Ed Lee (1952–2017)

BY MEAGAN DAY (jacobinmag.com)

Under Ed Lee, San Francisco was remade into a playground for tech capitalists and real estate developers.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee smiles as he campaigns in Chinatown on November 8, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty

The first thing Ed Lee did when he took office in 2011 was provide a massive tax break to tech companies in exchange for their setting up shop in the city’s downtown area. “I was very wary of the Twitter tax break,” says former city supervisor John Avalos, who lost the mayoral race to Lee in 2011, “because we had the whole experience of the dot-com boom in San Francisco that led to a huge amount of displacement and gentrification.” Eight years later, Avalos is vindicated: the city is seeing eviction and homelessness on a mass scale, and the gap between San Francisco’s rich and poor residents is notoriously wide and growing.

In recent years, Lee made an effort to secure funding programs for the city’s homeless population and set up navigation centers to help people get on their feet. But he remained committed to a capital-friendly policy approach — one that exacerbated the same problems he made an effort to solve. Lee saw his primary task as concentrating large businesses in San Francisco and keeping them there, and he consistently removed obstacles for real estate developers and tech companies to make it happen. “He was a strong adherent of the growth machine model for cities,” says Jennifer Fieber of San Francisco’s Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “but I never saw him make the link between his trying to attract tech workers and the obvious displacement it would cause.”

In 2015, the board of supervisors unanimously passed a tenant protection law. Fieber points out that while Lee did not veto it, he also refused to sign it. “It’s like, who are you trying to not offend if it’s not the real estate industry?” she asks. Lee similarly refused to sign an ordinance requiring Airbnb hosts to register with the city, though that passed unanimously as well, and he vetoed legislation that would require a sixty-day cap on short-term rentals. Short-term rentals like Airbnb units contribute to soaring rents, which in turn increase evictions and exacerbate the problem of homelessness.

“Toward the end of his tenure he was trying to resolve the homeless situation,” says former city supervisor and state assemblyman Tom Ammiano. “While the gesture was appreciated, there was a lack of connecting the dots. He wanted to be there for the homeless, but when you looked at the housing policies he supported or his approach to Airbnb or what have you, his actions were often in contradiction to the gesture of funding homeless programs more and setting up navigation centers. You often see that in politics, where someone will adopt an issue but they’re not really paying attention to the things that they’re supporting that undermine that issue.”

Avalos echoes the concern about Lee’s attention to cause and effect, saying, “There was a greater emphasis on attracting businesses and wealthier interests to the city rather than dealing with the impact of growing inequality that those interests brought to San Francisco.” Lee tried to facilitate the concentration of corporate wealth within the city’s borders, Avalos says, presumably guided by the belief that the wealth could be harnessed for the greater good. Yet he was unable to harness that wealth effectively through taxes without getting crossways with the corporations he’d empowered, who gained a greater foothold in San Francisco politics with each passing year of Lee’s tenure. “Like the sorcerer’s apprentice,” says Avalos, “he lost control of what he was trying to achieve.”

In his campaign against Lee, Avalos proposed a $500 million housing bond to secure affordable housing, offset rental prices, and keep San Franciscans housed. As mayor, Lee went with a $310 million bond, after Avalos pressured him to raise the amount. Lee also jousted with Avalos over corporate taxes, with Lee opting for the lower tax rate on businesses. “Lo and behold, years later Ed Lee came forward with a sales tax, which was regressive, to pay for the same services that he could have paid for with the business tax,” says Avalos.

Avalos sees both of these policies as a failure to prioritize the needs of low-income residents and a mistaken belief that wealth eventually spreads around, enriching everyone in its vicinity. “Ed Lee’s idea was that if we serve these tech companies and corporations,” he says, “they will bring economic success and vitality to San Francisco, and the rest of the city will be able to benefit through some version of trickle-down economics. Well I don’t think a trickle is significant enough. When it came to actually trying to create revenue streams that could be used for uplifting all of San Francisco, and dealing with the inequality that increased with the tech companies coming in, Ed Lee fell short.”

