(UPDATED AND CLARIFIED ON 4/7 BELOW) Two weeks ago, when Sup. Jane Kim voted to move the Twitter/mid-Market/Tenderloin tax exclusion zone forward before Twitter had agreed to a community benefits agreement (CBA), over the objections of Sup. Ross Mirkarimi and other opponents of the legislation who wanted a chance to review the CBA, she announced at the Budget & Finance Subcommittee meeting that she would delay the vote if the CBA wasn't approved by the day before the hearing.
Today, the full board is scheduled to consider approving the legislation and Twitter has not yet agreed to a CBA, which is the only thing the city gets in return for giving the company a $57 million tax break. So, during a rally this morning at City Hall against the CPMC project, I asked Kim whether she would keep her word and delay the legislation.
No, she said, they will be voting today to approve it and then they'll approve the CBA later as trailing legislation. When I pointed out that she was going back on her word and reminded her of the comments she made publicly two weeks ago, she said, “Well, the community understands and wants us to move this forward.”
What community, I asked, noting that much of the community opposes the legislation. She said, “SOMCAN is OK with this,” referring to the South of Market Community Action Network, whose members were perhaps the most vociferous opponents of the legislation at that March 23 committee hearing, their members uniformly asking that the legislation be delayed until after a CBA is approved by Twitter and subjected to community input.
After that conversation, a SOMCAN member who overheard the exchange confirmed that the organization continues to oppose the legislation, although City Hall sources tell us that Kim's office has assured the group that it will get money out of the final CBA. It is illegal for supervisors to direct funding to specific groups in such agreements, which are negotiated by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, as Deputy City Attorney Cheryl Adams testified at the March 23 hearing.
UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: Kim legisiative aide Matias Mormino and SOMCAN organizational director Angelica Cabande strongly deny the organization was promised financial compensation from the Twitter CBA, saying the only assurance the organization was given was Kim's pledge to create legislation designed to prevent the displacement that SOMCAN fears this legislation will create. Cabande also told us, " The CBA will keep the corporation accountable to our neighborhood and residents' concerns by specifically defining how Twitter's presence will benefit the surrounding low-income communities."
Kim has made several statements about this legislation that weren't true or were contradicted by the testimony of City Economist Ted Egan, as we've reported. Previously, she has also lied to others about statements I've made in conversations with her and about whether she's ever met privately with Willie Brown, who supported her supervisorial campaign with an independent expenditure mailer that was illegally created in her campaign manager's office.
Kim's sponsorship of this tax break legislation comes despite the fact that she's said she generally opposes such supply-side economic schemes. In his economic analysis of the legislation, Egan recommended doing a parcel tax on vacant commercial property as a better way to address vacant storefronts in mid-Market, the problem that Kim and others have claimed that this legislation is about.
I asked her about that recommendation during the March 16 committee hearing and she said that she strongly supports the proposal and that she has directed her staff to work on it. Is she going to keep her word and follow through on that pledge? I'll believe it when I see it.