Dead Cat with Jonathan Weber
3:09PM Jun 15, 2022
Welcome everybody, its latest episode of dead cat Tom here with Eric and our good friend Jonathan Weber, Editor in Chief of the San Francisco standard. This is a very San Francisco oriented episode. I think all three of us are in SF as we record this. And Katie, who wouldn't be is is off doing January 6, hearings coverage. So we've really focused in on the San Francisco aspect of things
in classic fashion, we were out to dinner and drinks with Jonathan. And then it was like, Oh, this could be a podcast, come on the podcast.
We're having a good time, maybe.
So what else we enjoyed this, to be honest, and having a quite excellent meal actually, was one is want to do in San Francisco. Despite all the bad press, you know, we started with best restaurants.
Right. But also mid meal, a very terrifying firework went off far too close to the table that I don't know, it was an ominous sign of, you know, San Francisco to come. But anyway, we,
Tom, Katie, and I all work together briefly with Weber at the information that so that's sort of the genesis of the podcasts, and a piece of the missing link of that history is now joining us, whoever, you know, has been sort of a senior Reuters executive and been back and forth there, but now has left to run the editorial what you're the editor in chief of the San Francisco standard, sort of my your it's backed local news upstart. And hey, let's
give our listeners a rundown of what exactly the San Francisco standard is and how it does fit into tech. More broadly.
Yeah, sure. So, um, San Francisco standard is a new daily news operation that are kind of a digital newspaper, you could call it for, for lack of a better word, are really trying to, you know, see what you can do if you really build a serious local news organization from the ground up in the digital era. And that involves a lot of traditional journalistic things, writing, you know, great stories and breaking news and going deep and all those things. But then it also involves being very creative and innovative on the distribution side, taking advantage of sort of the full suite of tools, technologies that are available now that, you know, definitely were not at 10 years ago. So we're back by Michael martes. Very successful venture capitalist. He has been a just an awesome person to work with. He's not terribly involved day to day, but he is a person who's quite sophisticated about media. He was a journalist before he was a venture capitalist. And I think he really understands you know, what it takes to to build a new journalism brand. It's not a not an easy thing. It's an expensive and slow road. But I think we're off to a pretty good started, we've got about 20 people, I think it's well currently and we're still growing very quickly hiring for almost all positions. So if any, any listeners there are accomplished journalists who want to work for a great new San Francisco news organization that get a gig give me a
situation where you're you have enough budget that you want journalists to reach out normally I feel like it's the opposite situation. Yeah.
This is a high journalist question. audience. So you're pitching to the right people. And I don't want to spend too much time on Moritz. But I do think what is interesting about his approach to starting this thing is we have seen very wealthy is Mike a billionaire. You don't have to answer this Weber. But you think So Eric, is he probably Yeah. Okay. Okay. So we've seen the billionaire owners, you know, like, Benioff, buying Time Magazine, Bezos, of course, but they're all buying existing publications, some sort of as a, I don't want to say charity case, but it's quasi philanthropic effort. Whereas you know, more, it's, like you say, was a journalist in a previous life and is sort of building this from the ground up, which I think is an interesting approach to see from someone wealthy, which, you know, in once the, they're both means to the same end, but I sort of liked the idea of like, let's, let's not just buy this thing as like a side piece, but really, you know, build it up in some way. Yeah.
Well, and I think it's, it's, it's certainly important to him that this is not, he does not think of this as like a vanity project or a charity project or anything like that. I mean, that's why it is a it is a company. It's not a it's not a nonprofit, it's a it's an LLC, and he's not really doing it to make money. I mean, he has much easier ways to make money, frankly, than investing in journalism, you know, software as a way better way to make money, right.
We all know that, but let's do it on some more tech companies.
So he's not in it, you know, for for that exactly. But I think that certainly, his real motivation for starting it is just that he thinks that separate disco city has a lot of problems, it really needs to kind of get its act together. And one of the reasons that it has a lot of problems is that the media culture here has been kind of weak for a long time. And there's not a lot of accountability journalism, we've got a lot of investigative reporting, and just not allowed to journalism in general. And he thinks that, you know, the good, good journalism and reliable and trusted news source is like, very important for the city to help it function better. So that that is really the reason for the investment. But I think that he also believes that there actually is kind of an opportunity, like, it's a huge moment in transition in the media business, and the advent of subscription models that actually work is a real game changer. So I think in the back of his mind, he also gets excited about the business opportunity.
So let's get to chase a booty and we can sort of pepper in, you know, the local journalism stuff along the way. I mean, you. I mean, it sort of already shows the access that this standard is getting, given that you did a big interview with Chase, you guys had a huge profile of him. I think quoting Willie Brown, so feels like reading the coverage. You guys are like in the mix of sort of the local San Francisco politics. And obviously, you know, Chase just just lost lost the recall. So we're sort of taking stock of that. I mean, now that he's recalled, like, what is your reaction to the recall? Or what is what is your high level reaction? People are wondering whether it's the national story about progressive Democrats, or it's a very particular San Francisco saga? Do you have a leaning one way or the other?
