London Breed

Man for the moment?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Other prominent progressive leaders agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sleazy money typhoon


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Realtors and tech spending big to flip the Board of Supervisors


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Independent Expenditures


Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth PAC

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Supervisorial Races:

District 1

Eric Mar

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

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

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

David Lee

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

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

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

District 5

John Rizzo

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

He has $19,813 in the bank

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


Julian Davis

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

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

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


London Breed

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

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

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


Christina Olague

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

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

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

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


Thea Selby

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

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

Donors include:

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


District 7


Norman Yee

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

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

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


FX Crowley

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

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

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


Michael Garcia

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

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

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


The Milk Club’s strange endorsement vote


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DCCC’s Mirkarimi resolution gets delayed


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agnos and other progressives rally for Olague


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D5 shakeups flip the dynamics of that wild race


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another bizarre Realtor video: London Calling


I don’t know who the San Francisco Association of Realtors has hired to make its campaign videos, and the Realtor folks aren’t calling me back (imagine that). But it’s some weirdo shit. They’ve got Eric Mar holding meetings in a steam room — and now they’ve got London Breed portrayed as cheddar cheese in a sandwich.

For real.

It’s called “London Calling,” and no, there’s no clash music. It starts off as if it’s heading into Journey, but then becomes it’s own peppy vocal track, with lines like “London Breed, London Breed, She’s the one San Francisco needs” and (my all-time favorite) “London Breed will bring us together, We are slices of bread, she’s the melted cheddar.”

Which voters is that aimed at?


Endorsements 2012: State and national races


National races



You couldn’t drive down Valencia Street on the evening of Nov. 4, 2008. You couldn’t get through the intersection of 18th and Castro, either. All over the east side of the city, people celebrating the election of Barack Obama and the end of the Bush era launched improptu parties, dancing and singing in the streets, while the cops stood by, smiling. It was the only presidential election in modern history that create such an upwelling of joy on the American left — and while we were a bit more jaded and cautious about celebrating, it was hard not to feel a sense of hope.

That all started to change about a month after the inauguration, when word got out that the big insurance companies were invited to be at the table, discussing health-care reform — and the progressive consumer advocates were not. From that point on, it was clear that the “change” he promised wasn’t going to be a fundamental shift in how power works in Washington.

Obama didn’t even consider a single-payer option. He hasn’t shut down Guantanamo Bay. He hasn’t cut the Pentagon budget. He hasn’t pulled the US out of the unwinnable mess in Afghanistan. He’s been a huge disappointment on progressive tax and economic issues. It wasn’t until late this summer, when he realized he was facing a major enthusiasm gap, that he even agreed to endorse same-sex marriage.

But it’s easy to trash an incumbent president, particularly one who foolishly thought he could get bipartisan support for reforms and instead wound up with a hostile Republican Congress. The truth is, Obama has accomplished a fair amount, given the obstacles he faced. He got a health-care reform bill, weak and imperfect as it was, passed into law, something Democrats have tried and failed at since the era of FDR. The stimulus, weak and limited as it was, clearly prevented the recession from becoming another great depression. His two Supreme Court appointments have been excellent.

And the guy he’s running against is a disaster on the scale of G.W. Bush.

Mitt Romney can’t even tell the truth about himself. He’s proven to be such a creature of the far-right wing of the Republican Party that it’s an embarrassment. A moderate Republican former governor of Massachusetts could have made a credible run for the White House — but Romney has essentially disavowed everything decent that he did in his last elective office, has said one dumb thing after another, and would be on track to be one of the worse presidents in history.

We get it: Obama let us down. But there’s a real choice here, and it’s an easy one. We’ll happily give a shout out to Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party, who is talking the way the Democrats ought to be talking, about a Green New Deal that recognizes that the richest nation in the history of the world can and should be doing radically better on employment, health care, the environment, and economic justice. And since Obama’s going to win California by a sizable majority anyway, a protest vote for Stein probably won’t do any harm.

But the next four years will be a critical time for the nation, and Obama is at least pushing in the direction of reality, sanity and hope. We endorsed him with enthusiasm four year ago; we’re endorsing him with clear-eyed reality in 2012.



Ugh. Not a pleasant choice here. Elizabeth Emken is pretty much your standard right-wing-nut Republican out of Danville, a fan of reducing government, cutting regulations, and repealing Obamacare. Feinstein, who’s already served four terms, is a conservative Democrat who loves developers, big business, and the death penalty, is hawkish on defense, and has used her clout locally to push for all the wrong candidates and all the wrong things. She can’t even keep her word: After Willie Brown complained that London Breed was saying mean things about him, Feinstein pulled her endorsement of Breed for District 5 supervisor.

It’s astonishing that, in a year when the state Democratic Party is aligned behind Proposition 34, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole, Feinstein can’t find it in herself to back away from her decades-long support of capital punishment. She’s not much better on medical marijuana. And she famously complained when then-mayor Gavin Newsom pushed same-sex marriage to the forefront, saying America wasn’t ready to give LGBT couples the same rights as straight people.

But as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Feinstein was pretty good about investigating CIA torture and continues to call for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. She’s always been rock solid on abortion rights and at least decent, if not strong, on environmental issues.

It’s important for the Democrats to retain the Senate, and Feinstein might as well be unopposed. She turns 80 next year, so it’s likely this will be her last term.



The real question on the minds of everyone in local politics is what will happen if the Democrats don’t retake the House and Pelosi has to face two more years in the minority. Will she serve out her term? Will her Democratic colleagues decide they want new leadership? The inside scuttle is that Pelosi has no intention of stepping down, but a long list of local politicians is looking at the once-in-a-lifetime chance to run for a Congressional seat, and it’s going to happen relatively soon; Pelosi is 72.

We’ve never been happy with Rep. Pelosi, who used the money and clout of the old Burton machine to come out of nowhere to beat progressive gay supervisor Harry Britt for the seat in 1986. Her signature local achievement is the bill that created the first privatized national park in the nation’s history (the Presidio), which now is home to a giant office complex built by filmmaker George Lucas with the benefit of a $60 million tax break. She long ago stopped representing San Francisco, making her move toward Congressional leadership by moving firmly to the center.

