Reading the Mayor’s Lips

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NO NEW TAX: Although the Governor may jack up the rate in 2012, Mayor Ed Lee did not win Prop G, despite his “modest” half-cent sales tax increase, which fell well short (46%) of the two-thirds to pass. The measure lost in nearly all SF neighborhoods supporting him for mayor, including heavily APA communities – Chinatown (56% opposed), Portola (59%), Richmond (57%), Sunset (61%), Visitacion Valley (60%), SOMA (53%) and Excelsior (56%)….It passed in Haight-Ashbury (57% support), Mission (61%), Noe Valley (51%), Northern Bernal Heights (60%), Southern Bernal (54%), Upper Market/Eureka Valley (51%), Western Addition (56%) – all areas where Lee’s progressive rivals – Supervisor John Avalos and City Attorney Dennis Herrera – won or did well for mayor…

After mayoral campaign barbs, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu (left) and Mayor Ed Lee (center) are working together.

GOTTA BE PRUDENT: Although a little hard to read his lips under that celebrity mustache (has SF forgotten Willie Brown’s already?), especially on KCBS radio last weekend, Mayor Lee’s not coming across as a tax-and-spend progressive. Given a fragile SF economy (unemployment went from 9.4% in Jan. 2011 to 8.1% last month) he’s anticipating no help from Sacramento or Washington DC while looking to recent initiatives like Central Market Street and America’s Cup developments as jobs creators. “We have to depend on ourselves,” he said while signaling, “I’m not a big tax guy” and for “automatic tax increases”…the city “shouldn’t rely on bonds” after November’s passage of $779 million in school and road bonds…“Obviously, there is fee fatigue,” he said, with rising parking meter rates costing well over half the price of inexpensive pho or wonton soup… MTA has to be “creative” and more efficient as he “quietly rejected” transit czar Ed Reiskin’s parking increases…

Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Fiona Ma is termed out at the end of 2012. Who will succeed her?

PURSE TIGHTENING: Further indicators of SF residents belt tightening since Nov. 2010. Voters rejected earthquake retrofit bond (2010 – Prop A) and hotel tax (2010 – Prop J). To save money, residents endorsed Mayor Lee’s consensus public pension reform (2011 – Prop C), which Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s inspired thru rival measures…Voters rolled back generous MUNI driver salary formula (2010 – Prop G)….EXCEPTIONS: Picky voters socked it to 1 percenters in a real estate transfer tax hike for properties over $5 million (2010 – Prop N)…Voters, especially homeowners, willingly absorbed property tax hikes for $248 million road safety and paving bond (2011 – Prop B), which barely passed. $531 million school bond (2011 – Prop A) won major help from usually fiscally conservative APA voter surge drawn by mayoral candidacies of Lee, Board President David Chiu, State Senator Leland Yee, Adachi and Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting. Among APA voters are parents of at least 40% APA kids comprising 53,000 SF Unified School District


NO PUPILS, NO JOBS: Teacher’s union – United Educators of SF – vociferously funded opposition to Prop H, the non-binding student assignment measure. UESF President Dennis Kelly’s rank and file should contemplate this – with SF student enrollment falling precipitously from 93,710 in 1967 to 53,033 out of estimated 95,000 SF school-aged kids in 2011, that meant less demand for classrooms, and thus teacher jobs. Student assignments – once culminating in a successful 1994 discrimination lawsuit by Chinese American parents – have factored in student flight out of SFUSD for decades…And it doesn’t help when 8% of dropouts are Filipino American, along with 11% who are Pacific Islanders…

19th Assembly District candidate Phil Ting, holding daughter Madeleine, gets his biggest endorsement from wife Susan Sun, who's minding older daughter Isabella. (Photo courtesy of Phil Ting for Assembly campaign).

PEACE ON EARTH: After touchy 2011 mayoral campaign moments, Ed Lee and David Chiu seem to be mending fences. Lee on the radio interview noted his meeting with Chiu on payroll tax reform – considered a job killer in the SF business community especially during tough times. Then on Tuesday both were in accord with relocating and saving longtime District 3 (Northern Embarcadero) businesses – Teatro ZinZanni cabaret and Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation with their 300 local jobs – to make way for the Cruise Terminal and America’s Cup projects at Pier 27… Despite holiday good cheer, Lee did warn that Chiu and mayoral runner up Avalos face election again for supervisor next November…

Will District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu also run for the 19th Assembly District seat?

SUSAN SAYS ‘YES’: Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting’s e-blasted last Tuesday wife Susan Sun’s okey doke to him running for the 19th Assembly District (formerly 12th) being vacated by Fiona Ma next year. Mr. Reset’s snared the endorsements of Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, State Senator Mark Leno (for whom Susan is district director), Rep. Judy Chu and Assembly members Tom Ammiano, Mike Eng and Paul Fong. Ting will have to explain, especially to the district’s large number of homeowners (many who are APA) – his proposals to close property tax saving Proposition 13 loopholes, as well as his $301 per voter cost of his taxpayer financed mayoral campaign…BANANA SPLIT SCENARIO: SF Supervisor Carmen Chu also a possible candidate creates a divisive Chu-Ting APA vote-splitting scenario. 2006 Assembly candidate Janet Reilly, along with her political consultant pioneer-husband Clint Reilly, will have to seriously think about running. Wonder what they, along with Chu and Ting, were thinking at Fiona Ma-Jason Hodge’s Half Moon Bay Nov. 12 wedding?

CALL HER JENNIFER: After her tongue-and-cheek “What’s Going Ong” slogan, Optometrist Jennifer Ong’s latest logo emphasizes her scripty first name superimposed over a rainbowed lifesaver-shaped “O” (as in Ong) for her June 2012 20th State Assembly District race. She’s running in one of California’s most heavily APA districts including Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Fairview, Cherryland, Ashland, Hayward, Union City, Sunol and Northern Fremont. The brand emphasizes “Jennifer” – an attempt to capture independent and Democratic women in a District that’s 34% APA, who represent the largest ethnic group. Latino Americans make up 28%, Whites 25% and African Americans 8%. With California’s open primary, declined-to-state voters could participate and help Ong, seeking the Democratic Party nomination. Although APAs in the district represent only one-eighth of Democrats, Ong can tap APA voters representing at least one-quarter DTS voters…

Just call her Jennifer, who’s running for the 20th Assembly District seat. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ong for Assembly)

BUMPER TO BUMPER: Don’t get excited by a car with the plate “OBAMA”. It should be obvious since no Secret Service is around to pull you over…Last month, a Lexus ES350 with vanity plate “LT GOV” turned from SF’s Dewey to Woodside near Laguna Honda Hospital. Driver wasn’t identifiable. But given ties to a Bay Area Lexus dealer, a few suspects included current Lt. Governor and ex-SF mayor Gavin Newsom, who once crammed his tall self into an eco-friendly GM EV-1. His office did not return a query about the Lexus. Meanwhile, first APA/Filipina American Lt. Gov. Mona Pasquil (Nov. 2009-April 2010) said it’s not hers. The Walnut Grove resident now serves as appointments secretary for Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento. Rep. John Garamendi, who left the Lt. Gov’s office in Nov. 2009 to represent Antioch, Walnut Creek and Fairfield in Congress, does not own it….

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About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.