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Home Featured The Agenda, 2017: How SF can really fight Trumpism

The Agenda, 2017: How SF can really fight Trumpism

If City Hall is serious, we will look to raise taxes on the rich and provide services for those the feds would leave behind. Here's how

Let's get ready. It's going to be ugly

Everyone at City Hall agrees that San Francisco should be the Anti-Trump City. We are mostly Democrats in this city, and other than the members of the Republican County Central Committee, I’m pretty sure everyone in local elected office is a Democrat.

California, the New York Times says, is supposed to be the center of the Trump Resistance.  And San Francisco, among big cities, is the progressive center of California.

We can fight Trump's agenda -- or we can wring our hands and complain
We can fight Trump’s agenda — or we can wring our hands and complain

So we need to start talking now about what Resistance really means. So far, it doesn’t mean fully funding defense lawyers for immigrants facing deportation; it doesn’t mean making City College free (which is a big deal when Trumpites are attacking public education).

That’s not an encouraging start.

But the Board of Supes and the mayor are going to face another set of very serious challenges this spring, when the first GOP budget comes out and the city loses, oh, maybe $300 million in federal funding. That’s on top of the projected $100 million or so budget shortfall (due in part to the mayor’s failure to pass his own sales tax measure).

There are really only two ways to respond to a budget shortfall: The Trump Way and the Progressive Way. The Trump way is to cut public services; that’s a big part of what his national agenda has always been. Too much government, he says; the folks he’s appointed to his cabinet would like to eliminate entire departments, including the ones they run. Whenever possible, he wants to turn public services over to private business.

The Progressive Way is to expand public services to make up for federal cuts – and to find ways to tax the rich – the ones who will most benefit from Trump’s tax cuts – to pay for it.

Yeah, there’s also a need to get rid of waste and fraud, and I completely agree that there’s waste in the city budget. There are private contractors who rip the city off, and that’s way more of a problem than a “bloated” city payroll. Frankly, if Aaron Peskin ran the Supes Budget Committee, he would find maybe $20 million worth of scams and sole-source contracts and waste, maybe a little more.

But it’s not enough to come close to addressing the problem. When the Trump Agenda hits, San Francisco will need more money, not less. And if, as many predict, the Trump Recession slams the economy, the city will need to do more, not less, to help its residents.

The city budget is a test of how we will respond to Donald Trump.

Fortunately, this is a rich city, a really, really rich city, in a really, really rich state. And it’s time to start – right now –thinking about how to tap some of that phenomenal wealth to bolster and expand city services (including health care and affordable housing). That’s the only remotely credible progressive response, and the members of the new Board of Supes will have to be accountable for how they approach this.

I have been thinking for years about progressive revenue solutions in San Francisco – that is, ways to take money from the 1 percent and use it for the public good – and have been talking to people in the past few weeks about how we might make this work.

It’s not easy – the state pre-empts a lot of taxes that cities ought to be able to levy on the rich, just as it pre-empts a lot of laws we ought to be able to pass to protect tenants.

But there are options, and they all have to be on the table. And the idea of a special election in 2017 to raise taxes on the wealthy has to be on the table, too.


So where do we start? Here are a few ideas.

A vehicle license fee. The mayor rejected this idea in favor of a sales tax, saying the polling on it wasn’t good. But it has pretty widespread institutional support; even the Chamber of Commerce would probably get behind it. The idea is simply to reinstate, locally, the “car tax” that Arnold Schwarzenegger killed as one of his first acts as governor, creating an instant $5 billion hole in the state budget. Thanks to former Sen. Mark Leno, San Francisco now has the right to levy its own fee on motor vehicles – and it’s based on the value of the car.

The fee would be set under state law at 2 percent of the market value of the vehicle. My old Subaru might, maybe, fetch 7,000; that’s $140 a year. But the owner of that $100,000 Tesla or $75,000 Porsche would pay hundreds of dollars more for the right to drive around in a luxury vehicle that nobody really needs.

Total revenue to the city: In 2012, the estimate was $70 million. Today, it’s going to be way higher (look at all those brand-new Ubers clogging the streets and all those nice BMWs and Lexuses everywhere); I’d guess $100 million.

Advantage: If anything, it discourages car ownership, which is a good thing. Californians already paid this fee from 1948 until the Governator killed it.

A tax on vacant real estate. Vancouver, BC has been slammed by foreign investors buying up condos and houses and them leaving them vacant, driving up costs and adding to that city’s housing crisis. The solution: A 15 percent tax on all foreign investment in residential property. It worked wonders. Housing prices are falling. Speculative foreign investment has dropped radically.

San Francisco faces a similar problem; a significant number of new housing units are not used for housing. They’re just empty investments.

Some are owned by foreign investors; some are owned by investors in the United States. The Vancouver tax might work, but I like another version: Just tax vacant units, no matter who owns them.

If you own a housing unit and you are keeping it off the market, you are creating a problem for the city. A stiff tax on vacancy might encourage more landlords to rent those units – or if they’re just investments, to sell them to someone who will live there or rent to a tenant.

I’d apply the same principle to commercial property (which would have been a better alternative to the mid-Market problem than the Twitter tax break). Got a vacant storefront or office or building? Rent it out, use it – or pay a high tax for keeping it off the market while you hope the market will go up so you can rent it for more.

Advantage: not only puts more housing units into the system, including some that will be rent-controlled, but helps small businesses by making more commercial space available.

How do we know a unit is vacant? It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The city runs a water system, and most of the new condos, and many other apartments, have their own water meters. A place that uses less than a gallon of water a month is clearly vacant.

