Excuse Me – Occupy What?

Earlier today, I was linked to The Bay Citizen and began poking around the biographies of the mayoral candidates for the upcoming race in San Francisco. Somehow I ended up over at The Bay Reporta, reading Occupy Oakland Takes Back Plaza, OccupySF Prepares for Attack. I scrolled to the bottom about information on OccupySF and this is what I found:

“Many politicos attended the event as well. Supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, and David Chiu, along with State Senator Leland Yee, stayed at the camp for most of the night, with the last supes leaving around 4 a.m.”

John Avalos, David Chiu, and State Senator Leland Yee are all currently: running for mayor in San Francisco, and working as public servants. David Chiu is President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and John Avalos is the Supervisor for the city’s 11th district. Last but not least, Senator Leland Yee is well … a California state senator.

First of all, I’m not quite sure what two of San Francisco’s Supervisors are doing in Oakland. The article says:

“They talked with the occupiers about their position of the camp, which is try to find a balance between constitutional right to assemble and the sanitation issues that could arise from a prolonged camp. They were certainly against any type of police confrontation.”

California Senator Leland Yee
Okay. So they wanted to talk to the occupiers. That might make sense for Senator Yee, except for the fact that he represents California’s District 8, which according to the map, covers San Francisco and San Mateo. Not Oakland. I think it makes more sense that he focus his attention on voters in his district, like the folks that are participating in OccupySF. Which, according to SFGate, he has. But my thoughts are these: since he’s a Senator, isn’t he closer to the action in the California State Senate? Doesn’t he have the ability to make his voice, and the voice of his constituents, heard inside the California State Legislature? (Isn’t that part of his responsibility as an elected official?) Why doesn’t he take a stand and find a way to bring the concerns of his people to Sacramento and create real, actionable change within government? While I think it’s good that he went out to support the voters, it’s more important that he spends time actually doing something with their concerns as opposed to showing his face to the crowd. In all honesty, it seems like part of a campaign gimmick.

John Avalos,
San Francisco District 11 Supervisor

Then there is the issue of San Francisco’s Supervisors. Clearly, the OccupyOakland folks are not their constituents. The article says they were discussing the position of the camp but I can’t really understand why that is relevant to Supervisors in San Francisco. And while I don’t mind whether or not people support, or don’t support, the Occupy movements across America, the fact that San Francisco Supervisors were in Oakland suggests their support for the Occupy movement(s). It would make more sense for them to speak with the OccupySF participants and focus their time on them. Which they did – at the same time as Sen. Yee (mentioned above). But my concerns for the Supervisors are similar to the ones that I expressed for Sen. Yee. If they really and truly support the Occupy movement and its participants, they would do more than simply show up.

David Chiu,
President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Maybe these appearances are part of the reason that the Occupy folks are out in force to begin with: there is a lot of talk from politicians, but not a lot of action. Maybe the occupiers feel like they aren’t being properly represented by their governmental leadership. They are obviously trying to get attention and based on the visits of the Supervisors and the Senator to the Occupy movements in San Francisco and Oakland, they are certainly getting it. I am not convinced that these politicians went out to support the Occupy movements as much as they were there to get their face in front of the crowd prior to the election to show their (superficial) support.

Or maybe, the appearances of the politicians matched the tone of the Occupy movements themselves – they are there to show their support and/or disdain, but in the end, no clear progressive action is put in motion. “We’re here, we’re upset, but we’re not going to do anything about it.”

The other possibility is that I’m missing the point entirely. There seems to be a general consensus among the occupiers that money and politics haven’t made for good bedfellows. In fact, it has been to the severe detriment of many Americans. But my opinions are these: in a democracy, your participation is required. If you want to see change, you have the power and the responsibility to create that change. It requires action, attention, and persistence. I just can’t wrap my head around this movement because I don’t see where it is progressing beyond the occupations themselves. If you want things to be different in this country, you have to work to create that change. In a democracy such as ours, we have a plethora of tools at our disposal. Tools to help create a better country for ourselves, our families, and for our fellow citizens. The occupiers are doing a great disservice by not utilizing those tools to create long term, sustainable solutions that will lead to the change that our country desperately needs.

[Thank you to janinsanfran for the photo of Supervisor Avalos, Steve Rhodes for the photos of Supervisor Chiu and Senator Yee. Senator Leland Yee, Ph.D’s webpage for the district map.]


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