But as speaker of the House, she was a strong ally for President Obama and helped move the health-care bill forward. It’s critical to the success of the Obama administration that the Democrats retake the house and Pelosi resumes the role of speaker.



Barbara Lee represents Berkeley and Oakland in a way Nancy Pelosi doesn’t represent San Francisco. She’s been a strong, sometimes lonely voice against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a leader in the House Progressive Caucus. While Democrats up to and including the president talk about tax cuts for businesses, Lee has been pushing a fair minimum wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, and an end to subsidies for the oil industry. While Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was struggling with Occupy, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was moving to evict the protesters, Barbara Lee was strongly voicing her support for the movement, standing with the activists, and talking about wealth inequality. We’re proud to endorse her for another term.



Speier’s an improvement on her predecessor, Tom Lantos, who was a hawk and terrible on Middle East policy. Speier’s a moderate, as you’d expect in this Peninsula seat, but she’s taken the lead on consumer privacy issues (as she did in the state Legislature) and will get re-elected easily. She’s an effective member of a Bay Area delegation that helps keep the House sane, so we’ll endorse her for another term.

State candidates



Tom Ammiano’s the perfect person to represent San Francisco values in Sacramento. He helped sparked and define this city’s progressive movement back in the 1970s as a gay teacher marching alongside with Harvey Milk. In 1999, his unprecedented write-in mayoral campaign woke progressives up from some bad years and ushered in a decade with a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors that approved landmark legislation such as the universal healthcare program Ammiano created. In the Assembly, he worked to create a regulatory system for medical marijuana and chairs the powerful Public Safety Committee, where he has stopped the flow of mindless tough-on-crime measures that have overflowed our prisons and overburdened our budgets. This is Ammiano’s final term in the Legislature, but we hope it’s not the end of his role in local politics.



Phil Ting could be assessor of San Francisco, with a nice salary, for the rest of his life if that’s what he wanted to do. He’s done a good job in an office typically populated with make-no-waves political hacks — he went after the Catholic Church when that large institution tried to avoid paying taxes on property transfers. He’s been outspoken on foreclosures and commissioned, on his own initiative, a study showing that a large percentage of local foreclosures involved at least some degree of fraud or improper paperwork.

But Ting is prepared to take a big cut in pay and accept a term-limited future for the challenge of moving into a higher-profile political position. And he’s the right person to represent this westside district.

Ting’s not a radical leftist, but he is willing to talk about tax reform, particularly about the inequities of Prop. 13. He’s carrying the message to homeowners that they’re shouldering a larger part of the burden while commercial properties pay less. He wants to change some of the loopholes in how Prop. 13 is interpreted to help local government collect more money.

It would be nice to have a progressive-minded tax expert in the Legislature, and we’re glad Ting is the front-runner. He’s facing a serious, well-funded onslaught from Michael Breyer, the son of Supreme Court Justice Breyer, who has no political experience or credentials for office and is running a right-wing campaign emphasizing “old-style San Francisco values.”

Not pretty. Vote for Ting.



Mark Leno wasn’t always in the Guardian’s camp, and we don’t always agree with his election season endorsements, but he’s been a rock-solid representative in Sacramento and he has earned our respect and our endorsement.

It isn’t just how he votes, which we consistently agree with. Leno has been willing to take on the tough fights, the ones that need to be fought, and shown the tenacity to come out on top in the Legislature, even if he’s ahead of his time. Leno twice got the Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage, he has repeatedly gotten that body to legalize industrial hemp production, and he’s twice passed legislation that would give San Francisco voters the right to set a local vehicle license fees higher than the state’s and use that money for local programs (which the governor finally signed). He’s also been laying an important foundation for creating a single-payer healthcare system and he played an important role in the CleanPowerSF program that San Francisco will implement next year. Leno will easily be re-elected to another term in the Senate and we look forward to his next move (Leno for mayor, 2015?)





San Francisco has been well represented on the BART Board by Radulovich, a smart and forward-thinking urbanist who understands the important role transit plays in the Bay Area. Radulovich has played leadership roles in developing a plan that aims to double the percentage of cyclists using the system, improving the accessibility of many stations to those with limited mobility, pushing through an admittedly imperfect civilian oversight agency for the BART Police, hiring a new head administrator who is more responsive to community concerns, and maintaining the efficiency of an aging system with the highest ridership levels in its history. With a day job serving as executive director of the nonprofit Livable City, Radulovich helped create Sunday Streets and other initiatives that improve our public spaces and make San Francisco a more inviting place to be. And by continuing to provide a guiding vision for a BART system that continues to improve its connections to every corner of the Bay Area, his vision of urbanism is helping to permeate communities throughout the region



This sprawling district includes part of southeast San Francisco and extends all the way up the I-80 corridor to the Carquinez Bridge. The incumbent, San Franciscan Lynette Sweet, has been a major disappointment. She’s inaccessible, offers few new ideas, and was slow to recognize (much less deal with) the trigger-happy BART Police who until recently had no civilian oversight. Time for a change.

Three candidates are challenging Sweet, all of them from the East Bay (which makes a certain amount of sense — only 17 percent of the district’s population is in San Francisco). Our choice is Zachary Mallett, whose training in urban planning and understanding of the transit system makes up for his lack of political experience.

Mallett’s a graduate of Stanford and UC Berkelely (masters in urban planning with a transportation emphasis) who has taken the time to study what’s working and what isn’t working at BART. Some of his ideas sound a bit off at first — he wants, for example, to raise the cost of subsidized BART rides offered to Muni pass holders — but when you look a the numbers, and who is subsidizing who, it actually makes some sense. He talks intelligently about the roles that the various regional transit systems play and while he’s a bit more moderate than us, particularly on fiscal issues, he’s the best alternative to Sweet.

Feinstein screws Breed


Candidates in the District 5 supervisorial race, where one recent poll showed almost half of voters undecided about a field of imperfect candidates to represent the city’s most progressive district, have been sharpening their attacks on one another — and learning lessons about hardball politics.

