Commentary: Paul Kozakiewicz

Moderates v. Progressives

The last column journalist Alan Saracevic wrote for the SF Examiner before he died in August discussed the deep divide in the Democratic Party that has existed in San Francisco for decades. There have been fights over transportation policies, elections, housing, law and order – almost all of them battles between moderate and progressive Democrats. 

Moderate Democrats, who are liberal Democrats just about anywhere in the country except San Francisco, have always been the counterweight to the crazy ideas coming out of the progressive camp. Unfortunately, moderates have been on the losing end of some really important battles. 

Progressives are on the far left ideological spectrum, bordering on socialism where city policy dictates what’s best for everyone and it’s their way or the highway. The progressives got organized in the late ’90s and took control of the DCCC, which gives the official endorsements for Democratic Party and supplies money to its candidates and propositions. That, coupled with district elections and the abomination that is ranked-choice voting, gave us what we have – a mayor and a majority of supervisors who couldn’t find their way out of a corn maze. 

The City is littered with progressive failures we refuse to acknowledge: 

• Rent control, the 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about, which thwarts the construction of new housing and restricts the number of “in-law” units that could be on the market. (Excessive city fees amounting to $150,000 per unit of new construction hurts too).

• Transportation policies that favor a small vocal minority and make life difficult for the 90% or so of San Franciscans who need a vehicle to conduct their lives.

• An obsession with the homeless population to the detriment of everything else in the City, including adequate oversight of city government. 

• Energy policies that call for more electric cars and appliances without considering where the energy to power all of these items will be coming from. (Some progressives say we may need “peaker” power plants to fill the gaps, which burns natural gas and takes us back to climate square one.)

• Gaming elections (especially by eliminating minority political parties and diluting the electorate’s vote via ranked-choice voting). 

• A school board that cares more about renaming schools than getting our children safely back in class. 

I know I’m using a broad brush here due to limited space, but I will share more of our City’s progressive fiascos in future columns. 

Some old-line lefties from the Bay Guardian era still think the battle is between city residents and big downtown businesses. Nothing is farther from the truth.

The fight is between the progressives and the moderates fighting for the support of independent voters and those from other political parties. 

Until city voters start electing reasonable, moderate candidates, we will continue down wrong roads – to the detriment of the people who live and work here.

Keep Elections as They Are

This month voters will start casting ballots for the Nov. 8 election.  As usual, there are several controversial propositions and instances where elected officials are trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes. Here are a couple local residents should keep an eye on.

Some members of the SF Board of Supervisors put Proposition H on the ballot, which calls for two years’ worth of votes for propositions and candidates to be crammed onto one ballot – another hare-brained idea.

Prop. H would move the election to select San Francisco’s mayor, sheriff, district attorney, city attorney and treasurer to even-numbered years, so they could compete on the ballot with our state and nationally elected officials, including presidential races.

That’s too much on one ballot. Too much to digest. Not enough focus on our City. 

There are always fewer votes on items that are at the bottom of the ballot list. With this super-ballot, half the voters might not get to the bottom. Imagine Proposition ZZ on the ballot and you get the idea. 

It’s not good for democracy when the electorate is not as educated about the candidates and issues as it should be because it is overwhelmed with information. It also makes it more difficult for neighborhood organizations to get attention. Voters don’t need a single ballot with hundreds of candidates, 30 state measures and 40 city propositions. 

This is an ugly power grab by cynical City Hall politicians who think a larger voter turnout will support their crazy causes.

Vote “no” on Proposition H. 

Wait to See Future of Transportation 

The SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), which is composed of the 11 members of the SF Board of Supervisors, is asking for a 30-year extension of a half-cent sales tax measure to raise $2.6 billion for transportation projects. The current sales tax is not due to expire until 2034, but the SFCTA wants to implement a new long-term transportation plan as part of the deal. 

To improve transit, the SFCTA will use the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for many of the projects. 

