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Monday, September 28, 2020
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News + Politics Wiener attacks SF supes

Wiener attacks SF supes

State Senator says board is not functional and harks back to his own days as a supe -- which were only "collegial" when it meant helping Big Tech


State Sen. Scott Wiener Saturday lambasted the current Board of Supes, saying that members are “more concerned with scoring political points against the mayor than getting things done” and wistfully recalling his days on the board, when, he said, “we had better functionality.”

In a highly unusual move during a panemic, the senator said that many of the supes were “personality not policy driven.”

He said that when he was on the board, “we did not have what’s happening now – we worked together to solve problems.”

Wiener presents a mythology of his time on the board.

Wiener made the statements during a virtual campaign event for Marjan Philhour, who is running for supe in D1. Mayor London Breed and Assemblymember David Chiu were also on the webinar to endorse Philhour.

But Wiener went beyond saying that he thought Philhour would be a good board member. After saying that “we have a fantastic mayor” he said that Philhour’s needed on the board so members can be more “collaborative.”

He mentioned both Jane Kim and John Avalos as people he disagreed with but could work with in his day, when the board was supposedly more “collegial.” He said even when he was running against Kim for Senate, they worked together.

But that’s totally wrong.

For one thing, the “collegial” board that supposedly worked well with the mayor also worked well with the likes of Airbnb, devastating the city’s housing stock in the name of helping a $10 billion corporation, and the Google Buses, causing traffic problems and displacement.

When Wiener was part of a majority that backed then-Mayor Ed Lee, the board did everything the tech industry wanted, causing irreparable harm to low-income and working-class residents and promoting thousands of evictions.

If that’s what it means to be “collegial,” I will happily take trench warfare.

But beyond policy: I was there when Wiener was on the board. I watch the board meetings today. I have been watching the board since 1982, and I think this is one of the most productive boards I have ever seen – and they seem to work very well together.

Never mind my opinion: I called Sup. Aaron Peskin, who was first elected in 2000 and has served, by his count, with 37 different supervisors. He is also endorsed by every one of his current colleagues.

He was on the board with Wiener, Kim, and Avalos.

“I think I am uniquely well positioned to respond to those comments,” Peskin told me. “In the 13 years out of the last 20 that I have served on the board I have never seen as sympatico a body as this one.”

He said that, for the most part, the board has been working well with the mayor – but disagreeing when they have policy differences, which is entirely appropriate. (Breed has also endorsed Peskin.)

This board, unlike the board that Wiener served on for a time, doesn’t do everything the mayor wants. That seems to be why we have a separation of powers.

As for Avalos and Kim?

Avalos told me that Wiener “worked well with us when he had something to negotiate,” but that in general “he was the kid at the lunch table with his elbows out. He was not always collegial at all, more often he was very divisive.”

I couldn’t reach Kim, but Peskin told me that when the two were on the board and running against each other “it was like a bad Saturday Night Live show every Tuesday. The rest of us were rolling our eyes as they attacked each other.”

I was there, too.

Peskin said that the current supes make up “a mature, cohesive board.”

If Wiener wants to back Philhour, Peskin said, “it’s fine to say I embrace this person’s politics, and if she wins she will vote with you and the Yimbys. But we are all trying to get along now in one of the most challenging times ever for any city.”

The endorsements of Philhour by the mayor, Wiener, and Chiu were largely devoid of any policy discussions. None of them said they backed her because of her support for any particular cause or issue. It was all (to quote Sen. Wiener) about “personality, not policy.”

That is: She’s going to be an ally of the mayor and the moderates. That’s fine; it’s up to the voters of D1 to decide who will best represent them.

But the mayor loves to talk about people on the left being “divisive,” and I think Wiener wins the award for that today.

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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