Christina Olague, the incumbent appointed by Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year, has been taking flak in recent debates from competitors who are highlighting the schism between her progressive history and her more conservative recent votes and alliances. That gulf was what caused Matt Gonzalez to pull his endorsement of Olague this summer and give it to Julian Davis.

London Breed has now suffered a similar setback: US Senator Dianne Feinstein revoked her endorsement of Breed following colorful comments the candidate made to Fog City Journal, which were repeated in the San Francisco Chronicle, blasting her one-time patron Willie Brown.

Breed, whose politics have been to the right of the district, seemed to be trying to assert her independence and may he gone a bit overboard is proclaiming that she didn’t “give a fuck about Willie Brown.”

Sources say Brown has been in payback mode ever since, urging Feinstein and others to stop supporting Breed. Neither Brown nor Feinstein returned our calls, but Breed confirmed that she was told the senator was “concerned” about that published comment. And we know that Feinstein never called her to discuss the article, her comments or the fact that, perhaps at the behest of Brown, she was yanking her support.

On the record, Breed was contrite when we spoke with her and reluctant to say anything bad about Brown or Feinstein, except to offer us the vague, “There are a lot of people who respect and like me, and they don’t like what they see happening.”

The gloves are coming off in competitive D5


Candidates in the District 5 supervisorial race – where one recent poll showed almost half of voters undecided about a field of imperfect candidates seeking to represent the city’s most progressive district – have been sharpening their attacks on one another, learning lessons about hardball politics, and fighting over key endorsements.

Christina Olague, the incumbent appointed by Mayor Ed Lee earlier this year, has been taking flak in recent debates from competitors who are highlighting the schism between her progressive history and her more conservative recent votes and alliances. That gulf was what caused Matt Gonzalez to pull his endorsement of Olague this summer and give it to Julian Davis.

London Breed has now suffered a similar setback when US Sen. Dianne Feinstein revoked her endorsement following colorful comments Breed made to the Fog City Journal, which were repeated in the San Francisco Chronicle, blasting her one-time political patron Willie Brown. Breed, whose politics have been to the right of the district, seemed to be trying to assert her independence and win over progressive voters who have different worldviews than her more conservative endorsers.

But she may have gone a bit too far when she told Fog City Journal’s Luke Thomas: “You think I give a fuck about a Willie Brown at the end of the day when it comes to my community and the shit that people like Rose Pak and Willie Brown continue to do and try to control things. They don’t fucking control me – you go ask them why wouldn’t you support London because she don’t do what the hell I tell her to do. I don’t do what no motherfucking body tells me to do.”

Shortly thereafter, Breed said she got a call from Feinstein’s people withdrawing the endorsement. “There were just some concerns about the kind of language I used in the article,” Breed told us.

Sources say Brown has been in payback mode ever since, urging Feinstein and others to stop supporting Breed and switch to Olague. Neither Brown nor Feinstein returned our calls. On the record, Breed was contrite when we spoke with her and reluctant to say anything bad about Brown or Feinstein, except to offer us the vague, “There are a lot of people who respect and like me, and they don’t like what they see happening.”

Breed went after Olague hard during a Sept. 18 debate sponsored by the Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council and other groups, blasting Olague for her ties to Brown, Lee, and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, claiming Olague is too beholden to that crew and D5 needs a more independent supervisor.

Asked to respond to the attack during the debate, Olague said, “I won’t dignify that with a response.” But it seems clear to anyone watching the race that Olague has been getting lots of support from Lee, Pak, and Brown and the political consultants who do their bidding, David Ho and Enrique Pearce, which is one reason many progressives have been withholding their support.

The Breed campaign this week trumpeted its endorsement by three prominent progressive activists: Debra Walker, Roma Guy, and Alix Rosenthal. But it has been Davis that has captured the endorsements of the most progressive individuals and organizations, including a big one this week: the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which gave Davis is sole endorsement even though he’s straight and Olague is from the LGBT community.

Davis also snagged the number one endorsement of the San Francisco Tenants Union, a big one for D5, as well as the sole endorsements of Gonzalez, former Democratic Party Chair Aaron Peskin, and Sup. John Avalos. Assembly member Tom Ammiano also endorsed the Davis campaign, adding that to Ammiano’s earlier endorsement of John Rizzo, the other solid progressive in the race. Rizzo also got the Sierra Club and the number one ranking by San Francisco Tomorrow.

But Olague is enjoying quite a bit of union support, including snagging the sole endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council, whose members in the trades like her controversial vote on the 8 Washington project more than progressives or her competitors, who all opposed the deal. Olague was also endorsed by the United Educators of San Francisco and California Nurses Association.

The biggest union of city workers, SEIU Local 1021, gave its unranked endorsements to Davis, Olague, and Rizzo, as did Sup. David Campos. Sup. Jane Kim – who has also occasionally parted ways with progressives after Ho and Pearce ran her campaign against Walker – gave Olague an early endorsement, but late this week also extended an endorsement to Davis.

“As someone who has championed rank-choice voting, it is important for me that progressives are thoughtful about how we strategize for victory.  I have known Julian Davis a long time, and I believe that he would be a strong leader that fights for progressive values that District 5 cares about, including sustainable streets and livable neighborhoods,” Kim said in a statement given to the Davis campaign.

Another important endorsement in D5 is that of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, which carried a faint whiff of controversy this year. The group gave Olague its number one endorsement and Davis its number two, but some SFBC members have secretly complained to us that the fix was in and that Davis actually got more votes from SFBC members, which most people thought was how its endorsements are decided.

SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum told us she wouldn’t reveal who got the most member votes, but she did say that the SFBC Board of Directors actually decides the endorsements based on several factors. “The member vote is one of the factors the board took into consideration,” she said, listing a candidate’s record, relationship with SFBC, personal history, and other factors. “Nothing special was done in that vote, by any means.”

SFBC has been playing nice with Mayor Lee in the last couple years, despite his broken promise of getting the critical yet controversial Fell/Oak separated bike lanes approved by the SFMTA, which he first said would be done by the end of 2011, then by the end of 2012, but which lately seemed to be dragging into 2013.

