Why I regret Endorsing Ed Lee in 2011
This is a guest post by Ashkon the cat behind the Giant’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing‘ video.
A little bit over five years ago, I made a music video representing for my beloved San Francisco Giants and their fans. A few weeks later they would go on to win their first world series championship since moving out west in 1958. Along the way, I hit the local and national news circuits, met a bunch of my favorite baseball players, took pictures with countless children and adults, and was bought enough drinks to severely damage my liver for ever after. It was an amazing, befuddling experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Cut to a year later, a little bit over four years ago, with the Giants out of the playoffs, I was approached by a production team, backed by silicon valley “super angel”, Ron Conway, to join MC Hammer, Brian Wilson, and a slew of other big names to help create a video supporting then interim mayor, Ed Lee’s bid to retain his seat at city hall. Although the video was initially well received and extremely fun to make (MC Hammer was hella cool), I ultimately regret being a part of that project.
The regretable video with Ed Lee and Brian Wilson:
While I’m admittedly not as knowledgeable on the current state of San Francisco as I’d like to be (I now live in New York where I am attending graduate school), I have read and talked to people enough to know that the energy in the city is rapidly changing and that longtime residents are being priced out of their homes as the tech industry, with the support of Mayor Lee, continues to move in. Do I think that tech folks moving in inherently ruins San Francisco, or that their move is entirely Mr. Lee’s fault, no, but I can tell you that at a private party celebrating his election, which I was invited to in 2011, he said he wanted to build a huge sign at SFO saying, Welcome to San Francisco, Home of Technology. Though he seems to have thought better of the sign, his policies have stayed true to those words, helping to make San Francisco the tech-company hotbed that it is today.
To be clear, I believe that there are benefits to playing host to the fastest growing industry in our economy. In theory, these companies could be creating jobs and generating revenue that is fed back into the city and providing more opportunities for all San Franciscans. In order for that to be the case though, city officials would have to work with tech companies, community organizers and the communities themselves to create a plan for how technology could help create a more equitable San Francisco. Four years into Mr. Lee’s term, this just doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Over the past couple months, many of my friends and community advocates that I respect have become vocal and organized in their desire to change things in the city–my old pal Broke Ass Stuart is even running for goddamn mayor (give em hell buddy!). Throughout this period, my hasty endorsement of Mr. Lee back in 2011 has been hanging over my head a bit; I’ve been unsure of how to enter the political discussion and do my part to help contribute to the change so many people are hoping for. I’ve also been considering the factors that went into me agreeing to make a video supporting a candidate I knew so little about in the first place. Perhaps I was lured by the promise of working with other successful people on the project, meeting the dude whose name was written across the front of the first cassette tape I ever owned (ok, that was actually Paula Abdul, Forever Your Girl, but whatevs), or making a little money as a financially insecure artist. Perhaps I was taken by Mr. Conway’s desire to work with little old me on what was sure to be a huge project. Hell, maybe he or the mayor would even owe me a favor and then I could do that other thing I’d always wanted to do! Eventually, I realized that I had fallen victim to some of the very same forces that make corruption in politics so infuriatingly pervasive. My longing to make connections and be a part of something, combined with my fear of powerlessness and the hope of future opportunities had allowed me to compromise my values and influence my judgement.
I don’t believe that Mr. Lee is a bad person but perhaps fear and temptation have gotten the best of him as they got to me four years ago. While I’ve done what I can in the past few years to reawaken my social consciousness and explore ways to contribute to justice and the things I really care about, I can only hope Mr. Lee will do the same. This however, cannot be done on the City’s watch. The time is now. Vote 1-2-3 to replace Ed Lee tomorrow, November 3rd. Go Giants.