Friday, May 30, 2008

Downtown's Polling in District 11

It looks like the downtown interests can’t wait any longer and have initiated their campaigning in District 11. I've heard from two unrelated sources, a neighbor and the wife of another D11 candidate who have been polled about the District 11 race.

While many people have asked me whether I will do or have done a poll, polling is simply way out of the price range of a grassroots campaign for it even to be considered, even with the public financing. Why should I bother when when my campaign is really going to be won on people power, neighbors talking to neighbors and people getting involved in their communities, not by the meddling of big businesses who want to shape public opinion to back a candidate who will work for them.

In a text message, my neighbor Emiliano wrote he was asked about three of the leading candidates, what he thought about Newsom, Daly and Peskin, potholes, parks, graffiti, clean streets, parking, and chain stores. He was then asked about whether he would support the creation of a code of conduct for the Board of Supervisors. A similar code of conduct had been proposed by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and other Newsom allies on the Board of Supervisors.

The type of downtown interests who typically employ polling to help them shape public opinion include the Chamber of Commerce, the California Urban Issues Project which represents some small and but mostly big businesses, the Committee on Jobs, the lobbying and political firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners whose clients include some of the Bay Area’s wealthiest businesses, the Building Owners and Managers Association who represent the high rise office commercial office buildings and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association who represents many of San Francisco’s big name restaurants.

All of these entities and their allies would like City Hall to represent their interests and the interests of their big paying partners. One of their methods is to narrow down the political discussion in the City to address “quality of life issues,” getting people to focus more on the annoyances of garbage and graffiti and potholes. They want to us to back candidates who will talk their talk. They want us to be angrier about garbage rather than the fact that the San Francisco developers are building thousands of luxury condos instead of the kind of housing that working people can afford. That’s because the big business political firms are aligned with and bought and paid for by interests who are making a killing on the luxury real estate market.

And while I do believe litter, graffiti and potholes are problems that a Supervisor should be concerned about and work on, they are only a symptom of more pressing needs in the city and District 11. Our main issues are economic ones. Many residents lack access to better paying jobs and affordable housing. For instance, lack of street parking is only a symptom of the high cost of living and the unavailability of local jobs, not to mention the lack of efficient and comprehensive public transit. As housing gets more unaffordable people have little choice but to double up with other folks to cover the rent or the mortgage. As jobs are found more regionally and regional transportation remains mired in the 1940s freeway mentality, households need more than one car to get around to their various places of work. I’ve lived in District 11 since 1999. Even after the dot com boom and bust housing costs have continued to soar and street parking has gotten more scarce and harder to find.

All the District 11 candidates will talk about District 11 not getting its fair share, but as long as we’re focused on the little things, we’re never going to get it. If we don’t think big we’re never going to get the kind of change that’s going to make our communities safer, cleaner and more affordable to working families. My vision for change is based on people getting involved in the democratic process. If everyday people participate in the political process then downtown would have less of an ability to influence our elections. We'd be more able to care for neighborhoods, shape public policy and hold city hall accountable to our needs. Only through neighbors reaching out to neighbors, through communities planning together are we’re going to be able to create the kind of change that District 11 residents are really yearning for.

Let's not let downtown nickel and dime us on the issues in our district!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Under I.C.E.?

The May 1 march and rally was another triumph of one of the most important civil rights movements in the country. Along with the anti-war movement, the same sex marriage movement, the movements for universal health care, environmental justice and women's rights I count the movement for immigrant rights as vitally important.

Last week, my family, children and I marched with thousands of immigrants, both documented and undocumented and their allies in the faith and labor communities. It was one of the more exuberant marches that I have ever participated in.

The next day, President Bush's Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the taquerias of multiple communities across the Bay Area. I.C.E. locked up and detained 73 people, including children andpregnant and lactating women, and has initiated deportation proceedings on many of them, dividing family members and breaking up homes. These well coordinated retaliatory actions have instilled great fear among the immigrant community whose main aspiration is to live a life of dignity and independence, free from political intimidation, military rule, economic and environmental deprivation. Compared to other countries, the United States offers some hope for these aspirations.

Think about it: our nation's armies are able to move freely across the globe. The Bush Administration has sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Iraq in particular, the military has created hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of refugees. Similar estimates count numbers of deaths. Global economic policies allow multi-national corporations and manufacturers to move freely across the globe to find cheaper labor and less stringent worker and environmental standards. This race to the bottom destabilizes communities, forcing workers to compete for insufficient numbers of low wage jobs and concentrate into ghettos that all too often lack basic infrastructure such as safe housing, sanitation, schools, access to clean water and transportation. Many immigrants come from such communities.

Despite not benefiting from the same global economic policies, workers are on the move. Deprived of mobility under the law, immigrants are members of a de facto borderless planet. Despite the daily struggle for dignity in the work place, for safer communities and better housing immigrants are in our midst. Throughout U.S. history immigrant workers have made great contributions to our economy. Immigrants are such an integral part of our everyday existence, that anti-immigrant enforcers have as much ability to stop immigration as they have the ability to live without the roofs over their heads that immigrants install, without the food or clothes that immigrants grow and manufacture, the offices that immigrants clean, the restaurants that immigrants run and child care that immigrants provide.

Clearly we need immigration policies that account for the reality of immigrant labor and the immigrant community. We need new policies that provide respite from intimidation and amnesty for the mix of documented and undocumented people who live here. Perhaps with a new administration in Washington we can have these types of policies.

On Monday, I joined again with the labor, faith and immigrant community to denounce these raids and pray for this better day. As a candidate I not only stand behind San Francisco's sanctuary city ordinance, I seek to strengthen it.