At SFBC’s urging, Olague recently wrote a pair of letters to the SFMTA urging quicker action on the project, and it seems to have worked: Shahum said a vote on that project has now been scheduled for Oct. 16, and she’s hopeful that it might now be underway by the end of the year after all. As she said, “We’re thrilled.”

BTW, in case you’re curious, the Guardian’s endorsements come out on Oct. 3.

Endorsement interviews: London Breed for D5 supervisor


District 5 candidate London Breed has an amazing life story. She grew up in the Western Addition projects, living with her grandmother at a time when many of the people around her were killed or wound up in prison. She survived, went through public schools and UC Davis and now runs the African American Art and Culture Complex. She’s served on the Redevelopment Commission, where she voted in favor of the Lennar project, and is now on the Fire Commission. “I am here as the result of progressive politics in this city,” she said. She also talked about fiscal responsibility, and how it’s good to have someone at City Hall “who knows the value of a dollar.”

Listen to the full interview after the jump.

Olague faces her challengers during first D5 debate


Tonight’s inaugural District 5 supervisorial debate will be a key test for Sup. Christina Olague – who has fallen from favor with many progressives after a series of bad votes and prickly or evasive interactions with one-time allies – and a test for the rival candidates who are seeking to become the main progressive champion in one of the city’s most leftist districts.

The elected incumbents on the Board of Supervisors have ended up with surprisingly easy paths to reelection [8/9 UPDATE: with the exception of Eric Mar in D1], leaving D5 – as well as conservative District 7, where FX Crowley, Norman Yee, and Michael Garcia are part of a competitive field seeking to replace termed out Sup. Sean Elsbernd – as the race to watch this year.

Olague has been trying to execute a tough balancing act between the progressive community that she’s long identified with and the moderates she began courting last year with her early support for Mayor Ed Lee, who returned the favor and appointed her to serve the final year of Ross Mirkarimi’s D5 term. But by most accounts, she hasn’t executed the feat well, usually siding with Lee on key votes, but doing so in a waffling way that has frustrated both sides.

Progressive candidates such as Julian Davis and John Rizzo will have plenty of fodder with which to attack Olague as a turncoat, including her votes on the 8 Washington project and Michael Antonini, her strange antics on repealing ranked-choice voting, and her close ties to power brokers such as Rose Pak, who hosted a fundraiser that provided more than half of the $81,333 Olague has raised this year, much of it from developers and other interests outside of D5.

Matt Gonzalez – the former D5 supervisor, board president (from where he appointed Olague to the Planning Commission), and mayoral candidate – was so frustrated with Olague that he withdrew his endorsement of her last month, a decision that her other progressive endorsers are also said to be mulling.

With Mirkarimi tarnished by his ongoing official misconduct probe, the endorsement of Gonzalez could be the most significant in this race, and he told us that he plans to make a decision by Friday, the deadline for submission of ballot statements and a point at which we may hear about other changed or dual endorsements from prominent progressives. Other key nods in the race so far have been Aaron Peskin endorsing Davis and Tom Ammiano endorsing Rizzo, two candidates each vying to become the favorite of the left, with Thea Selby, Hope Johnson, and Andrew Resignato also courting support from the left.

Yet so far, the strongest challenge of Olague seems to be coming from her right, with moderate London Breed leading the fundraising battle with $85,461 as of late June 30, including the maximum $500 donation from venture capitalist Ron Conway – the main fundraiser behind Lee’s election last year – which may be a sign that Olague’s support among moderates is also soft.

Olague may be trying to get back in good with the progressives, last week introducing pro-tenant legislation sought by the San Francisco Tenants Union. But impressions have formed and the pressure is now on, and so far Olague – who didn’t answer our calls seeking comment, another troubling trend – hasn’t performed well in public appearances, mangling organizations’ names and generally not winning over her audiences.

Will Olague step up now that the campaign in entering its public phase? Will another candidate catch fire with progressives? Find out tonight from 6-7:30pm at the Park Branch Library, 1833 Page Street. It’s sponsored by the District 5 Democratic Club, the D5 Neighborhood Action Committee and the Wigg Party.

Or if you miss it, catch the next one on Tuesday, sponsored by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, starting at 7pm in the Eric Quezada Center, 518 Valencia Street.

Davis launches D5 campaign with fortuitous timing


When progressive activist Julian Davis formally launched his District 5 supervisorial campaign late last week with a well-attended kickoff party at the Peacock Lounge in Lower Haight, timing and circumstances seemed to be on his side.

Days earlier, Quintin Mecke – a rival for the progressive vote in this staunchly leftist district – announced to supporters that he needed to care for his ailing mother and wouldn’t be running after all. At the same time, appointed incumbent Christina Olague seemed to be rapidly falling from favor with many progressives.

First came the viral video of Olague gushing over all the support she’s received from Chinatown power broker Rose Pak during a fundraiser where she raised nearly $50,000, then her squirrely role in helping the moderates repeal ranked-choice voting, and finally the bizarre episode of clashing with a close progressive ally and friend to defend Mayor Ed Lee from perjury allegations.

Davis has sought to capitalize on the rapidly unfolding developments, today sending out a press release blasting Olague for having “joined the conservatives on the Board of Supervisors to repeal ranked choice voting for mayoral elections,” and telling the Guardian that Mecke’s exit will help clarify the choice D5 voters face.

“The fact that he’s out allows us to consolidate the progressive base,” Davis said, not mentioning that candidates John Rizzo and Thea Shelby will also be vying for the progressive vote.

At his kickoff party, Davis also demonstrated that he has substantial support from another significant D5 voting block – African Americans – for which he’ll be competing with political moderate London Breed, director of the African American Arts & Cultural Complex.

Davis said that with Olague’s support by Mayor Ed Lee and the city’s economic and political establishment, he’ll need to run a strong grassroots campaign based on “people power and shoe leather,” an approach that he’s also displaying with regular street corner campaigning.

“We’re at an economic, social, and political crossroads in San Francisco,” he said at his launch party. “Rogue developers are corrupting City Hall with a vision of luxury condos, corporate tax breaks, chain stores, and parking garages. It’s a vision of San Francisco that doesn’t include us. Everyday, progressive reforms are being dismantled and progressive values are being abandoned.”

