By Rudy Gonzalez | Secretary-Treasurer
The new year is only just upon us, and already our cities and counties, our state, and our country are fitfully gearing up for the next holiday season. By that, I mean the November 2024 election.
It’s going to be a long year, that’s for sure.
As I write this, I’ve just witnessed an absurd amount of national political oxygen blown onto the Iowa Republican caucuses, which were held on Monday, January 15. It’s hard to imagine that a party-specific primary in which only 110,000 voters participated — that’s less than 15% of Iowa’s 752,000 registered Republicans! — was worth the $124 million the various campaigns spent on the ad blitz leading up to it. But hey, the mere fact alone that the Iowa caucuses are the first in the nation makes every wasted dime worth it, I suppose.
Then there was the foregone conclusion, well-documented through polling, that Donald Trump would wind up sweeping the Hawkeye State during the caucuses. And guess what. He did.
Feeling exhausted yet?
Try not to. Don’t let marginally relevant election-year primaries in the faraway windswept plains distract you now, lest you find yourself fully transformed into a political cynic by November. Instead, remember that we have a consequential election coming up soon here at home. There are plenty of races being run and issues being decided on your March 5 ballot, all of them significant and worthy of your attention.
These are the elections that matter the most. As the old saying goes, all politics is local. That’s truer than ever nowadays.
Might I suggest that you consider supporting the candidates and measures that your local building trades council has endorsed? After all, when a majority of trades members come together and take to the ballot box as a voting bloc, we can slap a powerful stamp of approval — or disapproval — on the issues and candidates that make a difference for labor.
Yes on A, Yes on B, and Yes on Pelosi, Haney, Stefani, Hardeman, and Bell
In San Francisco, we have a handful of crucial measures on the ballot in the March 5 primary. Two of them directly impact our job outlook: Proposition A, the affordable housing bond, and Proposition B, which would restore police staffing. These measures address twin issues, the adept handling of which will prove vital to the healthy recovery and financial security of working-class and middle-class communities throughout the City.
This council recommends a yes vote on both props A and B.
Prop A is about funding affordable housing. While many YIMBY organizations and pro-development advocates enjoy delivering lip service about such housing, the truth is that unless we fund it with public money, nothing truly affordable will ever get built. Not by private developers, at least. Hell, not even by the non-profit ones.
Prop A is a straightforward way to access public funds for affordable housing through a financing scheme whereby the City issues bonds on the market rather than imposing a tax hike on the SF citizenry. One of the main sponsors of the Prop A effort is SF Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who has sat down at the table often with this council’s president, Larry Mazzola Jr., and me. We’ve consistently seen Peskin put commitment into action in working on the strongest possible labor standards for construction workers in this sector.
Getting more people housed for less, however, brings us only halfway there. We lack the robust public-safety infrastructure necessary to meet SF’s current needs, which are formidable, and to bring people back to the core city, office workers and tourists alike. Prop B can help put that critical infrastructure back into place.
That’s why I’m personally chairing the Yes on B campaign. I’m working alongside a group of public-sector labor organizations to bring back police minimum staffing levels to SFPD. Full employment within the City’s wide-ranging public safety apparatus shouldn’t be the football that’s kicked around during every budget cycle. We should be more serious than that about the healthy functioning of our city.
It’s time to put more police, medics, and 911 dispatchers on the job, and to prioritize clean and safe streets. Best of all, we can achieve this — just like we can Prop A — without raising a penny on the taxes of homeowners and working people.
That said, given the City’s present deficit, I wouldn’t be opposed to local billionaires actually coughing up their fair share one day. But we’ll table comprehensive tax reform for another column and another election.
Moving right along... Don’t forget to check the box next to this council’s endorsed candidates for federal and state office: Nancy Pelosi for Congress, Matt Haney for State Assembly District 17, and Catherine Stefani for State Assembly District 19. Each of these elected officials has earned an endorsement through hard work and unabashed support of blue-collar construction workers.
Finally, to those of you who are registered Democrats: Please vote all of our candidates, specifically Greg Hardeman and Patrick Bell, onto the SF Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC). Nobody knows our issues like those of us in labor. You can count on these two men, who are leaders in IUEC Local 8 and U.A. Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 38, respectively, to represent us if we elect them to seats at the local Democratic party apparatus’ highly influential table of power.
Please take a look at the following page to view this council’s full list of March 5 endorsements, to find out how and where to vote, and to learn more about the slate of candidates and what they’re running for.
Adjusting Attitudes About Adjudicators
This council has traditionally refrained from taking positions on judicial candidates, and it will continue to do so at this time. But I feel I must address the overheated, toxic rhetoric that’s been flying around lately regarding judges, whether elected or appointed, and how dangerous it is to our democracy.
In San Francisco, two sitting county superior court judges, Patrick Thompson (a Newsom appointee) and Michael Begert (a Schwarzenegger appointee), will be asking March 5 voters to keep them on the bench. Challengers for their seats have emerged thanks to a belligerent, billionaire-backed political action committee called Stop Crime Action that appears to take its political cues straight out of the Fox News playbook: Look around the City, and, with angry, self-righteous indignation, blame the crime problem on a “lenient,” “progressive” judiciary.
Recent polling shows that 76% of voters asked said they thought SF was on the wrong track. It’s politically convenient for a well-funded, reactionary PAC to gin up an already-frustrated electorate by attacking judges and running challengers. I believe it to be misleading, irresponsible, and, at worst, dangerous.
Yes, things are off track in SF, but I would argue that it’s lazy and wrong to blame crime on the judiciary. Those who are frustrated with the outcomes of criminal justice reform in this state and city ought to take those complaints to the legislature and the voters who approved those laws. Judges exist to enforce without prejudice such laws on the books.
As for their qualifications, governor-appointed judges and their families submit to a rigorous independent vetting process and comprehensive background checks. They undergo extensive interviews and are given a formal rating by the state Commission on Judicial Nominations. Only if they pass muster do they become eligible for appointment. Then, they’re subject to re-election every six years, if challenged.
What about the challengers’ qualifications? They must only be licensed to practice law in California. That’s it. No vetting, no background checks, no interviews. Meanwhile, state ethics laws forbid sitting judges from publicly defending their record when challenged.
Neither Judge Thompson nor Judge Begert has been subject to investigation by the state judicial council, which is charged with investigating allegations of bias, misconduct, and other performance issues and can even remove a judge, if necessary. Neither is able to campaign with the aggressive, unhinged vitriol that their challengers can.
We all know how election campaigning lends itself to commitments made for endorsements and positions and rhetoric to get people to vote in an otherwise obscure and rarely publicized race. I believe that voting for new and untested criminal court judges who are perceived as somehow tougher on crime — and backed by a shady PAC entity — is a short-sighted misstep, especially at a time when emotions are running so high in the City.
Instead, we have to look through what appears to me to be a right-wing political smokescreen and call it what it is: an attempted attack on our independent and ethical judiciary by an angry mob.
Don’t fall for it.