Monday, February 12, 2024

Endorsements for the San Francisco election of March 2024

It's time for me to tell you how I'm voting in March, a Gray Report tradition. But I dread writing this endorsement post. I have been thinking about how to phrase this for months. I fear I am going to lose friends for saying what I'm about to say.

Let me be very clear upfront. For national politics, Donald Trump is the greatest danger facing the United States today. We must do everything we can to keep him out of office. He has promised to be a "dictator for a day," and to encourage Russia to attack our NATO allies, among other things. It boggles my mind that he has the support that he does. I'm not going to belabor this point.

I also encourage people in other states not to send back to Congress the Republicans who have accomplished absolutely nothing this term, and who continue to support and protect their fascist leader.

What I am about to say applies only to San Francisco. I have thoughts on California politics in general that I will share in autumn, but the following statement does not apply to California, only San Francisco (and also Oakland, but I don't vote there).

We have to vote all of the progressives out of office in San Francisco.

There, I said it. It feels good to get that out.

The reason is simple. San Francisco progressives simply do not see San Francisco's problems the way normal people do: crime, businesses leaving, and a drop in tourism. We can't solve our problems if we don't recognize what they actually are.

They believe San Francisco's biggest problems are Israel's invasion of Gaza, exorbitant CEO salaries, income inequality, and homeless people not being given free furnished apartments downtown. (It appears their proposal to pay black city residents $5 million cash in reparations, each, is dead, for now.)

For folks outside California, it's easiest to explain it this way. Our progressives are just like your MAGAs. They are extremists. They are obsessed with national issues, and ignore local issues. They are incapable of the basics of governing, like passing a budget. They are hate-filled people who shout down any attempt at conversation on issues. Instead they argue by personal insults and intimidation. They don't accept facts that don't fit their worldview. And they're often openly racist, though unlike MAGAs the people they openly disparage are Asians and Jews.

Longtime readers of this blog know that nationally, I could easily qualify as a progressive. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary in both 2016 and 2020. As recently as 2018 I voted against the centrist mayoral candidate in favor of both of her left-wing opponents.

Let me be clear who San Francisco progressives are. They are not Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris. San Francisco progressives hate all three of them. Each of those politicians faced their fiercest opposition here from the left, not the right.

Instead, our local progressives are people whose goal, literally, is to cause problems for the city. Here's an example.

Courtesy KGO-TV
Blocking the Bay Bridge was their main accomplishment last year. Progressives planned for months to disrupt the city during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, when the world's media came here and we could hope for positive coverage to help restart our tourism industry. What SF progressives came up with was well-coordinated. They stopped cars on the bridge in every westbound lane. They handcuffed themselves together and chained their cars together. Some of them threw their car keys off the bridge. It took police several hours to clear the bridge and restore the main traffic artery between Oakland and San Francisco.

They had great planning, coordination and secrecy, and tremendous local impact, as local police were helpless to stop them in their goal -- which was to make life more difficult in San Francisco. It reminded me of 9/11, and I don't say that lightly. At least they didn't kill anyone. But SF progressives put so much work into something that was intended to be bad for the city.

Nobody outside San Francisco noticed because progressives protest here about something every week; it's their favorite social activity. Blocking the Bay Bridge didn't end the war in Gaza, but it was a local pain in the ass, and that's San Francisco progressives' political goal in a nutshell.

This is why we have to work together to stop them. We can't fix this city if we keep in power people whose main goal is to be a pain in the ass.

I was attracted to progressive politics for a long time because I am at heart a pragmatist, and 20 years ago the progressive position was usually the practical one. Fighting global warming. Preserving the environment. Supporting mass transit. That sort of thing. San Francisco was once an attractive place to talk about issues because it wasn't politics as usual, and we could actually discuss, for example, whether it's a good idea to eliminate bail for people accused of a crime. (We're trying that, and it turns out to have problems. I think they are fixable; I don't think we should have a separate system of justice for rich people. But I also have learned many judges we have now won't address those problems.)

George Floyd's murder accelerated a trend here, not just of the left's move into identity politics, but into the behavior of the left becoming not just more aggressive, but more conformist. I am risking being doxxed, harassed on the street, and possibly even assaulted by writing the things I am now writing. I don't want to live in fear, so I'm writing this anyway. But I worry that I will pay a price, both personally and professionally.

That is the thesis statement. We need a sea change in San Francisco politics. We must vote out all of the progressives. I don't want Republicans running this city, though that's what the progressives will accuse me of. (To them, you're either righteous or an evil racist right-winger, like Nancy Pelosi.) I want this city run by the only politicians who ever accomplish anything in this country: Moderate Democrats.

Some of this problem is due to the decline in local media. The excellent progressive newspaper Bay Guardian is defunct; I really miss its well-researched endorsements. Instead, progressives now click on QR codes that lead to a list of "who is the most progressive" in each race, with no explanation. The Guardian cared about competence. Progressives here now do not.

