Friday, December 8

What the SF school board recall doesn’t mean

THE BUZZ — GET SCHOOLED: San Francisco’s ejection of three school board members relocated the Bay to the center of the political universe yesterday.

No sooner had San Franciscans decisively recalled Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga than the attempts to distill or extrapolate a broader meaning began. Eager conservatives saw a famously liberal city dealing a death blow to a national progressive agenda. Recall detractors on the left dismissed the result as special interests buying a low-turnout election in the name of dismantling public education. Comparisons to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory and invocations of critical race theory abounded.

At the risk of expanding the take tsunami, here are some of our takeaways. 

— FIRST: Voters delivered a mandate. Margins of 72 percent and up are about as unambiguous as you’ll see in a campaign. It is true that this oddly timed election saw relatively low voter participation, and that the recall benefited from $2 million from wealthy techies, Realtors and charter school champion Arthur Rock. Those dynamics undoubtedly buoyed the recall. They do not themselves explain such an overwhelming result.

— SECOND: San Francisco is not about to renounce progressivism or strip Toni Morrison from its curricula. Voters there have largely supported a tough coronavirus response. In 2020, they approved ballot measures to fund schools with higher commercial property taxes and to reinstate affirmative action by the highest margins in California.

The school board’s historically dubious basis for trying to rename schools struck some as wokeness run amok. But the backlash to that is better understood as a response to broader ineptitude and misplaced priorities. It’s not the renaming effort itself that was so potent — it was the board spending hours on the exercise while schools sat empty and students suffered.

— THIRD: Education is a singularly powerful political motivator. San Francisco’s experience is distinct from other school board races or the battle for control of the House. The political dynamics of San Francisco are unique, as are underlying grievances — like a targeted board member suing a financially ailing district for $87 million.

But don’t discount the fact that schooling is top of mind for many voters. California’s deep-blue electorate gives Gov. Gavin Newsom a failing grade on this issue, including 40 percent of Bay Area voters. Covid-era education considerations like classroom mask mandates are inevitably part of the bigger midterm picture.

AND FINALLY: This does not ensure progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin is next to be recalled in June. Both recalls are framed by concerns about basic quality of life issues in SF. Techies and real estate players have poured money into securing Boudin’s ouster.

But these are different races with distinct dynamics. Elected SF Democrats have not coalesced against Boudin, and he has the support of some deep-pocketed donors — an illustration of his importance to an overarching criminal justice reform agenda. So San Francisco politics-watchers are not expecting a blowout. The SF Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli has more.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Thursday morning. After talking for weeks about entering the endemic phase of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to talk today about what comes next. Stay tuned.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @jeremybwhite.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “How many bills pass by one, two, three votes? Losing five members, that’s real.” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on legislative vacancies, speaking at a Sacramento Press Club event.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Public Policy Institute of California researcher Dean Bonner @DEANintheYAY on overinterpreting the recall result: “Seems like the number of pundits on Twitter with bad takes about the SF School Board recall could soon equal the number of San Franciscans who actually turned out to vote.”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Talking about Covid next steps in San Bernardino.

TURN OF EVENTS —“A Sacramento kid grew up to be a voice for Donald Trump. Now he’s fighting Jan. 6 subpoenas,” by Sac Bee’s Lara Korte: “A native Sacramentan, Budowich has worked the last seven months as head of communications for Trump’s Save America PAC and the former president. He now amplifies the 45th president’s voice and helps to ensure his continued relevance. Now, a congressional committee says it has ‘credible evidence’ of Budowich’s involvement in activities leading up to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, according to court filings, an accusation he vehemently denies.”

DIFFERING OPINIONS — “Twitter pundits think they get San Francisco’s school board recall. Locals think otherwise,” by SF Chronicle’s Jessica Flores and Dominic Fracassa: “Some saw the election night results as the product of pent up frustration among voters with COVID rules and other measures born of the city’s liberal-leaning policies. Many locals, however, took to social media to rail against those characterizations, describing them as a superficial and uninformed read that glossed over important nuances among the city’s politics and electorate.”

