Every once in a while San Francisco’s NPR affiliate, KQED, offers up a news report too hilarious not to share. Last night, the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors experienced a putsch of sorts. A new mayor was appointed. He is Mark Farrell, the city’s second interim mayor since Ed Lee died suddenly of a heart attack in December. Like every other person on the Board of Supervisors, and like the late Lee, Farrell is a Democrat. Farrell replaces London Breed, who until today was the interim mayor. Breed is black, and a woman.
For years San Francisco has enjoyed invasive unipolar governance. Most problems are solved, which is why California political leaders have moved on to straws. (“Calderon introduced a bill this month that would require servers at sit-down restaurants to ask customers if they want a straw before providing one.”)
But when the political class is so virulently opposed to classical liberalism, Democrats possess every mantle trophy they’ve wanted, and Republicans enjoy no quarter, politicians must still find a way to politick, right? What comes after comprehensive Democrat success in every corner of business, personal, and civic life?
The answer is pure tribalism.
KQED’s war reporter Scott Shafer says:
As soon as it became apparent that the first African-American woman to lead San Francisco was being replaced by a white male representing some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, the board chambers erupted.
Some members of the audience, infuriated by the turn of events, chanted, “Shame, shame, shame.”
“This is war!” some shouted as board members left the chambers.
Listen to the entire report (seven minutes, and worth it) here:
You can savor the intonation the reporter and interviewees use when hitting upon words like “man” and “lawyer” when referring to the new interim mayor.
The Wolfian undertones are unfortunate, to be sure. In the case of San Francisco city policy, it isn’t so much how many heroin needles should be distributed outside the quinoa cafes (the debate is between a million or a gajillion), or what punishment to exact upon sippers of straws. (Drink out of a brown bag, like the respectable underprivileged street person you are, or get a fresh set of cups at the Union Square Hermes.)
It isn’t about what to do with car break-ins, which have spiked to fever proportions and are growing at 26% annually. (A friend whose car was broken into in San Francisco told me that the police dispatcher no longer takes calls for this crime; victims are redirected to 311, the city’s cheery information line, for directions on how to fill out a web form to report the incident. One was left with the impression that the form is not so much for the detection and solving crime, but for a census-like survey of where the city’s underprivileged possessed the greatest need.)
Nor is the debate about housing, where vibrantly successful Democrat policy has caused “inflation adjusted construction costs [to] increase in San Francisco over the last 16 years by 60% not including changes in land values.” (The causes? City permitting processes, design and building code requirements, workforce regulations and ordinances, ‘small and local business’ procurement requirements, and environmental regulations.)
All of these policies are right on the mark. The trouble is the skin color and sex of the people in city hall. With the decapitation of London Breed in favor of Mark Farrell, there has been a change in look though not a change in fact. Yet this, apparently, makes all the difference.
San Francisco and its suburbs create spectacular wealth both there and abroad. But owing to their liberal politics, the physical indicia increasingly make the whole place look like a pre-Marxist country in that fraught pre-revolution period, where the line between rich and poor is being defined, and the borderland between them being salted, fallowed, and mined.