Tag Archives: San Francisco politics

Update: SF’s David Chiu beats David Campos in Assembly District 17; Midterm mugging: For first time in 8 years, GOP in charge. Nancy Pelosi still minority leader, but Mike Honda still in Congress.

UPDATED: In the hotly contested San Francisco Assembly District 17 race, David Chiu has issued this statement on Facebook that his opponent, David Campos, has conceded.

Close race between two colleagues that got nasty. But that’s politics.


Nov.5: People hate Congress, but they like their guy. How else do you describe the way Democratic Incumbent Mike Honda in CA-17 was able to beat back Ro Khanna, the disruptive Democrat who failed despite big money and endorsements.

Goes to show you, avuncular beats upstart. In politics, style counts for something.

But Honda’s victory is not enough to make Nancy Pelosi happy. She’s still in the minority, but even deeper in the hole now.

It rained at the Giants parade, and on Tuesday it poured. Two more years of political smiles.

Last week she had the Senate, now all she has is a lame duck president to lean on.

And an orange rally rag to remind her what it feels like to be a World Champion.







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S.F. Mayor Ed Lee works overtime for #SOTU: Maximum Asian, minimum wage in the land of inequality; updated 3:42PDT with preview excerpts

Some observers might think San Francisco must be on President Obama’s “Do Not Call” list after that embarrassing incident during his last visit. That’s when one of the handpicked invitees who stood behind Obama spoke out and disrupted the president’s speech.  ( http://aaldef.org/blog/yelling-stop-deportations-an-undocumented-asian-american-stands-up-and-obama-stands-down.html ).

But Obama is merely showing how you can’t let a little thing like that spoil your good attitude. We’re not talking Chris Christie here.

Obama is moving on, because Ed Lee can help him.

So instead of a “shunning,” the president is shining a light on the San Francisco mayor.

Lee fills a number of purposes for President Obama at the #SOTU.  If anyone asks,”Is there an Asian American in the house? ” Well, now there will be.  (They won’t be in the bomb shelter). As Michelle’s guest, Lee is the son of Chinese immigrants, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco in the nation’s most Asian American state.

But Lee’s real purpose may be to be the bureaucratic face and prime working example of an elevated minimum wage. SeaTac in Washington has a $15 minimum. But SeaTac is not San Francisco, and Obama needs to show a major city example. That’s SF, with the next highest minimum wage at $10.55 an hour.

Obama wants to raise the fed minimum to $10.10, up from $7.25.

At a time when inequality has become Obama’s “here-and-now”  issue, having Lee there is critical to show everyone that $10.10 is do-able. SeaTac is struggling with $15. But new studies show SF’s businesses haven’t been hurt by years of an elevated minimum wage, well above $7. In fact, even conservatives like Bill O’Reilly are coming around to embrace the issue of raising the MW.

Maybe that’s because minimum wages mean conservatives can feel good about finally taxing the poor.

But really, what’s $10.10 an hour?  Multiply that by 30 hours (because then bosses wouldn’t have to pay benefits). Then work for 50 weeks and voila. You’re barely above $15,000 a year.

Shack up with another minimum wage earner, don’t have kids, and live in your parent’s trailer, and you can survive on $30,000 a year combined. Sure, why not. (You want to eat too? And have clothes? Wow, no one told O’Reilly that).

No, of course it’s do-able.

You won’t be among the One-percent though.

Maybe this is Obama’s way to discourage future immigration to the U.S.?  Land of opportunity?

No, America is the “new”  land of inequality.


Preview excerpts from President Obama’s SOTU  address– (Second to last graph (bolded) is perhaps the most direct in terms of president’s intention to by-pass Congress if he needs to get things done).
“In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.


Let’s face it: that belief has suffered some serious blows.  Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.


Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.


Our job is to reverse these tides.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” 


“Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”

(End of excerpt).




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The “New Mud”: Ranked Choice voting changes everything in SF Mayoral Election; How Lee’s voter fraud controversy puts everything in a new light with less than two weeks to go

 A big conference on Asian American activism is taking place in San Francisco this week.

Ed Lee used to be one of them, an unabashed non-profit good guy.  But now his life has changed as the lead dog in the San Francisco mayoral race. He just may not be in the lead for long.

Lee, the interim mayor attempting to make it for real, has been tripped up by some overzealous campaigners on his behalf who may have committed voter fraud.

The now infamous “Ed Heads,” blue shirted members of the San Francisco Neighbors Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011, had been out in Chinatown the last few weeks setting up tents and helping specifically Cantonese speaking voters.

Tents!  Or maybe they were voter cabanas?

How much help the voters got is he issue, and with translated ballots and handbooks, how much help is needed, unless the volunteers really were filling out ballots and telling people how to vote.

Beyond language, there’s the issue of taking a ballots in a plastic bag for delivery to the elections office. These are ballots not pizzas. No delivery allowed.