The San Francisco Chronicle and the related website SFGate have openly abandoned covering news that progressives in the newsroom don't approve of; their executive editor told a journalism conference, "Objectivity is dead," and it's obvious from their coverage. Every time a business closes here and says crime is the reason, the Chronicle or SFGate publishes a piece saying that's not true. "Walgreen's is closing stores everywhere. Nordstrom's sales are down." Etc. Basically, according to the Chronicle, every single business owner who says they're leaving because of crime is lying. The Chronicle simply is not reliable anymore, not just for endorsements, but for news coverage.*

* (Because my main gig is wine journalism, let me be clear that my criticism of the Chron does not extend to its coverage of wine, which is excellent, especially now that Esther Mobley is back.)

Ten years ago, if you told me I would say the most reliable political endorsements in San Francisco would come from a bunch of tech guys, I would have laughed. But today it's true. GrowSF does the best voter guide in San Francisco; better than mine. Their main issue is building more housing. That's not my main issue, so I'm still doing my own endorsements. I care most about the general decline of the city.

I believe San Francisco will rebound. It will always have the advantages of geography and climate. But I want it to rebound in my lifetime, and that won't happen unless we vote all the progressives out of office.

If you think the true victims of crime are the shoplifters and "bippers," (car break-ins are so common here that they have a cute nickname), because of the many societal injustices they face, then keep voting progressive. If not, here's how to vote in March.

President: Joe Biden

Come on, man. I would vote for a can of tuna over Trump.

US Senator: Adam Schiff

I also like Katie Porter and hope these two end up in the runoff in the fall. But Schiff has been in Congress longer and has been very effective. Either would be good, but to me, Schiff has earned it.

Barbara Lee was right about opposing the war in Iraq in 2001. It is the only thing she has done in Congress in more than two decades. She's a fine representative for her Berkeley district, which likes protest votes and doesn't want to get its hands dirty by actually participating in crafting legislation. But California deserves more than that. We already have one Senator who does very little. As the largest state in the union, California should play a larger role in national legislation than it currently does.

You have to vote twice: once for Schiff to complete Dianne Feinstein's term (I told you in 2018 that she was too old), and once for him to get a new six-year term.

Members, Democratic Central Committee, Assembly District 17

Let's start voting out the progressives here
, as this committee steers issues the wrong way and supports the wrong candidates. You can basically take any progressive voting guide, and vote for everybody they don't recommend.

I will follow GrowSF's choices and vote for the following 14 people:

Emma Heiken
Lily Ho
Cedric G. Akbar
Nancy Tung
Michael Lai
Laurance Lem Lee
Peter Ho Lik Lee
Trevor Chandler
Carrie Barnes
Lyn Werbach
Joe Sangiradi

Luis A. Zamora
Matt Dorsey (one of the few good members of the Board of Supervisors)
Bilal Mahmood

If you're in Assembly District 19, I encourage you to read Grow SF's recommendations there. But I do want to put in a plug for Marjan Philhour (at left), who upsets progressives so much that a left-wing journalist stole her campaign signs, got caught, and was fired from her job. Philhour is running against Connie Chan for supervisor in the fall and we need Philhour to win that race.

US Representative, District 11: Nancy Pelosi

Or as San Francisco progressives like to say, radical right-wing warmonger Nancy Pelosi.

State Senator, District 11: Scott Wiener

We still have a few sensible moderate Democrats moving up in office and Wiener is one of them. I can imagine him as a mayoral candidate in the future, though he (and many others) might be hoping to take over Pelosi's seat when she retires.

State Assembly Member, District 17: Matt Haney

Haney is an opportunist. He spoke the progressive language of us vs. them, evil right-wing capitalist warmongers, etc., to get elected to the Board of Supervisors in a very progressive district, then tacked to the center to win the Assembly seat. I don't trust him. But the alternatives are simply inadequate.

Judge of the Superior Court, Seat #1: Chip Zecher

For years I have advocated retaining all judges so that the judicial process is not politicized. Well, too late for that, as incumbent Begert has been out campaigning with the progressive wing. That's not great. But it's not why we need to replace him.

Begert, and judges like him, are why eliminating bail isn't working. If you're going to let people out on their own recognizance, you have to be willing to keep dangerous violent multiple offenders in jail awaiting trial. Begert doesn't do that: he has released sex offenders into the community to offend again and again.

Progressive judges like this are one of our biggest problems. They refuse to accept that some people are career criminals. We have to change that if we want to solve this city's problems. Everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense, but the judicial system should also protect the public. Begert does not.

Zecher is a well-qualified attorney who is on the board of directors of UC Law. He says he's running because he believes judges like Begert are not holding drug dealers accountable. He's right.

