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SF’s new progressive era could come to a halt in November

September 7, 2016

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s political progressive movement may continue to surge — or find itself checked come November.

With 64 days before voters head to the polls on Nov. 8 — early voting at City Hall begins on Oct. 11 — campaigns are expected to kick into high gear, as they traditionally do, after Labor Day weekend.

Adding to intensifying politics, the Board of Supervisors returns today from its four-week-long summer legislative recess.

Some nine months ago, Supervisor Aaron Peskin ushered in a new progressive era by defeating Mayor Ed Lee’s appointment to the District 3 seat, Julie Christensen, and taking over the seat he previously served from 2001-2009, another time the progressives dominated the board’s politics.

Peskin’s victory last year created a six-vote progressive majority voting bloc, after progressives had been in the minority, leading to a left-leaning agenda at odds with the mayor and his moderate allies…

The progressives succeeded in passing Proposition C at the ballot in June, which increased affordable housing requirements in new developments; placed a moratorium on converting single-room occupancy units; and passed tougher controls on short-term rentals, over which Airbnb is suing The City in federal court.

A handful of progressive-backed measures are also on the November ballot that take aim at the mayor’s power, such as the creation of a public advocate or splitting up the mayoral appointment power of the board overseeing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The progressive faction also “took back” the Democratic County Central Committee, or DCCC, in June, which makes some of the most influential candidate endorsements in local politics.

But with six seats on the board up for grabs in November, including three currently held by progressives who are termed out, there’s a chance the progressives could lose their board majority.

And in at least one contest, they may not be doing themselves any favors.

Progressive unity questioned…

Framing the stakes

As progressive interests seek to prevail this November, they are framing the debate, in part, around money…

Jim Ross is a political consultant for tenant advocates and labor unions backing progressive candidates in the open races in Districts 1, 9 and 11, that’s Sandra Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Alvarenga, respectively.

Ross cast the contests as less ideological and more about financial interests, putting developer, real estate and the tech community on one side and the labor and neighborhood groups on the other.

The divide, he said, is whether large companies and developers “should be dictating city policy around development, around regulation, around taxation or should there be at least a fairer system across the board.”

Board versus mayor…

Peskin, who has blasted the mayor in the past for his cozy relationship with tech interests, took aim Thursday at the mayor’s chief-of-staff Steve Kawa, going so far as to say Kawa should retire.

“I think he has helped create this kind of politics of embattlement,” Peskin said. “It’s not an open, gregarious administration. It’s not like they want to partner with people or work with people. It’s very  guarded, it’s very insulated”

Still, Peskin emphasized he has no issues personally with the mayor…

Breed, who ran on the moderate slate for the DCCC in June, acknowledged the frustration in The City.

“There is a lot of blame on the mayor for a lot of things. I’m not here to defend him.” Breed added, “Working with him and his administration, it can be quite challenging and frustrating.”…

Mayor’s race 2019…
As soon as November is over, the political focus will shift to the mayor’s race in 2019, when Lee is termed out of office. The board’s dynamics are expected to be greatly influenced by this race as at least three board members are rumored potential mayoral candidates: Breed, Peskin and Supervisor Mark Farrell.

Ross said that multiple board members vying for the top city post could blur the ideological lines as they would seek to build new political coalitions.

“The progressive-moderate split will become much murkier after this election,” Ross said. That means, he said, each board member will start as a “coalition of one” and have to figure out issue by issue how to achieve the six votes needed for passing legislation…

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