Regime change: overthrowing Daly - 10 29 02
Next Tuesday's elections could bring "regime change" on the 11-member Board of Supervisors and shift the balance of power and priorities at City Hall.
At stake is whether Mayor Willie Brown - and his successor, in 13 months - will have the power necessary to veto board legislation. To sustain a veto, the mayor needs the support of four or more supervisors. To overturn a mayor's veto, on the other hand, the board needs eight or more supervisors.
Then there are the priorities of the board in a declining economy.
The supervisors could pursue more progressive stances, such as those on the ballot to increase bond debt for major capital projects, rein in mayoral power, provide greater tenant protections, and increase taxes to alleviate a looming $150 million budget shortfall next year.
Or, a newly elected moderate-to-liberal board could create homeowner opportunities (such as Proposition R), streamline a budget without tax increases, take action to jump-start economic development (such as allowing Home Depot to locate along Bayshore Boulevard or lifting interim city-planning and development controls in the Mission District), advance stalled legislation on homelessness, and be more sparing with bond debt.
Which way the board goes will depend on the outcome of the five supervisorial races in next Tuesday's election.
In one race, in District 6 (SOMA/Tenderloin/Civic Center), progressive Supervisor Chris Daly has become the poster child for regime change. He has eight challengers, some of whom identify with the neighborhood frustration that has taken shape in the "Anybody But Chris Daly" slate.
Two years ago, Daly was elected as an advocate for the poor, homeless, and displaced suffering under mayor-sanctioned development in an overheated economy.
With more than 80 percent of the vote, Daly easily defeated Chris Dittenhaefer in December 2000 and was one of seven new supervisors overturning the support Mayor Brown had enjoyed on the board.
THE DALY RECORD: At the League of Women Voters District 6 candidate debate held at the Main Library Thursday, Daly spun off a list of his efforts to increase affordable housing, implement stronger tenant protections, break ground for a school, and infuse $6 million into nonprofits in the district.
In the next four years, he pledged, he would be the board's "social conscience" and would seek long-term solutions to homelessness, particularly for homeless seniors.
However, Daly expressed disappointment with the tone of the campaign.
"I was looking forward to intelligent, thoughtful dialogue," he said, expecting candidates to abide by a signed "code of fair campaign practices" to avoid personal attacks and slander.
Daly may preach high-mindedness in the campaign arena, but the tactics he uses smack of old-fashioned political hardball.
For example, Daly maneuvers have resulted in the dilution of minority representation, squelched legislation to address homelessness, and even locked up funding for a nonprofit for one of his challengers.
GERRYMANDERING MINORITY DISTRICTS: The November 2001 passage of Daly's Proposition G changed the composition of a commission charged with redrawing supervisorial districts based on updated census data. In an effort to strip mayoral power, Daly crafted a commission that ended up being dominated by the supervisors.
As a result, one Bayview-Hunters Point activist may submit a letter of complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice. That letter could contend that Proposition G, through the arcane art of supervisorial-district redrawing, might hurt Latino, Asian, and African American community representation for the next 10 years in Districts 9 (Mission), 10 (Bayview-Hunters Point), and 11 (Excelsior). At the expense of minority communities, the redistricting commission, on April 14, may have crafted a map that moved pro-Daly voters in the northern Mission into Daly's District 6. Adding those voters could help Daly in his bid for reelection.
STALLING HOMELESS LEGISLATION: Daly, chairman of the board's Health and Human Services Committee, shifted Supervisor Gavin Newsom 's 32-item homelessness package into political oblivion, sending it from committee to a local coordinating board on May 16. That same day, Newsom was absent because his mother had passed away. Seeing that there was no chance of board consideration, Newsom took the initiative route this summer and gathered voter signatures to put his idea directly on the ballot. Proposition N would convert cash benefits into in-kind services for the poor and homeless.
Meanwhile, Daly has urged the mayor to implement the alternative Continuum of Care homeless plan, which the supervisors approved last year.
Also on May 16, Daly stalled Supervisor Tony Hall 's legislation to make public urination and defecation illegal. Daly said, "Just by making an act illegal, we weren't going to stop public urination."
At the October 24 debate, Daly said that while he had pushed for more rest rooms, the budget crunch had made such a request difficult.
PLAYING WITH NONPROFIT BUCKS: In a May 1 move smacking of hardball politics, Daly used his seat on the board's Finance Committee to shackle this year's $41,667 in economic-development funding for Urban Solutions, a South of Market nonprofit organization. Daly said the organization needed some "hand-holding." But the maneuver - the only one affecting grants totaling $33.7 million - surprised the agency and executive director Roger Gordon, coincidentally one of Daly's chief rivals running for supervisor.
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to Samson Wong at the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. My twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com.
Bill Lee: The last emperor - 10 26 02
In director Bernardo Bertolucci's sumptuous Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor, China's Emperor Pu Yi becomes a political symbol for that nation's changing political eras stretching from the anarchy of warlords to republican Nationalist rule to imperial Japanese occupation to communist rule under Chairman Mao.
City Administrator Bill Lee is this city's "Last Emperor" - a political symbol who has endured from Mayor Frank Jordan 's administration through the years of Mayor Willie Brown, becoming Brown's surprise nominee to the Planning Commission last Monday.
Lee represents the latest selection named by the mayor to fill his fourth and final slot on the powerful Planning Commission. Since July, the mayor has either withdrawn or refused to swear in his appointments, three of whom have been rejected by the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisorial approval of the Lee nomination would end a stalemate between the board and the mayor over Brown's four Planning Commission appointments - a scenario that has left zoning and permit issues in limbo at the Planning Department since July.
