Christina Olague

First results: Mar, Breed in the lead


Remember, these are the early absentees. They may not reflect the carpet-bombing attacks of the last week. And they always tend to run a bit conservative. But the results in D1 are stunning: After enduring an $800,000 attack campaign, Sup. Eric Mar has a lead of almost five points, 48-43. Since he’s got a massive GOTV program, he’s positioned remarkably well.

District 5 is equally stark: London Breed has a huge lead, 32-19, over Sup. Christina Olague. But here’s where it will get interesting: Breed may not get a lot of second-place votes — and a group of challengers who are roughly in the same political camp are bunched up right behind her with about 13 percent of the vote. This one will absolutely be a test of RCV.

District 7 is a surprise only in that the most conservative of the major candidates, Mike Garcia — who had the support of the incumbent, Sean Elsbernd — is in third place, well behind Norman Yee and F.X. Crowley. Hard to see how he’s going to emerge from that with a victory — meaning D7 could move out of the conservative camp and become a swing district.

All of the important ballot measures are doing fine. Prop. A looks like it will pass (66 percent from the absentees), Prop. B is passing easily, the Housing Trust Fund, Prop. C is way ahead, the Gross Receipts Tax, Prop. E, is winning handily … and the moronic “drain Hetch Hetchy” plan is going down to defeat.


So-called DV group doing PG&E’s dirty work


Any pretense that the group called San Francisco Women for for Responsibility and an Accountable Supervisor is anything more than a downtown sham vanished with the arrival in District 5 mailboxes Nov. 3 of a mailer attacking Sup. Christina Olague for supporting public power.

The mailer uses pictures of Olague and Julian Davis — and that alone is a not-so-subtle attack on Olague. Davis has lost all credibility in the race, thanks to a string of allegations that he groped women.

It then goes after the two for “support [ing] a $20 million taxpayer giveaway to Big Oil.” The utterly misleading line is based on Olague’s vote to support Clean Power SF, a community choice aggregation program that has the support of public power advocates all over California.

Olague’s not supporting Shell Oil; she just realized, as did a supermajority of the board (including both left stalwarts David Campos and John Avalos and the far more conservative Scott Wiener) that the program makes sense for San Francisco and will lead in the long term to much greater energy self-reliance. The only ones putting out the Shell Oil line are PG&E and its house union, IBEW Local 1245.

Oh, and now a group that supposedly advocates for domestic violence victims.

This is a disgrace, an embarassment to the district and the city. Ron Conway and Thomas Coates are attacking Olague because they’re afraid she’ll vote against their development and landlord interests, not because they care about domestic violence.

This election matters, a lot. It’s clear where the big-money interests are; I hope D5 residents reject this attempt to buy the election.


The billionaire attack on D5


The attack on Sup. Christina Olague, funded by a couple of right-wing billionaires, is in full swing in District 5, with mailers, robocalls, a social-media buy and even TV ads. It’s a disgraceful effort to buy an election in the final week, a flood of sleaze that’s outrageous even by modern political standards.

On the surface, the PAC called San Francisco Women for Responsibility and an Accountable Supervisor is talking about domestic violence. One mailer features a woman whose daughter was killed by an abuser saying she is “appaled” that Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi still has his job — and that Olague voted not to throw him out. A 60-second TV ad features Ivory Madison, the Mirkarimi neighbor whose video was the centerpiece of the campaign to oust the sheriff.

But the PAC is entirely funded by Ron Conway, his wife Gayle, and Thomas Coates. Conway hasn’t been a leading voice on domestic violence issues, and neither has Coates — they are business people who are primarily interested in making money. In the case of Conway, he’s someone who has publicly announced that he wants to “take San Francisco back” from progressives and install more big-business-friendly politicians at City Hall. Coates is a real-estate investor who has spent a lot of time and money fighting to limit tenant-protection laws.

Why are these two so interested in the D5 race? Well, in an email, Conway told me that “the Committee that my wife Gayle and other women, including longtime anti-domestic violence advocates, have formed and that I and others support exists solely to oppose Christina Olague because she put her own politics ahead of women and the victims and survivors of domestic abuse.”

But it’s eminently clear that there’s a larger agenda here, that the wealthy donors are using the domestic violence issue to get rid of a supervisor who they see as not sufficiently friendly to their economic interests. And there’s probably a bit of payback involved: Olague defied the mayor with her Mirkarimi vote — and while a lot of observers still say this was all a setup to demonstrate her independence in time for the election, Conway, one of the mayor’s closest allies and advisors, clearly didn’t get that message.

Coates lives in Los Angeles. Conway lives in Pacific Heights. Neither of them has any connection the D5 — except for their desire to get rid of Olague. They’ve taken a real, serious issue — domestic violence — and used it to their own political advantage.

We haven’t endorsed Olague, but we know a shady scam when we see one, and that’s exactly what this is. The voters of District 5 should reject this kind of outside-influence politics and not let a couple of billionaires decide the future of their the city.

Olague attacks led by billionaires and a consultant/commissioner with undisclosed income


Understanding how political activists are being paid is important to understanding what their motivations are. For example, is Andrea Shorter – a mayor-appointed former president of the Commission on the Status of Women – leading the campaigns against Sup. Christina Olague and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi out of concern for domestic violence, or is it because of their progressive political stands, such as supporting rent control and opposing corporate tax breaks?

As a city commissioner who is required under state law to report her income on annual financial disclosure forms to the city, the public should be able to know who is paying this self-identified “political consultant.” But we can’t, because for each of the last five years, Shorter has claimed under penalty of perjury on Form 700 to have no reportable income, which means less than $500 from any source – an unlikely claim that was the source of complaints filed today with the Ethics Commission and Fair Political Practices Commission.

Shorter led efforts to have her commission support Mayor Ed Lee’s failed effort to remove Mirkarimi from office for official misconduct, and now she’s become one of the main public faces leading an independent expenditure campaign called San Francisco Women for Accountability and a Responsible Supervisor Opposing Christina Olague 2012, funded with more than $100,000 by Lee’s right-wing financial supporters: venture capitalist Ron Conway and Thomas Coates (and his wife), who has also funded statewide efforts to make rent control illegal.

Neither Shorter nor Conway responded to our requests for comment, but tenant advocates and Olague supporters are pushing back with an 11:30am rally at City Hall tomorrow (Thurs/1). Organizers are calling on activists “to beat back the attacks on rent control and workers by billionaires Ron Conway and the Coates family. The 1 Percent Club, Coates and Conway want San Francisco to be a playground for the rich. Take a stand to say that these opportunists CANNOT buy elections!”

The Ethics Commission complaint against Shorter was filed this morning by sunshine activist Bob Planthold, who also filed a similar complaint a couple weeks ago against District 1 supervisorial candidate David Lee, who also appears to have grossly understated his income of the same financial disclosure form during his service on the Recreation and Parks Commission.

“There’s been too little attention by mayor after mayor after mayor in that the people they appoint are allowed to be sloppy, negligent, unresponsive, and under-responsive to these financial disclosure requirements,” Planthold told us.

Although the Ethics Commission doesn’t confirm or deny receiving complaints or launching investigations, Planthold said Ethics investigators have already notified him that they were investigating the Lee complaint, and he expects similar action against Shorter. “Ethics is pursuing my complaint against David Lee. It’s not one of the many that they decided to ignore,” Planthold said.

The FPPC complaint against Shorter is being filed by former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who told us, “The complaint speaks for itself.”

Although Shorter claims no income on public forms, the political consulting firm Atlas Leadership Strategies lists Shorter as the CEO of Political Leadership Coaching, which works with political candidates and causes. Atlas also represents PJ Johnston, who was press secretary for then-Mayor Willie Brown and now represents a host of powerful corporate clients.

“Her brand of discreet, highly confidential, political coaching works to equip leaders with tools to exercise more effective, impactful, innovative and – where possible – transformative leadership,” was one way Atlas describes Shorter.

Is she working in a discreet and confidential way to elect moderate London Breed to one of the city’s most progressive districts? Is she being paid for that work by Conway or anyone else? Is she doing the bidding of Mayor Lee and his allies in hopes of greater rewards?

Or should voters just take at face value her claim to really be standing up for “accountability” from public officials? Is this really about the statement Shorter makes in the video prominently displayed on the website: “Christina Olague has lost the trust of victims’ advocates. She has set our cause back. I’m profoundly disappointed in her and I can’t support her anymore.”?

With less than a week until the election, voters can only speculate.

Man for the moment?


This year’s supervisorial race in District 5 — representing the Haight, Panhandle, and Western Addition, some of the most reliably progressive precincts in the city — has been frustrating for local leftists. But as the long and turbulent campaign enters its final week, some are speculating that John Rizzo, whose politics are solid and campaign lackluster, could be well-positioned to capitalize on this strange political moment.

Appointed incumbent Sup. Christina Olague has been a disappointment to some of her longtime progressive allies, although she’s now enjoying a resurgence of support on the left in the wake of her vote to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. Now two allies of the mayor — tech titan Ron Conway and landlord Thomas Coates — are funding a $120,000 last-minute attack on Olague.

The campaign of one-time left favorite Julian Davis lost most of its progressive supporters following his recent mishandling of accusations of bad behavior toward women (see “Julian Davis should drop out,” 10/16).

The biggest fear among progressive leaders is that London Breed, a well-funded moderate candidate being strongly supported by real estate and other powerful interests, will win the race and tip the Board of Supervisors to the right. The final leg of the campaign could be nasty battle between Breed and Olague and their supporters, who tend to see it as a two-person race at this point.

But in a divisive political climate fed by the Mirkarimi and Davis scandals and the unprecedented flood of hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate and tech money, it’s hard to say what D5 voters will do, particularly given the unpredictably of how they will use ranked-choice voting to sort through this mess.

Running just behind these three tarnished and targeted candidates in terms of money and endorsements are Rizzo and small business person Thea Selby, who described their candidacies as “the grown-ups in the room, so there’s an opportunity there and I’m hopeful.”

Selby hasn’t held elective office and doesn’t have same name-recognition and progressive history as Rizzo, although she has one of the Guardian’s endorsements. It probably didn’t help win progressive confidence when the downtown-backed Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth recently did an independent expenditure on behalf of both Selby and Breed.

And then there’s Rizzo, who has been like the tortoise in this race, quietly spending his days on the streets meeting voters. Between fundraising and public financing, Rizzo collected about $65,000 as of Oct. 20 (compared to Breed’s nearly $250,000), but he’s been smart and frugal with it and has almost $20,000 in the bank for the final stretch, more than either Olague or Davis.

But perhaps more important than money or retail politics, if indeed D5 voters continue their strongly progressive voting trends, are two key facts: Rizzo is the most clear and consistent longtime progressive activist in the race — and he’s a nice, dependable guy who lacks the oversized ego of many of this city’s leaders.

“I see consistency there and a lack of drama,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano, an early Rizzo endorser, told us. “He’s looking not like a flip-flopper, not like he owes anyone, and he doesn’t have a storied past.”



Rizzo, who was born in New York City 54 years ago, is downright boring by San Francisco standards, particularly given his long history in a local progressive movement known for producing fiery warriors like Chris Daly, shrewd strategists like Aaron Peskin, colorful commenters like Ammiano, bohemian thinkers like Matt Gonzalez, and flawed idealists like Ross Mirkarimi.

Rizzo is a soft-spoken family man who has lived in the same building on Waller Street in the Haight-Ashbury for the last 27 years. Originally, he and Christine, his wife of 25 years, rented their apartment in a tenancy-in-common building before they bought it in the early 1990s, although he’s quick to add, “In all the years we’ve owned it, we never applied for condoship.”

