Watching City Hall #297, (6-21-04)
Grading the Supe Class of 2000 -
“Don’t know much about history … don’t know much geography.
But, I know that I love you and … If you love me too.
What a wonderful world it would be.”
(Lines from Motown)
I like to lead these things with a quote that instructs or amuses. (The latter being preferred.) … I sat and drank a couple of morning glasses of ‘two buck Chuck’ merlot and considered a title for a piece grading the San Francisco Board of Supervisors class of 2000 … and … I couldn’t think of anything in my limited knowledge of poetry or music that fits them.
Think back upon the election of 2000. It was amazing stuff. Willie Brown had consolidated control of practically the entire City. … He’d convinced voters to pass legislation making him an imperial mayor and he promptly sold out every pulse of civic juice to developers seeking to completely ‘gentrify’ San Francisco. To insure his total control of the Board of Supervisors, ‘His Williness’ pulled in some state and national chits and appointed several members of the Board to higher paying positions (the Board paid $37,000 a year then) … he was able to appoint Gavin Newsom, Mark Leno, Amos Brown, Alicia Becerril, Leslie Katz & Michael Yaki to the board in this manner. The Mayor then went on a talk show back east and bragged that he could always get a majority vote of the Board anytime he wanted: “They’re like my mistresses. You just have to ‘service’ them now and then.” … (he said that, I swear to God he did) … Willie ruled.
What did Clinton say on ’60 Minutes’ this weekend? … “It depends upon how you define ‘blow job’.” (I throw Bill in here because he is a local player - oh yeah! First, he took a board position on one of Democratic powerhouse, billionaire, Ron Burkell’s many ‘organization tables’ - this one gave Bill a piece of Treasure Island did you know that?) … Yeah, so Bill took his compensation up front, then (on the hook) came in to help defeat Matt Gonzalez in last year’s race for mayor, thus further strengthening the rich. Yep, you won’t find me visiting old Bill’s Presidential library. First, he sold out to the forces of gentrification, then he accepted compensation for being on the board of directors of a project that totally gentrifies Treasure Island. With my grading system, I define ‘poor’ in relation to how government effects me and mine. Gentrification effects me and mine big time.
That would be writers and poets and dancers and poor people. … Family too. (I have family here now with deeper roots than mine since my granddaughter became the first native San Franciscan in my family on Lincoln’s birthday last year) … where the hell was I?
Grading the Board Class of 2000
First, I had to set the stage for you. I mean, some of you might not remember the scene in 2000. … Ammiano’s defeat had invigorated the Left. Everyone who’d had a friend forced out of town had joined the Ammiano write-in insurgency and the taste of power proved addictive. Willie Brown had been forced to use nuclear weapons to defeat a raggedy army of spear-carrying tenants and activists.
Willie fucks up
His own re-election complete, Willie let his guard down. … He forgot the big picture. He ran away with Kamala Harris to … relax. Ammiano and his generals went out to the neighborhoods to promote candidates to run against Willie’s 9-2 consistent Board majority (only Ammiano & Leland Yee you believe that shit? ever opposed Willie) … The City-wide response to the first District Supervisor elections in some 20 years was astounding. 18 candidates ponied up $500 each in District #6 alone to run against Willie’s rubber-stamp there (Leslie Katz who decided not to run). The energy was high. The candidates were formidable. Even a cantankerous cynic such as myself (I ran in #6 - & supported Marc Salomon) … I thought we might take majority vote control of the Board. All we had to do was hold Ammiano and Yee’s seats and we had a good chance in Harvey Milk’s old #5 district with the young Public Defender who’d shown 11% City support in a run for D.A. the previous year (Matt Gonzalez) … we expected to win in District 6 which included my Tenderloin work site and Amos Brown was too old and unfriendly to beat Gerardo Sandoval in 11 and John Burton’s friend, Alicia in #3 was dumb as a box of rocks compared to Aaron Peskin. …
Never in my wildest dreams did I think what came to be called the ‘Progressive’ ticket would beat the shit out of every single Warren Hellman candidate, save Gavin Newsom in #2 and Mark Leno in District 8.
Teacher/negotiator Jake McGoldrick beat Michael Yaki in District #1. Had Willie Brown spent a few bucks of the million he gave his mistress for services rendered during that year, the course of the last 4 years would have been altered significantly. (for instance, Jake cast the deciding vote to make Matt Gonzalez, President of the Board following the ’02 election)
Peskin not only smoked Alicia in District #3, she didn’t even make the runoff and finished back in the pack.
