Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez shed light on the San Francisco mayor’s race in his May 20 On Guard column with an excellent examination of the actual supervisorial legislative records of the leading candidates. You might think that the central argument of anyone seeking promotion would involve demonstrating how they excelled in previous jobs, but you would be wrong. It’s about vision or character or something.
The funniest part of the piece was former Mayor and current Chronicle columnist Willie Brown’s comment: “I don’t understand why we need all those laws.” A classic Brown grift — we should pay legislators six figures not to legislate. It’s almost a libertarian protection racket, where voters pay legislators to protect ourselves from them doing their jobs.
The most damning part of the piece was former Mayor Art Agnos’ observation that, in her capacity as president of the Board of Supervisors with a majority from her own faction, Breed could have passed a lot more legislation. It would be nice to know why she didn’t.
Records revealed Breed’s legislative output was dramatically less than that of Jane Kim or Mark Leno: No charter amendments, almost half as many ordinances sponsored, a fraction of the hearings and resolutions. Obviously, legislation is an imperfect yardstick. There’s also amendments, votes, budgeting, ballot measures, development agreements and more. Leno’s record in Sacramento wasn’t included, either.
SEE RELATED: Is Pelosi an albatross or some other aquatic bird?
To me, the measure of leadership is policy sponsored and implemented. The bully pulpit is important, but the job of a legislator is legislating. It’s right there in the name. Comparatively, Breed seems a lightweight.
Breed passed “the most far-reaching Styrofoam ban in the country.” This is perfectly San Franciscan, in the grand tradition of setting national precedent without especially tending to residents (see also: plastic bags, Happy Meals). No one in San Francisco ever said their top grievance was Styrofoam.
Breed persuaded Mayor Ed Lee to budget $2 million to rehab public housing, and is behind the still-pending plan for affordable housing at the McDonald’s on Haight and Stanyan, where the McNuggets shoot heroin.
That’s pretty much it for banner policy initiated and implemented. Is it mayor-worthy?
She makes a heap of sausage, however, introducing stuff that wasn’t implemented or negotiating over someone else’s efforts. In 2015, Breed brokered a compromise ballot measure with IBEW Local 1245 and PG&E to define clean power, after IBEW qualified an initiative to gut CleanPowerSF. She was for limiting formula retail in Hayes Valley and later sought exemptions. She introduced a hard cap on Airbnb rentals during her re-election campaign and dropped it later after it was vetoed.
Breed’s website claims credit for introducing “legislation creating a permanent right to civil counsel for tenants facing eviction” but doesn’t mention doing so after tenant groups launched a ballot measure doing the same — only her version was weaker and fizzled. Her website also says she “led efforts to expand the City’s inclusionary housing program to include more middle income housing opportunities,” meaning she led efforts to increase inclusionary housing by an amount less than what San Francisco residents voted for, after Kim championed the winning ballot measure.
Moderate candidates historically win with a narrative that they “bring people together” to “get things done” and “get past ideology” to find “commonsense solutions.” And their legislative records prove it. That strategy served Lee, Scott Wiener, Gavin Newsom and David Chiu. Even when I disagreed with their policies, there was a substantial record to anticipate how they would handle higher office.
Breed’s style of leadership seems more reactive. It looks like she wants to prevent a different political tribe from scoring a win. Instead, she tries to pre-empt their policy with her own version. (See also: Proposition D.)
If Breed hasn’t been an especially prolific or effective legislator as a supervisor, why would someone believe she would do so as mayor? It’s theoretically possible that someone’s skill set makes a better executive than legislator, but I wouldn’t want to be the campaign manager writing that mailer.
Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer. Send dinner invites @natogreen or buy his new album, “The Whiteness Album,” wherever comedy is streamed or downloaded.