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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bay Guardian Defends the Status Quo -- Again

Posted By on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM

On par with human rights?
  • On par with human rights?

Whenever SF Weekly pens a cover story critiquing the inefficient, unaccountable nature of San Francisco's government, the Guardian can be counted on to spring forth with a spirited defense of the status quo. Apparently, defending the status quo is what makes you a real progressive in this city, counterintuitively enough. 

"Joe Eskenazi has an SF Weekly piece that pretty much repeats what he's been saying for years: That San Francisco has too much government," writes Tim Redmond in a Wednesday afternoon blog post

First of all, it's a distinct honor to be accused of riding a hobby horse by Redmond and the Guardian, who've been railing for public power since moments after Nikola Tesla developed the alternating-current generator

Second, Redmond seems to think the sole points of my story are that we have too much government and that San Francisco is "crazy." He then tears into that straw man with gusto.

That San Francisco has such rampant duplication and inefficiency that it doesn't know -- or really even want to know -- how many commissions it has is a pretty good argument that our government is too bloated. But that's just the surface. In essence, my story was about how this city's cacophony of commissions provides the veneer of civic participation, but really just serves the political needs of the entrenched bureaucracy. 

As my writing partner, Benjamin Wachs, and I have expressed many times, if San Franciscans choose to spend disproportionate amounts of money to solve America's problems, there's nothing wrong with that. The question is, are we getting what we pay for? Are we even trying to figure that out? 
On par with human rights?
  • On par with human rights?
​Rather than address the substance of my story, Redmond instead gives me grief for noting the world's disbelieving reaction to a proposed goldfish ban even its authors now admit is silly. This allows him to rattle off a greatest hits list of progressive legislation sired in San Francisco (with none originating from the galaxy of committees that was the major subject of our cover story). 

Redmond equates the proposed goldfish ban with San Francisco's proudest achievements. He then suggests your humble narrator would have fought against all of those and pushed to keep gays and women oppressed. 

Regarding efforts to ensure equal pay for women in the 1980s, Redmond writes, "It cost the city a lot of extra money (money that the Eskinazi [sic] crew of the day said was too much for a broke city) and led to all sorts of comments about social engineering."

It's nice to know what my 9-year-old self and his crew would have made of egalitarianism in 1985. My wife -- who is smarter than me and earns more than double my salary -- would be surprised to learn that my name -- our name -- is now some codeword for institutional workplace sexism. 

Of course, I'd have won that argument with her in '85, because she was only four. 

On another note, it warrants mentioning that Redmond managed to spell my name three different ways in his brief article. This is unfortunate. That it occurred the day after the paper laid off its copy editor is doubly so. 

The problem isn't that San Francisco has too much government (though it unquestionably does) or makes "crazy" proposals (though, again, it unquestionably does). The problem is, as Wachs and I have written before, that this city values good intentions over results. In this way, no one is ever held accountable for coming up short. And our citizens reward politicians who put forward feel-good populist measures rather than those who toil in obscurity to actually solve deep-seated societal problems. 

If we're repeating ourselves, it's because a handful of articles over less than two years isn't reversing vast, overarching problems no one in City Hall even wants to fix. San Francisco's government isn't working so well for the people of San Francisco, but it's working just fine for itself. 

That's the real position of "the Eskinazi [sic] crew." So let's argue about that

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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