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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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News + PoliticsThe politics of the UN Plaza event

The politics of the UN Plaza event

Could we have just watched the unofficial start of the Peskin for Mayor campaign? Or did we just see the Breed for Mayor talking points?

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It took more than 50 minutes and two locations for Mayor London Breed to tell Sup. Aaron Peskin that she’s not going to open an emergency center to address opioid addiction and overdoses.

In the process, Breed doubled down on her attacks on the supervisors and her insistence that law enforcement should play a major role in the crisis that drug addicts should be arrested and forced into treatment.

Was this an exploratory move for Peskin for Mayor?

Yes, she said that. “Force is going to have to be a part of it,” she said, relating that some people she knows went to jail and wound up getting clean.

But something else was going on here, with Peskin’s dramatic move to hold Question Time at UN Plaza, and his oped in the San Francisco Examiner, and his piece in BeyondChron, and the recent polling showing that Breed is very unpopular.

This may be, and I am speculating here, the unofficial launch of the exploratory phase of an Aaron Peskin for Mayor campaign.

Peskin has long dismissed any mayoral ambitions, and has told me that he looks forward to retiring with a city pension. He loves to travel and go hiking and camping. Being mayor is a brutal job, and running is even worse.

On the other hand, there’s a huge wide swath of San Francisco that doesn’t seem happy with the incumbent and won’t see Sup. Ahsha Safai as a credible option. And nobody in the progressive camp has come forward to run. I know there are people who may not agree with Peskin on all the political issues who are still suggesting that he would be a real alternative to Breed.

Peskin, like everyone who was in City Hall during the Pandemic, has negatives; it was a rough time, there were no good or easy answers, and the supes (and sometimes the mayor) did the best they could with bad options. But City Hall gets the blame.

Still: Breed is also an incumbent, and I see nobody credible who is an “outsider” and still palatable to the large progressive voting bloc.

If Peskin wanted to run for mayor, he would be doing exactly what he did this week. His move to take on drug dealing would seek credibility with moderates, and a chance to say, as he did yesterday, that the problem is not with resources it’s “coordination.”

What that really means is competence. That’s where Breed is vulnerable; I don’t know many people who think she’s done a great job running the city.

Meanwhile, Breed was working up her campaign stump speech and giving us a sense of how she’s going to seek re-election as someone who is responsible for a narrative that the city she runs is filthy and crime-ridden.

It’s simple: She’s going to try to blame the progressives for everything that’s gone wrong in San Francisco. It’s become a standard approach for the neo-liberal tough-on-crime folks, although by definition it’s false: Progressives aren’t running this city.

Still, she persisted, saying that in her office, “everyone is focused on this very serious issue.” Then she said that “some members of this board have voiced opposition to this work.” She demanded that the supes pass her police budget with no reductions or changes, and called on them to support the arrest of people who are users as well as big-time dealers.

She said the board and the mayor have to “get past our differences, about who we do and don’t like. … I will work with you.”

Again, that’s not true: Numerous supes who have run afoul of the mayor have told me repeatedly that she cuts them out of information, refuses to support the needs of their districts, and declines invitations to meet.

But this is how the mayor’s race is shaping up this week, from City Hall to UN Plaza.

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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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