He supports the city’s limits on condo conversions as important to protecting working-class housing, although he said, “The focus should be on building new affordable housing.” That’s an issue Rizzo has worked on since joining the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter more than 20 years ago, an early advocate for broadening the chapter’s view of environmentalism.

He’s a Muni rider who hasn’t owned a car since 1987.

Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter, said Rizzo brings a wealth of experience, established relationships, and shrewd judgment to his role as the group’s political chair. “We really rely on John’s ability to weigh what is politically feasible, not just what’s ideal in our minds,” she told us.

Yet that political realism shouldn’t be confused for a lack of willingness to fight for big, important goals. Rizzo has been an advocate for public power in San Francisco for many years, strategizing with then-Sup. Ammiano in 2001 to implement a community choice aggregation program, efforts that led to this year’s historic passage of the CleanPowerSF program (with a key vote of support by Olague) over the objections of Mayor Lee and some business leaders.

“CleanPowerSF was carried by John Rizzo, who has been working on that issue for 10 years,” Myers said.

Rizzo is a technology writer, working for prospering computer magazines in the 1990s “until they all went away with the bubble,” as well as books (his 14th book, Mountain Lion Server for Dummies, comes out soon).

He sees the “positives and the negatives” of the last tech boom and this one, focusing on solving problems like the Google and Genetech buses blocking traffic or Muni bus stops. “On the one hand, these people aren’t driving, but on the other hand, they’re unregulated and using our bus stops,” he said. “We need to find some solution to accommodate them. Charge them for it, but accommodate them.”

That’s typical of how Rizzo approaches issues, wanting to work with people to find solutions. As president of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, Rizzo suffered the bad timing of the district having its accreditation threatened just as his supervisorial race was getting underway, but he’s steadily worked through the administrative problems that predated his tenure, starting with the criminal antics of former Chancellor Phil Day and continuing with “a management structure still in place, and it had calcified.”

Despite being on the campaign trail, Rizzo called the trustees together six times in August to deal with the accreditation problems. “We now have a plan that shows all the things the district needs to do to keep it afloat. City College is back on track.”



Eileen Hansen — a longtime progressive activist, former D8 supervisorial candidate, and former Ethics Commissioner — gave her early endorsement to Rizzo, who never really seemed to catch fire. “There hasn’t been a lot of flash and I would love for there to be more energy,” she admitted.

So, like many progressive leaders, she later offered her endorsement to Davis, believing he had the energy needed to win the race. But after Davis’ problems, Hansen withdrew that endorsement and sees Rizzo as the antidote to its problems.

“We are in such a mess in D5, and I’m hoping they will say, ‘enough already, let’s find someone who’s just good on the issues, and that’s John,” Hansen said. “As a progressive, if you look at his stands over many years, I’d be hard-pressed to find an issue I don’t agree with him on. He’s a consistent, strong progressive voice, someone you can count on who’s not aligned with some power base.”

Other prominent progressive leaders agree.

“What some people may have viewed as his weak point may end up being his strength,” said former Board President Aaron Peskin, who endorsed Rizzo after the problems surfaced with Davis. “A calm, steady, cool, collected, dispassionate progressive may actually be the right thing for this moment.”

Sup. Malia Cohen, a likable candidate who rose from fourth place on election night to win a heated District 10 supervisorial race two years ago, is a testament to how ranked-choice voting opens up lots of new possibilities.

“Ranked choice voting defies conventional wisdom,” Peskin said. “There may be Julian Davis supporters and Christina Olague supporters and London Breed supporters who all place John Rizzo as their second.”

In fact, during our endorsement interviews and in a number of debates and campaign events, nearly every candidate in the race mentioned Rizzo as a good second choice.

Yet Rizzo doesn’t mince words when he talks about the need for reconstitute the progressive movement after the deceptions and big-money interests that brought Mayor Lee and “his fake age of civility” to power. Lee promised not to seek a full term “and he broke the deal,” Rizzo said. “And it was a public deal he broke, not some backroom deal.” 

That betrayal and the money-driven politics that Lee ushered in, combined with the divisive political climate that Lee’s long effort to remove Mirkarimi from office created, has deeply damaged the city’s political system. “I think the climate is very bad It’s bad for progressives, and just bad for politics because it’s turning voters off,” Rizzo said.

He wants to find ways to empower average San Franciscans and get them engaged with helping shape the city’s future.

“We need a new strategy. We need to regroup and think about things long and hard. I think it’s not working here. We’re doing the same things and it’s not working out. The money is winning.” He doesn’t think the answers lie in continued conflict, or with any individual politicians “because people are flawed, everyone is,” Rizzo said.

Yet Rizzo’s main flaw in the rough-and-tumble world of political campaigns may be that he’s too nice, too reluctant to toot his horn or beat his chest. “That kind of style is not me. That aggressive person is not who I am,” Rizzo said. “But I think voters like that. Voters do want someone who is going to focus on policy and not themselves.”

The sleazy money typhoon


CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct inaccurate information.


The flood of money into the San Francisco elections over the past month is mind-boggling. We’ve never seen this level of independent-expenditure attacks in district elections. We’ve never seen an out-of-nowhere conservative candidate with no political experience at all spend half a million of his own money to buy a San Francisco Assembly seat. It could be a very ugly Nov. 6.

The most dramatic entry in the last-minute sewer-money contest is the political action committee just formed to attack Sup. Christina Olague over her vote to retain Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. San Francisco Women for Responsibility and Accountable Supervisor exists only to oppose Olague; Ron Conway, a close ally Mayor Ed Lee, has thrown $20,000 into the group, and his wife Gayle put up $49,000. Linda Voight, who is married to real-estate industry mogul and rent-control foe Thomas Coates, put up another $49,000. That more than $100,000 coming in during the last 10 days of a campaign and it’s an unprecedented amount of negative money for a district race.

The idea that a tech titan and a big landlord would use the Mirkarimi vote in a hit-campaign is disturbing to a lot of people, particularly Ted Gullicksen, who runs the San Francisco Tenants Union:

Conway’s committee attacks Christina Olague for supporting Ross Mirkarimi.  But really he is just using the issue of domestic violence as a tool to unseat a political opponent.  By doing so, he is cheapening the issue of domestic violence to further his crass political agenda of repealing rent control.

(Conway, in an Oct. 30 note, says he does not oppose San Francisco’s rent control laws. Coates has put significant money into anti-rent-control efforts.)

It’s also, apparently, payback from two of the mayor’s money guys — and it makes a screwy election even stranger. Particularly since none of the other prominent candidates in D5 are out there going after Olague on her vote and most of them probably would have voted the same way.

Conventional wisdom is that attacking Olague helps London Breed, who is the candidate the landlords have chosen (and spent $40,000 on). But nobody knows exactly what will happen when all the ranked-choice ballots are counted. John Rizzo has largely weathered the story of attacks from all sides and will be #2 on a lot of ballots. I think Julian Davis is finished, and more of his supporters will go to Rizzo or Olague than to Breed.

Still, it’s entirely possible that the most progressive district in the city will be represented by someone who is likely to be more aligned with the moderates and conservatives than with the left.

Then there’s Michael Breyer, who has now put more than $500,000 of his own money into the Assembly race against Assessor Phil Ting. Breyer’s never done anything in local politics; he claims to talk about old-fashioned San Francisco values and hypes his family members from past generations who have been active in the community, but he grew up on the East Coast and moved here in 2002. But with that kind of money, the more conservative candidate has been able to bring the race close to even.

And if he can use his own fortune to top Ting — who’s been a decent Assessor and has long ties to the community — it’s going to be a bad moment for San Francisco politics.



Realtors and tech spending big to flip the Board of Supervisors


Wealthy interests aligned with Mayor Ed Lee, the real estate industry, big tech companies, and other downtown groups are spending unprecedented sums of money in this election trying to flip the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors, with most of it going to support supervisorial candidates David Lee in D1 and, to a lesser degree, London Breed in D5.

The latest campaign finance statements, which were due yesterday, show Lee benefiting from more than $250,000 in “independent expenditures” from just two groups: the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth PAC, which got its biggest support from tech titans Mark Benioff and Ron Conway; and the Coalition for Responsible Growth, funded by the San Francisco Association of Realtors.

Lee’s campaign has also directly spent another nearly $250,000 on its race to unseat incumbent Sup. Eric Mar – bringing total expenditures on his behalf to more than $500,000, an unheard-of amount for a district election. Mar has spent $136,000 and has $24,100 in the bank, and he is benefiting from another $125,000 that San Francisco Labor Council unions have raised on his behalf.

Breed has benefited from more than $40,000 in spending on her behalf by the two groups. Her campaign is also leading the fundraising field in her district, spending about $150,000 so far and sitting on more than $93,000 in the bank for a strong final push.

Incumbent D5 Sup. Christina Olague has done well in fundraising, but the reports seem to indicate that her campaign hasn’t managed its resources well and could be in trouble in the final leg. She has just $13,369 in the bank and nearly $70,000 in unpaid campaign debts, mostly to her controversial consultant Enrique Pearce’s firm.

Slow-and-steady D5 candidates John Rizzo and Thea Selby seem to have enough in the bank ($20,000 and $33,000 respectively) for a decent final push, while Selby also got a $10,000 boost from the the Alliance, which could be a mixed blessing in that progressive district. Julian Davis still has more than $18,000 in the bank, defying the progressive groups and politicians who have pulled their endorsements and pledging to finish strong.

In District 7, both FX Crowley and Michael Garcia have posted huge fundraising numbers, each spending around $22,000 this year, but Crowley has the fiscal edge going into the final stretch with $84,443 in the bank compared to Garcia’s less than $34,000. But progressive favorite Norman Yee is right in the thick of the race as well, spending $130,000 this year and having more than $63,000 in the bank.

The following is a detailed look at the numbers (we didn’t do Districts 3, 9, and 11, where the incumbents aren’t facing serious or well-funded challenges) for the biggest races:


Independent Expenditures


Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth PAC

The downtown-oriented group is run by notorious campaign attorney Jim Sutton. It has raised $447,500 this year, including $225,000 in this reporting period (Oct. 1 to Oct. 20).

It has spent $107,808 this period and $342,248 this reporting period. It has $243,599 in the bank and $105,334 in outstanding debt.

Donors include: Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff ($100,000), venture capitalist Ron Conway ($35,000), San Francisco Police Officers Association ($25,000), Healthplus Share Services out of Walnut Creek ($20,000), Committee on Jobs ($47,500), and Operating Engineers Local 3 ($10,000)

The Alliance has spent $143,763 this year, including $16,921 in this reporting period, supporting D1 supervisorial candidate David Lee and attacking his opponent Eric Mar; and $10,205 each in support of D5 candidates Thea Selby and London Breed.


Coalition for Sensible Growth (with major funding by the SF Association of Realtors)

Raised nothing this reporting period but $225,000 this year.

Spent $75,636 this period and $287,569 this year. Has $170,744 in the bank and $152,000 in outstand debts.

It has spent $101,267 supporting D1 candidate David Lee, $26,405 support of David Chiu in D3, $2,739 each supporting FX Crowley and Michael Garcia in D7, $12,837 opposing Norman Yee in D7, $29,357 backing London Breed in D5, and $20,615 promoting Prop. C (the Housing Trust Fund).

