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Friday, September 17, 2021

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News + PoliticsThe Agenda, April 4-10: Changing the DCCC rules (again),...

The Agenda, April 4-10: Changing the DCCC rules (again), the first Kim-Wiener debate ….

... and a big showdown on Sanctuary City, immigration, and law enforcement

Let us start this week with Airbnb. The company has finally decided, after many years, to help the city crack down on what everyone agrees are illegal listings. Why the sudden change of heart?

Aaron Peskin, before he returned to the board and changed the balance of power, spoke out against Airbnb
Aaron Peskin, before he returned to the board and changed the balance of power, spoke out against Airbnb

Well: There’s been a big change on the Board of Supes since the company won a critical 6-5 vote that allowed it to keep making big sums of money by breaking the law. Now there are six votes to more tightly regulate short-term rentals, and Mayor Lee would have a very hard time, given the worsening housing crisis and the increasing evidence that thousands of apartments have been turned into hotel rooms, vetoing new rules.

So the political operatives Airbnb has brought in can count, and they have decided that it’s better to lose a few illegal operations than to fight once again against regulations that might cut further into their profit margins.

This is why the mayor and Ron Conway (big Airbnb investor) and their allies fought so hard to keep Aaron Peskin off the board. That race was about a lot more than D3, and this modest change of heart by a company that has bitterly resisted any reasonable regulations is one of the results.


Speaking of rule changes: The plan to change the membership of the Democratic County Central Committee may have died once, but it’s back. The measure went to the panel’s Bylaws Committee, which met last week, quietly, with no public notice whatsoever (nothing in the DCCC bylaws addresses whether the public has to be told when committees are meeting) and brought a new version back to life.

So on Wed/16, the full panel will – in the middle of an election – vote again on a rather profound change in the way the local party operates in San Francisco.

The new version of the plan initially sponsored by Alix Rosenthal would increase the size of the DCCC to 52 members. (That would almost certainly require a change in the setting of the meetings, since 52 people will never fit on the stage of the state auditorium where the meetings are now held).

Every member of the Board of Supes who is a Democrat (right now, that’s all 11) would be a member, as would the mayor. Since every state or federal elected official who lives in SF is also a member, the number of “ex officios” would increase to 19.

Then the plan would add seven more elected members to the existing 24, and grandfather in Sups. David Campos and Eric Mar, who are both on the ballot and would likely win DCCC seats, but would be bumped to Ex Officio status and will end their terms on the BOS at the end of 2016.

Got it?

I am not opposed to the idea that the DCCC ought to be mainly a group of party activists and that all of the “ex officios” ought to be gone. Nor am I opposed to the idea that the mayor and the supes ought to be automatic members so that people who want to work for the party but aren’t famous have a chance to get elected. (I’m also in favor of campaign finance reform and conflict-of-interest reform.)

All of these ought to be discussed.

But not in the middle of an election.

See, there’s a war on for control of the DCCC and the city, and there are two sides, and one side made a strategic decision to play by the rules that were in place and run a slate of candidates that included the same number of people as there are available seats.

The other side has lots more candidates.

So if they change the rules and allow a lot more people to get elected, that side (the conservatives) will continue to control the committee.

That, I suspect, is why every member of the pro-mayor, pro-real-estate camp supports the changes. And why it makes so little sense to change the rules right in the middle of the election.

You want more young party activists to join the DCCC? Then you should have changed the rules six months ago, or two years ago (when progressive member Hene Kelly raised the idea, and none of the people who are pushing it now were terribly interested). That way, the progressives could have run a dozen more candidates and had a fair chance.

This new plan doesn’t seem fair at all.


Scott Wiener's allies are already going negative
The first debate takes place this week

The first big public event in the state Senate battle between Sups. Jane Kim and Scott Wiener takes place Wed/6 when the two meet for the first of a series of six 90-minute debates.

The Harvey Milk LGBT Club, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Club, and the Bay Area Reporter are sponsoring this one, which starts at 6:30 at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, 290 Dolores. Expect some serious disagreements about state and local policy.


There are at least eight votes to declare a state of emergency on homelessness in San Francisco, so the measure by Sup. David Campos will pass when it comes to the full board Tuesday/5. That means the mayor, who doesn’t like the idea (mostly, I suspect, because it’s an admission that his housing policy is a failure), can’t get away with a veto.

