Is the Guardian empowering Chiu or just recognizing his power?

David Chiu: centrist compromiser, effective legislator, or both?

I’ve been hearing lots of back channel complaints and concerns from progressive San Franciscans since last week’s blog post on Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and the role he’s played forging compromises on controversial pieces of legislation this year.

Some have even suggested that the Guardian has gone centrist under my freshly minted editorship, which I actually find kinda funny given my history, perspective, and the righteously anti-corporate and progressive perspective stories that I’ve written and edited in recent weeks. I can honestly tell you that I call ‘em like I see ‘em, now as always, even if that doesn’t always hew to the progressive orthodoxy of some.

Nobody really wants to speak on the record against Chiu, which is understandable given the powerful and pivotal position that he’s carved out for himself as a swing vote between the two ideological poles and on the Land Use Committee, whose makeup he personally created to enhance that role.

So for now, let me just air some of the criticisms and offer some responses and perspective. The main issue seems to be that Chiu allows both progressive and anti-progressive legislation to be watered down until it is palatable to both sides, empowering the moderates over the progressives.

That’s a legitimate point, it’s certainly true that Chiu’s worldview is generally more centrist than that of the Guardian and its progressive community, and we’ve leveled that criticism at Chiu many times over the years. The fact that he ends up in a deciding role on controversial legislation is clearly a role that Chiu has carved out from himself, no doubt about it. And that’s certainly why he played the pivotal role that he has this year.

But when he uses that role to empower and support tenant groups, as he did on the condo lottery bypass measure, I think that’s something worth noting and praising, particularly in my quick little blog post that seems to have grown in perceived significance beyond what I may have intended.   

Many of the criticisms involved the CEQA reform legislation that was unanimously approved by the board last week after progressives opposed its initial iteration by Sup. Scott Wiener.

As some have suggested, Sup. Jane Kim does deserve tremendous credit for resisting the initial legislation and working with activists on an alternative, and I included that recognition in my initial story on the legislation. And it’s valid criticism of Chiu to note that Kim had five votes for her legislation and that it was only Chiu who stood in the way of its passage (whether Mayor Ed Lee would have vetoed it, necessitating the need for two more votes, is another question).

But I quoted Eric Brooks, an activist who spent months working on the compromise, as saying the CEQA legislation ultimately does make it easier to oppose bad projects. And when it was approved unanimously by the board, I figured it was safe to place that piece of legislation on the list of Chiu legislative accomplishments for the year.

We at the Guardian will make mistakes, as we always have from time to time. But I’m going to try to err on the side of open, transparent public debates -- while supporting a rejuvenation of the city’s progressive movement, so that it is able to start playing offense and protecting this city’s diversity, vitality, and progressive values.

And if you have any criticisms or advice for the Guardian, please come to our forum on Wednesday or offer them to me directly. Thanks for reading.


For sure, Jane Kim deserves praise for doing everything that Aaron Peskin tells her to with regard to CEQA anti-reform.

Posted by Rhinna Sante on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

yes agree with you rhinna you are good...

Posted by cara cepat hamil on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:15 am

"Some have even suggested that the Guardian has gone centrist under my freshly minted editorship, which I actually find kinda funny given my history, perspective, and the righteously anti-corporate and progressive perspective stories that I’ve written and edited in recent weeks."

Well before you turn off comments (and hopefully permanently), I'd like to say this:

I wish you and others would abandon these words: centrist, moderate, liberal, conservative, progressive, et al. They have become meaningless. They don't mean anything anymore.

The only word that should be used these days is PARTISAN.

