SF Bay Guardian Endorsements for the March 3, 2020 primary

Sanders for president, Yes, Yes, Yes on Prop. E, and reforming the Superior Court … our complete endorsements for the March 3 primary.

By Guardian Editorial -February 10, 2020 (SFBG.com)

Jackie Fielder is running against Scott Wiener for State Senate

Below are our complete endorsements for the March 3, 2020 primary elections. 

PRESIDENT

Bernie Sanders

Two elements come into play in the presidential primary, and we think both favor Sanders.

The first, of course, is beating Trump. We do not subscribe to the “Bernie or bust” theory, and in November, we will be endorsing and strongly supporting any Democrat who wins the nomination. But we are also convinced (as are many writers and political scientists, including Steve Phillips and Rachel Bitecofer), that there are only a tiny number of “swing voters” who might defect from Trump to a more moderate Democrat. This election will not be won on a cautious, centrist agenda. Hillary Clinton tried that; it didn’t work.

The 2020 election will be about turnout, about inspiring voters, particularly young voters, to get out and go to the polls. Trump has his base, and it won’t change. In the swing states, Trump won because so many Democrats either stayed home or voted for a third party.

We still believe that Sanders would have beat Trump if he were the 2016 nominee. And we think he has the best chance of energizing Democratic voters, creating a political movement, and defeating the incumbent.

He also has the best political positions of any of the candidates.Sponsored link

Sanders is the only candidate with an unwavering stand in favor of single-payer health care. He’s the only one who consistently opposed the worst foreign policies (and wars) of the past five presidents. He seems to understand more deeply than anyone else in the race that economic inequality and climate change are both existential threats to humanity—and are linked. His “Housing for All” program is far superior to Warren’s and simply outpaces all other candidates for President.

We also like Elizabeth Warren. There are real differences between the two progressive front-runners, and they amount to this: Sanders thinks the political and economic systems of the US needs profound, fundamental change. Warren thinks most of the problems can be fixed with better regulation of the existing system. But Warren is talking seriously about a wealth tax, which the economist Thomas Piketty, who is probably the most important analyst and critic of modern capitalism in the world today, says is the only way to keep the current system from completely melting down with catastrophic consequences.

The reality is that, barring a radical change in Congress and the Senate over the next few years, Sanders isn’t going to get a Medicare For All plan that eliminates the private insurance industry passed in his first term. But it’s possible that he could start implementing a Green New Deal, and move the US into position as a nation leading the fight to save the Earth.

Warren might not get a wealth tax in her first term, either. But she would repeal the Trump tax cuts and the wholesale deregulation of industry that has damaged the economy and the environment.

Frankly, either one of them would be a transformative president.

And if no candidate emerges from the primaries with enough votes to win a first-ballot nomination at the convention, it’s absolutely critical that the Sanders and Warren delegates realize that together, they can probably name the nominee—and that, in the real world of Washington politics, they would both be sending the country in a much better direction. In a brokered convention, a fight over minor policy differences between the two camps could lead to a centrist nominee and Trump getting re-elected.

Today, right now, we think Sanders has the better chance of beating Trump. If that shifts, and Warren looks to be the stronger nominee, we would be thrilled to support her.

CONGRESS, DISTRICT 12

No recommendation

We haven’t endorsed Rep. Nancy Pelosi in more than two decades, since she decided to privatize the Presidio and let George Lucas get a huge tax break constructing an office building in a national park. For much of her career, Pelosi hasn’t represented San Francisco; she’s represented the center of the Democratic Party, serving as a speaker and minority leader whose primary goal has been to raise money to elect Democrats, even if those Democrats are almost as conservative as Republicans.

She’s never had a heavy progressive policy agenda; it’s all been about politics and power. (In 1986, when Pelosi, who had never held any office, ran as the candidate of the power structure, we backed Harry Britt, who was a Democratic Socialist. He won on election day, and won the Democratic Party vote, but vote-by-mail ballots and Republicans put Pelosi over the top.)

That said, we don’t think this is the year to put a lot of time and effort into challenging Pelosi.

