"Pandering to the conventional wisdom," former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller once observed, is "the mortal sin of journalism." There are plenty of journalistic sinners out there, particularly when it comes to the conventional wisdom on San Francisco.
Self-consciously middle-of-the-road pundits love to play the part of the straight man in this city, making facile attacks on San Francisco as a parody-worthy leftist metropolis characterized by job-killing social initiatives, totalitarian limits on real-estate development, and fruitless posturing by local politicians on the day's grand causes.
The reality is that San Francisco's politics is a shifting battlefield of interests -- some idealistic, many others venal, and a few corrupt -- in constant competition with one another, as in any other city. (You think supervisors' resolutions condemning Israeli aggression or banning the de-clawing of cats are bad? A New Hampshire town I used to cover for a daily newspaper once considered a measure making it illegal for agents of the United Nations to venture within municipal boundaries.)
And here's some information the purveyors of conventional wisdom might not have predicted about San Francisco: It's apparently at the top of the list of job-creating urban areas in California.
The San Francisco Business Times reports that San Francisco came in 52nd in the Milken Institute's annual ranking of U.S. cities based on economic growth. San Jose placed 51, while the top Californian city was Bakersfield, at 47.
Both San Jose and San Francisco were considered as part of a broader urban/suburban economy. San Jose was grouped into a "metropolitan statistical area" including Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, while S.F. was lumped in with San Mateo and Redwood City. It goes without saying that the sprawling Peninsula tech economy -- which, nevertheless, has been spreading into San Francisco proper -- played a role in job creation stats for both cities.
Of course, it's not a great sign that California, which has the largest economy of any U.S. state, has only one city in the top 50 generators of economic growth. (And it's Bakersfield.) But, hey, the grumblers can always move to Texas, which lays claim to four of the cities in the top five.
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