I've seen countless people who label themselves a "liberal" or "progressive" screaming in defense of the same policies they protested under the Bush regime. Their hypocrisy is amazing. In fact, more faux-liberals and faux-progressives are for this NSA shit than "conservatives." Why? Because the faux-liberals and faux-progressives feel they must rush to the defense of their corporatist politician in the White House with that D next to his name and defend him no matter what he does and the same for their faux-"Democratic" Party. If Bush were in the White House, these D-partisans would be protesting this NSA stuff. Today, right is left and left is right. I would also point out that David Chiu is ultimately responsible for the city-wide nudity ban because he cast the deciding vote for it. I don't consider being anti-nudity "centrist" or "moderate," whatever those newspeak words are supposed to mean! And that's just one example. Also, what is David Chiu's position on sit-lie? Is he part of the "war on the homeless?"... which sit-lie is part of.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

Somehow this part got cut off:

Since when is droning someone and killing over 200 innocent children "progressive" or "liberal?"

Since when is indefinite detention "progressive" or "liberal?"

Since when is spying on people "progressive" or "liberal?"

How is going after Snowden "progressive" or "liberal?" He is a whistleblower.

How is sentencing Bradley Manning to death "progressive" or "liberal?" He is also a whistleblower.

Why is it that most of the supporters of Obama support and make excuses for spying, droning, indefinite detention and wars? That's "liberal" or "progressive?" Do you see how these words don't mean anything any more? They are merely partisan people.

In reality, Obama makes Dick Cheney look like a liberal in the traditional sense of the word. Obama just hasn’t shot anybody in the face yet, but give it time.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

Actually, I think values and ideology are important, and they are not the same things as partisanship, which I agree can be mindless and hypocritical. Values and ideology should guide our public policy debates, and they do, which is why San Francisco, New York, and other progressive cities have far better tenant, worker, environmental, social justice, and diversity protections than in more conservative regions. Unlike San Francisco's daily papers, which often pretend that San Francisco is a monolithic city with a common understanding of "common sense" and objectivity, we at the Guardian understand that San Francisco looks very different depending on one's perspective and worldview. And the importance of a vibrant progressive movement to ensuring the city remains diverse, just, compassionate, and welcoming. .

Posted by steven on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

because they are more progressive. But that is a value judgment that presupposes that progressive values are "better"

You do not advance any analysis about WHY policies are better in SF and NY than elsewhere and, indeed, unless one is a progressive then one would probably argue their policies are worse.

For instance, Houston and Phoenix have no tenant protections and tenants rarely get evicted there except for cause. And rents are cheaper there. So why would you argue that tenants are better off here? Seems fairly clear to me that tenants are worse off here, which is presumably why they whine so much.

Posted by anon on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 5:55 am

Yes, "better" is a judgment based on my valuing things like environmentalism, social justice, civil liberties, and tenants protections -- components of progressive worldview and ideology -- and that's precisely my point. It is the value that San Franciscans place in these areas that defines the politics of this city and how the Guardian chooses to cover it.

Posted by steven on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

That's really all you mean by "better" here.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

I read about it, it is not simple to control such things!

Posted by Yachtcharter Sun Odyssey 439 on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:28 am

What is the realistic plan for revitalizing the Progressive movement in San Francisco? For that to happen they city must attract new, progressive-minded people. That's just doesn't happen any more.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

All SFBG and progressives can do is slow that inevitable rate of change.

Posted by anon on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 5:58 am

Red Man posted a piece on his flog-site criticizing you for backing Chu's prowess as a consensus-maker.

I can understand why you might be feeling some heat from the ex-dictator. But Tim, who never listened to anyone in is strict orthodoxy, is gone now. The Colonel Q of SFBG has left the building. Smell the fresh air? Smells good, don't it?

Your new, less orthodox stance is commendable. Good on ya.

Posted by Anony on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

"But I’m going to try to err on the side of open, transparent public debates"

That is not an err ad in error, Steven. That's called 'sunshine'.

Posted by Anony on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

The Guardian's mistake is that Chiu has any ideology at all. Chiu isn't a progressive or a moderate. Chiu only cares about Chiu and advancing the career of Chiu.

Do you really think he made that compromise on condo conversions because he believes that 2000 now is OK but 2000 more over ten years is not? I don't know anyone who thinks like that. Most people following this stuff either want no more condo conversions at all, or want to lift the cap completely. No, Chiu did this because he wants to show that he's a powerbroker, a "serious" politician, a force to be reckoned with. And a "non-ideological problem solver," whatever the hell that means. That's the brand that he's developing for himself.

