Phil Ting Launches Slick New 'Reset S.F.' Site -- But Not to Bolster Mayoral Run. Right?

Phil Ting torso shot.JPG
Phil Ting knows assessin' and recordin'. But transportation? The environment? Ain't those mayoral subjects?
Perhaps it's a bit of a simplification, but the city's assessor-recorder has two jobs: assessing and recording. So it came as a bit of a surprise when assessor-recorder Phil Ting launched a handsome new website, "Reset San Francisco," which purports to gather readers' civil input on non-assessing/recording matters such as transportation, education, the environment, and public safety.

"Reset San Francisco is designed to accomplish something that no one else has done - engaging San Franciscans to find solutions to the city's challenges in a constructive way without the yelling, the finger pointing and the blaming," writes Ting in an entreaty to would-be users of his nascent website. "Making real change is going to take more than old-fashioned politics. It is going to take a new way of looking at problems."

Yes, certainly the one thing San Francisco lacks is a forum for people to weigh in on the direction of government. In fact, what San Francisco could use even more is another opportunity for politically involved people to become involved in political discussions -- on the Internet! Oh, and make the whole thing totally nonbinding!

So, at first blush, one could be forgiven for thinking the well put-together site is merely a name-recognition venture for Ting's forthcoming run for mayor. But that'd be wrong, says Eric Jaye, Ting's political consultant.

Ting may run for mayor next year and he may not, says Jaye -- and Ting is definitely running for re-election to assessor-recorder this year. But Ting had something else in mind when he launched this site -- which cost "a couple grand" out of his re-election campaign fund. "This is attempting to be the uncola to the typical political dialogue," says Jaye. "There's no appetite to make big promises. Phil Ting is not promising there'll be some magic solution based on one website. What he is asking is the question, 'Can we find some forum where people get together to identify problems, discuss them, find solutions, and build consensus around what we want to see?'"

Ting hasn't yet returned SF Weekly's messages.

Consultant Jim Ross -- who does not work for Ting -- said he expects to see more sites like this as the mayoral election draws nearer. "I think Phil truly cares about policy and having a true discussion. But I agree it's interesting that he's weighing in on this range of stuff," says Ross. "Any citywide politician right now wants to establish themselves on a variety of issues so they have as many options open as possible."

Ross describes Ting as "one of half a dozen people who has a real shot" at becoming mayor and "has the real ability to do the job." 

But Jaye insists "Reset San Francisco" doesn't have anything to do with that. It's simply meant to be a civil place where folks can engage in non-contact political discussions free of the histrionics usually associated with political argumentation in this city. Of course, users of the site need not disclose their real names, and Jaye notes that civility is expected of site users only because "we're asking it of them."

Good luck to Ting with that. And good luck overall -- hosting a high-minded, civil discussion about the issues isn't the most effective way to get oneself elected.

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