A city income tax. This has never gotten any political traction, in part because, thanks to the state, it’s imperfect. But it has a lot of advantages.

California won’t let cities tax income based on where people live. Unlike, say, New York and Philadelphia, we can’t have a real city income tax. But we can legally tax income earned in the city.

That tax would mean the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Marin or the East Bay or the Peninsula and work in SF (and use our city services) would pay; sadly, the people who live here and take Google buses to work on the Peninsula would not. As I say: Imperfect.

Still, taxing income is among the most progressive ways for cities to raise money – if you write the law properly. I would exempt, say, the first $50,000, meaning anyone who made less than that would pay nothing. Then you tax the next $50K at a modest rate (.05 percent), the next $200K at a higher rate (1 or 2 percent), and make sure people who earn more than $500K a year pay 3 percent or more. You can have a surtax on the millionaires.

The best part of that sort of tax is that everyone who pays it can deduct that payment from their state and federal taxes. Which means at the high end, about 40 percent of the money comes directly from Washington and Sacramento.

Is it perfect? No. As I said, the Google bus riders get away with not paying. Is it better and more fair than cutting public services? No question.

(Added bonus: Not only would the Giants players pay, and soon the Warriors players, but every visiting player would have to pay based on the percentage of their (large) annual income earned in San Francisco.)


Go after the real tax cheats. The owner of the Twitter building stole $25 million from San Francisco through a tax scam. This happens all the time. We can stop it. The Planning Department and the mayor have failed miserably in forcing cheaters to pay; time to get it together.

Restore the payroll tax. There is no perfectly fair way to tax businesses in San Francisco. The state won’t let us do a corporate income tax, which is hard anyway since so many big corporation hide so much of their income. We used to tax payrolls at 1.5 percent, which is one (imperfect) approximation of the size of a business. Then we exempted mid-Market companies from that tax, and later switched to a gross receipts tax, another (imperfect) approximation of the size of a business.

But a lot of companies, particularly tech companies, have high payrolls and low gross receipts (esp. in SF). That is, they have hired a lot of high-paid folks, but they don’t really make anything yet, and if they do, they sell it on the Internet or out of town where it’s harder to get a grip on it. The gross-receipts tax was designed for an era when most businesses had storefronts in the city and sold products in the city. No more.

The old payroll tax was wrong: It was flat, 1.5 percent across the board. But it doesn’t have to be; we could tax the first $500K in payroll at 0.5 percent, the next $500K at 1 percent, and payrolls of more than $10 million at 3 percent.

Payroll taxes don’t discourage hiring; they are such a small factor in the cost of a new employee (compared to health care, social security, training, equipment, etc) that they are a nonissue. But big companies could and should be paying more to operate in this city.

Tax Airbnb listings. I don’t know if this is legal, but why not try? Increase the hotel tax (the “transient occupancy tax”) for anyone who doesn’t have a business license to operate a hotel. That would make Airbnb listings in SF a bit more expensive; since Airbnb listings are a significant reason for the housing shortage, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

Repeal all existing corporate tax breaks. A few years ago, when several groups looked at this, it was upwards of $50 million a year. Start with the Twitter tax break, and go from there.

Tax intangible assets. This one needs state legislation, but it’s a potential huge, huge way to fight economic inequality. Right now, San Francisco taxes Mark Zuckerberg on the value of his house in Noe Valley. If he buys a yacht and parks it at Fisherman’s Wharf, or buys a $10 million diamond ring, we tax that as property.

But we don’t tax the $50 billion or so he owns in Facebook stock. That’s “intangible” property.

Treat that as “real” property, like yachts and houses and jewelry (and why not?) and suddenly the state has no budget problems at all. There are billions and billions here – and if it’s done right, it all comes from the 1 percent.

Just do what the feds do with the estate tax – exempt, say, the first $5 million in value – and even upper-middle-class people with nice retirement funds don’t pay. Just the very rich.

Florida used to do this. It’s been talked about in the state of Washington. Since economic inequality is based even more on the wealth gap than the income gap, it would be a direct attack on Trumpism.

I don’t know if there’s a single Democrat in Sacramento with the courage to bring this up, but there ought to be.

I’m sure I’m missing some ideas, but this list is worth far more than what Trump and the GOP is going to cut from SF, and would allow the city to prosper, take care of the most needy, and demonstrate that we believe that taxing the rich to provide services for the poor and encouraging economic equality is actually good for the economy. I am open to all other ideas; please send them to me if you have them.

Much of this would have to go on the ballot, possibly in a special election, and it’s hard to get the voters to approve taxes. But maybe if all 11 supes and the mayor and the Democratic Party and every other civic institution that claims to want to fight Trump supported it — and the tech moguls and our great Democratic Party donors who who claim they want to fight Trump kicked in the money it would take for an effective campaign, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who has raised like half a billion dollars to elect Democrats to Congress, helped — we could do it.

This is San Francisco. We believe as liberal Democrats that the post-War model of high progressive taxes, union representation, economic equality, and a strong middle class was the best thing that ever happened to the US economy. We know that the neo-liberal model of tax cuts for the rich, privatization of public services, and austerity for the poor and working class was a demonstrable failure.

We all agree on that, right?

So let’s fight Trump by challenging his agenda, radically, right here in SF.

Or are we really Democrats? Do we really want to take on Trumpism – if it means offending our own local rich people and big corporations?

That’s what I want to see City Hall answer in 2017.