Davis is hoping that Olague’s ties to Lee will drag her down in a district that voted almost 2-1 in favor of progressive John Avalos (whose campaign Davis actively worked on) over Lee in last year’s mayor’s race.

“Look what’s happening on the waterfront where Olague voted to approve the 8 Washington development. These are condos for the Kardashians, vacation homes for the ultra rich and the 1 percent. That’s not keeping it real for San Francisco,” he said at the kickoff. “So we’ve got to ask ourselves: how do they get away with it? The only way they can. By choosing your leaders for you. Over the past two years in San Francisco, we’ve had an appointed mayor, an appointed district attorney, an appointed sheriff, and an appointed District 5 supervisor. Does that sound like participatory democracy to you? Does that sound like your vote counts?”

And as Avalos also tried to do in his mayoral campaign, Davis says he wants to use his campaign to help restart the city’s progressive movement, which has been in tatters since being divided and nearly conquered by the politicians and political operatives who helped elevate Lee into Room 200 18 months ago.

As he told supporters, “We can re-launch the progressive movement in San Francisco from this district. We can take back City Hall. We will win this election with people power, street by street, block by block, neighbor to neighbor, shop by shop.”

Mecke joins crowded District 5 supervisorial race


Progressive activist Quintin Mecke jumped into the District 5 supervisorial race today, echoing gentrification concerns raised this week by the Guardian and The New York Times and promising to be an independent representative of one of the city’s most progressive districts, a subtle dig at Sup. Christina Olague’s appointment by Mayor Ed Lee.

“The City is at an economic crossroads. As a 15 year resident of District 5, I cannot sit idly by while our City’s policies force out our residents and small businesses, recklessly pursuing profits for big business at whatever cost,” he began a letter to supporters announcing his candidacy, going on to cite the NYT article on the new tech boom that I wrote about earlier this week.

“What we do next will define the future of San Francisco; the city is always changing but what is important is how we choose to manage the change. One path leads to exponential rent increases, national corporate chain store proliferation, and conversion of rent-controlled housing. The other path leads to controlled and equitable growth, where the fruits of economic development are shared to promote and preserve what is great about this City and our district,” Mecke wrote.

Mecke came in second to Gavin Newsom in the 2007 mayor’s race and then served as the press secretary to Assembly member Tom Ammiano before leaving that post last week to run for office. Mecke joins Julian Davis and John Rizzo in challenging Olague from her left, while London Breed and Thea Selby are the leading moderates in a race that has 10 candidates so far, the largest field in the fall races.

Although he never mentioned Olague by name, Mecke closed his message by repeatedly noting his integrity and independence, a theme that is likely to be a strong one in this race as Olague balances her progressive history and her alliance with the fiscally conservative mayor who appointed her.

“Politics is nothing without principles; and it’s time now to put my own principles into action in this race,” Mecke wrote. “District 5 needs a strong, independent Supervisor. I am entering this race to fight for the values that I believe in and to fight to preserve what is great about District 5 and the city. I have brought principled independence to every issue I’ve worked on and that’s what I’ll continue to bring to City Hall.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Mecke said he sees the campaign as a “five-month organizing project” to reach both regular voters and residents of the district who haven’t been politically engaged, including those in the tech sector. He’d like to see the perspective of workers represented in discussions about technology, not simply the narrow view of venture capitalist Ron Conway that Mayor Lee has been relying on.

“Local politics needs new blood,” Mecke said, “it needs to hear from these people.”

The battle of 8 Washington

More than 100 people showed up May 15 to testify on a condominium development that involves only 134 units, but has become a symbol of the failure of San Francisco’s housing policy.

I didn’t count every single speaker, but it’s fair to say sentiment was about 2-1 against the 8 Washington project. Seniors, tenant advocates, and neighbors spoke of the excessive size and bulk of the complex, the precedent of upzoning the waterfront for the first time in half a century, the loss of the Golden Gateway Swim and Tennis Club — and, more important, the principle of using public land to build the most expensive condos in San Francisco history.

Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, calls it housing for the 1 percent, but it’s worse than that — it’s actually housing for the top half of the top half of the 1 percent, for the ultra-rich.

It is, even supervisors who voted in favor agreed, housing the city doesn’t need, catering to a population that doesn’t lack housing opportunities — and a project that puts the city even further out of compliance with its own affordable-housing goals.

And in the end, after more than seven hours of testimony, the board voted 8-3 in favor of the developer.

It was a defeat for progressive housing advocates and for Board President David Chiu — and it showed a schism on the board’s left flank that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. And it could also have significant implications for the fall supervisorial elections.

Sup. Jane Kim, usually an ally of Chiu, voted in favor of the project. Sup. Eric Mar, who almost always votes with the board’s left flank, supported it, too, as did Sup. Christina Olague, who is running for re-election in one of the city’s most progressive districts.

At the end of the night, only Sups. David Campos and John Avalos joined Chiu in attempting to derail 8 Washington.

The battle of 8 Washington isn’t over — the vote last week was to approve the environmental impact report and the conditional use permit, but the actual development agreement and rezoning of the site still requires board approval next month.

Both Mar and Olague said they were going to work with the developer to try to get the height and bulk of the 134-unit building reduced.

But a vote against the EIR or the CU would have killed the project, and the thumbs-up is a signal that opponents will have an upward struggle to change the minds of Olague, Kim, and Mar.



The 8 Washington project is one of a handful of defining votes that will happen over the next few months. The mayor’s proposal for a business tax reform that raises no new revenue, the budget, and the massive California Pacific Medical Center hospital project will force board members to take sides on controversial issues with heavy lobbying on both sides.

In fact, by some accounts, 8 Washington was a beneficiary of the much larger, more complicated — and frankly, more significant — CPMC development.

The building trades unions pushed furiously for 8 Washington, which isn’t surprising — the building trades tend to support almost anything that means jobs for their members and have often been in conflict with progressives over development. But the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union joined the building trades and lined up the San Francisco Labor Council behind the deal.

