I remember Harvey
Bruce B. Brugmann
Toward the end of the supervisorial campaign in 1973, I got an intercom call from Nancy Destefanis, our advertising representative handling political ads. Hey, she said, I got a guy here by the name of Harvey Milk who is running for supervisor and I think you ought to talk to him.
Milk? I replied. How can anybody run for supervisor with the name of Milk?
Nancy laughed and said that wasn’t his big problem, it was that he was running as an openly gay candidate, but he had strong progressive positions and potential. Nancy, a former organizer for Cesar Chavez’ farm workers, was tough and savvy, and I always took her advice seriously. “Send him in,” I said.
I remember Harvey
By midnight Nov. 4, the drama was long over: John McCain had conceded, Barack Obama had delivered his moving victory speech — declaring that “change has come to America” — and the long national nightmare of the Bush years was officially headed for the history books.
But in San Francisco, the party was just getting started.
Outside of Kilowatt, on 16th Street near Guerrero, the crowd of celebrants was dancing to the sounds of a street drummer. In the Castro District, a huge crowd was cheering and chanting Obama’s name. And on Valencia and 19th streets, a spontaneous outpouring of energy filled the intersection. Two police officers stood by watching, and when a reporter asked one if he was planning to try to shut down the celebration and clear the streets, he smiled. “Not now,” he said. “Not now.”
Then, out of nowhere, the crowd began to sing: O say can you see /By the dawn’s early light …
It was a stunning moment, as dramatic as anything we’ve seen in this city in years. In perhaps the most liberal, counterculture section of the nation’s most liberal, counterculture city, young people by the hundreds were proudly singing The Star Spangled Banner. “For the first time in my life,” one crooner announced, “I feel proud to be an American.”
Take that, Fox News. Take that Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and the rest of the right-wing bigots who have tried to claim this country for themselves. On Nov. 4, 2008, progressives showed the world that we’re real Americans, too, proud of a country that has learned from its mistakes and corrected its course.
President Obama will let us down soon enough; he almost has to. The task at hand is so daunting, and our collective hopes are so high, that it’s hard to see how anyone could succeed without a few mistakes. In fact, Obama already admitted he won’t be “a perfect president.” And when you get past the rhetoric and the rock star excitement, he’s taken some pretty conservative positions on many of the big issues, from promoting “clean coal” and nuclear power to escautf8g the war in Afghanistan.
But make no mistake about it: electing Barack Obama was a progressive victory. Although he never followed the entire progressive line in his policy positions, he was, and is, the creature of a strong progressive movement that can rightly claim him as its standard-bearer. He was the candidate backed from the beginning by progressives like Supervisors Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi (a Green). And only after his improbable nomination did moderates like Mayor Gavin Newsom and Sen. Dianne Feinstein jump on the bandwagon.
From the start, the young, activist, left wing of the Democratic Party was the driving force behind the Obama revolution. And while he has always talked to the Washington bigwigs — and will populate his administration with many of them — he would never have won without the rest of us. And that’s a fact of political life it will be hard for him to ignore, particularly if we don’t let him forget it.
For a few generations of Americans — everyone who turned 18 after 1964 — this was the first presidential election we’ve been able to get truly excited about. It was also the first presidential election that was won, to a significant extent, on the Internet, where progressive sites like dailykos.com raised millions of dollars, generated a small army of ground troops, and drove turnout in both the primaries and the general election. The movement that was built behind Obama can become a profound and powerful force in American politics.
So this was, by any reasonable measure, the People’s Election. And now it’s the job of the people to keep that hope — and that movement — alive, even when its standard-bearer doesn’t always live up to our dreams.
The evidence that this was the People’s Election wasn’t just at the national level. It showed up in the results of the San Francisco elections as well.
This was the election that would demonstrate, for the first time since the return of district elections, whether a concerted, well-funded downtown campaign could trump a progressive grassroots organizing effort. Sure, in 2000, downtown and then-Mayor Willie Brown had their candidates, and the progressives beat them in nearly every race. But that was a time when the mayor’s popularity was in the tank, and San Franciscans of all political stripes were furious at the corruption in City Hall.
“In 2000, I think a third of the votes that the left got came from Republicans,” GOP consultant Chris Bowman, who was only partially joking, told us on election night.
This time around, with the class of 2000 termed out, a popular mayor in office and poll numbers and conventional wisdom both arguing that San Franciscans weren’t happy with the current Board of Supervisors (particularly with some of its members, most notably Chris Daly), many observers believed that a powerful big-money campaign backing some likable supervisorial candidates (with little political baggage) could dislodge the progressive majority.
As late as the week before the election, polls showed that the three swings districts — 1, 3, and 11 — were too close to call, and that in District 1, Chamber of Commerce executive Sue Lee could be heading for a victory over progressive school board member Eric Mar.
And boy, did downtown try. The big business leaders, through groups including the Committee on Jobs, the Chamber, the Association of Realtors, Plan C, the newly-formed Coalition for Responsible Growth, and the Building Owners and Managers Association, poured more than $630,000 into independent expenditures smearing progressive candidates and promoting the downtown choices. Newsom campaigned with Joe Alioto, Jr. in District 3 and Ahsha Safai in District 11. Television ads sought to link Mar, John Avalos, and David Chiu with Daly.
Although the supervisors have no role in running the schools, the Republicans and downtown pushed hard to use a measure aimed at restoring JROTC to the city’s high schools as a wedge against the progressives in the three swing districts. They also went to great lengths — even misstating the candidates’ positions — to tar Mar, Chiu, and Avalos with supporting the legalization of prostitution.
And it didn’t work.
When the votes were counted election night, it became clear that two of the three progressives — Avalos and Chiu — were headed for decisive victories. And Mar was far enough ahead that it appeared he would emerge on top.
How did that happen? Old-fashioned shoe leather. The three campaigns worked the streets hard, knocking on doors, distributing literature, and phone banking.
“I’ve been feeling pretty confident for a week,” Avalos told us election night, noting his campaign’s strong field operation. As he knocked on doors, Avalos came to understand that downtown’s attacks were ineffective: “No one bought their horseshit.”
A few weeks earlier, he hadn’t been so confident. Avalos said that Safai ran a strong, well-funded campaign and personally knocked on lots of doors in the district. But ultimately, Avalos was the candidate with the deepest roots in the district and the longest history of progressive political activism.
“This is really about our neighborhood,” Avalos told us at his election night party at Club Bottom’s Up in the Excelsior District. “It was the people in this room that really turned it around.”
The San Francisco Labor Council and the tenants’ movement also put dozens of organizers on the ground, stepping up particularly strongly as the seemingly coordinated downtown attacks persisted. “It was, quite literally, money against people, and the people won,” Labor Council director Tim Paulson told us.
Robert Haaland, a staffer with the Service Employees International Union and one of the architects of the campaign, put it more colorfully: “We ran the fucking table,” he told us election night. “It’s amazing — we were up against the biggest downtown blitz since district elections.”
The evidence suggests that this election was no anomaly: the progressive movement has taken firm hold in San Francisco, despite the tendency of the old power-brokers — from Newsom to downtown to both of the city’s corporate-owned daily newspapers — to try to marginalize it.
Political analyst David Latterman of Fall Line Analytics began the Nov. 5 presentation at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association election wrap-up by displaying an ideologically-coded map of San Francisco, drawing off of data from the Progressive Voter Index that he developed with San Francisco State University political science professor Rich de Leon. The PVI is based on how San Francisco residents in different parts of the city vote on bellwether candidates and ballot measures.
“Several of the districts in San Francisco discernibly moved to the left over the last four to eight years,” Latterman told the large crowd, which was made up of many of San Francisco’s top political professionals.
The two supervisorial districts that have moved most strongly toward the progressive column in recent years were Districts 1 (the Richmond) and 11 (the Excelsior), which just happened to be two of the three swing districts (the other being District 3–North Beach and Chinatown) that were to decide the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors this election.
Latterman said Districts “1, 3, and 11 went straight progressive, and that’s just the way it is.”
In fact, in many ways, he said this was a status-quo election, with San Francisco validating the progressive-leaning board. “A lot of people in the city didn’t see it as a chance for a drastic change citywide.”
In other words, keeping progressives in City Hall has become a mainstream choice. Whatever downtown’s propaganda tried to say, most San Franciscans are happy with a district-elected board that has brought the city a living-wage law and moved it a step toward universal health insurance.
The fate of the local ballot measures was another indication that Newsom, popular as he might be, has little ability to convince the voters to accept his policy agenda.
Voters rejected efforts by Newsom to consolidate his power, rejecting his supervisorial candidates, his Community Justice Center (as presented in Measure L), and his proposed takeover of the Transportation Authority (soundly defeating Proposition P) while approving measures he opposed, including Propositions M (protecting tenants from harassment) and T (Daly’s guarantee of substance abuse treatment on demand).
Asked about it at a post-election press conference, Newsom tried to put a positive spin on the night. “Prop. A won, and I spent three years of my life on it,” he said. “Prop B. was defeated. Prop. O, I put on the ballot. I think it’s pretty small when you look at the totality of the ballot.” He pointed out that his two appointees — Carmen Chu in District 4 and Sean Elsbernd in District 7 — won handily but made no mention of his support for losing candidates Lee, Alicia Wang, Alioto, Claudine Cheng, and Safai.
“You’ve chosen two as opposed to the totality,” Newsom said of Props. L and P. “Prop. K needed to be defeated. Prop. B needed to be defeated.”
Yet Newsom personally did as little to defeat those measures as he did to support the measures he tried to claim credit for: Measures A (the General Hospital rebuild bond, which everyone supported) and revenue-producing Measures N, O, and Q. In fact, many labor and progressives leaders privately grumbled about Newsom’s absence during the campaign.
Prop. K, which would have decriminalized prostitution, was placed on the ballot by a libertarian-led signature gathering effort, not by the progressive movement. And Prop. B, the affordable housing set-aside measure sponsored by Daly, was only narrowly defeated — after a last-minute attack funded by the landlords.
All three revenue-producing measures won by wide margins. Prop. Q, the payroll tax measure, passed by one of the widest margins — 67-33.
Latterman and Alex Clemens, owner of Barbary Coast Consulting and the SF Usual Suspects Web site, were asked whether downtown might seek to repeal district elections, and both said it didn’t really matter because people seem to support the system. “I can’t imagine, short of a tragedy, district elections going anywhere,” Latterman said.
Clemens said that while downtown’s polling showed that people largely disapprove of the Board of Supervisors — just as they do most legislative bodies — people generally like their district supervisor (a reality supported by the fact that all the incumbents were reelected by sizable margins).
“It ain’t a Board of Supervisors, it is 11 supervisors,” Clemens said, noting how informed and sophisticated the San Francisco electorate is compared to many other cities. “When you try to do a broad-based attack, you frequently end up on the wrong end (of the election outcome).”
We had a bittersweet feeling watching the scene in the Castro on election night. While thousands swarmed into the streets to celebrate Obama’s election, there was no avoiding the fact that the civil-rights movement that has such deep roots in that neighborhood was facing a serious setback.
The Castro was where the late Sup. Harvey Milk started his ground-breaking campaign to stop the anti-gay Briggs Initiative in 1978. Defying the advice of the leaders of the Democratic Party, Milk took on Briggs directly, debating him all over the state and arguing against the measure that would have barred gay and lesbian people from teaching in California’s public schools.
The defeat of the Briggs Initiative was a turning point for the queer movement — and the defeat of Prop. 8, which seeks to outlaw same-sex marriage, should have been another. Just as California was the most epic battle in a nationwide campaign by right-wing bigots 30 years ago, anti-gay marriage measures have been on the ballot all over America. And if California could have rejected that tide, it might have taken the wind out of the effort.
But that wasn’t to be. Although pre-election polls showed Prop. 8 narrowly losing, it was clear by the end of election night that it was headed for victory.
Part of the reason: two religious groups, the Catholics and the Mormons, raised and spent some $25 million to pass the measure. Church-based groups mobilized a reported 100,000 grassroots volunteers to knock on doors throughout California. Yes on 8 volunteers were as visible in cities throughout California as the No on 8 volunteers were on the streets of San Francisco, presenting a popular front that the No on 8 campaign’s $35 million in spending just couldn’t counter — particularly with so many progressive activists, who otherwise would have been walking precincts to defeat Prop. 8, fanned out across the country campaigning for Obama.
“While we knew the odds for success were not with us, we believed Californians could be the first in the nation to defeat the injustice of discriminatory measures like Proposition 8,” a statement on the No on Prop. 8 Web site said. “And while victory is not ours this day, we know that because of the work done here, freedom, fairness, and equality will be ours someday. Just look at how far we have come in a few decades.”
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, joined by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and Santa Clara County Counsel Ann C. Raven, filed a legal challenge to Prop. 8, arguing that a ballot initiative can’t be used to take away fundamental constitutional rights.
“Such a sweeping redefinition of equal protection would require a constitutional revision rather than a mere amendment,” the petition argued.
“The issue before the court today is of far greater consequence than marriage equality alone,” Herrera said. “Equal protection of the laws is not merely the cornerstone of the California Constitution, it is what separates constitutional democracy from mob rule tyranny. If allowed to stand, Prop. 8 so devastates the principle of equal protection that it endangers the fundamental rights of any potential electoral minority — even for protected classes based on race, religion, national origin, and gender.”
That may succeed. In fact, the state Supreme Court made quite clear in its analysis legalizing same-sex marriage that this was a matter of fundamental rights: “Although defendants maintain that this court has an obligation to defer to the statutory definition of marriage contained in [state law] because that statute — having been adopted through the initiative process — represents the expression of the ‘people’s will,’ this argument fails to take into account the very basic point that the provisions of the California Constitution itself constitute the ultimate expression of the people’s will, and that the fundamental rights embodied within that Constitution for the protection of all persons represent restraints that the people themselves have imposed upon the statutory enactments that may be adopted either by their elected representatives or by the voters through the initiative process.
As the United States Supreme Court explained in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette (1943) 319 U.S. 624, 638: ‘The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.'”
As Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin told the Guardian later that week: “Luckily, we have an independent judiciary, because the voters of California have mistakenly taken away a class of civil rights.”
But if that legal case fails, this will probably wind up on the state ballot again. And the next campaign will have to be different.
There already have been many discussions about what the No on 8 campaign did wrong and right, but it’s clear that the queer movement needs to reach out to African Americans, particularly black churches. African Americans voted heavily in favor of Prop. 8, and ministers in many congregations preached in favor of the measure.
But there are plenty of black religious leaders who took the other side. In San Francisco the Rev. Amos Brown, who leads the Third Baptist Church, one of the city’s largest African American congregations, spoke powerfully from the pulpit about the connections between the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and the fight for same-sex marriage.
The next time this is on the ballot, progressive and queer leaders will need to build a more broad-based movement. That is not only possible, but almost inevitable.
The good news — and it’s very good news — is that (as Newsom famously proclaimed) same-sex marriage is coming, whether opponents like it or not. That’s because the demographics can’t be denied: the vast majority of voters under 30 support same-sex marriage. This train is going in only one direction, and the last remaining issue is how, and when, to make the next political move.
The progressives didn’t win everything in San Francisco. Proposition H, the Clean Energy Act, was taken down by one of the most high-priced and misleading campaigns in the city’s history. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spent more than $10 million telling lies about Prop. H, and with the daily newspapers virtually ignoring the measure and never challenging the utility’s claims, the measure went down.
