Behind the Twitter tax break deal

T stands for Twitter, or the taxes it doesn't want to pay

There's much political intrigue and anticipation swirling around the Central Market Payroll Tax Exclusion, aka the Twitter Tax Break, which the Board of Supervisors will consider next month. This has all the elements of a great story: backroom deals between political and corporate power brokers, the strange argument that Republican-style tax cuts will cure Mid-Market blight, the fact that Twitter executives have uttered nary a tweet about shaking down SF taxpayers, and the role that a pair of supposedly progressive supervisors have played in brokering the deal.

Following up on my Feb. 10 post about how the deal would help Twitter meet the high asking price of politically connected landlord Alvin Dworman for a new mid-Market headquarters, the Bay Citizen yesterday had a great story showing how Dworman gave then-Mayor Gavin Newsom discounted office space for his lieutenant governor bid just as Newsom proposed the tax break that would benefit Dworman and Twitter. The story also includes a nice tick-tock about how this unseemly deal unfolded.

We at the Guardian are currently awaiting a big package of documents from City Hall that we requested on the deal, and sources tell us they're likely to include some interesting insights and tidbits. For example, are Twitter and Dworman the main beneficiaries of this legislation or are there other corporations (and the politicians they support) who were pushing this plan? Everyone is also waiting to see how the city's Office of Economic Analysis rates the proposal, and Economic Ted Egan tells us that report should be out by the end of next week or beginning of the following week.

At this point, we have more questions than answers, but that should start changing by next week. Maybe we'll gain a better understanding of why Sup. Jane Kim is pushing this deal (much to the consternation of some of her former top supporters) or why Randy Shaw, the taxpayer-subsidized blogger and Tenderloin don, strongly backed Kim's candidacy and attacked her critics with such perplexing ferocity. Will Willie Brown's name continue popping up? Perhaps we'll be able to determine whether the Newsom-Dworman pact actually broke campaign finance laws. And we'll certainly gain some insights into how the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development trades away taxpayer money to successful corporations that wield whines and threats of relocation.

If nothing else, we'll get a peek into modern crony capitalism, San Francisco-style, dressed up in the guise of “saving” the Tenderloin. So, from a strictly journalistic perspective, this should be fun.