The visible hand pulling strings in San Francisco (It’s money)

The dirty secret of political comedians is that most “political comedy” is really roast and “yo mama” jokes about politicians, including my last column slinging (in my honest opinion, deserved) mud at Josh Arce. Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, used his BeyondChron blog to make me a straw man, and then demolished me spectacularly. THC receives millions in city contracts, so Shaw’s blogs are as free of journalistic ethics as mine and Willie Brown’s. (I consult for SEIU Local 1021 on things not related to politics, but I am probably the worst paid of us three.)

Shaw wrote, “Progressives are backing some ballot initiatives and candidates that are unlikely to win. I certainly hope we do not hear progressives claim post-election that these races were ‘rigged’ by a cabal of oligarchs who they believe run the city.”

Wealthy individuals and corporate interests rig elections through a nuanced conspiracy I hope you can follow: The side with the most money tends to win.

Sometimes money loses. But when it does, it’s for fairly straightforward reasons.

Stay with me: People and organizations who spend the most money on politics tend to have the most money, which is to say they are what is commonly known as “the wealthy.” Rich people pursue their interests and have the means to do so effectively.

San Francisco has the second highest level of income inequality in the country, because of vast concentrations of wealth at the top, so it’s working. There’s nothing nefarious; it’s all done in plain view.

Airbnb violated city laws for years, and Mayor Ed Lee declined to enforce our laws. Then, facing a public demand for regulation, Airbnb crafted toothless regulations Mayor Lee supported, which he has continued to support, even though they have been shown not to be working. Airbnb and its investors made lavish campaign contributions — and won.

This has been lucrative for Airbnb and has helped the careers of Mayor Lee, David Chiu and others at the modest expense of thousands of housing units that could be available to renters, if anyone cared to enforce the laws.

The best thing about the mayor is that he’s good at losing gracefully. Shaw claims the Realtors don’t see Mayor Lee as on their side, because he signed legislation they didn’t like. But those laws passed with veto-proof majority and were mostly weakened by the mayor along the way. Mayor Lee protected Realtors and developers from even more stringent policies; they contributed to his campaigns and pet charities and got the access they wanted.

Mayor Lee advocated one bad deal after another for city residents and taxpayers, but that benefitted big corporations and campaign contributors. The Twitter tax break, which Shaw also supported, cost The City tens of millions of dollars with a few donated tweets to show for it. See also: the Super Bowl, every luxury housing development, the transportation impact fee, the stillborn affordable housing density bonus program, and so on.

Mayor Lee’s primary constituency is clearly corporate interests, since he doesn’t seem to expend any energy in any other area of governance. Other city needs, like police reform, have gone neglected until, as usual, a scandal requires damage control.

I do agree with Shaw that progressives have been remarkably inept at fielding candidates that can win citywide races. I completely disagree that this failure has to do with progressive candidates not being pro-business or pro-development enough.

In my experience, the only people who care whether a politician is pro-business are the ones who own businesses. The average voter doesn’t care.

And it’s not like moderates are pro-development. I invite supervisors Mark Farrell, Katy Tang and Scott Wiener to propose rezoning to raise height limits in their own districts, and we will see very quickly how pro-development they are. Five bucks says not at all.

Shaw’s column was called “Who Runs San Francisco?” I pray he was invoking Beyonce’s “Who run the world? (girls)” because girls should definitely be running San Francisco.

Nato Green performs stand-up comedy on Wednesday at Modern Comedy at Modern Times Bookstore at 7 p.m. for free, on Thursday at the Verdi Club at 8 p.m. for Verdi Wild Thigns Are. (Get it?) Also next Sunday, Sept. 11, at Doc’s Lab with Michelle Buteau.

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