The San Francisco Labor Council Labor & Neighbor PAC has raised $84,563 for its various member unions and spent $93,539 this year on general get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Labor Council also supports three Teachers, Nurses and Neighbors groups supporting Eric Mar in D1 (raising $125,000 and spending $85,437), FX Crowley in D7 (raising $50,000 and spending $40,581), and Christina Olague in D5 (raising $15,000 and spending $15,231)


Supervisorial Races:

District 1

Eric Mar

Raised $18,270 this period, $135,923 this year, and got no public finances this period.

He has spend $61,499 this period, $187,409 this year, and has $24,180 in the bank with no debt.

Donors include: Sup. David Chiu ($250), board aides Judson True ($100) and Jeremy Pollock ($100), redevelopment attorney James Morales ($200), developer Jack Hu ($500), engineer Arash Guity ($500), community organizer James Tracy ($200), Lisa Feldstein ($250), Marc Salomon ($125), Petra DeJesus ($300), and Gabriel Haaland ($200).

David Lee

Raised $4,174 this period, $140,305 this year, and no public financing matches this period.

He has spent $245,647 this year and $55,838 this period. He has $5,871 in debts and $26,892 in the bank.

Donors include the building trades union ($500), property manager Andrew Hugh Smith ($500), Wells Fargo manager Alfred Pedrozo ($200), and SPO Advisory Corp. partner William Oberndorf ($500).

District 5

John Rizzo

Raised $5,304 this period (10/1-10/20), $29,860 this year, and $14,248 in public financing

He has $19,813 in the bank

Donors are mostly progressive and environmental activists: attorney Paul Melbostad $500), Hene Kelly ($100), Bernie Choden ($100), Dennis Antenore ($500), Clean Water Action’s Jennifer Clary ($150), Matt Dorsey ($150), Arthur Feinstein ($350), Jane Morrison ($200), and Aaron Peskin ($150).


Julian Davis

Raised $8,383 this period, $38,953 YTD, and got $16,860 in public financing in this period (and $29,510 in the 7/1-9/30 period).

He has $67,530 in YTD expenses, $18,293 in the bank, and $500 in debts.

Some donors: Aaron Peskin ($500), John Dunbar ($500), Heather Box ($100), Jim Siegel ($250), Jeremy Pollock ($200), BayView publisher Willie Ratcliff ($174), and Burning Man board member Marian Goodell ($400). Peskin and Dunbar both say they made those donations early in the campaign, before Davis was accused of groping a woman and lost most of his progressive endorsements.


London Breed

Raised $15,959 this period, $128,009 YTD, got $95,664 in public financing this period.

Total YTD expenditures of $150,596 and has $93,093 in the bank

Donors include: Susie Buell ($500), CCSF Board member Natalie Berg ($250), Miguel Bustos ($500), PG&E spokesperson and DCCC Chair Mary Jung ($250), SF Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jim Lazarus ($100), Realtor Matthew Lombard ($500), real estate investor Susan Lowenberg ($500), Municipal Executives Association of SF ($500), Carmen Policy ($500), SF Apartment Association ($500), SF’s building trades PAC ($500), and Sam Singer ($500).


Christina Olague

Raised $7,339 this period, $123,474 YTD, and got $39,770 in public financing this period.

Has spent $54,558 this period, $199,419 this year, has $13,367 in the bank, and has $69,312 in outstanding debt.

Donors include: former Mayor Art Agnos ($500), California Nurses Association PAC ($500), a NUHW political committee ($500), the operating engineers ($500) and electrical workers ($500) union locals, Tenants Together attorney Dean Preston ($100), The Green Cross owner Kevin Reed ($500), SEIU-UHW PAC ($500), Alex Tourk ($500), United Educators of SF ($500), and United Taxicab Workers ($200).

Some expenses include controversial political consultant Enrique Pearce’s Left Coast Communications ($15,000), which documents show is still owed another $62,899 for literature, consulting, and postage.


Thea Selby

Raised $5,645 this period, $45,651 YTD, and got $6,540 in public financing this period.

Spent $29,402 this period, $67,300 this year, and has $33,519 in the bank.

Donors include:

David Chiu board aide Judson True ($100), One Kings Lane VP Jim Liefer ($500), SF Chamber’s Jim Lazarus ($100), Harrington’s Bar owner Michael Harrington ($200), and Arthur Swanson of Lightner Property Group ($400).


District 7


Norman Yee

Raised $8,270 this period and $85,460 this year and received $65,000 in public financing.

Spent $15,651 this period, $130,005 this year, and has $63,410 in the bank and no debt.

Donors include: Realtor John Whitehurst ($500), Bank of America manager Patti Law ($500), KJ Woods Construction VP Marie Woods ($500), and Iron Work Contractors owner Florence Kong ($500).


FX Crowley

Raised $5,350 this period, $163,108 this year, and another $25,155 through public financing.

He spent $76,528 this period, $218,441 this year, and has $84,443 in the bank and $7,291 in unpaid debt.

Donors include: Alliance for Jobs & Sustainable Growth attorney Vince Courtney ($250), Thomas Creedon ($300) and Mariann Costello ($250) of Scoma’s Restaurant, stagehands Richard Blakely ($100) and Thomas Cleary ($150), Municipal Executives Association of SF ($500), IBEW Local 1245 ($500), and SF Medical Society PAC ($350)


Michael Garcia

Raised $8,429 this period, $121,123 this year, and $18,140 through public financing.

He spent $45,484 this period, $222,580 this year, and has $33,936 in the bank.

Donors include: Coalition for Responsible Growth flak Zohreh Eftekhari ($500), contractor Brendan Fox ($500), consultant Sam Lauter of BMWL ($500), Stephanie Lauter ($500), consultant Sam Riordan ($500), and William Oberndorf ($500)


Profiling those who rely on HANC, which the city is evicting (VIDEO)


The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council’s (HANC) Recycling Center has fought for the past decade to stay in its tiny corner of Golden Gate Park, behind Kezar stadium, and it may be days from closing. It’s been served with eviction notices from the city and weathered political tirades from politicians on pulpits, and most recently, saw its eviction appeal denied by California’s Supreme Court.

The recycling center, which has been in operation since 1974, wouldn’t be the only loss to the Haight either. Both a community garden and San Francisco native plant nursery are on the site, under the umbrella name of Kezar Gardens. After an eviction for the recycling center, all three would go.

So in what may be their last days, the Guardian decided to take a look at  who is a part of the recycling center’s community. What keeps them coming back – even in the face of eviction? While the final eviction date is nebulous, the reasons for it are not: as the Haight gentrified, more and more neighbors complained about the site’s surrounding homeless population, the noise the recycling center makes, and every other NIMBY complaint in the book.

Contrary to the usual complaints of the recycling center and gardens attracting numerous homeless people, the people detailed in the stories below reflect a diverse community. And there were far more stories that we didn’t include: the busy head of a nonprofit who gardens to keep his sanity, or the two brothers who bring in their recyclables every week as a way for their parents to teach them responsibility. And they’re not the only people who depend on the recycling center and gardens.

“One of the problems [with evicting HANC] is that the small businesses in the area depend on the service of the center,” Sup. Christina Olague, who representing the area, told us. “We don’t want to see it relocated out of the area.”

Olague said that although ideas for a mobile recycling center or a relocation have been batted around, nothing is concrete yet. The Mayor’s Office, the Recreations and Parks Department, and HANC were all going to have more meetings and try to come to a solution that would benefit all sides, she said.

The recycling center and gardens aren’t going down without their supporters making a clamor. They developed a feature documentary about their struggles, titled 780 Frederick. Directed by Soumyaa Kapil Behrens, the film will play at the San Francisco International Film Festivals “Doc Fest” on Nov. 11.

Until then, here’s a glimpse at some of the people who make up the community at the HANC Recycling Center and Kezar Gardens.


Greg Gaar, Native Plant Nursery Caretaker

Longtime groundskeeper and recycling guru Greg Gaar will soon be out of a job, only a year after single-handedly starting a native plant nursery in the Haight Ashbury that serves more than 100 people.

Gaar is the caretaker of the Kezar Garden nursery. He raises Dune Tansy, Beach Sagewort, Coast Buckwheat and Bush Monkey –  all plants originally born and bred from the dunes of old San Francisco.

“I do it because I worship nature, to me that’s god,” Gaar said. He spoke of the plants reverently.

The native plants aren’t as bombastically colorful as the rest of Golden Gate Park, he said, which Gaar calls “European pleasure gardens,” but they’re hearty and durable, like Gaar himself.

Gaar has a weathered face from years of working in the open air, and he grinned large as he talked about his plants. His grey beard comes down a few inches, giving him the look of a spry Santa Claus. Gaar has a history of embracing the counterculture, much like the Haight itself. In 1977, he made his first foray into activism.

At the time, wealthy developers in the city wanted to develop buildings and houses on Tank Hill, one of the few remaining lands of San Francisco with native growth. “Two percent of the city right now has native plants,” he said. It’s a travesty to him, but he did his part to prevent it.

Gaar led the charge against the redevelopers by putting up posters and flyers, and fighting them tooth and nail for the land through old fashioned San Francisco rallying.

In the end, the counterculture activists won, and the city of San Francisco bought the land back from the developers, keeping it for the public trust. The long-ago battle over Tank Hill was a victory, but the fight for the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center may already be lost.

Gaar has deep ties to the recycling center. Among his friends are two ravens, Bobbie and Regina, who recognize Gaar since the first time he fed them 16 years ago. Occasionally, he says, they’ll accompany him on his rounds around the park. The ravens aren’t the only friends he’s made through the recycling center.

They have many patrons looking to make a few bucks off of cans and bottles, many of which are poverty-struck or homeless. Gaar darkened as he spoke of them, because over the years he has lost many friends he’s made through work. The recycling center is a community, and those that are lost are often memorialized in the garden that Gaar grew with his own hands.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist C. W. Nevius frequently calls out the nursery as a “last ditch effort” on the part of the recycling center to stave off closure and legitimize its own existence. In reality, the nursery was brainstormed years before the controversy through Gaar’s inspiration.

Though Nevius may not agree with the ethos Gaar has brought to the recycling center, the city of San Francisco must trust him. The Recreation and Parks Department has offered him a job planting native plants around Golden Gate Park, which is Gaar is welcome to after the recycling center closes. But taking care of native plants is more than a job to Gaar, it’s a calling.

“Isn’t it amazing that we exist on one of the sole planets we know of that supports life?” Gaar said with wide eyes. He sees his job as preserving the natural order, working to keep alive the plants that were part of the city before the first arrival of the spaniards.

Gaar, much like his plants, is part of a shrinking population of the city: the San Francisco native. When the recycling center closes, he’ll be able to spread native plants across Golden Gate Park, another rebel cause in a life of green activism.


Kristy  Zeng, loyal daughter

Kristy Zeng, 30,  talked about everything she does for her family in a matter of fact tone, as if none of it took effort, patience or loyalty.

As she talked, Zeng unloaded over six trash cans worth of recyclables into colored bins. At home, she has two young girls waiting for her, ages three and one, she said. The money she gets from the recyclables is small, but necessary – not for herself, but for her mother.

“My mom’s primary job is this one,” she said. Zeng’s mother is 62 and speaks no English. In the eight years she’s been in San Francisco since immigrating from China, she hasn’t been able to find a job.

“People look at her and say she’s too old,” Zeng said. “She’s too near retirement age.”

So Zeng’s mother hauls cans in her shopping cart every day to earn her keep. She’s one of the folks you can spot around town foraging in bins outside people’s homes, collecting recyclables from picnic-goers in parks, and asking for empties from local bars. The money she earns is just enough to pay for her food.