The interesting question: Who’s going to vote against it?

So far the only supes who are not co-sponsors are Wiener, Mark Farrell, and Katy Tang. Will Wiener vote No, the day before he debates Kim in a forum where housing and homelessness are going to be among the top issues?


The supes will also vote on a measure that would mandate local businesses and places of public accommodation offer gender-neutral bathrooms. This is, of course, a huge deal to the transgender community, particularly since North Carolina just passed a law barring local communities from allowing people to go to the restroom that matches the gender with which they identify. The testimony at the committee hearing was a reminder that even in San Francisco, in 2016, trans people face discrimination on the most basic level (and being comfortable when you go to the bathroom is a pretty basic level.)

That measure has six sponsors, and if it’s not a unanimous vote I will be very surprised. It’s long, long overdue – when I arrived at college in 1976, the dorms at Wesleyan had all-gender bathrooms. You’d think the rest of the world would have caught up by now.


When Ross Mirkarimi was sheriff, his policy was pretty clear: The department didn’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But the mayor has taken a very different stance, and the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will be taking on the issue at a special meeting Thursday/7.

Sups. Campos, Avalos, Kim, Mar, and Peskin are sponsoring a measure that would “prohibit the use of City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of Federal immigration law, except for individuals who have been convicted of a violent felony and held to answer for a violent felony.” That will be heard first, and when it comes to the full board, may be one of those key votes that show what side the 11 supes are on; the mayor will be pushing against it, and supes like Wiener and Breed, who are both facing big elections this fall, will have to decide whether to vote with the mayor and the cops or with the immigrant community.

Then Campos and Avalos have called for a hearing

to review the policies, practices, and climate of the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments in relation to immigration enforcement including a review of needed updates to address new immigration enforcement procedures through the Priority Enforcement Program, and a review of the actions taken in the case of Pedro Figueroa-Zarceno and whether such actions were permitted under the Sanctuary City and Due Process for All Ordinances.

It will be the first chance for the new sheriff, Vicky Hennessy, to talk in public about her positions on the sanctuary city laws – and I hope she shows up.


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. I do agree with your statements, but I really think Ms. Kim would do less revolution when she is in Sacramento. She would also be out of the City.

  2. Yes, to me that neatly encapsulates the difference between Kim and Wiener.

    Wiener is a pragmatist and a compromiser. He wants the government to work better, the city to run more efficiently and he sees his role as leaving the city as a better version of the city that existed when he was elected.

    While Kim is ideological. She wants to change the city into a more socialist version of itself. Not as aggressively as the main ideologues on the board – Avalos and Campos -and she is much better at working with people from all sides than either of those. But she wants a revolution rather than an evolution.

    So the question for voters is fairly simple. Do you want the city to be a better version of what it already is, in which case vote for Wiener. Or do you want a revolution, in which case vote for Kim?

    And given that either will probably be the most left-wing senator in Sac, I suspect that Wiener will likely be more successful, in much the same way as Chiu is a better outcome in the Assembly than Campos, who would have been constantly bogged down in frustrating and confrontational ideological battles.

  3. Last year Scott Wiener had a bill to codify the CEQA appeals process in San Francisco. San Francisco was the only city in the state where there was no defined process for filing appeals and defending yourself against them the City attorney didn’t know how the process was supposed to work, the Planning Department had no idea, Permit Appeals Board didn’t know….so it seemed like a very logical thing to do. Put the process and the rules down on paper for all to see so the process could be fair to everyone. Jane Kim fought him at every turn and there were something like 30 public hearings to debate the bill. She took the side of the illegal permit expediters who operate best in the murky world with no rules and who shake people down every day…you want to talk to Planning? you have to pay me first! This was a black and white fight between good government and corruption, and Jane Kim sided with the criminals. If she wins she’ll fit in well in Sacramento.

  4. The new DCCC resolution takes a page out of the Republican playbook: if you are threatened with losing your power, change the rules. In case of the Republicans this has meant gerrymandered safe districts for representatives, and measures to reduce access to the ballot box (photo IDs, fewer voting hours, and the like).

    I thought this was a characteristic of states like Arizona, Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin. It’s a shame to see it happening here in San Francisco.

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