Debra Walker

Chiu for Assembly



San Francisco is at a crossroads. While some residents benefit from prosperity, an affordable housing crisis coupled with income inequality make this a time of struggle for other San Franciscans.

Our inclusive, diverse culture that has historically made San Francisco a haven for artists, immigrants, and innovators is at stake. Given this, effective progressive leadership is critical to ensuring that our city remains a place where all San Franciscans can afford to live and prosper. That’s why I urge you to vote for my friend, President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu, to represent San Francisco in the California State Assembly.

As president, David has demonstrated an inclusive, unifying leadership style that has had a transformative impact at City Hall. He really listens to everyone, and brings people together to address our city’s most critical challenges. He combines rock solid progressive values with a fervent drive to do more than talk — to actually get the big stuff done.

The proof is in the pudding: he’s passed more pieces of legislation than any other current supervisor in every major policy arena, and his colleagues have elected him president three times.

David has delivered consistently on our city’s most critical issue: affordable housing. A tenant in San Francisco himself for the past 18 years, David has fought to protect and expand affordable housing across the city, leading efforts to build more housing for homeless veterans, transitional age youth, and seniors.

He supported rebuilding dilapidated public housing projects that have been in total disrepair. He has supported the strengthening of habitability standards in housing across the board. He led the charge to create a 10-year moratorium on condo conversions and to prioritize victims of Ellis Act evictions for our city’s affordable housing opportunities.

After multiple failed attempts by supervisors over two decades, he passed legislation to finally legalize in-law units, preserving one of our city’s largest existing stocks of affordable housing. David will continue to work to stem San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis in the Assembly, including pushing hard to reform the Ellis Act.

David has been a leader on a host of other important issues. An avid biker who doesn’t own a car, David has spearheaded groundbreaking environmental legislation, banning the sale of plastic water bottles on city property, expanding urban agriculture, and prohibiting the delivery of unwanted Yellow Pages. He’s increased funding for community arts, an issue close to my heart as an artist. He has championed language access for our city’s immigrants, and fought for the reunification of LGBT immigrant families.

Under his leadership, San Francisco is the first city in the country to establish the right to civil counsel for low-income residents being denied basic human rights such as housing, as well as to give workers the right to request flexible and predictable working arrangements to take care of their families. He passed progressive business tax reform that will bring $300 million of new revenues over the next decade.

When it comes down to it, we have two Assembly candidates, David Chiu and David Campos, who share the strongly held progressive values of the Guardian’s readers. I am a longtime supporter of the Guardian and have valued its endorsement in my previous races. The difference lies in style and effectiveness.

I know how urgently San Francisco needs a leader in the Assembly who can bring people together to get significant things done. The challenges and opportunities our city faces demand it. I know David Chiu can do this because he has done it, over and over again, in five and a half remarkably effective years of progressive leadership on the Board of Supervisors.

Please join me in supporting David Chiu for State Assembly.

Debra Walker is an artist who serves on the Building Inspection Commission, recently reappointed to that seat by David Chiu.

Michael Goldstein, 1953-2011


San Francisco lost a valued champion of progressive causes on Dec. 2 when Michael Goldstein lost his battle with stage 4 lymphoma after surviving nearly 20 years living with HIV, a disease that helped awaken his political activism.

Michael was born in 1953 in New Mexico, where he was raised. His grandparents had come to New Mexico after surviving the Holocaust, and Michael came to the San Francisco in the early 1980s. Like many gay men of his generation, Michael came here to find community, to create family, and to be welcomed when much of the country was still hostile to the LGBT community.

He worked at Neiman Marcus, dressing “the San Francisco A list,” as he used to say. He studied at City College towards a paralegal certificate and was heavily involved in student politics. He landed a job at AIDS Legal Research Panel, where he worked when he was diagnosed HIV-positive in the mid-’80s.

The news hit hard, and the treatment he began took its toll. The HIV drugs were harsh then and there were many horrible side-effects with these early drugs. At that time, there was very little information or education about HIV/AIDS and there was even less support, from families and from the public.

Our San Francisco political community became Michael’s family. He was also blessed with an amazing friend in Lorae Lauritch. They worked together at NM, became roommates, and lived together with some incredible cats that were dear to him, including Paloma, Huey, Cadeau, and Missy.

Michael was a proud feminist who valued the women in his life and community, leading him to endorse a pair of successive female candidates for the Castro’s District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors: Eileen Hansen in 2002 and Alix Rosenthal in 2006.

Over the years, Michael served as an elected member of the Democratic County Central Committee (serving as vice president), served as President of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and was appointed to a San Francisco City College citizen oversight board, where his questioning helped bring attention to mishandling of funds at that institution.

