Chris Daly

A progressive primary for District 6


By Supervisor Chris Daly

OPINION Ten years ago, the newly drawn District 6 (which includes the Tenderloin, South of Market, and North Mission) was thought to be politically up for grabs. With an aggressive grassroots campaign and a progressive sweep across the city, we won the seat. Despite small demographic shifts to the right over the years, we’ve built a clear progressive identity for our district. Community stakeholders and all of progressive San Francisco should be proud of this accomplishment.

In 2006, despite downtown’s major effort to unseat me, I held on with a nine point, or 1,600-vote, margin. I would guess that this is generally reflective of the current political dynamics in the district. In other words, District 6 is roughly a progressive +10 district.

But heading into the first open-seat race in the district in 10 years, we have to take care to not become victims of our own success. Already, four serious progressive candidates have declared for the seat and are now raising money, seeking endorsements, formulating campaign strategy, and assembling their teams.

Our system for electing supervisors allows voters to rank their top three choices. In other words, even if all progressive voters ranked three progressive candidates on every ballot, a certain number of those votes would not transfer to the strongest progressive candidate. In District 6, where the political contests have been pretty black and white for a decade, it’s a safe bet we’ll have more than our share of voters who only vote for one candidate. (In 2006, a number of voters even marked me as their first, second, and third choice.)Sensing an unexpected political opportunity, downtown is working to coalesce around a single candidate to steal away the seat and the progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors. We can’t afford to let that happen. Our 10-point margin of error is too small to risk moving forward on our current path.

That’s why I have asked all the major progressive candidates in the race to participate in a progressive primary early this summer. A central polling place will be open to all District 6 voters. We will have a ranked-choice ballot that will include the progressive candidates who have qualified for public financing (raised more than $5,000 in qualifying contributions.) Permanent absentee voters will be able to mail in their ballots. In most respects, the progressive primary will look like an officially sanctioned election.

The primary will give district voters an opportunity to signal their early preference in candidates and will give the progressive campaigns much-needed experience identifying and turning out their supporters. More important, it will give the rest of us a window into what otherwise could become a very confusing progressive cluster.

The winner of the primary will become the beneficiary of my endorsement and campaign support. It also will be a momentum-builder for the campaign that is already strongest within the district and will signal to all progressive voters that, even if they’ve committed to another candidate, they need to make sure they rank the progressive primary winner on their ballot.

As progressives continue to build our politics, we need to keep creating democratic forums and structures. I hope the Progressive Primary becomes a useful component of our political movement.

Supervisor Chris Daly represents District 6.

No balance in two-year budget


OPINION There’s no more important decision made by the Board of Supervisors than that of the city’s annual budget. Every year the board sets the city’s priorities by appropriating more than $6 billion. In good economic times, the board uses the budget process to set new policy directions for San Francisco. In bad times, the annual budget is the board’s only real chance to save vital services by making targeted appropriations while strategically reducing other parts of the budget.

That’s why a charter amendment to have only biannual budgeting is a bad idea.

The fact that a two-year budget is being pushed by the Newsom administration and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce should give progressives pause. Unfortunately, downtown forces have successfully used the worst budget year ever to woo some progressive budget stakeholders.

Their argument sounds good on its face. A multiyear budget would help smooth out the highs and lows, requiring City Hall to deal with pending fiscal emergencies sooner. It would also mean every other year off from having to spend all that energy turning people out to endless budget meetings and lobbying to save the programs we care about.

But the way a two-year budget would actually play out would mean that progressive budget stakeholders would have only half the opportunities for budget input through the generally more responsive Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office would be able to centralize more power without having to get annual approvals from the board. In other words, a two-year budget would make the Office of Mayor even more insulated from the public and members of the board on the decisions that affect us the most.

Additionally, two-year budgets would be unwieldy and inaccurate. Over the past nine years of out-year projections by the Controller’s Office, the average difference between the projected and actual surplus or deficit was nearly $250 million. For example, last year the controller estimated our 2009-10 budget deficit would be about $46 million. This year it’s pegged at $438 million. Of course, as our real revenue data comes in, this number will surely change again. Unfortunately, we won’t know how much revenue we received for this upcoming budget year until we are a month or two into the following fiscal year.

