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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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ElectionsCampaign TrailNow the Big Tech money is getting ridiculous

Now the Big Tech money is getting ridiculous

Billionaires put up $730,000 for a ballot measure that will have no impact on anyone's life—and not a penny for an affordable housing measure that would benefit everyone.


The political fliers that are starting to choke our mailbox are interesting in part because of how they are targeted: We are a household of four registered voters, two under 25, and one over 65, all Democrats who vote in every election. We live in a precinct that typically votes very progressive. So some of the right-wing messaging doesn’t come here.

They’re also interesting because of who funded them.

Board President Aaron Peskin wonders why the billionaires funding meaningless measures aren’t helping Prop. A, which would actually make a difference.

So I paid special attention yesterday to a No on B mailer that attacks the Board of Supervisors and promotes messages from Sup. Matt Dorsey and a member of the SF Police Officers Association, which has long since lost its political popularity, particularly in my political demographic.

I’m guessing this one went to every likely voter. No reason to target when you have what appears to be unlimited money.

From the back of the mailer:

Ad paid for by No on B, Stop the Cop Tax, Committee major funding from: 1. Neighbors for a Better San Francisco Advocacy ($437,640)-contributors include Kilroy Realty ($875,000), Paul Holden Spaht Jr. ($203,388.66). 2. Chris Larsen ($250,000) 3. Michael Moritz ($50,000).

Considering all factors and if my math is right, that’s $730,640—to defeat a ballot measure that would have had no impact on the city anyway.

What a colossal waste of money.

Prop. B was a response to a move by Dorsey to enshrine in the City Charter a mandate that San Francisco has 2,300 cops at all times. That makes little policy sense; it’s not clear that paying for 2,300 cops will be more effective at stopping crime than spending money on other services, like the underfunded 911 call center. Besides, in tough times, the city needs to be able to make flexible budget decisions.

So the supes amended it to say, sure, 2,300 cops—but only if we identify a source of revenue to pay for them.

That infuriated Dorsey, who promptly labeled this a “cop tax,” although it imposes no tax at all, and he and the mayor set out to kill the amended version of his own measure.

You know what? It means nothing. The city has already set aside funding for police academies it can’t fill. There’s $30 million already budgeted to hire more cops. The problem with SFPD’s staffing isn’t a lack of money or a charter mandate; it’s that not so many people want to be cops these days, even with exceptionally good pay and benefits.

Prop. B won’t do much of anything. Dorsey’s measure wouldn’t do much of anything. Defeating Prop. B won’t do much of anything—except give Dorsey and Breed a political victory.

This is worth $732,357?

That money would pay to hire maybe 10 more 911 dispatchers, or frontline nurses at SF General. In fact, the millions of dollars that Big Tech and Real Estate are spending on the mayor’s ballot priorities—including Prop. F, drug screening for welfare recipients, which also will do nothing except make homelessness worse—could provide a lot of services to help unhoused people.

Imagine what it could do for the struggling San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

Or, as MissionLocal Reporter Joe Rivano Barros noted on KALW’s Your Call radio show this morning, that money might have made a big difference for Yes on A, an affordable housing bond measure that needs a two-thirds vote to pass. Prop. A would actually make a big difference in the city.

I see no money from Larsen, Kilroy, or Moritz going to that campaign.

“They are pouring all this money into all these things that will make no difference,” Aaron Peskin, one of the sponsors of Prop. A, told me. “And the one thing on the ballot that will have a huge impact on people’s lives in this city? They aren’t giving a penny. That the huge irony of this.”

I don’t see how this is going to salvage Breed’s campaign for mayor, particularly when the right side of the field, which she is determined to occupy, keeps getting more and more crowded. From the Chron:

Jim Stearns, a progressive political consultant, said that with Farrell’s apparent decision to run for mayor, “the right side of the field is getting awfully crowded.” He said that Farrell, a venture capitalist, shares with Breed and Lurie a “common affiliation with billionaires.” Breed’s allies include the billionaires Chris Larsen and Michael Bloomberg, while Lurie’s billionaire mother Mimi Haas donated $1 million to an independent political committee supporting his candidacy. 

Stearns said those financial ties present an opportunity for Safaí — and perhaps a more traditional progressive candidate such as Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin — to create more of a contrast in the race.

“A progressive and Safaí can both benefit from a campaign based upon economic populism and who these candidates are going to fight for when they become mayor,” Stearns said. “I think there is a very, very wide lane open for Safaí. … You don’t have to be (49ers running back) Christian McCaffrey to get through that hole.” 

San Francisco is still a progressive city. This race is still wide open.

Full disclosure: My son works on the Yes on A campaign.

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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