Issue:  Vol. 46 / No. 38 / 22 September 2016

Kim's similar to Wiener on issues


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Progressives think that state Senate candidate Jane Kim is on their side in the big issues facing San Francisco. But a closer look at her record indicates she has voted the same as her opponent, gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, on the big issues.

For instance, both supported the Twitter tax deal in 2011. At the time, the city was desperate to keep tech companies here and Twitter was threatening to move out of San Francisco if it didn't get a tax break. Under a proposal crafted by then-Supervisor David Chiu and Kim, who co-sponsored it, a split Board of Supervisors passed the deal, allowing Twitter and other Mid-Market companies to receive an exemption from paying the payroll tax on new employees for six years. Wiener also voted for it.

At the time, those opposed to the tax break – Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos and former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi – said it was a form of corporate welfare that could result in the loss of revenue to the city. They also warned that it could lead to the displacement of poor residents and small businesses.

And in fact, residents, many of them poor, were displaced in the last few years. As the economy heated up, the housing market exploded as expensive fair-market condos were built. What's unclear is whether the Twitter tax break is solely to blame; the company itself has hit a rough patch, with the return of Jack Dorsey at the helm and a board shake-up. Its stock price is basically in the toilet at about $18 per share, far below its debut at $40 per share when it went public a few years ago. At the time the city needed to keep companies like Twitter from relocating, and arguably, the tax break has helped other businesses in the Mid-Market area, which is showing signs of revitalization after years of empty storefronts.

Housing is another issue where Wiener and Kim are more in agreement than not. Both support increasing affordable housing stock. But we believe Wiener has more realistic plans for achieving that, especially when authoring legislation at the state level. In Sacramento, it's critical that our representative be able to work with others and secure enough votes to pass bills. Wiener is more of a consensus builder who will do that by attempting reform or repeal of the state Ellis Act law, a crucial part of any workable housing policy in San Francisco. Just this week, a state appeals court blocked the city's latest attempt to restrict tenant evictions under the Ellis Act. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the city's ordinance, sponsored by Avalos and enacted in 2013, was in conflict with the Ellis Act by penalizing property owners who were within their lawful rights. A judge ruled that the city's ordinance amounted to "local intrusion," which is precisely the problem when cities try to tweak state law. It's clear from this decision that the only real way to fix the Ellis Act lies at the state level.

Candidates can reap lots of favorable press by holding splashy news conferences. But the hard work is governing. Wiener is the candidate who will do the nuts and bolts work to benefit his district. And those LGBT Kim supporters who revel in criticizing Wiener at every possible turn should keep in mind that on the big issues, the two candidates have often voted the same way.


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