  1. Just because the guy had bad taste in men does not make him a sleaze. And as to his homeless policies, he was trying to what was needed after people were displaced by the Loma Prieta earthquake. FEMA declared that SRO residents were not eligible for housing assistance like those in the Marina were granted, and the Red Cross also refused to help. Because of Agnos’ bold action, Nancy Pelosi forced FEMA to reverse their decision and the Red Cross to provide millions in aid. He then built two shelters that are still used today. Camp Agnos lasted for nine months, mostly because it took that long to get the shelters open, and prevented those people from moving into neighborhoods that would have been more impacted. I have heard for years from people who whine about Camp Agnos. Once I looked up the real story, I realized that they were just typical of those who hate the less fortunate. Jordan became the first mayor to use, and abuse, the homeless for political gain, a trend followed by Brown, Newsom (who raised it to an art form), and Lee. Now, Farrell is the next in line to use that tactic. Sadly, this behavior, which is all too similar to how blacks were used by Southern politicians, still works.

  2. Just stating facts. I get very tired of those who think they have the right to exclude people who were not born here. Sorry, but I find you somewhat amusing, but of no great significant. Yes, I know one should not feed “trolls,” but your fun to play with.

  3. Of course I am angry. I tend to get that way when someone tries to claim superiority based on being born someplace. And “carpetbagger?” Do you even know the meaning of that term? If you did, you would know how ignorant your using it is. And quite frankly, I simply don’t suffer fools well. Especially arrogant ones.

  4. And I’m obviously not moving either but your anger is diminishing your arguments. My family built the homes of this city. You are just a carpetbagger who is retired and is lashing out.

  5. Agnos? You mean the guy that came onto me when he was drunk with his wife in that huge car on NYs one night? Nope. He’s a sleaze, also the homeless policies he pursued made things much worse. Remember Camp Agnos?

  6. You mean like the highly racist mayor, James D. Phelan.
    Or, Eugene Schmitz, who was in office in 1906, and who was convicted of corruption?
    Or, Charles Boxton? Turned out he was corrupt and only lasted a week.
    And there was George J. Whelan, who is a bit of a mystery.
    Now, Ephraim Willard Burr was a rare exception. He actually seems to have been a good mayor.

  7. That is how they self-identify, and rather proudly at that. No, it is not a slur. As I said, you are simply an arrogant jerk who should be exiled. And no, nothing to deal with. And less than 10% of the vote is not surprising. It is less than McCain or Romney got. Yeah, you are a real something, but hey, not my problem. Just a bit of comic relief…

  8. And you are an arrogant jerk who should be exiled to someplace unpleasant. Quite frankly, unless your family was Native American, and was here when the Spanish arrived, you have no right to such an opinion. I came here just over 14 years ago. I have no plans to move.

  9. And you came from elsewhere. I’m native. You are a carpetbagger that needs to go back from whence you came.

  10. The “Crackers” in FL? So putting down people who live in a state is acceptable? You are truly losing your mind these days. That’s a slur. Slurs are ok? Nothing else to say? I’m a 4th gen who was raised in SF, you on the other hand came from somewhere else. I’m the real deal. Deal with it. Also 37k+ of us voted FOR Trump. Deal.

  11. You remind me of the Crackers in Florida, bragging about being “natives” and hating the “snowbirds.” But they are quite happy with the fact that those people are the reason Florida doesn’t have a state income tax. And yes, pendulums swing. But, they also slow down over time. Don’t count on San Francisco becoming the place you are dreaming of.

  12. An impact? What impact?

    Like, if we never did the TTB, then no one would have moved in, and no other taxes would have been collected – taxes which support p.e.d.

    And thanx for makin’ it personal, gg.

  13. There are no great mayors of SF, and haven’t been for decades despite Angela Alioto’s constant bigging up of her awful father on FB.

  14. You realize that at last count there were 37k+ that voted for Trump INSIDE SF? Have a great day. And that until 1968 SF was majority GOP, while LA was solidly Dem? The pendulum swings GG. Even here, and it already is.

  15. GG, you’re losing it this morning. Stay steady. The anger does not become you.. BTW, it pretty much is the same SF. There are families that have been here for generations. You, not so much probably came from elsewhere but not me.

  16. And who voted him out after four years… Jordan is not remembered as a great mayor by most. And no, this is NOT that same San Francisco. Nor is it the same San Francisco that elected Dan White. Yeah, there were even a few who noted for Trump. You want things to be simple. They are not.

  17. Same SF that voted FOR Mayor Jordan? Please. SF is much more moderate than you think. Lots of DINOs live here & have been living here for generations.

  18. No, it is not as moderate as you want to believe. Lee would have been out if a known candidate had taken him on. But, his machine was able to scare them off, not with facts, but with smoke and mirrors. The fact that three unknowns came as close as they did to forcing the election into ranked choice shows that Lee was not as strong as people were led to believe. And San Francisco is, unfortunately, influenced by forces like Ron Conway dumping huge amounts of money to influence voters. Sadly, a portion of voters are easily swayed, and Conway has the money to put out lies and such to influence them. It doesn’t always work, as Peskin shows. But it does work some.

  19. The income inequality tax is doing zilch to slow down Portland’s gentrification & only enriching civil servants.

  20. Yes, I live in San Francisco. And no, I am not at all supportive of Breed. Gascon, I have a bit more respect for since he has stood up the police, and since he at least gives the appearance that he plans to take a serious look at Ed Lee’s involvement in corruption and pay for play. So, speak for yourself, and for those who are on the right. Not everyone is. That is one thing that irritates me about the so-called “moderates,” you think you speak for the populace, even when it is clear you don’t.