“This was a big, big, big money race,” Latterman said. “In San Francisco, you spend $10 million and you’re going to beat just about anything.”
But activists aren’t giving up on pushing the city in the direction of more renewable energy (see Editorial).
Latterman said the narrow passage of Prop. V, which asked the school board to consider reinstating JROTC, wasn’t really a victory. “I would not call this a mandate. I worked with the campaign, and they weren’t looking for 53 percent. They were looking for 60-plus percent,” Latterman said. “I think you’ll see this issue just go away.”
Neither Latterman nor Clemens would speculate on who the next president of the Board of Supervisors will be, noting that there are just too many variables and options, including the possibility that a newly elected supervisor could seek that position.
At this point the obvious front-runner is Ross Mirkarimi, who not only won re-election but received more votes than any other candidate in any district. Based on results at press time, more than 23,000 people voted for Mirkarimi; Sean Elsbernd, who also had two opponents, received only about 19,000.
Mirkarimi worked hard to get Avalos, Chiu, and Mar elected, sending his own volunteers off to those districts. And with four new progressives elected to the board, joining Mirkarimi and veteran progressive Chris Daly, the progressives ought to retain the top job.
Daly tells us he won’t be a candidate — but he and Mirkarimi are not exactly close, and Daly will probably back someone else — possibly one of the newly elected supervisors.
“It’s going to be the most fascinating election that none of us will participate in,” Clemens said.
The danger, of course, is that the progressives will be unable to agree on a candidate — and a more moderate supervisor will wind up controlling committee appointments and the board agenda.
One of the most important elements of this election — and one that isn’t being discussed much — is the passage of three revenue-generating measures. Voters easily approved a higher real-estate transfer tax and a measure that closed a loophole allowing law firms and other partnerships to avoid the payroll tax. Progressives have tried to raise the transfer tax several times in the past, and have lost hard-fought campaigns.
That may mean that the anti-tax sentiment in the city has been eclipsed by the reality of the city’s devastating budget problems. And while Newsom didn’t do much to push the new tax measures, they will make his life much easier: the cuts the city will face won’t be as deep thanks to the additional $50 million or so in revenue.
It will still be a tough year for the new board. The mayor will push for cuts that the unions who supported the newly elected progressives will resist. A pivotal battle over the city’s future — the eastern neighborhoods rezoning plan — will come before the new board in the spring, when the recent arrivals will barely have had time to move into their offices.
Obama, of course, will face an even tougher spring. But progressives can at least face the future knowing that not only could it have been a lot worse; for once things might be about to get much better.
Amanda Witherell and Sarah Phelan contributed to this report.
By Tim Redmond
The amazing thing tonight is that district elections — celebrated in the Harvey Milk movie, brought back by Tom Ammiano — continues to work.
I ran into Republican consultant Chris Bowman early this evening, and he told me that he thought the 2000 election, which brought a progressive majority to the Board of Supervisors, was an unusal event, driven by anger at then-Mayor WIllie Brown. This time around, he was expecting a more moderate slate to win.
But guess what: Organizing on the ground still beats big money when you elect supervisors by district.
In Milk, the new Harvey Milk movie, the hero (as in real life) is well aware that he’s a target and faces regular death threats. He also makes the point and it’s kind of a theme in the film that the movement he represents is far bigger than he is. It’s about the movement, not any one person, he keeps telling his supporters.
And that’s what we have to remember now that the Nov. 4 election is over.
Thanks to the weirdness of old-fashioned print publishing schedules, I’m writing this well before election day, and by the time you read it, Obama will have won the election. It’s a giddy feeling, actually winning a campaign on this level after so many bitter disappointments. And that’s fine we should celebrate while we can.
But we should also remember that the real work starts now and that’s the work of making sure that President Obama is accountable to the people who put him in office.
No other candidate in my adult life has had the kind of grassroots support that put Obama over the top. From the early days of the primaries, he has raised money on the Internet from tens of thousands of small donors. People who have never worked in a political campaign came out to volunteer for him. He has offered hope and that’s a dangerous commodity. Because now he has to deliver.
We can’t expect too much too fast but we can demand that he gives the progressive side of the Democratic Party its due. We don’t want the war to drag on. We don’t want the rich to keep gaining market share. We don’t want big business to derail environmental programs. We actually want change, real change and we have to keep pushing for it.
Electing a president is necessary, not sufficient. It’s still about the movement.
(And if I’m all wrong, and John McCain is the next president, we all better start singing "O Canada")
Whether we’re talking about the volatile US economy or the amount of CD-R releases Wildildlife has produced to date, the base-10 numeral system is a useless reference point.
"Three or four, five or six let’s call it ‘medium-four.’ Or ‘five-esque.’" This is the disc count consensus from the Seattle group, whose membership is definitely three: Andy Crane on bass guitar, Matthew J. Rogers on guitar, and Willy Nilz on the drums. All provide vocals, and their collective tune was chortle-laden as they chatted via speakerphone from their tour van, parked on Bainbridge Island, Wash., a short ferry ride from Seattle, before the opening show of their present West Coast tour with Mammatus.
It would be frivolous to assign integers to Wildildlife’s whacked variety of superjams: their psychedelic weird-metal gets mad heavy, but they kick terrific pop hooks when, you know, they feel like it. "We’re super poppy it’s almost lame," one exclaims before another threatens that they’re "gonna drop it like Kid Rock!" Eh. That frighteningly high-pitched live vocal effect they often use isn’t that pop. Pop or not, the heaviness has gelled into something that has allowed Wildildlife to survive two radical geographic relocations: from Boston to San Francisco, and, earlier this year, to Seattle. Originally named Wildlife before a group called the Wildlife sent them a threatening letter about it, the band started after the three had been jamming together as college students in Boston. Although more restrained at that time, they now dish out a spaced acid-sludge that only medium-four years of epic practice sessions could have wrought.
What brought them to SF in September 2006? "It was a three-way commitment ‘you guys all want to move?’ We pointed it out on a map and headed there. Sorta like Coming to America,” is the answer.
Crane describes their one-time dream of starting a pancake van in Dolores Park with Nilz’s family recipe. What kind of cakes?
This truck never came to fruition, but the combo quickly came to feel at home alongside such newfound, freaky rock brethren as the New Thrill Parade, Tulsa, and Shellshag. They recorded their 2007 debut, Six (Crucial Blast), shortly after their arrival, laying down tracks as long as 18 minutes in the process. One number, "Kross," has a slowly strummed guitar and vocal passage that gives way to delicate Steve Hackett-reminiscent trilling (circa Lamb Lies Down on Broadway [Atco, 1974]) before the metal hammer smacks down again, while "Tungsten Steel/Epilogue," with that scary effect-ed vocal leading the way, is hot as that doorknob that Joe Pesci grabs in Home Alone.
The closest you’ll get to a precedent for the Wildildlife sound is Atlanta, Ga. band Harvey Milk, which the group opened for on HM’s first West Coast dates earlier this year an experience Wildildlife were especially excited about in a year that, despite the move, has been pretty damned productive. They’ve produced a CD-R out of a WFMU live set recorded earlier this year, and a new EP, Peas Feast, will soon be released by Crucial Blast on 12-inch, along with a dropcard for a new EP, The Drongalet Demos. Their songs have been shorter lately, but to no detriment: tracks like Peas Feast‘s "Shining Son" beckon circle pits unlike any before it. Plans are also afoot for an old EP re-ish and a remix 12-inch.
Why is their album called Six if whole numbers don’t suit them? "It’s spelled in letters," they point out. There are also seven songs on there, alas if inexactitude reaps such brutal greatness as that of Wildildlife, may we never file taxes again.
With Mammatus and Three Leafs
Sat/25, 9:30 p.m., $8
1131 Polk, SF
SAN FRANCISCO MEASURES
San Francisco General Hospital bonds
YES, YES, YES
This critically needed $887 million bond would be used to rebuild the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, which is currently not up to seismic safety codes. If the hospital isn’t brought into seismic compliance by 2013, the state has threatened to shut it down.
Proposition A has the support of just about everyone in town: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, all four state legislators from San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom, former mayors Willie Brown and Frank Jordan, all 11 supervisors, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 … the list goes on and on.
And for good reason: SF General is not only the hospital of last resort for many San Franciscans and the linchpin of the entire Healthy San Francisco system. It’s also the only trauma center in the area. Without SF General, trauma patients would have to travel to Palo Alto for the nearest available facility.
Just about the only opposition is coming from the Coalition for Better Housing. This deep-pocketed landlord group is threatening to sink the hospital bond unless it gets concessions on Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier’s legislation that would allow landlords to pass the costs of the $4 billion rebuild of the city’s Hetch Hetchy water, sewage, and power system through to their tenants.
These deplorable tactics should make voters, most of whom are tenants, even more determined to see Prop. A pass. Vote yes.
Affordable housing fund
YES, YES, YES
Housing isn’t just the most contentious issue in San Francisco; it’s the defining issue, the one that will determine whether the city of tomorrow bears any resemblance to the city of today.
San Francisco is on the brink of becoming a city of the rich and only the rich, a bedroom community for Silicon Valley and an urban nest for wealthy retirees. Some 90 percent of current city residents can’t afford the cost of a median-priced house, and working-class people are getting displaced by the day. Tenants are thrown out when their rent-controlled apartments are converted to condos. Young families find they can’t rent or buy a place with enough room for kids and are forced to move to the far suburbs. Seniors and people on fixed incomes find there are virtually no housing choices for them in the market, and many wind up on the streets. Small businesses suffer because their employees can’t afford to live here; the environment suffers because so many San Francisco workers must commute long distances to find affordable housing.
And meanwhile, the city continues to allow developers to build million-dollar condos for the rich.
Proposition B alone won’t solve the problem, but it would be a major first step. The measure would set aside a small percentage of the city’s property-tax revenue enough to generate about $33 million a year for affordable housing. It would set a baseline appropriation to defend the money the city currently spends on housing. It would expire in 15 years.
Given the state of the city’s housing crisis, $33 million is a fairly modest sum but with a guaranteed funding stream, the city can seek matching federal and state funds and leverage that over 15 years into billions of dollars to build housing for everyone from very low-income people to middle-class families.
Prop. B doesn’t raise taxes, and if the two revenue measures on the ballot, Propositions N and Q, pass, there will be more than enough money to fund it without any impact on city services.
The mayor and some other conservative critics say that set-asides such as this one cripple the ability of elected officials to make tough budget choices. But money for affordable housing isn’t a choice anymore in San Francisco; it’s a necessity. If the city can’t take dramatic steps to retain its lower-income and working-class residents, the city as we know it will cease to exist. A city of the rich is not only an appalling concept; it’s simply unsustainable.
The private market alone can’t solve San Francisco’s housing crisis. Vote yes on B.
Ban city employees from commissions
Proposition C would prohibit city employees from serving on boards and commissions. Sponsored by Sup. Jake McGoldrick, it seems to make logical sense why should a city department head, for example, sit on a policy panel that oversees city departments?
But the flaw in Prop. C is that it excludes all city employees, not just senior managers. We see no reason why, for example, a frontline city gardener or nurse should be barred from ever serving on a board or commission. We’re opposing this now, but we urge the supervisors to come back with a new version that applies only to employees who are exempt from civil service that is, managers and political appointees.
Financing Pier 70 waterfront district
Pier 70 was once the launching pad for America’s imperial ambitions in the Pacific, but it’s sadly fallen into disrepair, like most Port of San Francisco property. The site’s historic significance and potential for economic development (think Monterey’s Cannery Row) have led port officials and all 11 members of the Board of Supervisors to put forward this proposal to prime the pump with a public infrastructure investment that would be paid back with interest.
The measure would authorize the Board of Supervisors to enter into long-term leases consistent with the forthcoming land use and fiscal plans for the site, and to front the money for development of roads and waterfront parks, refurbishing Union Iron Works, and other infrastructure work, all of which would be paid back through tax revenue generated by development of the dormant site. It’s a good deal. Vote yes.
The recall is an important tool that dates back to the state’s progressive era, but San Francisco’s low signature threshold for removing an officeholder makes it subject to abuse. That’s why the Guardian called for this reform ("Reform the Recall," 6/13/07) last year when downtown interests were funding simultaneous recall efforts (promoted by single-issue interest groups) against three progressive supervisors: Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, and Chris Daly. The efforts weren’t successful, but they diverted time and energy away from the important work of running the city.
This measure would bring the City Charter into conformity with state law, raising the signature threshold from 10 percent of registered voters to 20 percent in most supervisorial districts, and leaving it at 10 percent for citywide office. The sliding-scale state standard is what most California counties use, offering citizens a way to remove unaccountable representatives without letting a fringe-group recall be used as an extortive threat against elected officials who make difficult decisions that don’t please everyone.
Mayoral election in even-numbered years
This one’s a close call, and there are good arguments on both sides. Sponsored by Sup. Jake McGoldrick, Proposition F would move mayoral elections to the same year as presidential elections. The pros: Increased turnout, which tends to favor progressive candidates, and some savings to the city from the elimination of an off-year election. The cons: The mayor’s race might be eclipsed by the presidential campaigns. In a city where the major daily paper and TV stations have a hard time covering local elections in the best of times, the public could miss out on any real scrutiny of mayoral candidates.
Here’s what convinced us: San Francisco hasn’t elected a true progressive mayor in decades. The system we have isn’t working; it’s worth trying something else.
Retirement system credit for unpaid parental leave
Proposition G brings equity to city employees who started families before July 1, 2003. Currently this group is unable to benefit from a 2002 charter amendment that provides city employees with paid parental leave. Prop. G gives these parents the opportunity to buy back unpaid parental leave and earn retirement credits for that period.
Critics charge that Prop. G changes the underlying premise of the city’s retirement plan and that this attempt to cure a perceived disparity creates a precedent whereby voters could be asked to remedy disparities anytime benefit changes are made. They claim that there are no guarantees Prop. G won’t end up costing the taxpayers money.
But Prop. G, which is supported by the San Francisco Democratic and Republican Parties, the Chamber of Commerce, SEIU Local 1021, the Police Officers Association, and San Francisco Firefighters 798, simply allows city workers to buy back at their own expense some of their missed retirement benefits, thereby creating a fiscally responsible solution to an oversight in the 2003 charter amendment.
Clean Energy Act
YES, YES, YES
Proposition H is long, long overdue. This charter amendment would require the city to study how to efficiently and affordably achieve 51 percent renewable energy by 2017, scaled up to 100 percent by 2040. Should the study find that a publicly owned utility infrastructure would be most effective, it would allow the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to issue revenue bonds, with approval from the Board of Supervisors, to purchase the necessary lines, poles, and power-generation facilities. The measure includes a green jobs initiative and safeguards benefits and retirement packages for employees who leave Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to work for the SFPUC.
PG&E hates this because it could put the giant private company out of business in San Francisco, and the company has already spent millions of dollars spreading false information about the measure. PG&E says the proposal would cost $4 billion and raise electric bills by $400 a year for residents, but there’s no verifiable proof that these figures are accurate. An analysis done by the Guardian (see "Cleaner and Cheaper," 9/10/08) shows that rates could actually be reduced and the city would still generate excess revenue.
PG&E has also spun issuing revenue bonds without a vote of the people as a bad thing it’s not. Other city departments already issue revenue bonds without a vote. The solvency of revenue bonds is based on a guaranteed revenue stream that is, the city would pay back the bonds with the money it makes selling electricity. There’s no cost and no risk to the taxpayers. In fact, unless the city can prove that enough money would be generated to cover the cost of the bond plus interest, the bond won’t fly with investors.
