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Let's have a ban on voting for any of them. twitter.com/philosophrob/s…

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5 days ago

 

SF Supervisors Report Card 2017

How Green is Your Supervisor?

This is our report card for the SF Board of Supervisors in 2017. It shows the most important votes in 2017, from a Green Party perspective, and whether each supervisor supported or opposed our position. Some of the votes are on amendments to legislation. Compare to our 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012 report cards.

 

2017 was a "go along to get along" year, with few votes breaking down along traditional "progressive" vs "conservative" lines. With conservatives firmly in control of the City, really bad legislation was passed with near unanimity, while potentially good legislation was watered down to the point of ineffectiveness. The lack of progressive leadership at the Board is reflected in the worst scores we've given in years.

 

Note that some votes in early January that we thought were very important, such as Free City College and the Alex Nieto Memorial, were repeat votes on issues that we already scored in 2016, so we didn't score them again this year.

 

Key:

Supported Green Party position
Opposed Green Party position
Absent (Excused)

 

  D 1: Sandra Fewer D 2: Mark Farrell D 3: Aaron Peskin D 4: Katy Tang D 5: London Breed D 6: Jane Kim D 7: Norman Yee D 8: Jeff Sheehy D 9: Hillary Ronen D 10: Malia Cohen D 11: Ahsha Safai
Public Employees Testifying Under Oath Y N Y N Y Y Y N N Y Y
Natural Areas Plan Y Y Y Y Y - N Y Y Y Y
Gag Affordable Housing Developers N Y N Y N N N Y N N N
Local Income Tax Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y
Jung to Arts Commission Y Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y
Density Bonus Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Airbnb Settlement Y - Y Y Y Y Y Y Y - Y
DeJesus to Police Commission Y - Y Y Y - Y Y Y Y N
Eviction Reporting Y N Y N N Y Y N Y N N
Fake Fossil Fuel Divestment Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Street Box Fees Y Y N Y Y N Y Y Y Y Y
Bike "Chop Shops" N Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y
Neo-McCarthyism Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Wells Fargo ATMs N Y N Y Y N Y Y N Y Y
Recreational Cannabis N N Y N N N N N Y N N
Presidio Terrace Y Y N Y Y N N Y N Y Y
Overall Score 44% 0% 63% 13% 19% 57% 50% 6% 56% 27% 19%

 

Details about the votes we scored

 

1) Witness Testimony Under Oath (2/14/17).

 

This legislation would have allowed the Board of Supervisors, and its Government Audit and Oversight Committee, to be able to (on a case-by-case basis) require witnesses who are government employees to testify under oath. Supervisor Peskin put forward the legislation after holding hearings on the sinking Millenium Tower, when it was clear that some expert witnesses (including City employees) were not being honest. Had the witnesses been under oath, there could have been legal consequences.

 

The Green Party agrees with Peskin that requiring witnesses to testify under oath is an important tool for investigating corruption. Without it, the Board cannot effectively fulfil their duty to oversee government work done by employees who only answer to the Mayor. Therefore, opposition to this power is effectively a vote for more corrupt City politics. When Mayor Lee described Peskin's legislation as "gestapo," we knew he was on the right track.

 

Because this was an ammendment to the Board's rules of order, it required 8 votes to pass, and so it failed on a 7-4 vote.

 

2) Natural Areas Plan (2/28/17)

 

The Natural Areas program sounds like a good idea: its stated purpose is to protect native plants, wildlife and ecosystems in "natural areas" of the City. Unfortunately, the reality is very different. The Program has been used to justify cutting down many trees in our parks, spraying carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides, and limiting public access to recreational areas. Part of this policy seems to be motivated by anti-homeless sentiment, or by a desire to clear land for developers to build luxury condos.

 

Some good information about the program is on the SF Forest Alliance website (we disagree with their endorsements). We give Supervisor Yee credit for opposing the pesticide spraying in the plan, and voting against it.

 

3) Gag Affordable Housing Developers (3/21/17)

 

Venture Capitalist turned interim Mayor Farrell revealed the tech/real estate conspiracy to consume the City with an attempt to silence "renegade" non-profit developer TODCO. TODCO, a community-based housing development corporation, arose out of 3rd St. redevelopment projects in the 60s when residents said "we will not move" and took their case to court. The City was legally obligated to provide housing for some of those whose SOMA homes were destroyed and TODCO did just that. Currently, 1200 elders, hotel residents, formerly homeless, immigrants and families have homes South of Market in TODCO buildings.

 

TODCO went against the operational model of similar non-profits who dump revenue into a slush fund which is distributed through interlocks to pay off political favors. In 2016, TODCO used some of its revenue to oppose a particularly nasty real estate slate of ballot measures and to support a number of progressive measures. While big money developer/investors routinely dump millions into DCCC elections and PACs, such "rogue" behavior by a builder whose stated mission is inclusion for the future and Social Justice in the 21st Century could not be tolerated.