Under Proposition D, passed in March, the mayor appoints four of the Planning Commission's seven members. The board president, currently Tom Ammiano, appoints three. All seven appointments are subject to board approval.
Lee is not a newcomer to appointment politics.
Back in 1995, Mayor Jordan pulled Lee out of a hat, at the advice of his campaign consultant, Clint Reilly, for appointment to what was then one of the city's most powerful civil-service jobs - the chief administrative officer - to oversee 11 city departments, including Public Works and Purchasing.
Lee was not Jordan's first choice. His nomination came after the supervisors rejected retired judge John Ertola for CAO.
During his 1995-96 CAO tenure, Lee was arguably one of the city's highest-ranking Chinese American officials. With the Chinese American vote so instrumental to Jordan's narrow 52-48 percent victory over incumbent Art Agnos in 1991, supporters hoped that Lee's appointment would help Jordan among those same voters in his 1995 reelection campaign.
But in 1995, voters elected a new mayor and approved a new, mayor-centric City Charter.
With the implementation of the new charter in 1996, Lee's term was shortened to five years and was scaled down to the newly coined position of city administrator. Lee's term was set to expire in 2000.
Consequently, Lee relinquished many of his powers to the new mayor, Willie Brown.
As with any Jordan appointee, Lee wasn't expected to survive in the new Brown administration.
But he did. For one thing, he received support from major figures in the Chinese American community, including San Francisco Neighbors Association founder Julie Lee, who hosted a dinner rallying behind him in the summer of 1996.
In 1999, Bill Lee was a visible presence in Mayor Brown's reelection campaign. Brown pledged, at various Chinese-community campaign stops, that he would reappoint Lee as city administrator - even though the position was a shadow of the former CAO post. After Brown won reelection over board president Tom Ammiano - and did so with four-to-one margins among Asian American voters - Brown reappointed Lee in 2000.
IS ONE DEGREE BETTER THAN ANOTHER? At an October 17 debate hosted by New California Media, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, the Neighborhood Parks Council, and the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Assessor-Recorder Doris Ward was asked about why she cut appraisers while hiring higher-salaried managers.
Ward replied that the questioner didn't "have all the facts."
The mayor, according to Ward, ordered that all departments cut staff by 5 percent.
However, Ward claims that she did not add additional staff.
Instead, Ward said, she hired Ron Chun to fill an existing auditor position.
"[Chun] is an auditor of the highest ranking," Ward said. "He is an attorney; he is a CPA. We don't have another [certified public accountant] in the office."
Chun has licenses to practice law in California and accounting in Illinois.
In the March election for assessor-recorder, Chun finished in third place, behind Mabel Teng and Ward.
"If we do we have a CPA, that CPA got their degree in the Philippines," Ward said, referring to another staff member.
The Teng campaign said the latter statement was "racist" for "insulting" employees educated in the Philippines.
On paper, a California CPA certificate and a Filipino CPA certificate should be equal.
A 1979 court settlement allows Filipino Americans certified as public accountants in the Philippines to practice in the state of California after they have taken coursework and passed an oral exam.
Fred Perez, an assessor-recorder employee sitting in the second row of the debate, was a plaintiff in that case.
Perez, who ran for assessor-recorder in 1998 against Ward, supports Mabel Teng for assessor-recorder over his current boss. He was educated in the Philippines, but received his CPA from the state of California.
PRIME MINISTER WILLIE: Just before the mayor's State of the City address last Monday, the ever-irreverent Supervisor Chris Daly asked that the city attorney look into how the board could set up its own version of the British House of Commons' tradition of "Prime Minister's Question Time."
Apparently, the not-so-conservative Daly was inspired by a broadcast of Conservative Party backbenchers quizzing Labor prime minister Tony Blair during a session of Parliament.
Daly wants to set aside time during the mayor's annual State of the City and budget addresses for supervisors to query the mayor about his various policies and proposals.
Daly said that if the policy was instituted, he would start off with a "softball question," such as asking prime minister Brown about speaking at the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods.
After that, Daly, a former high-school baseball catcher, would ask a hardball question: "What is the policy direction on the homeless?"
But would the supervisors act civilly like the well-mannered Brits by asking, "Would the right honorable mayor.?"
Or, would the scenario be irreverent like Monty Python ? Here, here.
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail me at email@example.com, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to Samson Wong at the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. My twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com.
Cahill with the mafia and Khruschev - 10 22 02
Former C hief of Police Thomas Cahill died October 12 at the age of 92. Last year, Independent columnist Samson Wong sat down with Cahill for an exclusive and intimate interview about his life and his work as the head of the San Francisco Police Department. Here is a small part of that story that did not appear in our St. Patrick's Day special on March 12.
Ninety-two-year-old Thomas J. Cahill passed away October 12, taking with him the distinction of being San Francisco's longest-serving chief of police.
The Hall of Justice, on Bryant Street, bears the name of the 175-pound, 5-foot-11-inch former iceman who for 11 years lugged 300-pound blocks up San Francisco streets and stairs and who guided the Police Department with a steady hand from 1958 to 1970.
Only 14 months before his death, I interviewed Cahill at his Richmond District home of 60 years. He still had the iceman's iron grip after recovering from a nasty spill that had given him four cracked ribs and a head injury.
FIGHTING ORGANIZED CRIME: Cahill and his police partner, Frank Ahern, made their reputations nationally against organized crime by investigating the 1947 Nick Dejohn gangland murder in San Francisco. Eventually, Mayor George Christopher would leapfrog the higher-ranking officers to promote them to police chief, in 1956 and 1958 - Ahern first, then Cahill after Ahern died at a baseball game at the old Seals Stadium.