At a time when utility companies are clinging to old technologies or hoping for pie-in-the-sky solutions like "clean coal," this measure is desperately needed and would set a precedent for the country. Environmental leaders like Bill McKibben and Van Jones, who both endorsed the bill, are watching San Francisco closely on this. Prop. H has been endorsed by 8 of the 11 supervisors, Assemblymembers Mark Leno and Fiona Ma, state senator Carole Migden, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, SEIU Local 1021, the Sierra Club, Senior Action Network, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, and the San Francisco Tenants Union, among many others.
The bulk of the opposition comes from PG&E, which is entirely funding the No on H campaign and paid for 22 of 30 ballot arguments against it. The company also has given money, in one way or another, to all the public officials who oppose this measure, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, and Sean Elsbernd.
Prop. H pits a utility that can’t meet the state’s modest renewable-energy goals and runs a nuclear power plant against every environmental group and leader in town. Vote yes.
Independent ratepayer advocate
At face value, this measure isn’t bad, but it’s superfluous. It’s a charter amendment that would establish an independent ratepayer advocate, appointed by the city administrator and tasked with advising the SFPUC on all things related to utility rates and revenue. Passing Prop. H would do that too.
Proposition I was put on the ballot by Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier as a way to save face after her ardent opposition to the city’s plan to build two peaker power plants, in which she made impassioned pleas for more renewable energy and more energy oversight. (She opposes Prop. H, which would create both.) During the debate over the peaker power plants, Alioto-Pier introduced a variety of bills, including this one. There isn’t any visible campaign or opposition to it, but there’s no need for it. Vote yes on H, and no on I.
Historic preservation commission
There’s something in this measure for everyone to like, both the developers who seek to alter historic buildings and the preservationists who often oppose them. It adopts the best practices of other major US cities and updates 40-year-old rules that govern the Landmark Preservation Advisory Board.
Proposition J, sponsored by Sup. Aaron Peskin, would replace that nine-member board with a seven-member commission that would have a bit more authority and whose members would be preservation experts appointed by the mayor, approved by the board, and serving fixed terms to avoid political pressures. It would set review standards that vary by project type, allowing streamlined staff-level approval for small projects and direct appeals to the Board of Supervisors for big, controversial proposals.
This was a collaborative proposal with buy-in from all stakeholders, and it’s formally opposed only by the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, an extremist property rights group. Vote yes.
Decriminalizing sex work
We’re not big fans of vice laws; generally speaking, we’ve always believed that drugs, gambling, and prostitution ought to be legalized, tightly regulated, and heavily taxed. Proposition K doesn’t go that far all it does is make enforcement of the prostitution laws a low priority for the San Francisco Police Department. It would effectively cut off funding for prostitution busts but would require the cops to pursue cases involving violent crime against sex workers.
The opponents of this measure talk about women who are coerced into sex work, particularly immigrants who are smuggled into the country and forced into the trade. That’s a serious problem in San Francisco. But the sex workers who put this measure on the ballot argue that taking the profession out of the shadows would actually help the police crack down on sex trafficking.
In fact, a significant part of the crime problem created by sex work involves crimes against the workers violent and abusive pimps, atrocious working conditions, thefts and beatings by johns who face no consequences because the sex workers face arrest if they go to the police.
The current system clearly isn’t working. Vote yes on K.
Funding the Community Justice Center
This measure is an unnecessary and wasteful political gimmick by Mayor Newsom and his downtown allies. Newsom has long pushed the Community Justice Center (CJC) as a panacea for quality-of-life crimes in the Tenderloin and surrounding areas, where the new court would ostensibly offer defendants immediate access to social service programs in lieu of incarceration. Some members of the Board of Supervisors resisted the idea, noting that it singles out poor people and that the services it purports to offer have been decimated by budget shortfalls. Nonetheless, after restoring deep cuts in services proposed by the mayor, the board decided to go ahead and fund the CJC.
But the mayor needed an issue to grandstand on this election, so he placed this measure on the ballot. All Proposition L would do is fund the center at $2.75 million for its first year of operations, rather than the approved $2.62 million. We’d prefer to see all that money go to social services rather than an unnecessary new courtroom, but it doesn’t the court is already funded. In the meantime, Prop. L would lock in CJC program details and prevent problems from being fixed by administrators or supervisors once the program is up and running. Even if you like the CJC, there’s no reason to make it inflexible simply so Newsom can keep ownership of it. Vote no.
Proposition M would amend the city’s rent-control law to prohibit landlords from harassing tenants. It would allow tenants to seek rent reductions if they’re being harassed.
Proponents including the SF Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee, St. Peter’s Housing Committee, the Community Tenants Association, the Affordable Housing Alliance, the Eviction Defense Collaborative, and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic argue that affordable, rent-controlled housing is being lost because landlords are allowed to drive long-term tenants from their rent-controlled homes. Citing the antics of one of San Francisco’s biggest landlords, CitiApartments, the tenant activists complain about repeated invasions of privacy, constant buyout offers, and baseless bogus eviction notices.
Because no language currently exists in the rent ordinance to define and protect tenants from harassment, landlords with well-documented histories of abuse have been able to act with impunity. Vote Yes on M.
Real property transfer tax
YES, YES, YES
Prop. N is one of a pair of measures designed to close loopholes in the city tax code and bring some badly needed new revenue into San Francisco’s coffers. The proposal, by Sup. Aaron Peskin, would increase to 1.5 percent the transfer tax on the sale of property worth more than $5 million. It would generate about $30 million a year.
Prop. N would mostly affect large commercial property sales; although San Francisco housing is expensive, very few homes sell for $5 million (and the people buying and selling the handful of ultra-luxury residences can well afford the extra tax). It’s a progressive tax the impact will fall overwhelmingly on very wealthy people and big business and this change is long overdue. Vote yes.
Emergency response fee
YES, YES, YES
With dozens of state and local measures on the ballot this year, Proposition O is not getting much notice but it’s a big deal. If it doesn’t pass, the city could lose more than $80 million a year. With the economy tanking and the city already running structural deficits and cutting essential services, that kind of hit to the budget would be catastrophic. That’s why the mayor, all 11 supervisors, and both the Republican and Democratic Parties support Prop. O.
The text of the measure is confusing and difficult to penetrate because it deals mainly with legal semantics. It’s on the ballot because of arcane legal issues that might make it hard for the city to enforce an existing fee in the future.
But here’s the bottom line: Prop. O would not raise taxes or increase the fees most people already pay. It would simply replace what was a modest "fee" of a couple of bucks a month to fund 911 services with an identical "tax" for the same amount, while also updating the technical definition of what constitutes a phone line from a now defunct 1970s-era statute. The only people who might wind up paying any new costs are commercial users of voice-over-internet services.
It’s very simple. If Prop. O passes, the vast majority of us won’t pay anything extra and the city won’t have to make $80 to $85 million more in cuts to things like health care, crime prevention, and street maintenance. That sounds like a pretty good deal to us. Vote yes.
Transportation Authority changes
NO, NO, NO
Mayor Gavin Newsom is hoping voters will be fooled by his argument that Proposition P, which would change the size and composition of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, would lead to more efficiency and accountability.
But as Prop. P’s opponents including all 11 supervisors, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, and the Sierra Club point out, the measure would put billions of taxpayer dollars in the hands of political appointees, thus removing independent oversight of local transportation projects.
The Board of Supervisors, which currently serves as the governing body of the small but powerful, voter-created Transportation Authority, has done a good job of acting as a watchdog for local sales-tax revenues earmarked for transportation projects and administering state and federal transportation funding for new projects. The way things stand, the mayor effectively controls Muni, and the board effectively controls the Transportation Authority, providing a tried and tested system of checks and balances that gives all 11 districts equal representation. There is no good reason to upset this apple cart. Vote No on P.
Modifying the payroll tax
YES, YES, YES
Proposition Q would close a major loophole that allows big law firms, architecture firms, medical partnerships, and other lucrative outfits to avoid paying the city’s main business tax. San Francisco collects money from businesses largely through a 1.5 percent tax on payroll. It’s not a perfect system, and we’d like to see a more progressive tax (why should big and small companies pay the same percentage tax?). But even the current system has a giant problem that costs the city millions of dollars a year.
The law applies to the money companies pay their employees. But in a fair number of professional operations, the highest-paid people are considered "partners" and their income is considered profit-sharing, not pay. So the city’s biggest law firms, where partners take home hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in compensation, pay no city tax on that money.
Prop. Q would close that loophole and treat partnership income as taxable payroll. It would also exempt small businesses (with payrolls of less than $250,000 a year) from any tax at all.
The proposal would bring at least $10 million a year into the city and stop certain types of businesses from ducking their share of the tax burden. Vote yes.
Naming sewage plant after Bush
This one has tremendous emotional and humor appeal. It would officially rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. That would put San Francisco in the position of creating the first official memorial to the worst president of our time and his name would be on a sewage plant.
The problem not to be killjoys is that sewage treatment is actually a pretty important environmental concern, and the Oceanside plant is a pretty good sewage treatment plant. It’s insulting to the plant, and the people who work there, to put the name of an environmental villain on the door.
Let’s name something awful after Bush. Vote no on Prop. R.
Budget set-aside policy
This measure is yet another meaningless gimmick that has more to do with Mayor Newsom’s political ambitions than good governance.
For the record, we generally don’t like budget set-aside measures, which can unnecessarily encumber financial planning and restrict elected officials from setting budget priorities. But in this no-new-taxes political era, set-asides are sometimes the only way to guarantee that important priorities get funding from the static revenue pool. Newsom agrees and has supported set-asides for schools, libraries, and other popular priorities.
Now he claims to want to rein that in, although all this measure would do is state whether a proposal identifies a funding source or violates a couple of other unenforceable standards. Vote no.
Free and low-cost substance abuse treatment
Proposition T would require the Department of Public Health (DPH) to make medical and residential substance abuse treatment available for low-income and homeless people who request it. DPH already offers treatment and does it well, but there’s a wait list 500 people long and when addicts finally admit they need help and show up for treatment, the last thing the city should do is send them away and make them wait.
Prop. T would expand the program to fill that unmet need. The controller estimates an annual cost to the General Fund of $7 million to $13 million, but proponents say the upfront cost would lead to significant savings later. For every dollar spent on treatment, the city saves as much as $13 because clinical treatment for addictive disorders is cheaper than visits to the emergency room, where many low-income and homeless people end up when their untreated problems reach critical levels.
This ordinance was put on the ballot by Sups. Daly, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi, and Peskin, and has no visible opposition, although some proponents frame it as a way to achieve what the Community Justice Center only promises. Vote yes.
Defunding the Iraq War
Proposition U is a declaration of policy designed to send a message to the city’s congressional representatives that San Francisco disproves of any further funding of the war in Iraq, excepting whatever money is required to bring the troops home safely.
The progressive block of supervisors put this on the ballot, and according to their proponent argument in the Voter Information Pamphlet, the Iraq War has cost California $68 billion and San Francisco $1.8 billion. The Republican Party is the lone voice against this measure. Vote yes.
Bringing back JROTC
NO, NO, NO
The San Francisco school board last year voted to end its Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, which was the right move. A military-recruitment program and make no mistake, that’s exactly what JROTC is has no place in the San Francisco public schools. The board could have done a better job finding a replacement program, but there are plenty of options out there.
In the meantime, a group of JROTC backers placed Proposition V on the ballot.
The measure would have no legal authority; it would just be a statement of policy. Supporters say they hope it will pressure the school board to restore the program. In reality, this is a downtown- and Republican-led effort to hurt progressive candidates in swing districts where JROTC might be popular. Vote no.
by Amanda Witherell
Today Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have designated May 22 as Harvey Milk day. The legislation, authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno, would have required the governor to annually recognize the day and would have encouraged “all public schools and educational institutions to observe this day and to conduct exercises remembering and recognizing the life of Harvey Milk, his accomplishments, and the contributions he made to this state.”
According to the legislative analysis, the bill had no fiscal cost.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said, “I believe his contributions should continue to be recognized at the local level by those who were most impacted by his contributions.”
Yeah, but we already get it — the whole point is to educate more people about his impact, and the guy’s about to go silver screen. If anyone out there doesn’t know who Harvey Milk is now, they will when they see Sean Penn playing him in “Milk,” the Gus Van Sant film that hits national screens in December — which makes it seem entirely appropriate that California might go on the record officially recognizing the great man.
In his legislative comments on the bill, Leno said, “Perhaps more than any other modern figure, Harvey Milk’s life and political career embody the rise of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement.” Milk was assassinated in 1978, while serving as supervisor in San Francisco. He was the first openly gay elected official to hold office in a major US city.
“Harvey Milk is a hero who stood for simple equality and justice, and ultimately gave his life for these principles,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a press release about the veto. “It would have been fitting to officially recognize his birthday as a day of special significance in California. However, as everyone who admires Harvey Milk fully understands, we can pay this great man lasting tribute by working to make equality a reality for all Californians.”
Mayor Gavin Newsom wants voters to believe that Proposition P, which seeks to change the size and composition of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA) board, will lead to more efficiency and accountability.
But Prop. P’s many opponents who include all 11 supervisors, all four state legislators from San Francisco, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, the Sierra Club, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the San Francisco Democratic Party, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club say that the measure would hand over billions of taxpayer dollars to a group of political appointees, thereby removing critical and independent oversight of local transportation projects.
Currently, the Board of Supervisors serves as the governing body of the TA, a small but powerful voter-created authority that acts as a watchdog for the $80 million in local sales tax revenues annually earmarked for transportation projects and administers state and federal transportation funding for new projects.
As such, the TA holds considerable sway over the capital projects of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA), which operates Muni and has a board composed entirely of mayoral appointees. Prop. P would give the mayor more control over all transportation funding, which critics say could be manipulated for political reasons.
As Assemblymember Mark Leno told the Guardian, "This is a system of checks and balances that seems to be working well." And, as Sen. Carole Migden put it, "if it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it."
But if Newsom gets his way and Prop. P passes, the TA’s board will shrink to five elected officials in February and Newsom will be one of them.
TA executive director José Luis Moscovich told us it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the mayor on the agency’s governing board. "But that’s different from taking the board from 11 to five members," Moscovich said. "And how would the districts be represented equally?"
Since the TA has only 30 staff members, compared with the MTA’s 6,000 employees, Moscovich finds it hard to see how overhauling his agency would result in greater efficiency.
"Our overhead is 50 percent less than the MTA’s," Moscovich said. "We are subject to all kinds of oversight. This is a sledgehammer to a problem that doesn’t require it."
Tom Radulovich, an elected BART board member and the director of the nonprofit Livable City, believes that personality and policy questions lie at the heart of Newsom’s unilateral decision to place Prop. P on the ballot.
"The mayor doesn’t get along with the Board of Supervisors," Radulovich told us. "The way things stand, the mayor effectively controls the MTA, and the board effectively controls the TA. The mayor would like not to have to deal with the board."
This isn’t the first time a merger has been suggested, and this isn’t even the first time it’s come up this year.
In February, MTA chief Nathaniel Ford suggested the merger, with the MTA in charge. At the time, Newsom was under intense scrutiny for dipping into a million dollars’ worth of MTA funds to pay his staffers’ salaries. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that taking over the TA was not his idea and not something his office planned to pursue.
But shortly after that, Sup. Jake McGoldrick tried and failed to qualify a measure that would have divided the power to nominate members of the MTA’s board between the mayor, the president of the Board of Supervisors, and the city controller.