And then there’s the last big question. How direct is the  connection of the volunteers  to Lee? 

As close as Rose Pak?

The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into this after seven candidates faxed a letter of complaint Sunday to D.C.

I talked to one candidate today who said when he talked with Lee over the weekend, Lee wanted to be on the letter to show a united front.

Makes sense.  All major candidates want a fair and ethical election, right? In the spirit of Ranked Choice Voting, that would take the sting out of any appearance of mudslinging and show consensus. Take the politics out of it.

But apparently there was no strong feeling to provide Lee a fig leaf.

Besides, this is just what the other candidates were looking for: Acceptable campaign “mud.”

Ranked Choice Voting makes things a bit to collegial sometimes. Like a parish council. You’re looking for consensus? Boring.

So this was too good for the other candidates to pass up.

A little local October surprise to stop the front-runner in his tracks and help others make up ground.

Lee’s best response so far: Proclaiming it’s “Hammer time”?

With all the possible investigations emerging, Lee is going to have to do much more to regain any momentum.

Otherwise, the voter fraud scandal has done the real heavy lifting for the candidates. Its isolated Lee. And it’s changed the dynamic of race. The cloud of voter fraud may even be enough to keep Lee off voters’ RCV top-three.

If an “anyone but Ed” campaign emerges, then the seven who sent the DOJ letter (especially  Leland Yee, David Chiu, Jeff Adachi, Dennis Herrera and John Avalos)  have just made this race much tighter than expected.  

The No.2 vote will be very important. That means candidates will be on good behavior from here one. They know who they’re No.1 with. Now their goal is to be everyone’s No.2.

As candidates get eliminated, those No.2 ballots will eventually make someone a winner.

But who?   Chiu?  Yee?  Adachi?  

This historic race in Asian American history is coming up to an exciting finish.

And the winner will be the best No.2 person around.

Whoever gets the majority of Avalos’ or Herrera’s No.2 votes will be the first elected Asian American mayor.

More on the controversy at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog:



Filipino nurse issue turning into leverage point in community demands for equal job opportunity and health care access at new California Pacific Medical Center project

Allegations of discriminatory anti-Filipino hiring practices at St.Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco have been festering at California Pacific Medical Center since last August.

We haven’t heard a lot from either the hospital or the nurses since then.

But now it appears CPMC has simply preferred a subtler approach.

Why not just try to persuade a key witness against them to change his story, maybe by even offering him a higher paying job?

That’s so Filipino!

Send over the CEO of the whole CPMC magilla to sweet talk the witness on Valentine’s Day no less.  Nothing like some Bigfoot-sweet-talk to persuade and intimidate a lowly nurse overcome by a momentary sense of outspokenness, and professional self-esteem.  

CPMC must think they’re in Manila.

But St.Luke’s nurse Ronald Villanueva, one of three key witnesses who have alleged discriminatory hiring at CPMC, says he’s not budging from his story.

That didn’t stop CPMC CEO, Dr. Warren Browner from stopping by Villanueva’s ICU work station after work this past February 14th.

The nurse recalled Dr. Browner’s plea.

“He asked if there was anything we can do to change my perception and if I was still interested in a management position,” said Villanueva.

Villanueva’s still not interested in a position, mainly because he remembers statements made by Diana Karner, the Chief Nursing Officer at St.Luke’s back in 2007. And she’d still be his superior.

On April 25, 2007,  Villanueva was to be interviewed for an open nurse supervisor position. Prior to that, he overheard Karner and then nurse manager, Ron Rivera, in conversation.

Villanueva has no memory loss here. He said Karner told Rivera bluntly, “Do not hire foreign graduate nurses.”

Ultimately, Villanueva did get that job. But since then, there’s been little advancement at CPMC as a foreign nurse.

In 2008, despite high praise on his performance from CPMC officials, including nursing heads Karner and her associate, Heather Sebanc the associate VP of nursing, Villanueva’s career path has been stymied.

In December 2008, Sebanc administered a job evaluation that kept him from a 5 percent raise and a 3 percent bonus, and then strongly discouraged him from applying for an ICU manager position.

“Sebanc told me…I strongly advise you not to apply for the position,” Villanueva said.

The hostility Villanueva received once again called to mind Karner’s original comments, and he has since decided to no longer apply for manager positions at CPMC.  He even requested to go back to ICU as staff nurse where he currently works.

All of Villanueva’s words are in a sworn affidavit declared to be true and correct under penalty of perjury under California law.

The nurses representatives and community members have asked CPMC officials to do the same, but they have declined.

CPMC spokesman Kevin McCormac confirmed that Dr. Browner did talk to Villanueva that day but said the meeting has been “misconstrued for other purposes.”

McCormac said Browner had heard Villanueva had received favorable employee performance marks and wanted to find out if Villanueva was interested in advancing at CPMC.