  21. Not sure you even live in SF anymore in your retirement years GG. But for those of us that DO, we’re feeling very supportive of her or Gascon.

  22. I don’t no why people thinks average Tech salary in bay area is very high, which is a lie but no one talks about public employee salary, entry level cops make more than 150k in bay area cities with guaranteed pension and healthcare for life. Some of the city janitors makes close to 100k. Public employee will love Tim’s plan so that they can retire at 500k pension for life and live in Nevada or Texas.

  23. City can save more if they cut public employee bloated salary by 20% and move every one to 401k plan for pension. Democrats wants bigger and bigger government with more and more taxes with fewer and fewer service to citizen. 9billion budget for SF is 100% bloated than comparable city in the world.

  24. No, it has other benefits, though that is a big one. As to them leaving, that would depend on whether or not the cost to relocate would be less than the taxes they would save. The TTB has had an impact on a lot of services for the poor, elderly, and disabled. Not that Lee, or you, cares.

  25. I would say $20m is on the low end. There is a LOT of waste.

    Yes, Lee counted his hens, and let them get slaughtered. That’s why we need to look for waste.

  26. What “$20m”? This is a conjectured amt; and you have no idea whats being cut to achieve it. Or, of course, where it *might* go.

    At least MZ brings money that comes straight from the Fed’s ‘Quantitative Easing (I, II, & III) – so it has no downside effect to the SF economy.

    Yes, there is plenty in the SF budget that could stand way closer scrutiny. And there are a few individuals in SF that have obscene amts of money. But the sayings “don’t look a gift horse in the month” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” seem relevant here.

  27. Yes. Becuz ‘public housing’ has been such a rousing model of success.

    And if you really mean ‘non-profit housing’, just remember that those folks are denied rent control protectiosn (technically only the ‘eviction’ portion, since their payments are capped in various ways. Still, its of no consequence that you pay [way] below market rents if they tell you you no long fit it and have to go.

  28. It would also discourage landlords from renting in the first place.

    Already, much of the small prop housing stock (duplexes to 4 U) has been converted to TIC or condos. Such a scheme would only incentivize that trend.

    BTW, Arbnb is already taxed at 14% (by Abnb before remuneration). How much is the Rent Tax you imagine going to run?

  29. My suggestion about Prop 13 were merely comments about the inequities in its construction and institution; and in response to Tims call for ‘more revenue’.

    But I already mentioned that CA has among the highest taxes in the US- and thats with the caps on prop taxes.

    Pensions are a nightmare. Many of those who retire take that bounty and move where its cheaper. Pensions are justified, in part, by the high cost of living in CA. Yet they are not paid out in that regard (SF as well). Pensions should be lowered substantially, and there should be a provision that if you continue to live in CA (or SF), that you would receive a supplement to cover your increased costs. That may not, however, fly legally; remember how CA used to tax pensions when people left the state, and which got overturned?

  30. AIUI, the ‘Twitter tax break” is only of benefit for IPOs. The “payroll tax” was eliminated in ’13, replaced with a Gross Rec’t Tax, which admittedly the tech coms don’t pay as much of.

    But, even if the TTB applies to all employees who are compensated with stock options, eliminating it would probably only force those co’s to SSF or Brisbane. The employees, or course, would want to continue to live here: thus, loss of GRT while still housing all those well paid coders.

    I have an idea – lets BUILD A WALL! Make San Francisco GREAT again.

  31. Not to mention that there’s nothing stopping Aaron Peskin from finding those mythical millions right now. He could scrutinize the budget all day long if he wants.

  32. It’s true that the mayor did not properly campaign for Props J and K, but what about Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim who openly opposed the measures? Don’t they deserve any recrimination for it’s failure?

  33. Not sure if Tim’s been to Vancouver, Canada lately but that tax did nothing there. Zilch. I was there not too long ago & the price of housing is as high or higher than SF. People I know in tech still can’t afford to buy anything. A simple search of Vancouver, Canada will show you that I’m right.

  34. Some places are doing just that. But in San Francisco, the homeless are too valuable to the so-called “moderates” as a political football.

  35. Do you have any idea how much money Zuckerberg has? And the $20m we are talking about would offset some of the loss from the failed sales tax increase. Yes, I imagine Shaw gets far more than $20m. And while his group provides housing for the homeless, it is often sub-standard, infested with bed bugs, and they evict more people than any other landlord in the City.

  36. It’s intellectually lazy to blame Prop 13 for every ill which has befallen CA in the past 40 years, while ignoring facts, like the one that shows that before the financial crash in 2008 CA was spending more, per capita, than than the year before Prop 13 was passed. Your argument also indicates a belief that spending money = greater results. It doesn’t. Better policy = greater results. Finally, as pension costs eat up more and more of the state budget the issue of public employee pensions is one that must be dealt with before any new sources of funding are identified. CALPERS’ poorly thought out decision back in the 2000s to allow many government workers to retire earlier and with larger pensions and to base future earnings on a rate of market return of 8% is now, in hindsight, one of the worst financial planning decisions ever made in state government history. Unless this is dealt with, budgets in CA are going to be increasingly dedicated to funding the pensions and medical benefits of retired state employees, to the detriment of every single Californian, no matter their age.

  37. Thank you. So you deride $75m contributed to Gen Hosp. as ‘couch-change’ when it came from MarkZ, but you call Peskin’s as-yet and theoretical $20m as “could do some good”. What do you consider ‘good”. Sense of proportion much?