There are serious flaws with our annual budget process. In difficult years, the mayor has too much unchecked power to make mid-year budget changes. Earlier this year, Mayor Gavin Newsom enacted a $118 million budget package that included tens of millions in health and human service cuts and more than 400 layoffs without approval of the Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, when a majority of board members voted to cut pork from the mayor’s budget, he was able to avert that cut with his veto pen.

Leaving the decision about millions of dollars’ worth of service cuts in the middle of the year turns the democratic budget process — with checks and balances between the mayor and board — on its head. Correcting this problem with the current budget process would surely be a worthwhile effort.

Meanwhile, we must stay focused on this year’s budget process to preserve as many of the vital services as we can. *

Sup. Chris Daly represents District 6. Ed Kinchley is a labor activist.


We stand with Carole Migden


OPINION As longtime fans of the Guardian and as allies in almost every fight, including the struggles for public power, affordable housing, people-focused land use policy, and clean and open government, we do not like finding ourselves on the opposite side of an issue as important as this year’s state Senate race. Respectfully, we must say that we believe the Guardian‘s failure to endorse Carole Migden in that race was a colossal mistake — not unlike the decision to endorse Angela Alioto over Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez for mayor in 2003.

Both Leno and Migden are good votes in Sacramento. But the simple reality is that Carole Migden has been there for the local left in ways that make her the only choice for progressives willing to take on the establishment. Certainly Migden has made herself vulnerable to political attacks. Her failure to retain a professional treasurer for her campaign finance filings was clearly an error of judgment. But for us, none of this outweighs her incredible record of achievement in Sacramento or her far more reliable support of progressive candidates and causes in San Francisco.

Guardian readers should by now be familiar with Migden’s long record in Sacramento: the California Clean Water Act, saving the Headwaters Forest, community choice aggregation (CCA), a series of domestic partnership laws that have established a viable alternative to marriage in California while setting the stage for extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, a remarkable package of foster care reforms, and cosmetics safety legislation.

But it is Migden’s role locally that makes her so important to San Francisco progressives. Migden is the only candidate in the race who has been there for progressives in difficult political battles. As candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee, we are grateful that the Guardian endorsed our entire slate. But we wonder if the Guardian considered the fact that the vast majority (indeed, almost unanimous) of Hope Slate candidates are Migden supporters, because they are the leading progressive candidates to retain a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors in November. It is not coincidental.

Few politicians who have risen as high in the establishment food chain as Carole Migden have done so retaining a willingness to fight for the underdog. Guardian readers should be familiar with the litany: she supported Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick in 2000; reached out to Chris Daly soon thereafter and stood strongly with him against subsequent challenges; never, ever supported Gavin Newsom; attended the Progressive Convention; and financed progressive campaigns from the Affordable Housing Bond to Muni reform.

Migden is a scrappy street fighter who helps other scrappy street fighters. As one of the very first queers and one of the first women to take political power at these levels, she had to be. Someday progressive politics may not need scrappy street fighters (and someday maybe women will be better represented in public office) — but not yet.

We are proud to stand with Carole Migden, as she has stood with us. She is the candidate in this race who we can count on to fight when it really counts.

Bill Barnes, Chris Daly, Michael Goldstein, Robert Haaland, Joe Julian, Eric Mar, Rafael Mandelman, Eric Quezada, and Debra Walker

The writers are Hope Slate candidates for the DCCC.

Why I’m with Carole Migden


OPINION With the election on the horizon, declared candidates have hired their campaign consultants, tested the field with expensive polls, and hit the city’s political club circuit hoping to lock up early endorsements. Unfortunately, the race getting the bulk of the attention is not San Francisco’s political watermark, November’s mayoral contest. It’s not even the new super-duper Tuesday presidential primary in February. As crazy as it may seem, the election getting the most attention in San Francisco right now is the June 2008 California State Senate primary.

After several months of polling and speculation, on March 2 Assemblymember Mark Leno announced that he would be challenging former ally and incumbent senator Carole Migden.