Pelosi right now is, for better or for worse, the voice of the Democrats resistance to Trump. It took her a while, but she came around to impeachment (although she knew that the Senate would never convict and remove the president). Her aggressive legislative agenda, basically ignored by the press, has expanded her opposition to Trump far beyond cable TV’s endless preoccupation with his personality and has actually attacked his policies, forcing Mitch McConnell to bottle up scores of bills passed by the House.

More important, this is her final term. Pelosi promised the more conservative Democrats elected in 2018 that she would step down in 2022 if they would support her for two more terms as speaker. We expect her to keep that promise.

So the real question for San Franciscans who look at local politics in the long term (and we’ve been doing that for more than 50 years) is this: Who is going to take over that seat two years from now—and how do we make sure it’s a real progressive, not someone like state Sen. Scott Wiener?

There are potentially strong candidates for that seat, including David Campos and Jane Kim. Wiener would be formidable. (We also hear that Pelosi’s daughter Christine has her eyes on continuing the family legacy). And the stakes will be incredibly high. The next person to hold that seat will probably be there for 30 years or more, defining San Francisco politics for the nation—and wielding massive influence back home.

Shahid Buttar, who is challenging Pelosi, has raised all the right issues. He’s for single-payer health care, he’s against pointless foreign wars, he supports higher taxes on the wealthy… We have no argument with his political positions. He has never held any local office, and his main involvement in local politics has been running for Congress; we tend to support candidates with a long record of local activism. If you want to vote as a protest against Pelosi for all the obvious reasons, he’s a fine choice.

But the political energy around this seat, in this city, should be focused not on 2020, when Pelosi will almost certainly be re-elected, but on 2022, when it will really matter.

STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 11

Jackie Fielder

When Scott Wiener ran against Jane Kim for this seat four years ago, we said that Wiener was hard-working, had an ambitious agenda—and was wrong on some of the key issues affecting the city, particularly housing. His first term has demonstrated exactly that.

We would like to say that Wiener has done some good things, but in the past his campaigns have taken our words completely out of context in an unfair and inaccurate effort to suggest that he has our endorsement. We would urge him not to do that again.

That said, Wiener’s bill to extend the hours that bars can sell alcohol will be a big help to the local nightlife community. He has taken strong stands on LGBT issues. And he just introduced a groundbreaking bill to do what Gov. Gavin Newsom should have done long ago: Authorize the state to buy up all of PG&E’s stock (at what is now a really low price) and turn it into a publicly run venture.

Then there’s SB 50.

Wiener is a leader in the Yimby world, which argues that the private sector can solve the state’s housing problems. He wants to deregulate housing development all over the state—without any meaningful funding or mandates for affordable housing. He equates density with affordability, which is just factually inaccurate.

His housing bills are everything the private developers could want. But they will just lead to more gentrification, displacement, and destruction of existing vulnerable communities in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area.

That’s why every tenant organization and every group that fights displacement in San Francisco has opposed his bills.

We are not fans of the concept that growth is always good. In fact, while the city economist predicts that the SF economy could grow by more than 30 percent in the next 20 years, that seems unlikely; if the global North can’t reduce growth and consumption in an era of finite resources and climate change, Mother Earth is going to do it for us. We are big supporters of Prop. E, which would link office growth to affordable housing (Wiener is not backing that measure, and his allies the Yimbys are opposing it).

But if we want to say, for the purposes of argument, that the city is going to grow, and that San Francisco will need more housing for more people, we’d like to think that our state senator would be able to work with existing organizations that have been working on this issue for decades and come to a compromise that everyone could accept.

That would involve not just private-sector solutions but public approaches—say, an investment by the state of five percent of the annual budget ($10 billion a year) for non-market affordable housing—enough to house every homeless person in the state in five years.

It would involve Wiener going to his allies in the real-estate and development world to say that any new legislation that requires greater density also has to guarantee that people who currently live in the Bay Area can’t be forced out by richer people who want their homes (which means repeal of the Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins).

It would mean a commitment that new density comes with adequate funding for transit and other public infrastructure—that growth pays for growth.