Although the Dejohn case went unsolved, knowledge gleaned from the case brought Cahill and Ahern to the attention of Senator Estes Kefauver (D-Tennessee), who was conducting national investigations of mobsters in major cities.
From 1950 to 1952, Cahill and Ahern worked for Kefauver's committee, probing organized crime in major cities and evaluating information the commission gathered.
"'These two men have more information on the mafia than any police department in the nation,'" said Cahill, citing the praise of Senator Kefauver in San Francisco.
"In some [police] departments, they didn't bother the mafia," he said. "We went to cities where the mafia had ruled the roost for many years."
Their reputations spread not only among law enforcement and corridors of Washington, D.C., but even among the mafia.
"I was in an office in New York, and three big guys walked into my office," Cahill said with his Irish brogue. "They were like telephone poles."
One of the trio, subpoenaed to testify before Kefauver's committee, spotted Cahill, came over uninvited, and blurted, "You're Cahill from Frisco. And you got a partner by the name of Ahern, don't you."
The subpoena never mentioned Ahern's or Cahill's name.
"They knew who you were, they knew where you were," Cahill remembered.
Cahill, instinctively, knew that the subpoenaed man wouldn't testify that day, but he extracted a pledge from him to return the next morning, on 20 minutes' notice, if Cahill called.
With that agreement, Cahill and the man walked to the elevator.
"I saw one of the guys beside him . put his hand in his pocket, and, Christ, he took out a roll of bills," he recalled.
An astonished Cahill threw his hands up.
"Hey, hey, hey, hey. Hold it. Do you want all of us to go to jail? Put whatever the hell you have in your hand back in your pocket," Cahill told the man.
"I didn't expect you to [let me return tomorrow] for nothing," the man said.
Cahill said no - not even a drink.
"All I'm asking you is to be here tomorrow morning, when I call you," Cahill said.
"You have my word," the man replied.
ICEMAN AND THE COLD WARRIOR : By the time Cahill was police chief, San Francisco's tactical squad had made its international debut during a short-lived thaw in the Cold War as an escort for Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in September 1959, during Khrushchev's first visit to the United States.
Six disciplined men, all about six-foot-three and much taller than Khrushchev, escorted the premier. "We wanted big men," Cahill said.
"Their orders were: Wherever Khrushchev was, they were to be," Cahill said.
"If somebody tried to break the ranks to get to Khrushchev, they were not to break ranks. They were to take the person and toss them over their shoulder and . other regular policemen would take care of them."
Unrecognized in civilian clothes, Cahill got a taste of his own police methods as he rushed to catch up with the premier.
"The head of the tac squad got me under my arms," Cahill said, adding that he was tossed aside, back into the crowd. Cahill tried once again, and two tried to escort him away.
"He carried out his orders to the dickens," Cahill recalled.
The disciplined squad members not only kept the chief out but also kept the premier in their eye without denying him public access.
At times, Khrushchev impulsively changed his itinerary - even though Cahill had set up security for the route.
"Khrushchev was a funny guy. He was in the hotel and he had 10 men [of his own security] who stayed with him all the time," Cahill said.
One evening, after the security men were asleep and thought the premier had gone to bed, Khrushchev got up and got out of a Nob Hill hotel.
"One of my men was assigned to the floor outside where Khrushchev slept," Cahill recalled.
The Soviet leader sneaked out the back stairs, eluding security by the elevators, and walked onto California Street.
"He walked up a short distance, and he stopped and kept looking around him, and he saw our man following him," Cahill said. "He was furious."
Khrushchev couldn't ditch him and ended up returning to the hotel.
Former mayor Frank Jordan, then a sergeant under Cahill, recalled a backhanded compliment given by Khrushchev - the five-foot-two-inch premier surrounded by Cahill's towering vanguard:
"Chief, I love the security. . You have a magnificent city. . But all I can see was up in the air." AM FOR SAM: E-mail Samson Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. Wong's twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com .
Milk doesn't walk the walk - 10 19 02
Walker doesn't walk the walk. Interesting that Debra Walker, the president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club, was wine-sipping at an October 7 soiree held for Governor Gray Davis at the LGBT Center on Market Street. The Milk president, also a member of the Democratic County Central Committee, had to pass through the governor's secret-service detail to attend an event originally billed as a $125-per-head fund-raiser. The event was rebilled as a rally for the governor after some LGBT activists declined to contribute - feeling a little miffed by the governor's recent vetoes.
Walker, like Davis, had to avoid community activists protesting Davis for vetoing bills that would outlaw anti-gay bias in the state's foster-care system and the selling of needles without prescription.
Although the titular head of the Milk club was present, the Milk club itself didn't endorse the governor. Instead, Milk made no recommendation for Davis or for Green Party candidate Peter Camejo of Oakland. Milk has bucked the local Democratic Party by occasionally endorsing Green Party candidates for supervisor and school board.
Milk, chartered with the San Francisco Democratic Party, has technically violated party rules by supporting non-Democrats. Oddly, Walker and Milk vice-president Robert Haaland are elected members of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, which has been lax in enforcing its own rule that its chartered clubs endorse only Democrats in partisan and nonpartisan races.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Milk's political counterpart, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, swore off the Davis event as the Toklas board of directors met downstairs. But a few Toklas members, out of curiosity, poked their heads into a packed house.
Toklas co-chair Theresa Sparks stayed neutral, feeling "between a rock and a hard place," according to one observer. Sparks felt obligated to protest the Davis event, but Toklas ally and Democratic Assembly nominee Mark Leno encouraged her to attend and support the Democrat for governor. Sparks declined to attend, even though Toklas itself endorsed Davis for reelection.