And for progressive supervisors who are up for re-election and need union support — Olague and Mar, for example — defying the Labor Council on this one was tough. “Labor came out strong for this, and I respect that,” Olague told me. “That was a huge factor for me.”

She also said she’s not thrilled with the deal — “nobody’s jumping up and down. This was a hard one” — but she thinks she can get the developer to pay more fees, particularly for parking.

Kim isn’t facing re-election for another two years, and she told me her vote was all about the $11 million in affordable housing money that the developer will provide to the city. “I looked at the alternatives and I didn’t see anything that would provide any housing money at all,” she said. The money is enough to build perhaps 25 units of low- and moderate-income housing, and that’s a larger percentage than any other developer has offered, she said.

Which is true — although the available figures suggest that Simon Snellgrove, the lead project sponsor, could pay a lot more and still make a whopping profit. And the Council of Community Housing Organizations, which represents the city’s nonprofit affordable housing developers, didn’t support the deal and expressed serious reservations about it.

Several sources close to the lobbying effort told me that the message for the swing-vote supervisors was that labor wanted them to approve at least one of the two construction-job-creating developments. Opposing both CPMC and 8 Washington would have infuriated the unions, but by signing off on this one, the vulnerable supervisors might get a pass on turning down CMPC.

That’s an odd deal for labor, since CPMC is 10 times the size of 8 Washington and will involve far more jobs. But the nurses and operating engineers have been fighting with the health-care giant and there’s little chance that labor will close ranks behind the current hospital deal.

Labor excepted, the hearing was a classic of grassroots against astroturf. Some of the people who showed up and sat in the front row with pro-8 Washington stickers on later told us they had been paid $100 each to attend. Members of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, to which Snellgrove has donated substantial amounts of money in the past, showed up to promote the project.



But the real action was behind the scenes.

Among those pushing hard for the project were Chinese Chamber of Commerce consultant Rose Pak and community organizer David Ho.

Pak’s support comes after Snellgrove spent years courting the increasingly powerful Chinatown activist, who played a leading role in the effort that got Ed Lee into the Mayor’s Office. Snellgrove has traveled to China with her — and will no doubt be coughing up some money for Pak’s efforts to rebuild Chinese Hospital.

Ho was all over City Hall and was taking the point on the lobbying efforts. Right around midnight, when the final vote was approaching, he entered the board chamber and followed one of Kim’s aides, Matthias Mormino, to the rail where Mormino delivered some documents to the supervisor. Several people who observed the incident told us Ho appeared to be talking Kim in an animated fashion.

Kim told me she didn’t actually speak to Ho at that point, although she’d talked to him at other times about the project, and that “nothing he could have said would have changed anything I did at that point anyway.” Matier and Ross in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ho was heard outside afterward saying “don’t worry, she’s fine.”

Matier and Ross have twice mentioned that the project will benefit “Chinatown nonprofits,” but there’s nothing in any public development document to support that assertion.

Chiu told me that no Chinese community leaders called him to urge support for 8 Washington. The money that goes into the affordable housing fund could go to the Chinatown Community Development Corp., where Ho works, but it’s hardly automatic — that money will go into a city fund and can’t be earmarked for any neighborhood or organization.

CCDC director Norman Fong confirmed to me that CCDC wasn’t supporting the project. In fact, Cindy Wu, a CCDC staffer who serves on the city Planning Commission, voted against 8 Washington.

I couldn’t reach Ho to ask why he was working so hard on this deal. But one longtime political insider had a suggestion: “Sometimes it’s not about money, it’s about power. And if you want to have power, you need to win and prove you can win.”

Snellgrove will be sitting pretty if 8 Washington breaks ground. Since it’s a private deal (albeit in part on Port of San Francisco land) there’s no public record of how much money the developer stands to make. But Chiu pointed out during the meeting, and confirmed to me later by phone, that “there are only two data points we know.” One is that Snellgrow informed the Port that he expects to gross $470 million in revenue from selling the condos. The other is that construction costs are expected to come in at about $177 million. Even assuming $25 million in legal and other soft costs, that’s a huge profit margin.

And it suggests the he can well afford either to lower the heights — or, more important, to give the city a much sweeter benefits package. The affordable housing component could be tripled or quadrupled and Snellgrove’s development group would still realize far more return that even the most aggressive lenders demand.

Chiu said he’s disappointed but will continue working to improve the project. “While I was disappointed in the votes,” he said, “many of my colleagues expressed concerns about height, parking, and affordable housing fees that they can address in the upcoming project approvals.”

So what does this mean for the fall elections? It may not be a huge deal — the symbolism of 8 Washington is powerful, but if it’s built, it won’t, by itself, directly change the lives of people in Olague’s District 5 or Mar’s District 1. Certainly the vote on CPMC will have a larger, more lasting impact on the city. Labor’s support for Mar could be a huge factor, and his willingness to break with other progressives to give the building trades a favor could help him with money and organizing efforts. On the other hand, some of Olague’s opponents will use this to differentiate themselves from the incumbent. John Rizzo, who has been running in D5 for almost a year now, told me he strongly opposed 8 Washington. “It’s a clear-cut issue for me, the wrong project and a bad deal for the city.” London Breed, a challenger who is more conservative, told us: “I would not have supported this project,” she said, arguing that the zoning changes set a bad precedent for the waterfront. “There are so many reasons why it shouldn’t have happened,” she said. And while Mar is in a more centrist district, support from the left was critical in his last grassroots campaign. This won’t cost him votes against a more conservative opponent — but if it costs him enthusiasm, that could be just as bad.

The future of the DCCC


Now that Aaron Peskin is retiring as chair of the Democratic County Central Committee, and is not even seeking re-election, the future of a realtively obscure but political important agency is very much up in the air.

Peskin had his share of critics, and he would be the fist to say it was time for him to move on, but he orchestrated the progressive takeover of the DCCC four years ago and turned it into an operation that helped get progressives elected to local office. He raised money for the party and kept the often (ahem) fractious progressive committee members going in the same direction. He was a leader — and without him, the left wing of the local Democratic Party is struggling.

