Thursday, October 20, 2011

San Francisco Mayor's election votes

I've been following the mayor's campaign as I've been able, and these look to be the candidates who will get my three votes:

First is David Chiu. I wrote about him yesterday, about his ride on SF2G. David's been on my virtual ballot all along, either first or second. I don't think we agree on much on the proposition ballot, to be honest. I take a fairly hard line on bonds, while he was a principal supporter behind Prop B (street maintenance bond). So I asked him about this directly at the Potrero Hill street festival, noting that my "undergraduate-level economics" tells me funding ongoing maintenance with debt is a bad idea. He agreed, but claimed our present situation is an exceptional emergency, and the bond is needed to avoid much higher costs down-stream. I still question the city's discipline to remedy the revenue imbalance when bonds are provided as a cop-out, but I respect his response. We clearly disagree on Prop D, public employees funding pensions. To me it's clearly superior to C, which Chiu supports. But as I noted I'll vote for both, because I don't want vote splitting to leave us with neither. But we agree the size of city government is a serious liability for San Francisco, especially given the city's virtual inability to prune out unproductive employees. What seals the deal with Chiu is our shared perspective on the critical role non-automotive transport plays in quality of life, that the best cities in the world are those that provide the best environment for pedestrians and cyclists as opposed to car drivers: New York, Boston, the great cities of Europe. To the contrary, cities which dedicate the most resources to cars (wide roads and large parking lots) are among the most unattractive: think Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Phoenix Arizona. And he was a serious proponent of bringing the 2013 America's Cup to San Francisco, despite the NIMBY forces who prefer that San Francisco be a bedroom community from where they can live their private lives as unencumbered by other people as possible.

Next is Herrera. Initially there was no way I was going to support him. As public attorney I felt he'd dragged his heels when the city's bike program was blocked by Bob Anderson's lawsuit claiming that the city should have filed an environmental impact report (EIR). I felt, as did at least one member of the Board of Supervisors, that a "safety case" could be presented for many if not all of the projects which would have exempted them from the EIR. But Herrera's view was that the EIR should have been filed from the beginning, that he'd advised one be filed, and since the bicycle program had neglected to do so there was no reason for his office to scramble to argue for projects one-by-one. Okay, so that's water under the bridge. I think Herrera clearly supports the bike program as it moves forward from here, the EIR done and approved. More importantly he seems an organized, businesslike guy who has what it takes to keep the city's business plan moving in the right direction. And he gets points for haven ridden with SF2G, which I unfortunately missed. Herrera is also endorsed by the Potrero Hill Boosters Club and the Potrero View newspapers, both representing my neighborhood.

And my #3 is Jeff Adachi. Like Herrera, Jeff also seems intelligent and business-like. He's the one behind Prop D, and has been a long-time proponent of getting the public employee pensions under control. I really admire his stand here, not out of some Republican-like vitriol against public workers, but because the public pensions are so clearly disproportionate to private sector and because they are so clearly unsustainable economically. Politicians are all too ready to push off liabilities onto the next generation and the public pensions are a clear example of this. Jeff also seems to take a reasonable stance on other issues and has handled himself very competently in the debates I've seen.

So that's it... on my top 3:

  1. David Chiu
  2. Dennis Herrera
  3. Jeff Adachi

Filling out my top ten are Dufty, Avalos, Alioto-Pier, Rees, Ting, Hall, and Yee, roughly in that order.

Of these candidates Hall is an interesting case, clearly the most conservative of the bunch. For example, while most candidates are against Adachi's Prop D as either unenforceable or going to far, Hall argued it doesn't go nearly far enough. It could be argued, given our fiscal issues, he's the candidate we need even if he's not the candidate we want. But I'm not quite ready to go there, not just yet.

Another interesting candidate is Baum. I like a lot of her views, for example her stance against Prop B, but she's essentially a full-blown socialist running as a Green. Since the American Green party was an off-shoot of the Socialist Party, this isn't atypical. I'm a big supporter of the Green Party's environmental agenda but it's socialist agenda is naive. For example, Baum wants a city-run bank and a massive increase in public housing. I simply don't trust this city to efficiently and effectively provide high-value services. I can't think of any examples, none, where a major government in this country has done so in the past. I'm not sure if I'd vote for Baum or Lee in a head-to-head. Maybe I'd write in Tony Kelly instead. Lee's proven to be allegedly corrupt, sure, but Baum's programs would be a magnet for future corruption.

Avalos gets big points for his strong support of cycling in the city, and rode with SF2G. He also gets points for supporting the right of the Occupy San Francisco protesters to hold their protest (under Lee there have been open police raids against the protesters). But he also has a socialist tendancy which I don't think is consistent with the realities of city government.

So what's the forecast? This election has turned into an Ed Lee versus the world contest. Lee seems like a nice guy to most voters. He hasn't totally screwed up anything obvious. And he was even endorsed by the San Francisco Examiner as their #1 pick while also making it into the Chronicle's second-tier behind David Chiu. But I don't trust him. Soon after announcing his entry into a race he'd previously promised to not enter to avoid conflict of interest (he was appointed interim mayor when previous mayor Gavin Newsom moved up to state lieutenant governor), he quickly raised more money than all of the other candidates had, combined. Many of these donations were suspect, at the donation limit coming from lower-middle-class donors. For example employees of a shuttle bus company which had benefited from a questionable decision on shuttle parking at SFO which clearly benefited the company were later reported to have been coerced by management, an unveiled money laundering scheme. Lee eventually returned the donations but only well after it was obvious something was amiss. Additionally, Lee's office has failed to disclose city contracts to the ethics commission within the 5 day window required by law. According to Dennis Herrera, Lee had missed this deadline 67 times as of 4 October. So Lee stinks of allegid corruption. Despite this, he is strongly supported, including by the same San Francisco Examiner which is reporting these stores. In elections, especially local elections, the inertia of incumbency is very, very strong. Voter ignorance and and laziness is rampant. And while most potential voters sit out local elections, too many vote without adequate preparation, rubber-stamping incumbents based on a lack of obvious reason to vote against. That inertia, especially with such a diverse field splitting the remaining vote, will be very hard to beat.

However, I really hope it is beaten. Any one of the other 11 candidates (those invited to the KQED/League of Women Voters debate) are preferable to Lee's proven record of corruption.

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