Watching City Hall #283, (5-14-04
(District #5 candidates speed date voters in library basement)
When I was a boy (get used to that kind of talk, Im old & cynical) anyway, when I was a boy, elections season started on Labor Day and ran for what seemed an interminable 65 days or so. Now, it never ends. Let me give an example.
Last night I was privileged to begin my third campaign for District Supervisor in San Francisco. Its a little like running away with the carnival for 4 or 5 months every 2 years. I mean, you go into everything from churches who believe in drinking blood & eating body parts as a part of communing with their gods, to bars and newspaper editorial rooms where they actually do these things. I like the scene, but then, Im a San Franciscan. So, anyway, you dont run 3 times without noticing patterns.
Many of the candidates are insane
Im guessing that although there are certainly lots of mental basket cases in the audience that percentage-wise? Percentage-wise, Im betting a disproportionate representation of the legally insane in the group on stage seeking to represent you. Not to discount the reporters. Hell, everyone knows theyre all crazy. It makes for a fascinating scene. Let me give you a couple of examples of actions that I found crazy.
Tys Sniffen pulls a Gavin
This guy managed to get paid by the Gonzalez campaign for working against Gonzalez. Oh yeah! I sat and listened to the guy harangue voters coming into the Horseshoe Café where Tys was, ostensibly, the office manager (or, whatever) of that vital headquarters. Hed ask them pointed questions like: Can you tell me what Gonzalez actually did for the District? He was a downer and he kept on. He made no secret of the fact that he was running against Gonzalez for supe even before Matt declared for mayor, let alone decided to drop out of the race for supervisor. Heres where Sniffen stands on whether you need to pay him in order to get his attention.
I have a house party scheduled.
First thing the guy does to kick off his campaign is to go staple a bunch of cards bearing his name to classic trees in the Panhandle. Can you imagine trying to take credit for a friggin tree being beautiful? So, we know the boy will turn on nature and employer in a second. Hows he do with the voter? you might ask that.
Thanks for letting me cut in line.
Last evenings candidate forum was sponsored by a group called something like Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council or something like that. They call themselves Hank and theyve been around for awhile. I was impressed by them. They turned out an easy 100 or more people on a Thursday night with almost no advertising. Then, they managed to arrange close encounters for their members and the public through a novel foremat.
Dividing the candidates into groups of 7 (over 20 of us!) they paired candidate groups with groups of 30 or so voters and the candidates took turns talking to the voters of each module for around 30 minutes total. First, each candidate got 2 minutes to introduce themselves and their agenda & then, the cluster of voters grilled the candidates for the remainder of time. It was a stroke of genius. Instead of 25 people on a distant stage taking turns droning on, you got these small (lord, almost town hall encounters) these small groups got to sit within 15 or 20 feet of the candidates & they to them. After each session, the covies of candidates got up and walked over to the next set of voters. For want of a better word, Id call the process: cool. Savy voters simply wandered the large room from group to group as 3 candidates spoke simultaneously and the speakers changed every minute or so somewhere. Youd have liked that, huh?
Not for Tys
There were people waiting to give Tys money to support his candidacy. I dont know how many. Hell, maybe there were hundreds of them, but Id almost doubt it. But, Tys said he had to go to a house party (synonymous in political world as a fundraiser). Then, there were these hundred or so voters whod actually taken the time to come and listen to him talk. He did not hesitate to dump the group who didnt have cash in their hands.
Nope, he somehow got the organizers of the event to allow him to go take a minute with each group to introduce himself to them and announce that though hed like to stay, there were more important people awaiting him elsewhere. Newsom used to do the same thing. This boy aint Newsom. Hes worse because his loyalty is ambivalent. If he pretty much tells 100 voters that money talks and bullshit walks does that bode well for how hed be as a supe? Guess if hes gonna talk to you when he has a big contributor waiting in his office? Call me an old silly, but I thought his move bordered on insanity.
Also unclear on the concept was an absolutely gorgeous young lady named Shabnam Malek who carried a large stack of color-coded file cards. She announced that they were to intimidate the other candidates. She clearly didnt undestand that the bull shit of serious candidates is all self-contained. They dont need cards just the narrowest opening to start spieling.
Still, it was interesting to watch her go from yellow to red to green cards, none of which held anything of seeming relevance to the office for which she was running. Im honestly not trying to be cruel here, but it was kind of funny. I mean, she does the tour of the first 2 groups of voters (which takes an hour), then runs out of cards and tells the moderator that shes a second year law student and has to go home and study for a test. Cmon, political hacks thats funny! I mean, if shed just managed to keep her can in her seat for another 30 minutes, shed have completed the gruesome task of talking to 100 voters.