HAYDEN LEE'S VIRUS: Hothead Hayden Lee, former president of the Chinese American Democratic Club, sent me an apology by e-mail. Reason? He may have accidentally sent me the so-called Bugbear computer virus, which was devastating computer files earlier in the month. However, it was too much of a coincidence that Lee sent his October 6 e-mail five days after I wrote about his expertise in certifying minority businesses for city contracts. In my October 1 column, I noted that, while touting such credentials to certify such contracts, Lee supported a supervisorial candidate who advocated implementing state Proposition 209 to ban such affirmative-action contracts.
"REAL" REAL-ESTATE TRANSFER TAX: Supporters of Proposition L contend that the doubling of the transfer tax would amount to "only" $7,500 on apartments, homes, or commercial property worth $1 million, a figure that is fast becoming the norm in the city.
However, how much does the transfer tax really cost? If a buyer borrows to finance the tax on a mortgage at 7 percent interest, the actual interest and principal to be paid back over 30 years would be about $15,000 - which would be passed down to tenants or homeowners.
LONGEST SURNAME ON THE BALLOT: Just to demonstrate how accessible he is, District 8 supervisorial candidate Tom Radulovich said, "I'm still the only Radulovich in the phone book." But he warned the League of Women Voters audience at the Everett Middle School debate with a caveat: "If you could spell it." Fortunately for Tom, he's not a write-in candidate.
ALICE'S LITTLE MAN: Meanwhile, a Radulovich rival, the shorter Bevan Dufty, is the poster boy for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club absentee-ballot-request postcard. Affixed on the Toklas card is a tag line - "A Little Man With a Big Message" - followed by the funky icon that reminds Dufty of his mom.
Dufty, however, can't exclusively claim the "little" label. Mary Gennoy, who's under four feet tall, is running, as a write-in candidate, for supervisor in District 8.
ONCE UPON A TIME: Supervisor Chris Daly could be an anachronism to voters in District 6, as times have changed.
In the last two years, the supervisors, including Daly, have whittled the powers of the mayor as the economy has gone bust, with dot-coms having gone into dot-coma.
Daly won the district convincingly in the 2000 elections, at the height of political sentiment against Mayor Willie Brown and a wild-west dot-com economy that "displaced" residents and businesses.
In 1998, anti-Brown and anti-dot-com sentiment was climbing as Supervisor Tom Ammiano won 57 percent of the vote in what is now District 6. With that support, he became Board of Supervisors president.
Voter sentiment could be returning to pre-1998 form - recalling the days when voters in the district supported, believe or not, a moderate-conservative.
In the citywide 1996 election, Supervisor Barbara Kaufman, a moderate-conservative compared to the progressive Daly, actually won the district with 40 percent of the vote, edging out Supervisor Sue Bierman, whose politics were closer to Daly's than Kaufman's.
Daly could have anticipated that a Kaufman-like candidate could run against him this year.
Hence, the supervisor had a heavy-handed role in the redistricting of District 6 through Proposition G. The measure changed who appointed the redistricting task force, which added pro-Ammiano territory from the heavily Latino northern Mission to District 6, a factor that could buoy Daly's reelection bid this November.
As a result, Daly's Proposition G watered down the potential for District 9's Latino representation, which was further diluted with the addition of Asian Americans from District 10.
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail Samson Wong at email@example.com, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. Wong's twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com .
An accountant for District 4 supervisor - 10 15 02
I have roots in the Sunset, having worked, played, and gone to school just blocks from my dad's old Laundromat at Noriega and 44th Avenue. Across from my dad's business, at Noriega Home School, the principal used to send me annual birthday cards. I went to school at Mark Twain, Giannini, an d St. Ignatius - only blocks away from my favorite haunts at the Polly Ann ice-cream shop and the Ortega Branch Library.
Although I live today on the edge of the Sunset in Golden Gate Heights, I still go to community events, shop, and dine in District 4, where voters will choose a new supervisor November 5.
Six years ago, I was asked by then- Independent publisher and editor Ted Fang to write quick profiles of community leaders who could serve as commissioners under a new mayoral administration.
I described Fiona Ma at the time as an "up-and-coming political star," having worked with her on various business and civic boards.
I stand by that statement by supporting her for supervisor in District 4.
FINANCIAL EXPERIENCE: We are at a juncture as this city faces another $150 million deficit, despite the slashing of this year's budget by $300 million. Even when you take into account the cutbacks, City Hall has nearly doubled its budget, from $2.6 billion to $4.9 billion, in six years.
To finance more of this profligate spending, District 4 homeowners and tenants could receive a major sticker shock on this ballot: more than $3 billion in revenue and general-obligation bonds could result in residents facing a doubling of the transfer tax. Residents also face the loss to the supervisors of their right to vote on revenue bonds.
Yet this current board has no one with the financial background to match wits with budget analyst Harvey Rose or controller Ed Harrington to rein in the city's byzantine budget.
But out of all the candidates, Fiona Ma is the only certified public accountant with a master's degree in taxation and the only MBA with experience in working for downtown and small accounting firms.
Ma also has equivalent accounting experience in the public sector.
Also apropos for a city that's obsessed with political campaign reform, she has served as a campaign treasurer - keeping candidates on the good side of the Ethics Commission.
As a member of the San Francisco Tax Assessment Appeals Board, she helped homeowners roll back high property-tax bills.
In the past four years, she's helped thousands of seniors obtain up to $400 in state homeowner and renter tax rebates.
Earlier this year, she worked a state bureaucracy to help a retired restaurateur secure a $20,000 refund from the Board of Equalization just weeks before he died of pancreatic cancer.
EFFECTIVENESS: Ma would also bring to the board political skills that District 4's outgoing supervisor, Leland Yee, has lacked. Those same skills obtained $35,000 for the Sunset Community Festival and $15,000 for a playground at Lawton Alternative Elementary School.