I'd say he's very clever, except he's not. He made a serious rookie mistake when he voted for Ed Lee under the assumption that the machine would keep its promises (not Ed Lee personally, because Ed Lee's promise wasn't for Ed Lee to keep). The fact that everyone who follows politics, on both sides of the divide, could see it coming miles away, shows that Chiu isn't all that bright. He's just deceitful, which some people confuse for cunning.

It's not that he's willing to make deals that I object to. Peskin was willing to make deals. But the difference is that Peskin made deals when he thought he had to, in what he believed (agree or disagree) to be in the service of the ultimate good of the city and the progressive movement. Chiu makes deals for the sake of making deals.

If you want to advance something good, then push the envelope, dammit. Pass it on the board and then pull out all the stops to pressure the mayor to sign it. If he vetoes it anyway, *then* go back and compromise to get the 8 votes. But first try to pass the best legislation you can. That's the way a real leader would do it. And a half-baked turkey like Weiner and Farrell's condo conversion legislation? That would have simply been DOA because Peskin wouldn't have given it the 6th vote.

Instead, you have Chiu posturing like some peacock to raise his profile. The guy has figured out an age-old formula to raise one's profile -if you have two closely divided camps, positioning yourself in the middle will get you media attention and power. Look, I get it. He's powerful. By playing both camps against each other, he's accumulated a lot of power for himself.

What I don't get, is why the Guardian has to enable this jackass? You guys should be calling him on his bullshit.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 29, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

Herr Greg has spoken

Chiu is not an orthodox progressive. Therefore, Chiu is a self-serving political animal.

Compromisers were voted off the Progressive Island long ago. We all need to strictly adhere to the Tim Redmond playbook.

Posted by Anony on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 8:57 am

one way ticket to Irrelevance Island.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:08 am

"Most people following this stuff either want no more condo conversions at all, or want to lift the cap completely."

I think if you talk to most people, they'll come down somewhere in the middle on this. But, of course, "progressive" ideology only makes for two answers, the right one and the wrong one. (So does the right-wing Ayn Rand-ism of anon, of course.)

Posted by Hortencia on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:26 am

against extremism on both sides, whether the SFBG or the KKK.

The question here, however, is whether Chui is the man to forge consensus? Or whether he is merely a conniving, self-serving, opportunistic, over-reaching maggot?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:37 am

Because the SFBG is TOTALLY equivalent to the KKK! Perhaps we should try to forge a compromise between the progressives and the KKK. If the KKK wants to reimpose slavery and progressives want full rights for everyone, maybe we should forge a "reasonable" compromise. What would be "reasonable" to such a jellyfish as yourself? Segregation and Jim Crow?

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:10 am


Maybe you can but, right now, nobody seems to be able to come up with a better analogy.

So, Greg, which is the most ridiculous, extreme, LOL left-wing group you know of?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:29 am

It's a dumb question to ask Greg, who is a left-winger. But as just a plain old social democrat, I'd say analogizing the SFBG to the KKK is idiotic because the KKK espouses oppression of already-oppressed groups. No left-wing group does that; in fact, the definition of left-of-center might include concern for already-oppressed groups.

If you want to look to the past, crazies like the SLA might fit your bill, I guess.

Posted by Hortencia on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

Many communist nations for a start, e.g. Russia, China and - worse even - Cambodia.

Left-wing terrorist groups like the SLA, Baader-Meinhof, SLA, Black Panthers, Weather Underground etc.

And the suppression of civil rights and liberties in almost every socialist nation.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

Again, the two are not mutually exclusive. It's hard to find an elected official who isn't largely self-serving. But this story shows that Chiu does seem to be able to forge compromises, even if it can't be said they reflect consensus viewpoints. No one's mind is changed, but things are getting done.

Posted by Hortencia on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

But will there ever be a consensus viewpoint in this city? If some issue has 2 out of 3 people agreeing that's a rarity. But even then there's still 1 out of 3 that is against it (usually vehemently).