Lee took a permissive approach to tech corporations and real estate developers alike — and the relationships between the two were laid bare over the course of his time in office. “Real estate developers know that people working for big tech companies make more than the average resident,” explains Erin McElroy, also of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “so they cater to them. We’ve seen them rebrand parts of neighborhoods as places for tech workers to reside and take private buses to and from Silicon Valley. We’ve seen apartment complexes specifically built for tech employees go up right next to their office buildings. Of course those new condo developments raise the price of rent in the surrounding areas. We’ve even found that there are more evictions proximate to tech bus stops.”

Worse yet, many of the condos developed on Ed Lee’s watch remain vacant while people sleep in tents on the city sidewalks. There are more than 30,000 vacant units in the city — most of them luxury condos owned by speculators, second or third homes owned by affluent jet-setters, or short-term rentals in partial use. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that nearly 8,000 people in San Francisco are without homes.

“The perception was that Ron Conway had too much of a say on Ed Lee,” says Ammiano. Conway is an angel investor who has backed Airbnb, Square, Twitter, Zynga, and sixty-five other San Francisco-based tech companies. He was the single largest donor to Ed Lee’s campaigns; news reports called the two a power couple. Lee followed Conway’s lead in encouraging private philanthropy to boost the public sector. “If you’re talking about Salesforce donating seven million dollars to the schools,” Ammiano says, “that’s not the solution. It’s the tax structure that’s the solution.”

Conway encouraged Lee to pursue public-private partnerships in response to the housing crisis — that is, to let real estate developers build their condo complexes and trust that the private sector will provide for the public. “Lee believed that the real estate industry was the champion to fix all of our problems,” says Faiq Raza of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, “and that liberalizing the sector, getting rid of various requirements, and streamlining development were the answer.”

“If we don’t have a strong economy in our city, we can’t help anybody,” Lee said last year. This outlook led Lee to put private profits first, and deal with the externalities of corporate wealth concentration down the line.

But “the more you harness the power of wealth to grow the economy,” says Avalos, “the more inequality is created if there aren’t structures to create equity.” When asked what kind of political leadership is required to undo the damage Lee’s policies have done, Avalos replies, “I think we need someone who has an anticapitalist perspective. Our capitalist market is not going to bail us out of growing inequality.”

Word for the Day: corpocracy


noun: A society in which corporations control the government.
From corporate, from Latin corpus (body) + -cracy (rule). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwrep- (body, form), which is also the source of corps, corpus, corpse, corporation, corpulent, corset, corsage, leprechaun, and corpus delicti. Earliest documented use: 1935.

New head of NJ’s Dept of Banking throws her weight behind a Public Bank


Photo courtesy WHYY


Governor-elect Phil Murphy has wasted no time in moving forward on his signature campaign pledge to create a Public Bank. He has chosen Assemblywoman Marlene Caride to be the next commissioner of Banking and Insurance.

“This, to me, is a wonderful idea,” Caride said. “It will help to support our small businesses. It’ll help our college students obtain loans at a lower interest level. And it’ll help us to fund small infrastructure projects in this state.”

[Read full article]


December 19, 2017 (moc.media)

Ai Weiwei, Mona Hatoum, Hank Willis Thomas and 33 more artists display 36 prayer rugs at Fort Mason, a former military base. The projects wants to highlight the importance of migration and remind people that “borders themselves are a fiction”.

Sanctuary installation view. Photo: Robert Divers Herrick / The Guardian

Rugs were designed by artists, hand woven in Lahore, Pakistan, and express shipped to San Francisco for the exhibition titled Sanctuary. Visitors can take off their shoes and walk, kneel or lay on the rugs – there are no restrictions. The rugs are of different colours, textures and styles, each sending a different message.

The exhibition is organised by the non-profit For-Site. Initially, curators planned that the project, which is aimed against Trump’s travel ban, would feature works from six predominantly Muslim countries. But they later included artists from Botswana, Syria, Mexico and 17 other countries.

Ammar al-Beik, Untitled, 2017. Photo: Robert Divers Herrick / The Guardian

The Guardian quotes writer and activist Rebecca Solnit’s comment from the catalogue essay: “Borders themselves are a fiction, and every body is in motion. […] We can build walls and have men with guns to keep people from moving, but the only natural division in the world, really, is between the land and the sea. And that changes all the time – at high tide and low tide and riptide and everything in between.”

