By Bruce B. Brugmann
I always read Matt Smith, the star columnist of the SF Weekly/New Times/Village Voice Media, with interest. But he often puzzles me. For example, in his column of May 30, he was banging away at his favorite target, those dread progressives, (“Lacking (Progressive) Definition, Lefty factions and a phony convention do not an effective political party make”). And he dropped this puzzling nugget:
“For more than a generation (liberals have been) opposing growth, while snubbing traditional liberal causes such as uplifting gays or African-Americans.
“When San Franciscans, for example, were dying en masse from AIDS during the l980s, progressives’ minds were more preoccupied with opposing ‘Manhattanization,’ the term they coined for new office buildings. Today, when African-Americans in the Bayview District are losing their sons, nephews, friends, and neighbors to drug-related
street violence, progressives’ official political pamphlet is concerned primarily with enacting a moratorium on construction of market-rate apartments.”
The truth, as anyone who was here and had friends and loved ones dying of AIDS knows, the progressives in San Francisco put together a world-renowned system for caring for people with AIDS and pressing for prevention and research funding. The ‘San Francisco Model’ did not come from Washington or Sacramento or Dianne Feinstein. The progressives, led by people like Harry Britt and Cleve Jones and leaders of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club etc., did it themselves. Progressives did, indeed, oppose Manhattanization (and fight for rent control and police oversight and a lot of other good causes) in that era, but AIDS was very much a centerpiece of the progressive agenda.