On Tuesday San Franciscans will head to the polls to vote in one of the more interesting mayoral elections in recent memory. Unlike the Newsome/Gonzales battle of 2003 when it was a two-person battle, this year, out of the 16 candidates in the race, there are more than a 1/2 dozen who have a legitimate shot at the highest office in San Francisco Land.

While I have blogged about both the mayoral candidate I support and my thoughts on Asian American Identity Politics, for this final pre-election post, I am focusing on what motivates our voting. Plain and simple, I believe that there are times when we must vote against our immediate financial and social self-interest and look toward long-term benefits for the common good. In a culture of self-preservation and short-term thinking, too often we vote for initiatives that are reactionary and for candidates who are not long-term thinkers. Sure, the current political climate makes it difficult NOT to promise immediate change, but I want politicians in office who are able to see the larger arc of social change and who have the integrity, conviction and skills to get us there.

For people like my wife and myself who occupy the lower side of San Francisco’s middle class, there are plenty of issues where our immediate self-interest could make us vote one way, but when we take a bigger view of what “benefits” us we vote another way. A couple of examples:

  • Rent control is a pain if you are a property owner as we are. But if we value students, working families and want people to be able to afford to live in San Francisco, we must make sure that renters are not held at the mercy of property owners. The socioeconomic and lifestyle diversity that rent control maintains and is a huge cultural benefit to us as we raise our kids in The City.
  • Citywide School Placement is a hot button issue for San Francisco parents. Basically, folks think that their kids should be able to go to the school that is located in their neighborhood. And while I do think SOME preference should be given, it is not a stretch to see that a 100% neighborhood school placement system, in a city that is so separated by neighborhoods, would quickly move our schools towards racial and socioeconomic segregation. Short-term I get why folks want their kids to go to school with people like them, but long-term, the diversity that is created by citywide placement is well worth the inconvenience.
  • Taxes in general . . . well, sure. Let me keep the money so I can build up my wealth. A penny here and a penny there, and before we know it, the government is going to take everything!  Ahhhhh!  Yes, these are difficult at times to see so much go to taxes, but I vote for many tax increases because I feel that it is my obligation to help support programs that in turn support people who might not otherwise be able to support themselves. I also benefit from government services like libraries, schools, public safety, infrastructure so I should put in my fair share, not an equal share mind you, but a fair one.  Sure the government could always better spend public money, but I am one of those that believes that blaming government for our current economic condition only distracts us from addressing the bigger questions of our country’s fiscal woes: the wealth gap, corporate spending and economic/job growth.
There are plenty of other issues that I vote on because I believe they contain both short and long-term wisdom and I hope any candidate who gets my vote has the capacity to think long-term about social and political change. So what about you, when and why have you voted AGAINST your immediate self-interest in order to vote FOR a bigger picture benefit to you? Would love to hear from you and if you are from San Francisco, if you have not already sent in your ballot, don’t forget to vote!

Before you go . . .  a few random election links:

  • While I am still deciding on some #2 and #3 names,  if you’re interested here’s my 2011 SF ballot.
  • I have met some great folks along the way: Pia, Jeremy, AllysonRoss and others. Most notable is probably David Cruise, a native San Franciscan who has some great insights about The City’s cultural and political landscape. It’s been a pleasure to get to know him!
  • I’m gonna miss checking the #sfmayor hashtag. Sad but true.
  • In addition to www.demdash.com, an interesting online poll worth checking out and keeping on the radar is www.votesf.com. Great layout and polling focus.
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