“Strike Debt Bay Area rocks the airwaves” by Emily Wheeler

A really BIG shout-out to JP Massar and Debbie Notkin for their beautifully organized and delivered discourse on financial inequality on KPFA’s Full Circle. And another BIG shout-out to Darlene Pagano for making it happen and hosting the show!!!

“Trumping Democracy” — New Documentary Traces Trump’s Election Win

11/21/2017 (huffingtonpost.com)

When Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million but won the Electoral College, the debate about our electoral system became more urgent.

On November 7, the New York Times editorial board published the opinion piece, “Let the People Pick the President.” It proposed the National Popular Vote interstate compact as a solution.

Now, a new documentary, “Trumping Democracy: Real $*Fake News*Your Data,” offers insights which not only a call into question the process and relevancy of the Electoral College, but points to disturbing factors brought on by the digital age.

Director Thomas Huchon, a French journalist and documentary filmmaker, has drilled down on how unvetted information — and disinformation — can rapidly go viral on the Internet. His search, post-election, to understand how Trump captured the presidency, led him to examine cutting-age digital tools, dark money, and a network of interrelated players with common ideological goals.

At the center of this configuration is hedge-fund billionaire and computer scientist Robert Mercer. (His daughter Rebekah went on to become a leader in the Trump transition team.) Breitbart NewsSteve Bannon, and KellyAnne Conway are planets in the constellation, along with David Bossie, known for his role as president of Citizens United. Mercer was a staunch supporter of altering campaign election funding rules, that for sixty years had reined in individual and corporate donations.

Huchon breaks down his story into three chapters: Lies; Cover-Up; Manipulation. The first two sections review better known material. It is the final third of the film that connects the players in a way that is revelatory and alarming. Huchon taps a group of experts from the fields of journalism, political strategy, law and technology to deliver takeaways that are unsettling.

The narrative begins with a portrait of a New York Trump voter disgusted with “mainstream media.” He gets his news from online outlets, including “pseudo-news” sites that push stories like the bogus child sex trafficking ring of #Pizzagate fame.

Paul Horner, “fake news” creator and prankster, is on hand to speak about fictitious stories he has posted. Disseminated by right wing outlets, Horner references a fictitious post he wrote that was picked up by Eric Trump, who retweeted it with the hashtag #CrookedHillary.

The backstory of Breitbart News is delineated and defined as a platform promoting anti-immigrant sentiment, misogyny, and white supremacist content. A graph depicts how the Breitbart readership expanded dramatically in 2017 during the months of October and November, from 45 million unique monthly users to over 100 million.

Tad Devine, political strategist, runs down the changed habits of how the public consumes news, unlike the days when three broadcasting stations delivered the nightly report. He emphasizes Trump’s “delegitimization of the mainstream media.” Pollster Ben Tulchin notes that Conservatives don’t believe the reporting of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CNN.

As a candidate, Trump stated he would express the facts “plainly and honestly.”  Yet, the nonpartisan fact-checking website Politifact found differently. It showed that Trump’s statements had a 4 percent veracity rate and that 33 percent of his assertions were actually false.

FoxNews and Breitbart helped Trump to create and propagate his own truth. Trump painted himself as the sole person who could “drain the swamp” and make America a “winner” again.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the reclusive Mercer took the opportunity to put his unlimited funds into the service of his extreme vision of limited government.

This trail is fleshed out in the “cover-up” segment. No coincidence that the three entities in question share the same building address in Los Angeles. They are Breitbart News, Glittering Steel Productions, and the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies —where Mercer was co-CEO. (Note: Mercer has since stepped down.) At RenTech, Mercer used the trading algorithm he innovated to make a fortune. That mathematics  morphed into a technology for other purposes.

Mercer has become a top billionaire on the political scene. Besides his own family foundation, he funds a host of conservative think tanks. Guardian journalist Carole Cadwalladr gives advice on how to get a clear picture of Mercer’s game plan: “Follow the money.”

Tax documents clearly map the recipients of Mercer’s support. Unsurprisingly, the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Government Accountability Institute, and the Heartland Institute are on the list. Mercer also paid for an ad against the placement of a mosque near the World Trade Center locality.

In 2011, Mercer invested $10 million in Breibart News, developing a designated media arm to promote his point of view. Steve Bannon took over the Breibart helm and publicly pronounced his goal of “deconstructing the government of the United States.”