Yeah, I mean, I? Well, I think, I think it's a little of both. So there are particular circumstances in San Francisco, having to do with the composition of the electorate, mainly, that make it very different than some of the other cities say, Philadelphia, or Chicago, or some of the other cities that have progressive DA is because we have a very small black population. It's less than 6% of the city population. So and we have very large Asian American population. And so the black and brown communities, I think, had been a core of support for progressive prosecutors, and there just isn't really that base here. And then at the same time, the Asian American electorate really felt that he did not take seriously the rise in hate crimes against against Asians in the wake of the pandemic are and Trump's blaming of it, blaming China for the pandemic and all that. And that caused a huge spike in hate crimes against Asians. And there was a feeling that she did not really address that sufficiently. So you had like very small black population, and then a very alienated and very large Asian population, and that is particular to San Francisco. So, so there's that piece of it, which is specific to San Francisco. But But I think there is a bigger thing, which is that I think that voters here were just really, really fed up with kind of the prevalence of low level crimes which we didn't explicitly deprioritize that was sort of his platform, but things like shoplifting and car break ins and, and and drug use drug use and drug dealing. And, you know,
staff tweeted after they lost, K Chatfield, beatings, Chief of Staff tweeted in 30 months, we reduced the jail pot by 38%. We reduced the SF prison pop by 35%. We stopped charging kids as adults and reduce the number of kids in jail by 50%. We have seen victims forgiving those who harmed atone, all while violent crime has gone down. We have already won this idea that they were clearing out the jails. Were they honest about that? How open were they about the progressive agenda while they're running? Versus now? Now? All right,
thank very explicit. I mean, they you know, they were he ran on a decarceration platform. I mean, that's, you know, central to his both his personal story, right, because his parents were imprisoned for decades. And, and so yeah, I mean, he was quite explicit about that, that that sort of centerpiece of the reformed prosecutor platform, and he's stuck to his guns, you know, like so even even after, you know, he was elected before the pandemic, right. So I think the pandemic really changed people's priorities a lot and created a kind of a generalized anxiety. And on top of that, you know, even though street crime has not gone up, and so this has been one of the big arguments that crime hasn't really gone up, but people feel that crime has gone up. And I think we did a few ounces while ago about this. And I think a very good explanation is that because people weren't out about during the pandemic, even though the number of crimes was lower, the chances of you being a crime victim were actually higher because there were so many fewer people out about it. So he responded to people's concerns about crime, and particularly street crime and, and these, you know, retail thefts and this kind of stuff, and the drug dealing, frankly, and he responded to that by essentially saying, like, yeah, that's, you know, that's just kind of goes with the program, like he didn't really take those concerns very seriously. And I think the, you know, the drug dealing, you know, the drug issue also has come around like so the, the real progressive point of view, ultimately is like drugs should be legal or illegal, or only semi crimes, you know, really, but, but with federal, you know, there's so many people dying, and you have, you know, parts of the city where the streetcars are just like a mob of drug dealers, and it's very frightening to people. And then, you know, and he hasn't really responded to that in a serious way. And I think that, you know, people are like, Dude, you know, it's your job to do, trying to do something about Open Air drug markets and people dying, right laugh, like, you know, the response is sort of been like, well, that's not really our fault, like to blame shifting. So I think, you know, we had a tough hand to play. I don't think he played it very well. But it was a tough hands, for sure.
I kind of want to move past the autopsy on Chase, specifically, because you know, a lot of this stuff whether, you know, there were legitimate concerns with this was, you know, kind of pumped up grievances by the right wing kind of played out for the last couple of months. But I am kind of more interested now in the implications of his loss. And you know, where the real power center is in San Francisco, because, you know, if you viewed this race strictly from what people were tweeting about, and the people that I followed, were tweeting about, there was a very outspoken tech contingent of people pushing the recall, I think of, you know, obviously, David Sachs, obviously, Gary tan people with fewer followers than them. You know, by the way, we should also say that Saks doesn't live in San Francisco. So you know,
but Gary has been very involved in grow us, Jeff has been
sure I'm not I'm not D legitimizing people like Gary, I am people like, David, but what you know, did you see in the success of this recall effort, a, you know, how much would you ascribe Tech's large s and, you know, a contingent within the tech community to push for something like this, that signifies that we are maybe seeing a more widespread influence by, you know, wealthy tech people in San Francisco to push their own policies? Well, I
would sort of divide that into two questions, or two, two issues. So the money from the tech people, and then some other kind of financial people and stuff that money was, was essential to making the recalls happen. So in order to get a recall on the ballot, you'd need 10% of the voters in the city to sign a petition. And that's actually a pretty high bar, if you're just kind of doing it by hand, you know, so the way that you get a recall on the ballot is you have paid signature gathering, you know, see you to spend, you know, a lot of money, I don't remember the exact numbers, but either way, it was definitely in the several millions of dollars, I believe, you know, to basically collect the signatures to get the thing on the ballot. And so if you don't have that money, it doesn't get on the ballot.
And it was a very organized and concerted effort. I mean, I would be, you know, go into Home Depot and see people with clipboards, just saying, Hey, do you hate pedophilia? Just like, Yes, I do. I'd like people around me to hear that I do. Is that since they would ask that or? Yeah, yeah, yeah, they would basically be like, do you want to get pedophiles back in prison?
