Publisher's View: Legacy
By Steven J. Moss
To understand City government’s priorities, take the following multiple choice quiz. When Ed Lee talks about what he wants to be his “legacy” as mayor, he’s referring to which of the following:
San Francisco’s 6,500 homeless individuals.
Potrero Hill, where a new city is emerging.
Muni is the Liz Taylor of policy problems. Married and divorced many times, with each suitor leaving behind expensive baubles – like the Central Subway – in exchange for their failed efforts. Meanwhile, the system gets older and crankier. Who can blame a mayor’s eye from wandering to an emerging transportation starlet – City CarShare, Uber or SideCar – before getting bored and moving on to the next new thing?
The homeless issue is like a bad date. The principals themselves often resist assistance. Sometimes they smell bad. And when they are ultimately housed, many of them backslide to the streets, or are replaced by new homeless imported from Illinois, or Santa Cruz, making the whole enterprise Sisyphusian. It takes a politician with a Messiah-complex to take on this public problem; which is why former mayor Gavin Newsom made some progress with it.
It requires creativity to see a legacy opportunity in the copious development emerging in Southside San Francisco. The neighborhoods themselves have historically been home to the work boots and apron set; fun people to party with, once and a while, but a long-term relationship? Forget about it. Unlike a redevelopment project, a mayor can’t just bulldoze away the existing 19th and 20th century buildings and people and create a “jazz district,” or health care money machine. It’d take a lot of work – and resources – to orchestra the myriad building projects and associated public infrastructure needs into something cohesive, authentic, and community friendly. Other mayors – in Chicago and New York – have found this kind of challenge intriguing, but San Francisco tends towards less complicated policy goals.
Taking on clothing optional people in the Castro requires a politician to spend time with angry naked people, who often might be gesticulating furiously, with whichever body part is most easily available. Next!
Two words describe a mayor’s likely attitude towards building a waterfront stadium: trophy wife. And Golden State seems to be the perfect Warrior Girl. She’s a teenage sweetheart who eloped with someone else, in 1971 running off with that ruffian, Oakland. She claims to love San Francisco for who we are, not for our money, providing huskily whispered assurances that no fancy trinkets are needed to lure her back into our municipal arms. Sure, she may bring with her some pesky traffic congestion, and block access and views to the Bay, but think about how awesome she’ll look through a television camera mounted on a blimp, sparkling Bay water or a twinkling downtown skyline framing her in the background. And she’ll probably be willing to continue to hold a successful mayor’s hand long after he’s left office.
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