Lee must pay for his promises



Mayor Ed Lee has made a lot of promises to San Franciscans, but he has been unwilling to pay for them with money from the city or his wealthy backers, transforming these statements in hollow political platitudes — or, less charitably, calculated lies meant to mask the true state of the city.

Lee pledged to build 30,000 units of new housing — a third of it affordable to those with moderate incomes and below — by 2020. By that same year, Lee set the goal of increasing bicycling to 20 percent of all vehicle trips in the City. Lee also directed city departments to develop strategies for reducing pedestrian deaths by 50 percent by 2021. And so Muni's aging fleet can keep up with population growth, Lee's SF2030 Transportation Task Force said the transportation system needs a $10 billion capital investment over the next 15 years, a target Lee endorsed.

These were all admirable goals, and in each case, city agencies studied the problems and developed detailed strategies for getting there. And in each case, Mayor Lee chose to fund just small fractions of what the city would need to make his promises come true.

Actually, the housing problem is still being studied, but nobody thinks this goal will be met — as even the pro-development San Francisco Business Times said in a recent editorial — particularly given how the Mayor's Office structured the business tax reform and Affordable Housing Fund ballot measures in 2012, with giveaways to developers and favored economic sectors, such as tech.

Lee's WalkFirst program would need $240 million to meet his modest goals — far more to actually realize the VisionZero goal of eliminating all pedestrian deaths, which Lee said he supports — and the Mayor's Office has only pledged $17 million in funding. The cycling goals would take more than $500 million, not the $30 million currently pledged. Even with approval of the two transportation ballot measure proposed for this fall, and those planned for future years, that only gets the city about a third of the way to meeting San Francisco's future transportation needs.

Meanwhile, a downtown SF congestion pricing charge that has been studied using federal funds — which would reduce traffic and pedestrian deaths while raising $80 million annually — is being ignored by Lee, as is the once-promising idea of downtown transit assessment districts. Lee is refusing to seek the city's share of the tremendous wealth now be generated in this city.

As a result, Lee is making promises that he knows he won't deliver on. And last week, in the five-year budget projection his office is required to issue, we all saw the results of Lee's economic policies: growing budget deficits for this booming city. Next year's $67 million deficit is projected to balloon to $340 million by 2017-18. Mr. Mayor, "getting things done" requires more than just words, it requires the political courage to make your promises comes true.


land use laws were liberalized and the planning process was streamlined.

Also, Lee cannot just conjure up funds for subsidized housing. That depends crucially on the voters agreeing to pay more in taxes and there is little evidence that they would support that.

All politicians make vague promises that will only be met in part. Smart people understand that.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

No, cynical people understand and accept that politicians lie. And these aren't vague promises that Lee is making, they are specific promises with identified ways to get there that he's choosing to ignore while repeating the promises

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 8:18 am

ability to actually deliver on it?

Lee cannot build any homes without money. That's either money that the voters agree to tax themselves for or money extorted from a private developer.

The mayor cannot build a single home. So criticizing him for not building any when you have failed to identify the source of the funds is disingenuous.

And in fact thousands of homes are being built. Just look at all those cranes. Lee is building far more homes than the previous mayors.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 9:24 am

Actually, I identified more than $100 million in annual revenues just in this short editorial, and I could easily double that with a few tweak to the tech-friendly new business tax structure that I also alluded to. And these are steps that I would take as mayor before I made a series of promises that I know that I would need to pay for.

Posted by steven on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

Wait a sec. You told us all how it would 740 million to push these just the walking and cycling projects through. You then said even with just modest contributions to these programs, the city's budget DEFICIT is expected to quintuple in five years. And you are screaming at him to put even MORE money into these projects. Even with that 100 million you said could be made, there is still six hundred million MORE that still needs to be found.

Where the hell do you think that money is going to come from??? Oh yeah. Tech companies. On one hand you guys keep saying they're not profitable and we're in a bubble that's going to pop. On the other you want to tax the shit out of them. What happens if they go belly up? NO MORE TAX MONEY! What happens if they get tired of being taxed to death? Texas here they come. And then? NO MORE TAX MONEY!!!

Wouldn't happen? You keep harping on how they're transplants and don't care about SF. If they're transplants and don't care about the City, why wouldn't they follow the lead of Visa and other corporations that have left SF and moved somewhere else?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

What Steven meant is that they don't care about the well-being, in the middle- and long-term, of San Francisco and its people. They're here to make a lot of money in the short term, and they'll leave once that boom ends. Boomtown dynamics--and San Francisco has been through quite a few booms--never really change. And they leave a lot a lot of dead and damaged in their wake.

