The thriving technology industry is playing an increasingly important role in San Francisco politics. Currently, San Francisco is home to over 2,000 technology companies, representing a approximately 10% of the city’s workforce – and growing. Over the past few years, San Francisco City Hall has been faced with several significant policy decisions affecting tech companies and their employees.
For tech workers, it’s extremely important to know how each elected acts and votes on key issues affecting the tech community. Why? Votes taken by the Board of Supervisors that become codified into law often have significant repercussions for years to come. This is the first of a series of profiles that we’ll write about SF politicians and how they’ve positioned themselves on key issues affecting the tech community.
We will start with David Campos, Supervisor from District 9 (Mission District, Bernal Heights, Portola District), because he represents an area that is home to many tech workers. Through his votes and actions on key issues, Campos has been one of the most consistent anti-tech voices on the SF Board of Supervisors. Here are the top three things every tech worker should know about Supervisor David Campos.
#1: Campos Opposed the Mid-Market Tax Break that Would Keep Tech Companies in SF
In 2011, 14 San Francisco technology companies received $1.9 million in tax breaks for establishing a presence in the Mid-Market area. Actively supported by Mayor Lee, this legislation was largely in response to companies such as Twitter considering moving its expanded headquarters out of San Francisco. Proponents of the legislation said it was a good investment, bringing economic development and jobs to an economically depressed strip in the core of the city.
The bill overwhelmingly passed the Board of Supervisors by an 8-3 vote with Supervisor Campos voting “no” citing “economic favoritism for a billionaires’ industry.”
The Mid-Market area – once an eyesore – has been revitalized by companies such as Twitter and Zendesk. Most importantly, the companies that benefited now employ more than 2,700 workers. This growth has also helped propel San Francisco to one of the fastest economic expansions in the U.S. The unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent in 2013 from 9.6 percent in 2010, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
#2: Campos is Doubling Down on Anti-Tech Rhetoric
Despite visual and economic evidence that the Mid-Market tax break is a success, Supervisor David Campos is doubling down on his opposition. He has recently requested a formal hearing to review the impact that the 2011 legislation has had on the city. This, despite the fact that a report earlier this year by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development found that since 2011, 17 companies moved into the Mid-Market area, including Benchmark Capital, One Kings Lane, Spotify, Square, Twitter, Uber, Yammer, Zendesk and Zoosk. Commercial office vacancy has dipped to 8.5 percent, down from 30 percent before the tax measure passed.
On March 29, Supervisors Campos and Avalos were the only two supervisors to attend a rally at City Hall criticizing the legislation with chants of “Twitter you’re no good, pay your taxes like you should.” During the rally, Campos noted he has seen “huge tax breaks go to the private sector.”
#3: Campos Opposes the SF Tech Bus Program
In response to anti-tech protests blocking the Google buses, city leaders crafted an 18-month pilot program. The program, supported by the tech companies, allows shuttles with permits to stop in certain red zones for a charge of about $1 per stop per day and will net the city $1.5 million over the 18-month period. Most importantly, the program would continue to ensure that fewer drivers clog the SF streets on their daily commutes between Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
While the tech companies could certainly afford to pay more than $1 per stop, state law prohibits the city from collecting anything over their costs of the project. As a result, companies such as Google are closing the gap by donating almost $7 million to cover two years of free transit for working-class San Francisco kids.
Tenant activists and labor leaders challenged the pilot program, citing environmental impacts. After a long and contentious hearing, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-2 to move forward with the 18-month pilot program without environmental review. The two dissenting votes were Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos.
Undaunted, these same activists have now filed a lawsuit against the city and county of San Francisco opposing the pilot program claiming it favors higher-paid technology workers over low-income residents.
Campos is running for the State Assembly in the June 3, 2014 election. His opponent is David Chiu, the President of the Board of Supervisors. Stay tuned for an upcoming profile on Supervisor Chiu.
What do you think? Has Supervisor David Campos been anti-tech?
–Randy Brasche, Techies Who Vote
Follow me @Randyman71