    As for Shaw, he is such a suck-up. I’ll bet he gets more than $20m to run his TenderloinTown. And while I won’t say he isn’t doing any good, I’ve got to question if its the best use of the resources. Now if Shaw’d stop pushing rent control for others, like Trumps derision of lost American jobs which he could easily solve by bringing the jobs for his stuff back home – and just give rent control to his own tenants … .

  38. My suggestion modifying Prop 13 is not ‘specifically designed” to reduce asset value, just as rising mort int rates does not have that designed intention.

    And it may not be up to the taxpayer-voters, if the legis (and Gov) can pass a 2/3rd bill. (I could be wrong on that; TBS, the electorate is on the verge of becoming a home-owner-minority, so there’s that dynamic; and if the intended taxes are devoted to “affordable” housing, it might pose enuf of a justification to voters).

    I realize I may be cutting my own throat, but those who have owned RE for a while have seen a tremendous increase in equity not even closely related to improvements to their property(s). At the same time, I realize that CA (and SF) are not low-tax jurisdictions. Prop 13 has tilted the scale, but that has resulted in some of the highest income, sales and other taxes in the country. And I’m not sure those taxes are that well spent, what with poor schools and infrastructure (but lots of well paid state employees and Medical recipients). But putting a lid on some taxes doesn’t seem to have cured the tax-n-spend addiction in CA.

  39. I like the idea. It would require a detailed survey of current lease data which I think has always been needed. It may also be the next step to public housing for all. Get private owners out of the profit driven rental housing market. Keep up the good work.

  40. Well, we need to do something about homeless people everywhere, not just SF. They need to be housed, services, rehab, but so many want “freedom” not nanny-state.

  41. Remember when Mayor Newsom hired Ruby Tourk for her do-nothing job at a very high salary? I’m sure that still goes on today. Just wondering if Tim, who really didn’t investigate THAT THEN, would bother investigating actual City Hall corruption. Tim certainly didn’t break THAT story.

  42. But, the ultra-rich of SF are lip service Marxists GG. They agree with this but then…well, not really. You know this.

  43. Not “much of the Tech Industry”. Come on you were in Tech. Isn’t it just Twitter? What other company is getting a break? Just Twitter.

  44. I actually hope that the SFBoS does all of this & proposes all of this at the same time. The great thing is that if these proposals go through SF will turn to the right at a much quicker rate than it’s doing right now. The wealthy of SF are only lip-service liberals, they do not want anything like any of these proposals, the bleeding tiny middle class will never want them, the tinier working class won’t want them. I have popcorn because these ideas will never pass muster, not even here in SF where the political establishment is similar in philosophy to Maduro’s gov’t in Venezuela. Again, I’m passing out popcorn.

  45. No, tax landlords for the rents that they collect, with progressively higher tax rates for higher rent per resident or per sq ft. Include Airbnb rents while we’re at it. If a unit is rented out at a low rent to a rent-controlled tenant, they pay little or no rent tax. If a unit resets to a high market rate, the city takes a cut of the high rental income. This would be an ideal tax for San Francisco because it would allow the city to raise revenue from the exact same rents that make the city unaffordable. Since 5 years ago, landlords of existing housing units in SF have increased their revenue by probably hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and it makes sense for the city to tap into this income. It would also serve to temper the desire to evict rent-controlled tenants. It would discourage some private construction, so the revenue should be dedicated to public housing construction.

  46. Here is exactly what you said

    Lee’s approval ratings have been in the single digit range.

    It isn’t so much that I am obsessed, it’s that I read the ‘single digit’ thing without noticing that you were the one making the claim and I thought for a second that it might be true. Then I saw your name and realized that it was a made up number.

    And year, I don’t think that CONSTANTLY lying improves the political discourse. Obviously we disagree on that notion.

  47. Actually, Zuckerburg paid $75m. As to the DPW and the police, all that overtime is not doing much good. And if it means less money for Randy Shaw, let’s go for it. It is so amusing how those who gripe the loudest about Homeless, Inc. or the homeless industrial complex, or poverty pimps, etc. don’t realize they are attacking Ed Lee’s biggest supporter.

  48. Well, first off, you seem a bit too obsessed. No, I don’t lie, unlike Lee, who committed perjury before the ethics commission, and resorted to a fake bomb threat to cover it up. And clearly, you only seem capable of straw man arguments. I saw that it was PART of his approval rating, and that 70% disapprove of him. That is bad enough that he should have the decency to quit.

    Now, tell us, did you pull that “9%” figure from your anal orifice, or was I correct that you are on Lee’s staff, since the actual figure was never made public?

  49. “A vehicle license fee.”


    “A tax on vacant real estate.”

    Sounds good!

    “The solution: A 15 percent tax on all foreign investment in residential property. It worked wonders. Housing prices are falling. Speculative foreign investment has dropped radically.”

    Let’s try not to conflate “foreigners” with “profiteers” and stick with mechanisms that address the undesired behavior—hoarding housing.

    “San Francisco faces a similar problem; a significant number of new housing units are not used for housing. They’re just empty investments.”

    That’s pretty shoddy research. The issue deserves real scrutiny.

    “How do we know a unit is vacant? It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The city runs a water system, and most of the new condos, and many other apartments, have their own water meters. A place that uses less than a gallon of water a month is clearly vacant.”

    This is a clever thought, but it’s too easy to get past this. If wealthy absentee owners are facing thousands of dollars in fines, they’ll just pay $40/mo to keep their faucet on a slow drip, wasting enough water to fly under the radar.

    “A city income tax. […]
    That tax would mean the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Marin or the East Bay or the Peninsula and work in SF (and use our city services) would pay; sadly, the people who live here and take Google buses to work on the Peninsula would not. As I say: Imperfect.”