Posted by Hortencia on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:20 am

What we really need in SF is people who can grow the taxbase - not consume it

Posted by Guest on Mar. 27, 2014 @ 10:37 am

Sure if a whole bunch of bond measures pass, then maybe. But they often fail to pass as you know.

The reality is that SF has limited taxing power. It cannot tax incomes, capital gains, gifts or inheritances. Sales tax is limited, and Prop13 rules out leaning on property.

That is why SF relies so much on fees and fines, but there is a limit to that.

Of course, we could cut back on public sector pensions and healthcare. Massive savings to be made there.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

That's the point. Steven has no idea where the money is going to come from. All he knows is he wants more money from companies that are HQ'ed in SF (AirBnB is the most blatant example) and more taxes on "the rich". Why should anyone need any more specifics than that?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

but then in the last paragraph you bust his balls about a budget deficit?

Posted by guestD on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

He could quit promising things that there isn't the money for.

Posted by roymeo on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 1:48 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

is totally absurd and non-achievable.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

Taxpayers should VOTE NO on all the phony money heists for more bureaucracy disguised as needed priorities. Mayor Lee's proposed $7.9 billion City budget for Fiscal Year 2013–2014 indicates that the City will increase spending by $710 million, adding 866 more City government employees, bringing the total to 27,722 full-time equivalent employees.

Over one-half of the Mayor's budget — $3.9 billion — will be dedicated to City employee salaries and benefits. The average City employee makes $99,000 with benefits, while the average citizen makes about $73,000 with few or no benefits......... City Hall never, ever, try to cut spending, it is always about more taxes and revenues to pay for the city's reckless spending and mismanagement.

The crushing weight of San Francisco City employees' salaries and benefits is one reason the City keeps pushing new taxes, fees and bond measures on to residents. City officials want to push $3 BILLION in taxes, fees and bonds before voters in 2014. The SFMTA feels it can fleece taxpayers whenever they like, but doing so will require the SFMTA to raise taxes and float more bonds to pay for their consultant driven projects. We are encouraging city motorists to stop contributing to an anti-car Transit Agency that uses city motorists like an ATM machine.

Remember this the next time the city of San Francisco requests more bonds to improve your driving experience. VOTE NO! If you drive a car, VOTE NO on any more funds for Muni or the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA). Regardless of what they promise, the funds will be used against you to inflate parking prices, remove traffic lanes, slow traffic, and force you out of your car. If you voted No to a Wall on the Waterfront then please VOTE NO to any more funds for the SFMTA or Muni. 

The next time you elect a Mayor, or a City Supervisor VOTE NO if they start parroting 'transit first" as an excuse to bleed your wallet. If your city Supervisor wants you to give up your family car to ride a bicycle on busy city streets then VOTE THEM OUT!

Posted by sfparkripoff on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

Whining sure beats casting a wide net to oust this cavalcade of corruption from Room 200, because that might involve working with people who do not completely agree with the progressive [sic] left doctrines of faith and who might make more money than an activist which would qualify them as rich. Rich, of course, unless they are unionized and paid by taxpayers to make more money then most in which case it is okay to make out with a good salary co-managing the shitpile.

Haven't you all learned yet that budget deficits are an artifice, postulated by the mayor in order to create an artificial climate of scarcity of resources which gives the Mayor the power to play constituencies off against one another?

The first step towards liberation is to free oneself from self conceptualization in the framing favorable to one's opponent, to identify and reject the dominant ideology to craft a movement's own autonomous aspirations. Until then there is no movement, just self interested self promoting individuals looking for economic security co-managing the shitpile.

Toro, Toro!

Posted by marcos on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 6:03 am

understated because the city employs the fiction of not setting aside any funds for the astronomical unfunded liabilities of public sector healthcare and pension obligations that are already bankrupting municipalities across the land and that will only get worse if QE continues, and much much worse if it does not.

SF really hasn't even began to start making the cuts necessary to establish fiscal stability and sustainability. But at least Lee is aware of the risk. Old school "tax, borrow and spend" liberals like Avalos and Campos are oblivious, or don't care, or both.

The voters aren't stupid though, which is why they elected a pro-jobs pragmatist over the "city family" candidates.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 9:09 am

Pete Peterson called, he wants his obsession back.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 9:31 am
Posted by Guest on Mar. 18, 2014 @ 9:48 am

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