A Moderate Revolution

By Joel P. Engardio

In any other city, I’m considered liberal. I support health care as a right, Hillary Clinton for president and same-sex marriage in every state. I believe that we must address climate change and spend more on education than the military.

But it doesn’t matter in San Francisco: I’m still not blue enough for the “progressive” label here.

That’s because I also happen to believe potholes must be filled and buses and trains need to run on time before government employees can ask for higher pay.

I want a City Hall that is willing to shut down boondoggles and fund only what’s necessary and effective. I’m for schools that families can walk to and local enforcement of Laura’s Law. To me, it is humane to compel the mentally ill to seek treatment instead of letting them continue to suffer psychotic episodes in public.

This is what makes me a “moderate” in San Francisco regardless of how much I value compassion, seek sustainability and practice social justice.

Anyone feel the same?

There must be others like me in San Francisco who embrace liberal values but also crave a city that runs on common sense. Forward-thinkers who believe in progress and aren’t afraid of change. True progressives.

Yet San Francisco’s self-proclaimed “progressives” are always fighting to keep things the way they were. They double down on the same failed policies that only make living here more difficult.

Consider the housing crisis. Progressives refuse to build enough housing for a growing population. They seem to want to preserve an idealized version of The City, as if economic principles don’t apply and San Francisco will never evolve or reinvent itself again.

I wish we could acknowledge our supply and demand problem and make it easy to build housing of all types in San Francisco. An adequate supply would actually help the middle class afford to live here.

Instead, we opt to build nothing on windswept parking lots because we fear a boogeyman wall on the waterfront. Then we scapegoat the Google bus for driving up rents.

My partner is an immigrant from Taiwan who works in tech. His co-workers are from China, Germany, India, Ireland, Thailand and Vietnam. I see them as creators and artists who continue a long history of newcomers transforming The City for the better.

Tech is already nearly 10 percent of San Francisco’s workforce, and each tech worker has sympathetic family and friends who don’t want to see their loved ones unfairly demonized.

Whoever can organize the tech community and give it a political voice – the middle-class coders, not just the executives – can disrupt entrenched city politics with an innovation movement. I’d like to see City Hall run itself like a startup, putting customer service above bureaucratic process.

Innovative policies could benefit our public schools. There’s a reason nearly one-third of San Francisco’s children go to private schools. We need more public immersion schools in language, arts and technology – the programs parents are seeking elsewhere.

We also need to change a confounding school assignment system that sends kids all over town while failing to improve classroom diversity. Letting more students attend schools close to home will strengthen communities, reduce traffic congestion and give families additional time together.

We can support small businesses while allowing the chain stores people actually want. Urban parks can have multiple uses, including turf fields for soccer-playing kids. Neighborhoods can survive some added height and density near public transit to provide much-needed housing.

I will never understand why such a supposedly progressive city is so eager to ban things.

That’s why I’m a moderate. A socially liberal and fiscally responsible moderate who is opened-minded and imaginative enough to understand that no revolution is San Francisco’s best or last.

Also published in San Francisco Examiner June 22, 2014

Moderates Are the True Progressives in San Francisco

Joel Engardio speech on why moderates are the true progressives in San Francisco. Engardio was the guest speaker at the Golden Gate Breakfast Club in August 2014.