Under the Bigtop

As reported in the mainstream press, Tuesday’s vote at City Hall went 3-0 to pass the term sheet for an America’s Cup bid out of the Land Use subcommittee to the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

As noted but not explored in those same reports, attendees were treated to a bit of political theater that was Very San Francisco. And rather sad. With Supervisors Sophie Maxwell, David Chiu and Eric Mar preparing to open the meeting, who should appear but Supervisor Chris Daly, the one Supe who has expressed opposition (“on general principles”). Daly launched into a long and uninterruptible rant. It wasn’t until it had gone on “forever” that I realized I should have timed it. Twenty-five minutes? Thirty?

This is written to assure my readers that, if AC-N-SF is going to have enemies, we are blessed to have Mr. Daly in that role.

At the functional level, the flaw in Daly’s rant was his decrying of the lack of specifics in a term sheet that is by definition a broad outline of concepts yet to be filled-in with negotiated specifics. Those specifics cannot be nailed down until there is an agreement to explore forward. That is the point of approving what is known as a term sheet. It authorizes those negotiations.

When Maxwell, who chairs the Land Use subcommittee, tried to cut Daly off and reminded him that he would have an opportunity to speak when the full Board meets today, he complained, “But there I’m limited to ten minutes.”

(A very long ten minutes, I expect.)

And he kept on going.

At a philosophical level, the flaw in Daly’s rant was the conflation between staging a sports event and reinventing society. Social justice is a 365-day-a-year cause. A boat race is a boat race. And if you’re bugged because only rich guys own America’s Cup sailing teams, are you equally bugged because rich guys own the Giants, the 49ers, the Warriors? (And rich guys play for the Giants, the 49ers, the Warriors?)
Cup supporter Ross Mirkarimi also appeared, and when Daly eventually wandered off to take care of family business, thanked him for his “poignant dissection.”

For me, and I do not apologize for taking this out of context, Daly’s key line was, “I’m not sure what my point is.”

For those who did not attend the Land Use committee hearings, let me say as a witness that I was impressed and gratified by the line of questioning, the outlook, and the responses of Supervisors Maxwell, Chiu, Mar and Mirkarimi. It was clear, they get it.

This is going to be a complicated deal, too much so to go into here, but for a tip of the iceberg on the motivation, consider the testimony of Port Director Monique Moyer that the value of Piers 30-32, at the moment, is “negative.”

So, searching for a bottom line, we see that Daly gets way too much ink and Kyri McClellan, as America’s Cup project manager for the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, deserves a lot more credit than she has received so far. But so goes a tip of the hat. There is every reason to believe that the full Board will approve the term sheet today (on a vote of 10-1 perhaps?), enabling the negotiations that are necessary to arrive at an agreement to revitalize the southern waterfront and host a few months of America’s Cup competition in 2013.

And maybe 2016 . . .

For a fuller account and some well-considered thoughts, read Paul Oliva at PressureDrop.US.

Suns New Jerseys