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Monday, May 27, 2024

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News + PoliticsSome New Year's resolutions for SF politics

Some New Year’s resolutions for SF politics

I'm always happy to take the time as 2023 dawns to tell everyone else what to do—and let's start with seizing PG&E's power grid.


I don’t do New Year’s resolutions; there’s so much wrong with me and so many things I should change that I can’t even get started. I’m 64; too late.

But I love doing resolutions for other people, particularly ones that aren’t too hard and could have a real impact.

So here we go, for 2023: What Everyone Else Should Do.

Dennis Herrera gave up the City Attorney’s Office and said he would fight PG&E. Now is the time to force the issue.

For my dear, dear, dog-owning friends: There are so many of us now, since the Pandemic Puppy became a thing, and I love that, and I love seeing all of you all over the city, and I only wish there were enough of us to adopt all of the post-pando pups that are now crowding the shelters. But folks, you have to pick up the poo on the sidewalk. That shit’s nasty and I’m tired of walking around it.

For the Department of Parking and Traffic: I just got a group email from someone who lives in an RV, who is about to lose their home because the DMV tags are expired and the person doesn’t have $300 to pay the renewal and late fees. The Police Commission is talking about ending pretext stops that target Black people for minor traffic violations. Why can’t we end towing for expired tags? Tell me that a person living in a vehicle that wasn’t properly registered is any threat to anyone.

For my colleagues in the local news media: Let us vow to use words that matter and mean something when we write about politics. “Progressive” is a word that isn’t that hard to define in today’s San Francisco: It describes someone who believes that, among other things, economic inequality is a defining issue of our lives, and as the urban scholar Susan Fainstein writes, “equity is by definition redistributive.” Progressives support high taxes on the rich and strict regulations on big businesses. Conservatives generally oppose taxes on the rich and regulations on big business, and argue that the free market will solve most problems. There are plenty of politicians in San Francisco who fall into that camp, but we like to call them “moderates,” which means nothing at all.

Also for my media colleagues: Let us not allow politicians to get away with ducking the essential issue around housing. The state mandate, the local Housing Element, the overall rhetoric says that the city needs new housing “at all levels” —but that’s impossible, and the whole thing falls apart unless someone can tell us: where is the $19 billion going to come from? Nobody should be able to discuss the city’s Housing Element or talk about affordable housing in any context without answering that question.

Oh, and all of you who helped fuel the crime madness that led to the Chesa Boudin recall: I am counting on you to apply the exact same standard to DA Brooke Jenkins. Every single violent crime that happens in the city should be her fault; every incident of shoplifting should be her fault. Somebody stepped on my foot on Muni a few days ago; clearly, this sort of rampant lawlessness is Brooke Jenkins’ fault.

Then go take a tour of the county jail and look at all the people who are locked up awaiting trial, long after the legal statute. Maybe some innocent people saw their lives ruined. Maybe that’s also Brooke Jenkins’ fault.

For all the downtown property owners who are asking for property tax relief from the city: If your building is worth less money, then you should lower the rent, right? Cut prices and maybe small businesses and artists can move into your empty space.

For Mayor London Breed: You’re going to be running for re-election, and let me make a suggestion: The Imperial Mayor who doesn’t talk to the news media isn’t a good look.

For the candidate who decides to run against Breed: It can’t be about You. It has to be about an agenda for the urban crisis we are all facing. In 1987, Art Agnos beat the heavily favored John Molinari by writing and distributing a book full of concrete policy ideas; yeah, it was a gimmick, but it was also New Ideas v. Old Bureaucracy. The race wasn’t even close.

For PUC General Manager Dennis Herrera: You turned one of the best city attorney’s offices in the country over to a political hack, and you told me that would give you a chance to work on public power. Now you have the chance to do something about it. From your recent letter to the Chron:

Finally, San Francisco would have more say on rooftop solar and battery storage if we controlled the local electrical grid. That’s why it’s important we pursue public power by acquiring PG&E’s electrical grid in the city. As a public utility, we could set our own policies to reach our clean energy goals.

Yes, indeed, and bring in hundreds of millions a year in new revenue. But PG&E’s not going to sell, so there’s only one way that can happen: Seize the system by eminent domain.

All of the elements are already in place. You already have bonding capacity to buy the system. It just takes a legal filing (and yes, maybe a long battle, but there’s no time like the present to get started). You could direct your successor, City Attorney David Chiu, to do that tomorrow. It’s 2023, the 110th anniversary of the Raker Act, which mandated public power in San Francisco. A great time to show us you are serious, and that abandoning the City Attorney’s Office was worth it.

For Rep. Nancy Pelosi: You have earned all the accolades, and the next two years should be a victory lap. Take it. Finish the term you were elected to, and allow San Francisco a real election in 2024, not a crazy, unfair special election that would happen if you retire midterm.

For all the candidates who want to run for local office and get progressive support: Please read The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee and A Short History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey. There will be a quiz.

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
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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