Stay Tuned: That’s Just the Way It Isn’t

Written by Hope Johnson. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on April 16, 2009 with 11 Comments

By Hope Johnson

April 16, 2009

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, Supes Elsbernd, Alioto-Pier, Chu and Dufty tested the cojones of their colleagues.

At least, I believe that’s what they thought they’d be doing.

Instead, they revealed their own willingness to allow powerful, privileged families and special interests to take what they want, when they want. Oops.

The posse banded together to remove from Rules Committee the review of applicants for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District board. The explanation offered, in the words of Elsbernd, “I want to make it quite clear that this is going to be a labor seat. I don’t want the opportunity for someone who is not from the house of labor in this seat.”

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd

WTF? Bold-faced nonsense. That might have happened, had they left it with Rules. Members had all committed to choose a labor rep for the seat, and were patiently waiting for labor leaders to provide better qualified applicants.

Sure, it’s not the way it’s usually done, asking for qualified rather than politically connected candidates. Gee, this whole Obama change thing has gotten into everyone.

“We as a country have to make current choices with an eye on the future,” President Obama said Tuesday during his economy speech at Georgetown.

What was the motivation behind the move? Why did labor refuse to work with the committee and submit new applicants?

By all appearances, it was an attempt to back the progressive supes into a corner, creating a panic vote or risk being tagged anti-labor.

Not to worry. Daly, Mirkarimi, Chiu, Avalos, Campos, and Mar didn’t fall for it.

Their response was, now, I am paraphrasing a bit here but, basically, “Suck it.”

And they chose a transportation specialist. Imagine that. On a highway and transportation board. The horror…..the horror…..

Belaboring the Point

Rumor has it FCJ had a hand in upping the ante on the Bridge District appointment discussions. So, we’ll move on to a new subject next time. For now, enjoy a few quotes from Tuesday’s debate.

“I find terms like green and smart growth to be overused, and almost meaningless in how they are applied.”
– Supervisor Bevan Dufty

“We live a double life in a way.”
– Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier drank way too much Starbucks coffee.

“There have been numerous conversations, I’m sure, between members of the board of supervisors and leaders and organized labor.”
– Supervsior Chris Daly

Supervisor Chris Daly cool under fire.

“Now, as someone who has actually sat on it, this is one of those, one of those appointments that you do not go into, knowing all of the information about the bridge board.”
– Michela Alioto-Pier

“I expressed interest in working with organized labor to find common ground on a labor appointment. That didn’t work out. That’s unfortunate. I feel bad about that. But that is not solely this Board’s, the Rules Committee, or my responsibility. That is a shared responsibility of a failure to meet halfway.”
– Supervisor Chris Daly

“Although Mr. Snyder is very well qualified and we have heard labor says this is it, it doesn’t mean we should stop these conversations just because we are all sort of tied up in this controversy.”
– Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier

“As I look out and see my brothers of the union sitting out there, I think they should look at themselves as well and realize they are in this position for a number of reasons. One reason is because of the way they have conducted themselves for a long period of time. When I look out there, they are certainly not very reflective of our city and the people that our city represents.”
– Supervisor Sophie Maxwell

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell

Fun Fact

Click here to be directed to the Chron’s story on the Bridge District appointment. Busted! There’s a link to FCJ in the third paragraph.

  • marc

    For me, [I am ] my campaign coordinator and I design my mail and make all my calls and knock on as many doors as I can, and make as many calls as I can, and do that. Some of us have campaign managers that do some of those things or campaign consultants that do some of those things for us.

    Some of us make ourselves, some of us are made.

  • Matt Stewart

    A couple of observations:

    1.) Why did Mazzola want the job so motherfucking much? Is it just for sentimental, prestige, patronage, entitlement, petty reasons (i.e. his poppy and grandpoppy had the job and, so, therefore he wants to walk in their dynastical footsteps)? If this is the case, it sets a terrible precedent and is just another reason he should have been rejected and, more generally, labor should have been punished.

    2.) There must have been some calculated, behind the scenes conspiracy between labor and the four conservative Supervisors pushing Mazzola. Campos himself admitted that he did not know what his conservative colleagues’ intentions were when he found out what they were up to. Why didn’t these four have the common courtesy to deliberate the issue with the progressives beforehand? Certainly, labor was in on the whole thing because they all came out in force.

    3.) I’ll admit that I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about Bevan Dufty on a personal level but it seems that he has been generally honest, in spite of his conservative inclinations. That said, why would he participate in this shady maneuver?

    4.) Maybe this sort of thing is how labor gets their kicks. They’ve been shat on by the national and statewide corporate Democrats for the past forty years so they think that they should have the right to pick on the relatively independent local Democrats who are usually in their corner for all the right reasons.

    5.) Why does Luke have an advertisement promoting Fox Business?

