OPINION Halloween 2011. Next week San Francisco will choose a new mayor. Is this a masquerade? Who is behind Mayor Ed Lee’s mask?
I’ll call it exactly how I see it: I am disappointed in Ed Lee. I’ve known him since before I was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2000. I wanted to be hopeful, but I actually can’t say that I’m surprised. Ed Lee has always been a go-along-to-get-along bureaucrat who has moved up the feeding chain by doing the bidding of former Mayor Willie Brown and Willie’s loyal lieutenant Rose Pak. I had a fantasy that maybe Ed would rise to the occasion, become his own person, and emerge as an independent leader free of those that orchestrated his appointment to “interim” mayor.
But in the first year since appointment (in one of the most masterful political plays since Abe Ruef got Eugene Schmitz installed as mayor in 1902), Ed has consistently sided with the powers and their “City Family” that “made” him. Even I was astounded when Ed moved legislation to displace hundreds of hotel workers at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. And I was actually shocked when he did the bidding of the right-wing Restaurant Association and vetoed common-sense legislation to stop the exploitation of local restaurant workers.
His list of disappointments grow. He orchestrated the demolition of more than 1,500 units of rent controlled housing at Park Merced. Then he had the audacity to laud Pacific Gas and Electric Co. as a “great local corporation” on the anniversary of the lethal San Bruno pipeline explosion.
Several pols have been credited with the statement that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Well, Willie and Rose and their friends at the Chamber of Commerce got milk! Willie Brown is fundraising for three different committees to get Lee elected, Rose Pak started two different fundraising committees of her own, and right-wing Republican billionaires like Ron Conway and right wing corporations like Pacific Gas and Electric are lining up to throw money into the coffers.
Why? Because Ed is their guy.
The proof is right in front of us. All of Willie’s trademark slights of hand are resurfacing in Ed Lee’s friends’ bag of tricks: money laundering, pay to play politics, allegations of voter fraud. These are all hallmarks of Brown and his cronies, all executed under the visage of the supposedly humble Ed Lee. And voters shouldn’t fall for it. Because if we do, we’ll go back to the days before Gavin Newsom when backroom deals, self-dealing, cronyism and out-and-out corruption were the rule of the day.
It is no coincidence that in a year gripped by the divide between the 99 and 1 percent, the latter is working feverishly to elect Lee. If you don’t believe me, look it up on the Ethics Commission website (sfgov.org/ethics). PG&E alone has contributed at least $50,000 to one such “independent” committee.
I know this is the first race for mayor with ranked choice voting—and it is confusing. That’s a concern. But frankly, at this point all I care about is that voters understand not to mark Ed Lee anywhere on their ballot.
The good news? The outcome of the Mayor’s race is far from a foregone conclusion. San Franciscans are seeing through the millions of corporate dollars being spent on behalf of Lee.
You have a choice—three, in fact. And you should use them strategically, because you can make a difference by voting not just with your heart, but also with your mind. That means making sure you do your research and vote for three candidates who represent your values—and have a chance to win.
The Guardian has endorsed three candidates—Avalos, Herrera, and Yee—who have demonstrated enough of a commitment to progressive values and an aversion to the powers of the once-dormant machine that, like a vampire, is attempting to rise from the crypt. These three candidates also happen to have the best shot to beat Lee. Your votes for all three—in any order—are your best guarantee not to elect Ed Lee.
Vote for three and don’t vote for Lee!
Aaron Peskin chairs the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.