OPINION: Why political money should be a top issue in the mayor’s race

By Larry Bush : 48hills – excerpt

Hidden money seeks to control SF politics

Pay to Play belongs at the top of the issues in the mayor’s campaign if for no other reason the hundreds of thousands (soon to be a million plus) that pour into independent expenditure committees to elect or defeat candidates.

What do these big-money donors want, why do they think they can get it, and how will they get it?

Point one: the past is not prologue. Once, we could track the source of funds going to a candidate, and it could signal what the candidate didn’t say him or herself. Tobacco money, casino money, realtors, energy companies, and others were flashing signals.

Point two: officials now have many routes for money to play a role beyond direct contributions. Well-heeled backers pick up airfare, hotel and travel expenses for officials. Corporations banned from making campaign contributions instead give in response to a candidate’s request, often to pay for the official’s own project. In the past eight years or so, more than $22 million flowed at the request of the mayor, various supervisors and others. Often it came in checks for $1 million or more. Officials sometimes establish nonprofits, and the next mayor could pay for a big-time inaugural with that money.

Some officials and many donors don’t want you to be able to follow the money, or even for you to know if they are meeting with money men and women.

Contributors hide through a thicket of committees, sending money through one that then goes to another that in turn pays into a third or even a fourth. Ann Ravel, past chair of the FPPC, sued over that tactic when unnamed sources poured millions into a California ballot fight — but we couldn’t get to the first original before it flowed through back channels….

That’s what is at issue in this election: a status quo that we can see rewards those with the most and requires those with the least (including middle-income residents) to pay the share that others aren’t paying… (more)

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Why the cops get a raise without accountability

By Tim Redmond : 48hils – excerpt

An obscure 1990 law, that passed with a lot of progressive support, forces the city into a very bad deal that lets the POA keep blocking reforms

An arbitration panel has decided that the San Francisco cops don’t have to back off from their efforts to delay or block reforms and will get a nine percent raise anyway.

The decision undermines the position of the mayor, the supervisors, and many of the city’s communities, who have been frustrated by the Police Officers Association and its constant resistance to reasonable changes in department policies(more)

How many obscure laws have been passed that tie the hands of our elected officials?  How do the citizens take back control of our city from the rogue agencies that are out of control and appear to be beyond the ability of our elected officials to regulate or even review?

City Hall firebrand Larry Bush quits Ethics group after leading quarter century of reforms

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez: sfexamminer – excerpt

Larry Bush, 72, who helped create the San Francisco Ethics Commission and guided numerous ethics reforms since the 1990s, is calling it quits…

The trailblazer of ethical derring-do announced his resignation from the citizen group he co-founded in 2010, Friends of Ethics, in a lament-laden email blasted with fire from the fingertips following a joint Board of Supervisors and Ethics Commission meeting. It was such a grand, spectacular failure that it surely caused some city policy wonks to weep…

The two bodies were poised to pass a sweeping package of ethics reforms April 3, intending to shine light on housing developers seeking to influence politicians to pass their projects, speed up the revelation of big-money backers funding local Super PACs, disclose money behind social media political campaigns and curtail you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours favors for politicians in the form of “behested payments” to pet causes…

The effort did not completely fail, and portions of it will be revisited at a further Ethics Commission meeting.

However, none of those reforms will come in time to root out political favors in this mayoral election, as they would have, had they been considered two years ago when supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim, who offered different elements of the package, first proposed them… (more)

RELATED:
Ethics chair resigns over failure to place campaign finance reforms on June ballot

Can Big Tech Be Tamed?

by Gary Kamiya : modernluxury – excerpt
(includes Photo-illustrations of Tech Titans by Clark Miller)

As the tech industry grows to unfathomable proportions, San Francisco needs to grow to match it. A call to arms for a city under siege.

I. A MIGHTY RIVER

Cities, it’s been said, are like rivers, and San Francisco has always been a leaping, unpredictable one, constantly jumping its banks and fed by the most varied and unlikely springs. I’ve been splashing in this unruly current for almost half a century. But several years ago, something happened upstream. A great deluge of money of a magnitude not seen since the bonanzas of the 19th century began to crumble our protective levees, hoisting San Francisco’s skyline, swamping its housing, stalling its traffic, and profoundly altering its character…

The combined market value of Apple, Facebook, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, all headquartered within 40 miles of downtown San Francisco, is more than $2.2 trillion—about the same as the gross domestic product of Italy, the eighth-largest economy in the world… (more)

 

 

We don’t need to destroy the Sunset to save San Francisco

By Jane Kim : medium – excerpt

State politicians have been rushing forward a “transit oriented” housing proposal that will allow virtually unlimited construction of luxury condos throughout San Francisco.

The proposal is Senate Bill 827 (SB 827) and it allows developers to build up to 8 stories of luxury housing in areas that meet “minimum levels of transit service.” 96% of San Francisco’s parcels, including the Sunset, Richmond, Excelsior and Chinatown meet this standard. And the proposal upzones our entire City without increasing developer contribution to transit, parks, schools or other services critical to sustaining our neighborhoods. This is not how we build housing or grow livable cities…

Meanwhile, the cities who refuse to invest in public transit aren’t required to build any new housing. In fact, SB 827 rewards bad actors who refuse to build public transit or housing — sorely needed throughout the region. The Sierra Club California opposes this “pro-environment” bill writing, “While infill development near transit is the most desirable option, we believe that [SB 827] is a heavy-handed approach to encourage development that will ultimately lead to less transit being offered and more pollution generated, among other unintended consequences.”…

This plan is a failure. We can build more housing without destroying our neighborhoods...(more)

 

No Vacancy for the Homeless

By Joe Eskenazi ; sfpublicpress – excerpt (includes audio link and graphs)

Dozens of Residential Hotels Have Rooms to Spare, but Officials Cannot Force Owners to Rent

Every night, thousands of San Franciscans have no place to sleep. And yet, every night hundreds — possibly thousands — of single-room occupancy hotel units are left empty.

According to the latest count, 4,353 people were living unsheltered in our city. Among them, 1,020 were between 18 and 24 years old. If, by some alchemy, the city could beam them into these empty rooms, the entire population of homeless youths and a decent number of older adults could be indoors by nightfall…

Over the past 20 years, San Francisco has underwritten the price of thousands of formerly homeless residents’ rooms in private hotels run by nonprofits. But now it is a seller’s market. Hotel owners can charge upward of $2,000 for rooms in hotels formerly occupied by the down and out. Other owners are holding those rooms empty, perhaps in search of an even bigger payout down the road when they sell their buildings…(more)

 

In San Francisco, Newsom policy reported undocumented youth to ICE

By Casey Tolan : mercurynews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO — During his run for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he’s proud to represent a “sanctuary state,” sparred publicly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over immigration, and vowed he’d go to jail to protect undocumented immigrants.

But a fight over sanctuary policy a decade ago when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco suggests that he wasn’t always as strident a defender of immigrant rights…

In July 2008, Newsom imposed a city policy that reported undocumented youth arrested for felonies to federal immigration authorities. That decision — made the week after a father and his two sons were killed by an undocumented immigrant — meant that some kids were put at risk of deportation even if charges against them were later dropped.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to overturn Newsom’s policy in 2009, mandating that minors could only be referred to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement if they were convicted of a felony. But Newsom’s administration simply ignored the board, continuing to turn juvenile arrestees over to ICE for the rest of his term… (more)