John Kerry’s candidacy for President took a serious hit for his comment that he was for the Iraq war before he was against it. Opponents pounced. The term flip-flopper was coined. Flip flops were displayed at rallies. Fair or not, Kerry could not shake the characterization that he lacked conviction and shifted positions for political expediency.
State Senator Leland Yee is banking on the rules being different in California. Unlike Washington which is covered endlessly by a range of media outlets, Sacramento is a bubble that few in the rest of the state pay attention to. In Sacramento, too many politicians shamelessly misrepresent facts and contradict themselves in service of special interests, all without the slightest concern that they will be called out as hypocrites or liars.
Last week, Leland Yee voted “no” on AB 1229, a bill to allow cities to enforce inclusionary housing laws that require developers to provide affordable rental units. As a San Francisco Supervisor, he supported these exact inclusionary housing laws. As a mayoral candidate, he re-asserted his support for inclusionary housing. As a state senator, two years ago, he voted in favor of the very law he voted against last week. He was, quite literally, for it before he was against it.
Pressed by the San Francisco Bay Guardian to explain his vote, Yee issued a bizarre written statement refusing to acknowledge any inconsistency or changed view. In his statement, Yee explained his vote against AB 1229 by criticizing inclusionary housing laws as a “piecemeal solution, offering a chance at lotteries in housing developments scattered randomly throughout the state” and then in the same sentence wrote that he stands by his record of supporting inclusionary housing.
In other words, Senator Yee voted against inclusionary housing because he thinks it is a bad policy and he is proud of his record of supporting that bad policy.
The facts are not in dispute. Two years ago Leland Yee voted “aye” on a bill to save inclusionary housing laws. This year, without explanation, he voted “no” on the same bill. Meanwhile, he is taking campaign money from developers and landlords who oppose the bill.
Two years after the San Francisco Chronicle published a piece entitled “State Sen. Leland Yee's attack on the truth,” Yee appears confident that dishonesty and pandering to special interests will not be noticed outside the Capitol, except by those who are writing large campaign checks.
Dean Preston is the founder and Executive Director of Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights. For more information about Tenants Together, visit www.TenantsTogether.org.