Tagline: Until the Work Is Done
Bay Area Reporter Editorial – EQCA’s no sellout
September 15, 2016 at 10:36 am

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Progressive LGBTs who support Jane Kim have been crying foul for a couple weeks now, claiming that Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, has sold its soul to corporate bigwigs because its political action committee received $300,000 to fund an independent expenditure in support of Scott Wiener, a gay man running against Kim for state Senate District 11, which includes San Francisco and a portion of northern San Mateo County. It’s time for them to be honest. Kim has an independent expenditure from a corporation too.

EQCA long ago endorsed Wiener in the race, as did the Bay Area Reporter, and after the surprisingly tight finish, which saw Kim in the lead after the June primary, it’s more important than ever to educate LGBT voters about the race and the candidates.

SD 11 has the most LGBT voters and residents of any state Senate district. Additionally, the seat, because of its demographics, provides a powerful legislative platform and public support. Wiener, who has never been afraid to introduce – and more importantly, follow through on – cutting edge legislation, would be in a stronger position over other legislators who don’t have the same demographic advantages.

Those calling out EQCA are being hypocritical regarding campaign funding. Kim had her own independent expenditure in the primary, backed by PG&E – a corporate giant. The utility has a monopoly in northern California over customers’ electric rates, was found guilty earlier this year on criminal charges stemming from the horrific 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed a neighborhood, and runs circles around regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission. In other words, PG&E’s corporate record isn’t spotless. And yet, PG&E is also a terrific supporter of the LGBT community, actively contributing funds to many nonprofits over the years.

The main complaint from progressives is that the EQCA PAC independent expenditure contains money from real estate interests at a time when housing is such a crucial issue in San Francisco. But Wiener has shown his commitment to addressing housing issues as a city supervisor and as a state senator he would be in a position where he has pledged to repeal or substantially reform the Ellis Act, the state law that’s been used thousands of times to evict tenants in the city. Since affordability is becoming an issue in cities around the state, next year may be an ideal time to take that on again – and it won’t be easy. As a supervisor, he supported two state lawmakers’ past efforts to change the law, but those were unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, Wiener told us that he supports increasing the inclusionary percentage of units developers set aside for affordable housing, but said an inflexible one-size-fits-all of 25 percent would be counterproductive. Kim’s website states that “she’s currently pushing to study whether that standard [40 percent set aside for affordable units] is workable for the new Treasure Island development, potentially paving the way for hundreds more affordable housing units. Jane knows that as the need for affordable housing increases – 40 is the new 30.” But if you read that carefully, it is a call to study whether the 40 percent figure is feasible – for Treasure Island or anywhere else, so it’s currently an unproven idea. In fact, Wiener told us that Treasure Island is struggling to hit its 25 percent requirement. This week City Controller Ben Rosenfield released a report concluding San Francisco should require between 14 and 18 percent of new apartments be rented at below market rate; for condos, he recommended a 17 to 20 percent requirement.

As EQCA board President Andreas Meyer wrote in an open letter to former Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, Supervisor David Campos, former Supervisor Bevan Dufty, and the executive board of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club who are now critical of EQCA, the PAC sets its own objectives, and has its own policies for making endorsements. “We seek out financial contributions to achieve them,” Meyer wrote, adding that he strongly disagrees with the characterization of EQCA as a “‘back channel for corporate special interests’ or any other outside interests.”

In its decision to endorse Wiener, Meyer wrote the EQCA PAC concluded that he “presented a more substantial record of commitment to the needs of the LGBT community, a deeper understanding of the myriad policy priorities in the area of LGBT social justice and civil rights, and a more detailed and specific public policy and legislative agenda aimed at improving the lives of LGBT people and people living with HIV.”

Frankly, we’re glad that EQCA is in the position to financially support LGBT candidates to give them a better shot at victory. Just a few years ago, in the midst of a leadership vacuum, EQCA wasn’t even endorsing local candidates, reserving its meager resources for state legislative races. Now, the statewide group is backing qualified LGBT candidates in local races across the state, as well as keeping with its prioritization of legislative races.

Kim’s supporters can complain all they want, that’s part of the political process. But they’re employing a double standard when they criticize EQCA for an independent expenditure when their candidate has one too. Independent expenditures are not controlled by candidates, so to suggest that they would be directly beholden to these interests is not being fully honest either.


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