The SFMTA is famous for its Central Subway, Van Ness BRT and Muni Metro meltdowns, but let’s not forget its support for our Geary Boulevard merchants when they tried to tear up the center of the boulevard for bus lanes, and Taraval merchants who were told what was coming for the L-Taraval streetcar project, instead of being made a community partner in the process. Recently, the SFMTA put dozens of barriers on western Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way diverting local residents through a maze of obstructions to get home. 

Prop. L would also allow the SFCTA to sell up to $1.9 billion in bonds to finance construction projects. That will end up costing taxpayers close to $4 billion after interest is paid – a poor way to run a city department.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, when transportation patterns are drastically changing, we can wait a couple of years to decide whether or not to extend the regressive half-cent sales tax.

Vote “no” on Proposition L. 

Restore Park Roads

Despite the contentious issue of closed park roads being on the ballot, the general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department, Phil Ginsburg, authorized crews to grind all of the roadway markings off of the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park and for numerous murals to be painted on the roadway.

It is the height of arrogance for a city department head to spend an estimated $200,000 on actions that may have to be reversed in less than two months when city voters decide the fate of the closed roads.

Last month, I made a case for voting for Prop. I, which would open closed roads in Golden Gate Park and the Upper Great Highway as they were before the pandemic struck. Vote “yes” on Prop. I.

As for Prop. J, the poison-pill proposition four members of the SF Board of Supervisors put on the ballot to confuse voters, vote “no” on Prop. J.  

 Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, with the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.

10 replies »

  1. Prop I will cost taxpayers $80M or more to perpetually move sand and build a huge seawall to fight a losing battle against the ocean. Prop I is an expensive, irresponsible, and sloppy ballot measure. If you care about fiscal responsibility and good governance, vote no on Prop I.


    • first of all that 80 M is over 20 years and I’d like to see what is included in that amount because they are planning a huge sea wall to protect the area and that cost along with the “park” is slated to be over 200M and that’s a one time cost and the sand nourishment will continue. Not expensive, not irresponsible (as your comment is) and is being done to protect not only the road but the sewer plant, the pumping station, lake Merced and the zoo to name just a few. Do you really think we are going to manged retreat from that area. SF is the only coastal city to embrace managed retreat, I wonder why?


  2. Thanks Paul. I would also advise No on Prop M, the so- called “ empty homes tax” that will tax any unit in any building over 3 units ( including Condos) if they are “ vacant .” The definition of vacant ( how many days per year), the amount of the tax, but and which properties will be affected ( single family homes have been stated as the goal) can all be changed by the Board of Supervisors afterwards, if this measure passes! The legal text of this proposition reads that the BOS “ may amend… this article…without a vote of the people” Please vote No on M, a VERY DANGEROUS LEGISLATION!


    • I agree. We need to read the very fine print of this and other props . A few have hidden agendas that allow not informing us of changes being made that could cause us to lose our Rights as well as our property!.Voters be aware!!


  3. @ Paul Kozakiewicz – thank you very much for the excellent commentary! But could you please comment on Prop M, which presents a direct threat to property rights and voting rights in SF?


  4. Prop I is a neighborhood push-back against the ill-conceived closure of the Upper Great Highway. Remember the closure history – with support from Supervisors and the Bike Coalition, SFMTA and Rec. and Park closed down the UGH claiming it was temporary measure during Covid. Then they claimed the closure was popular and would be a permanent closure, using bogus polling. There was a sub-argument that the entire UGH was doomed due to climate change, but that argument was dishonest because the Ocean Beach Master Plan only recommended abandoning the UGH south of Sloat.

    Tax paying residents and workers like teachers, firefighters, police officers that live south of the City have been harmed by the closure. Workers and families rely on the UGH to get to work and transport their kids to school. The economy of the Richmond District suffers when its too difficult to visit. Traffic in the smaller streets is more congested due to the closure. Adding insult to injury the UGH closes at noon on Fridays so people can’t get back home from work on Friday afternoon. Feels like a decision made by people who don’t work for a living.

    Whatever you think about the closure, the way it was handled was undemocratic and contributes to a general distrust of our public officials. Unfortunately they have not earned our trust. The feeling is that they know what’s best for us, we just need to keep paying taxes and just let them spend the money.

