As I reported in this week's cover story, San Francisco has lost its balance under Mayor Ed Lee, with economic development pushing sustainability – both environmental and economic, as shown by rising rents and costs of living – onto the back burner. And in today's New York Times, Lee reinforces the idea that corporate titans should dictate what kind of city this becomes.
In profile of venture capitalist Ron Conway, who is heavily invested in tech companies and Lee's political campaigns, Lee said that Conway – a longtime Republican ideologue with an open grudge against progressives, as we revealed in a December cover story – is someone “whose values benefit the city” and said that “Ten more Ron Conways would be helpful.”
That's really an astonishing statement given the pro-corporate, self-dealing nastiness that just one rich Conway has injected into San Francisco politics over the last couple years. In the article, Conway himself dismisses all values beyond creating tech jobs, including the displacement and gentrification caused by the monomaniacal focus on promoting technological companies, for which he proudly says, “You need a catalyst, so I'm a catalyst.”
He also does little to disguise the libertarian groupthink that seems to guide his bubble-inflated industry, telling the Times, “The tech community is a closely knit group, which is why it’s so powerful. All of these companies have an affinity for each other, even if they compete with each other.”
Yes, they all want tax breaks, which is what Lee has been giving them, over and over again, by waiving payroll taxes on new hires in the mid-Market area around Twitter, exempting stock options for local taxes (undoing an initiative by his predecessor, Gavin Newsom, who was definitely no foe of corporate America), and doing a business tax reform that cut taxes on tech companies.
How much more do they really want? Are we really going to simply put local government completely into the service of a handful of already wealthy technology investors, who are the real beneficiaries of Lee's taxpayer-subsidized largesse?
If we had 10 more Conways pushing this right-wing agenda with the billions of dollars they've amassed during this modern Gilded Age, I don't think San Francisco continue to be open to this city's tenants, small businesses, artists, and the vast majority of its workers, whose per capital income of $46,777 is almost barely enough to survive.
Attention, Mr. Mayor, this is a big city with lots of interests and needs. It's time to pull your head out of this bubble and pay attention to the vast majority of this city's residents, whose interests Ron Conway doesn't share or even acknowledge.
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