For five years, Yee has allied himself with opposite ends of the political spectrum - Board of Supervisors president Tom Ammiano and Mayor Willie Brown - and ended up on the short end of many losing votes.
There is a need for a supervisor with the skill to put together the votes necessary to pass legislation on behalf of Sunset residents, especially with the board heavy with supervisors unfriendly to the district's political moderation and conservatism.
Of all the District 4 candidates, Ma is the one with those instincts, as she has demonstrated in organizing and winning political endorsements.
For example, she received the endorsement of the fractious San Francisco Democratic Party by passing muster with its liberal, centrist, and conservative elements alike. She's also managed to get three women's groups - the Democratic Women's Forum, the National Women's Political Caucus, and the San Francisco Women's Political Committee - to back her, despite some rifts among those groups.
INDEPENDENCE: Those endorsements from divergent parts of the political spectrum have accentuated another virtue - independence.
Her endorsement by the San Francisco Democratic Party symbolizes that. Today's party is less connected than those of previous years with the political establishment of Mayor Willie Brown or state senator John Burton.
Despite the fact she has worked as an aide for the liberal Burton, of the mythical "Burton machine," she hardly walks in lockstep with her boss (she's on leave to run for office). Consider, for example, that she opposes him by supporting Proposition R (HOPE). And look at her other endorsements apart from the "Burton machine": Supervisor Aaron Peskin, former Board of Supervisors president Barbara Kaufman, former supervisor Tom Hsieh, and Democratic County Central Committee member Frank Jordan, Jr.
Further insulating herself from special interests, Ma is using public financing for her campaign.
Another critic, the lefty San Francisco Bay Guardian , wrote that Ma "came across as an appealing candidate - a little too moderate on some issues for our taste, but bright and experienced." The paper refused to support her because she wouldn't cave in to its litmus test of support for public power.
Meanwhile, Independent publisher and BART director James Fang (the only elected Republican officeholder in San Francisco) has personally endorsed Ma for supervisor.
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail Samson Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. Wong's twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com.
Newsom: Time to wake up the radical centrist - 10 12 02
It wasn't until 1992 that then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton pulled the Democratic Party back to the political center and won the presidency after the party lost the White House to Republicans five times in 24 years.
Like Clinton, Supervisor Gavin Newsom, riding the Care Not Cash tidal wave, could, on the San Francisco front, challenge old assumptions of liberal political correctness.
Comparing San Francisco to a "shining city on a hill," Newsom stilled what otherwise was a jovial crowd packed with punsters and roasters at the annual luncheon of the "triple I" - the old-time Irish-Israeli-Italian Society of San Francisco - last Wednesday.
"I will argue this," Newsom said. "As a lifelong Democrat, it means in this city that it's time to work toward liberal ends and at times we must consider conservative means. That's what the Care Not Cash is all about."
"The city isn't what it once was," Newsom had said early on.
"It's time for a new sense of pride in the City and County of San Francisco . pride with a sense of obligation, while simultaneously endorsing a higher ethical standard."
"We need to set a new moral tone, but not just in rhetoric, in San Francisco. It's time to set a moral tone in our action. We clearly must . wake up the radical centrists . represented by so many of you here today, that forgotten middle class that seems not to have been represented in the last decade."
He denounced the rhetoric against Supervisor Tony Hall 's Proposition R as "elitist." The measure, called HOPE, would convert tenant units to homeowner units.
The city that once had the pride and intellectual capacity to be a "shining city on a hill" should have a government dedicated to public service, not political power or personal gain, Newsom said.
"There is nothing wrong with San Francisco that can't be fixed with what's right with San Francisco," he said, paraphrasing Clinton.
RISING ABOVE RACE: District 4 (Sunset) supervisorial candidate Ron Dudum was honored at the annual "triple I" luncheon. Running in a district with a sea of mostly Asian or white voters, Dudum didn't fit in any of the three categories - Italian, Israeli, or Irish. His family, who are of Palestinian origin, come from the Middle East.
"When my parents moved to a different part of town, their good neighbors asked them where they came from," Dudum said. "And my father proudly said, 'The Sunset.'"
A lot of newcomers have "no clue" who lives in the Sunset, Dudum said. Sunset residents, he added, are longtime San Franciscans, who "come from all over the world, including North Beach, Chinatown, the Mission, and Hunters Point."
IS THE FAR LEFT ANTI-ASIAN? Opponents to district elections may have found their first ally: the Asian American community, which accounts for one-third of the city's population and 40 to 50 percent of students in the public-school and community-college districts.
The latest Chinese American Democratic Club newsletter ripped into the city's progressive machine: "Some people in the Club - after the Club helped to elect a progressive board of supervisors - are disappointed in the progressive community and its lack of reciprocation for our political goals."
The CADC reflected glaring omissions of Asian American candidates by San Francisco's progressive political machine.
The Bay Guardian , the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club, and the Green Party have endorsed few, and in some cases none, of the qualified Asian Americans for supervisor (moderate Fiona Ma ), school board (incumbent Eddie Chin ), assessor-recorder ( Mabel Teng ), and college board (incumbent Lawrence Wong ). Except for supporting Wong, the San Francisco Labor Council did not support any Asian candidates.
At the same time, the Guardian lukewarmly endorsed Teng for assessor-recorder and Leland Yee for 12th Assembly District.
Meanwhile, as progressive campaigns and candidates gladly accept the progressive union-busting Guardian 's endorsements, they support Proposition K, which would politicize free public notices or sunshine through Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian community newspapers and hurt a moderate political voice - the Asian American- and woman-owned Independent .