It's a crazy incentive structure, you know, because the signature gatherers are paid per signature. Yeah, they don't know what they're doing. They don't they don't know where care about the actual issues. They're just
there's days where we can't make eye contact with other humans anymore. You have to stare at your phones for your own self preservation.
Yeah. And to me, you know, like, personally, you know, I don't think that that kind of system where like, a bunch of rich people can, you know, get a recall on the ballot in order to, to sort of basically take another swing at somebody they don't like, you know, and that was sort of the dynamic, right? I mean, he was hated from the beginning. A recall, if you if you have the money to get on the ballot, it can be easier to win a recall than to win an election because there sure
there is an irony that the recall system feels like activist sort of progressive oriented California system, is that wrong? The crazy
thing? Well, the crazy thing is that the whole initiative citizen initiative process in California was started by Hiram Walker back in the in the early 1900s. You know, it was a it was a popular state and it was weird for the for the people to take back control from the railroad interested in the power companies and all that, but the perversion of the process is specifically the paid signature gathering. So if you if you disallowed paid signature gathering, it would be a completely different Lance. because then it would serve as a check where like, if there really weren't, like people were rising up and really mad, you know, you wouldn't need to have, you would need to pay someone to collect those signatures, right. So as it was an outlet for genuine popular, you know, uprising, as it were as a mechanism for that, but, but with paid signature gathering, it just becomes another vehicle for special interest to try to jam stuff through, you know, and you see this at the state level every every year, you know, 10s of millions of dollars, you know, span,
we got a two part answer you had, you know, the recall wouldn't happen without the wealthy sort of money. And then sort of, I guess, the actual
vote, right? And then yes, and then when you come to the vote itself, so there's, there's a, you know, and I've been having an empathic reading argument with my friend, Tim, read Ben, who's the, he was the longtime editor of the bay Guardian, and he's now the editor of 48 hills, and we've known each other forever and really left, this
isn't a NIMBY. Number one, he's a very, like, anti growth. So well, we
kind of the tribune of a certain, you know, left the progressive faction, I guess, and, and, you know, he takes the view that yeah, you know, this is just like the rich people, you know, buying an election, basically, I don't think that's true. So again, like putting getting it on the ballot is one thing, but like, getting the votes is another thing. And I think that the fact that people voted to recall them, and, you know, by by almost two thirds, really does reflect something other than, you know, that tech money, I mean, it reflects a widespread frustration with the government's job and dealing with with the city's problems. So, you know, keep the open air drug markets especially, and the, you know, the car break ins, the house break ins, you know, people are really, really fed up with this, you know, people don't feel safe walking around the streets. And, you know, the homeless issue plays into that. And so people don't feel safe. And this is an expression of that. And, you know, and that's not a tech money thing. Now, there's a big question as to whether this election represents a sort of a real like secular shift away from progressive policies. And, you know, we haven't a majority of progressive in San Francisco, as many listeners may know, the two parties.
Yeah, have our listeners are in San Francisco and half are in New York, and both are very invested. So I'm happy to be here, as well as you want on this.
Yeah. So the two parties, you know, are the progressives and the moderates. Right. And, and so the mayor is a moderate, and the, the Board of Supervisors is controlled by the progressives. And so, and then, of course, the Dean was progressive, so that there's a big question as to whether the, you know, this reflects the rejection of the progressive agenda in San Francisco in general, or whether it's more personal liberty. And I think that it does actually represent a real turn against progressive policies, honestly,
well, it feels like the Gary 10s of the world are gearing up to go after the progressives now, right?
Oh, yeah, no, I mean, we had a story this morning, you know, Gordon Maher, who's the supervisor, for the Sunset District, which is heavily Asian, and you know, he's Asian American, but he, you know, the Asian American politicians were, for the most part against the butene. Recall, there were also against the school board recall, and both of those recalls, had huge support in the Asian community. So there's a feeling that the Asian electeds are out of step with their constituents. And so Gordon Maher, you know, is definitely in the firing line. And in danger, I think of losing his seat. I mean, you know, that that's just, you know, for what it's worth, but it's funny,
by the way, Eric, yeah, you're bringing up half our listeners are in San Francisco, half for New York or whatever. But, you know, which raises the question is, why should anyone care about this particular recall? And, you know, this primary election and the sense I got from reading the national media, you know, all these national reporters kind of flew in for a couple of days and made submissions about the state of things in San Francisco because it felt like there was this desire to use San Francisco as a frame for what the country is going to release. Democrats are great.
And Nellie Bowles, who you know, wrote, you know, a big piece in The Atlantic sort of frame, right, San Francisco.
Yeah. And so I mean, it's, it's a perfect, you know,
but is that fair?