Even between her husband’s two jobs, Zeng said her family doesn’t have quite enough to fully support her mother. The recyclable collecting is vital income, Zeng said. She and her extended family all live in the Sunset and Outer Richmond, though she wishes they could find a place big enough to live together.

The Haight Ashbury Recycling Center is just close enough to make the chore worth the trip. Zeng was surprised to hear that the center was near closure.

“I would have to find a job,” she said. She usually watches her infant and toddler while her husband is at work. “Mom can’t babysit them, her back isn’t so good. It’s too hard.”

It’s not so bad though, she said, because at 30 years old, Zeng is still young and can handle the extra work. But if the recycling center closed, Zeng and her mom would both have to find a new way to make ends meet.


Steven and Brian Guan learn responsibility

At about five feet tall, wearing an oversized ball-cap and dwarfed by the man-sized jacket he wore, Brian Guan, 12,  definitely stood out at the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center. All around him, grisly old men hauled bins full of cans and bottles – but he didn’t pay them any mind.

Brian had his older brother Steven Guan, 14, to look out for him. Together they hauled in four bags worth of recyclables in plastic bags, walking straight to the empty bins as if it were a routine they’d done a dozen times before.

Which, of course, they had.

“I’ve been doing this for at least a year,” Steven said. Though he looks totally comfortable, the chore definitely introduced him to a different crowd than he’s used to.

The recycling center’s clientele of homeless folks, and people generally older than 14, don’t really bother him, he said. “It’s kinda weird, but it’s no big deal.” Besides, he said, he’s happy to help out his family, who spend a lot of time working.

“My mom works in a hotel, and she collects the cans and stuff there.” His dad does the same.

Their mom is a maid, and dad is a bellhop, working in separate hotels downtown. Steven didn’t know if the money they collect each week was vital for his family’s income, but he does know that the haul isn’t very much.

“It’s usually only like $10,” he said.

So was it even worth the trip? Steven said that if he wasn’t helping out his parents by bringing in recyclables, he’d probably be “at home doing nothing.” A Washington High School student, he doesn’t play on any sports teams and isn’t in any clubs. He spends the majority of his time helping out his family.

The way he figures it, he said, the chore is meant to teach him responsibility.

It looks like it worked.


Dennis Horsluy, a principled man

A lot of the patrons haul cans and bottles to the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center out of need: to feed themselves, clothe themselves, and live. Dennis Horsluy, 44, does not count himself as one of those people.

“It’s pocket change,” Horsluy said. But despite the cost, he’s going to get every red penny back from the government that he’s owed through the California Redemption Value charges on cans and bottles. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Horsluy said that Sunset Scavenger, now known as Recology, has a stranglehold on San Francisco’s recycling and trash.

“If you leave your recyclables on the curb, it’s like taxation without representation,” he said. You pay for it whether you want to or not. In his own version of “sticking it to the man,” Horsluy makes sure his recycling dollars get back into his hands.

Horsluy is a displaced auto-worker who has only just recently found work again. “I made plenty, and now I make nothing,” he said.

A family man, he has a daughter at Lowell High School, and a son at Stuart Hall High School. He thinks San Francisco has problems much weightier than closing the recycling center, such as the school lottery system that almost had him sending his kids far across town for school.

Horsluy wasn’t surprised that some of the Haight locals had managed to finally oust the recycling center, considering they’ve been complaining for years about how it attracts many of the local homeless population to the area. “I’m sure it’s a problem for the neighbors with their million-dollar homes,” he said.

But the homeless were a problem long before the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center, Horsluy said. San Francisco has a history of generosity, and so it draws more of the needy. Horsluy will be fine without the recycling center, he said, but the more poverty stricken patrons of the center may not be.

“They’re just trying to survive.”


Chris Dye, gardening his troubles away

Some people drink to forget. Chris Dye, 44,  does something similar — he gardens to forget.

While watering the plot of greens he calls his own, Dye spun a yarn that sounded like a San Francisco version of a country song. His ex-wife bleeds his paychecks dry, and he had to leave his dream job at the National Parks Service to make ends meet in Information Technology, a job he pictures as the last place he’d like to be.

He regained a bit of peace in his ordeals through a hardcore passion for San Francisco native plants. “I found a rare kind of phacelia clinging to life in the cement at City College,” Dye said. “You know, down by the art building? When I saw it, I sketched it.”

A day later though it was gone, he said. He fell silent in what was almost a reverent moment for the rare native plant he spotted. Dye is on a personal mission to revive native San Franciscan plants.

The Kezar Gardens give Dye a chance to grow for himself all the interesting native plants he’s interested in. Inspired by the native plant nursery’s caretaker, Greg Gaar, he rattles off all the near-extinct species he’s been able to see and raise. “For me, it’s a personal experiment to figure all this out.”

It’s not all about leafy activism though. Sometimes, it’s just about a good meal. Dye snapped off a leaf and crushed it with his fingers. “This is Hummingbird Sage,” he said, holding it up to his nose for a sniff. “Mix this into a little olive oil, and rub it all over your pot roast, or whatever. It’s fucking amazing.”


Lael and Genevieve Dasgupta

Four-year-old Genevieve marched around the table by the garden, watching as a woman carves a pumpkin for Halloween.

Genevieve and her mother, Lael Dasgupta, recycle there in the Haight once a week, as part of Dasgupta’s hope to get her to learn at a young age about eco-responsibility. They don’t use one of the garden plots in the community garden, because they have a communal backyard at home. They do use some of Greg Gaar’s native plants in their garden, for decoration.

Dasgupta has mostly practical reasons for recycling. “It brings us about $40 to $50 a week… That’s a lot of money,” Dasgupta said.

But despite the location of several other recycling centers in the city, why does Dasgupta bring Genevieve here?

“Dirt, dirt dirt,” she said. “Its just good for her to play in the dirt, and build a healthy immune system. The other recycling centers aren’t as charming.”

Dasgupta said that if Kezar Gardens and the Haight Ashbury Recycling Center were to close, she wouldn’t relish taking her daughter out to the Bayview recycling center. She’s been there, and didn’t enjoy the experience. It’s easy to see that the two are comfortable at Kezar Gardens. Folks around the gardens all seem to know Genevieve, who marches around the place without fear.

The woman who was carving the pumpkins handed one to Genevieve for her to play with. The young girl promptly set to the pumpkin with a marker, making what could be either a set of incomprehensible squiggly lines, or the Milky Way galaxy, depending on your perspective.



The Milk Club’s strange endorsement vote


The Harvey Milk Club has decided not to rescind its endorsement of Julian Davis for supervisor in District 5 — although the vote may say more about the geopolitics of the race than the way the club members feel about Davis.

The club members had two resolutions in front of them Oct. 22, a night that also featured the third presidential debate and the do-or-die Giants game. The first resolution would have withdrawn the club’s support for Davis, who lost most of his progressive endorsements after he was accused of groping a woman at a campaign event six years ago. The second would have given an unranked three-way endorsement to Sup. Christina Olague, John Rizzo, and Thea Selby.

Of course, the second resolution wouldn’t even come up unless two-thirds of the club members voted in favor of the first.

And while a number of club members are as unhappy as the rest of the left about Davis’s behavior, the real drama involved the efforts of other candidates in the race to prevent Olague from getting the nod.

Rizzo, president of the Community College Board, told me he showed up and voted against the first resolution. “I didn’t campaign, I didn’t organize, I just showed up for 15 minutes and voted no,” he said. Rizzo’s not supporting or working with Davis — so why try to protect the guy’s Milk Club endorsement? Well, Rizzo knows that Olague is a much bigger threat to him than Davis, whose campaign is on the ropes. So he voted in his own self-interest. 

Rizzo agreed it was “very odd” for him to be in this position, but said he was campaigning to win and didn’t want to see a front-running competitor getting a major club endorsement.

Gabriel Haaland, a longtime Milk Club member who supports Olague, wasn’t happy with that. “In the end, I want a progressive supervisor,” he said. “John and Christina are my top choices, but I don’t want to see London Breed get elected.”

Ah, that’s the subtext here — and it’s a serious one. The left is worried about Breed, who’s the beneficiary of a well-funded independent expenditure campaign by the San Francisco Association of Realtors. That group, which is also pushing hard to oust Eric Mar in District 1, wants to weaken the power of tenants on the Board of Supervisors, and sees Breed as friendly to that agenda.

Breed’s a serious contender — a lot of observers think that she and Olague are in a two-way race, although with ranked-choice voting, Rizzo is also very much in the running, as, potentially, is Thea Selby.

Breed’s supporters didn’t want to see the Milk Club go with Olague, either, and some showed up to vote against rescinding the Davis endorsement. Breed told me she wasn’t actively involved: “I just wanted to stay out of it,” she said. She acknowledged, though, that some of her supporters had told her about the meeting and “there were some people that went there.”

In the end, Club President Glendon Hyde told me, the vote was 53 yes, 42 no — far short of the two-thirds needed to reverse the endorsement.

There were, by all accounts, plenty of Davis supporters in the room. But it’s likely that the combination of Breed supporters and Rizzo supporters was enough to sway the vote and ensure that the Milk Club retained Davis as its only choice.

Both Breed and Rizzo denied working together — but the result was the same: The Milk Club is now about the only significant progressive group in the city still siding with Davis.


Another look at Olague


OPINION As Election Day nears, the chaotic contest for supervisor in District 5 represents a critical decision for progressive voters in the district — and for activists across the city.

The campaign for Julian Davis, the original first choice of many left/liberal activists, has imploded and is now in free-fall. The repercussions of the board’s vote on Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi continues to reverberate, nowhere more than in District 5. And respected progressive advocates who had worked together for decades are now estranged, even as our city faces urgent challenges of great complexity.

I don’t know Davis or the other candidates in District 5, but I sat down with Supervisor Christina Olague last month after she received the endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council. It was our first meeting, and as I rode the Metro to Civic Center I was, frankly, not expecting much. Like many San Franciscans, I could not help but be skeptical of anyone appointed by Mayor Ed Lee. I had heard of decisions made and votes cast by Olague that troubled me. I was not expecting to like her, but friends of mine in the labor movement encouraged me to speak with her directly and I’m glad I did.

I started to like Olague as we walked from her office to find some lunch. Before we got to a restaurant I was already asking her questions about some of the tougher choices she’s made. We didn’t agree on everything, of course, but I was struck by her candor, her common sense, and pragmatic progressive values.

Christina Olague grew up in a migrant labor community in the Central Valley. She survived the often-brutal working conditions and poverty that define the lives of some of the most cruelly exploited workers in the United States. She became active in politics early in life, put herself through school, and moved to San Francisco, where she became a familiar figure in the city’s grassroots community.

As a Latina, and as a member of the LGBT community, Olague’s life experiences shaped her politics and basic values. Her candidacy is important in a city that seems every day more destined to become an enclave reserved exclusively for only the very wealthy and most privileged.

I endorsed Olague several weeks before she cast her vote on the struggle between Lee and Mirkarimi. I would have continued to support her regardless of her vote that day. But the bitterness of that controversy, and the nature of the scandal now surrounding Davis, underscore the need for progressives to heal, to repair our alliances and to demonstrate political leadership grounded in respect for all our communities.

The UNITE HERE International Union represents hotel, restaurant, casino, food service and laundry workers throughout the US and Canada. The majority of our members — the people I work for — are immigrant women. In our union we stand together: LGBT and straight, brown and black and white, immigrant and native-born. In all our actions we seek to build power for working people and to strengthen the broader movement for peace and social justice.