As the 2016 election season geared up, Mercer backed Ted Cruz and put $13 million into Cruz’s “Keep the Promise” campaign. As Trump decimated his opponents, Mercer shifted his allegiance to Trump — to the tune of $15 million.

With major money invested in Trump, Mercer moved to take over the campaign reins in July of 2016. His daughter Rebekah met with Trump and offered more money —along with the “talents” of Bannon to spearhead the campaign. Conway, formerly on board the Mercer train for Cruz, and Bossie, joined the team.

Trump remaining unbeholden to outside interests was no longer remotely tenable. Key clues to the incestuous entanglements became clear when monies and paper trails became evident by looking at records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). There were no payments in the Trump campaign for Bannon’s salary. However, through a Mercer PAC, there are recurring payments to Glittering Steel, the company run by Bannon. In five months, the production company received $302,000.

The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint maintaining that Glittering Steel is a front for Bannon, while noting that Mercer’s company and Breitbart News are in the same office building.

The third, and most powerful section, is what Huchon has been building toward. He tracks back to his original query: How did Trump win the election?

That piece of the puzzle begins with the London firm, Strategic Communications Library (SCL). Their mission is to evaluate data to determine “what impacts people and how they think.” It’s known as  “Psychological operations (PSYOP).”

SCL claims they provide “behavioral influence planning and evaluation” for clients who want to “influence or treat a problem.” It references a roster of clients like NATO, the British Ministry of Defense, the NSA, and the U.S. State Department. They polish their creds with the example of how their tactics helped to advance “healthcare in Ghana.”

The flip side isn’t as magnanimous. These methods are implemented to manipulate people without their awareness; often utilized to create a problem — in order to solve it. Instigated to organize protests in Nigeria in 2007, as Cadwalladr pointed out, “It’s been used by authoritarian regimes.”

SCL started a “subsidiary” branch to manage data in 2013 called Cambridge Analytica. They set up shop in the United States and partnered with Mercer. Bannon became Vice President. Their tagline was, “The right message in front of the right person at the right time.”

Cambridge Analytica employed “data-modeling” by taking readily available personal data off the web (age, income, address, religion, gun ownership), as well as buying it from banks, credit card companies, and the social media giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter. They were able to accrue four to five thousand pieces of data for 230 million adults in America.

And it’s all legal.

Added into the mix are data points that determine consumer and lifestyle behaviors, as well as political viewpoints. The personality traits of “openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism” (OCEAN) get calculated. “Behavioral micro-targeting uncovers what “motivates” individuals — to influence their vote.

Expert Michal Kosinski explains digital data and psychological profiling. He created a test specifically for Facebook, and explained how Facebook “Likes” can create an accurate assessment of a subject’s religious views, politics, sexual orientation, personality and intelligence.

Cambridge Analytica offered their services to Trump, who was not interested until he learned they had worked on the successful Brexit initiative. The two parties connected in June 2016. By the end of July, Trump had forked over $6 million to Cambridge Analytica. Another $5 million would be forthcoming.

What did these dollars buy? A tactic based on the realization that Trump didn’t have a shot at winning the popular vote. However, if he went after wavering voters in key swing states, winning the Electoral College was attainable. The goal was to isolate conservative Democrats who might vote for Trump and geo-target them — down to their zip codes.

Looking at Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Cambridge Analytica concentrated on those undecideds by defining thirty-two personality types and determining which voters were the most vulnerable to Trump’s messages of fear and anger.

Trump revisited those geographical areas before Election Day. Simultaneously, this demographic of anxious voters received personal messages on Facebook tailored explicitly to them. These “dark posts” disappeared hours after appearing in the specified user’s timeline. They remain untraceable and without any record — except on Facebook’s server.

It worked. Trump got 77,000 votes from those three swing states.

“Trumping Democracy” was first released in France in June 2017. During production, Cambridge Analytica refused all requests for interviews.

In October, the company was called upon by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) to share their records, detailing their relationship to the Trump campaign.

Democracy may not be dead yet.

The film is available to stream on Amazon and Vimeo beginning November 21. The DVD will be out December 5, and is available now for pre-order. Group screening options available.

Petrelis report: Few demonstrate at Mayor Lee memorial

December 17, 2017

When I arrived at City Hall today, there already was one Ed Lee critic there with a sign, an acquaintance named Nicholas. We stood near the entrance together asking folks to remember 1000s evicted from their SF homes, while Lee ran the city.

