January is typically a time for resolving to eat less, drink less, earn more, change jobs, improve the relationship with one’s children or parents, or similar things. Those are all worthy goals, but this is also a time when we can look at our leaders and other prominent people and urge them to become better leaders. Here, then, are some unsolicited resolutions for some big names.
Mayor Ed Lee: It’s great to be San Francisco’s mayor these days. The economy is booming, unemployment is low, and most things are going relatively smoothly. But managing a boom can be as challenging as managing tough times, and how Ed Lee deals with the affordability issues that have come with the good times will go a long way to defining his term as mayor. Lee recently called out tech companies and said more of them need to do more to help the neighborhoods around them. Resolution: Make a few libertarian tech lords angry, or at least give them upset stomachs.
Governor Jerry Brown: It wasn’t great to be California governor three years ago when Brown returned to the job. But he was elected to go to Sacramento and kick some … dust in that stale system. He has done that. He has reined in what was expected to be a runaway-Democratic legislature intent on spending the fruits of so much of Brown’s hard-earned savings and new revenue. Things are back on track in the state, but there is no vision about where we’re headed. Resolution: Be a post-crisis leader and build consensus on how this state will deal with the expected 15 million additional residents over the coming decades.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: The lieutenant governorship needs to be reinvented. We’ve watched Newsom be the media star, the governor’s rival, the pundit, and more. Resolution: Turn the lieutenant governor’s position into something that can be useful not only to you but to your successors in the office.
Recreation and Park Department: After seven years of going through the proper city channels, the 8 Washington development still got nixed by a public referendum. That’s how difficult (and expensive) it is for private entities to develop something new in San Francisco. But Rec and Park has been making dramatic changes to parks across the city —with or without public agreement. Resolution: Get the citizens behind you and you can’t go wrong; get too far out in front of citizen desires, and your bosses in City Hall will feel the heat.
San Francisco Chronicle: Talk about needing a change from a crisis-by-crisis existence. The website’s free, then it’s got a paywall, then it’s free, then it’s got a paywall again — all within one year. The paper thins, and popular names disappear. Now the food section is disappearing. There’s great talent at the Chronicle, but the paper is following the MBA mantra of cut, cut, cut. People don’t pay for less and less; they pay for good, great, satisfying, entertaining, and provocative. And crossword puzzles. Resolution: Invest in news and criticism and ideas, and then do the innovating on the medium of delivery.
San Francisco Examiner: Nearly two years ago, I wrote in the Marina Times a plea for the Examiner to be more aggressive and consistent with its opinion section and stake out a leadership position in the city as a helpful and critical voice. Still waiting. Meanwhile, the paper thins, and popular names disappear. At least it hasn’t tried to erect a website paywall. The paper’s leadership does occasionally try to present provocative opinions via Twitter, and its editorials, when they run, are usually well reasoned and a welcome contribution to the public debate. But we don’t get enough of it for it to be a real leadership voice. Resolution: Invest in content before the weekend circulars get to be thicker than the paper itself.
Supervisor Mark Farrell: Farrell has staked out a position as the moderates’ brain on the Board of Supervisors, helping to re-balance the board after the progressive takeover. Resolution: Meet the needs to expand housing development, be budget conservative, socially conscious, and prevent another takeover.
Supervisor Scott Weiner: Known for being a real deal, hardworking, levelheaded supervisor, Weiner is making a name for himself, from the I-can’t-believe-it’s-controversial (nudity bans), the controversial but necessary (TIC changes), to the small but important things that affect the quality of life here (double parking and park closing hours). Resolution: Keep going strong; don’t be deterred by criticism.
Supervisor David Chiu: People for and against the Polk Street transit redevelopment project expressed frustration at Chiu’s attempt to play both sides. We get it; it’s difficult being a politician, especially filling Aaron Peskin’s shoes while he’s still in them. Resolution: Pick a side and deal with it.
The new tech class: Criticism of tech people is overwrought and often off-base, missing the more important problem. Who really cares if they eat overpriced toast or ride to work on cushy buses? What we should care is that they become part of the community, volunteering with local organizations and giving their hard-earned dollars to local charities to help the people at their doorstep. Resolution: You’re in San Francisco, now become of San Francisco.
Representative Nancy Pelosi: I’d be the last one to urge you to retire while there is still a chance for you to return to the House speaker’s chair. But the California Democratic Party’s leadership in Congress is aging — that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave an entire cohort of younger members who can’t inject new ideas and energy into the party. Resolution: Be more aggressive about bringing up the next generations of party leaders.
Peter Thiel: Thiel is one of the Bay Area’s richest and more independent minds. From his roles at PayPal to his plans to create offshore worker space for Silicon Valley, Thiel has been far in front of many of his contemporaries. His conservative and libertarian politics have been more slapdash, from funding fringe candidates to paying people to drop out of college and go into business. Resolution: Step up and either communicate directly and regularly how you think the world should be, or fund an effective medium that can do that for you.