On Tuesday, California voters determined who will face off in November for key state offices, and San Francisco names had a big day.
In one corner, we have Republican nominee and Atherton resident Meg Whitman, who has (so far!) spent $71 million of her own money to convince us she’s a fiscal conservative. During her Tuesday speech accepting the Republican nomination, Whitman declared herself the “nightmare” of politicians in Sacramento. I don’t disagree. I feel most sorry for the ones who will have to explain to her the rules governing the state Legislature, including the structural barriers that prevent real reform regardless of who is in charge. Awkward!
In the other corner, we have San Francisco native Jerry Brown acting like someone’s peepaw in running shorts clutching a new vegetable juicer, vowing to live forever and singing, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!” (Seriously, Brown played that song at his victory speech last night.) It’s as if Brown wants us to believe that during his four decades in office, he was restraining the beast that is his political genius because he wanted to wait until this moment to show us. “I know I ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby, baby, baby.”
Now that Mistermayor has won the Democratic Party primary, his transformation from city executive to sitting alternative is almost complete. All that’s left to do is beat Republican candidate Abel Maldonado in November, which may be difficult. First of all, independent Hispanic voters choosing between Gavin “The Gay Marriage Guy” Newsom and Maldonado, the son of immigrant Mexican-American farmworkers, may go with the latter.
Second, when candidates for governor have the means, they often send money downstream to their potential lieutenants. In this case, Jerry Brown has about $16 million in the bank. Plus, it was only about five minutes (OK, months) ago that Newsom was running for governor against Brown, attacking Brown for lacking “fire in his belly.” Newsom isn’t likely on Brown’s Christmas card list, much less his “people to give money to” list.
Whitman, on the other hand, prints money on a machine she bought from the government in an eBay auction. Maldonado can out-fundraise Newsom by simply following Whitman around, collecting the $1,000 bills she uses to blot her lipstick.
On Tuesday, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris happily accepted the Democratic Party nomination for state attorney general, while Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley won the Republican Party nod. This one actually promises to be a fun race, and for once in a San Francisco vs. Los Angeles fight, we have the prettier team.
The neat twist to this race is that Cooley presides over a criminal justice system in Los Angeles that reportedly does the things Harris’ office is now in trouble for not doing: checking the backgrounds of public safety employees and telling defendants about the results. Add the fact that Cooley has been praised by Republican leaders for landing “more death penalty convictions than the entire state of Texas last year,” versus Harris’ steadfast opposition to capital punishment — even for cop killers — and this matchup between antipodes is bound to get ugly.
Luckily, the enjoyment of political slap-fighting is one pleasure not banned in this state — yet.
On Tuesday, as the Board of Supervisors predictably voted down Mistermayor’s proposed sit-lie law, board President David Chiu rolled out (and his colleagues endorsed) his idea to deal with the gauntlet of humanity San Franciscans endure each day. The answer is one any former Model United Nations participant will recognize: Create a series of neighborhood task forces.
The task forces will study the utility of alternative, community-based court systems in different areas and report their findings to the Board of Supervisors.
Let us pause for a moment to recall that the Board of Supervisors was adamantly opposed to the creation of the Community Justice Center, the alternative, community court that operates in the Tenderloin. Twice, the board voted to kill the center’s funding, in June 2008 and January 2009. Mistermayor saved the center by vetoing the attempts. Mostly, the board was just mad it was not involved in the process of creating the center. (Can you believe it was left up to judges? What do they know?) This new proposal takes the feelings of the supervisors more seriously.
Of course, the new task force probably won’t hurt, but it probably won’t help much either. We’ve been studying vagrancy and alternative court systems in The City for more than 15 years, so I’m not confident we’ll learn anything new.
It’s like creating a task force to study supervisors who use political laxatives like task forces to avoid difficult political issues.
Because I think these two men articulate their positions well, here’s my dramatic interpretation of what happened at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting when board President David Chiu spoke in favor of several tax measures (these are not real quotes):
Chiu: Mayor Newsom’s budget avoids making tough choices by relying on one-time fixes and uncertain money from the state and federal governments. Newsom is just trying to prop something up until after the November election. We must increase taxes because we can’t cut anymore. Unions have given up $250 million to help, and we need all San Franciscans to do their part.
Elsbernd: Oh, really? How about a few months ago when y’all gutted my pension reform bill that only applies to future employees? You people can’t even make cuts to hypothetical pensions! Let’s assume voters enact all your proposed tax measures [and they won’t]. The revenue from all of them added together still doesn’t amount to the increase in pensions and retiree health benefits that The City will have to pay next year. You are the ones avoiding difficult decisions.
Oh, and the labor agreement that saves $250 million is only for two years. Will all your tax proposals be limited to two years too? Since we have to share the pain and all ...
Chiu did not respond.