We were joined by two folks, also with signs and a flyer critical of Lee. I did not get their names. The four protesters gathered on the steps for a photo-op.

Felt good to join with others today, exercising our free speech rights!

–Michael Petrelis

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The fight for a free internet is not over!

As you may know, on December 14th the FCC spearheaded by former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai voted along party lines to repeal Net Neutrality protections and attempt to bar states from enacting their own rules. Going against 83% of Americans who favored keeping a free and open internet. Though the 14th was a win for the AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, it is by no means the end of our fight. There are 3 steps to continuing the fight;

First, multiple states attorneys general, over 17 including California, have joined together in a lawsuit against the Commission to preserve the net neutrality rules. Free Press Action Fund is also moving to the sue as well, learn more and support their campaign here.

Second, more cities can invest in building their own publicly owned municipal fiber and broadband networks like Chattanooga, Tennessee has done. This local investment and control, allows not just better coverage, but also expands coverage to communities that lack access. While also allowing the public to pay less and fight to get more rules where they see fit.

Lastly, on the federal scale, we can take the fight to Congress. Demanding our representatives use the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCC’s disastrous decision. Join Battle for the Net and call your representative today, demanding they take action here.

Already in California over 2 million residents, in predominantly rural communities and communities of color, lack any broadband access whatsoever. And almost 20 million receive coverage from ISPs who have track recorders of violating rules, and now have a open field because of the repeal. This repeal does not only hurt consumers, it hurts small providers who cannot compete with the Telecoms cartel.

Last Thursday’s vote was yet again another step in the corporate war on our democracy, and was bought and paid for by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. But I am no stranger to taking on corporate giants, having fought Chevron in Richmond and won. That battle taught me that when we stand in solidarity, building corporate-free movements that fight for the 99% we can win.

As Lt. Governor of California, I will not only fight for net neutrality at the state level, but lead the charge for municipal broadband, where we control our access. My priority is expanding high quality internet access to EVERYONE, not to secure the Telecom giants monopolies.

It is your support that has grown my campaign. Already we have over 120 activists and groups ready to collect signatures to get me on the ballot and are have the most Our Revolution chapter endorsements of any campaign in the country! Every donation of $27, $50, $99 or even $270 dollars fuels our momentum for a people-powered campaign that will put the 99% before corporate profits.

Donate today and join this movement, together a better future is possible!

Click here to make a contribution of any size to my campaign that is powered by the people, not corporations and the elites!

Thank you for your support, and for being with me in this fight for net neutrality, for it is fight we must win!

In solidarity,


Paid for by Gayle McLaughlin for California Lieutenant Governor 2018, FPPC #1396385

Public bank to be owned by San Francisco gains traction as cannabis deadline nears

By   –  Digital Producer, San Francisco Business Times

Two San Francisco city supervisors are pushing the city to open its own public bank, in a bid to keep the city from being too involved with large commercial banks and as a way to give cannabis business owners a place to bank safely.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Supervisors Malia Cohen and Sandra Fewer have been studying the idea and even asked for a Budget Analyst report on how the city might launch its own bank, which the city has the legal authority to do. You can read the full text of that report here.

“This ongoing public banking discussion is coming at an important moment in our community,” Cohen said last week, the paper reports. “… In our long cannabis discussion, we have barely acknowledged that cannabis is currently an all-cash business — cash payroll, no banking, vaults of bills on the floors of retailers.”

If San Francisco did create a public bank, it would be the first city in the nation to have one; the only other state-owned and operated bank in the country is the Bank of North Dakota.

The issue isn’t a new one: At the beginning of November, State Treasurer John Chiang said California should explore creating a public bank to handle the $1 billion projected to be generated by the legalization of recreational marijuana, adding that the state should be ready to deploy armored cars to collect taxes on the industry, too.

The next step will be the supes asking for the City Attorney’s Office to weigh in on the legality of banking with the cannabis business community, which will soon be selling recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1.

To read more about the public bank debate, click here.

The List

Bay Area Cannabis Businesses

Ranked by Bay Area employees
Rank Business Name Bay Area Employees
1 SPARC 145
2 Berkeley Patients Group 80
3 The Apothecarium 75
View This List