Newsom retaliated with Prop. P, which would replace the TA board with the mayor, an elected official chosen by the mayor, the president of the Board of Supervisors, an elected official chosen by the board president, and the city treasurer.
While Newsom was honeymooning in Africa, mayoral spokesperson Nathan Ballard turned up the heat by criticizing the supervisors for spending TA funds on routine travel expenses and office supplies.
"I don’t understand why money that is supposed to go to roads is going to couches and cell phones for members of the Board of Supervisors," Ballard told the San Francisco Examiner. But according to public records, Newsom himself charged $14,555 in expenses to the TA while he was a supervisor and a TA board member, from 1997 through 2003.
Jim Sutton, an attorney who served as treasurer in both of Newsom’s mayoral campaigns, has formed a committee to support Prop. P, ironically called Follow the Money.
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum, whom Newsom appointed to, then fired from, the MTA board last year, said that the TA has a strong record, not only of tracking dollars and winning matching funds at the state and federal levels, but also of making sure that the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians are represented.
"The system we have now is also the most protective of our dollars," Shahum said, noting that the TA is stringent about recipient agencies’ meeting deadlines and keeping costs in check.
Moscovich warned that it’s important that the city quickly move on from the battle over Prop. P, in light of the ongoing financial meltdown on Wall Street and the federal government’s bailout plan.
"This financial tsunami that hasn’t hit us yet will make it harder to borrow money to complete engineering projects," Moscovich predicted. "So it’s important that we get beyond this and show a unified front, so that our credibility as a city is not in danger."
The most successful Asian American novelist of her generation, Amy Tan tests her penmanship as an opera librettist this fall, when the San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of The Bonesetter’s Daughter, the operatic adaptation of the Oakland native’s 2001 Putnam bestseller with a score composed by Stewart Wallace.
While holding the utmost respect for the polish and clarity of Tan’s voice as a novelist, I have always been a bit skeptical of her writings. These often read suspiciously close to the admonitions and remembrances of parents and elder Chinese relatives, repackaged with great skill for maximum melodramatic impact. Most Chinese children raised by parents who survived the Sino-Japanese wars and the Cultural Revolution will tell you that they are keenly familiar with the gestalt of these tales carrying unspeakable tragedy and suffering which the aforementioned aged deploy with a numbing frequency as a tool to awe, preach to, strike fear in, and taunt offspring.
Still, Tan is decidedly correct when she points out that, melodramatic or not, the unarticulated truth of these stories is intensely evident in the endemic presence of depression and the dysfunctional intergenerational relationships that afflict the transplanted expatriate Chinese community of the war generation. "There are lots of tragedies in people’s lives," observes the Sausalito resident by phone from New York City. "Especially in [those of] people who decided to leave their country behind."
Local audiences have been exposed to Wallace’s music most notably when his opera, Harvey Milk, premiered locally with the SF Opera in 1996 but for Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter commission provided her with an in-depth exposure to the creative process of an entirely new medium. "When I was asked to do this opera, I was happy to turn over the story," Tan says. "I wasn’t thinking that I would be committing myself to doing a libretto."
Initially intimidated by the technical aspects, she soon found herself immersed in the process. "It’s a very free form, as a matter of fact," she explains. "It wasn’t about cutting back the novel, but rather to find the heart of the story and recreate it all over again."
At its core, The Bonesetter’s Daughter is the story of three generations of Chinese women whose secrets and unspoken traumas are carried forth between grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. In preparation for the work, Wallace and Tan traveled together to remote villages in China, attending religious ceremonies, and collecting inspiration in traditional folk music and rituals.
As a result, Wallace created a score which will be conducted by Steven Sloane and performed by Zheng Cao, Ning Liang, Qian Yi, Hao Jiang Tian, Wu Tong, James Maddalena, and Catherine Cook that is at times percussive and at other moments hauntingly lyrical, according to Tan. It also includes music written for the suona, a high-pitched, reedy Chinese oboe, as well as some fire-breathing drama. "We will see acrobatics," she adds. "In the beginning prologue there will be dragons: a water dragon and a fire dragon. I am a water dragon, and my mother is a fire dragon, and together we make steam." Far from the typical Chinatown parade dragons, "these will be beautiful, flying dragons made of light paper," she says, "and inside are these flying acrobats."
With martial arts and acrobatic elements integrated into the staging by director Chen Shi-Zheng, will Bonesetter carry close resemblance to a Chinese opera? "Not at all," Tan said. "There are parts of my life, which are based in China, that have been transformed into my American life. Stewart’s music includes, in the same way, those references. But they are part of Stewart’s voice now and he has a very strong voice."
THE BONESETTER’S DAUGHTER
Sept. 13Oct. 2, various times, $15$290
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness, SF
(415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com
CHING CHANG’S TOP CLASSICAL AND OPERA PICKS
KATIA AND MARIELLE LABEQUE
Like Madonna, the Labeque sisters are past 50 now, and showing remarkable artistic longevity and re-invention. The virtuoso French pianists offer a rare performance of Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos at the San Francisco Symphony’s season opener. Sept. 47. (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra opens its fall program with a gem of French baroque, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion. Paired on the program will be the Thomas Arne’s Comus, based on a masque by John Milton. Sept. 1320. (415) 392-4400, www.philharmoniabaroque.org
ISABEL BAYRAKDARIAN AND THE MANITOBA CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Overachiever Bayrakdarian has an engineering degree and speaks five languages, yet it is in singing that this freakishly talented young Canadian shines most brightly. The soprano perform works by Bartók, Ravel, Gideon Klein, Nikolaos Skalkottas, and Gomidas Vartabed. Oct. 4. (415) 392-2545, www.performances.org
Saxophone virtuoso Branford Marsalis’ love affair with Brazilian music shows no signs of waning. Here he forges a vibrant musical dialogue across the Americas, joined by members of Gil Jardim’s Philarmonia Brasileira to perform works by Villa-Lobos, Stravinsky, Bach, and Milhaud. Oct. 5. (650) 725-ARTS (2787), livelyarts.stanford.edu.
THE COAL-SELLER’S CONCERT
The Bay Area early music ensemble Musica Pacifica recreates a typical concert by coal-seller Thomas Britton, who presented the world’s first known public concert series in London around 1678. Oct. 31. (510) 528-1725, www.sfems.org
For a complete list (2.35 MB) of everyone who signed on to a PG&E-paid ballot argument and a full list of all of the individuals, companies, and nonprofits that get PG&E money every year, click here (Excel).
It’s Saturday morning, Aug. 23, and at the plumber’s union hall on Market Street, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. employees are leading a rally in opposition to San Francisco’s Clean Energy Act. A table at the back of the room sags with urns of coffee and uneaten pastries. To the side are towers of glossy black "Stop the Blank Check" window signs. E-mails sent by event organizers said Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Mayor Gavin Newsom were expected to attend, but so far, there’s no sign of either.
"On behalf of the men and women at PG&E, thanks for giving up your Saturday," PG&E vice president John Simon tells participants, who will be spending the afternoon walking San Francisco’s streets passing out No on Proposition H propaganda.
But the audience isn’t listening.
Most of the people packed into the room are Asian kids, giggling and chatting and ignoring the English-only presentation. One group of boys playfully pushes each other, accidentally bumping into some stage lighting and earning a reprimand from a rally organizer. The kids ignore him. I ask some of the young people if they’re with a school or club, or if they’re part of JROTC, which has an informational booth in the vestibule. They look at me blankly and turn away, muttering in Cantonese. I question a few others and get similar responses.
Outside, I find a young man who speaks English. He tells me the kids aren’t really here for the rally. "It’s just a job," he says. They’re getting $15 an hour to hang flyers on doorknobs flyers that read "hand-delivered by a Stop the Blank Check Supporter."
The Committee to Stop the Blank Check is the official campaign committee fighting the Clean Energy Act, which will appear as Prop. H on the November ballot. The group, however, is funded by a blank check from PG&E.
"They’ve pledged enough to educate every voter in San Francisco," the committee’s campaign manager, Eric Jaye, told the Guardian at the Saturday rally.
It’s no surprise that the campaign workers are paid for by PG&E in fact, just about everyone who has come out against Prop. H seems to be getting money from the utility.
The Clean Energy Act sets ambitious goals for moving the city into renewable energy goals that go far beyond current state mandates. It also calls for a study into San Francisco’s energy options and authorizes the city to issue revenue bonds to buy or build energy facilities.
An investigation into the elected officials, committees, and groups that oppose Prop. H shows cash from PG&E in nearly every coffer.
The official ballot argument against the Clean Energy Act is signed by Feinstein, Newsom, and three supervisors initially appointed to the board by the mayor: Michela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, and Sean Elsbernd.
Feinstein’s loaded with PG&E money. Since 2004, Feinstein has received $15,000 in direct contributions from PG&E, according to OpenSecrets.org. More significant, perhaps, is that Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, serves as chairman of the board of CBRE, a real estate firm that did $4.8 million in business with PG&E in 2007, according to an annual report the utility files with the state of California.
Campaign finance disclosure statements from Feinstein state that her husband receives fees and income from CBRE, and has $250,000 and $500,000 in investment holdings.
Feinstein’s spokesperson, Scott Gerber, said there was no conflict of interest. But Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics spokesperson Naomi Seligman added, "The ethics rules are so incredibly narrow that unless Senator Feinstein was pushing or voting for something that would impact only Mr. Blum, it doesn’t count as a conflict."
Still: Feinstein’s getting cash directly from PG&E, and then doing the company’s political bidding.
NEWSOM’S PG&E PARTY
Newsom, who has won campaigns with PG&E’s financial support in the past, is hosting a party called "Unconventional ’08" in Denver this week. Guess who’s one of the three listed sponsors? PG&E. (The other two are AT&T and the carpenter’s union.) And, of course, the person running Newsom’s campaign for governor is PG&E’s main man, Eric Jaye.
Sups. Alioto-Pier and Elsbernd? Both had PG&E money shunted through independent expenditure committees. Sup. Chu is currently running to keep her seat in District 4.
Former Mayor Willie Brown tops the list of endorsers on Committee to Stop the Blank Check’s Web site. PG&E paid Brown $200,000 in consulting fees during 2007.
Neither Brown nor PG&E returned calls for comment and clarification on what exactly Brown’s consulting involves, or how much he’s getting this year.
Of the 30 paid ballot arguments that will be listed in November’s Voter Information Pamphlet, PG&E bought 22 of them many for well-funded organizations like the Bay Area Council, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, and the Republican Party that could presumably pay for their own $2-per-word screeds against the measure.
The arguments all make the same points and parrot the same PG&E lines.
Jaye said that ballot arguments were routinely paid for by other entities, and of the groups that have healthy bank accounts, he said, "We’d rather those groups invest their money in capacity building for November."
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Building Owners and Managers Association, and Plan C all paid for their own ballot arguments. In 2007 the Chamber received more than $350,000 from PG&E in the form of dues and grants. BOMA got a $26,500 grant from the utility company, which also hired the outfit for almost $100,000 worth of consulting work. Plan C’s Political Action Committee regularly receives deposits from PG&E during election season.
Other entities that signed arguments paid for by PG&E include: the San Francisco police and firefighter unions, which are constantly asking the city for more money (and now oppose a potential revenue source); the Asian Pacific Democratic Club; the Small Business Network; the Rev. Amos Brown, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Paying for their own No on H arguments: former San Francisco Public Defender and California Public Utilities Commission member Jeff Brown, the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, BART board member James Fang, and prominent small businessowner Harold Hoogasian.
PG&E spends millions each year on consultants and at campaign time, that money turns into political support.
"PG&E’s philanthropy has been paying off into manipuutf8g a network of supporters who believe [Prop. H] is going to do something adverse to their interest when in reality it’s not," said Sup. Ross Mirkarimi.
Money isn’t everything for some organizations. Oakland’s Ella Baker Center for Human Rights received a $10,000 grant from PG&E in 2007. Cofounder Van Jones has endorsed the Clean Energy Act.
There’s no paper trail for how much PG&E has spent to date on this campaign and the utility will be free to spend money without scrutiny until Oct. 6, when the first financial statements related to the November election are due at the Ethics Commission.
THE OTHER SIDE
But PG&E can’t buy everyone and the coalition supporting the Clean Energy Act is large, broad, and growing.
Prop. H has been endorsed by eight of the city’s 11 supervisors, Assemblymembers Fiona Ma and Mark Leno, and environmentalist and author Bill McKibben. Groups with a variety of different interests, like the League of Conservation Voters, the SF Democratic Party, SEIU 1021, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the Senior Action Network also have given it a green light.
"I think the coalition for it is a much broader coalition than has been for it in the past," said Susan Leal, former head of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who supports Prop. H. "Because of that, PG&E has ramped up the campaign and put a lot more money into it than in the past."
Mirkarimi, who authored the measure, called the early phone banking, mailers, and door knocking a "signature blitzkrieg campaign," similar to what he witnessed as the manager of the 2001 public power measure that also raised PG&E’s ire and which lost by about 500 votes. "That’s why PG&E is working so hard now. We were so close in 2001."
John Rizzo of the Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club said his group has already committed money and people to walk districts. But he noted that he has already seen Committee to Stop the Blank Check signs posted in windows on the west side of the city. "We expected it," he said of the resources PG&E has spent to date. "The only thing they have is money."
Rizzo said the Sierra Club has endorsed past public power measures and considers this an environmental issue. "We are finding it’s a pretty broad coalition of folks who might not be together on an environmental issue. The San Francisco Women’s Political Committee PAC just recommended endorsing it to their membership, and that’s not normally an environmental group though they are a good group."
Leal says the Clean Energy Act really transcends arguments against public power. "I’m mystified why people would not be on board for something that’s cleaner and cheaper," said Leal. "I think I know why a number of others have gotten on board. They recognize that this is the path to clean energy for power."
Jaye wouldn’t assign a specific dollar amount to how much the company is willing to spend to defeat the measure but he made it clear that there are no limits: "It could take $1 million, it could take $5 million." In 2006, when public power was on the ballot in Yolo County, PG&E spent almost $10 million keeping the 77,000 customers they would have lost to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The measure lost by one percentage point.
Jaye, who also manages Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign, is quick to point out that the committee has already received 12,000 signed cards of support. Still, he said, they weren’t asking for money from these potential campaign donors "because we have significant and sufficient resources pledged from PG&E."
Growing up gay in a military family of evangelical Christians in the Reagan-era South sounds like a tight squeeze for anyone. But as Kirk Read affirms, however claustrophobic one’s environment, there’s always room for a good fantasy. Besides, Read likes tight squeezes. His active dream life (which includes having a very large man lie on top of him and expel all the air from his lungs) percolated early with the image of his young gay Christian self leaving home for school each morning past an angry throng of fellow evangelicals in protest formation, waving signs expressing God’s vehement opposition to little backpack-wearing Kirk Read, holding up the obligatory jars of fetuses, shaking fists, and lobbing Bibles. Well, Read is here to testify that dreams can come true.
The story of that, um, miraculous moment (which took place recently as Read toured his home state of Virginia with the Sex Workers’ Art Show) makes up just one part of the Bay Area writer-performer’s lively, gleefully offbeat, and largely autobiographical concatenation of multimedia performance pieces, This Is the Thing, now being reprised at Shotwell Studios after its sold-out Queer Arts Festival debut at the Garage in June. But it comes, along with a raucous striptease, as the apt climax of an evening driven by a kind of fervor and sensibility clearly (if inadvertently) inspired by Read’s "hardcore" Southern Christian upbringing (recounted in detail in his 2001 memoir, How I Learned to Snap [Hill Street Press]).
