A Source at City Hall
On public power, labor & politics
I wanted to get these thoughts off to you about Monday's
board meeting before the cheap wine takes its claim. Most of these items
either directly or indirectly deal with your latest column on the mayor.
Public power: Matt did a fine job in trying to get a
public power measure to the ballot. He actually took note of the issue
in 2000, recognized how helpful the Guardian was to his cause, and stuck
by it. It is nice to meet folks in public life who take seriously what
they pledge to do while running for office. It's refreshing to meet
people who don't lie. What I don't understand is why McGoldrick and
Peskin are so willing to just follow along with Ammiano on this one. I
wanted to see these votes go down, so I cut out early from work and
watched the board meeting. There was Bob Boileau, V-P of the Labor
Council, huddling with the PG&E suits who rolled in to watch. Then Frank
Gallagher, who didn't spend much time at the BOS. He headed up to the
Civil Service Commission to watch the program unfold. But he did see
Gonzalez's governance amendment approved on a 6-5 vote, and he was
giggling about the role Newsom, Hall, and Yee played in that vote. You
could tell Gallagher thinks its a poisonous amendment, one that will
make it easier to defeat public power in November. I think Gallagher
will be surprised.
My sole comment to Matt was that we were watching his
colleagues make these key decisions about a public power agency based
upon assumptions about what the public is going to do. Trying to read
public opinion on a matter like this before a campaign and the public
debate is impossible. That is information you can't know, but try
telling that to Aaron Peskin (of course, later on in the evening he had
a hard time getting the month right). Contested elections involve
sorting out all kinds of factors that you can't predict. The job of the
BOS here was to set the table, give the public the best possible agency
to vote up or down, and structure the debate in an honest way.
Tony Hall hit some of these points, and he got the
arguments right. But the high point of the day was watching Gonzalez
threaten to pull his public power measure after the break when Maxwell
(who had been primed by Brad Benson – can't prove it with 100% certainty
but I saw the conversations go down) wanted to resurrect public power
with an appointed authority with no access to the grid. By the way, have
you noticed the "camera walks" that Brad is famous for, the way he walks
around the chamber to maximize his odds of getting on camera? Ammiano
thought he'd nailed Gonzalez, but he forgot that Gonzalez's measure was
not the one amended. Tom's miscalculation right there may be the
difference in whether or not we get a reasonable shot of ever having
public power in SF.
This brings me to McGoldrick. One of his oldest backers,
someone who sat with him on the SF Tomorrow Board of Directors for
years, told me tonight that if anyone tunes into Channel 26, it's over
for McGoldrick. The SF Tomorrow board member called it a bad British
comedy. Did you see how he tried to "rope" Gulliver's Travels into the
Charter discussion? Jake does everything Tom wants, even when it's
against not only McGoldrick's interest but Tom's as well. Jake
McGoldrick went before the Guardian. He pledged to support public power
(not a lite version, gutted by labor reps at the behest of PG&E) for his
2000 endorsement. So did Peskin.
That brings us to the question of why Tom is going this?
It's a fair question. His mayoral candidacy has some obstacles. At least
20% of the electorate is homophobic. My first volunteer political work
in SF was over domestic partners, and we never got more than 50% of the
straight vote for it. 1/3 of the city's electorate voted for the gay
marriage ban on the March 2000 ballot. Personally, I would be tempted to
vote for a freedom from marriage measure, gay or straight, but that is
another matter. But that's there, and it was there big time in 1999. So
Tom wants to keep his 1999 base (which includes the Guardian) and add to
that the Labor Council & the Democratic Party (DCCC). I don't think the
votes are there at the DCCC for Tom Ammiano but I could be wrong. Robert
Haaland, an Ammiano loyalist, did an excellent job of organizing for the
DCCC in the 13th AD but Jane Morrison dropped the ball in the 12th AD.
But you have to ask did Morrison drop the ball or was going slow on
electing progressives in the 12th AD contingent upon the support she
would later receive from certain Democratic elected officials (I think
that was the deal). But the DCCC part of the equation is done because
there won't be an election for that until 2004.
That leaves the Labor Council. The Labor Council is
still up in the air. Right now, because of the laundry workers and SEIU
250 leader Sal Roselli's issues with Ammiano, he has some problems
there. Supposedly, some compromise is in the mix. The SEIU workers are a
big piece of the equation at the Labor Council because in SF we have far
more public employee union members than union workers in private firms.
But Tom's recent moves on planning (Kevin Hughes of the Building Trades
Union was one of his three picks for the Planning Commission) combined
with public power are all about lining up the votes within the Building
Trades part of the Labor Council.
So it's an understandable calculus at first glance. But
Ammiano's problem is that the 1999 base he is currently taking for
granted has other choices next year. Last time the alternatives were
Clint Reilly and Frank Jordan. One had a history of beating up a woman.
The other took his clothes off, and it was not a pretty sight at all.
Angela Alioto is running for mayor in 2003, and she has a long-term
relationship with Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann.
I get the sense that Peskin and McGoldrick are going
along with Ammiano thinking their participation in his public power
plans will help Tom at the Labor Council and increase Ammiano's odds.
But Bruce Brugmann at the Rules Committee made his views known about
Ammiano's public power measure. He called it the PG&E perpetuation act.
Right now we have two hermaphrodite versions – forgive
the non-pc analogy – of the public power on the table, a fusion of the
Ammiano and Gonzalez amendments. Personally, I was hoping that Matt
would get Tom to go with his public power approach, particularly after
the Milk Club and the Guardian weighed in combined with Gonzo's support
for Ammiano's Planning picks, which are unpopular with several
neighborhood folks who were hoping for a Dennis Antenore as one of the
three picks. But that did not happen.
But frankly the IBEW (the PG&E union) isn't all that
critical to the building trades council, much less Ammiano's fate at the
Labor Council. If Ammiano was truly focused on his odds at the Labor
Council, he would be rallying with the laundry workers because that
union, SEIU 250, has far more votes to offer a mayoral candidate. Josie
Mooney and Bob Boileau are sleazy Democratic hack types, and they are
feeding Ammiano a load of bs about what he needs to do to get the Labor
Council. In short, they are insincere about supporting him, and he's
taking their advice sincerely when in fact he is being set up. Mooney is
smart enough to know that by insisting upon no grid access AND no
democratic governance in a public power measure, that means Ammiano gets
in trouble with Bruce Brugmann. She knows that, and is telegraphing her
influence over this process to people like Willie Brown and John Burton.
Gubernatorial elections traditionally are good for
liberal causes. The first lavender sweep (which included passage of
domestic partners), the extension of rent control to 2-4 unit buildings,
Ammiano's election to the BOS & president of the BOS all happened in the
November gubernatorial year elections. Public power could not ask for
better placement in terms of an election. It's pathetic to watch a set
of false assumptions about what the public is going to do. I understand
why Tom needs the Labor Council, but if it means gutting public power
that is just too high a price. If I am McGoldrick or Peskin, it's not a
choice over whether you go with Ammiano or Brugmann. You choose the guy
with the printing press every time. That is my read on this debate, and
I think it makes more of the nuances we've all watched make sense.
p.s. Gerardo was a good vote today. Your column helped.
I have some other things to report about Gerardo but that can wait. He
was a good vote for Matt today.