“I feel good about the votes I cast for Ed Lee as interim mayor and David Chiu as Board President. We need to partner on the implementation of local hire, and those alliances can help folks in my district, including Visitation Valley.”

“I was touched by Sup. David Campos words about the progressive majority on the Board,” she added. “I thought they were thoughtful.”

Much like Kim, Cohen believes her legislative actions will show where her values lie.
“I’d like to see a community benefits district on San Bruno and Third Street because those are two separate corridors that could use help,” Cohen said. 

She pointed to legislation that former D10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell introduced in November 2010, authorizing the Department of Public Works to expend a $350,000 grant from the Solid Waste Disposal Clean-Up Site trust fund to clean up 25 chronic illegal dumping sites.
“All the sites are on public property and are located in the southeast part of the city, in my district,” Cohen said, noting that the city receives over 16,000 reports of illegal dumping a year and spends over $2 million in cleaning them up.

Sup. John Avalos
District 11
*Implementing Local Hire
*Improving MUNI / Balboa Park BART
*Affordable housing
*Improving city and neighborhood services

Sup. John Avalos, who chaired the Budget committee last year and has just been named Chair of the Board’s City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee, said his top priorities were implementing local hire, improving Muni and Balboa Park BART station, building affordable housing at Balboa, and improving city and neighborhood services.

“And despite not being budget chair, I’ll make sure we have the best budget we can,” Avalos added, noting that he plans to talk to labor and community based organizations about ways to increase city revenues. “But it’s hard, given that we need a two-thirds majority to pass stuff on the ballot,” he said.

Last year, Avalos helped put two measures on the ballot to increase revenues. Prop. J sought to close loopholes in the city’s current hotel tax, and asked visitors to pay a slightly higher hotel tax (about $3 a night) for three years. Prop. N, the real property transfer tax, h slightly increased the tax charged by the city on the sale of property worth more than $5 million.

Prop. J secured only 45.5 percent of the vote, thereby failing to win the necessary two-thirds majority. But it fared better than Prop. K, the competing hotel tax that Newsom put on the ballot at the behest of large hotel corporations and that only won 38.5 percent of the vote. Prop. K also sought to close loopholes in the hotel tax, but didn’t include a tax increase, meaning it would have contributed millions less than Prop. J.

But Prop. N did pass. “And that should raise $45 million,” Avalos said. “So, I’ve always had my sights set on raising revenue, but making cuts is inevitable.”


Interesting that the supervisors in the progressive camp don't mention pension reform as a top priority. Where do they think the money will come from to support the programs they favor when pensions and healthcare benefits siphon all the money away.

Asking Elsbernd if revenue generation could help solve the pension crisis is asinine in my view. Why should taxpayers pay more to support a system that enables public employees to retire with benefits the taxpayers don't get? I won't vote for a single tax, fee, etc. until the pension problem is fixed. Just in the last couple days, reporting in other publications revealed that the city retirees are getting a $170 million bonus from the pension fund even though the fund lost $4 billion in 2008. Are you serious??

Posted by Patrick on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

None of the others though.

And only five of them cited jobs.

Posted by Tom on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

Politicians like to talk about jobs - just listen to Gavin Newsom's recent statements about his main priority as Lt. Governor (jobs, of course) if you want to see how an expert panders at the "job creation" trough.

But the truth is jobs isn't the issue. The primary issue is the fair distribution of the work and the goods and services that our incredibly large economy produces.

All of the technology we've created over the past 40 years now means there is a lot less work to do: one ocean-going vessal can harvest as many fish as it used to take 200 boats; one computer can do the work that 200 bookkeepers used to do in a bank. The list goes on and on.

The workers in the 1930's were smart enough to realize that when containers were introduced to ship cargo there would be a 70% reduction in the workforce needed (workers became "redundant" I think is the correct word. They did the only logical thing if you care about your community and if you care about families, which was to demand a shorter work week so that there was more work to go around to everybody. We need to do the same now.

A 4-day work week would increase employment by 20% - precisely the percentage of the population currently unemployed and under-employed. People will have more time to volunteer at schools, at hospitals, at parks and throughout the community, which will translate into more social and economic security for people, reducing crime and poverty in the process.

Politicians like to talk about jobs so they can justify "tax incentives" and "tax subsidies" and "incenting small business," but it's all just rhetorical cover to enable collecting campaign contributions from the main economic players who are quite satisfied with the status quo. Big businesses and big unions have never had it so good as over the past 20 years.