    Tim, your fixation with tech shuttles is so misguided.

    Notably absent from this list of proposals:

    1. Building more housing, which would expand the tax base and allow vulnerable people to move here from solidly pro-Trump parts of the country.
    2. Prop 13 reform. Perhaps a surtax on property taxes for people making > x% AMI?
    3. Strengthening our regional government. A city of 850,000 can only do so much on its own. If the entire Bay Area worked together, though…

    Tim and I disagree about a lot of things, but it’s really nice to see him suggest some very good ideas here.

  50. I’m not worried specifically about what you say, if any of it were true. But you lie A LOT, and with all of the focus on ‘fake news’ influencing people I think it is worthwhile to identify people who constantly say things that aren’t true.

    The fact that 9% said that Lee was doing an excellent job doesn’t mean that his approval rating is 9%. You lied, again.

  51. Well, first off, thank you for showing how worried you are about what I say about Lee. Your fear is, well, amusing. Second, you seem to continue with the straw man arguments. No, I didn’t lie. one facet of his approval rating is, by your own admission, in single digits. And the fact that his negatives were at 70% shows that he is doing a bad enough job that he should resign.

  52. Bigots always feel that it is right to wish that THEIR targets should be forced out of town. Some target a specific race, some a specific cultural or economic class. They always have reasons why THEIR group should be told to leave.

    Your way of thinking is not at all uncommon among other bigots.

  53. Exactly.

    In 1960, SF had a population of about 715,000 and there were less than 7,000 Public Employees.

    Today, SF has a population of 865,000 and there are over 38,000 Public Employees.

    An increase in population of only 21% has resulted in 443% more Public Employees.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    Last year, the shortfall to the Guaranteed-Defined-Benefit-Pensions and Healthcare-for-Life for SF’s retired Public Employees were about $250 Million. This year, they are nearly double that. The taxpayers are on the hook for these ever-increasing, out-of-control amounts.

    This situation will only get worse.

  54. @Geek__Girl:disqus – I don’t deny that Lee’s approval ratings aren’t that great and aren’t certainly aren’t as high as they once were.

    I was just pointing out that you were lying when you said that they were in single digits.

  55. It doesn’t matter what I think, because you said it above, “Taxing the full value of the property would, imo, tend to force down values for real estate.” Why in the world would CA voters willingly enact legislation specifically designed to reduce the value of the primary asset in most people’s portfolio?

  56. GG, I am saying that if Lee is irrelevant, which is what you are arguing, then his campaigning for Prop K would have had little to no impact (and he did campaign for it, just not all out).

    And, the amount of money spent pro-soda tax was a small fraction of what Big Soda spent trying to defeat it, and they failed miserably trying to defeat it.

    If you want to blame someone, I would blame the voters since they voted. Either you think SF voters are smart and capable of making their own decisions, or else you think they are mindless drones who need to be told what to do by Ed Lee, which would make him a powerful and influential person, but you say he is not.

    I am just saying you cannot have it both ways. Ed Lee is either irrelevant and unpopular, or he is powerful and influential and can direct the voters to take action.

  57. +1 to the vehicle registration tax. I would also like to see an extra fee to park overnight on the streets.

    +100 to a vacancy tax. Was just talking to my friends about this. Can’t believe this hasn’t been proposed given the approx 30k units that sit empty

  58. If my comments are irrelevant, the Lee is also irrelevant. And if money has no influence, the Ron Conway is a moron. He spent quite a bit on this past election, as did a few others. So, you are saying he threw that money away? And how much was spent in support of the soda tax?

    And Lee may yet face a recall.

  59. You say Peskins $20m could “do a lot of good”. And yet while I don’t recall the deal, I imagine Mark Z probably paid a figure in that ($20m) ballpark.

    And even if it was only 10% of Peskins imagined savings, thats $2m for a name on a bldg, fercripssakes.

    Maybe Peskins millions can be used to take Zuckerbergs name off the g.d. bldg. Less visual pollution in exchange for less OT for DPW & police employees or Homeless Inc contracts.

  60. Do you think declining prop values would result from increased RE taxes?

    In that case, maybe CA – in changing Prop 13 – should mandate a floor for declining mortgage value – in the form of rebates to RE taxes.

    But its synonymous with the mistakes of the last recession that people felt the values would ‘only go up’. (lenders are even offering 3% down these days !!) I hope you haven’t made that mistake. Because, with rising Fed mortgage rates, values will decline (monthly payments only pay for so much house; if interest sucks up more, offering prices will have to decline as well).

  61. Let’s see…you sound like you are employed by Lee. Actually, we don’t know how bad the numbers really are. The Chamber of Commerce refused to release them. Single digits for excellent was bad. Funny that we don’t know how bad. Was it 9%, or 5%, or 1%? And 30% approval is bad. I assume you mean that, of those who approve, 25 to 30% said “Very Good,” otherwise 30% approval doesn’t add up. That means 70% disapprove. So please, spare us the smoke and mirrors. He is not doing a good job, and if he had any character, he would step down.

  62. And as property values drop will the loan balances the homeowners took on when the property value was higher drop as well? The answer is no – so your proposal is a super fast way of ensuring that millions of property owners end up underwater for years or decades in the equity they no longer have in their homes.

  63. $20 million may be a small percentage of the City’s ridiculously inflated budget, but it could do a lot of good. Yes, there is clearly a lot of waste. Just the fact that streets and sidewalks are so poorly maintained is good proof of that. San Francisco spends about $10,285 per person, LA spends $9761, and NYC only $2265.