    Now we hear this new argument that the cost of maintaining the UGH is just too high. This is the same government that spent billions on the Central Subway and the homeless industry telling us about wasteful spending.

    They are just making this stuff up as they go.

    If the plan was to immediately stop maintaining the UGH from Lincoln to Sloat, the Bike Coalition would be pushing back because they can’t ride bikes on the sand dunes. If an additional seawall is required and it is too expensive to build, we would be hearing meaningful debate whether it is worthwhile protecting the houses on the Lower Great Highway. We don’t hear those things. There has been no analysis of these issues, including a timeline.

    Let’s have an honest and open discussion about the long term future of the UGH, but in the meantime let’s get it back open. Supervisor Mar just apologized for the implementation of the Slow Streets program and agreed with the plans to remove them in his district. He should now apologize for the UGH closure and advocate reopening.


    • Sorry Paulina, I suppose I should have posted this in reply to your post, so am repeating it: we greatly appreciate civic activities of SOAR in promoting constructive solutions to city problems, and SOAR’s efforts to prevent harmful entities from causing continued & increasing damage to San Francisco. If SOAR has published, or intends to publish, voting recommendations for Nov 8, is it possible to reprint them in Richmond Review?


  5. Thank you Paul for your well reasoned points of view. They are refreshing.

    However. I have one disagreement. And I brought this up with the late (and beloved) Mr. Saracevic before he passed. This is what I told him when he wrote that last article in the examiner.

    But before I leave, ignore the astro-turf groups.

    ~ ~ ~

    It’s not left vs. lefter. It’s left vs. contrived. It’s not Chesa vs. Brooke. It’s Chesa vs. a political opportunist who got paid 100,000+ by the billionaire(s) who largely funded the recall for “consulting services”.

    And now the SF Chronicle is going with the Walton “nigga” story full blast that Breed’s folks pulled out of a hat to get ahead of that $100,000 fiasco. Mind you we are talking about LondonBreed whose childhood friend Nuri was milking bribes throughout an extensive network of insiders and consultants. Breed who meets secretly with developers and then immediately destroys emails, who makes a big show on Union Square but cannot do anything about the persistence burglaries in Chinatown at Asian business establishments, and then leaves for Europe to escape criticism to promote tourism. Oh but let’s just get all upset about an N-word Walton used because he had to take off his belt and shoes more often then white folk.

    I remember when the city press went ga-ga-go-go all over Matt Gonzalez when Tom Ammiano suddenly had a real chance to become city mayor. They slavered all over Matt as if he was the real deal. Then when he performed his stalking horse duty and knocked out Ammiano’s chances by splitting the votes — just like the services David Lee performs out her in District one — Gonzalez faded into the background. Interesting how Gonzalez recently resurfaced to support the recall too.

    This town is owned by the rich and the rich want to keep it that way. This was a Republican town all throughout the 20th century after the Ruff corruption trials around 1908 and that only started to change during the latter 1970’s because of the changing demographics. This is the town the refused Willie Mays a house in Miramar because white people worried about property values. This is the town where Justin Herman completely destroyed Harlem West because his wealthy developer backers wanted to make more money at the expense of the black people who lived in those regions.

    The city has changed in the past 20 or 30 years and most current denizens are ignorant of this past, and that’s what the rich are counting on. They will make sure their hired chroniclers write narratives that make them seem practical and civic minded, when they are just power hungry. The recent recalls are a reflection of that.

    The politics of San Francisco has always been about downtown vs. everyone else, it just got more complicated in the post 1970’s. Lincoln Marshall recently did a great couple of pieces in the examiner on this topic. You should read your own newspaper.


  6. @ Paulina – we greatly appreciate civic activities of SOAR in promoting constructive solutions to city problems, and SOAR’s efforts to prevent harmful entities from causing continued & increasing damage to San Francisco. If SOAR has published, or intends to publish, voting recommendations for Nov 8, is it possible to reprint them in Richmond Review?


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