San Francisco has seen many changes in the 40 years since I first hitchhiked here as a youth from Arizona. While the political landscape has certainly altered, I reject the notion that the city’s voters have moved irrevocably to the right. I do believe that progressive activists must do better in communicating our values and our vision for this beautiful and unique city we all love. I think Olague could be an important part of that process.

On behalf of the members of UNITE HERE Local 2, and as a longtime organizer for LGBT and worker rights, I ask my many friends in District 5 to take another look at Christina Olague and to consider casting your vote for her on November 6.

Cleve Jones is a longtime activist and the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

DCCC’s Mirkarimi resolution gets delayed


San Franciscans will get a chance to take a deep breath – and their politicians will be able to get past Election Day – before wading back into the sordid saga surrounding Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s fitness for office, thanks to a resolution condemning him being pulled from tomorrow night’s San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee agenda.

The measure’s chief sponsor, Zoe Dunning, today sent her DCCC colleagues an email thanking supporters of the measure but noting that “a few of you also expressed your belief that collaborating on an amended but substantially similar resolution would help maximize consensus on the DCCC. In consideration of these sentiments and my desire for consensus, I’ve decided to temporarily withdraw my resolution from consideration.”

Instead, Dunning said that she would reintroduce a new resolution for the following meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 28. Her resolution condemns Mirkarimi for the domestic violence incident against his wife – for which he accepted criminal responsibility in March and survived an attempt to remove him from office for official misconduct last month – and voiced support for his recall by voters.

Inside sources tell us the reason for the delay has less to do with the substance of the measure than with its timing, coming while emotions are still so raw and emotionally charged on both sides of the Mirkarimi question. Few DCCC members had the stomach right now for a replay of the ugly, hours-long public testimony that marked the Oct. 9 Board of Supervisors meeting – particularly coming during Game 1 of the World Series.

Dunning conceded that one factor in her decision was that she “got the feedback that emotions are a little raw right now,” although she told us her main reason was to gather more support: “The timing aspect of it was getting more consensus on the measure. I’m not doing this to be divisive, but I would like the party to take a stand on this.”

That wasn’t the only dramatic item on tomorrow’s DCCC agenda, which also includes a proposal to revisit the DCCC’s “no endorsement” vote in the contentious District 5 supervisorial race and make an endorsement. The effort was sparked by supporters of London Breed who hope the moderate-dominated body will offer its support to counter current efforts to consolidate progressive support around Christina Olague in the wake of Julian Davis’ current difficulties around his handling of allegations of past misbehavior toward women.

Few sources that we spoke to wanted to offer their predictions for how the D5 endorsement would go, but some were relieved that it was decoupled from the Mirkarimi measure that was placed just ahead of it on the agenda.

Yet Mirkarimi is still likely to be hit with the DCCC’s condemnation when it reconvenes next month, barring a change in the political climate or a deescalation by either the Mayor’s Office or the DV community, which isn’t likely.

Matt Dorsey, the spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office who was elected to the DCCC in June with progressive support, co-sponsored the resolution and told us a recall election is needed to bring closure to this saga.

In an email response to our questions, he wrote: “First, I disagree that a recall would fuel a continued divisive climate. To the contrary, a successful recall would resolve division. Frankly, even an unsuccessful recall would offer both sides the satisfaction of knowing that voters settled the matter – without questions over the legitimacy of the official misconduct proceeding or legal interpretations of the Charter.”

Mirkarimi didn’t respond to our inquiries, but Olague told us last week that she would like to see the fight put to rest. “What I’m concerned about right now is a lot of people are exploiting issues around domestic violence and politicizing it,” Olague said, calling for people to “stop demonizing him” and accept that he’s been punished and is getting the help he needs. “Now it’s so convenient to try to destroy Ross and I think that’s wrong.”

She said the twin scandals involving how Mirkarimi and Davis have treated women – and how those incidents are being exploited – are damaging the city, but she hopes they will give rise to more productive discussions.

“What I’m concerned about is the progressive movement find a way to heal and come together in a way that is more respectful of women,” Olague told us. “Rather than dancing on the grave of Julian Davis, how do we come together and talk about how we treat women?”

Agnos and other progressives rally for Olague


A string of prominent local progressive leaders today offered their support to Sup. Christina Olague – including former Mayor Art Agnos, who announced his endorsement of her in the District 5 supervisorial race – in a rally on the steps of City Hall.

In the process, many voiced a need to broaden and redefine progressivism as valuing independence and diversity of perspective more than just stands on specific issues, traits they said Olague embodies. But more than anything, the rally seemed aimed to consolidating progressive support around Olague as the best hope to beat moderate London Breed in one of the city’s most progressive districts.

“District 5 is often referred to as the most progressive of San Francisco’s supervisorial districts. It includes a diversity of views and opinions on how to meet the challenges all our communities face,” Agnos said. “And it takes a supervisor who know how to listen, to hear and respect those differing views, while working for a resolution that moves us forward.”

Sup. David Campos made only a veiled, indirect reference to the problems some progressives (himself among them) have had with some of Olague’s stands since she was appointed to the job by Mayor Ed Lee, but he said, “Those of us who have worked with her know what’s in her heart…She has been the independent person we always knew she would be and I’m proud to stand with her today.”

Several speakers made reference to Olague’s working class roots, her perspective as a Latina and member of the LGBT community, and her history of progressive activism in San Francisco. Cleve Jones, Gabriel Haaland, Sandra Fewer, and Sup. Eric Mar were among those there to offer support.

“It was a big give by the Mayor’s Office to appoint someone who wasn’t always going to agree with him,” said Sup. Jane Kim, but that was about the only positive reference to the Mayor’s Office, which turned on Olague after she voted to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, setting the stage for her return to the progressive fold.

“To be a progressive is to share an ideology that understands and believes that the best decisions for our city require the participation of all of us, no matter who we are, where we live, or how big our checkbook is,” Agnos said. “As with so many who have endorsed her, that progressive label says she is a politician who understand this fundamental truth.”

SF Rising board member Alicia Garza kicked off the rally by saying, “We are here to set the record straight that the progressive movement is alive and well in San Francisco.” Later, she praise Olague’s history as a community organizer, saying that, “She understands deeply what it means to empower communities.”

Sup. John Avalos, another supervisor who hasn’t always agreed with Olague in the last nine months and just endorsed last week, commended her for the courage it takes to assert her values instead of simply supporting the mayor who appointed her. He said Olague recognizes that, “We live in a city of extremes, with extreme differences between the haves and have-nots.”

Another new progressive endorsement, coming in the wake of one-time progressive favorite Julian Davis’ troubles, was Quintin Mecke, who said he first worked with Olague on anti-gentrification issues 13 years ago. “I trusted her work then and I trust her work today,” he said. Activist Lisa Feldstein – like Mecke, a former D5 candidate – echoed the sentiment.

“I’m here because I really trust Christina and want to fight for her,” Feldstein said. “She comes from a place of integrity and compassion.”

When Olague finally took the podium, she said, “I am humbled by the heartfelt words of my colleagues.” She also tried to help define progressivism in San Francisco, said that it “isn’t about a cult of personality.”

Instead, she said it’s about working to building people’s capacity to create an inclusive and just city. “It’s about building a movement that can weather any storm,” Olague said, closing by saying she’ll ensure “the progressive voice is always strong in District 5 and I’ll keep working to make it heard until I’m blue in the face…I am the most progressive person in the race.”

D5 shakeups flip the dynamics of that wild race


[UPDATED AND CORRECTED] Wild and unsettling political dynamics have rocked the District 5 supervisorial race, with three major candidates having prominent endorsements withdrawn, the most significant being this week’s mass exodus of support from the campaign of Julian Davis following his bad handling of allegations that he has mistreated women.

Those withdrawing their endorsements of Davis since Saturday include Sups. John Avalos, David Campos, and Jane Kim, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, the Bay Guardian, the Examiner, and the League of Pissed-Off Voters. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club has scheduled a vote for Monday on whether to withdraw its sole endorsement of Davis.

Avalos gave his endorsement to Sup. Christina Olague over the weekend, and she seems to be getting more progressive support in the wake of Davis’ flame-out and her Oct. 9 vote in favor of reinstating Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. That vote triggered a strong backlash against Olague from Mayor Ed Lee and his allies, with San Francisco Police Officers Association withdrawing its endorsement.

But former Mayor Art Agnos reached out to Olague – who he didn’t know previously – after the Mirkarimi vote and is rumored to be considering offering her his endorsement and support. Agnos didn’t confirm or deny the rumor, but he did tell us, “I was very impressed by her commitment to the progressive issues we share.”

Olague has a long history of progressive activism and was a consistently good vote during her tenure on the Planning Commission, but many progressives were concerned by her early support for Lee, who then appointed her to the District 5 seat vacated by Mirkarimi’s election as sheriff, and by some of her votes and behaviors since then.

But now that she’s been viciously attacked by Lee’s staffers and allies over the Mirkarimi vote – and iced out by Lee himself, who she says won’t return her calls and who bailed out on a planned campaign appearance – Olague seems to have a newfound independence. “At the end of the day, we serve constituents and the city, and that’s who we should answer to,” Olague told us, agreeing that she feels freed up by recent developments, as difficult as they’ve been. “You don’t become an indentured servant.”

She told us that her decision last year to co-chair the “Run, Ed, Run” campaign to convince Lee to break his promise and run for a full term to the office he’d been appointed to was based on her belief that “we’d see an infusion of new energy and some more diversity” of both ideology and demographics in the Mayor’s Office.

“Sadly, I’m not seeing those changes happening really. I didn’t sign up for another four years of Gavin Newsom and those thugs, and I’ve seen a lot of that same behavior,” she said. “People who played prominent roles in the Newsom administration continue to play prominent roles in this administration.”

Olague said the schism with the administration began this summer when she supported Avalos in trying to bring in new revenue as part of the business tax reform measure that became Prop. E, which Lee had insisted be revenue neutral before compromising with progressives. That was when Olague said she got her first nasty message from Tony Winnicker, the former Newsom press secretary who now works for Lee and wrote Olague a text during the Mirkarimi hearing telling her “you disgust me and I will work night and day to defeat you.”

Some prominent progressives privately worried that schism was an election ploy designed to help Olague win the race for this progressive district given that Davis had captured most of the influential progressive endorsements. But with Lee and his allies continuing to be openly livid over the Mirkarimi vote – and with solid progressive John Rizzo running a lackluster campaign that has less than $5,000 in the bank – there is growing progressive support for Olague.

The big fear among many progressives is that London Breed will win the race, a concern that has been exacerbated by the support that Breed has been receiving from real estate and development interests, both directly and in independent expenditures by the Association of Realtors, which has spent more than $225,000 in this election cycle hoping to knock out progressives in Districts 1 and 5 and tip the balance of power on the board.

Breed told us that she doesn’t know the Realtors or why they’re offering such strong support, pledging to be an independent vote. “I’ve never made any promises to anyone that I would help anyone or that I would be this way or that,” she told us. “I’m not here to do anyone’s bidding, whether it’s Aaron Peskin or Willie Brown or anyone else.”

Brown helped launch Breed’s political career by [CORRECTED recommending then-Mayor Gavin Newsom] appoint her to the Redevelopment Commission, where Breed supported Lennar and other big developers, but she had a falling out with him earlier this year and made impolitic comments about him to the Fog City Journal, causing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein to withdraw her endorsement of Breed.

Brown, Lee, and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak helped raise money for Olague, who has received the maximum $500 donation from such powerful inside players as venture capitalist Ron Conway (and his wife, Gayle), Michael Cohen, Victor Makras, Lawrence Nibbi, Mark Mosher, and John Whitehurst.