Make no mistake about it: Migden is one of the most fearsome politicians in Sacramento. She knows how to stand up to the governor, and she has a long list of progressive accomplishments, including authoring the state Clean Water Act, enabling local governments to do community choice aggregation, and protecting the vulnerable from predatory lending. Migden is already endorsed by progressive supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Gerardo Sandoval, progressive school board commissioner Eric Mar, former president of the Board of Supervisors Harry Britt, and progressive activists Debra Walker and Michael Goldstein. She’s also up double digits, so it’s time we call this one for Migden and get on with the job of putting a progressive in the Mayor’s Office.

Progressives know that to defeat Mayor Gavin Newsom this year, we will have to mount a significant and focused grassroots campaign. Any distractions will be costly. Migden-Leno is clearly a major distraction. Leno’s challenge takes both Leno and Migden off the progressive list of possible mayoral candidates. And more important, progressive energy, volunteers, and money that should be going into the effort to defeat Newsom will be gobbled up by the State Senate race.

Leno’s longtime political consulting firm, Barnes, Mosher, Whitehurst, and Lauter, is probably best known for its role in successfully challenging San Francisco’s soft-money regulations and then managing the record-shattering $3.2 million soft-money operation to reelect Mayor Willie Brown in 1999. BMW went on to help elect Newsom in 2003.

BMW not only provides the money and operations to get its candidates elected; the firm also — by its own proud account — seeks to influence these elected officials to get deals done for its corporate clients.

One of BMW’s biggest corporate clients is the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which opposed San Francisco’s minimum-wage and paid-sick-leave laws and is now suing the city to stop it from enacting our universal health care plan. Progressives shouldn’t allow Leno and BMW to advance up the political ladder. *

Chris Daly

Supervisor Chris Daly represents District 6.

Next week: "Why we’re with Mark Leno," by Theresa Sparks and Cecilia Chung.

This November, let’s fix Muni


OPINION In 2007 quality public transportation is not just a hallmark of a world-class city; it’s our best defense against global warming. In a state where half of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from mobile sources, we have to provide people the real choice to get out of their cars and onto public transit.

Nationwide, public transit use was up 3 percent last year. In San Francisco, Muni’s ridership declined 2 percent. This is a city that understands the threat of global warming, rallies against oil wars, believes in an improved quality of life with fewer cars, and long ago adopted a transit-first policy; the Muni ridership drop is totally unacceptable.

Muni should be attracting new riders, not driving the existing users off the system. A reliable Muni is also a serious social justice issue: 29 percent of San Francisco households get by without a car, mostly because they can’t afford it.

Muni’s meltdown in the 1990s was one of the biggest failures of the Willie Brown administration. The crisis caused voters to amend the City Charter in 1999 and create the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), setting explicit standards of service quality and guaranteeing predictable funding. Using new capital from the reauthorization of the sales tax for transportation, Muni was able to replace its bus fleet and restore most of its operability.

However, early in the Gavin Newsom administration, Muni service quickly began to deteriorate. Recently, Muni officials even sought to lower their on-time goals. This month’s opening of the T–Third Street line brought Muni metro service to a near standstill. Muni leadership apparently agreed that the problems were unacceptable — they spent much of their time passing out written apologies to Muni riders. However, these service interruptions are symptoms of deeper, structural problems at Muni. Apologies are not enough. It’s clear that significant additional Muni reform is necessary.

That’s why we are proposing a charter amendment for this November’s ballot to make managers and operators more accountable for their performance and to find new sources of revenue for this struggling system.

The MTA currently lacks the vision, accountability, and resources to deliver the transportation system that San Francisco needs. While Muni’s structural deficit has risen to $150 million a year, Muni officials have been slow to propose revenue options, and we know voters won’t be happy to provide more funding without structural reforms that make those public investments worthwhile. Measured in passengers carried per hour of revenue service, Muni’s current productivity has dropped to a historic low.

We need to make sure Muni’s managers and service planners have the tools to deploy their workforce efficiently, and we need to hold them accountable for delivering promised service.

We don’t know if Newsom will support substantial Muni reforms — but the system has broken down on his watch, and every San Franciscan who relies on Muni and who cares about the environment needs competent leadership from city hall now. *

Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin

Supervisors Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin represent Districts 6 and 3, respectively.