CBS This Morning journalists on Wednesday pushed a new San Francisco tax on buses as a symbol of "income inequality" and failed to identify a liberal organization supporting the move. The progressive city approved a $1 per stop tax on tech company buses that transport employees to the Silicon Valley. CBS journalist John Blackstone lectured, "The private buses have become symbols of income inequality and the belief that well paid tech workers are to blame for steeply rising rents." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Talking to Cynthia Crews, identified in the segment as a "San Francisco resident," Blackstone sympathized, "So, a dollar a stop doesn't seem like much." Blackstone featured Crews insisting, "The shuttles, the tech companies are not paying their fair share." According to the Canadian Globe and Mail, Crews is "a representative of the San Francisco League of Pissed-Off Voters." That group's website features endorsements, like this one for city attorney: "A progressive City Attorney would have more guts to stand up to the fat cat companies...who get way too many breaks in this town."
The website proclaims: "The League of Young Voters empowers young people nationwide to participate in the democratic process and create progressive political change on the local, state and national level..."
Blackstone failed to identify Crews or any of the pro-tax organizers as liberal.
Instead, guest co-host Clarissa Ward vaguely described, "Activists in San Francisco want to ban Silicon Valley's shuttles. How the fight is about more than traffic."
The best Blackstone could do was to feature a snippet of Crystal Sholts, a Google employee who opposed the measure. She noted, "I just wanted to say that not even at Google is a billionaire."
It wasn't until the very end of the segment that the journalist admitted the tax "could cost some tech companies well over $100,000 a year."
A partial transcript of the January 22 segment is below:
JOHN BLACKSTONE: The issue being debated, should the shuttle pay a dollar each time they use a bus stop?
CYNTHIA CREWS (San Francisco resident): The shuttles, the tech companies are not paying their fair share.
JOHN BLACKSTONE: So, a dollar a stop doesn't seem like much.
CREWS: A dollar a stop is, is chump change.
BLACKSTONE: Google doesn't only run buses. It has also started a private ferry service for workers. The search giant did not send a company official to the hearing. But a leaked memo to Google employees suggested points they could make. "For example, I support local and small businesses in my neighborhood." Crystal Sholts is a program manager at Google who spoke at the hearing.
CRYSTAL SHOLTS (Google program manager): I just wanted to say that not even at Google is a billionaire. Like many people, ten years after the fact, I'm still paying off my student loans.
BLACKSTONE: This seems to be more about more than shuttle buses.
ANDREA LONGO: Oh, of course it is. Of course it is.
BLACKSTONE: The private buses have become symbols of income inequality and the belief that well paid tech workers are to blame for steeply rising rents.
SUE VAUGHAN (San Francisco resident): It's really a frightening to be an average or low income resident of San Francisco.
CHUCK NEVIUS (San Francisco Chronicle columnist): At the core of it, there is a very serious issue, which is we're pricing a lot of San Franciscans out of the city.
BLACKSTONE: Finding the answer to the housing is the issue, not stopping the buses.
NEVIUS: We need to turn down the volume and quit yelling at buses.
BLACKSTONE: But the buses will start paying.
UNIDENTIFIED COMMITTEE MEMBER: All in favor say aye?
ALL FOUR COMMITTEE MEMBERS: Aye.
NEVIUS: The transit agency approved the charge a dollar a stop. That could cost some tech companies well over $100,000 a year. For CBS This Morning, John Blackstone, San Francisco.