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UncategorizedPolitics on Tuesday: Mayor Lee on his tenant duck,...

Politics on Tuesday: Mayor Lee on his tenant duck, AT&T’s ugly property, what it means to be effective in Sacramento — and why David Chiu won’t speak to me

Sup. David Chiu and Mayor Ed Lee at Question Time today
Sup. David Chiu and Mayor Ed Lee at Question Time today


By Tim Redmond

APRIL 13, 2014 — Mayor Ed Lee finally explained today – sort of – why he refused to sign the David Campos legislation that increases the relocation fees for people evicted under the Ellis Act.

I caught up to him after Question Time today. He’d just ducked a query from Sup. Eric Mar about how high he was willing to go on raising the local minimum wage, saying only that he wanted a “consensus-based solution.” But he did say that, as far as raising the minimum wage (to something higher) goes, “the time for action is now, and the place is here, locally.”

As he walked back to his office, I asked why he didn’t sign the (local) Ellis Act bill. “I’m focused on our solution at the state level,” he said. “I’m focused on preventing evictions.”

Which is fine, and so are we all, and there’s a good chance that Sen. Mark Leno’s bill will pass. But why not just sign the Campos bill and have a San Francisco back-up in case the state effort falls short? What’s wrong with doing both? Especially since the state law wouldn’t take effect until next year, and evictions are going on every day?

His only answer: “I have a different focus.”

So for the Ellis Act, the time for action is now, but the place isn’t here, locally.


One of the main arguments that we’re hearing from the camp of Sup. David Chiu, who is running for state Assembly, is that a more moderate legislator would be more effective in Sacramento. That’s what Debra Walker argued in an oped in the Bay Guardian this week:

When it comes down to it, we have two Assembly candidates, David Chiu and David Campos, who share the strongly held progressive values of the Guardian’s readers. I am a longtime supporter of the Guardian and have valued its endorsement in my previous races. The difference lies in style and effectiveness.

Okay, then, think about this: The current legislator, whose style is out-front, in-your-face progressive – Assemblymember Tom Ammiano – got all 13 of his bills passed and signed last year. And he announced today that he has brought together some of the biggest warring groups in the state – including the California Business Roundtable, the California Chamber of Commerce, and the California Tax Reform Association – to close a major loophole in Prop. 13.

Ammiano’s AB 2372 was slated to be heard today in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, chaired by Raul Bocannega (D-Pacoima), who supports it and helped with what both legislators called an “historic deal.”

From a press statement:

“This historic agreement will help to create a level playing field in California.  A fair and equitable reassessment system will benefit businesses and help to generate additional revenue for state and local government,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra.  “I’m excited that Mr. Ammiano and I have been able to bring diverse interests together to reach an agreement on this very controversial issue.  I applaud Mr. Ammiano for his hard work and dedication as he has been a leader on this issue for many years.”

The bill addresses a glaring loophole in the law: When a building or parcel of land is sold, Prop. 13 allows counties to reassess it at market value. But some real-estate interests have figured out a way to cheat local government out of millions in taxes.

They do that by setting up a dummy corporation that holds the property, then selling shares in the corporation to a new owner. The property technically is still owned by, say, “Cheaters LLC,” but Cheaters LLC has changed hands – with no one individual holding the majority of shares. The LA Times exposed this scam in 2013, but it’s been going on a long time.

Ammiano’s bill would state that when 90 percent of the shares in a company change hands, that’s enough to reassess property, even if there is no new majority owner.

The remarkable thing is that, for years, the big-business groups wouldn’t even consider this kind of change.

Lenny Goldberg, the head of the progressive Tax Reform Association, says that he couldn’t even get them to talk:

“AB 2372 deals with the most egregious loophole of Prop. 13,” said Lenny Goldberg Executive Director of California Tax Reform Association.  “Over the past several decades the position of the opposition has been ‘we cannot have a discussion’.  We’re very pleased that this bill is moving and that the discussion can be opened up.”

How’s that for bringing people together and being effective? (Oh, and Ammiano, of course, is supporting Chiu’s opponent, Sup. David Campos.)


The Board of Supervisors passed unanimously today a proposal by Sup. Scott Wiener that would put some limits on AT&T’s big sidewalk boxes, which pretty much everyone in every neighborhood hates – and mandate that the company allow artwork to be painted on them and put plants around them if the community requests.

The giant telecomm company was outraged by the idea, and AT&T’s general counsel, David J. Miller, fired off a letter to Wiener May 1 arguing that the city was denying the corporation full use of its property. The notion that the (ugly) boxes could be used for murals “would damage AT&T property, and thus amount to a taking without compensation.” Them’s fighting words in the legal world.

But seriously: AT&T’s property? How about the fact that the boxes sit on the city’s property? It’s long been settled law that utilities can put phone and electric polls over the streets and run cables under them, but these are huge green slabs, on public sidewalks. And the company doesn’t even want art on them?

Go figure.


