FCJ Interview with Supervisor Jane Kim

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on February 17, 2011 with 15 Comments

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim. Photo by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

February 17, 2011

Supervisor Jane Kim has, fairly or unfairly, come under fire from progressive circles in recent weeks. Some are questioning whether the District 6 supervisor is able to exercise political independence following revelations former Mayor Willie Brown contributed $5 thousand to an independent expenditure benefiting Kim’s candidacy.

And in the first test of her political independence since her swearing in to the Board of Supervisors in January, Kim supported the appointment of Richard Johns, the husband of Willie Brown Institute Executive Director Eleanor Johns, to the Historical Preservation Commission despite claims that Johns is not qualified to serve as a historian on the commission.

And while the city faces a $350 million budget deficit, Kim has also been criticized for supporting a payroll tax exemption for Twitter, Inc. to discourage the social media company from relocating to Brisbane.

To address these issues and concerns in more detail, Fog City Journal was granted an interview with Kim.  The following is a transcribed excerpt from the interview:

FCJ: There’s a perception out there that you are not able to exercise political independence and much of that perception was generated after it was revealed Willie Brown contributed $5 thousand to your campaign via an independent expenditure. Can you address this?

JK: “The same people that criticized me during the campaign are criticizing me now. So that perception was there before I got onto the Board of Supervisors, and it’s propagated by the same set of people.”

FCJ:  Brown’s independent expenditure surprised a lot of people, particularly progressives.

JK: “It was a surprise to me, too. I didn’t know about it. I didn’t ask Willie Brown for funding for our campaign. I certainly didn’t know anything about an independent expenditure. The IE that came out on our behalf was a fraction of what was spent for Debra Walker and Theresa Sparks, so the fact that people thought that a small donation buys my politics, I found very interesting.”

“And nothing to be said for the number of developer dollars that went to both of my opponents which we didn’t accept during the campaign – nobody thought that was a big deal. I’m not really quite sure what the difference between developers and Willie Brown are in terms of their interests and certainly a ton of them funded the Debra Walker campaign – progressives didn’t kick up dust about that.”

FCJ: The perception is is that your benefactors are Willie Brown and Rose Pak.

JK: “I honestly don’t have anything to say about that because they haven’t asked me for anything … except to come to the Chinese New Year’s parade. Besides being invited to events, I’ve never been asked for anything by them. If people have evidence of how my votes have been influenced by them, then people should bring that forward. But to simply say, ‘oh, we saw them at your event and therefore you’re going to do whatever they say,’ I think that’s a huge jump. A lot of people go to a lot of people’s events. I don’t think Rose (Pak) played a significant role in our campaign, but that was my perception.”

FCJ: Did Rose Pak help raise money for your campaign?

JK: “Not that I know of. I would say 80 percent of the donors – I could be wrong about this – I could call personally on my cell phone right now, and the fact that people think that I can’t fundraise that amount on my own, to me it’s a little insulting. I worked really hard to raise that money for our campaign and other people helped us with fundraising. I’m not aware of Rose actively campaigning for our campaign fund.”

FCJ: Do you sense there may be an expectation of voting a certain way on issues that are important to Rose Pak?

JK: “Not that I know of.”

FCJ: For example, the Central Subway Project.

JK: “I’m already supporting Central Subway. I was supporting that before I knew who Rose was.”

FCJ: And Willie Brown? Is there any implicit expectation that you will vote according to how Rose and Willie would want you to vote on issues important to them?

JK: “I don’t event know what they want. I feel like Steve (Steve Jones, SFBG City Editor) is telling me what they want but no one has ever approached me of what they wanted. So I’m not aware of any future things coming forward. No one has warned me of anything. Again, I just want to know the evidence that people have of all these supposed ‘string pulling’ that’s going on instead of just assuming that they are my own independent decisions.”

FCJ: Can you explain your support for the payroll tax exemption for Twitter?

JK: “The basic concept is that, if you’re a company that’s growing in San Francisco and you want to invest, put your company in Mid-Market – it’s an area that already has infrastructure and large commercial retail that is vacant – we will give you a tax exemption on new jobs that you bring to the City. So whatever current jobs you have, you continue to pay payroll tax on that. So Twitter will continue to pay what they are currently paying every year for the next six years if they move to Mid-Market.”

“To me this is our dialogue around business tax reform as well. I think that most of us agree that the payroll tax is not the best way to tax businesses because it discourages job creation – which is something we want to see happen – and so I would like to see us move to a gross receipts tax model on commercial rental and I think that’s a good direction to move in.”

FCJ: If a gross receipts measure proposal passes on the ballot, would Twitter’s payroll exemption expire?

JK: “Yes. This is not a tax exemption on future taxes or tax reform.”

FCJ: On Richard Johns’ appointment to the Historical Preservation Commission, did you know that his wife, Eleanor Johns, is the Executive Director of the Willie Brown Institute?