Thus the evening begins with a prayer. Stepping onto the stage looking like a young Osmond-esque televangelist in a white polyester suit and gold sequin tee, Read (ably accompanied through many a mood by composer and multi-instrumentalist Jeffrey Alphonsus Mooney, and backed by the smooth, evocative video collage work of Liz Singer) leads those assembled in a celebration of all those things disappearing the cassette mixtape, the bottle rocket, the sonnet before segueing into a paean to the penny and a loose, carefree set of associations that promptly lead to Abe Lincoln as well-hung gay icon. Pennies, those "shiny whores," are a sort of leitmotif here, though I can’t exactly say I understood why. Still, in terms of theme and execution, Read’s deceptively laid-back intensity, wit, and bold and personable self-exposure tend to make up for the evening’s slighter or more muddled aspects.
At its best moments This Is the Thing melds carefully honed physical and thematic juxtapositions with Read’s loose and natural but wholly committed performance style. The effects are often simultaneously hilarious, haunting, and gently moving. In a segment titled "The Conductor," Read recounts his first encounter with his very favorite sex client, a 450-pound man with a penchant for the classics, acting out the surprisingly romantic business affair with the aid of a large Winnie the Poohheaded bear of a mannequin a luxurious pileup of stuffed animal pelts constructed by Doug Hansen. In another pas de deux, a quietly strange and graceful piece called "Computer Face," Read is paired with a man-size figure set on wheels, wrapped in white bandages with clumps of wires for hands, and a glowing, hollowed-out Apple computer monitor for a head. As a looped recording plays a speech by Harvey Milk, Read pulls a series of objects from the figure’s head and dances with it in tight circles across the stage. In "The Nu Handbell Choir," the show reaches a kind of peak of starkness and delicacy as Read, calmly micturating into a set of crystal goblets, describes his furtive childhood adoration for his father a veteran of three wars and his Army brass buddies as they assembled in his parents’ living room to drink, talk, and console one another.
Other vignettes are less complex but still compelling in their energy and frank humor. "Hotel Hooker Haiku" is a sassy phenomenology of an Atlanta prostitute’s working world, set to banjo accompaniment and jovial footage of some dingy, dreary motel grounds. And the more traditionally outrageous if still amusing "Missing Mike Brady" posits Florence Henderson as a clothesline post airing her sex life on a well-worn marriage sheet. The Bradys may seem a little far afield here, but then, like the best of preachers, Read is nothing if not ecumenical.
THIS IS THE THING
Thurs/14Sat/16, 8 p.m. (also Sat, 10 p.m.), $12$20
3252 Shotwell, SF
Lots of talk and some interesting action at the Harvey Milk LGBT Club meeting last night. Marc Salomon, Robert Haaland and I gave a presentation on the meaning of the June election, and what November’s going to be about, and I passed along my thoughts about the tremendous potential for a broad progressive coalition this fall.
But mostly, the discussion involved the Democratic County Central Committee.
See, in June, thanks to a well-organized slate effort, the progressives won enough seats to hold something close to a working majority on the DCCC. That matters – and this fall, it could matter a lot. Because the DCCC controls the endorsements and money for the local Democratic Party. And in some of the key local races, particularly the swing supervisorial districts, the party’s money and party support could make the difference.
And the first test for the progressive slate will be the vote in a few weeks for DCCC chair.
>>ALLAN AND LEO HERRERA
Yes, they’re gay brothers, which is, like, totally hot. But even if they weren’t related, their individual artistic creations would have us on the hook. Heads of HomoChic (www.homochic.com), the new gay mafia collective that combines gallery shows, fashion design, and nightlife craziness into mind boggling events, they’re inspiring the latest generation to revel in its scandalous past. Leo’s photography mixes porn with historical reference to dizzying, stimuutf8g effect. Allan’s costuming and styling brings bathhouse and backroom gay culture to light. Currently the Chihuahua, Mexico-born siblings have pieces in the queer Latino "Maria" show at Galería De La Raza. Leo features pants-raising boy-pics and a video installation centered on Harvey Milk. Allan, whose Money Shots underwear line graces many an alternaqueer’s backside, displays a chandelier made of 2,000 pink condoms.
Through July 4
Galería De La Raza
2857 24th St., SF
Who’s the superbusy M-to-F artist and activist stirring up trouble with the mighty force of a Dirt Devil the one they call Annie Danger? She’s sketched flora and fauna for environmental manifesto Dam Nation (Soft Skull Press, 2007), appeared as a blackjack-playing nymph in a shit-stirring Greywater Guerillas performance, dressed like a wizard at a recent Gender Pirates party, and just played Pony Boy in a queered-up "Outsiders." Right now at Femina Potens gallery (www.feminapotens.org), you can see her as Sister Wendy, the wimpled PBS art nun, in her video for "Untold Stories: Visual and Performative Expressions of Transwomen." In a rare occurrence, you can meet Annie Danger as herself at the National Queer Arts Festival’s edgy "TransForming Community" spoken word event. Who she’ll be when she MCs Friday’s thrilling Trans March (www.transmarch.org) is anyone’s delightful guess.
Thurs/26, 7:30 p.m., $8$15
LGBT Community Center
1800 Market, SF
"I worry not just for fashion, but for the future of television," this multitalented fashion designer, stylist, hair and makeup artist, model, and Oakland native told us with a laugh backstage at the Vans Warped Tour, where he was frantically preparing bands for the stage. "There’s a cheesy aspect creeping in right now because of fashion reality TV that scares me. It looks too easy, and creates too many followers. Wise people want one-of-a-kind, personalized looks. That’s why I love San Francisco," he adds. "It’s small but big global even and it likes to take risks." Dexter’s company, FLOC (www.teamflocouture), formed with his best amigo Lauren Rassel, has been taking local runways and nightclubs by fierce, feathery storm since it was formed two years ago, and local rockers like Von Iva and Svelt Street swear by FLOC’s Warriors-inspired designs. Now working as a stylist for SF-based online retail giant Tobi.com, Dexter seems destined for the big time his designs are penetrating the world and making heads turn a wee bit sharper.
She’s too-too much, this Miss Starr. A genre-straddling DJ and ubiquitous promoter celebrated for her many regular parties (including new weekly Buffet at Pink, a fabulously popular all-female DJ weekly shindig, and Hot Pants, a queer biweekly that draws out the crème de la crème of the city’s thigh-baring night owls), as well as a groundbreaking writer who just toured the country as part of the Sister Spit all-girl spoken word road show, and a fashion designer with her very own eponymous line of eminently wearables there are just so many ways to love her. This week she’ll find time to spin at umpteen Pride parties, as well as at her very own special Pride edition of Hot Pants. "I’m also a twin, a Gemini, and a cookie monster," Chelsea tells us with a wink.
Fri/27, 10 p.m., $5
1190 Folsom, SF
We can’t fib smarties turn us on. So when we heard that cutie DJ Josh Cheon, host of West ADD Radio’s thuper-queerific "Slave to the Rhythm" program (www.westaddradio.com/slavetotherhythm) held advanced degrees in cell biology, neuroscience, and psychology, we suddenly had to hide our pointiness. An integral member of San Francisco’s gay vinyl-fetishist collective Honey Soundsystem (www.honeysoundsystem.com), Cheon just got back from rocking London’s premiere alternaqueer club, Horsemeat Disco. While his radio show’s name pays homage to Grace Jones, his eclectic sets encompass Candi Staton classics and Detroit Rock City jams. As a featured disc-meister at Bibi, San Francisco’s glorious, charitable party for Middle Eastern and North African queers, he taps his Lebanese roots with Arabian and Persian pop and disco favorites like Fairuz, Googoosh, and Dalida and some surprise grin-givers from the likes of Boney M.
Fri/27, 9 p.m., $20
Pork Store Café
3122 16th St., SF
She’s everywhere, lately, this feisty mistress of the night. Trash drag fanatics, glamorous electro freaks, after-hours hipster hot tub revelers she’s a muse to many, with a sharp tongue and handmade Technicolor outfit for all. Plus, just in general: hot Asian tranny fierceness. "I’m thoroughly inspired by the pigeons in the Civic Center," she tells us. "Also, parties full of beautiful people worshipping me." She’ll be hosting the Asian and Pacific Islander stage at this year’s Pride festivities. But first this plus-size supermodel, trainwrecking DJ, oft-blacklisted performer, and dangerous skateboarder will be throwing a sleazoid party called Body Rock on gay-historic Polk Street "for the musically impaired and fans of a man in a dress, which would be me. I’ve walked through the fire and come out blazing!"
Thu/26, 10 p.m., free
1160 Polk, SF
Which highly influential SF gallery owner brought John Waters, Todd Oldham, the mayor, and hundreds of sweaty kids together (with a couple kegs) under one roof this spring for photographer Ryan McGinley’s West Coast solo debut? Chris Perez of Ratio 3, whose shows also helped artists score Artforum covers and big time awards. Perez pairs an intuitive talent for identifying a popular hit with innovative curatorial decisions. But his space is no mere white box in the gourmet ghetto: "You’re never just walking down Stevenson," explains this escapee from Catholic school and former San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts volunteer. "Unless you’re hooking up or getting cracked out." Or peeping great art. On Friday, Ratio 3 dresses up as ’90s queer-radical gallery Kiki, for "Kiki: The Proof is in the Pudding," a group tribute to late curator-activist Rick Jacobsen.
KIKI: THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING
Fri/27, reception 68 p.m., free
1447 Stevenson, SF
If you think constant AIDS activism is exhausting, try doing it in drag. Stanford grad Hunter heads up StopAIDS (www.stopaids.org) community initiatives by day, and is a board member of diversity-seeking And Castro For All (www.andcastroforall.org), through which fellowships in his name are awarded to young queer activists every year. By night and early morning he becomes Felicia Fellatio, a precariously-heeled tranny who’s single-handedly hauling grunge back onto drag stages a recent flannel-drenched lipsync of Pearl Jam’s "Jeremy" teared up many a jaded eye and he DJs queer punk parties like Trans Am (www.myspace.com/transamtheclub) and Revolution, the hot monthly tea dance for HIV-positive men at Club Eight (www.positiveforce-sf.com). Felicia also auditioned for America’s Next Top Model (seriously) but was eliminated when her man hands slapped someone prettier. You can catch Hunter and Felicia, although probably only half of each, at the StopAIDS booth at this year’s Pride celebration.
Hipsters sporting $80 faux-penciled rainbow patterns and glossy-mag ads with jagged color intersections are fronting a style artist Alicia McCarthy helped originate but she does it a hundred times better. Her current show at Jack Hanley takes off in a dozen different directions from her signature shapes and spectrums in a manner that reflects an honestly fractured identity. Coiled thought forms, a wooden chair facing the backside of a scruffy penguin flying toward a wall of mirrors, and a show-within-the-show by friend Stormy Knight that includes sketches by a parrot named The National Anthem and sculpture by Redbone the dog. McCarthy’s latest exhibition also displays more than a few small works subtly placed where a wall meets the floor, which goes to show that she’s still making some art that only people who pay attention will discover.
Through Sat/28, free
Jack Hanley Gallery
395 Valencia, SF
>>MON COUSIN BELGE
Half-naked, goo-spitting art rock in a sling never got so deliciously tawdry. When this San Francisco quartet of self-professed "bunch of fags with vision and bacon cheeseburgers" takes the stage and launches into "Tweaker Bitch" or "Pigdog" off their new album Quelle Horreur (World Famous in SF Records), anything involving titilutf8g revulsion can happen and usually does. Fronted by enigmatic singer Emile, a Belgian addicted to plastic surgery 39 procedures to date and leather thongs, Mon Cousin Belge (www.moncousinbelge.com) updates queercore for the ambivalent masses with "deep faggotry jams" and knickers-wetting live performances. Bring a towel to their launch party at Thee Parkside bar in Potrero Hill. You’ll definitely need it the crowd of cute intel-queers they draw is over-the-top steamy.
QUELLE HORREUR LAUNCH PARTY
Sat/28, 10pm, $6
1600 17th St., SF
In this issue:
Oh, hai, happy Pridez! Time again to lean back languidly and reflect not just in your makeup mirror lined with curlicue lavender CFLs, but on where we are as a community. As usual, we straddle an odd queer moment. Yes, legalized same-sex marriage, California-style, is all the rage. Even my radical queer eye teared up when happily balled and chained couples streamed out of City Hall June 17. And you can bet I’ll be on the front lines fighting that awful November ballot initiative, defining marriage as exclusively between one tree and one Mormon.
Some queers want to get married (see "Tie the same-sex knot,"), some don’t ("Down with legitimacy,"). Others, like me, are simply hiding from their boyfriends. It’s yet another great diversity among us. The overall feeling at City Hall, though, besides sheer jubilance, was one of relief more than revolution. Four years ago, during the Winter of Love, rebellion even talk of secession crackled in the city’s air. But that scary "M" word, marriage, went the way of The L Word long ago into mainstream territory. Wedding rings were the new septum rings; now they’re just the new freedom rings. "What’s the big deal?" is the whole point.
The weird thing is that right as we’re being carried over the threshold of legal normalization, our outlaw history is roaring back in a big way. Eight years ago, a DJ named Bus Station John set out to highlight gay men’s bathhouse and hi-NRG disco heritage by playing old-school records, many of which he’d amassed from people who’d passed on from AIDS. This was a revelation to the new queer generation, raised with effective HIV meds but led to believe that gay musical history started with Madonna. It was a return of the repressed an inspiring, AIDS-obscured swath of yesteryear suddenly came to light.
Now you can’t go anywhere without seeing mustaches, aviator glasses, and hipster variations of the clone look. The filming of Gus Van Sant’s Harvey Milk biopic Milk this winter costumed the city in pristine White Riot chic. Wonder of wonders, we even have a brand new SoMa leather bar, Chaps II, named after Miracle Mile’s infamous ’80s watering hole, Chaps joining the great new retro Truck bar, expanded Hole in the Wall Saloon, Eagle Tavern, and Powerhouse. Take that, Internet! Queercore homeboy innovators Pansy Division ("Queercore, many mornings after,") get canonized with a doc at this year’s Frameline Film Fest. Most intel queers I know are gobbling up Terence Kissack’s recent tome, Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States, 18951917 from Oakland’s AK Press.
But the past isn’t just for gay men. The Fresh Meat festival has been breaking transgender performance ground since the millennium began ("Rare, medium, well-done,"). Nineties riot grrls are making strong artistic marks ("Heart shaped box," page 49), and I can’t step into a dyke bar lately without being immediately corralled into a Journey sing-along by Runaways look-alikes. The turbo-awesome current exhibition at the GLBT Historical Society (www.glbthistory.org), "Dykes on Bikes: 30 Years at the Forefront," reminds us not only that boobs are still illegal, but that rad women of all shapes and colors have led us from Gay Freedom Day to this week’s Pride. And it’s no surprise that the original Daughters of Bilitis, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, were the first couple to get legally married here, 53 years after starting the first official, highly persecutable, lesbian organization.
As we move seemingly inexorably toward mainstream acceptance, it’s nice to know that the heroes of our struggle, people who did things differently, are still fresh in our minds. This year the Guardian pays tribute to the LGBT underground past and present, and raises a toast to our deliciously shameless future.
Frameline Film Festival Various locations; see Web site for dates and times, www.frameline.org. The humongous citywide queer flick fest is still in full eye-popping effect.
Golden Girls Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory, 1519 Mission, SF; (415) 690-9410, www.voicefactorysf.org. 7 and 9pm, $20. Through Sat/28. Revisit all the "gay" episodes of this classic and tragic sitcom, as performed with panache and pratfalls by gender clowns Heklina, Pollo Del Mar, Cookie Dough, and Matthew Martin.
National Queer Arts Festival Various locations; see Web site for details, www.queerculturalcenter.org. Experience scandalously good spoken word, cabaret, art installations, and so much more as this powerhouse monthlong celebration of queer revelations continues.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Marriage Is Not Enough: Radical Queers Take Back the Movement New Valencia Hall, 625 Larkin, SF; (415) 864-1278. 7pm, $7 donation. Spread-eagled with one foot in the past and the other in the future, Radical Women host a forum to honor the efforts of drag queens and queers of color in 1969’s Stonewall rebellion and to discuss the docile nature of LGBT leadership in the face of poor and working-class queer issues today.
"Our Message Is Music" First Unitarian Church and Center, 1187 Franklin, SF; (415) 865-2787, www.sfgmc.org. 8pm, $15-$35. The world’s first openly LGBT music ensemble will kick off Pride Week with a range of music from Broadway to light classical. Includes performances by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.
Pansy Division Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF; (415) 626-0880, www.pansydivision.com. 9pm, $7. Homoerockit band Pansy Division plays a live set with the handsome help of Glen Meadmore and Winsome Griffles following a screening of the film Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Body Rock Vertigo, 1160 Polk, SF; (415) 674-1278. 10pm, free. Incredibly energetic tranny-about-town Monistat hosts a bangin’ electro night for queers and friends featuring San Francisco’s favorite crazy DJ Richie Panic. Expect wet panties.
Cockblock SF Pride Party Minna, 111 Minna, SF; www.cockblocksf.com. 9pm-2am, $5. DJs Nuxx and Zax spin homolicious tunes and put the haters on notice: no cock-blockin’ at this sweaty soiree.
Crib Gay Pride Party Crib, 715 Harrison, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.thecribsf.com. 9:30pm-3am, $10. The hopefully soothing Ms. Monistat (again!) and the irritating in a fun way Bobby Trendy set it off at this homolicious megaparty popular among the 18+ set, complete with a Naked Truth body-art fashion show and a T-shirt toss, in case you lose the one you came with in the melee.
The Cruise Pride Party Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 9pm-2am, free. Hey, dyke sailor! Hike up your naughty nauticals and wade into this ship of dreams (yes, it’s a theme party) with DJs Rapid Fire and Melissa at the lovely lesbian Lex. Land, ho.
The Tubesteak Connection Aunt Charlie’s, 133 Turk, SF; (415) 441-2922, www.auntcharlieslounge.com. A warm and bubbly tribute to early Italo house, wonderfully obscure disco tunes, and outfits Grace Jones would die for. With DJ Bus Station John.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Same-Sex Salsa and Latin Ballroom Dance Festival and Competition Magnet, 4122 18th St., SF; (415) 581-1600. www.queerballroom.com. 7pm-12am, free. With $100 awarded to the winner of this fancy-footwork competition, the stakes for this event’s salsa-hot dancing surpass the single bills slipping into thong strings this week.
San Francisco Trans March Dolores Park, Dolores and 18th Sts; (415) 447-2774, www.transmarch.org. 3pm stage, 7pm march; free. Join the transgender community of San Francisco and beyond for a day of live performances, speeches, and not-so-military marching.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Bibi: We Exist and We Thrive Pork Store Café, 3122 16th St., SF; (415) 626-5523, www.myspace.com/BibiSF. 9pm, $20. The Middle Eastern and North African LGBT community hosts a charitable happy hookah party to native tunes spun by DJs Masood, Josh Cheon, and more.
Bustin’ Out III Trans March Afterparty El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 282-3325. 9pm-2am, $5-$50, sliding scale. Strut your stuff at the Transgender Pride March’s official afterparty, featuring sets from DJs Durt, Lil Manila, and giveaways from Good Vibes, AK Press, and more. Proceeds benefit the Trans/Gender Variant in Prison Committee.
Charlie Horse: No Pride No Shame The Cinch, 1723 Polk, SF; (415) 776-4162, www.myspace.com/charliehorsecinch. 10pm, free. Drag disaster Anna Conda presents a bonkers night of rock ‘n’ roll trash drag numbers, plus Juanita Fajita’s iffy "gay food cart" and Portland, Ore.’s Gender Fluids performance troupe.
Cream DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF; (415) 626-1409, www.creamsf.com. Two levels of sexy girl energy and a catwalk to scratch your lipstick claws on, plus a Latin lounge with hip-grinding tunes from DJs Carlitos and Chili D.
GIRLPRIDE Faith, 715 Harrison, SF; (415) 647-8258. 8pm-4am, $20. About 2,500 women are expected to join host DJ Page Hodel to celebrate this year’s Pride Weekend, and that’s a whole lotta love.
Hot Pants Cat Club, 1190 Folsom, SF; (415) 703-8964, www.myspace.com/hotpantsclub. 10pm, $5. DJ Chelsea Starr and many others make this alternaqueer dance party a major destination for hot persons of all genders and little trousers.
Mr. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF; (415) 762-0151, wwww.mighty119.com. 10pm-6am, $20. Darling promoters Big Booty, FSLD, Beatboxevents, and Big Top join forces to produce the party premiere of Pride week with DJ Kidd Sysko and Lord Kook spinning alternative techno sounds, and a special deep and dirty set from soulful house god David Harness.
Sweet Beast Transfer, 198 Church, SF; www.myspace.com/beastparty. 10pm-2am, $10. Reanimate your fetish for leather and fur by dressing up as fiercely feral fauna for the petting-zoo of a party. This week, after all, is mating season.
Tranny Fierce Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF; (415) 348-0900, www.supperclub.com. 8pm dinner, 10pm afterparty. $85 dinner, $15-$25 afterparty. Total ferosh! Project Runway winner Christian Siriano hosts a four-course meal of trash-talking and looking fierce. The afterparty serves up drag nasty from Holy MsGrail, Cassandra Cass, and more.
Uniform and Leather Ball Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 777-0333, www.frantix.net. 8pm-midnight, $25 & $40. The men’s men of San Francisco’s Mr. Leather Committee want you to dress to the fetish nines for this huge gathering, featuring men, music, and more shiny boots than you can lick all year. Yes, sirs!
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Dykes on Bikes Fundraiser Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF; (415) 626-0880, www.dykesonbikes.org. Noon. Dykes on Bikes can’t drink and drive: they need your help. A pint for you means a gallon of gas for them. Stop by before heading to the march.
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-6pm, free. Celebrate LGBT pride at this free outdoor event featuring DJs, speakers, and live music. This is the first half of the weekend-long celebration sponsored by SF Pride. Also Sun/29.
Pink Triangle Installation Twin Peaks Vista, Twin Peaks Blvd parking area, SF; (415) 247-1100, ext 142, www.thepinktriangle.com. 7-11am, free. Bring a hammer and your work boots and help install the giant pink triangle atop Twin Peaks for everyone to see this Pride Weekend. Stay for the commemoration ceremony at 10:30am to hear Mayor Gavin Newsom and Assemblymember Mark Leno speak.
Pride Brunch Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 777-0333, www.positiveresource.org. 11am-2pm, $75-$100. Raise a mimosa toast to this year’s Pride Parade grand marshals with many of the community’s leading activists.
Same-Sex Country, Swing, and Standard Ballroom Dance Festival and Competition Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 626-8000, www.queerballroom.com. 6:30-8pm, free. The Queer Jitterbugs get reeling at this one-of-a-kind contest that’ll shine your spurs and get you swingin’ out of your seat.
San Francisco Dyke March Dolores Park, Dolores and 18th Sts, SF; www.dykemarch.org. 7pm, free. Featuring music from the Trykes, Papa Dino, Las Krudas, and more, plus a whole lot of wacky sapphic high jinks.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Bearracuda Pride Deco, 510 Larkin, SF; (415) 346-2025, www.bearracuda.com/pride. 9pm-3am, $8 before 10pm, $10 after. Hot hairy homos generate serious body static on the dance floor at this big bear get-down.
Bootie Presents The Monster Show DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; (415) 626-1409, www.bootiesf.com. The city’s giant mashup club hosts a drag queen bootleg mix extravaganza, as Cookie Dough and her wild Monster Show crash the Bootie stage.
Colossus 1015 Folsom, SF; (415) 431-1200, www.guspresents.com. 10pm-8am, $40. The beats of mainstream club favorite DJ Manny Lehman throb through the largest and longest, uh &ldots; dance party of Pride week.
Deaf Lesbian Festival Dyke Ball San Francisco LGBT Center, Rainbow Room, 1800 Market, SF; (415) 865-5555, www.dcara.org. 8pm, 440. Feel the music, close your eyes, and dance to the rhythm of your smokin’ partner at the Deaf Lesbian Festival’s first ever Dyke Ball.
Devotion EndUp, 401 Sixth St, SF; (415) 357-0827, www.theendup.com. 9pm, $15. This storied dance party is back with "A Classic Pride." DJs Ruben Mancias and Pete Avila spin all-classic soulful and stripped-down house anthems for a sweaty roomful of those who were there back when.
Dyke March After Affair Minna, 111 Minna, SF; www.diamonddaggers.com. 8pm-11pm, $12-$20 sliding scale. An early-ending party featuring drag queens, burlesque stars, and belly dancers ensures that beauty sleep comes to the next day’s easy riders whose love of bikes and beer rivals that of any Hell’s Angel or fratboy. Or, stick around for Minna’s ’80s night, Barracuda.
Manquake The Gangway, 841 Larkin, SF; (415) 776-6828. 10pm, $5. Disco rareties and bathhouse classics in a perfectly cruisy old-school dive environment with DJ Bus Station John.
PlayBoyz Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF; www.clubrimshot.com. 10pm-3am, $10. The stars of legalized gay marriage, Obama’s candidacy, Pride week, and Black Music Month all align for this hip-hop heavy celebration.
Queen Pier 27, SF; www.energy927fm.com. 8pm, $45. Energy 92.7 FM brings back the dynamism of the old-school San Francisco clubs for this Pride dance-off. Chris Cox and Chris Willis headline. Wear your best tear-away sweats and get ready to get down, Party Boy style.
Rebel Girl Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; wwww.rebelgirlsf.com. 9pm-2am, $12. Rebel Girl brings the noise for this one with go-go dancers, Vixen Creations giveaways, drink specials, and, you know, rebel girls.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-7pm, free. The celebration hits full stride, with musical performances and more.
LGBT Pride Parade Market at Davis to Market and Eighth Sts, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. 10:30am-noon, free. With 200-plus dykes on bikes in the lead, this 38th annual parade, with an expected draw of 500,000, is the highlight of the Pride Weekend in the city that defines LGBT culture.
True Colors Tour Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley Campus, Hearst and Gayley Streets, Berk; (510) 809-0100, www.apeconcerts.com. 5pm, $42.50-$125 Cyndi Lauper, The B-52s, Wanda Sykes, The Puppini Sisters, and queer-eyed host Carson Kressley bring it on for human rights and limp wrists.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Big Top The Transfer, 198 Church, SF; (415) 861-7499, www.myspace.com/joshuajcook. A circus-themed hot mess, with DJs Ladymeat, Saratonin, and Chelsea Starr, plus Heklina’s "best butt munch" contest. Will she find the third ring?
Dykes on Bikes Afterparty Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 1pm, free. How do they find time to ride with all these parties?
Juanita More! Gay Pride ’08 Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.juanitamore.com. 3pm, $30. Juanita More! hosts this benefit for the Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial, with DJs Robot Hustle and James Glass, and performances by fancy-pants Harlem Shake Burlesque and the Diamond Daggers. Fill ‘er up, baby!
Starbox Harry Denton’s, 450 Powell, SF; (415) 395-8595, www.harrydenton.com. 6pm-midnight, $7 High atop the Sir Francisc Drake Hotel, the swank Harry Denton’s presents DJ Page Hodel’s patented brand of diverse and soulful bacchanalia.
Sundance Saloon Country Pride Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 626-8000, www.sundancesaloon.org. 6pm-11pm, $5. Hot hot bear husbands on the hoof, line-dancing for the pickin’ at this overalls-and-snakeskin-boots roundup.
Unity Temple, 540 Howard, SF; www.templesf.com. Legendary kiki-hurrah club Fag Fridays rises again with a sure-to-be-smokin’ DJ set from the one and only Frankie Knuckles, the goddess’s gift to deep house freaks and friends.
San Francisco politics shifted June 3 as successful new coalitions altered the electoral landscape heading into the high-stakes fall contests, when seven of the 11 seats on the Board of Supervisors are up for grabs.
Progressives had a good election night even as lefty shot-caller Sup. Chris Daly suffered a pair of bitter defeats. And Mayor Gavin Newsom scored a rare ballot box victory when the southeast development measure Proposition G passed by a wide margin, although voters repudiated Newsom’s meddling with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission by approving Prop. E.
But the big story wasn’t these two lame duck politicians, who have served as the two poles of local politics for the past few years. It was Mark Leno, who handed Sen. Carole Migden her first electoral defeat in 25 years by bringing together progressives and moderates and waging an engaged, effective ground campaign. In the process, he may have offered a portent of things to come.
The election night speech Leno gave just before midnight much like his entire campaign didn’t break along neat ideological lines. There were solidly progressive stands, like battling the religious right’s homophobia, pledging to pursue single-payer health care, and blasting Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for funding sleazy attack pieces against him, reaffirming his commitment to public power.
But he also thanked Newsom and other moderate supporters and heaped praise on his political consulting firm, BMWL, which has run some of downtown’s nastiest campaigns. "It was clean, it was smart, and it was effective," Leno said of his campaign.
The Migden campaign, which had the support of Daly and many prominent local progressives, often looked dirty by comparison, marred by past campaign finance violations that resulted in Migden getting slapped with the biggest fine in state history and by Daly’s unethical misuse of the Guardian logo on a mailer that made it appear as if we had endorsed Migden.
Old alliances seemed to crumble around this election, leaving open questions about how coalitions will form going into an important November election that’s expected to have a crowded ballot and huge turnout.
UNITY AND DIVISION
There are things that unite almost all San Franciscans, like support for public schools. In this election that support came in the form of Prop. A a measure that will increase teacher salaries through a parcel tax of about $200 per property owner which garnered almost 70 percent of the vote.
"These numbers show that people believe in public education. They believe in what we’re doing," school superintendent Carlos Garcia told a jubilant election night crowd inside the Great American Music Hall.
Also uniting the city’s Democrats was the news that Barack Obama sewed up the party’s presidential nomination June 3, ending a primary battle with Hillary Clinton that had created a political fissure here and in cities across the country.
"The winds of change are blowing tonight. Let me congratulate Barack Obama on his victory," Leno said on election night, triggering a chant of "Yes we can" from the crowd at the Upper Market bar/restaurant Lime.
Local Clinton supporters were already switching candidates on election night, even before Clinton dropped her campaign and announced her support for Obama four days later.
"As a strong Hillary person, I’m so excited to be working for Obama these next five months," DCCC District 13 member Laura Spanjian, who won reelection by placing fourth out of 12 slots, said on election night. "It’s my number one goal this fall."
Leno also sounded conciliatory themes. In his election night speech, Leno acknowledged the rift he created in the progressive and LGBT communities by challenging Migden: "I know that you upset the applecart when you challenge a sitting senator."