It's perfect, it's a perfect little package, right, you know, the most lefty city in the country, you know, rejecting its lefty da and what does that mean for America and sort of an obvious storyline? I mean, I think the the question really is, you know, does this represent a shift in the in the it's really within the Democratic Party, you know, a shift towards the blood moderate side of the party versus the more progressive wing of the party
me Eric Adams one in New York. I I feel like that's sort of everywhere you look I mean, I just feel like the exactly this sort of lack of interest in woke politics or whatever is surging and that's going to flow everywhere,
but I mean, I think that, you know, and again, well, the pandemic is a total game changer, you know, the pandemic, just reordered people's priorities. You know, when I think that, frankly, for a lot of white people, you know, social justice issues, or they may care about them, but, you know, things shift and then they care about them less than they care about other people doing
crime and crime and safety very high in the things that affect them. I mean, Tom, you have a whole view on Sam. You never think San Francisco politics are as liberal as presented or what's your view on this? Yeah.
And this maybe it's just a reiteration of your your buddy Tim Redmond argument. Like I grew up in the Bay Area, not in San Francisco. So I don't have Nellie Bowles, like cred you know, about the decades of policy in the city. But my real parents live in Moraga. Yeah, East Bay, like like straight up white flight city, like I'm your town, city of the town. But I the idea of San Francisco as some avatar of the furthest left politics, I always think is a bit contradictory to the actual politicians that have risen out of San Francisco's political scene. You know, this is the city we were talking about at dinner like this is the city that produced Kamala Harris, it's the city that produced Dianne Feinstein, London breed is the current mayor, you say, as a moderate. Nancy Pelosi, you know, the avatar of institutionalism is from San Francisco. So I find it so interesting that there is a desire to present San Francisco as the furthest left, you know, most progressive city, which from a political standpoint, it kind of goes back and forth. I've never seen this as a place that was led by straight up socialists. And so I'm curious as to why there's such a need to portray, you know, what happened in San Francisco, you know, this last week, which absolutely was a repudiation of, you know, a progressive da, and what he stood for, but whether there are truly larger implications to draw from it, because I just don't think San Francisco is the best version of that. There must be more progressive cities you could look at than San Francisco that would show that sort of a shift. But but maybe you disagree.
Well, you know, it's, I mean, it's certainly well taken that, you know, moderate Democratic politicians have, have had the upper hand mostly in this sort of internecine war here between moderates and progressives. But I would, I would also note, you know, from a national perspective that, you know, that somebody like Nancy Pelosi, for example, you know, might be on the right wing of the party in San Francisco, but she's still on the left wing of the party nationally. I mean, not, I mean, not the AOC wing, right. So, so kindly as House Majority Leader, she's not thought of that way. But if you look at her record, historically, you know, she's a very liberal Democrat. And so are most of those people that that that you mentioned. So? You know, so I think when when people hold up San Francisco in as this avatar of like, left wing politics, they're not really making the distinction actually, between like, you know, Nancy Pelosi, the email, and she's gudim, I think, so there's an easy commingling of, you know, just those kinds of Democrats. Now, in terms of locally, I mean, I do think that, you know, currently, for example, as I mentioned, they were supervised control the boy super fair, progressives control the Board of Supervisors, you know, several of those supervisors, like, you know, Dean Preston, you know, is actually a member of the DSA of the socialists of America, you know, and I don't think there were many other cities where they're, like, actual socialists in real positions.
And that was a big deal when he won, you know, he very narrowly defeated someone that was slightly to his right. So yeah, and he
is similarly with similarly with Chase a booty, yeah, yeah. So these are very, very lefty people, you know, who got elected and probably couldn't get elected, most places are and if you look at the, you know, the policies that the city has pursued on, you know, any any number of things? I mean, I think the, you know, so homelessness, you know, is is an example so that, you know, the city is sort of taking the view that, you know, we're not going to prevent people from sleeping on the street, you know, we're going to kind of let people sleep on the sidewalk. We're not going to force we're not going to force people to go to a shelter.
And was that a chase? Decision? Or who makes that decision?
Well, that no, I mean, that's, that's a mayor slash 40 supervisors decision, you know, to give an example of what I'm talking about, if you look at the homelessness policy, so the city has declined so there's a fight within the the activist or social worker community around homelessness, there's an argument about whether you should spend money on shelters versus whether you should spend money on permanent supportive housing. Right and so in San Francisco they made a decision that like we're not going to build shelters base we're not gonna have shelters, and we're gonna spend that you to force the hand he's ridiculous. Yeah. For permanent housing by can of course, you know, that takes forever. And you know, and so meanwhile, you know, you have 3000 shelter beds and 8000 homeless people. And so in that circumstance, you actually are not allowed to really forbid people from sleeping on the street, because you have to have somewhere for them to go.
Right. Whereas New York, there's a required limit, we're shifting into policy. And I do want to talk about the policy so that, like New York, there's a requirement to shelter right. I mean, I've read that the homeless policy in the two cities, right, I mean, exactly.
Yep. That is the difference. And, and it's a big difference. It's a very important difference. And I think that it's one of the things that, you know, people look at that and say, well, that's a super like, that's a progressive policy. That is a terrible policy, you know, that there's a bat, you know, they people look at that, and they're like, What the hell like, you know, I can't walk down the street. Right.
But giving everybody some place to stay every night. That's a progressive policy to I, I don't Is that really? I don't know, do we need to put that on a left to right or left left left? Spectrum? To me, it does feel like giving every day is like, progressive. I see how it's not framed that way.