JK: “I found that out after the Rules Committee hearing.”

FCJ: How did you vote for Johns at the full Board?

JK: “I voted for him yes at the Board and yes at Rules Committee.”

FCJ: Your progressive colleagues have indicated Johns was unqualified for the post.

JK: “They said he was qualified but they didn’t know if he was the best person for the job. I felt the same way. I thought he was qualified. Did he fit perfectly under the definition of historian? I didn’t think so but our City Attorney said that we had discretion… We asked supervisors if there were concerns around Mr. Johns and there wasn’t so we went forward and supported his nomination.”

FCJ: And you’re okay with your vote on that?

JK: “He’s one member out of seven on the Historical Preservation Commission. I think he cares about historical buildings. I think he’ll be a good member.”

FCJ: On the Pledge of Allegiance, do you believe in God?

JK: “I do believe in God, I don’t think it should be in the pledge.”

FCJ: What are your thoughts on the state of progressivism in San Francisco?

JK: “I think a lot remains to be seen and I think what we saw was ten years of really strong activism in progressive electoral politics which is really important in setting a strong foundation for us right now. There’s a lot of work that was done around housing, around a more equitable budget process that were huge successes. We saw Healthy San Francisco, we saw paid sick days, we saw local hire – I think those are some of the key legislations that we were able to pass in the city that now even moderates claim as successes. So I think the key now for the next ten years is what are the next steps for progressives? How can we address job growth? How can we continue to deal with a shrinking budget that helps fund services that make our city more equitable, and how do we continue to kind of evaluate how development happens in this city?”

FCJ: Have you thought about ways of raising revenue, targeting the rich in San Francisco, to pay more of their fare share?

JK: “I think revenue generation is something progressives have always tried to take a leadership role in and we have to do it.”

FCJ: If the Falun Gong were to apply for a permit for next year’s Chinese New Year parade, where would you be in terms of support for that?

JK: “I have no opinion on this issue.”

FCJ: Why?

JK: “I don’t know. I don’t have an opinion on this issue.”

FCJ: Do you remember the issue when it flared up in 2006 and 2007?

JK: “Yeah, they violated rules of the parade. They weren’t allowed to leaflet and they did, so they weren’t allowed to participate again in the parade. That’s my understanding of the issue.”

FCJ: They are a peaceful organization. Shouldn’t they be allowed to participate in a parade in a country that supports freedom of speech?

JK: “I don’t know anything about Falun Gong and try not to get involved. I don’t think this is an appropriate issue for elected officials.”

FCJ: This issue was brought before the Board before.

JK: “I know and I think it was inappropriate. I thought it was inappropriate for [Supervisor] Daly to bring this forward. This is an international issue. There’s a lot of politics involved, China with Falun Gong; there’s a lot of different opinions in the Asian-American, Chinese-American community. I think this is something that needs to be worked out in the community.”

Editor’s Note: Luke Thomas is a resident and voter in District 6. In the interest of transparency, he provided photography services to the 2010 campaigns of Jane Kim, Jim Meko and Debra Walker.

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for FCJ Interview with Supervisor Jane Kim are now closed.

  1. Hey Jane Kim, get rid of the drug dealers and human crap between 6 and 7th street and you might have some companies wanting to bring a business. Simple solution. CLEAN YOUR STREETS!

  2. Hey Jane Kim, get rid of the drug dealers and human crap between 6 and 7th street and you might have some companies wanting to bring a business. Simple solution. CLEAN YOUR STREETS!

  3. @Jane. Any response to Downtown paying it’s fair share ?

  4. You OK, Rob?

    You just wrote 3 paragraphs without saying the word ‘bicycle’.


  5. Luke phrased the question about the Pledge of Allegiance oddly. Her not standing for the pledge wasn’t about whether she believed in God but the “liberty and justice” part.

    And her waffle on the Falun Gong issue lacks credibility. Being a supervisor is inherently political, and she is part of both the Asian-American “community” and the larger city political community. Why does she think she should get a pass on an issue just because it’s controversial?

    Too bad Luke couldn’t ask her some informed questions about planning policies in SF, like the “transit corridors” and dense development approach mindlessly followed by city progressives.

  6. On the plus side,

    That’s a fabulous shot of Jane.

    go Giants!


  7. Supervisor Kim commented at the Rules Committee hearing on Richard Johns about the need for sensitivity to affordable housing and the need for more minority and women commissioners. Instead of acting on this by encouraging the mayor to find a candidate who met those criteria, she voted for the white male power-broker lawyer. She didn’t know he was Eleanor Johns’ husband? C’mon. Many anti-Johns people lobbied her on this – she can’t claim they didn’t inform her of the basic facts.

    There are several things in this interview she claims she just doesn’t know – why did this person run for office?