The Potrero View’s endorsement in the D-17 race was more than a little odd, especially considering that the neighborhood paper didn’t actually support either candidate. Instead, it offered an insulting comment about Ammiano that makes no sense at all:

“Here come the Davids, Campos and Chiu, offering Democratic voters a respectable choice for Assembly. Both have demonstrated attractive qualities on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as weaknesses, including a tendency towards slickness on Chiu’s part, and a high-horseyness by Campos. If you’re in the market for a solid liberal, along the lines of Mark Leno, vote for Chiu. If you want a progressive — a Tom Ammiano, though with a lower voice — go for Campos.”

“A Tom Ammiano, though with a lower voice?” Really? As Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk Club, told me, “of all the things you could say about Ammiano, after 30 years of public service and all he’s accomplished, the last thing anyone should be wasting words on is the tone of his voice.”

Steve Moss, publisher of the PotView, told me: “It was a reference to the Assemblyman’s famous speech, which he gave when he ran for mayor, in which he said “My voice may be high…”  We thought that remark was well-known.  Apparently the attempt at humor did not work, at least in some quarters.”

I will let it go at that.


Speaking of the Campos-Chiu race: The really odd thing about the new Ron Conway IE is the timing.

There are two elections here – a primary in June and a final in November. The same two candidates will be in both. And you can only do at attack on one issue (say, the Mirkarimi vote) so many times before the voters say: yeah, whatever, you already told me that.

Conventional wisdom would have Conway wait until September or so, when the next Assembly member is about to be chosen, and then let loose with his mud. That’s how these things usually work – you attack as close to the end of the campaign as you can, to make sure you foe has as little time as possible to respond.

Absentee voting has already started. A lot of votes are already cast. Why now?

Unless, of course, the local observers (well, me and Randy Shaw) are right, and Chiu is worried that the June election might be too close for comfort, and he’s looking for an early knockout that would help him bring in statewide money for November.


Which may also be why Chiu has decided – to my surprise, I have to say – that he’s not talking to me anymore.

Seriously: The president of the Board of Supervisors called me Friday to say that he will no longer return my calls or respond to my texts or emails. He thinks I’ve been too unfair to him.

I went back over all of my coverage of this election, and I really don’t think that holds up. But no matter: The guy who is supposed to have brought civility to the board, who listens to all sides … won’t talk to me.

I don’t care that much – Dianne Feinstein never spoke to me either – and I will, as always, send him messages and give him the change to respond before I write about him. But I have to wonder: If Chiu can’t deal with me – you know, me, the guy with a small startup publication in San Francisco – what the hell is going to happen when he lands in the shark pit of Sacramento?

How can you bring people together when you aren’t speaking to them?

Here’s the letter I sent him:

Hi, David, since you have decided that my coverage is so biased you don’t want to talk to me any more (which is your choice, of course) I thought I should go back through everything I’ve written on the race to see if I have been unfair.

I’ll go in reverse order. I think I’ve found every story that relates to you and the campaign.  I may have missed one but I don’t think so. I will explain each one.



I still believe your piece was more inaccurate than the Campos pieces and than most negative mailers I’ve seen. However, note that I said:

“The Campos campaign, for example, has challenged Chiu over his former company’s ties to Republicans. Yes, it’s true that Grassroots Enterprises, which Chiu helped found, licensed its software to some GOP clients. It’s also true that Chiu started a tech company that was looking for business, across the spectrum, and most progressives seemed to think this was fine when he was running for supervisor.”

I tried to call you for comment and got none.



This piece mostly says that the polls I’m hearing about show the race is tightening up. It’s almost entirely about an expected IE, which as you know has and can have NOTING to do with you or your campaign. Also includes the fairly standard analysis that you as frontrunner need to come in strongly first. Nothing unfairly negative about you.




Nothing about the campaign, just Airbnb. You and I are not fully in agreement on Airbnb, but I don’t quote Campos on this, just others who disagree with your approach. That’s just a policy issue, nothing about you v. Campos.



All about Angela Chan. Again, a policy issue. A little bit about how Rose Pak is opposing you. Mostly about Chan. A legislative decision. Not campaign related.


Two very positive stories about your in-law legislation:




An opening piece about the campaign. I don’t think this was unfair to you or to Campos; I tried to present the two approaches you have to governing and the campaign.


Three more that are pretty straightforward – on affirmative action, I just quoted you both and let it stand at that:







That’s it – Pretty much all I’ve done to date on this race. I find it hard to see where you think I am showing such a horrible bias that you can’t even talk to me.

I renew my offer to do a taped interview with you and run the transcript, unedited.

Needless to say, Sup. Chiu has not responded.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. It is premature for Tim to report that the Leno Ellis bill has a ‘good chance” of passing. The votes are not there yet and it will DIE if it does not get voted out by the full Senate by the end of the month. Wishful thinking perhaps but wishful thinking won’t get us votes. (His previous comparison to Leno’s cell phone bill is not accurate. Landlords have much stronger power in districts than the telecom industry).

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