Sunday, September 28, 2014

An interview with Tony Kelly Who is running for District 10 Supervisor

This is the first time I've endorsed anyone for a political office and I confess that my initial motivation for doing so was simply that Tony Kelly is not Malia Cohen.

That's current San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen who in the past tried to block fines against illegal cabs and wanted to punish taxicab drivers for not picking up enough in her Bayview district by voting against a meter increase.

More recently Cohen together with Supervisor Scott Weiner blocked an attempt to improve public safety by regulating Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. This would've included requiring full insurance like taxis carry and thorough background checks administered by the Department of Justice using fingerprints.

Supervisor Cohen also wanted to officially name Uber, Lyft and Sidecar part of the city's transportation system despite the fact that none of these companies even include most of her District 10 in their maps of San Francisco.

I met future Supervisor Kelly at Farley's Coffee in Potrero Hill where Kelly has lived since 1994. It was an appropriate choice. It's the kind of unique neighborhood place he favors over national chains because it keeps money in the local economy and is part of what makes San Francisco "the San Francisco that everybody in the world thinks we are."

Kelly's a robust, friendly, man who reminds me of the Irish guys I grew up with in St. Paul, Minnesota. However, Kelly is more than just likeable, he's one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable people I've interviewed. He went to Stanford on scholarship where he took Economics 101 from Michael Boskin who later became Ronald Reagan's economic advisor. Kelly went to graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University.

He's been the President of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, Site Council President at Enola Maxwell Middle School and held leadership positions in community organization including the Potrero-Dogpatch Merchants Association.

His hands-on experience with local politics has shown him the negative effects that supply-side economics have had on San Francisco and has convinced him that the trickle-down theory doesn't work. It didn't come up in our conversation but I think he'd agree with with this statement,

"The "trickle-down" theory: The principle that the poor, who must subsist on table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich bigger meals.
—William Blum
Kelly says that he belongs to the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" which is a revealing joke in a city where politicians all claim to be Democrats. But the label has become less and less meaningful since the Mayorship of Willie Brown, 1996 – 2004.

Unfortunately, Kelly thinks that supply-side cliques and the Republican ideology that they represent are more and more taking over the politics of San Francisco.

"Nobody <in government> even bothers to pretend <to explain> how building 20,000 homes that nobody can afford somehow magically transforms into homes that people can afford," he says.

The problems that the cab industry is having with Uber are similar to problems people are having with:
  • Google buses.
  • The price of rent.
  • Ellis act evictions
  • Small stores fighting formula retail.
  • Cleaning up the environment.
  • Managing the growth of private industry.
The basic reality of all these things is an economy where profits go to international investors instead of local people and is powered by the discredited theory that if you just "let corporations run free that will solve everything."

What these corporations really want to do is "privatize the profits and socialize the risk."

But, of course, this doesn't work for anybody except the people at the top and ultimately it hurts them as well. If, for example, you don't regulate green house gases everyone has to breathe the same toxic air no matter how wealthy they are.

As for taxis – Kelly says, "Gypsy cabs with international investors and apps are still gypsy cabs. There have always been good reasons to regulate them and those reasons continue today."

"We're still the richest city in the richest country in the history of the world. Why can't we use our city's wealth to take care of all of us instead of using it as giveaways to folks at the top? As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once put it,

 'The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.'"

As his membership in the Potrero Merchants Association attests, Kelly remains pro-business but wants companies to follow rules.

"If your business depends upon running taxis without insurance or protections, it's not acceptable."

"For a private company that has shareholders and international capital market investors – it's their job to maximize their profits, and it's government's responsibility to moderate the impact of these companies upon the public." 

"At the end of the day, it's in the city's interest to make sure we have one industry for public transportation and it's regulated for the public's interests and safety. You can't have side by side industries both doing the same thing with one being regulated and one not – that's chaos."

"These businesses are public transportation options because they're transporting the public and they should be regulated like a utility."


  1. Yes, Tony Kelly is the real deal. If he is elected, that would mean one honest politician on a Board that currently has none.

  2. Tip to get more customers. You can make one group on your iphone and add many drivers to that group and each driver maintain this list on their apps.As soon as you see a flag, just tell siri to deliver your message. For example, "Flag at Broadway and Laguna".Whoever is in this group will get the message in 2 seconds. This way you can cut customers search time looking for the cab.