Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Simple Tweaks to San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Policy Outreach

I attended a recent San Francisco Chamber of Commerce event after an absence of many years.  I no longer prioritize networking because I don't have a business model requiring contact in person.  I went for a glimpse into the distilled thinking of the local business community.  The Chamber gets most of its policy approaches correct.

The San Francisco Transbay Transit Center under construction would be a lot more expensive and take longer to complete without Mello-Roos financing.  The Chamber correctly stands behind the terminal and its financing.  I once knew an investor who complained that he stayed away from Mello-Roos bonds because of some tax hit he took one time.  If the dude had been properly diversified he wouldn't have felt so much pain.  I can't wait to see how awesome this mixed-use facility looks once the dust clears.  The biggest downside is the time it takes to get the thing built.  I can't believe the total timeline from initial planning to full operations takes over two decades.  The environmental studies took nine years, which IMHO is at least eight years too long.  The Chamber needs to throw its weight behind reforming The City's planning process.

The Chamber's SMB members made their voices heard opposing minimum wage hikes and health care taxes.  They should get vocal every time some City Supervisor with no private sector experience demands further controls on business hours and employee scheduling.  Not a week goes by without some dumb Supervisor pushing another boulder onto the business community's back.  The trouble with San Francisco politics is the power of the progressive Left's hold on the labor unions and non-profit activists who double as campaign staffers.  The Chamber's members have those fools financially outgunned and need to fight back.

The private sector can solve San Francisco's shortages of skilled labor and housing is left to its own devices.  Politicians won't leave success alone.  Rent control and minimum wage laws are enough of a burden but their political popularity makes them untouchable in the absence of a deflationary economic crisis.  The business community can gain a foothold for experimentation with more special-purpose business districts.  The effort that allowed the UCSF Mission Bay campus to flourish should be replicated under the auspices of districts that remove urban blight.  Businesses will take pride in their neighborhoods if they have a say in how neighborhoods are managed and funded.  The City's OEWD has a process for forming new Community Benefit Districts.  I think the Candlestick Park neighborhood would be perfect for a new district.  Get one started, Chamber people, so the big development planned there has a local governance mechanism in place.

I may return to a Chamber event if I have time, or if the local mandarins want to hear my genius.  I don't need to exchange business cards with any store owners or unemployed consultants.  I do need to lend my voice to a pro-business constituency.