“The Board without Ammiano is like the Vatican without the Pope.”

Pub date November 25, 2008
WriterSarah Phelan
SectionPolitics Blog


“The man. The myth. The legend.”

That’s how Board President Aaron Peskin introduced Sup. Tom Ammiano, as he bid farewell to the longest serving member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at today’s Board meeting.

Headed to Sacramento to serve in the State Assembly, Ammiano has a 14-year record as SF supervisor that simply can’t be beat now that 8-year term limits have been introduced at the Board. And it will be difficult for other supes to touch his record in terms of legislation, service, attitude, wit and, of course, stark raving popularity.

Recalling Ammiano’s arrival at the Board a decade and a half ago, Peskin said, “Tom was a voice in the wilderness.”

“He managed to got living wage and domestic partnership legislation passed, long before either concept was popular. He succeeded in prevailing on district elections,” Peskin said. “He gave voice to the modern Board of Supervisors—for which I’ll never forgive you, Tom.”

“We love you, we miss you and I’ll come volunteer in your district office, now that I’m not going to have a job come December 8,” Peskin added.

Then it was the turn of Sup. Bevan Dufty, who has sat elbow to elbow with Ammiano for the past two years, to explain why he believes that he had “the best seat in the house.”

According to Dufty, this close proximity helped prevent Ammiano, who also happens to be a wickedly biting stand-up comic, from making jokes about him to the reporters that are corraled directly behind Ammiano in the press box.

Sup. Chris Daly praised Ammiano for ushering in district elections, bringing in a progressive Board and making a historic run for mayor in 1999.

“‘When you get termed out in Sacramento, we’ll be waiting for your return,” Daly promised.

Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier explained why she is going to miss Ammiano a lot.

“We never ever vote together on anything,” Alioto-Pier admitted, describing Ammiano as a “people come first” type.

“You always listen to me, and you’ve given me some of the best advice I’ve gotten since I got here,” Alioto-Pier said, further recalling how Ammiano once screamed at someone, something about, “When you walk a mile in my pumps,” an incident that inspired her to admire this famously flamboyant supervisor even more than ever.

Sup. Mirkarimi recalled how he was working as aide to Sup. Terence Hallinan, when Ammiano was first elected

“Tom really changed the entire climate of this instituion,” Mirkarimi said. “He swifty became the archangel, if you will, of the progressive movement. He is a rain maker, a king maker, a visionary.”

Acknowledging that it’ll be impossible to replace Ammiano’s wit, Mirkarimi suggested that he consider providing courses for would-be politicians.

Sup. Jake McGoldrick said “ Tom Ammiano has changed the world.”

Sup. Carmen Chu found it fitting that Ammiano is going to the State Assembly, since ” he’s such a statesman.”

The wittiest line of the afternoon belonged to Sup. Sean Elsbernd.

“The Board of Supervisors without Tom Ammiano is like the Vatican without the Pope,” Elsbernd said.

And the best warning belonged to Sup. Sophie Maxwell.

Recalling Ammiano’s grace and integrity, his ability to get testy and angry one minute, to lash out and then let matters drop the next, Maxwell said, “Look out Sacramento, they just don’t know what’s coming.”

Then it was Ammiano’s turn to say goodbye.

“It’s been a great time,” he said, recalling how district elections heralded a return to populism and admitting how he has only recently been getting in touch with how much Harvey Milk inspired the city, and how “terrifically special and strong” Milk was.

Calling San Francisco “a crazy indefinable city,” Ammiano said, “Elvis may have left the building, but never the City.” Then, turning to the press box, tears in his eyes, he said, “And thank you, press.”

And then he was gone in a blaze of bouquets and flowery accolades, leaving the running dogs of the press wondering just exactly how we are going to survive Board meetings, without those joking asides that Dufty rightly feared and that Ammiano frequently tossed out for us, like biscuits for naughty puppies that he somehow still manages to love, no matter how many times we chew on his favorite slippers.