Nobody has been able at this point to take Peskin’s place — and in the meantime, the moderate-to-conservative folks are moving agressively to take the DCCC back.

It’s going to be a fascinating race — Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a bill that changes the makeup of the committee, giving the east side of town more members. That’s because more than 60 percent of the Democrats in the city live in what is now Tom Ammiano’s Assembly district. (The east side district of Fiona Ma now includes more of the Peninsula.)

So 14 of the members will be elected from Ammiano’s district, and only 10 from Ma’s (more conservative) district.

But Peskin won’t be on the ballot, and incumbent Debra Walker has stepped down and won’t run (she’s been replaced by Police Commission member Petra DeJesus).

Meanwhile, among the more centrist people who have filed to run: Former Supervisor Bevan Dufty. Sup. Malia Cohen, School Board Member Hydra Mendoza, and former Redevelopment Commission member London Breed. Sup. Scott Wiener, a longtime incumbent, is running for re-election.

The left starts with a vote deficit, since all of the statewide and federal elected officials who are Democrats and live in or represent part of SF are automatically members. That means Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Speier, Attorney General Kamala Harris, state Sen. Leland Yee, State Sen. Mark Leno, Ma and Ammiano all have votes — and while they never show up, the elected officials send proxies, and other than Ammiano and sometimes Yee and Leno, they can’t be counted on to support progressive candidates and causes.

So progressives need to win more than a simple majority of the contested 24 seats, and while that’s entirely possible, it’s hard to see a full slate in both districts. At best, most progressive groups will probably endorse 12 candidates on the east side and eight on the west — and since the most conservative incumbents will likely win, as will Dufty, probably Cohen and quite possibly Breed, it’s entirely possible that the moderate wing will regain control.

There’s been some tension among progressives in the past few weeks, some arguments about who would best replace Peskin as chair. Animosity over those discussions was one reason Walker resiged. And while there are legit questions about which of the progressives would best run the committee, I fear the candidates were getting ahead of themselves. Because you can’t fight over leadership until you have a majority. And that’s going to be a bigger struggle than it’s been in quite a while.

D5 candidates and constituents scrutinize Olague


San Francisco’s political lines are in the process of being redrawn. That’s true literally, with the current reconstitution of legislative districts based on the latest census, but it’s also true figuratively: old alliances based on identity and ideology are being replaced with uncertain new political dynamics. And nowhere is that more true than in District 5.

In a recent Guardian, we explored the implications of Sup. Christina Olague’s dual (and potentially dueling) loyalties between Mayor Ed Lee, who appointed her to the job, and the progressive political community with which Olague has long identified. Those seemed to play out yesterday when Olague bucked progressives to be the sixth co-sponsor of Sup. Mark Farrell’s proposed charter amendment to repeal ranked-choice voting for citywide offices.

Already, many of her progressive constituents – even those who have strongly supported her – have been privately grumbling that Olague hasn’t been accessible and expressing doubts about her ability to lead one of the city’s most progressive districts. Olague, who initially returned our calls immediately but said she’d have to get back to us about supporting Farrell’s legislation (I’ll add an update if/when she calls back), adamantly denied that she’s had a slow start.

“We’ve been working with constituents constantly,” she said, rattling off a list of nightly meetings. “I’m in the community all the time, getting coffee with folks…We’re working on multiple issues here.”

Michael O’Connor – who owns The Independent and other businesses and who ran in D5 in 2004 and may run again this year – supports Olague but questions the conventional wisdom that her progressive roots and mayoral support make her a lock for reelection this year.

“Olague is an awesome person and she would be a great supervisor in District 9,” O’Connor said, citing her strong ties to the Mission District and work with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. “But she’s very beatable in D5 because she doesn’t have the deep connections to the community.”

That’s a belief that is shared by others, including London Breed – the executive director of the African American Art & Cultural Center for the last 10 years – who jumped into the race last week and threatened to cut into Olague’s support among Mayor Lee’s supporters.

With Attorney General Kamala Harris and other Lee supporters by her side, Breed cast herself as a more authentic and grassroots representative for the district where she was raised. Or as Harris said, “London understands the challenges and strengths of the district. She is, bar none, the best voice for District 5.”

Left unsaid was the split that her candidacy created among supporters of Lee, whose ascension to Room 200 was engineered largely by former mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak. Brown (along with some of the city’s most influential African American ministers) strongly backed Breed for the D5 appointment, while Pak wanted her ally Malcolm Yeung, although she reportedly got behind Olague in the end.

Breed told us that she was supportive of Olague and that “I’ve been adamant about people giving her a chance and working with her.” But she said that it’s already become “clear that she just doesn’t have what it takes and was probably not going to get there,” based on “the feedback and phone calls I got with the experience people had in meeting her.”

“She’s familiar with planning, but not necessarily with the neighborhood and all its community groups,” Breed said. As for crossing Mayor Lee with her decision to run, Breed told us, “This was a hard decision for me to make because I work with many of these people and have good relationship with him.”

Progressive D5 candidates, such as City College Board President John Rizzo, are waiting to take advantage of votes on which Olague breaks with the progressives to carry water for the mayor. As he told us, “The mayor doesn’t get to make this decision, it’s the voters of this district that will decide.”

Like Breed, Rizzo also emphasized his long ties to the district. “I respect Christina and like Christina, but my connections are very deep,” he said, citing his 26 years of living and working as an environmental activist in the district. “I have a record of going out and taking the initiative and making things happen.”

Thea Selby, president of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association, has also been running an active campaign for the D5 job, including highlighting Olague’s split loyalties. “She literally switched camps to help chair the Run Ed Run committee,” she told us. Julian Davis, who ran for D5 supervisor in 2004 and has been rumored to be mulling another run, said that it’s disconcerting just how many elected officials in San Francisco started off with the advantage of being appointed to the office: “It’s not participatory democracy the way we envision it.”

Selby and others will be closely watching how Olague votes this year, and trying to differentiate when those votes are significant (such as being the swing vote to place the challenge to RCV on the ballot) or not (including Olague’s early vote to override Lee’s veto, which fell two votes short of the eight needed). “We need to look and see how she votes on things – and when it matters and when it doesn’t,” Selby said.

