Is the Guardian empowering Chiu or just recognizing his power?

David Chiu: centrist compromiser, effective legislator, or both?

I’ve been hearing lots of back channel complaints and concerns from progressive San Franciscans since last week’s blog post on Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and the role he’s played forging compromises on controversial pieces of legislation this year.

Some have even suggested that the Guardian has gone centrist under my freshly minted editorship, which I actually find kinda funny given my history, perspective, and the righteously anti-corporate and progressive perspective stories that I’ve written and edited in recent weeks. I can honestly tell you that I call ‘em like I see ‘em, now as always, even if that doesn’t always hew to the progressive orthodoxy of some.

Nobody really wants to speak on the record against Chiu, which is understandable given the powerful and pivotal position that he’s carved out for himself as a swing vote between the two ideological poles and on the Land Use Committee, whose makeup he personally created to enhance that role.

So for now, let me just air some of the criticisms and offer some responses and perspective. The main issue seems to be that Chiu allows both progressive and anti-progressive legislation to be watered down until it is palatable to both sides, empowering the moderates over the progressives.

That’s a legitimate point, it’s certainly true that Chiu’s worldview is generally more centrist than that of the Guardian and its progressive community, and we’ve leveled that criticism at Chiu many times over the years. The fact that he ends up in a deciding role on controversial legislation is clearly a role that Chiu has carved out from himself, no doubt about it. And that’s certainly why he played the pivotal role that he has this year.

But when he uses that role to empower and support tenant groups, as he did on the condo lottery bypass measure, I think that’s something worth noting and praising, particularly in my quick little blog post that seems to have grown in perceived significance beyond what I may have intended.   

Many of the criticisms involved the CEQA reform legislation that was unanimously approved by the board last week after progressives opposed its initial iteration by Sup. Scott Wiener.

As some have suggested, Sup. Jane Kim does deserve tremendous credit for resisting the initial legislation and working with activists on an alternative, and I included that recognition in my initial story on the legislation. And it’s valid criticism of Chiu to note that Kim had five votes for her legislation and that it was only Chiu who stood in the way of its passage (whether Mayor Ed Lee would have vetoed it, necessitating the need for two more votes, is another question).

But I quoted Eric Brooks, an activist who spent months working on the compromise, as saying the CEQA legislation ultimately does make it easier to oppose bad projects. And when it was approved unanimously by the board, I figured it was safe to place that piece of legislation on the list of Chiu legislative accomplishments for the year.

We at the Guardian will make mistakes, as we always have from time to time. But I’m going to try to err on the side of open, transparent public debates -- while supporting a rejuvenation of the city’s progressive movement, so that it is able to start playing offense and protecting this city’s diversity, vitality, and progressive values.

And if you have any criticisms or advice for the Guardian, please come to our forum on Wednesday or offer them to me directly. Thanks for reading.


The left reached their apogee around year 2000 and, since then, have been ceding ground to the pragmatists and the Asian bloc - often the same thing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:48 am

Translated to reflect reality:

The corporatist conservatives led by the "Asian bloc" - often the same thing, have been gaining ground through their lies, spin, word manipulation, greed, and sleazy and corrupt backroom deals.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

important debates on what this city should become.

You lost because your ideas were deemed not to have relevance to the populace.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

Guest at 3:43 has it mostly right, except for that. The Asian electeds both on and off the BOS run the gamut all the way from a solid progressive like Eric Mar, to someone like a Carmen Chu (or whats-her-name -the clone they replaced her with) who's basically a rubber stamp for corporate interests. And literally everything in between. There is no more an Asian bloc than there is a white bloc. The whole idea of an Asian bloc is something dreamed up by the right in order to divide Asians from progressives, and I think you're just internalizing that narrative. It's something I reject not just because it's kind of racist, but also because it's simply not true.

A coalition between Asians and progressives is something that the right in this town is deathly afraid of. Leland Yee almost put it together and Rose Pak and Willie Brown pulled out all the stops to make sure it didn't happen. It's the coalition that won Eric Mar two terms in the Richmond. It also got Norman Yee elected in the most far right wing district in the city. Can you now see why the trolls on this board try so hard to drive a wedge between Asians and progressives? Please don't feed that false narrative.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

including our mayor, for not being progressive enough. Moreover, your oft-stated (alleged) sympathy for "people of color" (to use that awful phrase) invariably applies only to blacks and hispanics. Asians are too mainstream to deserve your sympathy, apparently.

You only like minorities when they are losers, and Asians aren't losers. In fact, their achievement rates are higher than whites, hence the "model minority" moniker.

Nice to see you backpeddling on your Asian hate thing though. Keep it up.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:58 pm

Guilty as charged.