YIKES … “O.C. D.A. made racist comments in case of Black defendant, memo alleges,” by the LA Times’ Hannah Fry: “At a meeting of top prosecutors on Oct. 1, Spitzer said that he knows many Black men who date white women to get ‘themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations,’ former prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh alleged in a memo dated Dec. 3.”

STEPPING DOWN — “Ousted S.F. school board member abruptly steps down,” by the SF Chronicle’s Jill Tucker: “[Faauuga Moliga’s] resignation means the board will have six members, and puts pressure on Mayor London Breed to appoint a replacement earlier than expected.”

TOUGH CROWD — Feinstein plummets, Harris underwater in new California poll, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: The long-serving senator has increasingly appeared out of step with progressives, drawing particular fury for her handling of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings.

CONTROLLER CROWD — Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer said on Wednesday that he is considering jumping into the state controller’s race as the March 11 filing deadline approaches. An East Bay moderate and former political adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, Glazer has $2.2 million sitting in a pair of campaign accounts. He would be the fourth Democrat vying to replace outgoing Controller Betty Yee, joining Board of Equalization member Malia Cohen, L.A. Controller Ron Galperin and Monterey Park City Council Member Yvonne Yiu.

TURN IT UP — Noted guitar-maker Fender Musical Instruments Corp. has now dropped more than $1 million into former L.A. Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner’s ballot initiative to dedicate funding for arts and music education in California schools. Beutner himself has given $350,000 so far.

— “From liberal San Francisco, school board recall is a three-alarm warning for Democrats,” by the LA Times’ Mark Z. Barabak: “Parents of all political stripes have emerged as one of the most potent forces in campaigns and elections today, and woe to anyone seen as standing in the way of their kids’ education.”

ON THE FLIP SIDE … “What Pundits Don’t Understand About the San Francisco Recall,” by Mother Jones’ Clara Jeffery: “If I had to boil it down, it was a vote to put performance over performativeness.”

RED HANDED — “How Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost was caught collaborating with extremists,” by the Sac Bee’s Robin Epley: “Frost has been messaging conspiracy theorists and Freedom Angels organizers to coordinate support for a U.S. version of Ottawa’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ via a popular app for right-wing groups, Telegram.”

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HIT THE BREAKS — Rendon and Atkins push back on Newsom’s gas tax halt,  by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: Atkins said that within her caucus, she has seen ‘concern about after having gone through that process’ only to have Newsom hit pause.

I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE — “L.A. council president calls for Wesson to temporarily represent Ridley-Thomas’ district,” by the LA Times’ David Zahniser.

BERKELEY BRAWL — “Don’t slam the door on the next generation of UC Berkeley students,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Berkeley City Council members Lori Droste and Rigel Robinson opine in the LA Times: “For thousands of would-be students, a freeze on UC Berkeley enrollment would forever change the course of their lives.”

ANOTHER ONE — “California’s Public Universities Are (Mostly) Full. Why Not Build Another Campus?” by the LAist’s Jill Replogle: “Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2022-2023 higher education budget aims for a future (2030) where 70% of the working-age population has a college degree or certificate.”

“Saved pollution credits may hinder California climate goals,” by the AP’s Kathleen Ronayne: “Oil refineries, utilities and other companies that must pay to emit greenhouse gases in California have saved up so many credits allowing them to pollute that it may jeopardize the state’s ability to reach its ambitious climate goals, according to a report by a panel that advises state officials.”

THE WILD WILD WEB — California lawmakers pitch major overhaul of kids’ web privacy, by POLITICO’s Susannah Luthi: Two California lawmakers are proposing a web overhaul to protect California kids when they’re online, the most sweeping privacy measure since voters approved the California Privacy Rights Act in 2020.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION … “Is California’s Prop. 13 racist? Homeowners in white neighborhoods of one city may get triple the tax benefit,” by the SF Chronicle’s Lauren Hepler: “. Homeowners in Oakland’s majority-white neighborhoods, which are also the city’s most affluent, save an average of $9,631 on property taxes each year thanks to Prop. 13.”