 

Farrell's legislation would have banned political spending by non-profits including TODCO. Such spending on political activities is legal (up to 20% of revenue over expenses). City Family Investor/Owners--Farrell's, Tang's and Sheehy's, and, probably a couple of others who didn't vote for the failed proposal when they read the writing on the wall--would prefer that money talks the way they want it to.

 

4) Local Income Tax (3/21/17)

 

When SF wants to fund a large project, the Democratic Party leadership often turn to bonds or other regressive measures such as a sales tax increase. The Green Party is often hesitant to endorse bond measures, since paying off the bonds ends up costing taxpayers about twice the cost of the project they fund, and bonds also help rich people avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

 

Instead, we encourage politicians to fund projects through taxes that fall mainly on rich people (e.g., income and real estate transfer taxes). A local income tax would be an excellent way to raise taxes without burdening SF's poor residents and vanishing middle class. However, this is currently not allowed by state law.

 

When Assemblymember Phil Ting proposed changes in state law to allow SF voters to pass a local income tax, most of the Board passed a resolution in support. Naturally, the State Democratic Party (which enjoys supermajority control of all branches of CA government), and Phil Ting, have not made any progress on the bill since.

 

5) Mary Jung to Arts Commission (5/16/17)

 

Mary Jung is a former PG&E employee and realtor, who headed the local Democratic Party until she was kicked off by more progressive members.

 

As is traditional for Democratic Party elected officials who lose their bid for re-election, she was "parked" on a City commission in order to keep her in the public eye until she is able run for office again. She was approved by the Supervisors on a 8-3 vote.

 

The Green Party thinks the Arts Commission should be run by local artists, not by deposed Democratic Party hacks.

 

6) Density Bonus (5/23/17)

 

Early on, on its legislative course, the SF Green Party stated its opposition to the Affordable Housing Density Bonus Plan. The Plan was booed out of the building in every District in the City as it was trotted out by Supervisor Tang and a City Planner who has since moved on to greener pastures. Initially, the Plan was supported only by YIMBYs associated with astroturf groups for deep-pockets developers. A city-wide up-zoning scheme which would have directly, indirectly, and incrementally displaced many long-term San Franciscans deserved nothing less than the public shout-downs it received. The Plan was finally split in two (100% "affordable" housing on select sites, which passed separately, and mixed-income) and gutted at the Board. Supervisor Tang resuscitated the dead half of the ordinance as HomeSF where it was carved up at the Board and served as in an attempt to satiate the appetites for greed on the part of developer/investor donors who have financed her campaigns (and most of the Supervisors on the Board).

 

The big loser on the Board was Supervisor Yee and District 9. Yee attempted to garner protection from the up-zoning for Ocean Ave between 19th Ave and Paloma. On the West side, Ocean Ave has become a poster child for de-urbanized zones with “luxury” compounds like Avalon, Target and Amazon/Whole Foods living, which is more Sean of the Dead than real urban living. At the Board hearing for HomeSF, Yee attempted to amend the legislation to save the remainder of Ocean Ave in his District as other Supes had in their districts. He was told by Supervisor Tang that he should just vote against it instead of asking for another carve-out. He did and was the sole dissenting vote.

 

7) Airbnb settlement (5/23/17)

 

It has long been noted that Airbnb's business model is illegal. In 2014, Mayor Lee and other politicians bought and paid for by tech and real estate interests (including Scott Wiener, David Chiu, Mark Farrell, and London Breed) retroactively legalized it. As we said in 2014, these politicians gave Airbnb a pass for the $25 million they owed in taxes, and allowed them to basically write their own regulations.

 

In 2015, as this lack of regulations resulted in thousands of San Franciscans being evicted from their homes to make space for tourist hotels, Supervisors tried again to regulate the company. Once again, the same conservative voting bloc prevented any meaningful regulations.

 

By 2016, after thousands more evictions, Supervisors passed a law that required Airbnb to verify that their "hosts" had registering with the City before they could list their property on the site, as required by the 2014 law. At the time, almost none had registered. Airbnb sued the City, arguing that the regulation was a restriction on their corporate right to free speech.

 

Rather than fighting Airbnb's frivolous lawsuit in court, the Board of Supervisors settled with the company, allowing them to continue their illegal behavior until 2018. Who says crime doesn't pay?

 

8) Petra DeJesus to Police Commission (6/20/17)

 

Petra DeJesus is an attorney who served for 10 years on the Police Commission, building a reputation for civilian oversight of the SFPD. She has argued strongly against Tasers, noting (as we have) that they are an expensive toy that statistics show actually increases police aggressiveness. DeJesus has also worked to prevent racial profiling by the SFPD.