But that was before the Mirkarimi vote, which Lee’s allies seem to see as a litmus test on Olague’s loyalty to them. As Tenderloin Housing Clinic director Randy Shaw, who helped engineer the progressive split that brought Lee to power, put it on his Beyond Chron blog, “Olague’s vote was an act of profound disloyalty not only to the mayor who appointed her, but also to those who pushed the mayor to do so.”

Olague says she’s disturbed by that viewpoint, and by those so blinded by their efforts to demonize Mirkarimi “and exploit and politicize issues around domestic violence” that they have failed to consider the price he has already paid for his actions or the legal standards for removing an elected official. “On something like this, it’s not a question of loyalty. It’s about principles,” she said.

Breed says that she has seen an increase in support since the Mirkarimi vote and the Davis meltdown, but she said that she doesn’t want to talk about those cases or exploit them politically. “I don’t take pleasure in the misery of someone else,” she said, adding her hope that the furor about Mirkarimi will die down. “The decision has been made and it’s time for the city to come together.”

Progressive leaders have made similar calls, but Mirkarimi’s critics are showing no signs of letting the issue go. San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee members Zoe Dunning and Matt Dorsey have put forward a resolution condemning the reinstatement vote and calling for Mirkarimi’s ouster, which the DCCC will consider on Wednesday evening, Oct. 24.

[CORRECTED At that meeting, the DCCC will also consider a motion] to reopen the D5 endorsement process, hoping to change the DCCC’s previous “no endorsement” vote, and sources tell us there is currently a strong backroom effort to give the endorsement to Breed. That vote will be a big test for progressives, which lost their majority control over the DCCC in the June elections.

Meanwhile, D5 candidate Thea Selby – who snagged one of the three endorsements by both the Guardian and the Examiner – continues to run a strong and well-funded campaign that has avoided the carnage taking place in the other campaigns. “I feel like I’m in the middle watching out for flying beams,” she told us, adding that both she and Rizzo have been “the grown-ups in the room, so there’s an opportunity there and I’m hopeful.”

But unlike Rizzo, who has seems strangely absent and didn’t return Guardian phone calls [see UPDATE below], Selby has plenty of money in the bank – nearly $60,000 as of the last official report two weeks ago – and could benefit from voter disgust with the ugly politics at play. “It’s my experience that is driving this,” says this small-businessperson, “and not my lifelong desire to be a politician, and that may ring some bells.”

How the ranked-choice voting system will play out in this mess is anyone’s guess, and even Davis seems to be hoping that he still has a shot, resisting calls by the Guardian and others to withdraw from the race. Poorly funded candidates Andrew Resignato and Hope Johnson this week announced they were joining forces for the “People’s Ticket” after being excluded from a University of San Francisco candidates forum.

But most political observers seem to think this race will come down to a two-person contest between Breed and Olague – who each have more than $45,000 in the bank with which to make a strong final push – and the distinctions between them are becoming clearer as more progressives get behind Olague and the moderates and monied interests get behind Breed.

Olague said she’s still “willing to work with anybody,” but that, “I’m worried that moderate forces will seize this moment to try to destroy us.”

UPDATE 4:45: Rizzo just got back to us and said he’s been actively campaigning and feeling good about his chances. “We have a great team and we’ll have enough resources to reach voters,” Rizzo said. He said that he’s had a stong fundraising push in the last couple weeks since the last campaign financing statement was released, and he noted his endorsements and active support by influential progressives including Ammiano, Campos, and Carole Migden. “We’re doing a lot of retail campaigning, meeting voters and getting the message out.”

Avalos, Campos, Kim, Olague: Four profiles of courage at City Hall


Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Christina Olague earned profiles of courage for their votes to reinstate suspended Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi up against enormous pressure for a political assassination, accelerated by Mayor Lee’s demand for a pre-election vote.

And the other seven supervisors, well, they helped answer the question, who’s afraid of Willie Brown? Who’s afraid of Rose Pak?

Note to Mirkarimi: It’s time to repair the damage and get back to work implementing the ambitious program of rehabilitation outlined in your splendid inaugural address as Sheriff.

Unsolicited advice to mayor Ed Lee: Stop taking bad advice.

See my “Profiles of courage” blog for the context of this crucial vote.

Mayor’s aide’s totally inappropriate text to Olague


Wow — a source just passed me the text messages that Tony Winnicker, a senior advisor to Mayor Lee, send to Sup. Christina Olague after her vote on the Mirkarimi case.

It’s totally crazy, outrageous — and inappropriate coming from a top mayoral staffer. Check it out:

As your constituent you (sic) disgust me and I will work night and day to defeat you. You are the most ungrateful and dishonorable person ever to serve on the board. You should resign in disgrace.

Winnicker confirmed to me that he wrote the text, but insisted he wasn’t speaking for the mayor:

As you know I am not the Mayor’s spokesperson and have not been for some time, especially on matters like this. I am, however, a district five constituent who disagrees strongly with my district supervisor’s vote last night and i took the opportunity to express my opinion and extreme disappointment in her decision and judgment. It is just that, however, my personal opinion and frustration with her vote, a frustration shared by many fellow district five residents who agree with Mayor Lee and the majority of the Board of Supervisors that Ross Mirkarimi should not be Sheriff.

Holy shit. I hope the mayor tells Mr. Winnicker that this is not an example of the “civility” Lee is trying to promote at City Hall.

Mirkarimi case — the aftermath


So many things to think about after last night’s Board of Supervisors vote on Ross Mirkarimi. It was a dramatic moment in local politics, a clear rejection of the mayor by four supes, including one of his appointees, a show of political courage by some and weakness by others.

But before I get into that, let me say:

I argued against removing Mirkarimi, for a lot of reasons. One of the most important is the precedent here — the City Charter gives the mayor too much power, the ability to singlehandedly remove an elected official for what the city attorney’s office concluded was pretty much any reason at all. There is no definition of “official misconduct” — and the way this case was presented, it could be interpreted really broadly. That’s dangerous, and the supervisors (or four of them, anyway) knew it.

I’m also a believe in restorative justice, in redemption, in the idea that people can do bad things and turn themselves and their lives around.

Still, it’s important to remember that what Mirkarimi did on New Year’s Eve, 2011, was awful, unacceptable. He was, at the very least, a total asshole and a jerk, treating his wife in a way that was — again, at the very least — psychologically abusive. Some of the comments at the board meeting were way off base; some speakers attacked the domestic violence community and made it sound as if Mirkairmi’s crime was pretty minimal.

I agree with David Chiu that the city’s going to have to come together after this — and the progressives who supported Mirkarimi are going to have to reach out to, and work with, the DV advocates. Because domestic violence is no joke, is no “private matter,” is still a major, serious issue in this city, and the worst possible outcome would be a reversal in San Francisco’s progressive policy on handling these cases.

I wish the audience hadn’t erupted in cheers when the final votes were cast. I heard Mirkarimi on Forum this morning, and when Michael Krasny asked if he was “elated,” he indicated that he was. Wrong answer: Nobody should be happy about what happened here. Mirkarimi’s biggest political and personal flaw has always been his ego, which at times bordered on arrogance, and that has to end, today. The sheriff needs to be humble about what happened to him, recognize that nobody “won” this ugly chapter in city history, and get back to work trying to mend fences with his critics. He’s facing the very real possibility of a recall election, and if he acts like he’s been totally vindicated, it’s going to happen.

This is a chance for Mirkarimi to take the notion of restoration and redemption seriously — by doing what Sup. John Avalos suggested at the hearing. He has to become a changed man. He has to show the world that he really, really gets it. Starting now.

Speaking of change …. the Number One Profile in Courage Award goes to Sup. Christina Olague. Olague was under immense pressure from the mayor, who wanted her vote badly. And because of the rotation of the votes, she had to go early, when it wasn’t clear at all which way this was going to turn out. And she came through, 100 percent solid. She made all the right points, and once she said she was going to vote against the mayor’s charges, the whole thing was over. At that point, there was no way David Campos or John Avalos could or would go the other way, so Mirkarimi had his three votes. I have been critical of Olague, but in this case, I want to give full credit: She did the right thing, when it wasn’t easy. She may have just won the election. (Let me clarify that — she may have kept herself from losing the election.)

Sup. Jane Kim was brilliant in her questioning of the mayor’s representatives and her analysis of the case. She showed real leadership and helped set the stage for what happened by pointing out the flaws in the mayor’s case.

And of course, Campos and Avalos, the undeniable, solid left flank of the board, came through.

It wasn’t easy for any of these four supervisors, and they all deserve immense credit.

Not so Eric mar, who I realize is in a tough race, but … when Olague, who has been accused of being too close to the mayor, had the courage to stand up, Mar, who has nearly universal progressive support, did not.

This is a great opportunity for the city to start talking about restorative justice in a serious way. Let’s get started.



Local censored 2012




In early January, details from the police investigation of then-Sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi bruising his wife’s arm during an argument were leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and other news outlets. The key piece of evidence was a 45-second video that Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, made with her neighbor, Ivory Madison, displaying the bruise and saying she wanted to document the incident in case of a child custody battle. That video convinced many of Mirkarimi’s guilt, and a majority of Ethics Commissioners say they found it to be the main evidence on which Mirkarimi should be removed from office on official misconduct charges (the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on Mirkarimi’s removal on Oct. 9, after Guardian press time).

But that video was only a small part of the overwhelming and expensive case that Mayor Ed Lee brought against Mirkarimi, including the more serious charges of abuse of power, witness dissuasion, and impeding a police investigation, all of which go more directly to a sheriff’s official duties. All of those charges got lots of media coverage and they helped cement the view of many San Franciscans that Mirkarimi engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior, rather than making a big momentary mistake. Yet most of the media coverage during the six months of Ethics Commission proceedings ignored the fact that none of the evidence that was being gathered supported those charges. Indeed, all those charges were unanimously rejected by the commission on Aug. 16, a startling rebuke of Lee’s case but one that was not highlighted in many media reports, which focused on the one charge the commission did uphold: the initial arm grab.




In the late 1990s, San Francisco was in a very similar place to where it is now. The first dot-com boom was full bloom, driving the local economy and creating countless young millionaires — but also rapidly gentrifying the city and driving commercial and residential rents through the roof (great for the landlords, bad for everyone else). And then, the bubble popped, instantly erasing billions of dollars in speculative paper wealth and leaving this a changed city. The city’s working and creative classes suffered, but the political backlash gave rise to a decade with a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors.

The era ended in 2010 when Ed Lee was appointed mayor, and he began ambitious agenda of pumping up a new dot-com bubble using tax breaks, public subsidies, and relentless official boosterism to lure more tech companies to San Francisco. Lee has been successful in his approach, in the process driving up commercial rents and housing prices. By some estimates, about 30 percent of the city’s economy is now driven by technology companies.

Yet there have been few voices in the local media raising questions about this risky, costly, and self-serving economic development strategy. The Bay Citizen did a story about Conway’s self interested advice, the New York Times did a front page story raising these issues, and San Francisco Magazine just last month did a long cover story questioning how much tech is enough. But most local media voices have been silent on the issue, and much of the damage has already been done.



More than a decade ago, then-Mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak worked together to empower big business, corrupt local politics, and clear the path for rampant development — an approach that progressives on the Board of Supervisors repudiated and slowed from 2000-2010. But Brown, Pak, and a new generation of their allies have returned in power in City Hall, and it’s as bad as it ever was.