We won in 4 with Yee as we anticipated, and in 5 with Gonzalez.
Chris Daly beat the holy shit out of Willie’s boy (Chris Dettenhoffer) in the 6th District. … Hey, the size of Daly’s win (he got, like 83% of the vote in the runoff) … his big win in 2000, plus his win against Willie’s man, Roger Gordan in ’02 (sans runoff) are probably together, the best news for Progressives going into the ’04 election.
Willie’s tight purse strings with his supervisoral ‘mistresses’ got Mabel Teng into a runoff with native-son, Tony Hall in District 7 and da Mayor lost again.
Incredibly, Willie Brown and the Democratic machine candidates lost in 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 & 11. Only Newsom in the ultra-rich District #2 and Leno in #8 (who won by two leather jocks and a great smile) … only Newsom and Leno of the Downtown candidates, survived. … What we got here?
Sounds like a revolution
A 9-2 majority!? … That’s veto-proof, plus one. Hell, it’s just a matter of putting the legislation together to transfer at least some of the powers of the mayor back to the Board of Supervisors. Led by the unlikely duo of Matt Gonzalez and Tony Hall of the Ammiano-appointed Board Rules Committee, the new Board spent the next couple of years doing just that. … But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take the boys and girls one at a time and grade out their individual performances over the past 4 years.
Let’s hand out some A’s
I gave 5 A’s for work over the last 4 years. They went to Newsom, Gonzalez, Hall, Daly and Peskin. Here’s my reasoning.
Gavin Newsom … A+
Sometimes, you can leap to the head of the class with one bold move and that is exactly what Newsom did. … Ever the consistent supporter of gentrification and the Downtown business interests that created and continue to control him, Newsom suddenly leaped onto the international scene with his decision to sanction marriages between gay partners in San Francisco. … Forget everything that went beforehand. The repercussions of the Newsom decision continue to reverberate around the planet. The publicity surrounding the ceremonies created acceptance of gay friends and neighbors worldwide that did not exist before. This single decision lightened the burden of a hundred million oppressed people. None of the other members of the Class of 2000 has come close to achieving such an impact.
Hedge? … Newsom will never be a friend of the poor. But, he will never lose a City-wide election in San Francisco again either. Fact is, gentrification is victorious. There are simply fewer poor people and they barely vote. Their supporters (such as myself) mostly live on the brink of eviction and exclusion. Newsom’s ‘Care, not cash’ sham is nothing but another vehicle to force the poor from town. By the time the next mayoral election rolls around, progressives will be lucky to pull 40% of the vote.
Matt Gonzalez … A+
Ah, Matt … we barely knew you. … … Just name any progressive reform of the past 4 years and you’ll find it started in Gonzo’s office. … IRV … Tidal power … Land trusts … reforms of the departments of Planning and Elections and the Police Commission. And on, … and on.
We could give him a gold watch to remember us, but he wouldn’t take it. Instead, let’s just accept his gift which no one can ever steal from us. … The gift of good memories. … Diverse warriors, together in noble causes. … Like making Jeff Adachi the Public Defender. … His unflagging support of Sarah Lipson and Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar on the school board. Face it, you see the names or these issues in the paper and you think of Gonzalez.
Chris Daly … A
Lord, I love this boy’s style. … From bratty to brilliant. … Brash and bold. Chris Daly is the future of progressive politics in this country. … Recall that the boy was 28 years old when elected! (I recall Newsom being totally sullen when Barbara Kaufman taunted him that he wouldn’t be the youngest member of the Board anymore - what a meeting,) … This town does have a spiritual heir to the Kennedy legacy, but it sure as hell ain’t Gavin Newsom. (too booorrring) … Naw, it’s Daly. … You gotta love it when your leader gets dragged away in handcuffs because he stood up for you. … You gotta love it when he curses lazy and uninformed colleagues. … A wise man once said that you are measured not by the quality and strength of your friends, but of your enemies. Well, … Daly has some real assholes for enemies and I congratulate him for same. His performance leading and serving upon a variety of the Board’s most challenging committees (Budget & Finance come to mind) … his performance changed my own perceptions of him from frat brat to genuine mover and shaker.
Aaron Peskin … A
Quickest mind on the Board. Humor ranges from droll to destructive.
