Community Rallies Against Don Fisher

by Paul Hogarth on October 19, 2007

I hate Hummers. As global warming kills our planet, we should be making cars that are more fuel efficient, not less. We should invest in public transit, not traffic. But in San Francisco, Gap C.E.O. and Republican billionaire Don Fisher has bankrolled Proposition H, a deceptive parking measure that will bring more hummers to San Francisco. And this week, he broke a pledge to not oppose Muni Reform by sending out a hit-piece against Proposition A. Yesterday, a broad coalition of labor, environmental, housing and LGBT activists rallied at Powell and Market to demand Fisher to stop. And to drive the point home, they brought in one of those awful Hummers – parking it right in front of the Gap Headquarters. Meanwhile, a video surfaced this week on YouTube of State Senator Carole Migden praising Don Fisher, as the Senate confirmed his appointment to the State Board of Education.

Under normal circumstances, a “mom-and-apple-pie” measure like Prop A should pass easily – and something like Prop H should go down in flames. But with Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris and Michael Hennessey all sailing to re-election, most voters are oblivious to the fact that we even have an election on November 6th. And with Don Fisher having sent out a well-funded hit piece attacking Prop A, a rare opportunity to bring $26 million to our cash-starved Muni system could fail.

And our local press has not helped the situation. The San Francisco Chronicle, while very casually mentioning that they oppose Prop H, devoted a whole editorial against Prop A which erroneously claimed that SEIU does not support it. In fact, SEIU is leading the campaign to pass Prop A – with phone-bankers calling five nights a week out of their headquarters (and yes, they need volunteers to join them.)

But the San Francisco Examiner outdid the Chronicle this week by endorsing Prop H. Why should we be shocked that a Republican rag would side with Don Fisher? Because two months ago, the Examiner called Prop H a “minefield of unintended consequences” that could “harm business, reduce new housing and drive out neighborhood retail.” Merely adding parking to Downtown, they said, “is likely to make already-bad congestion dramatically worse.” Now they want people to vote for it.

Yesterday’s rally at Powell and Market featured activists from the League of Conservation Voters, the SF Bicycle Coalition, members of SEIU Local 1021, the head of the San Francisco Labor Council, LGBT stalwarts from the Harvey Milk Club and Pride at Work, Democratic Party activists and many more. The message was simple – Don Fisher should stop spending his millions trying to kill public transit reform, and join the 21st Century by acknowledging that global warming is a problem.

Photo by BeyondChron.

The activists marched around a hummer that was parked in front of the Gap, followed by a rally with diverse speakers. Why a hummer? Because besides many other reasons to oppose Prop H, one of its worst parts is a seemingly benign clause to exempt low-emission vehicles from the City’s parking restrictions. According to Prop H’s own definitions, even a hummer would qualify as a “low-emission” vehicle.

“Some Republicans – like our President – think that global warming is a hoax,” said David Chiu, a member of the Democratic County Central Committee. “But here in San Francisco, we have a Republican billionaire who wants to buy this election. Don Fisher and his family have contributed over $80,000 to defeat Muni Reform. I implore all Democrats, all independents, and reasonable Republicans to oppose his actions.”

“We’re here to talk about this scam and what’s going on,” said BART Director Tom Radulovich. “We’re all here because we believe in San Francisco Values. We want better neighborhoods. We want less pollution. We want more transit. If Prop H passes, wasteful cars like Hummers will be classified as low-emission vehicles. Prop H is also not about Parking for Neighborhoods – it’s about Parking for Downtown.”

“Everyone talks about global warming,” said Amandeep Jawa from the League of Conservation Voters, “but things we do every day affect global warming. Prop H is simply about putting more cars on the street. It means more pollution, and it means worse Muni service. We cannot let this poorly written, Republican boondoggle send us back thirty years.”

“We have a real stark choice,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “Are we going to serve the people of San Francisco with a robust transit system? The guy who owns the Gap just doesn’t get it. He comes from a set of ideas from the last century. Join me, and join the Mayor by voting Yes on Prop A and No on Prop H.”

Don Fisher’s mailer against Prop A has so many lies and half-truths I don’t even know where to start. In a blatant attempt to stoke public opinion about the Board of Supervisors, it asks whether we should give them a “blank check.” But Prop A takes the $26 million in parking revenue out of the General Fund – where the Supervisors can spend it as they please – and gives it to the MTA so the money can go to Muni.

So Prop A actually gives the Board of Supervisors less money, and calling it a “blank check” is ridiculous. Ironically, this is why Jake McGoldrick and Gerardo Sandoval have opposed it. But somehow, they’re on the same side as Don Fisher with this measure – for diametrically opposite reasons.

Then it says in bold type that “the Board of Supervisors controls the MTA Board without voter input,” and that the MTA is “made up of political appointees chosen by the Board of Supervisors.” Actually, the Mayor appoints all seven MTA Commissioners. There was an attempt two years ago to have the Supervisors appoint three of them, but the voters rejected that proposal. Either Don Fisher doesn’t know who gets appointed to the MTA – or he’s a liar.

While voters in November have the chance to reject Don Fisher by passing Prop A and defeating Prop H, it’s apparent that the Republican C.E.O. has many more friends in high places. State Senator Carole Migden, who faces the voters next June as Mark Leno challenges her, is also a friend of Fisher. Two years ago, she sponsored his nomination to the State Board of Education. Check out this video clip to see for yourself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a private citizen, Paul Hogarth has endorsed Mark Leno in the State Senate race. He does not play an advisory role in the campaign, nor did he coordinate with Leno’s staff in writing this article. Send feedback to

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