In November 2019, former mayor Willie Brown wrote that Mike Bloomberg is 'exactly what the Democratic race needs.' In January 2020 current mayor London Breed went one further. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez.

Anti-bias training that every aspirational San Francisco city commissioner must complete offers a tutorial on former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” policy as the exemplar of biased and discriminatory policing policy. 

It’s not clear if the mayor must complete said anti-bias training, however. On Thursday, Mayor London Breed endorsed Bloomberg for president, joining a growing list of California mayors (and, notably, Judge Judy).  

Did political types predict Breed would settle on Bloomberg after the withdrawal of her friend and first choice, Sen. Kamala Harris? Not really. But, to paraphrase Casablanca, we probably would’ve if we’d given it a moment’s thought. 

All the pieces are there: Bloomberg, a mega-billionaire, has spent lavishly in San Francisco elections, pouring tens of millions into fighting Big Soda and passing a soda tax and fighting Big Tobacco and keeping Juul from writing its own city vaping regulations.  

But he’s done more than that. His philanthropic foundation in 2018 donated to the Partnership for Healthy Cities initiative, and his support was graciously accepted by our mayor. Bloomberg Philanthropies also recognized San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF program for a prestigious award in 2019. 

“When I first helped to launch CleanPowerSF, I knew it had the potential to make a transformative change in the city,” Breed said at the time. (Which is a bit odd, because CleanPowerSF is a long-running program that predates Breed’s election to office, but congratulations anyway). 

But he’s done more than that. Bloomberg has, for years, cultivated mayors throughout the country, offering them spots in programs and conferences and — importantly — showering them with financial support or donating to their pet causes or nonprofits. 

Like Bloomberg’s full-throated support of President George W. Bush, this wasn’t a secret. It was in the New York Times and everything. 

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is a Bloomberg Harvard City Initiative fellow. He endorsed Bloomberg. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is a Bloomberg Harvard City Initiative alum. He endorsed Bloomberg. And Breed is a Bloomberg Harvard City Initiative alum

You know the rest. Bloomberg, as noted above, has invested his money generously here and, we are told, several of Breed’s adjunct advisers and/or consultants are already on the Bloomberg payroll. 

A screen from the city’s own anti-bias training.

Whoever wrote the anti-bias materials for the city of San Francisco did a bang-up job. They sure poked some holes in Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy. To wit: 

  • In 70 of 76 New York precincts, blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 50 percent of stop-and-frisk subjects — and in 32 precincts, they accounted for more than 90 percent; 
  • Black and Latino males between 14 and 24 comprised 4.7 percent of New York City’s population — but 41 percent of stops by police; 
  • Weapons were found on only 2 percent of searches — 4.4 million innocent people were stopped, and 2.2 million innocent people were frisked. 

Well, that sounds like a failed policy. No wonder then-Mayor Ed Lee faced such blowback when he proposed duplicating it here

Breed, Tubbs, and other accomplished black leaders are left in the awkward position of explaining their support for Bloomberg. Which is, frankly, exactly what Bloomberg likely hoped to do by cultivating so many accomplished black leaders.

“I haven’t met any Bloomberg supporters who were not elected officials, period,” Supervisor Matt Haney told the Guardian(Haney has announced he’s voting for Bernie Sanders; it appears Sanders didn’t even have to give him 27 dollahs to secure this endorsement).

Whether these elected officials are going to convince anybody to vote for Bloomberg remains to be seen. San Francisco voters have, with regularity, voted against Breed’s preferred supervisor candidates, ballot propositions, and, most recently and most notably, elected DA Chesa Boudin despite Breed placing Suzy Loftus into the office only 24 hours before voting began.

It will be interesting to see how many San Franciscans vote for Bloomberg after their mayor publicly endorsed him. 

But as part of a growing cadre of visible supporters, Breed does more for Bloomberg than as a mere individual. And, as noted above, Bloomberg can do plenty for Breed (and San Francisco) — he can continue spending heavily on political issues here, investing in preferred causes, and cultivating promising politicians. 

Being a voter is hard, especially in this city, where we vote on so much. Endorsements are a political CliffsNotes. You may not know much about a candidate or a proposition, but you can figure out who’s for it and who’s against it. 

This is tempting, but risky. Voters should keep in mind that, with exceptions, there are only two types of endorsements: Those that signify a person or proposition is part of some manner of in-group, and those that serve as the receipt for some manner of transaction. 

You can figure out what happened here.

Both Breed and Bloomberg figure to benefit from this arrangement. But it’s hard to see what it has to do with any of the rest of us. 

