Sugarcoated Shit

Written by Chris Daly. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on May 30, 2008 with 5 Comments

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly
Photos by Luke Thomas

By Chris Daly

May 30, 2008

It Still Stinks

You can sugarcoat shit, but that doesn’t make it ice cream… It’s one of the best lines from one of the sharpest organizers in San Francisco, and pretty much sums up Tim Paulson’s apologist column on labor’s deal with the Lennar Corporation (NYSE: LEN).

The truth stands – labor sold out, and there’s nothing Tim Paulson can say to change that.

You Can’t Hide From the Truth

Paulson tries to mask his dirty deal with some righteous accomplishments that Labor’s been a part of. Universal health care, paid sick leave, sweat-free purchasing, and living wage, are all efforts to be commended. And we have been successful, because we engaged from a position of strength with a tight coalition of labor, community groups, and progressive activists. In the case of Labor and Lennar, the opposite is true.

The deal is not “publicly transparent”. Labor cut a backroom deal with Lennar. Their meetings were not open to the public. There was no forum for public input or decision-making. We don’t even know if Labor and Lennar have even signed a deal yet.

The deal is not “legally binding”, even if they produce a signed agreement by Election Day. Since the deal isn’t on the ballot, the terms of development need to be adopted by at least 3 levels of government including the Board of Supervisors. After the development project clears its environmental requirements at Planning and the Board of Supervisors, it still needs to be adopted by the Redevelopment PAC, Redevelopment Commission, and Board of Supervisors (again), and none of us are a party to this deal. (Legally, none of these government entities could be party to the deal due to the deals explicit advocacy for Prop G and against Prop F.)

As bad as Labor’s process was negotiating this deal, the product was even worse. I believe this to be a product of political pressure on Labor from the Newsom administration in addition to Labor’s disconnect from the realities faced in San Francisco’s low-income communities. Paulson claims that Prop F requires that “the Hunters Point-Bayview neighborhood must stay poor.”

Perhaps he didn’t read the text of Prop F.

F is for Fairness

Prop F would require that for any new development in Candlestick Point or Hunters Point Shipyard that uses public land that at least half of the new housing units be affordable to household between 30% and 80% of the median income (which is about half of San Francisco’s households!) Currently for a family of 4, these are households earning between $24,850 and $66,300. (Just a point of information, the federal poverty level for a family of 4 is $21,200.) In other words, Proposition F requires that half of the new housing units, built on public land, be affordable to everyday San Franciscans, including many Labor households!

As for Tim Paulson’s concern for members who make “too much money to qualify for affordable housing subsidies,” I recommend checking out the City’s inclusionary affordable housing program that is delivering hundreds of affordable units to households earning between 80%-120% of the median income. Currently for a family of 4, these are households earning between $66,300 and $99,500.

F is for Saint Francis

While I empathize with those earning over $100,000 who are having trouble finding a home to purchase in San Francisco, I am more concerned with housing the thousands of hardworking, lower-income families who are living in substandard conditions, doubled and tripled up, or facing homelessness. I believe that until we meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable, we shouldn’t be putting public resources into programs to help people with 6-digit incomes.

I believe Tim Paulson and Mike Casey when they say that this was a tough decision for them, because I think the decision to fight for justice is the easy one. The winning is the difficult part.

Who Are the Real Republicans?

Finally, it seems as if any time Labor is criticized, their knee-jerk reaction is too paint their critic with the Republican brush. And, in this case, Tim Paulson is about as predictable as the come. Without directly addressing any of my concrete analysis, Paulson instead tried to compare me to Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond! It’s as if disingenuous political attacks from the political right make Labor immune from criticism from the left. Tim Paulson may not be smart enough to discern the difference, but the rest of us are.

But since Mr. Paulson went there, let’s find the real Republicans in Labor’s deal. How about Lennar founder, Leonard Miller? While Lennar now plays the field, giving to both Republicans and Democrats (leaning Republican), Miller built Lennar on hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to Republicans in his home state of Florida. Of that, over $100,000 went directly to the Republican Party of Florida. Does our San Francisco labor “leader” not remember what they did in 2000? (And, in case you were wondering, Leonard is the “Len” in Lennar.) Current Lennar President, Stuart Miller, has continued his father’s footsteps – contributing to the Republican Parties of both Florida and Oregon and to many Republican candidates including George Bush. Paulson’s words about me may be most ironic if you trace the link between Lennar and Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. While the connection is not direct, it seems as if Lennar has teamed up with some other shady characters with ties to Trent Lott to challenge Miami’s urban development boundary – designed to protect the Everglades.

Now this is all research that I did myself while writing this. Meanwhile organized labor has paid staff that are dedicated to research full-time. Maybe you should check in with them before making your next “difficult decision” and then comparing your critics to Republicans.

Chris Daly

Chris Daly is the Political Director for SEIU Local 1021, a union of over 50,000 public sector and non-profit workers. He served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2001-2011 and owns and operates The Buck, a bar and grill on Market Street.

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Comments for Sugarcoated Shit are now closed.

  1. Wipe the stupid grin off of your face, chris. The only reason you can actually show your face in this city is thanks to Labor and the hard working people who actually got you undeservedly elected. When I busted my ass on your campaign, all I kept thinking was that we’d have a better chance of winning if you’d just shut up for one minute. Enjoy riding off into the sunset after your last term, Global Exchange has an office waiting for you.
    Smell ya later…

  2. Proposition F is still going to pass, regardless of Tim Paulson’s useless, impotent endorsement.

    Comtemporary union bosses, eg. Andy Stern and Tim Paulson, seem to have found more congenial bedfellows in the arms of organised corporate criminals, like the Nursing Home Operators and Lennar, and have discarded the more unsavory charms of organised criminal enterprises. I guess they feel cleaner knowing they have the law of the man on their side. Old habits die hard though. I found Tim Paulson’s statement that the deals were being “lawyered up” kinda interesting and familiar.
    Even if one ignores Lennar’s abysmal record, how can we be reassured that they will undergo a miraculous transformation on the road to damnation because they have received the blessings of a couple of compliant groups who gave public support to their ‘proposal’ before the ink had even been put to paper.
    The names may have been changed, but the definition of a stooge has not.
    Patrick Monk.RN. Noe Valley

  4. People should go back and look at the text of Prop. J, “Workforce Housing,” which was on the ballot in March 2004. Remember how hard we worked to defeat that measure? That was a measure to change the planning code such that height and density limits were lifted for developers in some neighborhoods in exchange for an increase in the percentage of below-market-rate units that would be built.

    By below-market-rate, the people who wrote the measure meant the units would be affordable to people who made 110 percent or below the Bay Area’s median income (AMI). However, the AMI is higher than the San Francisco median income alone, and there was nothing in the measure that mandated that certain percentage categories of the new housing would be affordable to people below 110 percent of the AMI, let alone sginificantly below.

    I can’t remember where Labor was on Proposition J, but I know other progressives throughout the city were unified in their opposition. Why? Among other reasons, had it passed, it would have set a terrible precedent for the creation of future affordable housing plans.

  5. Doesn’t mean it don’t taste good.