THINGS ARE HEATING UP — “No end in sight: California drought on course to break another record,” by CalMatters’ Rachel Becker: “For residents of the Silicon Valley, the conditions could mean tightening restrictions and increasing rebates to reduce water use. In San Jose, customers who exceed limits — based on a 15% cut in amounts of water they used in 2019 — already have to pay extra fees.”

HELP NEEDED — “LA Community Clinics Say Pandemic Funding Woes ‘At Breaking Point,’” by LAist’s Jackie Fortiér: “Many state Medicaid agencies have said that if a patient receives a COVID shot along with other care, the clinic’s cost to give the vaccine is covered as part of its normal payment rate. But if they receive the shot at a mass vaccination site offered by a community health clinic, there are no other services provided and no way to bill for the single shot.”

— “Cal State Long Beach faculty call on CSU chancellor to resign over Fresno misconduct case,” by the LA Times’ Colleen Shalby: “The petition comes as the Cal State Board of Trustees is scheduled to convene a closed-door session Thursday to decide whether to launch an investigation into Castro’s actions in dealing with multiple complaints over a six-year period involving Fresno State Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas.”

— “Crime, homelessness emerge as California Democrats’ weak spots,” by CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven: “The Tuesday survey found that disapproval of Newsom’s job performance is rising among key voter blocs, including Democrats, strong liberals, moderates, Los Angeles County voters, Latinos and Asian Americans.”

— “Exclusive Q&A: S.F. police chief weighs in on Boudin, the Tenderloin, police morale and more,” by the SF Chronicle staff.

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BRACING FOR THE STORM — Biden’s SCOTUS shortlist staffs up to handle the media barrage, by POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago and Sam Stein: The mere presence of a communications hand on a prospective Supreme Court candidate’s team could give off the whiff of that candidate actively jockeying for the post—a perception that would directly counter the classic D.C. tradition in which those in consideration for a top post must pretend to be largely indifferent to being chosen.

YOU BETTER WORK — “Britney Spears Has Been Invited to Congress to Testify on Conservatorship,” by Bloomberg’s Ella Ceron: “In the post, Spears doesn’t say whether she will accept the invitation from Florida Representative Charlie Crist and California Representative Eric Swalwell.”

MOVING ON UP — “Meta CEO Zuckerberg promotes Nick Clegg to lead on policy issues,” by Reuters’ Elizabeth Cullifold: “Clegg will also be tasked with handling regulatory issues as the company focuses on building the metaverse, a futuristic idea of immersive virtual environments.”

— “Five Latino TikTokers traded 9-to-5s for a Hollywood Hills house. This is how they live,” by the LA Times’ Brian Contreras.

California bill to cut tax on cannabis grows draws quick opposition, by POLITICO’s Alex Nieves: Critics argued that any reduction in revenue would limit available child care slots for families with low incomes.

— “Sacramento’s ‘biggest economic initiative’ — $1 billion Aggie Square project — breaks ground,” by the Sac Bee’s Randy Diamond.

— “Mandates are going away, but masks remain in many Bay Area businesses,” by the SF Chronicle’s Chase DiFeliciantonio.

— “New San Diego County legal aid program could exclude thousands facing deportation,” by inewsource’s Sofía Mejías-Pascoe.

— “‘All of it forgiven?’ Dozens of S.F.’s Black-owned businesses learn they don’t have to pay back pandemic loans,” by the SF Chronicle’s Shwanika Narayan.

— “Does my mask still help if no one else is wearing one? California says don’t toss it yet,” by the Sac Bee’s Brianna Taylor.

— “Little to No Progress at the Tenderloin Linkage Center—And Yet, Some Still Have Hope,” by the SF Standard’s David Sjostedt.

Google’s Will Hayworth Frederick Hill of FTI Consulting … Preston Mizell of Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) office … John Shields

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