Well, but but forcing someone into a shelter is violation of their rights. Yeah, the other thing I was gonna add, because I think they are together, you know, from from a policy standpoint with things that really pissed people off, you know, is that is the housing crisis, which contributes to homelessness, and and, you know, incredibly high rents and all that stuff. Right. So one of the obvious solutions, one of the reasons for it is because there's no housing construction, right, or very, very little. And the and again, like so the progressive position is market rate housing means gentrification. So we're going to oppose market rate housing, basically. So the only kind of housing we're going to support is affordable housing. Right. So that is kind of the policy, essentially, of the progressives, although they would not admit that quite, because it sounds bad, but that really is the policy. And so, you know, people are like, that's crazy. Right? You know, we need we need housing. Alright, come on, you
know, I mean, this is very, very tight. Here, we've, we've got the shelter policy, not a butene policy, we've got your housing construction, not a butene ballsy. And the third that I would add, is, you know, not live. I mean, based on my experience in New York, and having lived in San Francisco for many years. It does feel like the police are the first line of defense on many of these problems. And it does feel like they're out to lunch, like hanging out with each other, literally. I mean, it looks like they're just like hanging out with their it reminds me of high school lunch, like, every every time like I like you'll literally I've yelled at police to like, do something about mopeds, like, in you know, anyway, this New York problems, but it just feels like what are police doing? They all hang out together all the time. And, and so I would assume butene wants the police to not be striking and to help him so. So all these three things to me in some ways, even though I would probably have supported the recall, make me sympathetic to chase because they're not they're not It's not his? Well,
no, absolutely. And and in citing those policies, by the way, to be clear, you know, I was not saying that those are, those are cheeses. Right. That's the progressive part of the progressive policy framework. And people and Rebecca,
really what he's getting right. That's why he's getting repealed. So
he's been the fall guy. Absolutely. So he's been the fall guy for all kinds of stuff. He's blamed for many things that are not his fault. And, and that's, you know, that's bad luck for him. And, you know, unfair, I guess, on some way, let's follow somebody because politics, politics is fair, it wasn't fair that he won in the first place. So that is true that he was the whipping boy, you know, for all kinds of staff. And frankly, you know, I mean, the mayor, you know, he really took a lot of the of the heat that would have otherwise gone to the mayor, and now that he's gone, you know, it's not gonna be good for the mayor, right?
She's sort of did she come down firmly, one way or the other on this?
She didn't. I mean, she didn't take an official position. But I, you know, it was pretty clear that she was not on the same page, you know, they didn't work well together. And and she said things numerous times, that were sort of seemed to be indirectly blaming, what
do you make of this the police issue? I mean, we, you know, de fund is become, you know, obviously this Flashpoint but to me, just not politically, just policy it like, whether you're funding law enforcement or not, like the police departments and these major cities. Yeah, they just seem like totally inept, and I don't know Yeah, any mayor knows how to reform them. I mean, if Eric Adams can't and you know, I,
ya know, it is it is very tough. She wouldn't, and certainly the police deserve a lot of blame, you know that the department here has a terrible history of racism and lack of accountability and, you know, booty and prosecuted, a cop went on trial for beating not not long ago, a month or so going. And he ended up being acquitted. But, you know, it was like, the first time ever that SFPD officer had been put on trial for, for something and, you know, which is kind of amazing. So, but you know, that, and the police have been kind of on strike, and they've almost been explicit that like, yeah, we're not going to bother arresting people if the DEA won't prosecute them. And so they have been, you know, extremely irresponsible. I think, Kevin, and their whole posture around this, and they have a huge amount to answer for. But it's a very difficult problem, you know, they have a previous chief who I know a little bit, a guy named break, sir. And he was brought in. And then, you know, this was six or seven years ago, I guess. And then, you know, and he was a kind of a insider, like a guy who would come up in the ranks, and had the trust of the rank and file cops, but was also himself, a very liberal guy, believed in the need for reform, had strong connections in the community had a lot of support. And he was like, the kind of guy that you would think, could really, you know, reform the department and, you know, five dance shootings later, you know, he was forced to resign. So it's a, it's a bad, it's a bad situation, for sure. And I don't really know what they're either what the solution is really, I do think, well, one solution I would have is that I don't think we spent should be able to have labor unions in the way that they do. So that would be one solution. I
would agree with that. I'm like, oh, we need an alternative police force, white collar police force. I just feel like, you know, these mayors come into office, they're terrified by the police, they need the course of apparatus of the state to hold on to their power, your biggest nightmare is just like riots somewhere that the police aren't doing anything about. And so then you totally capitulate to them. And really, like, you know, yeah, they're, they're running the show more than than you. And that's not how democratic societies are supposed to work. And, I mean, it doesn't make sense for these deep blue cities to have pro Trump fascist incline police forces. I, I feel like you need local people who are ideologically aligned with, with the city. So you know, I don't know I am I feel anti progressive on some of these things. But then on the police, I'm like, I don't know, we need much more radical solutions that I think are being proposed.