  64. Yes….give the city more of our hard earned money so they can squander it on subways to nowhere, pensions, etc.

  65. Your comments about the Mayor are fine, but they are irrelevant. Again, either he is influential with the VOTERS or not. Whether or not he is “taken with power” or “delusional” is NOT relevant to this discussion. The issue is how would the voters respond to him campaigning? If he has no influence and bad approval ratings, you would want him away from campaigning. And, money has little influence on educated SF voters. Big Soda poured MILLIONS, just about the most spent ever on a ballot measure, into trying to defeat the soda tax. They used a highly deceptive campaign and had TV ads running non-stop. SF voters saw through it and voted for the soda tax and told Big Soda to shove it. SF voters cannot be confused so easily.

    Mayor Lee was NOT the reason Prop K failed. You can have whatever opinion you like (I am not here to change your mind), but it doesn’t persuade me or sound logical to me.

    And, you are confusing government contract grants with how normal government budgets are proposed and passed. It is a common and accepted practice to propose budgets that are contingent on new revenue sources. Now, whether it is PRUDENT to do so, is certainly another story. But, it is not arrogant. It is at worst, imprudent.

    Stop worrying about Mayor Lee. He will be the Mayor for the rest of his term. Move on and focus on things you can control. If you have an issue that is important to you, then work to support it. But, focusing blame on external sources is a waste of time and energy.

  66. Lee’s approval ratings have been in the single digit range


    I think there may have a poll where he got single digits for “Excellent” and about 25-30% for “Very Good”,His approval rating has dipped perhaps to the 30% level. The “single digit” thing doesn’t have a base in reality.

  67. Much of the tech industry is blessed with Lee’s Mid-Market tax break. Of course, when the bubble bursts….the result will be devastating.

  68. It is a bit more complex. The ultra-rich cause a lot of problems in San Francisco. The “tech boom” has let to the decline of the middle class, an economy where the vast majority is either extremely well off, or barely surviving. And they do, with a few exceptions, the ultra-wealthy contribute very little. For example, Zuckerburg basically collected the change from his sofa, and bought the naming rights to SF General. His contribution was a drop in the bucket, but he gets his name attached to every reference to it. Benioff did give quite a bit to UCSF, and has actually done some good. But most of the tech industry are effectively leeches, and in some cases, like Uber, are bordering on criminal.

  69. Lee’s approval ratings have been in the single digit range. He is a lame duck mayor, but he is also quite taken with the power he inherently has as mayor. He tends to be someone delusional, surrounding himself with people who tend to stroke his ego. During this election, he did not, for the most part, endorse any candidates, because it was seen as a negative. I should have been a bit clearer. He did not personally campaign against the laws, but his supporters (i.e. Ron Conway, San Francisco’s personal Donald Trump, and others who have bought Ed Lee) poured money into a campaign led by one of Lee’s staff who was on a leave of absence. Lee was far more concerned with losing a small amount of his power than the budget.

    And it was rather arrogant to create a budget that in effect, spends money you don’t have, and are not guaranteed of receiving. I worked for UCSF on a research project where the principal investigator was fired for doing just that. He anticipated getting a particular grant, and was already spending that money. The government does not like such things, and he wound up being terminated for that, and a laundry list of other violations. But the main reason was spending money he didn’t have yet.

    Lee is a wounded animal. As such, he is still relevant, but in a very dangerous manner.

  70. I love how Tim just makes things up. Peskin could find $20M of savings? Where did that number come from. No where. Tim just makes it up. Of course that’s about 0.2% of the city budget. Not even a drop in the bucket.

    Then he trots out the foreign speculator boogie man. So let’s think about this. A speculator buys a $2MM condo in some fancy tower. Uses no city services since they don’t live here. Pays $23,600 in property taxes every year. That’s a bad thing? LOL

    The real issue is that a city of 875,000 people doesn’t need a $9 billion budget. Especially a city that is as disfuntional as ours. It’s crazy when compared to any other city anywhere. I’d be happy to pay more taxes if I wasn’t certain that it would get wasted just like most of the current $9 billion.

  71. My opinion is the sales tax failed in large part because of the decision to put too many tax increases on the ballot in one election. San Francisco is a politically progressive city, and the voters have shown they will support increased spending for services and increased taxes. However, there is a limit to how many spending tax revenue measures the voters will support. Also, Prop. K would have affected all voters, whereas most of the other revenue raisers (aside from some of the property tax measures), such as the increased real estate transfer tax would only impact a much smaller group of individuals (e.g. even with the high prices for real estate in SF, most San Franciscans are not selling real estate for more than $5 million).

  72. Your comment makes no sense given the position that 48 Hills takes about the Mayor. He is repeatedly called washed up and irrelevant. His low approval ratings are brought up. So, it would seem that his decision not to heavily campaign for a measure would be a good thing for the measure since one would not want a washed-out unpopular political hack associated with a ballot measure you hoped the voters would support.

    But, now that the voters did not vote to pass the sales tax, were told it was the Mayor’s fault somehow? Now, all the of sudden he is once again a power-broker, mover-and-shaker, who can influence the will of the people? That makes ZERO sense.

    And, how is it arrogant to create a budget dependent on a particular revenue source. Again, San Francisco spends more money than other cities of similar size, and more money than some states entire budget. It is certainly not like San Francisco is broke or just eeking by with providing city services–we are a very service rich city compared to most U.S. cities, including other prosperous ones. (Though you can certainly debate some of the city’s spending priorities). The purpose of the new budget was to expand services even more beyond their current level, so it does not seem odd to me to find a way to pay for the increased spending.