 

Newly elected Supervisor Safai tried to oust DeJesus in favor of a political ally who had just moved to San Francisco. Fortunately, the majority did the right thing in returning DeJesus for another term.

 

9) Eviction Reporting (6/27/17)

 

SF currently tracks evictions of tenants, and makes the data public so that organizations like the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project can display the data. Tracking evictions is important, not only so that ethical buyers can avoid buying properties where tenants have recently been evicted, but also because owners have some legal restrictions in what they can do with such properties (e.g., divide large homes up into condos).

 

Owners are starting to get around this law by making tenants "offers they can't refuse" - a buyout offer tied to a (sometimes explicit) threat to initiate legal proceedings. When the tenant "voluntarily" takes the buyout, no eviction is on the books. This was the case in the eviction of 100-year-old Iris Canada, who died shortly after her eviction. When her landlords later tried to convert the property to condos, they claimed that no eviction had legally taken place. Although this move was temporarily blocked by the Planning Commission, it will probably happen after the public stops paying attention.

 

Supes Kim and Peskin tried to amend owner move-in eviction reporting requirements to include reporting buyouts. This failed on a 5-6 vote, with the Board's conservative majority taking the side of the landlords.

 

10) Fossil Fuel Divestment (9/12/17)

 

In 2013, Supervisors, led by John Avalos, unanimously voted to ask the SF Employee Retirement System (SFERS) to divest from fossil fuels. SFERS has $559 million (out of $16 billion) in such investments.

 

Because of the close ties of fossil fuel companies like Chevron to politicians in both the Democratic and Republican parties in CA, there is little political will to divest from or even regulate these companies properly. The SFERS is dominated by conservative retired SF police and firefighters, as well as by Mayoral appointees. Naturally, they did not divest, even though fossil fuel investments have done poorly compared to the rest of the SFERS portfolio.

 

Rather than mandating divstment, or putting it on the ballot so that voters could weigh in, SF Supes continued to drag their feet and grandstand by simply repeating the 2013 legislation. The Green Party feels strongly that concrete steps should be taken to divest, rather than simply urging divstment.

 

Predictably, the SFERS board ignored the Supes, voting in January to study the matter further.

 

11) Street Box in-lieu fees (9/26/17)

 

In 2011, Supervisors voted 6-5 to allow AT&T to put large utility boxes on public sidewalks. The ugly boxes are often covered with graffiti, and the law had required AT&T to landscape the boxes or pay a $7500 in-lieu fee to fund the City to pay local artists to paint murals on the boxes.

 

In a corporate giveaway, Supervisors voted in September to to dramatically reduce the fee (to $500 per box) and make it easier for AT&T to install more boxes.

 

12) Bike Chop Shops (10/3/17)

 

San Francisco conservatives have a long tradition of passing laws to give police more reasons to harass homeless people. This reduces public safety, as after spending all day pointlessly pushing homeless encampments from block to block, police have little energy or inventive to investigate violent crimes that Greens have urged them to prioritize.

 

The latest example of this is Jeff Sheehy's "chop shop" legislation, which authorizes police to confiscate property from any person owning five or more bike parts. Even though the law is clearly an unconstitutional attack on law-abiding San Franciscans, most don't care because police have no intention of enforcing the law against any people who are not homeless.

 

Bike theft is a huge problem, but one which the SFPD generally ignores or spends only a bare minimum of resources to investigate. If police conducted more foot patrols, they would witness dozens of these crimes first hand every day!

 

The conservative supporters of this legislation don't seem to care that numerous violent crimes and burglaries in San Francisco continue to go unsolved; instead, they voted to let the Department of Public Works and SFPD waste more time slapping homeless people with trumped-up charges. Even several "progressive" supervisors went along with this reckless disregard for public safety.

 

13) Neo-McCarthyism (10/31/17)

 

On Halloween, Supervisors voted unanimously for a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Trump.

 

We fully support Trump's impeachment. The "high crimes and misdemeanors" Trump has committed since taking office include illegal drone bombing of numerous foreign countries without obtaining Congressional authorization, unconstitutional warrantless spying on Americans, and enacting a "Muslim ban" in clear violation of the First Amendment. Lock him up! That's on top of Trump's other qualities that make him unfit for office: extreme racism, misogyny, and a history of crooked business practices.

 

The resolution passed by the Supervisors (read it here) doesn't mention one of these things! Instead, it's a deranged Democratic Party conspiracy theory that rambles on for 10 pages about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election, and about Trump's lack of respect for the FBI. Among the "impeachable offences" cited in the Board of Supervisors' document is "meeting with the Russian Ambassador in the Oval Office" after Trump had taken office in 2017.