What rhymes with progressive "democracy"? - progressive hypocrisy.
BAR AND GRILLED: She has a bar and grill. She also got grilled about practicing at the bar.
The proprietor - Kathleen Harrington of Harrington's Bar & Grill in the Financial District - barely mustered a 6-5 vote from the Board of Supervisors as it confirmed her as the mayor's appointment to the Board of Appeals Monday.
While being grilled about her appointment by the board's Rules and Audit Committee on October 3, Harrington testified that she had kept her legal license to date, a status entitling her to practice bar at the bar.
The former Golden Gate Restaurant Association president once practiced in the public sector at the California Public Utilities Commission with former public defender Jeff Brown.
"I like to give legal advice at the bar," she told the committee, but "I usually advise people to go get a good lawyer."
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail me at email@example.com, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to Samson Wong at the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102. My twice-weekly columns also appear at www.sfusualsuspects.com.
Take it or leave it: gridlock at Planning - 10 08 02
Mayor Willie Brown vowed Monday not to swear in his three Board of Supervisors-confirmed nominees to the Planning Commission after the board voted, 7 to 4, to reject his fourth nominee, Jeffrey Chen. Meanwhile, the supervisors ratified Brown's three nominees to the influential five-member Board of Appeals.
The rejection, issued without debate, will likely continue a two-month crisis in which development and land-use management have ground to an unexpected halt at the seven-member Planning Commission, which will not be able to meet.
"The mayor's nominations [to the Planning Commission] will not be sworn in," said P.J. Johnston, spokesman for the mayor.
"A majority of the Board of Supervisors want to apply their own political litmus test to the mayor's appointments, rather than share the power as provided by Proposition D," Johnston said.
"In combination with Supervisor Tom Ammiano 's appointments, a reconstituted Planning Commission wouldn't fairly represent the diversity of the city," Johnston said.
Last Thursday, Karin Carlson, handling mayoral appointments, warned the supervisors in committee, "We clearly stated that we view these as a package deal."
The standstill began in July when the mayor, seeing that the supervisors were ready to reject at least one of his commission appointments, withdrew his first set of nominations. That left city permit, appeal, and license issues in limbo, since neither body had enough commissioners to meet.
But the root cause of the conflict was the March 2002 passage of Proposition D. That measure took the appointments for the planning and appeals panels - once the exclusive domain of the mayor - and divided them between the mayor and the supervisors. The mayor now names four members to the seven-member Planning Commission and three to the five-seat Board of Appeals.
For the Planning Commission, the mayor nominated attorney Jeffrey Chen, Bayview Opera House executive director Shelley Bradford Bell , dentist Michael Antonini, and housing commissioner Edgar Boyd.
For the Board of Appeals, he nominated attorney Arnold Chin, restaurant-industry leader Kathleen Harrington, and environmentalist Sabrina Saunders.
FAILED POWER GRABS: Since coming to power two years ago, district supervisors, elected with as few as 5,885 votes, have chipped away at the power of the office of the mayor as set forth in the voter-approved City Charter. They've taken particular aim at eroding the power of this and future mayors, even though Willie Brown was reelected citywide in 1999 with more than 131,000 votes.
The board president now controls a minority of appointments and the Board of Supervisors can virtually veto the mayor's Planning Commission and Board of Appeals appointments.
However, the board has a checkered record in changing the methods for appointing commissioners.
Under Proposition E, approved last November, the supervisors established the controversial Elections Commission. Right now, the Human Rights Commission is investigating the Elections Commission president for alleged racial and anti-gay slurs. The Elections Commission fired Elections Director Tammy Haygood, who was reinstated by the San Francisco Civil Service Commission. Haygood's reinstatement is in court on appeal.
On the November 5 ballot is an impossible-to-miss admission that the supervisors blundered in creating the Elections Commission: Proposition G would clean up Prop. E's guidelines regarding qualifications for applicants to the commission.
A different Proposition G, passed last November, also reflects reformist intentions gone awry. With that Prop. G, the supervisors gained an upper hand on a task force charged with redrawing the city's electoral-district boundaries. Now, that task force's decisions may trigger a federal investigation into gerrymandered districts diluting Latino, Asian, and African American community representation.
LATEST GRAB: This November, the Board of Supervisors stands to expand its mushrooming appointment power by gaining, through Proposition D, the authority to name members to a revamped Public Utilities Commission, which would provide city electrical power and acquire PG&E assets costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The board also could gain seats on an Entertainment Commission with Proposition F and a PUC revenue-bond oversight committee with Proposition P.
For commission appointments, the mayor and supervisors will have to balance the representation of interests, including those of ethnic, sexual-orientation, gender, labor, business, nonprofit, political-party, neighborhood, homeowner, and tenant communities.
The mayor and the supervisors have a small number of appointments, and that makes it more difficult to represent all communities. Even worse, the mayor and supervisors may not cooperate in representing all communities.
MAYOR'S HIGH-WIRE ACT: Not to leave anyone out of the nomination game, the mayor has carefully appeased political forces to keep a rare peace in the Chinese American community.
Consider two mayoral appointments from two factions: Jeffrey Chen, who would have transferred from the Public Utilities Commission to the Planning Commission, and Arnold Chin, a holdover Board of Appeals member.
Chen is a real-estate attorney and counsel to the powerful San Francisco Neighbors Association, created by community political heavyweight Julie Lee.
Chin, an attorney, is aligned with Chinatown warlord and Chinese Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Rose Pak.
MISSION IS MISSING: Board president Tom Ammiano had a difficult task in naming his three appointments to the Planning Commission and two to the Board of Appeals. Ammiano, from the heavily Latino Mission District (District 9), left out Latinos in his appointments. This summer, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods had castigated him for not appointing any neighborhood-oriented commissioners.
