Volume 47 Number 03

Davis should drop out

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EDITORIAL Kay Vasilyeva, a member of the San Francisco Women’s Political Caucus, has come forward with the allegation that District Five candidate Julian Davis grabbed her and put his hand down her pants at a political bar crawl in 2006. That was six years ago, but it’s still important — and more than the incident itself, the response we’ve seen from Davis is highly disturbing. He’s utterly denying that it ever happened, and retained a lawyer to send Vasilyeva a letter threatening her with legal action if she continues to talk.

While we endorsed Davis for supervisor, we take these charges very, very seriously — particularly coming at a time when relations between men and women in the progressive movement are badly strained.

Since the SF Weekly, which broke the story, suggested that we knew something about Davis’s behavior, we need to state, for the record: When we endorsed Davis, we had heard nothing even remotely close to this type of allegation. Yes, we knew that in his 20s he was a bit of an arrogant ass. We knew that at one point, he actually got into a tugging match with another person over the ridiculous question of who got to hold a campaign sign. We’d heard that, in the past, at somewhat debauched parties, he’d made advances toward women who weren’t interested in his affections.

Those could be the acts of an immature man who has since grown up. And since, on a level of policy, knowledge, and positions, he was by far the best and strongest progressive in the race in District 5, we — along with much of the local progressive leadership — thought he was demonstrating enough maturity that he was worthy of our support.

But this new information, and his response to it, is alarming.

We don’t take last-minute allegations about a front-running candidate lightly; people have been known to dump all sorts of charges into heated races. When we learned about Vasilyeva’s allegations on Oct. 13, we did our own research. We spent two hours with Davis and his supporter and advisor, former D5 Supervisor Matt Gonzalez. We realized that allegations without corroboration are just charges, so we tracked down everyone we could find who might know anything about this incident — and, as we discovered, other similar events. And we have to say: Vasilyeva’s account rings true. Davis’s categorical denial does not.

More than that, we were offended that he in effect threatened with a lawsuit a woman who, at some peril to herself, came forward to tell the public information about someone who is running for elected office. What was the point of that, if not to intimidate her? It’s highly unlikely he’s going to sue (and drag this whole mess into court). He says he was just trying to send a message that he has a legal right to respond to defamation, but this is a political campaign; if he didn’t want to deal publicly with what he must have known were these sorts of potential allegations, he shouldn’t have run for office.

This is a bad time for progressives in San Francisco. The Mirkarimi case has brought to the fore some deep and painful rifts; a lot of women feel that (mostly male) progressive leaders have pushed their issues to the side. For the future of the movement and the city, the left has to come together and try to heal. This situation isn’t helping a bit.

Davis needs to face facts: Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos have withdrawn their endorsements. Assembly member Tom Ammiano is almost certain to do the same. With his inability to handle the very credible charge that he not only groped a woman but lied about it, Davis no longer has a viable campaign in the most progressive district in the city, and we can’t continue to support him.

We have said it many times before: People on the left need to be able to put their own ambitions aside sometimes and do what’s right for the cause. Davis can’t win. He’s embarrassing his former allies. He needs to focus on coming to terms with his past and rebuilding his life. And for the good of the progressive movement, he needs to announce that he’s ending his campaign, withdrawing from the race, and urging his supporters to vote for another candidate.

Happy hunting

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cheryl@sfbg.com

TV Stainless steel appliances. Hardwood floors. Walk-in closets. The House Hunters drinking game, which lovingly mocks the HGTV program’s predictability, will have even a seasoned lush drunk before the first commercial break. “But there’s nowhere for my man cave!” DRINK.

Brian Balthazar, who is HGTV’s Director of Programming, has a sense of humor about the drinking game (“If I ever played it, I’d be hammered, because I watch a lot of House Hunters!”), and also about some recent online muckraking that revealed that what you see on House Hunters isn’t one hundred percent real. “We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home-buying process,” he explained in a statement to Entertainment Weekly this summer. “To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.”

Wait, so reality TV isn’t actually real? Shut the custom-painted front door! “Mostly I was happy that people cared that much about House Hunters,” Balthazar says of the controversy. He’s currently promoting the latest House Hunters spin-off, House Hunters Renovation, which follows buyers as they pursue remodeling projects in their just-purchased homes. The next new episode airs Oct. 21 at 11pm; it follows a couple whose “dream house” (DRINK) contains a pink-and-gold nightmare of a bathroom.

“On this show, we see them buying the homes, and then making all these changes to them. So it’s exciting to be able to show that,” Balthazar says. “But I’m always excited that people are talking about House Hunters and that it has had such longevity. It’s nearing its 1,000th episode this year. That’s more than Law and Order!”

And like Law and Order, every episode of House Hunters is basically the same. “The concept is very clear. You know what’s going to happen on the show,” Balthazar says. “They’re going to see three homes, and we’ll see which one they choose. But what is always different are the homeowners and the homes. That voyeuristic, play-along quality of the show changes every time, which I love. We have some really interesting characters that come along, and everyone has a different reaction to different aspects of a home. I think that’s what makes it such a guilty pleasure among people who love to spy on the real estate process.”

House Hunters International follows the same basic formula, with an obvious difference: instead of a new construction in Indianapolis with a three-car garage (DRINK), the buyer (or renter) is seeking an apartment in a slightly more exotic locale. Like, say, Cambodia. Or Serbia. Or the Arctic Circle.

“I’m amazed at some of the stories the production company we work with on International finds. They’ve developed relationships with real estate agencies all over the world,” Balthazar says. “For a long time we didn’t go to some countries simply because it was too complicated. In some countries, you can’t actually buy a home if you’re not a resident. In others, you have to pay cash completely up front, in full. That was really a daunting thing for us to tackle. And now that the show’s been around for so long a lot of people write in to be on the show. It’s like this grassroots effort in some regards.”

Of course, being so popular has a slight downside. “Everyone that I run into, whether I’m on an airplane or at a party, if I say I work on House Hunters or House Hunters International, inevitably there will be someone saying they want to be on,” Balthazar says. “I actually love that! Though I will admit that occasionally when someone asks me what I do, I just say I’m a writer. [Laughs.] But I’m ultimately so grateful that people want to be on the show.”

Balthazar’s main distraction from an endless parade of buyers seeking open-concept floor plans (DRINK) is his pop-culture website, popgoestheweek.com. He’ll be melding his two interests on a special he’s hosting on HGTV in December.

“It’s called I Bought a Famous House. I go around to homes in Hollywood that were once owned by celebrities,” he says. “It’s interesting see what [the non-famous new owners have] done with them since. In one case, someone kept the house exactly the same as it was when the celebrity owned it. And in another case, with Madonna’s former house in the Hollywood Hills, a guy came in and literally changed almost everything, with the exception of the kitchen. But I think when you buy a seven million dollar house, you probably aren’t as concerned about the kitchen as the rest of the house, because you aren’t doing your own cooking when you have that kind of money!”

Of course, Madonna’s kitchen probably already had granite countertops. DRINK!

www.hgtv.com