In contrast, over the same 20 year period the much-touted "middle class" who work in the private sector has been hollowed out - first by the S&L real estate price spike and collapse, and then the latest real estate price spike and collapse.

In both instances tremendous wealth - in the hundreds of billions - was transferred to the tens of thousands of savvy investors who made fortunes in real estate during the periods before the collapse. After the free fall in real estate asset prices, the govenement - the taxpayers - the middle-class who pay the majority of the taxes - got stuck with all of the bad debts. You and me are paying, but most of us didn't get the benefit of the billions in real estate profits. Socialism has never worked so well for the elites.

If I'm an investor - a person who helps create jobs in the process of producing goods or services - there's not much "there, there" in the US these days other than the technology that makes labor even more irrelevant. Many other countries have real money to spend on housing, roads, factories and household durrables, whereas most of our money will be going to pay off debts, and more debts, and the continuing deficits that will mean paying off even more debts. Unless you're one of the fortunate few who own some of this government debt - in which case you're doing quite well - the rest of us are not doing so well.

We need to start paying off ALL of these debts NOW so we can begin to purchase goods and services again that will boost the real economy rather than the pocketbooks of the elite group of government bond owners - and we need a 4-day work week so that everyone has a job and is part of the community and a part of the solution. Then we will see sustained economic growth and a more cohesive, positive community.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

So that I can live in your Utopia?

More other world ideology put ahead of actual reality.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

Jobs are important, but when rich people say we need 'jobs jobs jobs' that is secret code for 'don't raise taxes on rich people.' They really couldn't care less about 'jobs'.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

A progressive talks about funding infrastructure and the need to raise taxes, by infrastructure they mean commissions on commissions?

Posted by matlock on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 4:04 am

Local hire should be fantastic for jobs if you live in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

and when all the other cities implement the same thing as a tit-for-tat reprisal, the net effect will just be higher costs all round and no net gain of jobs.

Begger-they-neighbor policies don't help the economy.

Posted by Tom on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 7:52 am

'Costs' ha ha ha.

The great industrialist Henry Ford said his secret of success against his competitors was to pay his workers enough to be able to afford the products he manufactured.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 8:25 am

I guess I would have a question for all the "progressives" whose priority is to "protect the most vulnerable from budgets cuts" - why then, are you knowingly letting public employee unions drain every nickel out of our precious general fund??

Seriously, are you guys paying any attention?...A $170,000,000 bonus after the pension fund lost $4 billion and pension costs are now draining $450 million out of the budget and climbing...If progressive means protecting the most vulnerable, then you're not progessives if the word has any meaning.

Posted by Flowers on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

It is worth noting that members of the Board of Supervisors are only now beginning to zero in on “looming pension and health care costs" in a way that none chose to do either at the time the Civil Grand Jury report was issued, during the Prop B campaign or when Moody's downgraded San Francisco's municipal bond rating.

The good news today is that City Hall officials who often "dare to be cautious" and shrug solutions to tough public problems might just step up on this one before San Francisco faces bankruptcy court.

Posted by Fortuna on Jan. 18, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

Let's be real. Most - if not all - city employee pensioners will never agree to large reductions in their retirement payments and will sue to maintain their current annuity. If the city tries to reduce them, at least one person will sue and win under basic principles of contract law.

And although some of the current city bargaining units *might* agree to reduced pensions and healthcare costs in order to try to preserve *some* future benefit, the odds aren't very high the current employees will go along with that.

So the only real option is to start slashing current government spending. Patterson, NJ is considering reducing its police force by 30%. (I’d provide the link but The Guardian’s nifty blogging software will think this is a spam email and block it. I suppose I post on this site enough that maybe it is spam by now.)

For another town - Memphis - it's a 25% reduction of its police force that's on the table. (Same google search will find the article published earlier this week.)

These stories will be repeated hundreds and thousands of times over the next 10-15 years either until most cities, counties and school districts declare bankruptcy or until the US government decides to bail out these government entities. Great. More debt for you, me and the next generations to pay for the next 50 years.

It was as early as the 1970’s that the book "The Fiscal Crisis of the State" - along with similar books and articles - was published. Government insolvency is not a new subject at all. It does highlight the truism, however, that it's much easier to put off until tomorrow any problem that is too difficult to solve today.

