Post image for Ready…Set…ReSet: Phil Ting Tries to ReSet SF Politics

Ready…Set…ReSet: Phil Ting Tries to ReSet SF Politics

by Larry Bush on 09/23/2011

in Paper Trails

You can count on one thing after the votes are counted and a new mayor, district attorney or sheriff begins planning their administration.

The public, voters and non-voters like, want all evidence of the last campaign removed. Signs have to come down or a fine can be levied. No more robo-calls on behalf of a candidate. No more mailers. Just push it all to the curb for the rubbish collectors.

This election may prove to be the exception, and if so, it will be because of one candidate and how he decided to approach voters. That candidate is Phil Ting, the city’s Assessor-Recorder who sits at the bottom of the polls. And if his campaign machinery ground to a halt after the election, the city would be the loser.

News follows numbers, and Phil Ting isn’t showing the numbers that make news. Ed Lee’s poison-tongued campaign flack probably has never mentioned Phil Ting, much less attacked him, because in their world he doesn’t matter. He ought to, because he is the genuine article of the civil campaign that Mayor Lee’s campaign team claims to own but who constantly undermine it with waspish throw-away lines.

Ting’s campaign buzzword is “ReSet San Francisco” and he has expanded Government 2.0 to crowdsource issues, vet citizen input on solutions, and created the kind of online community that outpaces the traditional campaign monologue with a dialogue — one that involves hundreds of people. 

It is a lot less about the candidate and a lot more about what’s on the minds of San Franciscans, what they want done and what ideas they have for getting it done. It’s the one campaign that woke up in the 21st century and is ready to live in the present and the future.

In a city where process trumps product more times than not (check out the battles over CEQA, EIR’s and Sunshine Laws), Phil Ting’s campaign looks like it is taking process as well as product seriously.

That’s why it would be a shame if what Phil Ting has developed as his campaign outreach were to be shelved after the election. 

By tossing aside conventional wisdom on how to campaign and rejecting the premise that the city’s vision is the property of officeholders and office seekers, Ting is showing how Government 2.0 isn’t just a nerdy tech concept but a way to open government to more meaningful participation.

CitiReport thinks it ought to be noticed, and so we decided to highlight his responses to our Questionnaire about ethics and related issues as a way to underscore something we think is significant in our city’s politics. CitiReport will not endorse candidates in this election, but we will strive to be fair just as we can be tough in recognizing issues and approaches that affect the decisions we make as a city.

 Phil Ting Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

  1. Do you believe the city’s Ethics Commission is successful at its mission, or do you tend to agree with the Civil Grand Jury’s conclusion that it is a “Sleeping Watchdog.” What reforms will you support to strengthen the disclosure and enforcement of the city’s ethics and good government laws?

Sadly, the Grand Jury is largely correct. The first and most important reform I will support is the Reset San Francisco Sunshine Site proposal in which we will make immediately available virtually every government document – as they are created. Instead of spending thousands of hours and millions of dollars fighting over what should be made publicly available let’s simply make everything legally possible available.

Sunshine, and the tools necessary for residents to access and understand this flood of information, is the vital first step. But I will also support appropriate additional steps to strengthen our ethics and good government laws.

2. Will you vote in favor of Proposition F to allow the Ethics Commission and Board to change the law on campaign consultants without voter approval? No.

3.  Will you vote in favor of Proposition E to allow the Board to amend or repeal ballot measures approved by voters from the mayor or four Board members? No.

4.   Will you add funding for the Ethics Commission meetings to be televised like other city commissions?

Yes, of course!

5. Do you believe the city needs to strengthen protections for city worker whistleblowers against retaliation, as the Civil Grand Jury recommended?

Yes. As one of the authors of the city’s tax Whistleblower program, I understand the power of “crowdsourcing” enforcement.

6. Will you introduce a measure to ban contributions from businesses that benefit financially from City decisions, including tax benefits, zoning variances and other benefits similar to the voter-approved Proposition J (November 2000) passed but later altered?


7.  Do you support the Ethics Commission’s proposal to amend the city’s pay-to-play law to allow contributions from contractors with the Redevelopment Agency, Treasure Island and other agencies because they claim the mayor and Board don’t know who the contractors are?


8.  The Ethics Commission won amendments to the lobbyist law that means fewer businesses have to disclose their efforts. Do you believe that people with special access like former mayor Willie Brown or Rose Pak should have to register and report on their contacts with city officials?

I believe that we need laws that create full disclosure of contact with government officials. The way to address these issues is simply to have EVERY contact with elected officials reported.

9.  What steps will you take to ensure that your appointees attend commission meetings, file required public economic disclosure statements, and adhere to the city’s Sunshine Ordinance? What standard will you use?

The Mayor should make clear that full disclosure is a requirement of service and those who fail to disclose will certainly not be appointed and will be asked to resign if they do not immediately comply with our disclosure regulations.

10.  What steps have you taken to improve transparency in city government and enforce good government laws?

My entire campaign for mayor is about empowering San Franciscans to participate in their government.

Right now, most decisions are made in consultation with just a few hundred members of the “City Family,” with the rest of San Francisco left out of the debate.  Reset San Francisco is our attempt to change that. We think running a different kind of campaign is the first step in running a different kind of city government

To improve Sunshine, we’ve called for the creation of a city Sunshine Site that would immediately mirror virtually every document created by the city and provide an API (Application Programming Interface, or “software”) and interactive user interface to help San Franciscans explore and understand this flood of data. Every email, memo, note, presentation, calendar and any other document not directly protected by law should be posted as it is created.

Reset San Francisco has partnered with Stanford-based non-profit Californians for Common Sense to provide data visualizations of our city budget. We noted with some irony (okay, and a little pride) that the day the Supervisors were sending out a press release talking about making this happen – we did it. We think that is one of the powers of true “Gov 2.0,” the ability to use technology to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

Because we won’t fully unlock the savings of Gov 2.0 until everyone has Internet access, is organizing around a Universal Internet Access plan to guarantee broadband access and the appropriate technology for every household. This will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decades and, just as importantly; Universal Access is becoming a fundamental civil right.

We also have proposed changing city law to allow “YouTube” Testimony. Right now almost all city boards and commissions meet during the day, when most of us are at work or school. Everyone should have the chance to be heard – which is why we think YouTube testimony is the perfect use of free technology to give more San Franciscans a chance to be heard.

These are just a few of the ideas and initiatives being debated, formed and supported on and at We hope you will visit and add your views and voice to the discussion.

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