    As I said, I am no rah-rah fan of the Mayor, and I understand that 48 Hills promotes a political agenda (which is fine), and is not striving to provide unbiased news reporting. However, it does seem that 48 Hills could at least maintain internal logic. Either the Mayor is washed out or he is not. Either his influence and power are needed or he is irrelevant on the political scene. But, it cannot be both.

  73. The mayor focused on defeating the propositions that would have brought a fairer balance of power to the City. He ignored the sales tax, after arrogantly creating a budget dependent upon it.

  74. Also picked out that same line from the article. Seriously, it’s not the mayor’s fault that San Franciscan’s wanted expanded public services but don’t necessarily want to raise taxes to pay for them.

    The measure K (supposed to fund the measure J which expanded Transportation + Homeless services AND passed) failed because the wording of the proposition didn’t tie the Sales Tax increase to any specific spending. In the future, San Franciscan’s should know what they are getting when they agree to increase taxes on themselves.

  75. “In just one year, the city’s long-term pension liabilities have shot up from $2.3 billion to $5.48 billion”, according to Heather Knight of The Chron, Dec. 3, 2016.

    Tim R. doesn’t care about the pension nightmare because he’s on a salary from the SEIU. But without pension reform, we are going to have budget deficits, and declining services, forever and ever.

  76. Progressive tax on rents? Tell me more. I think if you mean taxing the rental income, wouldn’t that be included in Mr. Redmond’s suggestion to tax income earned in the City? If you mean taxing the tenant on the rent they pay, I’m not sure you would get much support.

  77. Tim has a lot of good ideas here. If San Francisco wants to build a safety net, it needs to raise the money to do it, preferably using progressive taxes. One thing I would add to Tim’s list (given that property taxes are off the table) is a progressive tax on rents.

  78. “So far, it doesn’t mean fully funding defense lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. That’s not an encouraging start.”

    Au contraire, Tim. IMO, this is as it should be and I’m encouraged to hear that apparently this is one bad idea of Compost’s that has been shot down. The group of people this is meant to assist are ILLEGAL ALIENS, they are not immigrants, and far too much money is directed their way already. This is unfair to everyone who is not an ILLEGAL ALIEN. After all, a very large amount of federal dollars will be lost because of SF’s Sanctuary City Policy, which protects these people and is one of the reasons they come here. And all that fed money will be lost for the simple reason that SF is a sanctuary city. There are many other groups of people, citizens, who also have needs that don’t get met due to so much of the focus being on one specific group of people who shouldn’t be here to begin with. How can anyone think this is fair?

  79. Many wealthy and upper middle class own second homes. They can register their car at that addrss. It is easy enough to come into the City periodically to run the water or use utilities to give the impression someone is living in a “vacant” home. There are not really that many home vacant because of occasional use so the tax would not bring in much money. There are ways to game almost any one of these schemes.

  80. FWIW, “They contribute nothing” is code used by bigots. In this case it is targeting the rich, others says the exact same thing about the homeless.

    “They contribute nothing” = “We don’t need their kind here”

  81. Regardless of ones feelings about the Mayor (and I am decidedly luke-warm toward him), I am tired of reading the dishonesty in 48 Hills. The Mayor did not “fail to pass” the sales tax measure. The San Francisco VOTERS chose to vote against it, and these are the same voters who supported other progressive measures in this election, so we must assume this was a conscience decision and not some fluke.

    On the one hand, 48 Hills makes the argument that SF is a progressive, informed and activist city, and on the other hand, the voters are treated as mindless drones who apparently are incapable of exercising any agency in their political decisions.

    Words have meaning. Use them them honestly and use them corrrectly. Ballot measures are passed or rejected by the voters, and the buck stops there.

  82. “Nothing”? Really?

    And what of all those who are using Social Services? What to they “contribute” to the City?

    Countering Trumpist hate with hate? Is that really the cure?

  83. And maybe another way to raise money would be to alter Prop 13: allow tax on the full value of real time property assessments. But then defer additional payments for senior/disable/fixed-or low-income people, with the balance tacked onto the title as a lien when the prop changes hands. Perhaps interest could be added on deferred values, or not.

    Taxing the full value of the property would, imo, tend to force down values for real estate. The benefit being that more housing (and business property) would become cheaper (I mean, more affordable); and thus increase monetary flow thru the economy.

    But if the govmint is going to take more of our (well, rich people’s) money, I think it would be a good check to allow the voters to vote, say, on the yearly budget for what it’s spent on. I also think voters ought to have a say on employee benefits also. Its clear the politicians can’t be trusted to keep the taxpayers interests foremost, when municipal unions have a direct connection to politicians (thru the election process of money & manpower). Taxpayers come out the poor cousins in that whole equation.

  84. “I’m sure there have been studies done that define a price-point at which the ultra rich decide its easier to ‘move’ than to pay the increase (or present demand) of whats being taken. I wonder where that lies.”

    Then that is the tax we need to implement to encourage them to move. They contribute nothing to this city.

  85. Yes! MORE six-figure civil servants. With a pension obligation. And a health care obligation.

    Much easier than taking what we have, and making sure we’re doing the best with it. (How effective has that third Supes aid actually been? Or even the second?) The nearest thing to Eternal Life is a bureaucracy.

    I’m sure there have been studies done that define a price-point at which the ultra rich decide its easier to ‘move’ than to pay the increase (or present demand) of whats being taken. I wonder where that lies.

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