posted at 3:01 pm on March 21, 2017 by John Sexton
Two San Francisco supervisors are introducing legislation today that would prevent the city from hiring any company which bids on President Trump’s border wall. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It is time to move beyond symbolism and use the power we have as a city to fight for the values we hold most dear,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who is introducing the legislation with Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
“What we are saying is that we are not going to spend billions of dollars and line the pockets of businesses that engage in work that goes against the values that we hold most dear,” she said…
The Berkeley City Council unanimously passed a resolution last week recommending the city divest from any company involved in any aspect of the project, and the Oakland City Council is set to vote on a measure Tuesday barring the city from entering into contracts with companies that work on the wall.
Similar legislation is also being put forward in New York state and New York city.
San Francisco certainly has some leverage here with multi-million dollar contracts for airports, subways and other public works on the line. The amount of money involved may not compare to the $10 to $20 billion dollars that could be spent on a border wall over the next few years but companies may not be willing to take the risk of putting in a bid if it means they will be shut out from a potential source of income with the city for years to come.
On the other hand, there will likely be a cost associated with this move for the city as well. UC Davis professor Thomas Joo tells the SF Chronicle, “fewer bids means less competition.” That could mean the city doesn’t get bids from a company which was better qualified than other applicants for a given job. It could also mean the cost of jobs goes up as fewer companies compete for them. The costs associated with moving “beyond symbolism” in opposition to the wall will be socialized and hidden from view but they will be there.
Finally, I’m not convinced this is really a move beyond symbolism. Sure, it proves San Francisco is willing to put some skin in the game but some company will still take the billions being offered by the federal government to do the work. San Francisco can isolate itself from that process and declare victory, but it’s still a symbolic victory so long as the wall goes up.