Tucked in the back of a San Francisco elementary school cafeteria in the wee evening hours Wednesday, a minor political miracle revealed itself.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier voted to support the local homeless ballot measure Our City, Our Home.
The two federal politicians joined the San Francisco Democratic Party’s board, also known as the Democratic County Central Committee or DCCC, in voting overwhelmingly to endorse Proposition C, which would tax San Francisco businesses grossing over $50 million. The “Our City, Our Home” fund would house at least 4,000 homeless people and expand shelter beds by 1,000, fund legal assistance and rent subsidies to help renters and fund “intensive mental health and substance abuse services” to help get impaired individuals off the streets.
The endorsement will be backed by the SF Democratic Party’s funds, which will send glossy mailers to every doorstep.
Sam Lew, policy director at the Coalition on Homelessness, was pretty wowed.
“I think it’s really reflective of how big and important this measure is,” she told me Friday. “San Francisco is really becoming a leader by showing other cities in the nation we can address homelessness and the housing crisis in a big and bold way.”
Now I sat in the Tenderloin Elementary School cafeteria all night to catch the hubbub with my own eyes, and I can tell you Pelosi and Speier cast their vote by proxy, essentially asking staffers to communicate their votes to the board. Yet those “ayes” may carry much weight with voters all the same, and are perhaps a signal that these decades-long political heavyweights are listening to the rising, vocal left.
(I fully expect that last sentence to draw the ire of many progressives. Please don’t roast me on a spit, OK? Thanks.)
Former Supervisor Eric Mar, now a San Francisco State University assistant professor, told me it’s rare for these highly-ranked, Trump-tusslin’ politicos to take a stand on local issues at the Democratic Party board. When controversial votes cross their paths, they often abstain.
“It says to me that they want to be on the right side of history to cast a vote like that,” Mar said.
Also significant are those who did choose not to cast a vote. Of the 31 voting party members, six abstained: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Supervisor Malia Cohen, state Sen. Scott Wiener, Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, and last, but certainly not the least noticed, Mayor London Breed.
Breed has again, and again, said she needs more time to “analyze” the situation and declined to take a position. Her political press spokesperson did not respond to a request for an updated comment.
Mar believes Breed is hoping not to anger her more business-friendly financial backers by endorsing it, who would not take kindly to the tax increases, and to not anger allies of the measure by opposing it.
“I sense people have had access to polling and see there’s a strong grassroots movement,” Mar said. Her abstention, he speculated is “probably based on the assumption it will pass.”
Mar isn’t far off the mark in that respect: A poll conducted by David Binder Research in early July, commissioned by affordable housing developer TODCO, found 66 percent of likely San Francisco voters supported the measure, with only 28 percent of voters opposed.
That’s bad news for Breed. Politically, she’s caught between a tent and a hard place.
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In other exciting Democratic Party news, (thanks for sticking with me, political nerds!) the progressive-led Dems voted to endorse every proposition on the local ballot.
The Democratic Party endorsement is a major one, and much-sought by candidates and propositions alike (though, honestly, it has of late had more impact on ballot measures than candidates, some insiders have reflected to me. I haven’t seen analysis on it, but I think it’s a fair observation).
That caveat aside, the Dem board voted to endorse supervisor candidates Catherine Stefani in District 2, Gordon Mar in District 4, Matt Haney in District 6, Rafael Mandelman in District 8 and Shamann Walton in District 10. City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees candidates Thea Selby and Brigitte Davila also netted nods, and Board of Education candidates Alison Collins, Faauugra Moliga, and Li Miao Lovett.
A few noteworthy observations: Dems have entirely coalesced around Stefani for the Marina/Pacific Heights race, another notch in the column for “Reasons Why Supervisor Candidate Nick Josefowitz Faces an Uphill Battle.” And school board candidate Josephine Zhao netted just three votes of support from the 31 dems — surely a reflection of the recent outing of her transphobic comments from 2013, which she has apologized for. But despite all of those critiques, another the two candidates who identify as transgender, Mia Satya and Martin Rawlings-Fein, netted not a single vote.
Satya, I’ll note, worked on the Free Muni for Youth initiative which lets kids across The City ride our transit system for free.
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OK so confession time — I don’t drive much, but when I do rev the engine on my little blue VW Beetle, I’ll now be able to do so with a bit of snark thanks to Stanley Roberts. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing his hilarious segment, People Behaving Badly, for 12 years Stanley has outed boneheads out in public doing bonehead things, and last week we went on a final hurrah to catch scofflaw cyclists running red lights at Powell and Market Streets. But with Stanley hanging up his hat at KRON-4 this week, he left me behind a souvenir: His license plate frame.
It reads, simply, “HANG UP” on top, and “QUIT BEHAVING BADLY” on the bottom.
Hell of a cool gift, Stanley. Thanks for everything, and good luck snagging bad-doers in Phoenix.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.
Correction: this column has been updated to reflect local ballots were endorsed, not state ballots.