  • Matt Stewart

    By the way, I wonder if the people at the Chron (Matier and Ross, I’m looking in your direction) feel embarrassed and ashamed that they are consistently beaten to the punch by FCJ?

  • Fox Business? Must be Google’s AdSense auto-delivered ad thingamajig.

  • Rob Anderson

    The Chron evidently correctly sees this as a non-story about an appointment that has very little significance except for the few people directly involved.

  • marc

    1.) power and control, not to mention the collection and distribution of chits.

    2.) The 4 conservatives have always been close to the XC Building and Construction Trades as is evidenced by their “development at all costs” land use voting patterns. As the BCT unions would lobby to “build Auschwitz” if it created one union job for one day, the conservative supes would naturally support organized labor where their interests intersect.

    3.) Dufty is running for Mayor. He is trying to distance himself from Newsom where there is little or no cost such as the MTA work orders, but when it comes to real bread and butter money, he knows who will fund his campaign, and is playing to the BCT unions for that purpose.

    4.) The house of labor is in shambles, largely as a result of their poor choices made over the past 40 years in the face of an relentless corporate onslaught. That said, Labor has been unable to learn lessons from that, to reinvent itself, going back to their basic founding principles and refashioning organizations capable of successfully promoting workers’ rights. Union leadership has really devolved into a set of competing and cooperating feudal fiefdoms, living off of tribute commanded from their rank and file and pretty much doing what union staffers think are going to benefit their interests rather than represented employees. If I had a dollar for every meeting I’ve been in on transportation where young union staffers with no real knowledge of transportation issues shaped–poorly–the outcomes of transit proposals, I’d have a pocketful of dollars.

    Tying things back together, when labor produces abortions such as Prop A (Feb 08) MTA reform, which caused as many problems as it solved and has since been illegally raided by Newsom, and when labor focuses on themselves and losing the fight on EFCA, they do not set the example of effectiveness before working America.

    Were Labor to tell the National Democrat Party to go fuck itself and organize folks for single payer and win, then the nation would be their oyster and we’d see a new day for workers’ rights in the US rather than a creaky infrastructure that serves itself, not the represented employees or our working “class” as a whole.


  • Hope Johnson

    Dear Matt:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Marc. His description is so accurate, all I can say about it is “that’s hot.”

    Even hotter is the fact that you asked the questions. I hope FCJ’s coverage always motivates people to keep those questions in mind as they assess news, watch public figures, and analyze public policy.

    Dear Rob:

    Not to worry. The Chron also published the story in it’s “hard” online section. I didn’t link there because they remove all their underlying links. No fun!

    Plus, I get the impression you may actually be upset because, while you prefer to call Dave Snyder “that bicycle guy,” the Chron followed FCJ’s lead and chose to refer to him as “transportation expert.” Now, that’s hot.

  • Erika

    SNAP! Brilliant as usual, Hope! The corrupt indignation on display at Tuesday’s board meeting was indeed funny, but not as funny as your “suck it!” remark. Ouch! A well-deserved spank to butt of the hack parade!

  • Rob Anderson

    “Plus, I get the impression you may actually be upset because, while you prefer to call Dave Snyder ‘that bicycle guy,’ the Chron followed FCJ’s lead and chose to refer to him as ‘transportation expert.’ Now, that’s hot.”

    Yes, but the Chronicle has always been behind the city’s bike people. They even did a front page story by Rachel Gordon lauding Critical Mass a few years ago. Snyder is a former executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, the only transportation expertise he has, in spite of his present position with SPUR, which is also on board for the bicycle bullshit.

    No one at Fog City will know this, but Snyder was the architect of the city’s deceitful strategy of dividing up the two-volume Bicycle Plan and passing each volume separately to avoid CEQA review. Of course the judge saw through that strategy immediately and ruled that the Plan consisted of the two volumes.

    Marc’s over-interpretation of the Mazzola/Snyder non-issue is laughably over the top.

    There used to be a labor seat on the this board. Now there’s a bike seat. Recall that Leah Shahum was also on the board recently, before being dumped by Mayor Newsom.

  • ricksf1

    SPUR is not exactly the progressive bastion that some have made it out to be. They are very tight with the Chamber and the Committee on Jobs. Their positions on many, many ballot initiatives make my skin crawl.

    Rick the Progressive

  • sfmike

    That’s a wonderful series of articles, Hope, and your reporting probably made a difference. The Mazzola dynasty seems to be an old-fashioned family with serious ethics problems, as a series of federal prosecutions of their dealings with the union pension fund and Konocti Harbor Resort attests. I wrote about them when their union was trying to knock down the low-income Civic Center Hotel about four years ago. Here’s a link:

    The fact that Elsbernd, Chu, Alioto-Pier and Dufty are carrying their water isn’t a surprise, but it’s fairly disgusting nonethless.