Wiener has shown no interest in that approach. Instead, he has put his full faith in the idea that developers, given fewer rules, will bring down housing prices. And in the process, he has been terribly divisive on an issue that requires community-based solutions.

Jackie Fielder is a relative newcomer to local politics. An LA native, she graduated from Stanford in 2016 with a BA in public policy and a Master’s in Sociology, moved to SF, and worked on the campaign for a public bank. She teaches at SF State, and ran the No on H campaign in 2018 to keep the cops from overruling the Police Commission and getting Tasers.

Fielder is a Native American/Mexicana queer activist; she’s lacking experience and when we first talked to her several months ago, she was a long way from creating a credible housing plan. But now she supports the concept of the state spending $10 billion a year for 10 years (again: just five percent of the state budget) on non-market housing, supports a Green New Deal for the state, and wants to repeal the Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins.

She has the support of Sups. Gordon Mar and Dean Preston, Democratic Party Chair David Campos, and Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, among others.

We’re endorsing her, too.

STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 17

No endorsement

Incumbent David Chiu has no opposition. He represents one of the most progressive districts in the state, but has allied himself with Wiener on housing and has been a part of promoting the most moderate, centrist candidates for local office. It’s time somebody thinks about challenging him.

STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 19

No endorsement

In some ways, Assemblymember Phil Ting, who represents the West Side, is more progressive than his East Side colleague David Chiu (certainly when it comes to local endorsements). We like Ting, the only Democrat running; we would like to endorse him. Then he goes and supports SB 50. And that’s a deal-breaker.

SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES

The very fact that there are three open seats, and thus three elections, for Superior Court are a testament to the fact that two years ago, four public defenders decided to challenge sitting judges. The judiciary freaked; judges don’t like to run for office or (gasp!) defend themselves against challenges.

So this time around, three judges who wanted to retire did so at the end of their terms, so there would be open seats. Then the conservative judiciary establishment got behind three candidates they found acceptable—none of whom are public defenders.

Meanwhile, most progressive leaders in the city are endorsing three different candidates.

All six candidates for the three seats are women of color. All of them have significant experience as lawyers. But despite the argument of the sitting establishment, courts are political, judges bring their own experience and background to the bench, and we would like to see more people from the Public Defender’s Office and the tenant bar join the former prosecutors and corporate lawyers who dominate the local courts today.

Seat 1: Maria Evangelista

Evangelista had the courage to take on a sitting judge two years ago. She’s a longtime public defender who has handled more than 50 trials and has an understanding not only of the legal system but of the need for restorative justice. Her opponent, Pang Ly, is a former prosecutor.

Seat 18: Michelle Tong

Tong has been a tenant lawyer (at the Eviction Defense Collaborative), a civil-rights lawyer (at the Asian Law Caucus), and for the past 16 years, a public defender. She has exactly the level of skill and experience we need on the bench. Her opponent, Dorothy Chou Proudfoot, is a former prosecutor who doesn’t live in the city.

Seat 21: Carolyn Gold

Gold is a career tenant lawyer and litigation director at the Eviction Defense Collaborative. She has spent 30 years representing people who lack the resources to hire private lawyers. Her opponent, Kulvindar “Rani” Singh, is a career prosecutor.

DEMOCRATIC COUNTY CENTRAL COMMITTEE

The DCCC has become a major political battleground in San Francisco, with competing slates promoted by, in this case, Party Chair (and leading progressive) David Campos, and Assemblymember (and centrist) David Chiu.

The stakes are significant: The DCCC will play a role in this fall’s local elections with its power to give the party’s endorsement to candidates for supervisor. And the Chiu camp would love to oust Campos as chair. 

There are candidates on the progressive slate who give us pause; not all, for example, have pledged to back Sup. Dean Preston in D5 this fall. But we are going with the best choices available.