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

In elections, anything over 60% is a landslide. Mayor Lee won about 60% of the votes and currently has a 65% approval rating. That is a massive consensus,

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

the KKK should be lumped in with the SLA or other rioting lefties.

The SFBG should be lumped in with right wing religionists and neo-cons.

The neo-cons, right wing religionists and progressives hate the government, while wanting to take it over and harass the rest of us with their agenda.

The KKK / SLA want to want to enforce their world view with violence.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

SFBG and the KKK. Wow.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:58 am

Who would you cite as the most extreme groups on the left and the right, if not those two?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:09 am

The equivalency is just false. Maybe the left has no equivalent?

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:12 am

The Stalinists?

Posted by anon on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:23 am

KKK or the SFBG?

May be but I was not aware of that,

Again, what is the most ridiculously insane and ludicrous left-wing group in the US? And if it is not the SFBG, then who?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:43 am

How about those cop-killing lovers Uhuru movement?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

How is the Bay Guardian an "official political entity"? What does that even mean?

Posted by Hortencia on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

Therefore it's a political entity.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

Stalinism isn't left-wing. Nothing totalitarian can be left-wing.

Posted by Hortencia on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

Socialism and communism both run the range from authoritarian to libertarian. Stalinism is both extreme left and extreme authoritarian, as good balance for the KKK as you'll find.

Perhaps you could posit elements of the Spanish Republicans as an example of libertarian socialism, but Franco made sure that the record there would be sparse.

Posted by anon on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

Right wingers say that since they want limited government there are no right wing dictators, except of course the murderous ones who hand the state over to corporations.

It's impossible to have a left wing dictator, no liberal in America has acted as apologist for Castro, Peron, Stalin...

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

a lack of being left-wing?

There have been dictatorships of both the left and the right. Hitler and Stalin have more in common with each other than they have differences.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

then there must be a left-wing group that is the most ridiculous and left-wing?

Which is it?

Or are no left wing groups extreme because a wing somehow isn't an extreme?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:31 am

The point is that the Guardian ain't it. The Guardian is a moderately progressive media outfit, and is not in any way comparable to the KKK. In fact, the very fact that you have so much difficulty finding a true equivalent on the left, should tell you that the philosophy on the left is fundamentally different than that of the right.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

unless you want to talk about the violent radical groups in the 1960's.

There's nothing "moderate" about it, unless you compare it with places like Cambodia, North Korea and Cuba.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 9:59 pm

than it does about the Guardian.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

And American people don't do socialism, meaning that we have two pro-capitalist right-wing parties.

That will never change and, if anything, entities like SFBG will be assimilated. Indeed, with Bruce selling out to developers and Tim being kicked out for insubordination, the SFBG is already of a shadow of what it used to be when it's electoral recommendations actually were worth the paper they are printed on.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

American politics would reflect the American people if we lived in a democracy. We don't.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 7:48 am

and our two parties and the governments they form are also fairly right-wing by global standards.

We have the government that we deserve.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 31, 2013 @ 8:04 am

According to the FBI in June 2008, eco-terrorists and extreme animal rights activists represent "one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today".

but, because you support their cause they don't count, right?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

Here it is corrected: "The FBI represents one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today."

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

I think a better comparison to the BG would be the Tea Party. Both are more to the extremes of the political spectrum and think that if people would only listen to them the country's problems would be fixed. The difference is that the Tea Party has nationwide influence and the BG can barely influence a district supervisor's race.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

Greg is crying into his cocktail right now.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

Most politicians divide their views into rough thirds: issues they'd always support, issues they'd never support and issues they could compromise on.

No so for Chiu the transactionalist. Chiu has a coin slot up top into which supplicants drop a coin. The crank is then turned, and the coin comes out in one of three chutes that reflect the rough thirds above. The only rub is that this machine is a state machine, so that the chute that the coin drops out of is dependent upon the state of the machine when the coin is inserted.

Posted by anon on Jul. 30, 2013 @ 10:15 am