By Tim Redmond
SEPTEMBER 23, 2014 – The staid and pro-development ol’ Chron has gotten all feisty and populist on its editorial page, with a strong piece Monday morning denouncing the deal that Sup. Jane Kim and others worked out with the Transbay Terminal developers. The editorial even ran with a picture of Willie Brown, who represented the developers and is a Sunday Chronicle columnist.
Which means the Chronicle has come down harder on this deal that I did. The main argument in the daily paper is that the Net Present Value to the city declines by stretching tax payments out over 37 years instead of 30.
The point of the higher taxes, of course, is to fund the bonds the city needs to issue to build the terminal. And the way it was presented to me, the city gets the same bonding authority, at the same price, as it did with the original deal.
But I could be missing something. And the Chron could be moving toward taking a tax-the-developers stand for the first time since I arrived in San Francisco more than 30 years ago. I can’t possibly complain about that.
The real news, though, is that the deal appears to be off anyway. I got a message from Sup. Jane Kim last night saying that Boston Properties, the owner of the site where the giant Salesforce building will be constructed, has declined to accept the deal that everyone thought was settled last week.
So unless something changes in the final hours, the supervisors will vote on the original proposal this afternoon – which means Willie Brown will have gotten absolutely nothing at all.
Unless something changes in the final hours – so if there’s yet another deal on the table, or a continuance, at the Tuesday afternoon meeting, it’s a sign that some furious last-minute lobbying was underway.
I’ve always said you can tell the bias of a newspaper not so much by the tone of the stories themselves but by the story choice and placement: What’s important? What ignored? What’s on the front page and what’s stuck in the back sections?
I depends, of course, on the timing – some days news happens all over, some days it’s more quiet. Also: Staffing. Not so many reporters at daily papers work Saturday and Sunday (much of what’s in the Sunday paper is done by Friday) so breaking news on Monday is a bit thinner.
Still: The Chronicle has access to all the big wire services, and when the largest global demonstration of its kind in years takes place over the weekend, with more than 100,000 people in the streets of New York, and the San Francisco daily can’t make room on a front page dominated by a story on new condos and a profile of Peter Thiel, you have to wonder.
I realize all the weekend news shows also ignored the issue, and the Chron is, properly, I think, trying to focus more on local news on the front page. But the Chron is a San Francisco paper, and San Francisco is one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the country, and a big march happened right across the Bay in Oakland. And the story, which never mentioned Oakland, was on page A4.
And then, yesterday, as throngs filled the New York Financial District in a march that was similar to the opening days of Occupy Wall Street … nothing on SFGate. Nothing on the Chronicle website. As of 2pm, when Twitter was going crazy with #floodwallstreet, and even the London-based Guardian was all over the story, the top stories on SFGate were “Frisky business on Folsom Street,” the “Top 100 Bay Area shops,” “Bloody fan brawl at 49ers game,” “TV reporter drops F-bomb on air,” and “Palin defends Bristol after brawl.’ Saran Palin’s comments on her family’s fight are clearly more important than a protest that shut down the world’s leading financial center all day.
Jacobin Magazine has a nice article on the labor problems with the “sharing economy” – just in time for the news that Lyft just yanked the plug on a program that forced drivers to buy $34,000 cars that use so much gas they’re pretty much useless as regular cabs.
In fact, if you ask Uber drivers off the clock what they think of the company, it often gets ugly fast. “Uber’s like an exploiting pimp,” said Arman, an Uber driver in LA who asked me to withhold his last name out of fear of retribution. “Uber takes 20 percent of my earnings, and they treat me like shit — they cut prices whenever they want. They can deactivate me whenever they feel like it, and if I complain, they tell me to fuck off.”
As DeWolf recounted, when he told Barnes that drivers planned to organize with the Teamsters, Barnes responded, “Uber would never negotiate with any group that claims to represent drivers.”
Uber repeatedly ignored my request for comment on this exchange. Instead, the company issued a statement accusing the Teamsters of trying to “line their coffers” with new Uber-driving members.
That’s always the line employers use against organized labor – the unions are trying to make money by signing up members. How many times have we heard that?
The point of Avi Asher-Schapiro’s article is that there’s little room for wage or job stability in the sharing economy, in which the profits of big companies like Uber are not shared with the workers (although apparently the risks are).
It’s one thing to be young have few responsibilities and little debt and drive for Uber; it’s another to try to make a real living doing it. For many years, people could make a living driving a cab. People drove for 20, 30 years, paid the rent, raised families; it was a real job.
Now that is vanishing, and this type of transportation is, like so many other things, becoming a part-time gig that doesn’t pay a living wage.