Right now. At this moment. As you read this. … Only three people know more about what is happening in the 5 billion dollar City budget and the 15 or so billion in revenue from money pots running from bond funds to ‘enterprise’ agencies like the Port and Airport. … The 3 who know more are Board Budget Analyst, Harvey Rose, Controller, Ed Harrington and Gavin’s budget guru, Ben Rosenfield. … That says a lot, because these 3 do nothing but look at the numbers and have serious staff help that Peskin can only dream about. … Peskin is a real keeper. Though he likes to be seen with the big ‘playahs’, he is in reality, a shoulder-to-the-wheel Geek grunt. Look for him to be the new Board President in January and to succeed Newsom as Mayor in 2012.
Tony Hall … A
He ‘don’t need a weatherman, to know which way the wind blows’. Tony is the Board’s most practical politician. Grounded by a large family, he keeps his eye on practical solutions and crushes the ‘fluff’ under his powerful heel. He represents a conservative district that would have been mostly ignored had Tony not been their supervisor. He quickly saw that Matt Gonzalez was the colleague who most shared his basic values and bonded with him to produce serious reforms through legislation and initiatives crafted to lend a greater voice to the common people; corny as that sounds. Supervisor Hall co-authored pretty much every piece of legislation forcing the executive branch to share power with the districts over the past 4 years. … Not bad for a closet Republican. … On the downside, Tony fronted for the renovation and virtual privatization of Harding Golf Course that has hundreds of little old ladies paying $70 for a round that cost them $11 two years ago (when they complained, new course powers told em they could pick up papers on the course to lower their fee to $50).
There were 3 ‘B’s
Gerardo Sandoval … B
Gerardo started off lazy, then backed off and took it easy. He never really worked hard enough to define an agenda of his own. His only personal piece of legislation that I can recall in 4 years was the consular ID thing which was a really great idea. Still, he voted with the progressives a good 90% of the time which makes him a hero of the republic in my eyes and good for another term from out there, … wherever it is that he represents.
Jake McGoldrick … B-
Should be assigned to interrogate Sadaam Hussein. He’d have him pulling out his hair and screaming and confessing to about anything they wanted within a few short hours. With no use of ‘classical’ force. … Can’t you hear Sadaam: “I’ll tell you where the WMD’s are hidden, just please, Allah, no more stories about Philadelphia!!”
Sophie Maxwell … B-
No Board member dodged more torpedoes to reach their present point than Sophie. First, Willie tried to beat her and failed. Now, a group of very credible activists are trying to recall her. … They too will fail. … Like Chris Daly, Sophie is toughest with her back against the wall. She’s spent the first years of her incumbency learning and burning. She lost her mom and her son. She’s formed and reformed numerous political alliances. Of all the Board’s members, I think that Sophie Maxwell takes the job the most personally. That, as Martha always says … “is a good thing.” Elected in 2000 and re-elected in 2002, Sophie will probably serve until 2010 when she will make her first run for mayor.
A well-dressed ‘C’
Mark Leno … C
I like Mark Leno. … Hell, I think everyone does. … But, lets be honest about who the man is. He is, in fact, the good-looking, smooth talking gay Judas-goat for Downtown San Francisco business interests. Shit, last week they trotted him out to appear with some national Democrats because his support of Gay marriage was so confusing that he seemed to be opposed and, whatever, he sure looked and sounded great in both rolls. … Hey, that’s just Mark being Mark. … Mark is the father of ‘Off-site’ positioning of the lower income portions of the ‘inclusionary’ housing element of huge new apartment projects. Mark is a pretty face who is about money and can safely be presented by the national democratic ticket as an affable token Queer who understands things like ‘patience’ and ‘the big picture’.
We had 2 failures
Tom Ammiano … F
Definitely, the biggest failure of the class of 2000. Tom began with a crown on his head and ends the 4 year term like Joe Louis signing autographs at a gambling joint in Vegas. … Pitiful. Supported Willie’s choice (Maxwell) to succeed him (Tom) as Board President. Got steam-rolled by everyone from Shorenstein & Downtown on the gross receipts tax suit, to the antenna industry. Tom has become a hack politician with a brilliant past.
Leland Yee … F-
There’s nothing the matter with cruising Capp Street in the middle of the night. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re looking for skudsey whores even though you live miles away in a quiet neighborhood. … No, in Yee’s case, it probably means something far worse.
Not to put the guy down, you understand. … Shit, I lived on Capp street for a couple of months early this year and Leland Yee never propositioned me once. … I mean, that says a lot because, after 3am, I can look quite appealing.
We hunt down whiners!
If you have any complaints about anything I’ve written here and you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your mouth shut. … Oh yeah, we dust even our e-mail for fingerprints.
Too much time: