Giving Protest a Bad Name

photo: Gawker.com

Yesterday's protest against the Google bus is a very odd thing.

Providing transportation to your employees without even asking for public funding strikes me as a very Good Citizen thing to do.  You're taking cars off the road and providing a benefit to your employees. What's not to like? What's not to applaud?

Sure, the buses use MUNI bus stops. And, I have had words with a Google driver who sat texting in a bus zone after unloading passengers when a MUNI bus was approaching.  I agree that Google should carefully share the bus stops with the public busses.

But, the Google's vehicles have commercial plates which include the state fee for roadway maintenance.  I am sure that they pay any of the city-mandated taxes for commercial buses. Google is not getting a free ride at taxpayer expense for the free ride they're giving their folks.

Protesting against a company doing something good is simply wrong. Are you protesting because your employer doesn't provide you a bus with WiFi? Because you're jealous that other people have better jobs?  What?

Even odder was the staged shoutout by Oakland‚Äč union organizer Max Bell Alper.  He pretended to be a Google employee and shouted down his fellow protesters, saying that they should go to a city where they could afford to live.

Max called his impersonation "political theater", according to the Bay Guardian  No, Max.  You got caught being over-the-top deceitful.  You earned your fifteen minutes of fame.  But, you also discredited yourself and made it more difficult to talk about the real issues facing San Francisco.

The rising housing costs, loss of affordable places to eat and play, and other impacts of the high tech migration are legitimate worries.  But, even then, these are issues to work on instead of demonstrating against.

It's disempowering to protest positive economic development like a bunch of grumpy old men talking about the awfulness of today's pop music.  You sound like Republicans crying out for someone to give you back your country.

I see no Evil to protest in the current tech boom.  Creating a bad guy to rail against is both counterproductive and disingenuous.

Providing high paid jobs and working at them are good things.  Luring educated, well-paid young people to your city is invigorating.

Economic development is not a zero-sum game where someone else's success hurts you.

Yes, we as a community are called on to identify the negative impacts of development and mitigate them.  I am very concerned that San Francisco is unaffordable for too many people.  Rents are extreme, flipping LLCs are driving home prices beyond the reach of mere mortals, character stores and restaurants are closing and reawakening as Whole Foods and French Laundries.  These are not good things.

City government can help with zoning, fees, and restrictions.  The Mayor can help us talk to each other to create space for old and new, workers, middle class, and nouveau riche.

Google and its employees are likely on the same side of the city character dilemma as long-time San Franciscans.  Few people want to live in a homogeneous white bread community, and the Bay Area attracts even fewer sameness seekers

>But, we don't need to demonize Google to work together.  We don't need to protest to seek solutions.

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