 

With all the valid reasons to oppose Trump, why make up stuff about him being an agent of Putin? The Democrats' new-found reverance for the FBI should worry anybody with an appreciation for civil liberties.

 

Predictably, #RussiaGate is being used by conservative Democrats not just to attack Trump, but also to attack Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and anybody else to their left. Even journalists who don't accept without question every aspect of #RussiaGate, like Glenn Greenwald, are being smeared by Democrats as Russian agents. Although some liberals have fantasies that #RussiaGate will end in Trump's impeachment, endless coverage of this conspiracy theory has only moved the frame of political discourse to the right, thus benefitting Republicans in the long term.

 

While it's tempting to let the Democrats wallow in their fantasies as a form of therapy, their actions have real consequences for all of us. Rising tension with Russia (fueled by pro-war partisans from both major parties) has resulted in closing of the Russian consulate in San Francisco. With Russian and American war planes providing air cover for opposing factions in the Syrian civil war, there is a real risk of escalation. And as Dan Ellsberg's recent book revealed, hundreds of individuals worldwide have the power to start a civilization-ending nuclear war with a simple mistake. We should hold talks with other countries in order to reduce the risk of nuclear war, not fan up jingoistic flames against them.

 

The Board of Supervisors' resolution is dangerous and misguided.

 

14) Wells Fargo ATM Lease (11/14/17)

 

The SF Airport leased space to Wells Fargo for ATMs, raising $475,000 per year.

 

Several Supervisors, led by Jane Kim, objected to the lease, based on the small amount of revenue raised and Wells Fargo's status as the sole bidder. Wells Fargo is problematic even among big banks, as the fake account scandal showed. These Supervisors asked the airport to lease ATM space to local banks or credit unions instead. However, the board's majority supported Wells Fargo.

 

15) Recreational Cannabis (11/14/17 - 11/28/17)

 

After CA voted to legalize recreational cannabis, it was up to individual cities to adopt regulations for businesses to sell to adults. The Supes dropped the ball on this one, delaying the discussion until it was too late to pass legislation it time for sales to begin on Jan 1. However, they did manage to pass interim regulations that allowed sales a week later.

 

The legislation was passed in a series of votes between Nov 14 and Nov 28. Rather than scoring each vote individually, or try to pick the most important one, we only awarded points to Supes who consistently voted to regulate dispensaries in ways that are comparable to the way SF regulates liquor and pharmaceutical drug stores. Here are details of the individual votes we included:

 

On Nov 14, Supes Safai and Farrell tried to require dispensaries to submit additional paperwork they called a ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ and 'Security Policy' (which are not required of other SF businesses). Breed, Sheehy, and Tang joined them in supporting this. Fewer, Kim, Peskin, Ronen, and Yee were opposed, and Cohen was excused.

 

On Nov 28, Supes Tang and Yee voted to prohibit canabis sales within 1000 feet of schools and day care centers. Since day care centers include numerous home day care businesses, this would have effectively prohibited cannabis sales from almost everywhere in SF. Kim and Safai joined them in supporting this misguided proposal. Breed, Cohen, Farrell, Fewer, Peskin, Ronen, and Sheehy were opposed.

 

Supes Tang and Kim then tried to ban sales within 1000 feet of schools (which would also greatly restrict sales). Fewer, Safai, and Yee joined them. Breed, Cohen, Farrell, Peskin, Ronen, and Sheehy were opposed.

 

Tang and Yee then tried to ban sales with 600 feet of schools and day care businesses. This failed on the same 6-5 vote as the prior ban.

 

Only Supes Peskin and Ronen were unswayed by "Reefer Madness" hysteria and consistently supported reasonable regulations.

 

16) Presidio Terrace (11/28/17)

 

Presidio Terrace is a wealthy private gated community on the edge of the Presidio. The community (formerly home to Senator Dianne Feinstein) owns its own street, which is patrolled by security guards to keep the riff-raff out.

 

Apparently, the residents of Presidio Terrace abide by the Leona Helmsley maxim: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." After they neglecting to pay their tax bill for 30 years, the City sold the street at a tax auction.

 

To demonstrate that the rich live by different rules than the rest of us, Supes immediately agendized a repeal of the sale, and gave the street back to the wealthy scofflaw residents.

 

Greens not only diagree with this decision, we think that SF streets should all be publicly owned. SF should take over the street by eminent domain and end the practice of gated communities.

 

Notes

 

We did not score the Oracle software contract vote on Oct 17, because we were satisfied by the PUC's explanation that the initial costs of replacing the current (fairly new) system with something else would be too high. However, SF supervisors should never have agreed to buy this substandard accounting and purchasing software in the first place. We agree with Supervisor Kim and Supervisor Peskin that the City should always look for free and open source alternatives to proprietary software. If necessary, SF should contract with local developers to write such software, so that other cities can also use it.