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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This Is What a David Campos Happy Hour Is Like

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM

click to enlarge tech4campos.jpg

Thursday night at Raven, which is a vaguely noir-themed bar on Folsom Street in SoMa, a small group of self-identified tech workers and David Campos supporters gathered to hear the state assembly candidate and District 9 Supervisor give a stump speech aimed at their industry. The premise was intriguing enough: what would a candidate who is perceived as anti-tech have to say to techies? 

Campos wasn't going to win over many on-the-fence techies in the crowd of about 50 people, most of whom appeared to be firmly on Team Campos already. But before his speech, Campos got a couple quick opening acts from neighborhood tech workers: Zoomforth CEO Chris Murphy, who also works with EngageSF, spoke about changing the "polarized narrative" that tech is an evil, hulking monolith. The implication is that not every tech worker is boarding a bus and heading south to a corporate campus every morning. Murphy would know, too, his startup is located a few floors above ground zero for techie backlash (and a few floors below Yoga to the People) at 16th and Mission.
Jackie Mahendra, former director of storytelling at and current director of Strategic Collaboration at the Citizen Engagement Lab, also seemed concerned with the current narrative in the Mission. The third opening act was organizer Ian Johnstone, who led what was billed as the nation's first crowdfunded gun buyback program in the Mission. One thing all three speakers had in common: they're working with tech non-profits — and not the revenue-free kind.

After stumbling into his speech, Campos' own narrative started to gel when he got through boilerplate gladhanding and got closer to defining one major problem with the "Tech Industry" as a catchall boogieman for the city's problems. "We're talking about and Ron Conway," Campos told the crowd, naming one of the antagonists starring in the story. "The people who are the face of the tech in this city do not speak for the whole industry."

Campos' opponents have set up a false "tech vs. community" split, he claims, and "the voice of the tech industry" has a different agenda than the individuals that actually make it up, many of whom live and work in the community itself.

What's left unsaid, however, are the social and economic connotations that often tag along when people talk about "tech" and "community" — especially in the Mission.

To see just how much Campos' opponents are willing to spend to maintain this "tech vs. community" narrative, you only need to look as far as the campaign contributions Ron Conway and Reid Hoffman made to the "San Franciscans to Hold Campos Accountable" independent expenditure committee last week. They dropped a cool $349,900 between the two of them.

That's a pretty strong voice.

Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Ian Johnstone as a former Campos staffer.

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Andrew M. Dalton


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