Joe Blue didnt even show up
Blue was reported to have told observers: Those people are all from the Haight. They can have that. Im going for the Western Addition I like Joe (he went to Beaumont in St. Louis & Im from there) I like Joe but, lets be real here. Joe is a real estate salesman. A broker of some kind. He needs publicity to keep sales up and running for office is cheap publicity. Good luck with your sales, Joe.
Top dogs from the get-go & a dark horse
A disadvantage of being a candidate in this kind of arrangement is that I didnt get to hear all the candidates speak. Thus, I relied upon rumors from other reporters and friends in the crowd for a mesured synopsis of the 15 or more candidates I didnt hear last night. Ill go over a few on the list, starting with the group with which I faced the upper Haight neighborhood crowd.
Phoenix Streets needs more time
The man is a fine attorney but he doesnt know anything about City politics. There was one, particularly embarassing moment when he began to call for the enactment of some kind of law that would keep rents down. Other progressives looked at the ceiling and rolled their eyes but refused to slam the lob at the net. Finally, Robert Haaland couldnt resist and drove the sucker home with the point that we already have such a law and its called rent control. Again, liked the guy but his answers all evening were equally vacuous & that wont cut it in 5.
Robert Haaland is ready
I wont dwell on this one. Robert is brilliant, hard-working and, until Ross Mirkarimi entered the race Wednesday, was the odds-on leader. He did not besmirch his reputation a bit in the opening forum. His powerful calls to tax Downtowns giant corporations were well received by the crowd.
Mirkarimi is the best
This is the guy that took the collosus of PG&E to the matt twice, once losing and once being cheated of victory despite being outspent up to 20-1 on issues. In 20 years as a free-range consultant and bread & butter staffer to Terance Hallinan (and now, Kamala Harris, who knows quality when she sees it), the man is respected in all corners of the Citys political community. Thats why hes my first choice for the job. Like Gonzalez before him, Ross Mirkarimi is a genuine consensus builder. This is a guy who can get along with Tony Hall and Joe ODonoghue and Gavin Newsom and, maybe even Tys Sniffen.
If this guy is a lifelong progressive democrat as he claims, then, Im Princess Di. Im not even certain hes not a mannequin. It was kind of like watching the coneheads explain that they are from France. The look cannot be fixed by even the Queer Eye cast. Maybe it aint a wig. Hey, Im not going on. Suffice to say that he aint one of us.
Barnes vaults to third
Think IRV voting here folks. Thats what I continued to tell all who would listen. Like getting to vote 3 times. Or betting a trifecta at the track for $2. Ya cant beat these deals, people. My May 14th trifecta is for Mirkarimi, Haaland and Bill Barnes. This can change. I moved Barnes ahead of Feldstein on the basis of lots of work Bill has done out of Chris Dalys office (hes Chief of Staff there, I think) lot of work Bill has done lately. I want to support candidates who can not only win, but already have a deep array of City-wide contacts. Barnes fits the bill. Haaland fits the bill. And, more than anyone in the race, Mirkarimi fits the bill. A few others.
Lisa Feldstein, Julian Davis & Diamond Dave
Lisa Feldstein was the best member of the Planning Commission. I was sorry to see her go. I cannot think of a single negative thing to say about her. At this point, shes 4th in my ratings only because my top 3 candidates are so outstanding.
Julian Davis wins the best impression by a newcomer award. My friends and other reporters who heard all of the speakers said the man is a contender & to watch him closely. Ill be doing that.
Diamond Dave Whitaker is, well hes Diamond Dave Whitaker. Elect him and youll get no argument from me. Joplin would have played free for Diamond Dave. Ill bet Dylan would still. His show on KPOO and at the Brainwash remain San Francisco institutions.
Terry Baum (Green Party congressional candidate) was there. Bruce Wolf cruised the gathering drinking in the scene. Seth Walker biked down. Savannah Blackwell covered for SFProgressives.com. Barbara Early, SFs best cabaret singer ( HYPERLINK "mailto:KittyUltrasound@aol.com" KittyUltrasound@aol.com) cruised in. I invited a handful over to our digs in Joplins old apartment after the event & we drank two-buck Chuck for a couple of hours. It was a good start to the campaign season in #5. Congrats to Hank for the show.
No corrections, please: