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Politics Blog

Downtown’s deceptions


By Steven T. Jones
The rancorous debate over providing health care to all San Franciscans finally comes to the Board of Supervisors for a vote tomorrow, culminating a truly ugly political spectacle. The business community has aggressively gone after the measure’s sponsor, Tom Ammiano, angrily accusing him of not listening and not caring.
Now, it’s understandable that some small business people on the verge of going under would be upset about having to give health coverage to their employees. It’s a legitimate concern, but it’s also a valid point that Ammiano’s measure makes: providing a living wage and health coverage to employees is a reasonable cost of doing business in this city, and if you can’t afford to do these things, then your business plan doesn’t really pencil out, sorry.
This might have been a good political debate to have, but unfortunately, the issue has been sullied and convoluted by the intentional deceptions of a few downtown groups (notably the Committee on Jobs, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce), distorted and inaccurate presentations of the issue by the Chronicle and Examiner, and the political cowardice of Mayor Gavin Newsom.
If you’ve been reading the Guardian then you know that the “Newsom plan” was simply one component of the “Ammiano plan,” not the workable stand-alone plan that the dailies and business elites tried to present it as (by itself, Newsom’s plan didn’t pay for itself and it threatened to make the number of uninsured in the city grow by providing the perverse incentive for businesses to drop their employees’ health insurance in favor of cheaper but less comprehensive access to city clinics). Even the dailies finally got around to saying the two plans relied on one another last week after playing up the deceptive competition for weeks.
Here’s the bottom line: Ammiano’s plan got eight co-sponsors because it was an honest attempt to deal with a serious problem using an approach (employer mandates) popular with most citizens (as shown by 69 percent of the people voting for a statewide mandate in Prop. 72). But downtown has done nothing but obstruct and obfuscate the issue. And they’re loud and have tons of money, so they’ve managed to bring out Newsom’s most cowardly instincts and they’ve cowed the media into bearing false witness to what’s going on.
Will they also peel off a supervisor or two who have already pledged their support? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

B. Taylor loves Star Wars


by Tim Redmond

Gack! I just turned on the TV and saw Barbara Taylor interviewing Sup. Gerardo Sandoval on the City Desk Newshour program. She felt the need to beat him up (like most of the rest of the media) for the not-so-radical-at-all idea of demilitarizing America, which is to be expected, but she went way, way beyond. In times like these, when North Korea is shooting off missiles, she said, we all should be glad for a military with missiles that can shoot them down.

Uhhh….. we don’t actually have any missiles that can shoot anything down. They don’t work. And just about every sane person in the world agrees that the Star Wars-style anti-ballistic missile shield is destabilizing, fabulously expensive and a scientific fantasy.

Everyone, that is, except Barbara.

Dist. 8 heats up


By Tim Redmond

Alix Rosenthal, who is challenging Bevan Dufty in District eight, has been getting some (electronic) press; BeyondChron has interview in which, among other things, she talks about keeping San Francisco weird. A sample quote: “I love how freaky it is. I love the freaks, and I include myself in the freaks.”

She also talks about real issues, about affordable housing, condo conversions, the loss of the city’s middle class. And she clearly has Dufty at least a little freaked; Pat Murphy over at the San Francisco Sentinel claims that he’s heard that “progressive big footers” leaned on Dufty to support Ammiano’s health-care legislation, threatening to pour money in to Rosenthal’s campaign if he didn’t.

I’m not sure the “big footers,” whoever they are, had to push much; I think Dufty sees that this won’t be a cakewalk of a re-election, and I think he also wants to run for state Assembly when Mark Leno is termed out, and he can’t really do it without some left credibility. On economic issues, particularly tenant issues, he’s out of touch with his district, and I think we’ll see him move to the left on a few select issues over the next few months to try to present some kind of case to win progressive support.

The “freaky” quote will no doubt get used to make Rosenthal sound flaky, but the truth is, she’s got a good point: When San Francisco gets too expensive, all the people who make it so special have to leave.

Commissioner Haaland


By Tim Redmond

Not much daily press on this, but Robert Haaland, longtime LGBT and labor activist, is headed for a seat on the Board of Appeals. The San Francisco Sentinel story focuses on the triumph for the TG community and notes that this was the seat that Harvey Milk once held. But this is also excellent news for the overall progressive community, particularly for land-use activists: The Board of Appeals is a powerful body that deals with demolition permits, building permits, event permits, club permits and more. Robert will be a good vote.

The Mexican election


By Tim Redmond

Not a huge amount of furor (yet) in San Francisco over the apparent theft of the Mexican elections. John Ross has all the background here. Randy Shaw has some thoughts on the Mexican left in BeyondChron, but he doesn’t talk to much about the local scene either. There’s an awful lot of Mexican nationals in San Francisco, and Ross says they were badly disenfranchised. If the theft is certified, perhaps some street protests in major SF cities would be in order.

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BOB Readers Poll is back!


We’re still trying to repair whatever damage was done to our site by an apparent attack, but in the meantime, the Best of the Bay Readers Poll is ready to use. You can get to it here

SFBG.COM still having problems


As you’ve probably noticed, our site is still down. We’re working on it right now and trying to get it back up and running today. Bear with us; we’ll be back soon.

Swanson beats Russo


By G.W. Schulz
With all districts reporting, Sandré Swanson has overcome Oakland city attorney John Russo by 7 percentage points in his primary bid for the 16th Assembly District, which Wilma Chan has held since 2000 and is out due to term limits. District 16 otherwise looks to be uncontested in the general election.
Russo served on the Oakland City Council during the 90s before becoming that Oakland’s first elected city attorney after Jerry Brown’s strong-mayor initiative put the office out for a vote. He made a name for himself in part by filing a nuisance action against Caltrans to force the transportation agency to clean up trash and debris along its properties and by taking on “problem liquor stores.”

Wow! Unity!


By Tim Redmond

Amazing, but not unexpected: Steve Westly joined with Phil Angelides today in L.A. to announce a unified campaign for the fall. Westly, who had blasted Angelides for allegedly dumping waste into Lake Tahoe, called him ” a brilliant man” who is “comitted to environmental values.”
It was a good move for Westly to be gracious, but it’s a little late for that sort of thing: Schwarzenegger is already gathering up all the negative stuff Westly threw at Angelides, and we’ll see it all again in the fall.
The good news is that the voters will have already been exposed to this stuff once (and while it may have supressed turnout a bit, it clearly didn’t damage Angelides fatally). So when the Guv tries to bring it all up again — “Angelides wants to raise your taxes, Angelides got money from developers, Angelides is a dork,” whatever — the public will be sick of it.
Schwarzenegger is still very, very vulnerable, and will be counting on his big bond measure this fall to carry him. Already, he’s talking about how he wants to rebuild California for the future. The advantage Angelides has is that unlike Westly, he can point to some very clear and different policy positions. He’s not Arnold — and right now, that’s a big thing.

Binder’s analysis


By Steven T. Jones
Pollster David Binder’s day-after election luncheon at SPUR is a tradition of the season and a must-attend for the wonkiest of political wonks. Among his insights:
* In an otherwise lackluster election, the Ma-Reilly Assembly race increased turnout on the more-conservative westside of San Francisco, thus hurting progressive measures like Measures A (which barely lost…probably) and B (which won, but not by as much as Binder and others predicted)
* There are still 40,000-60,000 absentee and provisional ballots to be counted in San Francisco, meaning Measure A (which was losing by a little over 1,000 words) could still flip, although Binder considers it unlikely given that absentee ballots in this race favored the “no” position.
* For its liberal reputation, San Franciscans are still fairly fiscally conservative and resist spending money. But we still support markedly more liberal candidates than the rest of the state.
* It was a good night for Asians and a bad night for wives seeking to replace their politician husbands.
* Democrats might have a hard time this fall keeping control of the statewide offices.

