Have San Francisco job-killers gone out of business? 

Could leaders of dysfunctional political processes in Washington and Sacramento actually learn lessons in governance from San Francisco’s elected officials? Just a year ago that would have produced a belly laugh, back when fractious ideological bickering characterized policy debates beneath the gold dome. But the new crowd there has often set a higher standard for taking care of The City’s business — literally. By doing so, they have created conditions for job growth and greater municipal revenue at a time when we really need it.

For instance, a majority on the Board of Supervisors came together to approve tax breaks to keep Twitter in San Francisco, and with it the promise of thousands of new jobs. Through better program management and cooperative labor concessions they balanced a $6.8 billion budget few thought possible. They set aside tunnel-visioned ideology and acted wisely to approve much needed developments at Treasure Island and Parkmerced. Such displays of prudence give all of us hope that our city supervisors have the right stuff to meet the greater challenges ahead.

Sacramento and Washington have already slashed millions of dollars previously owed The City, and are poised to reappropriate millions more from San Francisco, adding new burdens such as transferring 700 inmates from state prison to our county jail, leaving it up to us to house, feed, guard, medicate and correct them. This example will be replicated time and again as we move to cut the $14 trillion federal debt and Sacramento’s billions in anticipated shortfalls. Add to this the public employee pension fund time bomb that is ticking away, threatening to further eviscerate our capacity to provide vital municipal services, and our fiscal challenge becomes treacherous.

That’s why recent displays of reason and compromise are to be cherished. Our current Board of Supervisors and mayor deserve lots of credit. However, we elect them precisely to achieve timely, productive outcomes, which we expect to be the norm, not the exception. And sometimes we still get off track.

In a short-lived dodge of good governance and transparency, with a move largely designed to arouse their constituencies, “progressive” supervisors quietly placed three measures on the November ballot at the very last minute and without public notice or debate. Those measures would have weakened our widely praised Care Not Cash program for the homeless, hamstrung our parks department from accessing outside revenues, and halted much-needed housing redevelopment. But thankfully they have now all been withdrawn.

Of course, we’re never going to take the polemics out of politics. But we should at least acknowledge that the recent civility at City Hall has benefitted all parties. Open-minded debate and compromise is what makes democracy function. Respect for diverse viewpoints is both ethical and practical.
 
There’s only one way we’re going to weather the fiscal storms heading our way.

We’re going to have to grow our local economy. That means we’re going to have to jobs-test every single government ordinance, program and initiative. This is critical with nearly 40,000 San Francisco residents still without work. More jobs means more revenues to pave our roads, provide public safety, educate, heal and conduct the hundreds of other vital services needed to restore and protect San Francisco’s economic vibrancy and support its most vulnerable citizens.

Citizens should have confidence that those they’ve elected to govern can forthrightly solve problems facing the community without unproductive drama. The last seven months of activity at City Hall has presented a model of civil discourse about complicated issues. Let’s stay on this path, and let some other town be the municipal laughing stock of the nation for a change.

Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president of BOMA, San Francisco’s Building Owners and Managers Association.

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