Yet already, even before the really big and controversial votes like the upcoming 8 Washington and CPMC projects, Olague is feeling the polar tugs on issues such as bicycling. Many bike advocates are mad that Lee has delayed promised bike lanes on Oak Street and with a rash of tickets that cyclists on the Wiggle have received.

“I’ve long been an advocate of biking, but I know there are issues related to parking in the neighborhood,” Olague told us, straddling the issue. “Parking for some reason is a very controversial issue in the city.”

And where does she come down on the stepped up enforcement of bikes rolling stop signs on the Wiggle? “I want to sit down with the Bike Coalition and see what they think,” Olague said.

Meanwhile, Breed – who is widely considered a political moderate, which could cause her problems winning in D5 – is also trying to position herself as more independent than Olague. “I’m about being progressive,” she told us, citing her recent hiring of a case worker at the AAACC to help young African Americans work through barriers to success. “To me, that’s what being progressive is.”

Breed readily acknowledged her early political support from Brown, who appointed her to the Redevelopment Commission when he was mayor, but said that she would still take a tough stand against Lennar and other developers to ensure the needs of current San Franciscans are being met by new projects.

“I’ve told people, this does not mean you have my support,” Breed said of her political contributors and her support of Lennar’s massive redevelopment of the southeast part of the city. “As my grandmother used to say, all money ain’t good money.”

On Breed’s entrance into the race, Olague told us, “It was expected, so I’m not surprised.” Olague said that she’s begun to set up her election campaign, but that most of her focus has been on getting up to speed at City Hall and in D5: “I’m just trying to focus on the work of the district.”

Lots of buzz and politicking around D5 appointment


There is eager speculation – and lots of public and private pressure being applied to Mayor Ed Lee – over the question of who he will appoint to fill the District 5 seat on the Board of Supervisors that is being vacated by Sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi.

Anti-progressive entities from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to the San Francisco Chronicle are urging Lee to appoint a fellow moderate to the solidly progressive seat, despite the outrage that would trigger on the left and the difficulty that appointee would likely have keeping the seat after the November election.

Chron columnist CW Nevius today published a weird little puff piece plugging London Breed – a moderate who wants the D5 seat, a fact he strangely didn’t mention – and her leadership of the African American Art & Cultural Center. Chron columnist Leah Garchik also pumped up Breed as a D5 appointee last week. Nevius’ column in particular seemed to be a thinly veiled attempt to influence the decision, despite the regular insistence by Nevius and others at the Chron that they never have a political agenda or try to influence City Hall. Yeah, right – at least we at the Guardian are honest about our advocacy for more progressive city leadership.

Breed is being strongly pushed by Willie Brown, the former mayor and current Chron columnist, as well as most of the city’s African American ministers, such as Revs. Amos Brown and Arnold Townsend, who showed up at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting and followed Lee back to his office after his appearance before the board.

Sources connected to the ministers told us that Lee hadn’t returned their phone calls in recent weeks and they were angry about the snub, so they showed up to let him know and mau-mau him into appointing Breed. Indeed, Brown did get a private meeting with Lee after his followers wedged their way into the office.

Reporters had asked Lee about the D5 appointment just moments before and he said that he was in no hurry to make a decision. “I want to pay my respects to many groups in District 5,” Lee said.

While many names have been floated as D5 contenders, there are a few that rise to the top. Malcolm Yeung, public policy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, is being pushed by Rose Pak, the Chinatown power broker who worked with Brown to get Lee into Room 200.

But given Lee will probably avoid simply choosing between the Brown and Pak choices – unless they can privately coalesce around someone, which is certainly a possibility – most City Hall speculation these days falls on Christina Olague. The Planning Commission president comes from the progressive camp but she also served as a co-chair of Progress for All, creators of the Run, Ed, Run campaign that persuaded Lee to run for a full term.

Speaking to the Guardian in October, Olague denied that her early endorsement of Lee had anything to do with the D5 seat, which she said she wasn’t seeking but would take if offered. “If we get progressives to support him early on, maybe we’ll have a seat at the table,” was how she explained her support for Lee.

On Friday, Olague showed up for Mirkarimi’s art opening and holiday party in his City Hall office, and she chatted with other possible contenders for the D5 seat, including Quintin Mecke, Julian Davis, Gabriel Haaland, Jason Henderson, and Michael O’Connor. Asked by the Guardian if she had any insights into how the appointment was going, she said all she knows is what she’s read online and in the newspapers.

And so we wait.

The next D5 supervisor


Now that it appears Sup. Ross Mirkarimi will be the next sheriff — and Ed Lee will be mayor for the next four years — the speculation is starting over who Lee will name to replace Mirkarimi as District Five supervisor. There are an abundance of qualified candidates, but my sources tell me the Mayor’s Office is looking right now primarily at two people — London Breed, director of the African American Art and Culture Complex and a former redevelopment commissioner, and Malcolm Yeung, an attorney who is president of the Asian American Bar Association and longtime policy person at the Chinatown Comminity Development Center.

Both, of course, were Lee supporters.They have a history of working on progressive causes (Yeung, at CCDC) and strong ties to the community (Breed at AAACC). Breed has spent more time as an activist in D5 (and was appointed to her job by former mayor Willie Brown), but Yeung is reportedly popular with Rose Pak, who clearly has the mayor’s ear.

I don’t know who Lee will be taking to about the appointment, but you can be sure both Brown and Pak will be giving their advice. And so far — although it’s still early — nobody has been talking to the current supervisor.

I called Mirkarimi and asked him who he would suggest, and he told me there were plenty of people — although neither Breed nor Yeung would be on his short list. He didn’t want to name names, but I can: queer/labor activist Gabriel Halland and Community College Board Member John Rizzo are both eminently qualified for the job, and Julian Davis would also be on a lot of short lists. So would Christina Olague, a planning commissioner (and Lee supporter) — but one City Hall insider told me that “Willie would never let that happen.”

Mirkarimi did suggest that he ought to be consulted. “I would think after all the work I’ve done in the district over seven years and two administration that  Mayor Lee would at least want my input,” he said. We’ll see.