Follow Us

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published.

  1. All that money wasted on a failed campaign makes me wish Bloomberg just gave the money directly to homeless people, teachers…

  2. Sadly Ms Breed is bought and sold as part of the Willie Brown & Feinstein cabal! they are all bought and sold, Not surprised that Breed sold out sooo easily!

  3. It takes one to know one. Bloomberg has the best shot of beating Trump. Unfortunately, the other demos do not . Why because Trump will never let them have their say and will bully them and make them all look weak while trying to be ethical and intelligent. We NEED Bloomberg to beat Trump. He is New York tough.
    No ONE is MORE racist than Trump. It is hard to not be pissed at stop and search but Trump will be worse.

  4. The situation with stop and frisk is not as clearcut as the training and this article portray.The 40% drop in crime that occurred across the U.S. from 1991 to 2000 remains largely an unsolved mystery. Even more puzzling is the 87% drop over 19 years in New York City. Twice as long and twice as large, it is the largest crime decline on record. In The City That Became Safe , Berkeley professor Franklin E. Zimring seeks out the NY difference through a comprehensive investigation into the city’s falling crime rates. The usual understanding is that aggressive police created a zero-tolerance law enforcement regime that drove crime rates down. Is this political sound bite true-are the official statistics generated by the police accurate? Though zero-tolerance policing and quality-of-life were never a consistent part of the NYPD’s strategy, Zimring shows the numbers are correct and argues that some combination of more police, new tactics, and new management can take some credit for the decline. That the police can make a difference at all in preventing crime overturns decades of conventional wisdom from criminologists, but Zimring also points out what most experts have missed: the NY experience challenges the basic assumptions driving American crime- and drug-control policies. NY has shown that crime rates can be greatly reduced without increasing prison populations. NY teaches that targeted harm reduction strategies can drastically cut down on drug related violence even if illegal drug use remains high. And NY has proven that epidemic levels of violent crime are not hard-wired into the populations or cultures of urban America. This careful and penetrating analysis of how the nation’s largest city became safe rewrites the playbook on crime and its control for all big cities.

  5. Not sure why you felt the need to throw some (misleading) shade at Breed re: CleanPower SF. While technically it had been around as a concept before Breed pushed it, she really did help launch it into what it is today.

    Per the League of Conservation Voters: “Board of Supervisors President London Breed, our third choice, has impressed us most with her championing CleanPowerSF*, San Francisco’s clean energy program. After the program languished for 12 years, Breed took it upon herself to get CleanPowerSF off the ground, despite a significant effort by PG&E to prevent it, and she has continued to defend and advance this critical clean-energy program.”

    SF Gate: “While she is often viewed as a member of the board’s more moderate bloc, Breed has made a name for herself as a blunt, self-assured politician who isn’t afraid to buck political allies, such as when she took on Mayor Ed Lee over dismal ambulance response times last year and her consistent support of a city-run clean power program that’s opposed by many of the city’s most influential business interests.”

    SF Examiner: ““The CleanPowerSF program is the single most important environmental initiative in San Francisco,” Supervisor London Breed said. “We have the opportunity here to provide 100 percent renewable Californian and union-made electricity.”

    Breed’s resolution reaffirming the board’s support of the program and calling on the SFPUC to set rates without further delay was approved in a 9-2 vote Tuesday.”

    1. Tim — 

      That’s great, but the issue here is the term “launched.”

      I’ll admit I likely gave too little credit to our mayor for her long support, but claiming she “launched” the program is too much.


      1. Joe, I usually love your reporting, but you’re off base with this. She said (you literally quote her above) “When I first *helped to launch*…” (emphasis mine). CleanPowerSF had languished for 13 years before she, as D5 supervisor, pushed it to finally get it past Ed Lee and PG&E intransigence.

        She didn’t claim she launched the program, and she deserves to take credit for being one of the team of people who did.

  6. He did a hell of a job cleaning up NYC. We could use his overall policies in SF.

    He’s a billionaire who does a wealth of good with his money. The few initiatives he backed which you referenced are just a fraction of how WE ALL benefit. Stop and frisk was a partial error but this shouldn’t be what characterizes him.

    Socialism always fails Bernie bro. Head to Venezuela if you disagree. Mike didn’t have anything handed to him. He earned it. Give him respect not envy.

  7. I’m old fashioned,

    How about to begin clearing the field by having
    Biden challenge Trump to a duel in the Rose Garden
    so’s Joe can defend his family’s honor.

    Hey, it worked for the founders.

    Go Niners!


    How much you think the event would make gross on pay-TV?

    Go Ni1ners