Joe Eskenazi has an SF Weekly piece that pretty much repeats what he's been saying for years: That San Francisco has too much government. This time he goes after all the boards, task forces and commissions -- and yeah, there are a lot of them, and yeah, some of them might not be necessary. I could also argue, though, that San Francisco is one of the most politically active cities in the world, and that having a whole lot of ways for residents to plug in to what's going on in their city isn't a bad thing at all.
Whatever. Here's the stuff that drives me nuts:
Last month, the volunteer body appointed by the Board of Supervisors advocated curtailing all pet sales in the city — including guppies, goldfish, and live rodents meant as snake food. Coming on the heels of a proposed criminalization of circumcision, San Francisco was, once again, reduced to an international punchline — many were left to wonder whether a ban on circumcising goldfish is our logical next step. Disbelieving articles poured in from around the globe. Perhaps none was as caustic as a piece in London's Telegraph titled "San Francisco goldfish ban exposes the pathology of America's bourgeois liberal nutjobs."
Ah, yes, Joe: Those crazy San Francisco liberals and their madcap ideas.
I'm not for banning pet sales (although I think banning puppy mills -- also a wacky idea that came out of the Animal Control and Welfare Commission -- is a fine thing). And I'm not for the circumcision ban (although, geez, it has lead to some interesting commentary that gives new meaning to the term "dick face.")
But every time I hear somebody talk about how San Franciscans should stop it with the nutty ideas, I think about a few I've followed over the years -- and how they've changed the way the entire nation thinks. Let me suggest a few for Eskanazi to look at:
"Those crazy San Franciscans don't want to build freeways." Yep -- in the late 1950s and early 1960s, while the rest of the country (and in particular, California) was rushing to build freeways as fast as possible, people in this city decided to say No. The freeway revolt and the movement that grew out of it changed the way Americans view cities. Wacky shit.
"Those crazy San Franciscans think homosexuals should have the same rights as married people." Yep, back in the 1970s San Franciscans started talking not only about nondiscrimination -- they actually said that gay people who live together should have health insurance benefits. Imagine that.
"Those crazy San Franciscans think that women should make the same amount of money as men." When then- Sup Nancy Walker introduced legislation in 1985 making "comparable worth" (the notion that men and women who do jobs that require comparable skills should be paid the same) it made headlines all over the country -- and was universally derided by the same set that now complain about "liberal nutjobs." It cost the city a lot of extra money (money that the Eskinazi crew of the day said was too much for a broke city) and led to all sorts of comments about social engineering. San Francisco was the first to push the issue, and it's now considered mainstream employment policy.
"Those crazy San Franciscans think we ought to give bicycles the same rights as cars." All the way back in the mid-1980s, bicycle advocates were talking about bike lanes, bike maps, bike racks and alternatives to the automobile. What were they drinking?
"Those crazy San Franciscans think that transgender people ought to get health benefits." This was as recent as 1993 -- and if you think circumcision and pets put SF in the right-wing-talk-show and late-night-comedy targets, imagine when the city decided "to use taxpayer dollars to fund sex-change operations," as the detractors insisted. Guess what? It turned out to be a major step forward for transgender rights.
"Those crazy San Franciscans think gay people should be allowed to get married." We did. We do. We were first. The rest of the country is following.
"Those crazy San Franciscans want to ban plastic bags." We did. For good reason. So did L.A. In another few years, it will be national policy.
"Those crazy San Franciscans want to ban happy meals." Guess what -- McDonald's got the message.
I could list plenty more.
Yeah, we're ahead of the curve. Yeah, sometimes our shit seems crazy. But it's the crazy shit that makes the world change -- and over time, the world catches up to San Francisco. And if we weren't doing it, the world would get better just a little more slowly.