Progressive power in Oakland


By G.W. Schulz

All of Alameda County’s precincts have now reported, but absentee and provisional ballots are still not counted. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters couldn’t confirm for us how many such ballots remained.

So we won’t know for a week or two whether or not there will be a runoff between former congressman Ron Dellums and Oakland city council president Ignacio De la Fuente for the mayor’s office. But the race hardly feels tight at this point. Nancy Nadel’s 13 percentage points would likely go to Dellums in the event of a runoff, and Dellums remains 17 points beyond De La Fuente with all precincts reporting.

Mayor Jerry Brown, who’s now on his way to a November election battle with unrivaled Republican primary winner Chuck Poochigian for the state attorney general’s office, rarely shied away from corporate developers in Oakland. Entire neighborhoods have been transformed in just a few years with swanky artist loft spaces and corporate box stores sprouting up everywhere.

De La Fuente was viewed as the candidate who would continue that trend. Dellums offers a very different vision.

Partying for Laguna Honda


By G.W. Schulz
Perhaps the most obscure and complex of the four local measures that appeared on Tuesday’s ballot was Proposition D, a land-use initiative designed to prevent San Francisco County health officials from allowing the spill-over of patients diagnosed with psychiatric or behavior problems from Potrero Hill’s San Francisco General Hospital to Laguna Honda Hospital in the western section of the city. Prop. D’s opponents defeated the measure by around 45,000 votes. Curiously, however, of all Tuesday’s races, the No on Prop. D election party seemed to be the most star-studded.

A take on A


By Steven T. Jones
The biggest heartbreak on election day — Measure A being defeated by just over 1,000 votes — should become the biggest opportunity for progressives now that this election is done. This measure was an effort to get needed funds into social programs that would deter street violence and, equally important, to get the communities of color and street-level activists most affected by this problem involved in finding solutions. Blame for this measure’s defeat falls squarely on Mayor Gavin Newsom, his four supporters on the Board of Supervisors (plus Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who was on the wrong side of this one), and the Police Officers Association (and to an unknown degree, whoever attacked and crashed the Guardian site yesterday and kept our endorsements unavailable for much of the day). It’s understandable why the POA wants to pursue only a top-down, more-cops approach to the high murder rate. But what’s unfathomable to me is why Newsom and his political allies continue to do nothing to reform a Police Department that is dysfunctional, arrogant, and understandably doesn’t have the confidence the parts of the community with which it should be working most closely.

Dellums’s outlook


By Sarah Phelan
At Ron Dellums Party, Kimball’s Carnival

Leaving San Francisco, we could feel the temperature rise as we crossed the Bay Bridge. By the time we got to Kimball’s, the party for Ron Dellums was absolutely raging.

Dellums is beating Ignacio De La Fuente 44 to 36 percent in the race for mayor of Oakland, but with only 1 percent of precincts reporting, the outcome is far from clear. Nevertheless, Dellums was looking relaxed and stately.

Endorsements for Nevin


By G.W. Schulz
At Mike Nevin’s Election Party

At District 8 State Senate candidate Mike Nevin’s election party, the mood is subdued. At the front of the wood-paneled meeting hall of the Steam Fitters, Plumbers, and Refrigerator Fitters Local 467 in Burlingame, an eraser board shows opponent Leland Yee ahead by 11 percentage points, with 50 percent of precincts reporting.

Nevin supporters chant, “I like Mike,” but the outcome seems inevitable to everyone, including Nevin.

After a series of supporters and campaign volunteers make short speeches, Nevin appears before the crowd with his family and declares, “Only 50 percent of the votes are in, but I’ve always been a pretty good counter all of my life, and I’m pretty aware of what’s going on tonight.”

He goes on to thank his campaign staff; his wife jokes that her husband has been endorsed by God, the Pope, and even, somehow, Yee.

