SF4D Parties Forum Report

San Francisco for Democracy held a forum for political party representatives on Monday night.  The panel consisted of:

Aaron Peskin, Chairman, San Francisco Democratic Party

Barry Hermanson, Co-Coordinator, Green Party of California

Marsha Feinland, State Treasurer, Peace and Freedom Party

The Republican Party representative had a scheduling conflict with his own party’s meeting.

The SF4D meeting was open to the public.  This was a moderated forum of two hours, with introductory statements, moderator questions, and audience questions.  This report covers the points (my distillation, not verbatim quotes) that I found significant.

Marsha Feinland, Peace and Freedom Party:

  • The Peace and Freedom Party is an avowedly socialist, anti-capitalist party.
  • We tax sales of ordinary items such as shoes and school supplies; we should also be taxing financial transactions like stock trades.
  • The state should be taxing oil extraction.  Richmond voted to tax Chevron, and Chevron isn’t leaving.
  • A legislature that actually worked on behalf of the people would be a unicameral one elected via proportional representation.  When I ran for the U.S. Senate, more people voted for me than did for sitting Senators in fourteen small states.
  • Ranked-choice/instant runoff voting is good, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of elections reform.  Had it taken effect earlier, Matt Gonzalez never would’ve had a chance against Gavin Newsom.
  • Proposition 14, the “Open Primary” proposition on the coming ballot, would destroy third parties electorally.
  • Big businesses buy out and crush small businesses, so small businesses could fare better under a more socialist system.
  • I helped organize the March 4th actions against California education cuts, and I made sure that the students themselves had center stage.
  • Building a political movement is equally as important as running for office.

Barry Hermanson, Green Party:

  • We shouldn’t be issuing government bonds for services, since the interest payments go to the wealthy and since we should be honest about what services actually cost.
  • 6400 city employees make over $100K.  The issue isn’t necessarily about that being too much, it’s about why the rest of the city employees don’t have a higher standard of living.
  • Ranked-choice voting helps third-party ballot access and spares us expensive, nasty runoff campaigns.
  • We should split-roll Proposition 13.  Business property tax currently gets updated with a property sale or a business ownership change, but any stock trade is really an ownership change.
  • Communities should have the power to review and, if warranted, revoke corporate charters.  That’s coming from a former small business owner who thinks a mix of capitalism and socialism is best.
  • There should be a downtown business tax district for transit funds, given that downtown businesses’ workers pack mass transit during rush hour.  That’s fine; it’s just that they should help more to pay for it.
  • The Democratic Party’s tent is too big.  Conservatives in the Democratic Party kill popular reform.  I want a realignment of representation, with the Democratic Party in the center, the Republican Party on the right, and the Green Party on the left.
  • If Proposition 15, public financing of the Secretary of State campaign, passes, the Green Party candidate will be viable in that race.
  • I am trying to bring people together.  I am trying to stem the division over the 5% of what we disagree about.

Aaron Peskin, Democratic Party:

  • There must be campaign finance regulation and/or public funding of elections for there to be actual representation of the people.
  • Union-busting via “firing” and “re-hiring” city employees would set a devastating precedent for labor nationwide, in addition to it being a disaster for the city.
  • Voters are not yet familiar enough with ranked-choice voting to realize that they don’t need to take the “spoiler effect” into account anymore.
  • San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting system may be overturned as part of a current federal lawsuit.
  • There are billions of dollars in federal funds available for highway and mass transit construction but none for operation.
  • The appointed MTA board is not independent of mayor in the slightest, despite the Board of Supervisors’s confirmation role.
  • Many in the San Francisco Democratic Party are exemplars of public service, unlike the bought-and-paid-for standard most other places and unlike the wholly owned Republican Party.  Also, as soon as a party like the Greens got to be anywhere close to as big as the Democratic and Republican Parties, the Green Party would have exactly the same corruption problems.

San Francisco for Democracy

General Meeting

Northern Police Station Community Room

1125 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA

7-9 PM, Monday, March 15, 2010

At present, the author of this post is not an SF4D member.