Right, right. Well, certainly in San Francisco, I mean, there's, you know, there is a culturally conservative, you know, ethnic, you know, Irish and Italian and some Scandinavian and, you know, older ethnic communities in the city that are that are white and pretty conservative, and, and Catholic heavily in many cases, and the culture of the police and fire department is kind of comes out of those communities and the Catholic schools. And so, so it's not that the police are local, exactly. But they that's where they come from, they come from a local from a faction, you know, that sort of been opposed to the, you know, the liberal ways of Mufti San Francisco.
I think a big political issue for the Democrats right now is the sort of failure of these deep blue states, California, New York, to sort of really carry out like the Democratic agenda in a true way. I mean, do you see that as a fair critique? Or do you think states just like don't given sort of the US system? It's like, California can't realistically pass universal health care can't really deliver on the the federal agenda of the Democratic Party? You know, I don't know, how much do should we judge the federal party based on the seat performance? Yeah,
I mean, that, you know, that is a, you know, a very important question. And I don't know that I have the crystal clear answer to but, but I do think that I mean, because there aren't, there are macro factors. You know, like, if you're talking about something like the housing crisis, you know, you'll get like, well, it's Ronald Reagan's fault, right? Because, you know, he defunded public housing and other things, and like, you can trace today's problems to that. And so as governor of California or as President, as President, you know, so there's many ways in which, you know, all these current urban problems are really not the fault, you know, are a result of national policies, really, you know, income inequality, you know, these big things that cities can't do anything about. Having said that, you know, San Francisco, in particular in California more generally. I mean, you know, has does have like big government. The city of San Francisco is the budget for the city is $13 billion a year for a city of 800,000 and that is like, probably 10x You know, the budget of most cities on a per capita basis an event now, that's a lot of that is because of it's both a city and a county. So that skews the comparison. So, but but still, in all, you know, the city government here spends a lot of money. And the state, you know, there's the state has, like a big regulatory apparatus. And, you know, we, you know, this is sort of the American version of a kind of a big government place. And, and people look around and they say, This doesn't seem to be working very well. Right. You know, is that really, is that because politicians and civic leaders are doing a bad job of it? Or is it because there's really nothing they can do about it? You know, that's the question that's very hard to answer. But, you know, certainly is, you know, as a resident here, and as a journalist here, when I look at the, the city government and the money that's spent on, you know, lots of different things, and, you know, I kind of look at that and think, Well, you know, the results? I don't know, I mean, for that kind of spending, are we really getting the results? I don't know, and you could say we, you know, I don't really want to kind of be dispositive on you know, what I mean, I honestly don't know, but But I do think that a lot of people looking at them, they're like, wow, you know, we're spending a lot of money and we're not getting much for it. I mean,
to bring it back to the to the media, which we're obviously always endlessly obsessed with ourselves and self absorbed. But, but I mean, if I think about the tradition, you know, of the media, I think it's fair to say, at least in the time, where, you know, I've been a reporter, it's been sort of more left wing reporters sort of scrutinizing sort of a right wing sort of power structure, business world, political world. I mean, I briefly worked for the Washington Examiner, which was sort of a conservative billionaires attempt to create, like a right leaning sort of look at Washington, DC, it ultimately failed. I mean, I can tell you all the reporters, I'm sure, were more left wing, it was like pretty, pretty incoherent, and sort of not intellectually honest project. But so I've always been sort of allied with the, you know, sort of left leaning Democrats sort of scrutinizing the right leaning system. But do you think now, I mean, do you see your I don't, I don't know how much you want to like profess an ideology as a reporter. But I mean, do you see that feel that Okay, now, there's sort of like a legitimate sort of reporting oriented, right, right wing critique of, of a left wing, San Francisco?
Well, I mean, I think there is, although, you know, I don't think that I would not characterize what we're doing is like a right wing critique. I mean, not right. You know, we're just I'm sure. We're just trying Well, other people certainly do. You know, people make all kinds of assumptions about our political agenda that are completely bogus. Like, everyone thinks they know what Mike Martz believes and wants politically, and everybody is so completely wrong about all that. And, you know, so So there's, there's all these assumptions about our political agenda that are total baloney. So, you know, now personally, like, you know, I'm in charge of whatever slant we have or don't have, we really try to follow the reporting. We gotten a lot of flack about a story that pointed out that there had only been three convictions for drug dealing in the city in 2021. And, and that story, was, you know, why harshly criticized by booty and supporters as being, you know, misleading, and which it wasn't? I mean, they, you know, they didn't like the facts, frankly. You know, there was a critique that like the framing of it,
because basically, the facts were, he was like downgrading all the drug drug crimes,
pleading them out to a lesser charge,
but you say in the story, but they obviously, people want to limit a whole story to the headline, and you know, yeah,