Judge of the Superior Court, Seat #13: Jean Myungjin Roland

Speaking of holding drug dealers accountable, incumbent Patrick Thompson released drug dealers on their own recognizance in 17 separate cases; 10 used their freedom to commit more felonies. One guy Thompson let out had 14 prior arrests for dealing drugs, and after Thompson freed him, the next time he was arrested, he had nearly a kilo of fentanyl on him. A federal judge made the rare move of overruling Thompson and ordering the dealer held without bail.

Thompson might be the single worst judge in Northern California. Almost anyone would be better.

Roland has spent 22 years in the San Francisco District Attorney's office. She managed to survive the Chesa Boudin regime, which should tell locals that she's obviously not a law-and-order extremist. This isn't a hard decision. She's competent; Thompson is not. This might be the most important choice on this March ballot.

Proposition A (affordable housing bond): Yes

To be honest, I don't believe San Francisco in its current politically dysfunctional state will be able to build the affordable housing that this bond is supposed to pay for.

But a bond doesn't cost the city all that much, and if we get a regime change on the Board of Supes that would allow housing to be built -- if we can vote out the multimillionaire "socialist" who votes down every housing project proposal because it keeps the value of his family's rental property high -- than we'll need the money on hand.

Proposition B (police staffing levels): No

This is a poorly written proposition put forward by a lousy mayoral candidate to get attention without doing anything to address our crime situation. The idea is that we would have minimum police staffing levels, but only IF voters later approve a new tax to pay for it. This is just politicking with the police. 

Proposition C (real estate transfer tax waiver): Yes

Currently, if you want to convert office space into rental housing, you have to pay a transfer tax. This is self-defeating. We have huge office vacancy rates and a shortage of housing. Converting some office space to housing is an elegant solution that might revitalize downtown.

Proposition D (changes to ethics laws): Yes

In addition to being inept, our leadership is corrupt, as a City Hall bribery scandal unfolded under the last few years. (The Chronicle either didn't know most contractors paid bribes to get permits, or did know and decided not to write about it; I'm not sure which is worse.)

This is a minor change that would put the Ethics Commission in charge of ethics training, rather than each individual city department. I'm not sure how much of a difference that will make, but we have seen that the departments cannot police themselves.

Proposition E (police procedures): YES YES YES

Do you think the true victims of crime are the people who shoplift, break into cars, and intimidate shopkeepers? If so, vote no on this. The rest of us need to outvote those pro-crime progressives and vote YES.

This would allow cops to use surveillance cameras and would restore their ability to chase violent criminals. Yes, San Francisco currently lets the crooks get away because progressives don't want them followed. That's why things are the way they are.

Proposition F (drug testing for services): Yes

Five years ago I might have voted against this. But now we have a fentanyl epidemic that killed more people in this city than Covid, and just continues to ramp up. We need this now.

Currently the city pays people up to $712 a month in cash assistance. This would require them to undergo drug testing to get the cash. (To be clear, cannabis is a legal drug and would not be tested for.) If they fail, they have to enter a drug treatment program. If they don't, their city cash is cut off.

A lot of that cash is going for drugs. People can keep getting the cash AND keep using it for fentanyl and meth AND keep testing positive, as long as they are participating in a drug treatment program. It's really not too much to ask. It's hard for me to believe other cities would be this generous.

Proposition G (algebra for 8th graders): Yes

Here's yet another annoying thing about San Francisco progressives: they want every kid in public schools to be taught at the level of the worst students. They think it's "elitist" to give smarter kids more advanced classes. This is not how we're going to educate the next generation of leaders.

I went to a public school in a working-class neighborhood in Baltimore and I could take algebra in 8th grade because I could handle it. A lot of times I really don't understand progressives, and this is one. Nobody is going to force the worst students into algebra. But let's stop holding back the best students.

State proposition 1 (mental health bond): Yes

Crazy homeless people screaming into the sky have become one of the most memorable features of visiting San Francisco. Ask any tourist. Drugs are a large part of the problem, but if you live here, you know that there are some street people who don't seem in control of their own actions. Los Angeles and Sacramento have the same problem.

The U.S. used to have a nationwide system of mental hospitals to which people could be committed. President Ronald Reagan shut that down. I have read a lot about this issue from all sides, and have come to the conclusion that Reagan wasn't wrong. State mental hospitals were basically warehouses for crazy people where the staff abused them. It was a bad system. Unfortunately, Reagan didn't have a better solution than letting them live on the streets. If you have seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, you might understand when I say I'm not sure it's worse now, for the crazy homeless people. It's definitely worse for the rest of us.

This is an attempt to create a more compassionate system of mental treatment. It's a $6.38 billion bond measure that would build more facilities and set up treatment programs. Here's the rare issue where progressives and normal people probably agree: Ignoring crazy homeless people, until we arrest them and then let them out again, isn't working, and also isn't humane. Let's see if we can do better.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and Mastodon: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook. I like discussing issues but I can't allow comments on endorsement posts because in the past, people have simply cut-and-paste statements from their preferred candidates. If you want to talk about this one, The Gray Report Facebook page is the place. Thanks.