Ironically, Supervisor Matt Gonzalez criticized the mayor, not Ammiano, Thursday for a lack of Latino appointees.
Gonzalez, interestingly, has occasionally been race-neutral in his appointments, similar to conservative colleague Tony Hall.
In particular, Gonzalez asked why the mayor did not resubmit planning commissioner Jon Ballesteros, a gay Latino the committee had recommended in July before the mayor withdrew his first set of nominees.
Karin Carlson said that Ballesteros was dropped because Brown had to "balance all the commissioners" to represent every community of interest.
But Gonzalez pleaded, "The Mission community. was very greatly impacted during the dot-com boom [under the last Planning Commission]. It's a little bit hard to reconcile that absence."
SPAM FOR SAM: E-mail Samson at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 359-2899, fax 359-2655, or mail to Samson Wong at the Independent, 988 Market Street, sixth floor, San Francisco, CA 94102.
Justice of the peace - 10 05 02
The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee's Richard Ow has a tendency to play different sides. Although a supporter of Fiona Ma for District 4 supervisor, Ow was translating into Cantonese for an opponent of Ma, Krista Spence Loretto, at a Cantonese-English debate hosted by the Sing Tao newspaper at Lincoln High School September 29. Ow occasionally supports more than one candidate in a race through his three-man Asian American Political Coalition.
"I'm a man of peace," said the justice of the peace, who can be seen marrying people under the dome at City Hall.
POLITICAL HEAD-HUNTING: Ow, a die-hard donkey Democrat, shouldn't be supporting a candidate like Loretto. The former Green and now independent was heavily recruited to register with the GOP by San Francisco Republicans days before they decided, on September 9, to forgo endorsing former Republican Party vice chairman Ed Jew.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: "I agree on a lot of things with Leland Yee, " Ed Jew said at the Sing Tao newspaper debate on September 29 at Lincoln High School. "And I also disagree with Supervisor Yee." For example, Jew expressed his preference for assigning students to schools in their own neighborhood, but he disagreed with Yee's suggestion to split the school district. It seems Mr. Ed is distancing himself from the supervisor who has endorsed him. Yee has taken a lot of criticism for introducing the idea of splitting the San Francisco Unified School district into two districts. Nevertheless, Jew once protested with the same parents who supported Yee's efforts on behalf of neighborhood schools and splitting the school district.
YO' MAMA: Andrew Lee was asked at the same Sing Tao debate about whether he could be a good supervisor without consulting his powerhouse mother, Julie Lee, on issues. Replied Lee to his inquisitor, "My mother isn't running, and neither is yours running!"
HIS LIPS WERE MOVING: Given the different stories about his singing career, I'm wondering whether Lee actually sang those naughty songs. He could have responded that he was actually lip-synching. His lips moved, but he never uttered a single naughty lyric. It'd be such a Clintonesque answer.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: It sounds as if Alvin the chipmunk is supporting Andrew Lee if you listen to the wound-up voice, speaking in 78 RPM mode, in a prerecorded phone endorsement for Lee for supervisor in District 4. Assemblyman Kevin Shelley sounds high on helium while pitching Lee in this message auto-dialed to voters.
WE LOVE TO TRICK AND TREAT: A sign of political civility in civilization? "The greatest unity on this panel is Halloween in the Castro," said District 8 supervisorial candidate Eileen Hansen during a debate. "You can't take the party out of the Castro."
However, the partying has gotten a little out of control, according to the District 8 candidates at the debate, held September 24 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center on Market Street .
Candidate Bevan Dufty, to control the Halloween gawkers and voyeurs, joshingly proposed charging "$50 to $60 for no costumes."
But two candidates going burlesque for ballots might object.
Would the "no costume" - as in nude - charge apply to Shawn O'Hearn or professional stripper Starchild?
O'Hearn himself has been taking it off for voters in his own run for supervisor, while Starchild, a very liberated Libertarian, works as an exotic dancer, bisexual escort, and porn actor.
Speaking of Starchild (a.k.a. Chris Fox), the candidate could be a spoiler and take votes away from the six other candidates on the ballot (in addition, Mary Gennoy is running as a write-in candidate). After all, he garnered 9,461 votes - more than 6 percent of the total - as a Libertarian in his November 2000 open-primary race against incumbent Democrat Carole Migden for the 13th Assembly District seat.
"Frankly, I'm a hedonist . enjoying life and partying more than . running for office," Starchild said, putting the party back in political party.
MR. SMARTYPANTS: One candidate keeping his pants on scoped a staid, conservative, suit-and-tie crowd in Chinatown. "What a surprise there aren't any more of you in leather today. . You didn't get the e-mail?" Supervisor Mark Leno said.
The supervisor, decked out in his Sunday best, modeled his hermetically sealed leather pants (worn at the wholesome Folsom Street Fair) and deadpanned, "It saves time from changing in the car."
As Leno readied to present the award, he peered around and wondered, "Is David [Lee] still around?"
Eyeing David Lee in the shadows behind him on stage, Leno mischievously joked, "Watching my backside, huh?"
Upon presenting the award, Leno declared September 28 "Folsom Street Fair Day to also be David Lee day."
Lee, meanwhile - also in his Sunday-best - was not dressed for the fair, and I asked his wife, Jing Xu, if he had a pair of leathers. "I'm going to buy one for him," she said.
Lee was honored for his voter education and registration efforts conducted through the Chinese American Voters Education Committee. Saluting those efforts, the San Francisco Foundation gave Lee its Leadership Award on October 1.