We can be sure that no politician will try to solve the unfunded pension and healthcare liability problems. Hell hath no fury greater than public employee unions who are asked for givebacks by politicians. And when the public employee unions are after you, if you’re a politician you better run and hide cause they’re gonna get you eventually.

San Francisco, NY, Chicago, LA and a few cities will likely muddle through the crisis since they generate so much income and wealth within their borders and have decent taxing sources at their disposal, but almost every other town, city, county and school district across the US will become very familiar with bankruptcy court over the next 10-15 years. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the show that I'm calling "The Blame Game."

PS - If you're under 30 and are beginning to realize how much debt you and your generation will be paying over your lifetime, you should be getting pretty damn pissed at all of these government created financial debacles by now. Let's hope your family is part of the 15% of the population that owns some decent assets - even a fully paid house would be a big help - so you'll have some hope for economic survival in the future.

Just remember, whenever you see a police officer, or a fire station employee, or a politician, or a lawyer or investigator who works in the DA’s office or City Attorney’s office, ask yourself, “Will they be retiring in their 50's with a $2,000,000 lifetime annuity or a $3,000,000 lifetime annuity paid by us taxpayers?” Nice work if you can get it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 20, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

I wouldn't be too confident in City officials fixing the pension and unfunded health care problems (they're good at bogus reforms- see Prop B 2008, Prop G 2010) Right now we don't have the temerity to get Muni employees to pay for parking...

Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 12:33 am

Nice to see that two supervisors actually mention that big elephant in the room:

Pension costs

This is going up by $100 million this year, to about $375 million (according to the Chron today).

One reason is the city charter has a "mandatory 3.5% cost of living increase hike for all retirees."

WTF? Here we are, practically living under deflation, and retirees get a mandatory 3.5% pension spike.

Dear non-profits,
Are you paying attention/ Because you, and the poor, will take the brunt of the damage.

Posted by Barton on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 4:47 am

It is a "supplemental" (i.e. bonus above the actual rate of inflation) COLA paid out if in ANY year, the pension fund earns greater than 7.75%. So yes, after the pension fund loses $4 billion in a year like in 2008, somehow our City manages to pay themselves a bonus. Not too hard to earn 7.75% after your basis declines $4 billion.

And the 7.75% is an estimated actuarial average return over 30 years and has nothing to do with year to year returns.

It's corruption - plain and simple.

Posted by Flowers on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 11:24 am

Excuse me but pensions are in no way the elephant in the room.....

"China connection: Even before Chinese President Hu Jintao landed in Washington for a visit with President Obama, a Chinese delegation toured the Central Valley over the weekend with an eye toward competing to develop the state's high-speed rail line.

Read more:

Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 9:38 am

"Dear non-profits, Are you paying attention/ Because you, and the poor, will take the brunt of the damage. "

Divide and conquer is such a progressive strategy!

By your tactics, you define your politics.


Posted by marcos on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 10:08 am

Ah, yes, Comrade Marcos is both a Capitalist Warrior (he wants the stock market to rise (at least 8% a year, so that city retirees will not have to keep dipping into the general fund) and a stalwart Socialist.

He's a lefty and a righty at the same time.

He's a Gawd.

Pension costs are almost equal to the Park & Rec budget. And they will surpass the Fire Dept. budget soon (according to today's Chron article).

No amount of tax hikes on the rich is going to offset swelling pension costs.

Posted by Barton on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

SF contracts with thousands of non-profits to provide services that are not required under federal or state law. The fact is that we can't afford this anymore and there will major cuts in services across the board.

"Homeless services" cost SF approximately $200,000,000 a year. What do we have to show for that money? Filthy streets, panhandlers, and shopping cart jockets. Sorry, but this is going to have to end. SF can no longer afford "the homeless".

The City has an obligation to pay pensions that were promised under contract. SF will have to shut down a lot of "services" to pay these pensions, or SF will be sued by thousands of retirees and the city will lose.

This city is not bankrupt. Far from it. It simply spends too much money on too many programs for too many people. Change is coming.

Posted by Scott on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

Although pensions are legal contracts, they can be reneged upon in certain circumstances, most obviously bankruptcy.

They can also be reneged upon de facto by firing large numbers of public employees. We've already seen that in Vallejo, Oakland, Harrisburg PA, and Camden NJ.

Or the threat of the above can be used to cram down changes on a scared workforce.

At some point, if the PS unions don't play ball, we're going to have to play hardball.

Posted by Tom on Jan. 19, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

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