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Leverage

Mar
28
2004

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Christopher Newsom is hitting the big time. Hard. Thursday night he got himself on Charlie Rose.
Rose is famous for getting folks he meets at Manhattan dinner parties to repeat, on air, their private conversations. Last time he did it with Steven Brill who predicted (correctly) a slam-dunk conviction for Martha Stewart. All of which means Newsom’s stock with an important crowd has just gone waaaaay up. In San Francisco, it’s already sky high. Three months into his first term, Newsom’s approval rating is a breathtaking 75 percent, according to recent polls.


Knowing you’re doing a good job always helps. During his mayoral campaign Newsom had a slightly robotic quality – the stiffness of an anxious student. You could almost hear him muttering “stay on message” under his breath. In the Rose interview he was surprisingly relaxed; he knew the message, he didn’t need to remind himself.
That’s not to say that Newsom hasn’t got his work cut out for him here in San Francisco. The fault lines that separate a good national reputation – being the first mayor to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – from a lousy local rap – being a mayor who is unable to rescue a financially troubled city – is wide and deep and difficult to easily transverse. One could easily kill the other.
If Newsom is smart, he’ll find ways to use his 75 percent approval rating to effect some lasting change in how the city does business with business. Newsom might start with the Board of Supervisors’ decision – they’ll vote again on Tuesday – to discourage retail operations with more than 11 outlets nationwide from opening in the city. It’s great news for my local Walgreens, a shiny chain store that probably displaced a small pharmacy and which, now that it can count on an absence of real competition, will probably start jacking prescription and other prices even higher. And I live in a neighborhood where people want to do business.
This is ‘Just say ‘no’ Liberalism, a stupid combination of NIMBY-ism and tax-the-man outrage. that makes it hard to understand how San Francisco keeps going. You want to discourage chains in the city? Okay, encourage small businesses to stay independent of franchises and other deals that provide much-needed economies of scale like what Walgreens can do – and does – for medicines. See, small businesses aren’t large corporations and it’s about time that the city recognized the difference. After all, it has played host to the start-up mentality before; many of those who started things last time around are still here and there are smart and good ways to help them do it again.
Tax incentives, economic development zones, hiring bonuses are all good tools for governments to use but they require hard work, cooperation and, oh yeah, you have to start saying “yes” to making money in your own backyard. And you have to factor in the state’s horrible workman’s comp situation and its just as nightmarish health insurance problem. Which means you probably start listening to those Republican types. On these issues in particular, some of them, like recovering Republican (he claims to be a Dem nowadays) Dave Pottruck, Charles Schwab CEO, have already pointed to this unique political opportunity. For a pol like Newsom, smart thinking on small business and self-employment issues would show that he’s not just a one-issue pretty face. It’s a chance for him to rebuild what he candidly admitted on Rose’s show was the destruction of his moderate base. And, oh yeah, it’s a good opportunity to show the San Francisco Board of Supervisors how to run a city that’s able to work with – not consistently against – businesses.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:54 AM | Permalink

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