  8. The most troubling part of this FCJ-Jane Kim interview is the exchange concerning the work of the Rules Committee.  There is an ominous sign here an elected official is trying to write the term paper the night before it’s due and getting into trouble.

     FCJ: On Richard Johns’ appointment to the Historical Preservation Commission, did you know that his wife, Eleanor Johns, is the Executive Director of the Willie Brown Institute?

    JK: “I found that out after the Rules Committee hearing.”

    In the January 20, 2011 packet for Rules Committee there is a copy of Richard Johns 700 Form or “Statement of Economic Interests.” This 10 page 700 form can also be found online beginning on page 12 of this pdf: http://www.sfbos.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/bdsupvrs/committees/materials/rls012011_101511.pdf

    For the curious, John’s investments may also be of interest:  Walmart, energy stocks and one of the GOP and John McCain’s biggest donors are part of a substantial portfolio. On page 10 of the 700 Form, Johns reports  “under penalty of perjury” that his spouse works as the Executive Director of the Willie Brown Institute for a gross income of between $10,001and $100,000.

    Throughout the District 6 campaign Kim championed her educational CV. To quote, “Jane received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University, where she studied Political Science and Asian American Studies. She went on to receive her law degree from U.C. Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall.”Is it asking too much that a supervisor making $96,000  adequately prepare for a committee they chair?  One of the arguments for Prop J in 2002 was that the San Francisco public would be better served by having a Board earning “full time pay.”

  9. Spoken, Mr Brooks, like a true minister of propaganda. I don’t think Goebbels could have done it better.

  10. Jane says, “The same people that criticized me during the campaign are criticizing me now. So that perception was there before I got onto the Board of Supervisors, and it’s propagated by the same set of people.”

    Actually that isn’t true Jane. I was one of the progressives who naively -defended- you against attacks by others during the campaign when they criticized you around Willie Brown’s independent expenditure. It was such defense from me and others at the SF Green Party which led us to choose you over Debra Walker in our endorsements. I now see that this was a huge mistake.

    Since you won the election we have not just seen Willie Brown ‘at an event’ we have seen Willie Brown, Steve Kawa, George Gascon, and David Chiu seated with you at the -head- table of your own inauguration banquet.

    We have seen you help David Chiu completely flip the control of both the Mayor’s office and Board of Supervisors over to the Downtown Brown/Pak/Kawa machine; an absolute outrage for which you will rightly never be forgiven.

    Your weak attempts to gloss over these realities with lame PR style wiggle language in response to FCJ’s questions aren’t fooling any of us who know the real story.

    You want us back on your side during your re-election campaign? I suggest you do a -serious- 180 on policy decisions and start strongly heeding the advice of progressives when we ask you for key vote decisions.

    You have unacceptably helped turn progressives into the opposition in this town, and we are damned well going to -act- like opposition and hold you -bitterly- politically accountable for your decision making over the next four years.

    I strongly recommend you take that state of affairs very seriously. Further intolerable Richard Johns type nonsense will not be glossed over by progressives who incorrectly thought we could count on you.

    And for the record, I am also a District 6 constituent, and as you well know, a very active one.

    So I also personally, as your constituent, demand that you radically change course and start properly serving the interest of the progressive constituents without whose support you would never have won your election.

  11. Ugh.

  12. One of her campaign promises was to ‘revisit’ Sue Bierman’s 1994 Prop O that would require business to ‘pay it’s fare share’ in funding Muni. I hope that’s one she will keep.

  13. Effin’ hilarious!

  14. Remember those videos of “bum fights” that were on YouTube? I knew they were wrong, but I still got some guilty pleasure from watching. Now I am free from that. I can just watch SF progressives tear into each other and I have no guilt at all.

  15. The same people that criticized me during the campaign are criticizing me now. So that perception was there before I got onto the Board of Supervisors, and it’s propagated by the same set of people.”

    Exactly so. There’s a word for those people: progressives.

    “I don’t think Rose (Pak) played a significant role in our campaign, but that was my perception.”

    You lose so much nuance with the printed word. Did she say that sentence with a straight face? Was there an ironic twist to her voice?

    Annnyyywayyyy. We’re thinking about throwing good-hearted I Told You So party at the Buck Tavern for all the progressives who owe a mea culpa for having voted for Jane Kim. The idea is to hand out color-coded buttons at the door.

    1) Red button: Jane Kim activist. Drinks are on you for the duration of the evening.

    2) Yellow button: Jane Kim voter. You are required to buy at least one drink/appetizer for a non-Kim voter.

    3) Blue button: Voted for Jim Meko, Debra Walker, James Keys, Anna Conda, etc.

    4) Green button: You actually ARE Jim Meko, Debra Walker, James Keys, Anna Conda, etc. You are not permitted to buy a drink/appetizer for yourself.

    Let the healing begin. Who knows, maybe Jane will show up, like Chiu at Daly’s roast.