Peskin win restores balance to City Hall

Aaron Peskin will soon return to the familiar quarters of the Board of Supervisors, after beating out incumbent Julie Christensen, who Mayor Ed Lee appointed when David Chiu was elected last year to the Assembly.

The District 3 race had long been seen as a referendum on Lee since his moderate allies hold a slim 6-5 majority on the board. With Peskin replacing Christensen, that majority now swings 6-5 against Lee. Peskin campaigned in large part on the promise he would be a needed counter to Lee at City Hall, a thorn in the mayor’s side.

It will be good news for The City if that comes to pass and the first year of Lee’s second term, which he won Tuesday without strong opposition, is less harmonious than his first. We need more tussles at City Hall over the direction San Francisco should be going. And with Peskin aboard, we hope to get them. This is a high-stakes time for The City, and we hope to see a more energetic and dynamic board to reflect that.

Much has been said about the value of civility at City Hall, and we agree, but the current level of courtesy has too often been at the expense of rigorous debate and pushing forward needed policy.

It’s possible to overstate the sea change, though. Peskin will serve the one-year replacement term and then must seek reelection next year. This, along with the fact that progressive supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos and David Campos are termed out next year, means next November’s election will be decisive in revealing whether Peskin’s return was a temporary turn or a real change.

The tide may have shifted, but unless the momentum is nurtured, such gains might be short-lived. And there was much in this election that did not bode well for progressive causes.

For instance, Airbnb called a press conference the day after the election to gloat on its expensive victory to defeat Proposition F, which sought to impose tougher regulations on short-term rentals in The City in an effort to preserve housing stock for renters. They said in the past two years, Airbnb’s users in the U.S. jumped 312 percent to more than 4 million.

After spending more than $8.5 million to kill the local measure this election, the company dared to suggest that anyone who opposed them was essentially declaring war on the middle class, and that politicians who support its brand of home-sharing are more likely to receive support from voters. It takes an astounding amount of arrogance to make such ludicrously deluded pronouncements.

Prop. F’s authors vowed to try again to keep Airbnb and its ilk in check, but the best news might be that they won’t have to again ask the voters to do what city leaders previously failed to. The board’s new progressive majority can tighten controls on such business practices that run counter to civic reason, creating a badly needed legislative check against the excesses of some to the detriment of many in this city.

On Wednesday, Peskin told the Examiner he plans to do just that. “I look forward to starting a dialogue with Airbnb and my colleagues on the board to see if we can curb the worst abuses,” he said.

This is just one of the many battles that now becomes possible with Peskin rejoining the board. But to win these battles, the progressive majority would have to work together to take up these fights and push them forward. They have a year to make it happen. The clock is ticking.

We look forward to an eventful year in City Hall.

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