San Francisco Admits It Can't Live Without Red States

Lawmakers admit 2016 red state boycott is ineffective and has raised costs for the city

(Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikimedia Commons)
February 16, 2023

San Francisco could soon scrap a law that prevents the city from contracting with red states, which officials admitted this week was raising costs for the city.

A 2016 city ordinance blocks San Francisco from contracting with companies based in states that restrict abortion and whose laws city officials deemed to discriminate against gay people and minorities. The ordinance, which also prohibits San Francisco city officials from traveling to banned states, was conceived as a boycott, meant to liberalize red states by depriving them of San Francisco’s people and business.

The boycott backfired. A Feb. 10 report from the City Administrator’s Office found that the ban on contracting with red states has hiked San Francisco’s annual contracting costs by up to 20 percent. The boycott has also failed to make red states change their laws, as evidenced by the fact that the blacklist has grown from just 8 states in 2017 to 30 states today.

"This increase suggests that the city's threat of boycott may not serve as a compelling deterrent to states considering restrictive policies," the report said.

A San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee this week approved a proposed repeal of the ordinance, which now heads to the full board for a vote.

The city’s actions could spur state Democrats to reconsider a similarly ineffective ban on 23 red states. The policy left Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) in hot water last year after he traveled to his in-laws’ ranch in Montana, a blacklisted state.

Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York have also enacted various sanctions on red states. Most of these policies have been repealed.