Many San Franciscans know of their high-profile role appointing Lee to office in early 2011. But their influence and tentacles have extended far beyond what we read in the papers and watch on television, starting in 2010 when their main political operatives David Ho and Enrique Pearce ran Jane Kim’s supervisorial campaign, beating Debra Walker, a veteran of the fights against Brown’s remaking of the city.

Now, this crew has the run of City Hall, meeting regularly with Mayor Lee and twisting the arms of supervisors on key votes. Pearce and Ho persuaded longtime progressive Christina Olague to co-chair the scandal-plagued Run Ed Run campaign last year, she was rewarded this year with Lee appointing her to the Board of Supervisors. Pearce has been her close adviser, and most of her campaign cash has been raised by Brown and Pak. Even progressive Sup. Eric Mar admits that Pak in raising money for him, a troubling sign of things to come.



The Occupy San Francisco camp that was cleared by police last week may have been mostly homeless people. And major news media outlets from the start reported that Occupy was dangerous, filthy, and a civic eyesore.

But last fall, the camps were comprised of a huge variety of people that chose to live part or full time on the streets. Students, people with 9-5 jobs, people with service jobs, and the unemployed were all represented. Wealthy people who lived in the financial districts where camps popped up mixed with working-class people who came from suburbs and small towns. Families came out, welcomed in the “child spaces” set up in many Occupy camps throughout the country. Most camps also boasted libraries, free classes, kitchens, food distribution, and medical tents.

As news media focused on gross-out stories of pee on the streets and graphic descriptions of drunk occupiers, they managed to ignore the complex systems that were built in the camps. Nor did anyone mention that homeless people have the right to protest, too.

Supervisors reinstate Mirkarimi, rejecting Lee’s interpretation of official misconduct


The Board of Supervisors has voted to reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and reject the official misconduct charges that Mayor Ed Lee brought against Mirkarimi for grabbing and bruising his wife’s arm during a New Year’s Eve argument, for now ending an ugly saga that has polarized San Franciscans.

The vote was 7-4, two votes shy of the nine needed to sustain the charges and remove Mirkarimi, who now resumes the position voters elected him to in November with back pay going back to March when Lee suspended him. Sups. Christina Olague, David Campos, John Avalos, and Jane Kim voted in Mirkarimi’s favor, condemning the domestic violence incident but saying that it didn’t meet what is and should be a high and clear standard for overruling the will of voters, a concern also voiced by Sup. Mark Farrell. 

“I do take this job seriously, that we are public policy makers,” said Kim, a lawyer who emphasized their duty to set clear standards for officials during these unprecedented proceedings rather than being swayed by emotional responses to conduct by Mirkarimi that she called “incredibly egregious.”

But for most of the supervisors, that was enough. Sup. Eric Mar, who is in the middle of difficult reelection campaign against the more conservative and well-financed David Lee, said he thought is was important to have “zero tolerance” for domestic violence and his vote was “in the service of justice and a belief it will combat domestic violence.”

Earlier in the hearing, Kim had led the questioning of Deputy City Attorney Sherri Kaiser, whose broad interpretation of official misconduct standards and inability to set clear guidelines troubled Kim, just as it had earlier to Ethics Commission Chair Benedict Hur, the sole vote on that body against removal after it conducted six months worth of hearings.

“I agree with Chairman Hur, I think we need to take the most narrow view of official misconduct,” Kim said, echoing a point that had also been made by Campos, who quoted Hur’s comment from the Aug. 16 hearing where the commission voted 4-1 to recommend removal: “I have a lot of concern about where you draw the line if you don’t relate this to official duties.”

Farrell also shared that concern, which he raised in questioning Kaiser and during the final board deliberations almost seven grueling hours later. 

“I worry a great deal about the potential for abuse in this charter section,” Farrell said, warning this and future mayors to use great caution and restraint before bringing official misconduct charges. Yet he still found that the “totality of the circumstances” warranted removal because Mirkarimi had compromised his ability to be the top law enforcement officer.

Each supervisor expressed what a difficult and joyless decision this was, and even those who supported Mirkarimi strongly condemned his actions and the efforts by some of his supporters to minimize the seriousness of his actions and the need for him to change.

“I have tremendous mixed feelings about Ross Mirkarimi,” Avalos said, noting his many proud progressive accomplishments but adding, “I’ve always seen Ross as someone who has deep flaws….[This saga] offers a chance for personal transformation and I think that’s something Ross really needs to do.”

Mirkarimi seems humbled by the hearing, and the stinging criticism of his former colleagues and his one-time allies in the domestic violence community, and he pledged to work on “regaining their trust” as he tries to embody the city’s long-held value on redemption.

“I appreciate all the comments of by the Board of Supervisors and I hear the message. The next step is mending fences and moving forward,” Mirkarimi said. Later, he told reporters, “We’re absorbing all the comments that were made by the Board of Supervisors. They are my former colleagues and I take it very seriously.”

That need to heal the deep and emotional divide between San Franciscans who see this case in starkly different ways – which was on vivid display during the hours of public testimony – was sounded by several supervisors. “We will need to come together as a city on this,” Board President David Chiu said.

Most of those who spoke during the nearly four hours in public comments favored Mirkarimi and condemned the efforts to remove him as politically motivated, overly judgmental, and setting a dangerous precedent rather than resorting to usual method for removing politicians after a scandal: recall elections.

“If anything happens to the man, it should come back to me to make that decision. Don’t do their dirty work for them,” one commenter said.

The most politically significant person to speak during public comment was former Mayor Art Agnos, who said he was a friend and supporter of Mirkarimi, but he was more concerned with the scary implications of this decision. “I respectfully urge that this Board protect all elected officials from the dangerous discretion used in this case and reinstate Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.”

Most of those who spoke against Mirkarimi were domestic violence advocates, who were adamant that Mirkarimi be removed, casting it as a litmus test for whether the city takes their issue seriously. “This is a disciplinary proceeding, it is not election stealing,” said Beverly Upton, head of the Domestic Violence Consortium, who has lead the campaign to oust Mirkarimi since the incident was made public.

But the two sides seemed to be speaking past one another, each expressing righteous indignation that people didn’t see the issue like they did, indicating how polarizing these long-lingering proceedings have become and how difficult to heal that rift may be.

“It made my stomach turn to hear some of the comments that were made,” Sup. Carmen Chu said, condemning the actions of Mirkarimi supporters in vocally or visibly supporting one another. “That was wrong, this is not a joyous event.”

Yet Farrell said he was also concerned that Mirkarimi’s opponents would go after supervisors who made a principled stand against removing him. “I hope no one takes pot shots at the people who voted against this,” he said.

That principled stand – condemning Mirkarimi’s behavior but having a high standard for removing an elected official – was a trail blazed by Hur, who opened the hearing by presenting the Ethics Commission’s findings and a decision that he was the sole vote against. He noted the “challenge of my presentation” but made careful efforts to accurately represent the views of the commission majority.

Yet he ended up using almost half of his time at the podium — his allotted 10 minutes plus a few extra minutes to respond to questions from supervisors — to stress the danger of broadly interpreting the city’s official misconduct language and not requiring direct connection to an official’s duties.

“Public policy suggests we should interpret this more narrowly than proposed by the majority,” Hur said, later adding that his colleagues on the commission “did not provide a clear basis for how official misconduct is delineated.”

When Sup. Malia Cohen asked what he meant by the “public policy” interest at stake here, he replied, “The need to have policies that are clear…It does benefit the public when the laws are clear.” (Cohen later voted to remove Mirkarimi, stating with little explanation, “I believe the reading of the charter is narrow and appropriately applied in this case.”)

The issue of what qualifies as official misconduct — and whether there is a predictable way for officials to know where that line is drawn, or whether it’s entirely up to the discretion of mayors — was also highlighted by Kaiser’s long presentation, but probably not in the way she intended.

Kaiser appealed to people’s sense of outrage about the initial arm-grab and subsequent guilty plea — claiming Mirkarimi “attacked his wife” and “this conduct was serious!” — and seemed to think that was an adequate test of whether bad behavior by an elected official warrants his unilateral removal from office.

Kaiser took issue with Hur’s contention that a lack of clear, limiting standards gives too much power to future mayors to remove their political enemies for minor incidents.

“The mayor certainly does not agree with Hur’s argument for a bright line rule,” Kaiser said. She mocked the notion that mayors would abuse this expanded power. “The check on that is the Ethics Commission, and the check on that is this body.” Kaiser’s position was that the statute should be read as broadly as possible and that the process should be trusted to protect against political manipulations.

But Chiu also took issue with that standard, saying “having clarity in the law seems to make sense” and asking Kaiser how officials can know what standards they’re expected to meet.

“I don’t agree and I didn’t mean to convey the standard is murky,” Kaiser replied, but as she tried to elaborate, her standard began to seem ever murkier.

“It depends on the circumstance,” Kaiser said. “But that doesn’t make it too vague to apply. It makes it more nimble.”

A nimble standard might suit mayors just fine, but the idea seemed to bother the supervisors, even Farrell, who told Kaiser that her position “seems to me very contradictory.”

At the end of the hearing, Campos returned to Kaiser’s “nimble” comment as a reason for rejecting that argument and Lee’s charges: “I don’t think the analysis made me comfort. She said the interpretation was nimble, but I don’t know the difference between nimble and vague, and I think they are one in the same.”

“Most cases will be clear, but there are decisions on the periphery,” Kaiser told Farrell during the earlier questioning, not making it clear which category she’d put the Mirkarimi case into.

Kim was the next to try to pin Kaiser down on whether there’s a discernible standard for the city to apply to this and future cases, saying she’d like to see a “bright line rule or a test.” Kaiser said that it depends on the office, but that a law enforcement officer shouldn’t commit a crime.

“Then any misdemeanor the sheriff pleads to is official misconduct, is that right?” Kim asked.

No, she said, the conduct must be while someone is in office — seemingly contradicting her earlier point – and found to be so by the board and commission. But then she said, “It is true that any misdemeanor relates to the duties of a sheriff.”

Kim persisted: “This is where I get stuck. When does it fall below the standard of decency?”

“The charter doesn’t answer that question. It’s a case-by-case determination,” Kaiser said.

“What’s to guide us in the future?” Kim asked.

But again, there was no clear answer, it’s simply for mayors to decide. “It is a discretionary decision,” Kaiser said.

Kim, a lawyer, questioned whether the stance by Kaiser and Lee could lead the courts to strike down the city’s untested statute. “Does that open us up to the vagueness issue, which would make the clause unconstitutional?” Kim asked.

But Kaiser said San Francisco voters wanted to give the mayor wide power to interpret misconduct when they approved the broad new official misconduct language in 1995, part of a complete overhaul of the City Charter.

“Voters made a considered choice to put suspend and remove procedures in the charter,” she said, trying to counter the argument that recall elections should be used to remove elected officials. “These suspension and removal procedure is more nimble. It’s less expensive than a recall.”

Yet with a final price tag expected to be in the millions of dollars and proceedings lasting seven months, it’s debatable whether this process was really cheaper and more nimble.

Mirkarimi attorney David Waggoner began his presentation by saying, “There’s no question that on Dec. 31, 2011, Ross Mirkarimi made a terrible mistake.”

But it was a mistake that Mirkarimi admitted to, accepted the criminal punishment that followed his guilty plea, endured a forced six-month separation from his family, had his job and salary taken from him, was the target of a media and political campaigns that have deeply damaged his reputation, “his entire life’s work was destroyed almost in an instant.” All for pleading to a low-level misdemeanor.

“At the end of the day, the punishment does not fit the crime,” Waggoner said.