it's in the third paragraph. Yeah. If you thought the headline wasn't the full story, you have to read all the way to the third paragraph. Right. So, you know, I didn't feel that was a fair critique. I did, you know, people were, the other criticism was that there was sort of an implicit assumption that, you know, arresting drug dealers wouldn't help address the overdose epidemic, and that that was invalid. And, you know, and, I mean, I sort of take that point, as far as it goes. The story, of course, did not advocate any particular policy, it was just a report on the record or Boogeyman. But anyway, anyway, so there was, you know, so there's a perception that that's like a right wing attack, you know, so okay. I mean, I can't really, you know, do anything about that kind of thing. But, you know, I think actually, if you want a real source of a right wing critique, in a way, you know, Michael Shellenberger who read this book called San Francisco and ran for governor, and, you know, he's kind of a journalist, in part and so his critique is sort of the I would that that would be a little bit kind of the right wing critique of San Francisco or anything either
get popular, right? Didn't he do pretty? Well,
he Well, he actually says, you know, when I saw him, he did a reading at a book club that I, or a friend of mine had invited to. And, you know, we talked about this. And I said, you know that because I read the book and the book, you know, make some decent points, but, but the framing of the book, you know, like, you know, San Francisco, you know, we'd like doesn't exactly invite, you know, constructive discussion, right, it sort of is framed up for, like the red meat, you know, right wing audience who wants to bash on San Francisco? And, and so I challenged Michael about that. He was like, Well, no, you know, it's not, you know, though, that that word sicko that was a deliberate choice, because he really is a sickness. So they. So his view is that the liberal progressive politics, belief and progressive politics is kind of a sickness to
disorder. It's categorized in DSM II. Yeah,
you know, in that, like, you know, to me, that's like a pretty unhelpful approach. Right? Yeah. But
if you're trying to sell books, it'll probably
because you can't really you can't really have a conversation with somebody who's telling you that you're, you're sick for for your rooms, you know, so well, they're not
interested in the conversation. I mean, yeah, to finish up on the Shellenberger thing. What I also found funny about trying to draw strong conclusions and narratives from the election is that he was absolutely backed by some high profile tech people, including David Sachs, and Nellie Bowles, I wouldn't call her a high profile tech person. But you know, people that were outspoken about San Francisco, and you know, landed like a wet fart in this past election. I mean, he got like three or 4% of the vote in San Francisco. And so the idea that there was some sort of centrist corrective wave that was going to overtake all aspects of the election just clearly didn't materialize with someone like him. But I kind of want to pitch it forward a little bit. Now, just you know, as someone who spent most of his life living in Northern California, in San Francisco, you know, I, like he's I grew up in the East Bay, but we come to San Francisco a lot. And I sort of see this period, whether or not you agree with the results or you know, are politically aligned with the results of this election, there's no doubting that I feel like San Francisco is shifting, that we are entering some sort of a new era, the era that began with the Facebook tech boom, and this whole Silicon Valley, flooding of money into the city sending rents astronomically high, and all the kind of social problems that it caused a lot of not a lot, a substantial number of people within that wave have left the city. And so that kind of social change that they brought is reaching an end. And I'm curious what you think the next wave is shaping up to look like, you know, obviously, it's still a hugely important area in tech, there's still, I mean, rents are still absurdly high, you know, the city isn't like collapsed in any real way, despite the way people want to view it. But like is, what sort of green shoots of change? Are you starting to see already in the city as we come out of the pandemic, and the kind of tech hegemony that had defined it over the last decade is just not as strong as it used to be.
So one thing I would, I would note is that San Francisco is a very kind of neighborhood, the city. And one of the things that happened during and in the current during the pandemic of the current period is that the, you know, walk downtown, and the sort of business districts and the tourist districts are, you know, in deep trouble, the neighborhoods are actually quite vibrant. So, and the neighborhood business districts and, you know, commercial activity in some of those neighborhood business districts and commercial rents and things like that are actually up actually higher than they were previously. And so
they're great time in the mission the
other night, yeah, and even when, you know, when you go out to the Richmond or the sunset at, you know, different Ingleside, you know, different parts of town, like it's a very different, it's a very different scene. And I think what you see, you know, there's still the things that are amazing about San Francisco, just the incredible beauty of the city and the kind of cultural diversity and tolerance and the, you know, the weather and the, you know, the proximity to incredible outdoor things, and, you know, amazing arts institutions, like all those things are still here. So I think it really remains a very appealing place to live. You know, what happens with downtown and office workers coming back, you know, is a, is a pretty giant open question. But my my hunch is that the I'm not a believer in the idea that like, the the office is dead, and no one's ever gonna go to the office anymore. Like, I don't think that's true. So I feel
like we spent years like making fun of tech people for Yeah, I mean, taking their buses and not being invested in the city and sort of not having a real sort of political sensibility. And I mean, so to some degree, I'm, I'm heartened that it feels like there's a core of people who are actually invested in San Francisco City governance, we've seen Now the attendance of Scott Wiener, who is like I'd say, like as pure a tech candidate as you can have. So, I mean, I don't live here anymore. But as someone who thinks there's good in tech i Yeah, I'm I'm heartened that they've decided to invest themselves in good politicians, and, and the people are doing it sure there's sacks who's gone, but most of them are real Democrats, you know, and not particularly ideal ideological, but want want their optimizers they want things to work, you know, and things are clearly not working. And, you know, I don't know, having well intentioned wealthy people. That was sort of the heart of the Bloomberg administration, you know, you do sort of, yeah, it can work.