“One thing people have always said about me is that I have political purpose,” he says, adding that that’s why he pursued the now more than two-years-long campaign.

Reilly leaves the stage


By Steven T. Jones
Janet Reilly finally came to the stage just before 10:30 to concede a race that wasn’t as close as many expected. “I am so proud of our efforts today and what we did over the course of this campaign,” she said through a newscaster’s smile that masked her obvious disappointment. “We were bold and courageous, we were innovative, and we did take chances.”

In the end, though, the Ma machine was just too much, something she didn’t say, not mentioning her opponent. Instead she ran through a long list of “thank yous,” starting with her tireless campaign manager Alex Laskey and ending with her husband, controversial political consultant Clint Reilly, whom her opponents and most journalists tried to put the focus on throughout the campaign. “Thank you for believing in me,” she said to him. And then she addressed the whole group: “Thank you for standing up for change. You will forever be in my heart.”

Bad news for Prop. A


By Tim Redmond
City Hall

Prop. A seems to be falling behind, although an hour ago it looked like a winner. A very sound measure addressing a real civic crisis — and it goes down because the cops try to make it about Chris Daly (who had a bad night, too).


Hope and resolve


By Steven T. Jones
Sharen Hewitt — the SF activist perhaps most associated with finding solutions to street violence — was being honored with a rose when I walked into the Prop. A party at Powell’s Place in the Fillmore. The barbecue smelled great, and when Sharen came toward the back of a room filled with multihued activists and community leaders, she encouraged me to dig in. It was delicious, and the program that followed was inspirational — and marked by a poignant reminder of what this campaign was about. For less than an hour later, Hewitt left the table with her three grandchildren and the room filled with her kindred spirits to attend to business: Another 16-year-old kid had been shot on Sunnydale Avenue and was on his way to the hospital.

What it all means


By Tim Redmond
At City Hall

This was an excellent night for labor and tenants, and to a certain extent, for Gavin Newsom. It was a lousy night for Carole Migden, Tony Hall, Joe O’Donoghue, and Clint Reilly.

Canvas with the Reilly people


By Steven T. Jones
The mood at Canvas Cafe is a little glum and doesn’t seem to fit the artsy, airy interior. They all know that it’s over, and they can’t stand to have lost to someone like Fiona Ma and the dirty campaign people fought on her behalf. Janet and Clint Reilly aren’t here yet, so I’ll keep this brief, with just one quote that seems to sum up the feelings of many of these volunteers, who fought hard to overcome Ma’s early lead and establishment support. “When you work hard for the right reasons, it really sucks to lose the good ones, like tonight,” said Alex Morrison, whom the campaign knows as Mo.

More after I write up the inspirational scene at the Prop. A party I just came from.

“Fabulous Fiona”


By Tina Rodia
At Fiona Ma party, Irish Cultural Center

At 9:09 p.m., with 17 percent of the precincts reporting, Fiona Ma already had 59 percent of the votes. Supporters at the party, which is about 300 people large, include the Arab Antidiscrimination Association, the organizers for the North Beach Festival, and members of the Outer Sunset community, where Ma is the district supervisor.

The organizers of the North Beach Festival refer to the State Assembly District 12 candidate as “Fabulous Fiona.” With drinks in hand, they are celebrating an early victory.

Approached by members of the media as she entered the room, Ma made statements regurgitating the standard “home ownership and business revenue are what’s good for San Francisco” talking points from her campaign Web site, her political mentor, former state senator John Burton, at her side.

more fun at City Hall


By Tim Redmond
Well, we keep crunching numbers here, and they keep looking grim for Janet Reilly. The latest, with more than half the votes in, shows Ma getting almost 60 percent of the election-day vote. Combined with her strong absentees, I think Ma is the clear winner here.

Fun facts: In San Francisco, Angelides is at 51 percent, and Westly is at 43 percent, so Carole Migden’s guy is getting trounced on her home turf.