But he vowed to repair that damage, starting by leading the fight against the fall ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage and overturn the recent California Supreme Court decision that legalized it. He told the crowd, "I invite you to join together to defeat the religious right."
A day later we asked Leno about whether his victory represented a new political center in San Francisco and he professed a desire to avoid the old political divisions: "Let’s focus on our commonalities rather than differences," he said, "because there is real strength in a big-tent coalition."
But this election was more about divisions than unity, splits whose repercussions will ripple into November in unknown ways. Shortly before the election, Daly publicly blasted "Big Labor" after the San Francisco Labor Council cut a deal with Lennar Corporation, agreeing to support Prop. G in exchange for the promise of more affordable housing and community benefits.
On election night, Newsom couldn’t resist gloating over besting Daly, whose affordable housing measure Prop. F lost big. "I couldn’t be more proud that the voters of San Francisco supported a principled proposal over the political proposal of a politician," Newsom told us on election night, adding, "Today was a validation of community investment and involvement over political games."
While Daly and some of his progressive allies have long warned that Leno is too close to Newsom to be trusted, one of the first points in Leno’s speech was the celebrate the passage of Prop. E, which gives the Board of Supervisors more power to reject the mayor’s appointees to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. "As an early supporter I was happy to see that," Leno said.
Susan Leal, the former SFPUC director who was ousted by Newsom earlier this year, said she felt some vindication from the vote on Prop. E, but mostly she was happy that people saw through the false campaign portrayals (which demonized the Board of Supervisors and erroneously said the measure gave it control over the SFPUC.)
"This is one of the few PUCs where people are appointed and doing the mayor’s bidding is the only qualification," Leal told us on election night.
Sup. Tom Ammiano, who will be headed to the Assembly next year, agreed: "It shows the beauty contest with the mayor is over and people are willing to hold him accountable."
ANALYZING THE RESULTS
On the day after the election, during a postmortem at the downtown office of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, political consultants Jim Stearns and David Latterman sized up the results.
Latterman called the Prop. E victory "the one surprise in the race." The No on E campaign sought to demonize the Board of Supervisors, a strategy that clearly didn’t work. Firing Leal, a lesbian, helped spur the city’s two major LGBT groups the Harvey Milk and Alice B. Toklas Democratic clubs to endorse the measure, which could have been a factor when combined with the high LGBT turnout.
"This may have ridden the coattails of the Leno-Migden race," Stearns said.
In that race, Stearns and Latterman agreed that Leno ran a good campaign and Migden didn’t, something that was as big a factor in the outcome as anything.
"Migden did too little too late. The numbers speak for themselves. Leno ran a really good race," Latterman said, noting how Leno beat Migden by a large margin in San Francisco and came within a few thousand votes of beating Joe Nation on his home turf of Marin County.
"It was a big deal for Leno to get so close to Nation in Marin," Stearns said.
Leno told us the polling his campaign did late last year and early this year showed he had a strong advantage in San Francisco, "so with that, I invested a lot of time and energy in Marin County."
Stearns attributed the big Prop. G win to its large base of influential supporters: "The coalition-building was what put this over the top." Daly chalked it up to the $4 million that Lennar spent, saying it had bought the election. But Stearns, who was a consultant for the campaign, didn’t agree: "I don’t think money alone ever wins or loses campaigns."
Yet he said the lack of money and an organized No on G/Yes on F campaign did make it difficult to stop the Lennar juggernaut. "You need to have enough money to get your message out," Stearns said, noting that "Nobody knew that the Sierra Club opposed [Prop. G]."
In the one contested judge’s race on the ballot, Gerardo Sandoval finished in a virtual dead heat with incumbent Judge Thomas Mellon. The two will face off again in a November runoff election because a third candidate, Mary Mallen, captured about 13 percent of the vote.
"How angry is Sandoval with Mallen now?" Latterman asked at the SPUR event. "If that 13 percent wasn’t there, Sandoval wins."
Both Latterman and Stearns agreed that this election was Sandoval’s best shot at unseating a sitting judge. "He’s going to face a tougher test in November," Stearns said.
The other big news was the lopsided defeat of Prop. 98, which would have abolished rent control and limits on condo conversions in addition to its main stated aim of restricting the use of eminent domain by local governments.
"It just lost bad," Latterman said of Prop. 98, the second extreme property rights measure to go down in recent years. "It just needs to go away now…. This was a resounding, ‘Just go away now, please.’<0x2009>"
Aside from the Leno victory, this election was most significant in setting up future political battles. And progressives won a big advantage for the battles to come by picking up seats on the city’s two Democratic County Central Committees, a successful offensive engineered largely by Daly and Peskin, who were both elected to the eastside DCCC District 13.
"On the DCCC level, we took back the Democratic Party," said Robert Haaland, a progressive who was reelected to the DCCC District 13.
"The fight now is over the chair. The chair decides where the resources go and sets the priorities, so you can really do a lot," Haaland told us.
Many of the fall supervisorial contests feature races between two or three bona fide progressives, so those candidates are going to need to find issues or alliances that will broaden their bases.
In District 9, for example, the candidates include housing activist Eric Quezada (who lost his DCCC race), school board president Mark Sanchez, and Police Commission member David Campos all solid progressives, all Latino, and all with good bases of support.
Campos finished first in his DCCC District 13 race just ahead of Peskin. Speaking on election night at the GAMH, Campos attributed his strong showing to walking lots of precincts and meeting voters, particularly in the Mission, an effort that will help him in the fall.
"A lot of Latino voters are really eager to be more involved [in politics]," Campos said. "Speaking the language and being an immigrant really connects with them."
Campos thinks public safety will be a big issue on voters’ minds this fall, an issue where he has strength and one that progressives have finally seized. "Until Ross Mirkarimi came along, progressives really weren’t talking about it," Campos said.
So, does Campos’ strong DCCC showing make him the front runner? When I asked that question during the SPUR event, Latterman said he didn’t think so. He noted that Sanchez has always had strong finishes on his school board races, citywide contests that includes the Portola area in District 9 but not in DCCC District 13. In fact, Latterman predicted lots of acrimony and close contests this November.
"If you like the anger of Leno vs. Migden, we’ll have more in the fall," Latterman said of the competitive supervisorial races.
Leno hasn’t been terribly active in local contests since heading to Sacramento, and he told us that his focus this fall will be on state ballot fights and the presidential race. He hasn’t made endorsements in many supervisorial races yet, but his two so far are both of progressives: Ross Mirkarimi in District 5, and David Chiu in District 3. And as he makes more supervisorial endorsements in the coming months, Leno told us, "I will be fighting for progressive voices."
Sarah Phelan contributed to this story.
OPINION In November 2006, San Francisco made history when the school board made this the first big city in the nation to ban JROTC [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps]. The board’s resolution, which called for phasing out JROTC from high schools this June, stated that “JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated by the United States Department of Defense, whose documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an important recruiting arm.”
A poison pill was added to the resolution at the last minute: it called for a task force to be set up to find an “alternative” program to JROTC. The school district administration, in a particularly despicable move, set up the task force with more than 10 members supporting JROTC, and only one member opposed.
Surprise! After sitting for almost a year, the task force failed to come up with an alternative, so the school board rolled over and, except for two courageous members — Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar — voted last December to extend JROTC for another year.
In 2005, San Franciscans passed Proposition I by almost 60 percent, declaring it “city policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools.” That same year, by the Army’s own report, 42 percent of JROTC graduates across the nation signed up for the military. As this country enters its sixth year of the illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s time for the school board to go back to its original decision to kick the military out of our schools.
The school board must end JROTC — now. JROTC is currently scheduled to be “phased out,” but not until June 2009. By then both Sanchez and Mar will be off the school board, and there will be little to prevent the military from orchestrating a vote to extend JROTC indefinitely. If, on the other hand, the school board votes to end JROTC this June as their original resolution required, JROTC would be gone.
Two progressives on the board must be convinced to send the military packing: Kim-Shree Maufas and Green Party member Jane Kim.
Both received endorsements from progressives. To convince them that they risk such endorsements in the future, the JROTC Must Go! Coalition is circuutf8g the following statement: “We will look very closely at the next school board vote on JROTC and will consider the votes carefully when making any endorsements for future candidates.”
Within a week, the Tenants Union, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper signed the statement. If Maufas and Kim join Sanchez and Mar, we’ll make history again.
Riva Enteen is the former program director for the National Lawyers Guild and the mother of two San Francisco school district graduates. Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a southern Italian queer atheist writer and activist. For more information contact the JROTC Must Go! Coalition: (415) 575-5543 or JROTCmustgo@gmail.com.
The Lennar-financed "Yes on G" fliers jammed into mailboxes all across San Francisco this month depict a dark-skinned family strolling along a shoreline trail against a backdrop of blue sky, grassy parkland, a smattering of low-rise buildings, and the vague hint of a nearly transparent high-rise condo tower in the corner.
"After 34 years of neglect, it’s time to clean up the Shipyard for tomorrow," states one flier, which promises to create up to 10,000 new homes, "with as many as 25 percent being entry-level affordable units"; 300 acres of new parks; and 8,000 permanent jobs in the city’s sun-soaked southeast sector.
Add to that the green tech research park, a new 49ers stadium, a permanent home for shipyard artists, and a total rebuild of the dilapidated Alice Griffith public housing project, and the whole project looks and sounds simply idyllic. But as with many big-money political campaigns, the reality is quite different from the sales pitch.
What Proposition G’s glossy fliers don’t tell you is that this initiative would make it possible for a controversial Florida-based megadeveloper to build luxury condos on a California state park, take over federal responsibility for the cleanup of toxic sites, construct a bridge over a slough restoration project, and build a new road so Candlestick Point residents won’t have to venture into the Bayview District.
Nor do these shiny images reveal that Prop. G is actually vaguely-worded, open-ended legislation whose final terms won’t be driven by the jobs, housing, or open-space needs of the low-income and predominantly African American Bayview-Hunters Point community, but by the bottom line of the financially troubled Lennar.
And nowhere does it mention that Lennar already broke trust with the BVHP, failing to control asbestos at its Parcel A shipyard development and reneging on promises to build needed rental units at its Parcel A 1,500-unit condo complex (see "Question of intent," 11/28/07).
The campaign is supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and District 10 Sup. Sophie Maxwell, as well as the Republican and the Democratic parties of San Francisco. But it is funded almost exclusively by Lennar Homes, a statewide independent expenditure committee that typically pours cash into conservative causes like fighting tax hikes and environmental regulations.
In the past six months, Lennar Homes has thrown down more than $1 million to hire Newsom’s chief political strategist, Eric Jaye, and a full spectrum of top lawyers and consultants, from generally progressive campaign manager Jim Stearns to high-powered spinmeister Sam Singer, who recently ran the smear campaign blaming the victims of a fatal Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo.
Together, this political dream team cooked up what it hopes will be an unstoppable campaign full of catchy slogans and irresistible images, distributed by a deep-pocketed corporation that stands to make many millions of dollars off the deal.
But the question for voters is whether this project is good for San Francisco particularly for residents of the southeast who have been subjected to generations worth of broken promises or whether it amounts to a risky giveaway of the city’s final frontier for new development.
Standing in front of the Lennar bandwagon is a coalition of community, environmental, and housing activists who this spring launched a last minute, volunteer-based signature-gathering drive that successfully became Proposition F. It would require that 50 percent of the housing built in the BVHP/Candlestick Point project be affordable to those making less than the area median income of $68,000 for a family of four.
Critics such as Lennar executive Kofi Bonner and Michael Cohen of the mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development have called Prop. F a "poison pill" that would doom the Lennar project. But its supporters say the massive scope and vague wording of Prop. G would have exacerbated the city’s affordable housing shortfalls.
Prop. F is endorsed by the Sierra Club, People Organized to Win Employment Rights, the League of Conservation Voters, the Chinese Progressive Association, St. Peter’s Housing Committee, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, the Grace Tabernacle Community Church, Green Action, Nation of Islam Bay Area, the African Orthodox Church, Jim Queen, and Supervisor Chris Daly.
Cohen criticized the coalition for failing to study whether the 50 percent affordability threshold is feasible. But the fact is that neither measure has been exposed to the same rigors that a measure going through the normal city approval process would undergo. Nonetheless, the Guardian unearthed an evaluation on the impact of Prop. F that Lennar consultant CB Richard Ellis prepared for the mayor’s office.
The document, which contains data not included in the Prop. G ballot initiative, helps illuminate the financial assumptions that underpin the public-private partnership the city is contemputf8g with Lennar, ostensibly in an effort to win community benefits for the BVHP.
CBRE’s analysis states that Lennar’s Prop. G calls for "slightly over 9,500 units," with nearly 2,400 affordable units (12 percent at 80 percent of area median income and 8 percent at 50 percent AMI), and with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency "utilizing additional funding to drive these affordability levels even lower."
Noting that Prop. G. yields a "minimally acceptable return" of 17 to 18 percent in profit, CBRE estimates that Prop. F would means "a loss of $500 million in land sales revenue" thanks to the loss of 2,400 market-rate units from the equation. With subsidies of $125,000 allegedly needed to complete each affordable unit, CBRE predicts there would be a further cost of "$300 million to $400 million" to develop the 2,400 additional units of affordable housing prescribed under Prop. F.
Factoring in an additional $500 million loss in tax increments and Mello-Roos bond financing money, CBRE concludes, "the overall impact from [the Prop. F initiative] is a $1.1 to $1.2 billion loss of project revenues … the very same revenues necessary to fund infrastructure and community improvements."
Yet critics of the Lennar project say that just because it pencils out for the developer doesn’t mean it’s good for the community, which would be fundamentally and permanently changed by a project of this magnitude. Coleman’s Advocates’ organizing director Tom Jackson told us his group decided to oppose Prop. G "because we looked at who is living in Bayview-Hunters Point and their income levels.
"Our primary concern isn’t Lennar’s bottom line," Jackson continued. "Could Prop. F cut into Lennar’s profit margin? Yes, absolutely. But our primary concern is the people who already live in the Bayview."
Data from the 2000 US census shows that BVHP has the highest percentage of African Americans compared to the rest of the city and that African Americans are three times more likely to leave San Francisco than other ethnic groups, a displacement that critics of the Lennar project say it would exacerbate.
The Bayview also has the third-highest population of children, at a time when San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major US city and is struggling to both maintain enrollment and keep its schools open. Add to that the emergence of Latino and Chinese immigrant populations in the Bayview, and Jackson says its clear that it’s the city’s last affordable frontier for low-income folks.
The problem gets even more pronounced when one delves into the definition of the word "affordable" and applies it to the socioeconomic status of southeast San Francisco.
In white households, the annual median income was $65,000 in 2000, compared to $29,000 in black households with black per capita income at $15,000 and with 14 percent of BVHP residents earning even less than $15,000.
The average two-bedroom apartment rents in San Francisco for $1,821, meaning households need an annual AMI of $74,000 to stay in the game. The average condo sells for $700,000, which means that households need $143,000 per year to even enter the market.
In other words, there’s a strong case for building higher percentages of affordable housing in BVHP (where 94 percent of residents are minorities and 21 percent experience significant poverty) than in most other parts of San Francisco. Yet the needs of southeastern residents appear to be clashing with the area’s potential to become the city’s epicenter for new construction.
San Francisco Republican Party chair Howard Epstein told the Guardian that his group opposed Prop. F, believing it will kill all BVHP redevelopment, and supported Prop. G, believing that it has been in the making for a decade and to have been "vetted up and down."
