San Francisco has always led the country in progressive policy making — which means that we’ve taken a stand for everyday people over special interests. We’ve pioneered same-sex marriage, the $15 minimum wage, paid sick days, and the highest affordable housing requirements in the country.
We’ve also been at the forefront of a growing environmental movement, from establishing a goal of zero waste by 2020 to banning plastic bags and plastic foam. And in an era when Trump has waged war on science and the environment, San Francisco must ratchet up our work to protect the future generations who will either inherit our mistakes or our progress.
Last September, former Supervisor John Avalos and I stressed the urgent mandate for full fossil fuel divest-ment (sfexaminer.com/climate-disasters-latest-mandate-fossil-fuel-divestment), a commitment that the board of supervisors unanimously agreed to in 2013 but that our San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System (SFERS) board has dithered on for the past five years. According to the Los Angeles Times, only 30 municipalities have made even the verbal or aspirational commitment to divest, including Oakland, Santa Monica, and Berkeley, though worldwide the number of public institutions making that pledge has grown to more than 800. In California, San Francisco State University became the first public institution to divest from coal and tar sands in 2013, the same year the City and County of San Francisco voted unanimously to fully divest from fossil fuels. Yet since then, the SFERS board has barely managed to shed $1 million from its half-billion dollar fossil fuel portfolio.
Last month, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made international headlines by announcing the commitment by his pension system to divest its fossil fuel holdings, the resolution itself was but a commitment to explore the possibility of divestment. De Blasio deserves praise for initiating the process; but here in San Francisco, there is no excuse for regurgitating the same aspirational commitments from before the Trump administration launched its attack on California. For the past five years, a new generation of environmental activists have been working with policymakers to hold San Francisco to its commitment, spurred by the Trump administration’s apocalyptic vision for the future and a relentless series of natural disasters. As global market trends shift toward clean energy, with increasingly dismal returns on Big Oil investments, fossil fuel divestment is also the responsible fiscal decision.
As you are reading this, two things will have already happened: our SFERS board will have voted on whether to fully divest and, if not, the board of supervisors will have voted to place my charter amendment on the June ballot to restructure the SFERS board. Let’s hope that the SFERS board has voted to repudiate dirty energy and dirty money — or we’ll be asking the voters to hold them accountable at the ballot come June. Special thanks to Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, environmental activists Tom Steyer and Bill McKibben, the Sierra Club, and many more for helping rally for public service versus lip service.
Speaking of the June ballot, I have also joined forces with my colleague and fellow enviro Supervisor Katy Tang to place a charter amendment onto the June 5th ballot that would allow the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to expand its Hetch Hetchy clean power delivery to every corner of the city, safely upgrade its aging facilities infrastructure, and cut back on dirty energy sources that are mixed into our power portfolio from outside county lines. The Clean, Safe & Affordable Energy Charter Amendment will give SFPUC the same ability to finance the clean power facilities it already has for water, where it has a proven record of fiscal responsibility. SFPUC maintains an excellent credit rating while safely delivering clean water to 2.6 million people around the bay. The city’s commitment to producing and purchasing clean energy must also mean delivering that energy to as many neighborhoods as possible, particularly those in the southeast corner of the city that have been plagued with air quality and public health issues. Please join Supervisor Tang and me in saying yes to the Clean, Safe & Affordable Energy measure.
Finally, a special thank you to all the neighborhood organizations that came out to the Community Clean Team kick-off last month. Although the rally was in Chinatown, neighborhood leaders from Telegraph Hill to Polk Gulch hit the streets to pick up trash, do landscaping, scrub graffiti, and make the streets and sidewalks shine. Partnering with the Department of the Environment and the mayor’s office, we’re continuing the push for more street cleaning, with a special emphasis on neighborhoods without additional services like a Community Benefit District.