I've criticized Asian politicians for pursuing anti-progressive policies (like Ed Lee). I've also criticized white and black politicians for doing the same (like Newsom and Willie Brown). I've also supported Asian politicians for pursuing progressive policies (like Eric Mar), and supported white politicians (like Chris Daly) and non-white politicians (like John Avalos) for doing the same.

Your post is exactly the kind of thing I expected to come out of the woodwork to continue to try to drive wedges between different communities based on false racial divisions. Nice try, but there's no "hate" here.

The only commonality here is that the folks I support tend to be progressive, because I'm, well... progressive! Duh! Just like you support conservatives because you're conservative. This isn't rocket science.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

One of your basic retorts is the howl racism or bigotry when people don't agree with you.

Now you are complaining that your race comments are misconstrued?

Also Greg, your ongoing self referential posting is a hoot, I love how we all need to take into account your nuance, and yet everyone but you and your kind is a caricature of some sort. You reserve the right to have these varied degrees of positions, because you are a deep think and caring "progressive," everyone who doesn't agree with you is a conservative.

So lucky how that all works out for you.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

Greg has this idealistic vision that Asians and progressives are going to unite and sweep the "corporate interests" from power. Only thing is is that he neglects a couple of important points.

- Eric Mar only won the first election because there were 2 moderate candidates (both Chinese women) and they split the moderate vote. He won reelection because David Lee ran the most inept campaign I've ever seen in this city. He refused to do any interview, refused to go record regarding any issue, and basically ran a campaign of hanging flyers that basically said "at least I'm not Eric Mar" on every door, every day.

- And Rose Pak didn't support Mar's opponent who was backed by "downtown interests". She supported stalwart progressive Mar. Kinda throws your whole "Rose Pak and Willie Brown uniting to stop a progressive/Asian alliance", doesn't it?

- And as racist as it sounds, most Asians have a tendency to vote for Asian candidates. Just as blacks often vote for black candidates and Latinos for Latinos. Or do you really think that 96% of black voters voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because his platform resonated so well with them? Like it or not, it just breaks down that way. What got Norman Yee elected was a mix of his ethnicity and his name recognition from the school board. If you have 2 Asians running for the same seat, it breaks down to what a candidate stands for.

- Which leads to the last and most important point. The reason why there will never be a "grand progressive/Asian alliance" is because most Asians (especially the older generations) tend to be more conservative. They focus on running businesses, owning homes, and sending their kids to neighborhood schools whether they be in the Richmond, Sunset, or near Chinatown. What they don't want is to have to send their kids to Balboa when they live right next to Washington.

And before you start calling me a racist, I'm an Asian male who was born, raised, and currently resides in the Richmond district.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

I disagree with your assessment of the David Lee campaign. So do a lot of David Lee supporters. To hear them talk about it on the Richmond blog during the campaign, it was the most awesome, dynamic campaign they'd ever seen. I don't think they're right either. It was a standard campaign -not as creative or people-centered as on Mar's side, but hardly incompetent. It's just that he spent so much that voters just saw it as a blatant attempt to buy the election for special interests... which it was.

That aside, it seems that you can always find an excuse for why elections don't go your way. Could it be that progressives have won every election in the Richmond (4 in a row now) because the Richmond wasn't down with the anti-progressive agenda?

Norman Yee got in because of a mix of his ethnicity and name recognition from the school board? Um... wait... but, but I thought the school board was hated for imposing social engineering policies of racial balance? Shouldn't that association have sunk his campaign? For that matter, shouldn't it have sunk Eric Mar's campaign? That's what the neighborhood schools advocates were telling me before the election. The reality is that Norman Yee put together exactly the kind of coalition I was talking about -exactly the one you say can never happen. Even in the most far right district in the city, about 25% of the district votes progressive. And another large chunk is Asian, with some overlap but not particularly much. So there you have it - a successful coalition between Asians and progressives.

But this line is truly priceless:
"The reason why there will never be a "grand progressive/Asian alliance" is because most Asians (especially the older generations) tend to be more conservative."

So this coalition will never happen (*cough* it just did *cough*... but let's set that aside)... because OLDER Asians are more conservative, so that means it will NEVER happen.

I'll just let the irony of that statement sink in without any further explanation.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 12:15 am

Of course David Lee's supporters are going to say he ran a "dynamic campaign". Shocker. The people who failed to get him elected are going to say it was a great job. Perhaps they should've just called him (and themselves) an idiot. I'm also guessing you don't live in the Richmond so you wouldn't have any idea what people felt about him. They don't like Mar but were frankly just fed up with the constant mailers on our doors EVERY DAY that just said "I'm a long term resident of the Richmond district and I'm not Eric Mar". Put up with that for a month and see how likely you are to vote for someone. And you still didn't answer the fact that Lee did not take a stand on a single issue. The only way someone wins a campaign without taking a stance is if his opponent was a child molester.

