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City HallThe AgendaBreed's messaging undermines her own goals, including a critical Muni tax measure

Breed’s messaging undermines her own goals, including a critical Muni tax measure

Plus: Limits on cops' military hardware, long delays in Ethics audits, and a farce of a Housing Plan gets a hearing. That's The Agenda for Oct. 30-Nov. 6

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If Proposition L, which everyone at City Hall supports, goes down, and Muni and everyone who rides it suffers, you can blame Heather Knight’s Chronicle story about the $1.7 million toilet.

That, and the constant refrain from so many news media circles, and so many of the allies of Mayor London Breed, that the city is dirty, dangerous, and needs more moderate leadership.

The mayor and her allies are telling people to vote against taxes— but she needs them to vote FOR taxes to save Muni.

I’m not criticizing Knight for doing that story, which got a ton of attention, including from the governor. Yeah, that’s a lot of money for a toilet. Although in the grand scheme of things, and the amount of money that San Francisco spends, for example, on copaganda, and gives away to corrupt contracting, and so much more, I don’t think $1.7 million for a toilet is an earth-shattering, front-page, get-the-gov-on-the-phone kind of story.

But it’s the kind of thing that goes viral, and fits into a narrative that you can’t trust the government because all it does is waste money.

Now add in Breed appearing on stage at a Business Times event with the head of real-estate giant Prologis, and complaining about her own city, and listening with full support as he attacked her own city, and you get the reason why this mayor may lose a bond act that she desperately needs to fix public transportation.

From the Standard’s account of that event:

Although [Prologis CEO Hamid] Moghadam said he’s “not a quitter” when it comes to his commitment to the city, he noted that in his meetings across various countries San Francisco has gone from being “the envy of the world” to “the laughingstock.”

The real estate executive listed a familiar litany of complaints around street conditions, open-air drug use and homelessness funding that “we’re frankly pissing away.”

“In the 50 years I’ve been here, this is the worst,” Moghadam said. “We need accountability. If I don’t produce the earnings that I’m supposed to, guess how long I’ll have this job? How come that doesn’t happen to our elected officials?”

Breed then went on to say that the Board of Supervisors can’t be trusted and that she needs more real-estate friendly members.

Interestingly, she’s nowhere on the Yes on L campaign literature, perhaps because polls show she’s really unpopular right now, across the political spectrum.

But you can’t stand with a developer who says the city is wasting money and the government is failing, and then go and ask the voters to give you more money for Muni.

And if you ally yourself with the real-estate industry, which is trying to block new taxes on empty apartments and a progressive parcel tax for City College (Breed signed a ballot argument against Prop. O) you set the stage for a voter revolt against all new taxes, including the ones you want.

This is a serious failure of leadership. If Breed’s Muni measure fails, it will her own fault.

Sup. Aaron Peskin has proposed some major changes in the way the cops can use military-style equipment, and those amendments will come before the Rules Committee Monday/31.

At a hearing last week, Peskin quizzed Police Department officials not so much about why they have so much excessive gear but how it gets used and when.

He asked, for example, what rules apply to the use of chemical agents, some of which are seriously dangerous. The department said that some of that information might be secret, since it might reveal tactical information. He noted that a lot of the information provided by the cops doesn’t explain what uses are actually authorized and which are prohibited.

Several callers noted that nothing in the current rules would prevent officers firing tear gas point-blank at protesters. There are tactical weapons that shouldn’t be used for crowd control—but that wasn’t clear in the policy.

You can see Peskin’s proposed changes here.

Peskin and Sup. Connie Chan have called for a hearing before the Government Audit and Oversight Committee to look into the backlog of basic audits at the Ethics Commission.

Everyone who takes public money for local office has to be audited, and for more candidates, the audit determines when they can close their accounts. But Peskin told me Ethics still hasn’t done an audit on his 2020 supe campaign—“and they can’t even tell me when it’s going to happen.”

He has money left in his account, “and I want to return it to the city.” He’s not alone; he told me not one campaign from 2020 has yet been audited.

Ethics is notoriously slow about moving on live enforcement actions—that is, violations that occur during a campaign. It’s often months or years later by the time the commission looks into and potentially finds wrongdoing. By that time, the campaign’s over and the damage has been done.

The hearing is Thursday/3 at 10am.

The Planning Commission will hear an informal presentation on the latest draft of the Housing Element Thursday/3, and I have no idea what the planners can say that will make any sense at all. The Housing Element is largely a fantasy. It’s based on a premise of meeting the state’s housing (including affordable housing) mandates, but those are also a fantasy.

It’s as if the planners have no sense of economic reality. We know the city has approved more than 50,000 units of housing that haven’t broken ground. We know there are 60,000 empty units in the city. That’s more than the state mandate, by a lot. But nothing is happening to address either of those issues; it’s as if they commission can waive its hands and rezone the city and clear “red tape” and magically profit-seeking developers who need financing from international speculative capital are going to start building housing, instantly, that the workforce can afford.

They won’t even build housing that the workforce can’t afford. The only thing getting built is tiny micro-units for single people—but priced at more than $2,000 a month.

And the fed is about to raise interest rates again, making it even harder to finance anything, including housing.

I don’t know what world the City Planning Department is living in, but it’s not San Francisco, 2022. That meeting starts at noon.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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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