Supes to continue AZ boycott talk
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution calling for a boycott of Arizona and Arizona-based businesses has been continued until Tuesday, May 11.
The supervisors unanimously supported a motion by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who opposes the resolution, to continue it. Openly gay Supervisor David Campos introduced the resolution Tuesday, April 27.
The call for a boycott is in response to Arizona's controversial immigration law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer last month.
This week Elsbernd told the Bay Area Reporter he opposes the Arizona law, but said he plans to vote against the resolution because he's concerned about unintended consequences the boycott could have.
For example, he expressed concern for employees of Arizona companies who could lose their jobs if San Francisco terminates contracts with businesses based in the state.
Elsbernd also pointed to San Francisco's dependence on tourism dollars, and said a boycott threatens the city's ability to "turn the corner" economically. He worried people in other parts of the country could engage in "retaliatory acts" such as not traveling to the city.
"Not that [hurting the city's economy] is the intention, but why would we take that risk for a boycott that may not necessarily work?" said Elsbernd.
Among other provisions, the Arizona legislation encourages law enforcement officials to determine the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. Known as the "papers, please" law, it effectively requires legal immigrants to carry papers wherever they go in order to avoid arrest and detention. Critics of the bill said that it would result in racial profiling of Hispanic residents of the state.
Over the weekend, Arizona lawmakers revised the law, specifying that police may only question someone's immigration status if they have already been stopped for a different reason.
The San Francisco resolution, which only "urges" city departments not to do business with the state if that is practical, says the Arizona law "will inevitably lead to racial profiling of people of color and limited English proficient persons."
Co-sponsors of the resolution include openly gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty.
When a resolution is voted on at first reading, it needs unanimous support. Otherwise, it's continued for another week.
Joe D'Alessandro, the openly gay president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, expressed concerns similar to Elsbernd's.
This is a situation "where people are frustrated with a law passed by elected officials in Arizona" and a boycott just targets "working people that had nothing to do with enacting those laws," he said.
D'Alessandro said after the passage of Prop 8 two years ago the visitors bureau received a lot of e-mails from people in places ranging from Massachusetts to Europe saying they weren't coming to California because of the state's same-sex marriage ban.
He recalls telling people, "You're going to hurt the people you're trying to help."
D'Alessandro said his agency's had about 200 e-mails from people wanting to cancel their trips to San Francisco if the city goes through with the Arizona boycott.
"The best thing for people to do would be to go to Arizona and try to talk to people on why this law is wrong – and I firmly believe it's wrong," said D'Alessandro.
Asked about the concerns over his resolution, Campos said, "Whatever negative consequences there are ... will be minimal" in the end.
Campos noted other cities, including Oakland, have passed boycotts related to the Arizona law.
"The same argument as to why we shouldn't do something has been applied to an number of things," he said.
For example, Campos referred to the city's Equal Benefits Ordinance, which requires city contractors to provide the same benefits to their employees with spouses and their employees with domestic partners.
He noted there had been fears of the ordinance causing a "backlash" but said, "In the end, none of that materialized, and we proceeded because with domestic partner benefits, it was the right thing to do. I think we should not be afraid to stand up for what is right."
As to the changes made to the Arizona law, Campos said, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."
The law still "opens the door for racial profiling" and the amendments don't really change the "fundamental problems with the law," said Campos.
If anything, he said, the changes are "recognition of the fact that they are getting a lot of pressure, and they feel themselves isolated."