He noted that just three elected officials have been removed for official misconduct in the city’s history, each time for serious felonies. But now, it’s being applied to a misdemeanor with arguments that broaden a mayor’s ability to remove political adversaries.

“You must decide whether to uphold or overturn the will of the voters,” Waggoner told the supervisors.

He even took a swipe at the domestic violence advocates who have led the campaign to remove Mirkarimi: “Ironically, the very advocates who should be defending Eliana Lopez have been attacking her.”

Taking over from Waggoner, Mirkarimi’s other attorney, Shepard Kopp, said Mirkarimi had no official duties before taking the oath of office, and the charter makes clear there needs to be connection. “It says misconduct has to occur while an official is in office.”

Kopp also brought the focus back to the precedent in this historic case. “The other problem with the mayor’s position is it doesn’t give you any guidance or future mayors any guidance,” Kopp said, later adding, “To follow the mayor’s position is not workable policy and it doesn’t have any support under the law.”

Supervisors questioned Kopp and Waggoner, but it didn’t seem to reveal any new insights, simply reinforcing their points that official misconduct should be a rarely used tool applied only to serious crimes.

In her final five-minute final rebuttal, rather than letting her co-counsel Peter Keith speak or trying to mitigate some of the damage from her earlier testimony, Kaiser seemed to double-down on her tactic of using emotional arguments rather than addressing legal standards for removal.

She alleged Mirkarimi’s team offered “a theory that domestic violence doesn’t matter if you’re sheriff,” prompting an audible negative reaction from the crowd that Chiu gaveled down. That reaction was even louder and more outraged when Kaiser implied Mirkarimi “threatens the life of a family member.”

Those sorts of characterizations fed much of the crowd’s stated belief that this case was a “political witchhunt” designed to destroy a progressive leader, and the opposition expressed to some domestic violence advocates testimony could be used against the larger progressive community.

But Agnos, who sat in the audience throughout the long hearing, told us the frustration was understandable. “The crowd, after nine months of agony, expressed a lot of emotions, and that is inherent in mass crowds,” he said. “They didn’t mean ill will to the domestic violence community. There was no malevolent intent there.”

Supervisors who voted to reinstate Mirkarimi said they want to make clear their commitment to combating domestic violence. “I worry that this case has set us back because of the tensions around how we responded,” Avalos said.

“I think it’s important that no matter how we feel about this that we come together as a city,” Campos said. “People on both sides have legitimate viewpoints on this issue.”

Credit to the supervisors. Seriously.


Politicians get a lot of shit, and they generally deserve it. But I have to say: After listening to almost all of the debate over the removal of Ross Mirkarimi — and watching the 4-7 vote to keep him in office — I was impressed by the supervisors who got it right, took it seriously and provided thoughful and credible debate.

Profiles in Courage Awards to John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague. I haven’t always agreed with all of them, and Randy Shaw said that Olague would never vote with Mirkarimi because his supporters were dissing her, but she stood up to immense pressure and did the right thing. Jane Kim was very lawyerly, but came to the right conclusion. Avalos and Campos were articulate and pointed out the problems with giving the mayor this much power.

David Chiu was a disappointment, Eric Mar even more so. I expected more of both of them. But Chiu handled a tough meeting very well, giving all sides a chance and showing immense patience. Credit for running the show well, even if he voted the wrong way.

But overall, an intelligent discussion with the right outcome. More tomorrow.

Open doors await on Affordable Housing Day


Tomorrow, 10/6 from 1pm-4pm, you can tour several of the city’s affordable housing sites — there’s even a handy citywide bike tour! — and  get an indepth look inside many of the innovative buildings that have recently gone up (or been rehabbed) in San Francisco, helping to house the homeless and make the city an affordable place to live for seniors, families, and people with special needs.

There will be refreshments! And also access to detailed information about the design, finances, and management of the buildings. And if you’re interested in finding out how to apply to live at one of the sites, there’ll be info about that, too. 

For Nosey Parkers like me who just like to go inside buildings and have a good gander, this will be pretty neat. (Also, my husband works in non-profit housing, and I get the backstory on a lot of the great stuff going on at these buildings, but never get to see it all!) And many of the buildings are doing really cool things environmentally and designwise. Complete list of locations and official press release after the jump.


Armstrong Place, 3rd Street & Armstrong
Bayview Commons, 4445 3rd Street
Bishop Swing, 275 10th Street
Broadway Family Apartments, 810 Battery Street
CASA, 5199 Mission Street
I Hotel, 868 Kearny Street
Mendelsohn House, 737 Folsom
Mosaica, 2949 19th Street
Notre Dame Plaza, 347 Dolores Street
St. Peters Place, 29th Avenue & Geary Street
The Hayes, 55 Page Street
Westbrook Plaza, 255 7th Street
Zygmunt Arendt House, 850 Broderick

Affordable Housing Day San Francisco to be held on Saturday, October 6
The Council of Community Housing Organizations, the American Institute of Architects San Francisco, and SPUR invite the community to an open house highlighting the benefits of affordable housing in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO ─ As part of a citywide Affordable Housing Day, neighborhood affordable housing organizations throughout San Francisco will open up selected buildings for tours, info sessions and refreshments. Included in the tours will be examples of housing designed for seniors, families and people with special needs. The goal of the citywide day is to provide an opportunity for up close and personal experience with the people and places that make up San Francisco’s affordable housing. Each location will have detailed information about design, finance and management of these housing developments as a sample of the many affordable housing sites across the city. And for individuals interested in obtaining affordable housing, each participating organization will have information about qualifications, the application process, and vacancies.

Fernando Martí, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations which is sponsoring the event, said “These are great examples of housing for everyday San Franciscans, slowing SF’s family flight, so that our children and grandchildren can continue to live in the City they helped build. Affordable housing also preserves the diversity of our neighborhoods, stabilizing communities from gentrification, while improving living conditions.”

There will be building tours throughout the city including the South of Market, Richmond, Mission, Excelsior, Bayview and Western Addition neighborhoods. Participants are welcome to visit all the open house locations, or just stop by the building in their neighborhood. Participating organizations include: Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Bridge Housing, Chinatown Community Development Center, Community Housing Partnership, Episcopal Community Services, Mercy Housing, San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, Tenants and Owners Development Corporation, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation , and The Hayes (55 Page).

“Creating affordable housing helps build our economy, creates jobs in San Francisco and supports families so they can stay, live and succeed in our City,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “We must create a permanent source of revenue to fund the production of housing in San Francisco to ensure that seniors, people with disabilities and San Francisco families can continue to call San Francisco home.” Supervisor Christina Olague representing the city’s Western Addition and Hayes Valley neighborhoods where two sites will be open on Affordable Housing Day, said “We are fortunate to have such wonderful examples of affordable housing in my district, it’s a critical part of making diverse and stable neighborhoods.”

Please join us for San Francisco Affordable Housing Day, a free event to be held Saturday, October 6 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm. This is an open house format, so visitors can start at any of the 13 sites.


David Lee and his landlord backers raise the stakes in District 1


Realtors and commercial landlords have transformed the supervisorial race in District 1 into an important battle over rent control and tenants’ rights, despite their onslaught of deceptive mailers that have sought to make it about everything from potholes and the Richmond’s supposed decline to school assignments and economic development.

It’s bad enough that groups like the Coalition for Sensible Government – a front group for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, which itself is in the middle of internal struggles over its increasing dominance by landlords rather than Realtors – have been funding mailers attacking incumbent Eric Mar on behalf of downtown’s candidate: David Lee. Combined spending by Lee and on his behalf is now approaching an unheard of $400,000 (we’ll get more precise numbers tomorrow when the latest pre-election campaign finance statements are due).

What’s even more icky and unsettling is the fact that Lee – a political pundit who has been regularly featured in local media outlets in recent years, usually subtly attacking progressives while trying to seem objective – has refused to answer legitimate questions about his shady background and connections or the agenda he has for the city. He refused to come in for a Guardian endorsement interview or even to respond to our questions. His campaign manager, Thomas Li, told me Lee is too busy campaigning to answer questions from reporters, but he assured me that Lee will be more accessible and accountable once he’s elected.

Somehow, I don’t find that very reassuring. But I can understand why Lee is ducking questions and just hoping that the avalanche of mailers will be enough to win this one. In a city where two-thirds of residents rent, but where landlords control most of the city’s wealth, it’s politically risky to be honest about a pro-landlord agenda.

“It’s pretty clear that is a real estate-tenant battleground,” Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, told us. “District 1 is all about rent control, really. If David Lee wins, we’ll see the Board of Supervisors hacking away at rent control protections. The only question is whether it will be a severe hack or outright repeal.”

Real estate and development interests have already been able to win over Sups. Jane Kim and Christina Olague on key votes – and even Mar, who has disappointed many progressives on some recent votes, which many observers believe is the result of the strong challenge by Lee and his allies – but an outright flip of District 1 could really be dangerous.

“I want people to know how high the stakes are in this election. I want people to know that outside special interests are trying to buy this election,” Mar told us.

Mar is far from perfect, but at least he’s honest and accessible. With all the troublesome political meddling that we’ve seen in recent years from Willie Brown and Rose Pak on behalf of their corporate clients, particularly commercial landlords – which has been a big issue in District 5 this election and the mayor’s race last year – progressives were disturbed by rumors that Pak is helping Mar.

When we asked him about it, he didn’t deny it or evade the issue. “Yes, I have the support of just about all the Chinatown leaders, including Rose Pak,” Mar told us. “I’m proud to have a strong Chinese base of support.”

When asked about that support and how it will shape his votes, Mar noted that he also has strong support from labor and progressives, and that he will be far stronger on development and tenants issues than Lee. “I view myself as an independent, thoughtful supervisor who works very hard for the neighborhood,” Mar said. “There’s an accusation [in mailers paid for the Realtors] that the Richmond has become unlivable, and that’s just not true.”

We have a stack of official documents showing how Lee has used his Chinese-American Voter Education Project and his appointment to the Recreation and Parks Commission to personally enrich himself and his wife, using donations from rich corporations and individuals whose bidding he then does, and we mentioned some of that in our endorsements this week. We’ll continue seeking answers from Lee and his allies about their agenda for the city.

In fact, just as I was writing this post, Lee sent a message to supporters responding to our editorial and other efforts to raise these issues. “I know it is shocking, but while working as a full-time employee for CAVEC for the last twenty years, I was paid a salary. But let me tell you this was no six figure job with benefits,” he wrote. Actually, CAVEC’s federal 990 form shows he was paid $90,000 per year, while his wife, Jing Lee, was paid up to $65,000 per year as “program director” up until 2006. 

“We did not receive any money from the government. All of our activities were funded by private donations and grants and our finances were audited on a regular basis,” Lee wrote, not noting that he has refused to make public a full list of his donors, although we know from a 2001 report in Asian Week that they included Chevron, Wells Fargo, Anheuser-Busch, Bank of America, Marriott, Levi Strauss, Norcal Waste Management (now known as Recology), State Farm, and the late philanthropist Warren Hellman, who at the time was funding downtown attacks on progressives through groups including the Committee on Jobs.

District 1 has always been an important San Francisco battleground. During the decade that progressives had a majority on the Board of Supervisors, District 1 was represented first by Jake McGoldrick and then by Mar. Neither McGoldrick nor Mar always voted with the progressives, yet McGoldrick had to endure two failed recall drives funded by business and conservative interests.

Now, they have increased their bet, raising the question that President Barack Obama posed in last night’s presidential debate: “Are we going to double down on the top down policies that got us into this mess?”

Let’s hope not.