AD 17:
John Avalos
Hillary Ronen
David Campos
Christopher Christensen
Matt Haney
Frances Hsieh
Shanell Williams
Kevin Ortiz
Nomvula O’Meara
Jane Kim
Honey Mahogany
Gloria Berry
Peter Gallotta
Anabel Ibañez

AD 19:
Mano Raju
Queena Chen
Leah LaCroix
Li Miao Lovett
Janice Li
Gordon Mar
Faauuga Moliga
Keith Baraka
Kelly Akemi Groth
A.J. Thomas

BALLOT MEASURES

STATE PROPOSITION 13

Yes … But

Prop. 13 seems like a simple measure: It’s a $15 billion state bond measure to fund public school projects. It would also allow local governments to increase the amount of money that they can raise in bonds for schools and community colleges.

All of these are worthy goals, and we support them.

We are concerned, though, by this, from the ballot analysis:

“The state would establish new limits on developer fees. Specifically, school districts would be prohibited from assessing developer fees on multifamily residential developments (such as apartment complexes) located within a half-mile of a major transit stop (such as a light rail station). For all other multifamily residential developments, currently allowable developer fee levels would be reduced by 20 percent moving forward. These limitations would be in place until January 1, 2026.”

The teacher’s unions are all in favor, and since the limits are short-term, we are willing to go along. But we don’t support limits on developer fees.

PROPOSITION A

YES

City College bonds

It’s easy to say that that the current City College chancellor is bent on destroying the historic mission of the school. It’s easy to say that the current board hasn’t been vocal enough about standing up to him.

But Prop. A has nothing to do with that. This is a bond issue to fix structural problems at the existing campuses and bring some of the aging buildings into the future (there are some classrooms at City College where it’s almost impossible to get an Internet connection). This is about the future of City College; don’t get distracted by the current issues. Vote Yes.

PROPOSITION B

YES

Earthquake bonds

This one’s simple: It would upgrade the city’s critical infrastructure, including water and sewer lines, to be more resilient for the inevitable earthquakes. There is no credible opposition.

PROPOSITION C

YES

Health-care benefits for Housing Authority workers

A little strange and bureaucratic, but here’s the deal: The feds have asked the city to take over some of what used to be federal funding and responsibility for public housing. That means workers who used to be in the federal system are no going to be city workers. Because of the City Charter, if these (underpaid and overworked) people are going to get health benefits, it will take a vote of the people. Yes, of course.

PROPOSITION D

YES, YES, YES

Vacancy tax

Prop. D is one of the two most important measures on the local ballot. It seeks to address the problem of landlords leaving commercial spaces in neighborhood vacant because, as Sup. Aaron Peskin put it politely, “the have unreasonable expectations of the rent they should be able to charge.” We are more blunt: This is real-estate greed choking small businesses.

Prop. D would set a tax on vacant storefronts that could rise over three years to a level ($25,000 for a typical space) that would be a serious incentive to owners to find tenants and charge them affordable rents. Which would be good for neighborhoods, small businesses, residents, and the city as a whole.

Vote Yes on D.

PROPOSITION E

YES, YES, YES

Office development and affordable housing

Prop. E is probably the most important land-use measure to face voters in this city in more than 30 years. It directly addresses the most fundamental issue framing life in San Francisco: the imbalance between job growth and housing.

The urban planning under former Mayor Ed Lee, who encouraged the tech boom that has transformed the city, and under the current mayor, London Breed, has been indescribably bad. The city has encouraged a massive increase in tech office space, bringing tens of thousands of new workers (many of them high-paid) into a city that had no available housing.

Then those new tech jobs created tens of thousands of service-sector jobs, many of which pay barely minimum wage—and there’s a vast shortage of affordable housing for those workers.

The imbalance is the main reason why so many poor, working-class, and middle-class people and families have been forced out of San Francisco. It’s a primary cause of homelessness. It’s an urban disgrace.

Prop. E would restore some sanity. It would simply say that the city should stop approving more office space until there’s enough affordable housing for the new workers.

Prop. E won’t damage the city’s economy, as opponents claim. It would do the opposite: Today, hundreds of small businesses are closing, neighborhoods are facing either displacement or decay, and conventions are fleeing because of the homeless crisis. Restoring some balance to the jobs-housing situation would help the city recover from a tech-boom earthquake that has shaken us to the core.

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