While a BVHP redevelopment plan has been in the works for a decade, the vaguely defined conceptual framework that helped give birth to Prop. G this year was first discussed in public only last year. In reality, it was hastily cobbled together in the wake of the 49ers surprise November 2006 news that it was rejecting Lennar’s plan to build a new stadium at Monster Park and considering moving to Santa Clara.
As the door slammed shut on one opportunity, Lennar tried to swing open another. As an embarrassed Newsom joined forces with Feinstein to find a last-ditch solution to keep the 49ers in town, Lennar suggested a new stadium on the Hunters Point Shipyard, surrounded by a dual use parking lot perfect for tailgating and lots of new housing on Candlestick Point to pay for it all.
There was just one problem: part of the land around the stadium at Candlestick is a state park. Hence the need for Prop. G, which seeks to authorize this land swap along with a repeal of bonds authorized in 1997 for a stadium rebuild. As Cohen told the Guardian, "The only legal reason we are going to the voters is Monster Park."
As it happens, voters still won’t know whether the 49ers are staying or leaving when they vote on Props. F and G this June, since the team is waiting until November to find out if Santa Clara County voters will support the financing of a new 49er stadium near Great America.
Either way, Patrick Rump of Literacy for Environmental Justice has serious environmental concerns about Prop. G’s proposed land swap.
"Lennar’s schematic, which builds a bridge over the Yosemite Slough, would destroy a major restoration effort we’re in the process of embarking on with the state Parks [and Recreation Department]," Rump said. "The integrity of the state park would easily be compromised, because of extra people and roads. And a lot of the proposed replacement parks, the pocket parks … don’t provide adequate habitat."
Rump also expressed doubts about the wisdom of trading parcels of state park for land on the shipyard, especially Parcel E-2, which contains the landfill. Overall, Rump said, "We think Lennar and the city need to go back to the drawing board and come up with something more environmentally sound."
John Rizzo of the Sierra Club believes Prop. G does nothing to clean up the shipyard which city officials are seeking to take over before the federal government finishes its cleanup work and notes that the initiative is full of vague and noncommittal words like "encourages" that make it unclear what benefits city residents will actually receive.
"Prop. G’s supporters are pushing the misleading notion that if we don’t give away all this land including a state park to Lennar, then we won’t get any money for the cleanup," Rizzo said. "But you don’t build first and then get federal dollars for clean up! That’s a really backwards statement."
The "Yes on G" campaign claims its initiative will create "thousands of construction jobs," "offer a new economic engine for the Bayview," and "provide new momentum to win additional federal help to clean up the toxins on the shipyard."
Michael Theriault, head of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades, said his union endorsed the measure and has an agreement with Lennar to have "hire goals," with priority given to union contracts in three local zip codes: 94107, 94124, and 94134.
"There will be a great many construction jobs," Theriault said, though he was less sure about Prop. G’s promise of "8,000 permanent jobs following the completion of the project."
"We endorsed primarily from the jobs aspect," Theriault said. The question of whether the project helps the cleanup effort or turns it into a rush job is also an open question. Even the San Francisco Chronicle, in a January editorial, criticized Newsom, Feinstein, and Pelosi for neglecting the cleanup until "when it seemed likely that the city was about to lose the 49ers."
All three denounced the Chronicle‘s claims, but the truth is that the lion’s share of the $82 million federal allocation would be dedicated to cleaning the 27-acre footprint proposed for the stadium. Meanwhile, the US Navy says it needs at least $500 million to clean the entire shipyard.
Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said the city should wait for a full cleanup and criticized the Prop. G plan to simply cap contaminated areas on the shipyard, rather than excavate and remove the toxins from the site.
"That’s like putting a sarcophagus over a toxic wasteland," Mirkarimi told us. "It would be San Francisco’s version of a concrete bunker around Chernobyl."
Cohen of the Mayor’s Office downplays the contamination at the site, telling us that on a scale of one to 10 among the nation’s contaminated Superfund sites, the shipyard "is a three." He said, "the city would assume responsibility for completing the remaining environmental remediation, which would be financed through the Navy."
But those who have watched the city and Lennar bungle development of the asbestos-laden Parcel A (see The corporation that ate San Francisco, 3/14/07) don’t have much confidence in their ability to safely manage a much larger project.
"Who is going to take the liability for any shoddy work and negligence once the project is completed?" Mirkarimi asked.
Lennar has yet to settle with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District over asbestos dust violations at Parcel A, which could add up to $28 million in fines, and investors have been asking questions about the corporation’s mortgage lending operations as the company’s stock value and bond rating have plummeted.
To secure its numerous San Francisco investments, including projects at Hunters and Candlestick points and Treasure Island, Lennar recently got letters of intent from Scala Real Estate Partners, an Irvine-based investment and development group.
Founded by former executives of the Perot Group’s real estate division, Scala plans to invest up to $200 million and have equal ownership interests in the projects, which could total at least 17,000 housing units, 700,000 square feet of retail and entertainment, 350 acres of open space, and a new football stadium if the 49ers decide to stay.
Bonner said that, if completed, the agreement satisfies a city requirement that Lennar secure a partner with the financial wherewithal to ensure the estimated $1.4 billion Candlestick Point project moves forward even if the company’s current problems worsen.
Meanwhile, Cohen has cast the vagaries of Prop. G as a positive, referring to its spreadsheet as "a living document, a moving target." Cohen pointed out that if Lennar had to buy the BVHP land, they’d get it with only a 15 percent affordable housing requirement.
"Our objective is to drive the land value to zero by imposing upon the developer as great a burden as possible," Cohen said. "This developer had to invest $500 million of cash, plus financing, and is required to pay for affordable housing, parks, jobs, etc. the core benefits without any risk to the city."
But Cohen said the Prop. F alternative means "nothing will be built until F is repealed." He also refutes claims that without the 49ers stadium, 50 percent affordability is doable.
"Prop G makes it easier to make public funds available by repealing the Prop D bond measure," Cohen explained. "But Prop. G also provides that there will be no general fund financial backing for the stadium, and that the tax increments generated by the development will be used for affordable housing, jobs, and parks."
But for Lennar critics like the Rev. Christopher Mohammad, who has battled the company since the Islamic school he runs was subjected to toxic dust, even the most ambitious promises won’t overcome his distrust for the entity at the center of Prop. G: Lennar.
In a fiery recent sermon at the Grace Tabernacle Community Church, Mohammad recalled the political will that enabled the building of BART in the 1970s. "But when it comes to poor people, you can’t build 50 percent affordable. That will kill the deal," Mohammad observed.
"Lennar is getting 700 prime waterfront acres for free, and then there’ll be tax increment dollars they’ll tap into for the rebuild," he continued. "But you mean you can’t take some of those millions, after all the damages you’ve done? It would be a way to correct the wrong."
OPINION It seems that everyone, from current politicians to former friends and lovers of Harvey Milk, is scrambling to serve as a spokesperson for the new Hollywood movie about the life of Milk, the first openly gay elected official in a major United States city.
Milk joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, only to be assassinated (along with then-mayor George Moscone) one year later by Dan White, another member of the board.
Cleve Jones, who worked as a student intern in Milk’s City Hall office (and later started the AIDS Memorial Quilt), is now serving as a consultant for the Gus Van Sant film. At the Castro Theatre on Feb. 4 he encouraged a crowd of extras gathered to re-create the candlelight march that took place after Milk’s murder by saying, "We made history on these streets, and we’re gonna do it again tonight."
But remaking historical moments from the pain and glory days of the past is hardly the same thing as making history in the present. In the 1970s queers fled abusive and stifling families and places of origin to move to San Francisco by the thousands and join dissident subcultures of splendor and defiance. Of course, queers still flee similar conditions; it’s just that the hypergentrified San Francisco of 2008 barely offers the space to breathe, let alone dream.
The excitement around reenactment obscures the reality that some of the same smiling gay men who came to San Francisco in the 1970s have consistently fought misogynist, racist, classist, ageist battles from carding policies to policing practices to zoning and real estate wars to ensure that their neighborhood (Milk’s Castro) remains a home only for the rich, white, and male (or at least those who assimilate to white middle-class norms).
Check out a quote from Dan Jinks, one of the producers of the movie, in the Dec. 27, 2007, Bay Area Reporter: "Our great hope is this will revitalize this district and make it a major tourist destination."
Revitalize the Castro, where you’re lucky if you can rent a flat for less than $4,000 or buy property for less than $1 million? Everyone who’s ever set foot in the Castro knows it’s filled with tourists from around the world!
Oh, I know what Jinks means: straight tourists. Some gay people are so anxious to participate in their own cultural erasure.
After White’s 1979 trial, at which he was convicted of manslaughter instead of murder and given a lenient sentence, rioting queers torched police cars and smashed the windows and doors of City Hall. Later that night vengeful cops went to the Castro and destroyed the windows of the Elephant Walk (now Harvey’s), entered the bar to beat up patrons and trash the place, and swung their batons into anyone they encountered.
I’m wondering if the new Van Sant film will end at the candlelight march, thus avoiding talk about such market-unfriendly issues as systemic police violence and property destruction as a political act.
Unfortunately, San Francisco is now more of a playground for the wealthy than a space for the delirious potential of dissidence. But there are still plenty of reasons to protest. Got housing? Got health care? Got citizenship? Nope, we’re just getting milked.
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (www.mattildabernsteinsycamore.com) is the editor, most recently, of Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (Seal Press, 2006) and an expanded second edition of That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (out in June from Soft Skull Press).
REVIEW The clean-cut man in the portrait looks straight ahead with knowing eyes, his leather jacket open an invitation, perhaps? revealing a muscular torso and chest, on which is tattooed a purple butterfly. The painting’s mix of leather and a little lace sums up much of the art and life of Chuck Arnett, a habitué and documenter of the leather bar scene during gay liberation’s golden age in the 1960s through the late ’70s.
The majority of Arnett’s work was inspired by and made for the bars and back rooms he frequented. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll are unapologetically front and center, a potent mix reflected in styles that veer wildly from rough sketches of men fucking in bathhouses to carefully executed psychedelic oils. The surviving fragments and photos of Arnett’s large-scale painted murals for the original Stud, the Tool Box, and the Detour and related ephemera like patchwork wall hangings of tanned scraps instructing "Eat It!" not only tell the story of Arnett’s transformation from Southern ballet sissy to acid-dropping public-sex advocate but also illustrate the radical changes the gay community underwent between The Wild One (1953), Stonewall, and Harvey Milk’s murder.
Arnett’s national coming-out as a painter arrived when Life included a photograph of his Tool Box mural in its landmark 1964 spread "Homosexuality in America": the bar’s leather-clad denizens mirrored Arnett’s black-and-white swathe of butch fauna. Five years later Arnett would quote himself in a massive Day-Glo mural for the Stud sadly, reproduced in photo only: a panorama in which Marlon Brando clones warp into a cosmic chessboard dominated by an American Indian and a Sahasrara chakra. In a corner of the piece one surviving component is an appropriately phallic biker, whose badge says what could have served as Arnett’s maxim: "Freak Freely."
LAUTREC IN LEATHER: CHUCK ARNETT AND THE SAN FRANCISCO SCENE Through April 26. Tues.Sat., 15 p.m. GLBT Historical Society, 657 Mission, no. 300, SF. (415) 777-5455, www.glbthistory.org
The big Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club endorsement vote for State Senate is tonight, as you’ve probably already heard way too much about if you’ve been following the Carole Migden-Mark Leno slugfest. Frankly, the whole situation has gotten downright ridiculous, with each side alleging dirty tricks and using whatever tactics they can muster to win this supposedly influential endorsement.
But the topper is now coming from Leno himself, who has concluded that Migden has it sewn up and has decided to essentially boycott the vote, saying he’s not going to show up and urging his supporters to also stay home. In other words, he’s taking his ball and going home, or crying over spilled milk, or whatever metaphor you prefer.
Why can’t he just lose gracefully, congratulate his opponent, and keep his dignity? After all, Leno’s people engineered early endorsements from the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the San Francisco Young Democrats, both times using confederates to essentially rig the game. And now he cries foul when a similar episode goes against him. Puh-leeze!
You can read the club’s press release here ; club members got in such a nasty fight at the last meeting that some don’t even accept tomorrow’s meeting as legitimate.
But here’s the thing: At some point, we all have to put this behind us and move on.
I think the odds are pretty good that Migden will win the Milk Club. I’m not going to say it was all done with perfect adherence to the rules; the Migden forces pulled some fast ones. The Leno people pulled some stunts, too, and would have played fast and loose with the rules earlier on if it helped them. That’s how these clubs work.
And frankly, a Migden nod won’t surprise anyone (Carole’s a former Milk Club president) and it won’t be a horrible blow to Leno (who has the Alice B. Toklas Club). Leno is clearly trying to appeal to the progressives, and the Milk endorsement would help, but there are other ways he can do that. So his campaign, and the Republic as a whole, will survive this vote.
If Migden wins tomorrow, it seems to me that the Leno folks should register their protests if they please, but then let it go. And if Leno manages to pull it out, the Migden folks should do the same.
This isn’t worth the sort of bitter fights, name calling and personal demonization that could be the result of an extended, bruising battle.
One of the good things about email is that items often pop up that jog my memory. The latest example was the news flash just now from the Harvey Milk Club about its annual Harvey Milk Memorial Concert and Candelight March tonight, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza and marching to the site of his camera store down the street.
The news reminded me of the last words I heard Harvey say, a snapshot of his humor and his politics. Harvey came into the Guardian office on the Friday before Dan White assassinated him and Mayor Moscone in their City Hall offices on Monday, Nov. 27, 1978.
This was one of our regular City Hall update chats. The Guardian had been a critical early endorser and supporter of Harvey, and we supported his progressive and gay rights agenda as the strong innovative supervisor of his era. And so Harvey would come around and fill us in and tell us how he was faring.
On this Friday, he was a bit disconsolate. He was losing some friends and supporters on key votes. He was hoping Moscone would appoint a strong liberal supervisor to replace White as supervisor, who had resigned. He said there was so much to do and he was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do enough to fulfill the agenda that he had been elected to do. So he said, in wonderful Harvey Milkese, that he would keep on truckin’ but that he would also pay more attention to the Guardian in terms of keeping us informed and on top of his progressive agenda.
“I want to be your Deep Throat in City Hall,” he said.
I said we needed one, we shook hands, and Harvey headed off to City Hall. B3
PRESS Release: Harvey Milk Memorial March: TONIGHT Nov 27 5 PM
Harvey Milk Memorial Concert & Candlelight March on November 27 Remembering Harvey Milk and Celebrating His Life
The Harvey Milk Club invites you to join us for the annual Harvey Milk
Memorial March. This year, in addition to the candlelight march from Harvey Milk
Plaza to the site of Milk’s former camera shop down the street, there will
also be performances to celebrate his life. This occasion kicks off a year-long
series of events leading up to the 30th anniversary of Milk’s assassination
on November 27, 1978. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club was founded by
Harvey Milk, and renamed in his honor.
WHEN: Tuesday November 27th 5:30 PM
WHERE: Harvey Milk Plaza (corner of Castro & Market)
SF Gay Men’s Chorus
Hon. Carole Migden
Hon. Mark Leno
Hon. Tom Ammiano
Cecilia Chung,Transgender Law Center
John Newsome, And Castro For All
– Presented by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club –
Krissy Keefer, Event Producer