I've given reasons why Mar won the last 2 elections. I can't speak to the previous 2 because I wasn't here then.

And Norman Yee got elected because the Asians voted for his ethnicity, not his politics. He got the progressive vote, I agree, but it wasn't as if the Asian vote was lining up behind him because of his politics. He even made it a point to emphasize how he wasn't a doctrinaire progressive and focused on his business qualifications. It was a convergence of interests.

The only way Asian voters will back the same candidate as progressives is if the candidate is Asian against a non-Asian. But stick a progressive candidate against an Asian candidate and they'll vote for the Asian candidate every time.

But let's take out candidates for the moment. How do you think Asians voted on issues like sit/lie or the nudity ban? Here's a hint: they ain't voting progressive.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 1:19 am

...but there is no Asian voting block in the city, while the person who runs the Asian block makes sure there is no progressive/Asian coalition, thus doing the work of the right.


In college Gregs post was called a Polysyllogism

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 12:06 am

Reality is that the majority of San Franciscans don't agree with the Progressive platform. This is what most San Franciscans care about:

- The economy. More development = more jobs = better pay = more options.
- The homeless. They are tired of having to deal with aggressive panhandlers, cleaning feces off their door steps, and sick of giving money to nonprofits that have no oversight into where the money is going.
- Crime. Don't want their cars and homes broken into and their persons robbed.
- Housing. They want to own their own home and not be a renter in a rent-controlled apartment for their whole life.
- Schools. They want to send their children to the neighborhood school and not have to send them across town to fulfill some idiot's idea about creating racial balance,
- Transit. They'd be more willing to get out of their cars and into MUNI if it ran on time, was clean, and was safe.

I'm probably going to get called a "fascist," a "right winger", "moderate", "racist", or any other insults (or words that Progressives think are insults). But the fact is is that this is clearly what the majority of San Franciscans want. If you disagree then why is it that the only Progressive candidate to win city wide election in the last 10-15 years needed 2 candidates who essentially ran on the same platform to win? How come most moderate proposals win handily? If Progressives want to actually effect any change they need to get off of their soapbox, listen to what the majority of voters (and no, the same people who show up at City Hall all the time and scream the loudest are not the majority) REALLY want, and make some compromises.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

Lee asked the people what they cared about, heard it was "jobs, jobs, jobs" and so stood on that platform.

Avalos didn't ask any questions. Instead he told people what they should want. And he never spoke to the business leaders who create those jobs.

Result - Lee wins by a country mile. A pragmatist not an ideolog.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

of San Franciscans do agree with the progressive platform, which you badly misrepresented.

That's why progressive economic initiatives like minimum wage, sick leave, health care, protections for small business against chain stores, and others are consistent winners at the polls.

That's why developer initiatives consistently lose, and we're about to see that again with 8 Washington. Because San Franciscans believe in historic preservation and protecting their environment, and don't believe the developer lie that "More development = more jobs = better pay = more options".

Crime -no progressive I know, myself included, likes to be robbed or have their car broken into. However, San Franciscans are also aware that the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach is a proven failure. And we also understand that crime control must be tempered with strong oversight of the police. Which is why we voted for that.

Housing -I'm not sure if you even live in this city. Hell, I'm not sure if you even live on this planet, because virtually every renter protection put before San Franciscans has passed. We know that strong renter protections are the only way to preserve our ability to stay in this city, where only a lucky few can afford to buy their homes at today's prices.

Schools -the question of neighborhood schools vs. racial balance was put to a vote -progressives WON and the 1950's throwback anti-busing crusaders LOST. Progressives also have enjoyed consistent victories in school board races over the years.

Transit -progressives have been the strongest advocates of MUNI and other alternatives to cars. Conservatives want to privatize MUNI, but their approach is a non-starter in this city. Making this a transit-first city is NOT a conservative idea, but a progressive one.

Seriously, are you really a San Franciscan? Because you seem to be woefully unaware of both the local issues, and the track record of these issues with the San Francisco electorate. If you're being paid to troll from somewhere on the East Coast, you really need to bone up on local issues, because you sound like someone who doesn't have a clue about what they're talking about.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

why SF is routinely presented as a laughing stock in many parts of the country. But when it comes to city-wide elections, most notably the Mayor's race, the Progressive always loses, and loses by a lot.

Mayor Lee has a 65% approval rating. Since you claim that "most" SF'ers are progressive, then that means that a significant number of progressives approve of Lee. Is that what you're saying.

Downtown is full of skyscrapers full of young mostly white professionals earning high six-figure salaries and buying TIC's and Condo's that used to house low-rent artists who have decamped to Oakland. Is that another progressive policy that you are proud of?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 4:12 am

Sorry, everyone, that's it for now. Come to our forum tonight or send a letter to if you want to comment further this week.

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