CHINATOWN FIRE DRILL: Assistant Deputy Fire Chief and 911-emergency director Dan Sullivan snuck in late without sirens blaring for the David Lee luncheon at Chinatown's Golden Dragon. As moderator Mel Lee sarcastically noted, "First one to arrive and last to leave."
UNSUBLIMINAL, FALSE ADVERTISING? Last Sunday, CNN broadcast a backdrop behind the large visage of Senator Edward Kennedy as he spoke. The truncated sponsor banner read, "[N]ATIONAL STUD."
Greener pastures may come to the school board - 10 01 02
The Green Party has not yet made a big impact on national or state levels, but when it comes to San Francisco's seven-member Board of Education, the party could very well tip the balance of power on that local board.
Over the past two years or so, Mark Sanchez, a member of the Green Party, and Eric Mar, vice chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, have become more outspoken and independent than veteran school-board members Jill Wynns, Eddie Chin, and Dan Kelly. Chin and Kelly, and Mayor Willie Brown 's appointee Danny Guillory, are up for election this November.
Both Sanchez and Mar have endorsed two Green candidates - Whitney Leigh and Sarah Lipson. Leigh and Lipson have jointly said: "We need a majority on the school board who appreciates the severity of this crisis and who are committed to fiscal responsibility."
Both candidates view the crisis as one of budget priorities. The state recently balanced its books by cutting $9 billion from education. At the same time, teachers who have worked for seven years are paid only $42,000 to $43,000 a year, while seven-year prison guards receive $77,000 annually.
Lipson, expecting to take a leave of absence from her six years as a teacher at West Portal Elementary School, is anticipating making the school-board position a "full-time job" if elected. She has criticized the board for its "lack of urgency" in addressing students' complaints about the failure to clean up feces and eliminate prostitution around Phoenix High School. She has also lobbied to allocate 10 percent of the city's $4.9 billion budget toward schools. Currently, the city allots only 1 percent of its budget to schools, she says.
Whitney Leigh, an attorney for Keker and Van Nest and a former public defender in juvenile divisions in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, expresses views similar to Lipson's.
Leigh favors allocating 5 to 10 percent of the city's budget to schools. Noting that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued various state schools for underfunding, he perceives a "lack of proactive stance [by the school board] to advocate for more funds."
"We have a lot of school-board members who have been there too long, who have lost interest . and who are not hardworking," he said.
Both Leigh and Lipson have pooled their resources by sharing campaign flyers and share an impressive set of endorsements from the Green Party; the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club; former mayor Art Agnos; and Board of Supervisors members Tony Hall (a conservative among a sea of progressives) and Matt Gonzalez (another Green). Lipson also has the support of Board of Supervisors president Tom Ammiano and District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
SHOOTING ONESELF IN THE FOOT: Hypocrisy rhymes with democracy, especially when it comes to a civic group that supports affirmative action in contracts while also supporting an anti-affirmative-action candidate for supervisor.
On September 12, I tried to show an interesting document to hothead Hayden Lee at a meeting of the Chinese American Democratic Club at Chinatown's Sam Wong Hotel.
Lee, who advertises himself out of the Parkside neighborhood as California's "leading expert" in certifying small businesses as minority-business contractors, said a few words and stomped away from me in a conference room.
The document Lee declined to look at was a San Francisco Republican Party questionnaire signed by District 4 (Sunset) supervisorial candidate and former Republican Ed Jew on August 26. The party asked Jew if he favored "enforcing Prop. 209 as it applies to the City and County of San Francisco."
Jew replied, "Yes, Prop. 209 was approved by voters, and I support applying it to San Francisco."
Proposition 209, which voters approved in 1996, was supposed to ban local governments from discriminating against - on the basis of race, for example - or giving preferential treatment to contractors in the public-bidding process.
Well, here's the funny thing.
The Chinese American Democratic Club, a longtime advocate of minority-business set-asides, issued an early, June endorsement to Ed Jew for supervisor in District 4.
So, I handed Jew's Prop. 209 answer to Harold Yee, one of the city's top advocates of minority contracting.
Yee asked Jew to explain himself and told him, "You can't do that." He then proceeded to chew him out as I left to go to another meeting that night.
FIGHTING WORDS: Apparently, both sides of the Proposition D public-power debate are getting a little hot under the collar.
Recently, a proponent of the measure accused an anti-D spokesperson of "working for PG&E." Then, the two "started yelling at each other" and nearly "came to blows," according to observers at the District 3 Democratic Club, which held an endorsement meeting last Thursday at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center. The final outcome: The D3DC has endorsed Proposition D.
Supervisor Gavin Newsom didn't materialize at the D3DC meeting to talk about his reelection, but he was represented by a rather scruffy, bearded, and tanned aide in a windbreaker - Michael Farrah. Apparently, Farrah was so scruffy that Jonee Levy, the club's president, didn't recognize him in what she called his "rather romantic look."
Nevertheless, the club stayed neutral in its endorsement for supervisor in the District 2 race (Pacific Heights/Marina, which is next to Aaron Peskin 's District 3, which includes North Beach and Chinatown) between challenger Lynne Newhouse Seagal and incumbent Newsom.
NOT THE SAYINGS OF CHAIRMAN MIKE: To clarify an item that ran in this column on September 14, the term "Benedict Arnold" was used by this columnist, not by San Francisco Republican Party chairman Michael DeNunzio, in reference to District 4 supervisorial candidate Ed Jew.
Later, DeNunzio summed up the sentiment held by many in the party: "You ought to be proud of being with the Republican Party. Don't come back to us [after switching allegiances] and seek our endorsement." He added, "We're going to work to defeat [Jew]."
With those comments, DeNunzio said he was reflecting the sentiments only of Republican County Central Committee members. He was not referring to his own opinions.