Garcia: Now the real battles begin 

Big money won out, the dominant political parties lost control over the primaries and San Francisco voters revealed their schizophrenic nature. In short, there were few surprises in this week’s election — but it’s doubtful the same will be said in November.

After all, if Meg Whitman was willing to spend $80 million to pound Steve Poizner into the ground, how many checks do you think she’ll write to bounce Jerry Brown out of politics? If Poizner were a “liberal” by Team Whitman standards, then they might want to consult Stephen Colbert to come up with a new word to characterize Brown this fall. Liberal-er?

And if you think that campaign will be nasty, then the Barbara Boxer-Carly Fiorina matchup for U.S. Senate promises to be even closer to “Alien vs. Predator.”

With San Francisco’s ambitious duo of Mayor Gavin Newsom and District Attorney Kamala Harris in the mix after winning their primaries for the offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, there’s already talk of grouping the top candidates here as a warren of “Bay Area Democrats,” the kind that are soft on crime, fuzzy on taxes and prone to flouting immigration laws.

The issue of same-sex marriage might seep into the conversation. And then there’s that drug-lab scandal and the whole problem with not turning over evidence to defendants. And we haven’t even gotten to Brown’s 40-year record on union ties and his turnabout stance on Proposition 13 — but Whitman certainly will.

It’s unclear from the primary whether Californians are falling into the tea party trend category since many of the proclaimed conservatives didn’t fare very well and Fiorina only got her tea party street credentials when Sarah Palin endorsed her. Of course, in the general election, you’re going to see a lot of politicians who were marching as far to the right as their rhetoric would take them changing course and moving toward the center, hoping to attract moderates and swing voters, a lot of whom apparently sat out Tuesday’s election.

The next few weeks also should tell us whether this year it’s better to have faced a tough primary campaign or if having no real race to run was a better option.

Brown faced no opposition and was able to skate through the primary without answering any questions, like why would any person of sound mind want to be governor of California?


San Francisco officials keep poking the bear

We’ve had record levels of unemployment, the dire economy is only beginning to show signs of recovery and businesses everywhere are desperately hanging on. So what do some of our favorite San Francisco supervisors think is the answer: raise taxes, as many as they can.

And that’s just what supervisors David Chiu, John Avalos and Ross Mirkarimi proposed doing this week, tossing three new tax measures into San Francisco’s overpriced pond.

Chiu’s entry was a tax on commercial rents designed to bring in cash from banks and insurance companies currently exempt from local payroll taxes. Avalos’ grand plan calls for yet another property transfer tax. And Mirkarimi, not to be outdone, is proposing a whopping 10 percent increase on the parking tax, which would raise garage tax rates to 35 percent.

Parking company executives have already announced their opposition to the proposed measure, which one official called “strictly punitive.” The tax-happy supervisors could still pull the plug on the proposals this summer, but if they don’t, expect a full-out campaign from business leaders united against dumb ideas.

The supervisors are hoping that having a rare year when a simple majority can pass taxes will help their cause. Not likely.


Stadium plan could easily come undone

San Francisco 49ers officials may have been dancing in the parking lot after winning their measure to build a new stadium in Santa Clara, but they’re so far from completing the deal that they can’t see the end zone from where they now stand.

One only need to remember that the team was in exactly the same place 13 years ago after San Francisco voters generously voted to give the 49ers $100 million to build a new stadium at Candlestick Park — and then team owners hemmed, hawed and ultimately walked away from the deal.

Our friends in the South Bay suburb are now on the hook for $114 million in redevelopment funds, but the price of building the stadium has doubled, to nearly $1 billion. And now, it’s the 49ers who must fill in the funding gap, which is going to be a lot harder than winning a Super Bowl with the Yorks as owners.

The family had hoped the NFL might provide some of the money, but the league said it’s tapped out, having spent its dollars to fund the new New York teams’ stadium. And the Yorks, famously tight-fisted, aren’t going to be putting up the entire family fortune for a new field at Great America.

So while the team may feel giddy that it only cost about $300 per vote to win Santa Clara’s backing, it’s still far from pay dirt. And if there’s one organization that could blow it, it would be the one wearing scarlet and gold.


Fundraiser aims to help imprisoned hikers

It’s been nearly a year since three Bay Area hikers got lost hiking in the mountains along the Iran-Iraq border and found themselves detained and imprisoned without being charged. UC Berkeley grads Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd are still being held in Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, with their mothers only recently allowed to visit.

A fourth hiker, Shon Meckfessel, only escaped the ordeal when he fell ill and couldn’t join his friends. His uncle, talented local musician Steve Meckfessel, is one of several people playing at a local tavern next week to raise money in support of the efforts to get the group released from prison (also check out www.freethehikers.org).

The benefit will be held at Koko Cocktails, 1060 Geary St., from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Please tell a friend — and take certain parts of the Middle East off your graduation travel plans.

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Ken Garcia

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