Editor’s Notes

Pub date September 14, 2010
WriterTim Redmond
SectionEditors Notes


We’ve been doing a lot of reporting on Steve Moss, a candidate for supervisor in District 10 who lived in District 8 when he filed his initial election papers and launched his campaign. Moss, who owns a residential building on Liberty Street near Dolores Park, insists he is now a full-time resident of Potrero Hill, renting a nice place at 18th and Vermont — and that he moved in long before the legal deadline for declaring an official candidacy.

It’s actually not a high standard — city law says you only have to live in a district for 30 days prior to the filing deadline. And since Moss is hardly the only candidate to make a relatively recent relocation, it’s worth asking the question: how important is long-time residence to a candidate for district supervisor — and how long is long enough?

I’ve always supported district elections, in part — and this is critically important — because you can win in a district without raising a huge amount of money. When the universe of voters you’re trying to reach numbers around 30,000, you don’t need $500,000. You can knock on doors, go to neighborhood forums, mobilize volunteers for a get-out-the-vote operation, and get elected with the kind of money you can raise in a real grassroots campaign. That means downtown, the landlords, the developers, and big business interests don’t carry the day, the way they did when the board was elected at-large.

But the other goal of district elections was to ensure that every part of town got represented on the board — and to bring legitimate activists with roots in a community to the table. That means people who have more than a passing interest in where they live.

The first few times around, it wasn’t much of an issue — with the obvious exception of Ed Jew, and the possible exception of Michela Alioto-Pier, everyone who has been elected so far under the district system ran from a neighborhood where he or she had be living, and doing community work, for years.

But this time, people have been venue-shopping. I heard a lot of potential candidates over the past year talk about moving into one district or another to run, and I think we’ll see more of it in the future. It can get tricky; Moss, for example, owns the Potrero View newspaper and lived in D-10 for years, then moved out and bought a place near Dolores Park. When he decided to run for supervisor, he moved back. At least he has some history and ties to the community — but I don’t think there’s a lot of dispute over the fact that he moved back to run for office, and that if he hadn’t decided to run, he’d still be living on Liberty Street.

Jane Kim, president of the School Board, moved into District 6 about a year and a half ago — about the same time she started talking about running for supervisor from that district. Again: perfectly legal — although her ties to the neighborhood and to neighborhood activism aren’t anywhere near as strong as some of the other candidates in the race.

We’re going to have to watch this, carefully — and the 30-day requirement is clearly too weak. You should have to live in a district for at least a year before you can file even exploratory papers — and every neighborhood questionnaire should ask candidates to list every address they’ve lived in for the past five years. That might slow down the shopping a bit.