So has Villanueva’s good performance changed the perception by CPMC of Filipino and foreign nurses there?

“There is no perception about foreign nurses,” McCormac told me. “The perception is they have the skills, the perception and the background. We think they’re great.”

The California Nurses Union and the Filipino Community Center still aren’t sure about that, and have witness affidavits at the ready for potential legal action at CPMC. Ironically, one nursing official involved, Heather Sebanc, left CPMC last month. McCormac said it was unrelated to this issue.

In the meantime, the larger battle ground  may just be CPMC’s proposed new hospital at the old Jack Tar Hotel site. A hearing is upcoming before the health and planning commission, McCormac said.

The discriminatory hiring issue may simply be used as a key leverage point to push CPMC to assure equal access to job opportunities and healthcare services at the new facility.

San Francisco Mayor’s race: David Chiu’s candidacy no surprise; he’s readymade for Rank Choice Voting

I’m not surprised that David Chiu, despite the short resume, has announced his run  for mayor of San Francisco.

I’ve called David Obamaesque in the past. He may not be a rock star yet. But I know he’s Ivy smart and ambitious and likes to work both sides of the street.  That said, his opportunity is really defined by the new rules of the game.

Democracy has become more horse race than ever with Rank Choice voting.

Now it’s like picking a trifecta at Golden Gate Fields,  creating  totally new strategies  for winning. 

Throw mud? Not anymore. Now it’s  time to cozy up and go tandem.  By trading 2nd and 3rd votes, in a non-majority race, an underdog can rise to the top and even win.

It seems like you’d want to be No.1 with your base. But if you can also be No.2 or No.3 with others in alliance, you end up campaigning at others’ events for the subvotes.  It happened to Oakland’s Jean Quan, the first Asian American woman mayor last year.

Running against the big Democratic political operative Don Perata, Quan actually lost the first round of voting by 11 percentage points.

But with no majority, the second ballots were counted. Quan who campaigned with the third place candidate Rebecca Kaplan, surged ahead of Perata simply by being named on more votes as No.2.

The new rules rule. Perata the pernniel Big Dog machine politician was out. Quan, the city councilwoman was in.

The Quan blueprint will be the Chiu strategy across the Bay in San Francisco. And I thought it was the waxed eyebrows.

For Asian Americans in San Francisco, the list now includes David Chiu and two other Asian American candidates: State Senator Leland Yee and City Assessor Phil Ting.  (Interim Mayor Ed Lee may still announce a run as the incumbent, but he  may be odd man out).

It used to be that one Asian American would split the vote. But with rank choice, you want lots of candidates to create a for sure non-majority. And then you want it to go to the 2nd and 3rd ballot. A free-for-all? Could be. Unless strategists are thinking about the new rules.

So the question will be who teams up with whom?

 Will there be an all-Asian 1-2-3? (Unlikely).

Or will there be an effort to leave any Asian Ameican off the top 3?

Hey, politics is interesting again. The big money can’t control it any longer. But that doesn’t mean someone won’t be out there trying to manipulate things with the new election math.

With new rules come new deal making.  Expect to see it in November.

Holy pot sticker: First Asian American mayor of San Francisco?

Ed Lee is Mayor of San Francisco.

Or I.M. (interim mayor).


Hold your horses. There’s still lots of process left before it’s final.

And even then. It’s still just “I.M.”

So why doesn’t it feel as exciting as it is historic?

I would have wished it were done in a more heroic and mythic way, perhaps a thrilling campaign with speeches and drama and perhaps a nail-biter ballot count.

And then maybe we could hoist up Ed Lee on the lions at the Grant Ave. gate.

This  was perhaps a bit too political.

 A little like an arranged marriage.  An internal Supes vote with a touch of intrigue for this interm mayor.

The pick was between some retreads (Hennessey, a good guy and a progressive’s progressive, Agnos the former mayor, Peskin the former but still ambitious supe). The vote deadlocked at 5 between Lee and Hennessey.

Then Lee won a subsequent vote, 10-1. ( Chris Daly was the lone dissenter. That’s  enough reason to like Lee if you’re a non-Asian).

But a new board installed Saturday or Sunday could change it all.

A moment in the sun, is what it is.

A campaign for the real mayor in November could begin sooner than Lee can rearrange the pictures on the office wall.

And then we may even see some Asian American candidates  (as well as others) who may challenge Lee for the post.

But if this weekend plays out, Lee was there first and that deserves a firecracker or two.

And he’ll be mayor for the New Year parade!

Still, to use a math analogy, is Lee more than a “placeholder” enjoying his time in the sun? 

We shall see.

This may have been a little symbolic affirmative action.  Asians have been powerful in city politics but no one got the top job, until now. A generation of younger Asian Americans will definitely change  thatnc certainly in the next 5-10 years.  Ed Lee is just the beginning as San Francisco’s official leadership actually begins to look like the city it serves.