Yeah. Well, that's, yeah, no, I think you're right. And, you know, Bloomberg has good example, you know, where I think the city was, was well run under Bloomberg. And he, he had some very effective policies, and, you know, from by, you know, most measures that the city prosper under Bloomberg. Now, at the same time, you know, there were a lot of people who thought that his policies were, you know, essentially to, you know, to capitalist, I suppose, and, and not bad, really sensitive to the needs of poor people and communities of color and all that. So, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't a unanimous approval of Bloomberg distraction. But I, I do think that we're probably, you know, having something closer to that. I mean, that's a little bit, you know, under previous mayor's under Ed Lee, he was, you know, kind of the tech industry's candidate as mayor, you know, and he certainly ran I mean, Ron Conway
has been placing mayor's, you know, in City Hall for decades.
Yeah, no, that's right. So every, you know, he was a little bit like a Mike Bloomberg, you know, in terms of his political orientation and their kinds of things, which is a funny thing to say, because that Lee was a civil rights lawyer, you know, he wasn't a, he was hardly at Wall Street, like Bloomberg, but ultimately, you know, was still, I would say, to the left of Bloomberg, but he governed as a, as a pragmatic, you know, centrist. Essentially,
one thing we're interested in a lot is sort of like the view view from nowhere reporting that model of a newspaper with sort of unbiased sort of neutral reporting, what is your view today on sort of the role of a neutral view from nowhere reporting,
I mean, to a great degree, one way your view is expressed is by is by what you choose to cover. So certainly, our choices on what to cover, you know, were reflected. I mean, I'm personally, that Natick person more than an ideologue. And so maybe, maybe the coverage will, you know, will reflect that a bit, I don't think you'll see it, you know, necessarily reflected, either in the orientation and particular story, but, you know, we're very much about about the reporting, and like, there is, there's just so much that is just essentially underreported on here. And so, you know, we're trying to, to just kind of help people understand, like, what's going on, and they can, you know, make their own decisions about it. And, you know, I understand that, you know, the critique about the, about the view from nowhere, but, you know, I, I personally actually gotten back and forth over the course of my career, and on this question, like, how much how much point of view how much opinion how much take is, is sort of necessary and helpful versus, you know, undermining of the journalistic commitments or reporting really, and, and, you know, I've had different views on that at different times. I don't think there's really a clear cut answer, but, but But I do think that our orientation, with the standard is to when people ask me, like, what side are you on, you know, I'm like, Well, we're on the side of the report. And we really don't want to be on the side. And, and this is actually a good illustration of the problem with the critique of the view from nowhere, right? Is that if you decide we're gonna have a view from somewhere and we're gonna be like, on we're gonna have this position on different issues, well, then you're immediately you know, then you're on like, one side and then the other side, then you have no credibility with the other side, and you're just being the mouthpiece for somebody and so that's like not really where you want to be. So it's a tough issue but you know, I think we can be on the side of the reporting people are going to have different views about our biases. You know, I feel bad for one of our younger reporters who he wrote a story about you know, so people like to beat us up about you know, booty and you know, that kind of thing the VC agenda and all this nonsense, but then on the flip side, you know, we write a story that about the bay are clear a homeless camps and that you know, people think is like, too sympathetic to the homeless people. And so then we're like pilloried for being, you know, on the side of Everybody likes
to work the refs any sport, easier to assess the refs than it is to, you know, I don't know, solve the real problem. Right, right. Yeah. I
mean, the cottage industry of like ascribing consistent political beliefs to institutions has become, again, everything viewed through the lens of Twitter, but it's it's very rich, there's so much energy and effort spent trying to, like, decipher what the true agenda is, for a lot of these publications. And I don't know, that's a whole complex issue. But I guess just in closing, I am very happy to see that there is major investment being put into local journalism, that you guys are, you know, have a lot of journalists out on the streets, trying to uncover new facts. And, you know, in a city that has barely one newspaper, you know, with the Chronicle, which is always like, on the verge of collapse, it seems like economically, you know, seeing you guys out there, and I guess Axios has some people and you know, there's a lot of really great blogs in San Francisco, like mission local, and you can probably name a couple others. But all of that, to me feels good, whether or not I necessarily agree with their political agenda, or think I know what their agenda is, and then decide whether or not I agree with it.
Well, thanks. Appreciate your saying, Matt. And I certainly would, you know, certainly agree with that, you know, more journalism is a good thing. There's way less of it here than there. There used to be. So, you know, I think we, you know, we're making a substantial investment, we're trying to, to really build some trust and be honest, and be honest and open about our reporting, and try to deliver it to people in ways that they could, you know, kind of make sense of it, and for it to be useful to them. And, you know, and I hope I hope we can do that. I mean, the question of whether you know, how much people care, like, you know, is a huge one, I think one of our big challenges really is to is to get beyond the, the, you know, relatively small audience of people who already have a daily news habit, who already read, you know, already engaged in civic affairs, that's a small percentage of the city and we really want to find ways to reach you know, much more broadly.
Nice. Well, our listeners can check you guys out. SF standard.com. And thanks for thanks for coming on Weber. It was great to catch up. Thanks
so much. Great to have you. It's great to talk to you guys. Good to see you. Thanks Sally Goodbye, goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.