Michael was determined, opinionated, persistent, intolerant of bullshit, prickly, always questioning. He challenged us all to move a common agenda, come together beyond our own personal ambitions, but to also never back down out of convenience or feigned civility. “Civility doesn’t make change,” he often said.

I came to know Michael as many came to know him. Michael always showed up in support of every one of our causes. He not only showed up, he advised, opined, debated, argued, protested, got arrested, drafted policy, and so much more. Campaign after campaign, issue after issue — our friendships grew around our passion for politics, our deep concerns about everything, and a strong and unwavering belief that anyone can help make change.

Michael believed that and Michael lived that.

In the past few years, many of us noticed that Michael wasn’t feeling well. We pushed him to go to the doctor. This is a man who spent hours fighting to push through HIV/AIDS policy and funding, healthcare reform, Healthy SF — and he did not have healthcare, had not seen a doctor in nearly 10 years, and was not treating his HIV.

As many know, Michael and I were like brother and sister…often bickering back and forth on whatever was going on. We “debated” like the dear friends we had become. His lack of healthcare was one of the more important issues I would bring up often. As a long term survivor of this condition, Michael knew the score.

As the symptoms of this disease ravaged his body, he retreated from us and attempted to make sense of the unimaginable alone.

Finally at the end of September, Michael was admitted to General Hospital. With the amazing care of Ward 5A, Diane Jones, and all the amazing General Hospital workers, as well as Laguna Honda Staff and at his final resting place UCSF — his care, though coming too late, was the best in the world and gave Michael a fighting chance. He was clearly comforted and supported by his community in his final days, support that mattered so much to him.

If you knew Michael, you know there is a “what comes out of this” part. We all got to really see the results of the hard work we all participated in to rebuild General Hospital, to rebuild Laguna Honda, and to provide healthcare access to everyone, even the poorest among us. Michael, personally, was able to experience the fruits of our collective labor over these years.

He also experienced some areas where there really is a need for some work. We need to remember that AIDS/HIV is still killing people every day. We must improve people’s access to healthcare. We need to protect patients’ access to medical cannabis, even in General Hospital. We need services and we need housing, particularly affordable housing for those who need it, people struggling through this bad economy.

These are our issues and this is our agenda on the left that we have been fighting for.

I will never forget Michael. One of the last real discussions we had about politics was around election time, with Michael remembering the 2010 elections. Michael was probably more upset about what has come out of that election — the beginning of a political shift to the right in San Francisco — than many.

He has been such an integral part of the work that brought our progressive community together and he was devastated by the events tearing it apart. More than anything, he wanted to bring us together, but he ran out of time.

Michael had an agenda. His agenda was to move forward our agenda. It is time to come together and do that.

Debra Walker is an artist, activist, DCCC member, and city commissioner who ran for the District 6 seat on the Board of Supervisors last year.

A bailout for the middle class


OPINION I don’t need to remind you that our economy is in trouble. The current banking crisis has demonstrated to all of us just how fragile and susceptible to manipulation our current system is. President Obama has spent billions of dollars and untold hours trying to bail out our failing banks and financial institutions. Whatever your opinions about his efforts, I think we can all agree we should also be helping out American workers — the real engine of the economy. The Employee Free Choice Act, currently being debated in Congress, offers needed help.

In 1979, 23 percent of the American workforce earned the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $20 an hour. This level of pay, about $41,000 per year, is generally considered the minimum necessary for a family of four to live something like a middle-class lifestyle. I wish I could say that progress marched on, that every year after 1979 the percentage of workers earning the minimum to support a middle-class family grew. In fact, the opposite happened — today only 18 percent of American workers earn enough to support a family of four.

What happened to the other end of the spectrum during that time? In 1978, American CEOs earned 35 times what the average worker earned. Over the next 10 years, this ratio grew, so that in 1989 the average CEO was earning 71 times what the average worker was earning. By 2007, the ratio had grown to an unbelievable 275.

The causes of this imbalance are many, but one is declining labor union membership. In 1983, 17.7 million workers were members of unions, accounting for 20.1 percent of America’s workers. In 2008, only 16.1 million workers were unionized, accounting for 12.4 percent of our nation’s workforce. These numbers are critically important because union membership makes a large difference in the well-being of America’s workers. In 2008, the average union worker earned $886 a week, while the average nonunion worker was paid only $691.

With all the effort we’re putting in to a bailout of the banks, we need to be discussing a bailout of the middle class. We don’t have to wait for the Treasury Department to come up with the plan — it’s sitting there in Congress and is called the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill would give workers a fair, direct route to forming a union without illegal interference from corporations.

Unfortunately, the middle-class bailout is stuck in Congress. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the other shills for mega-corporations have turned up the pressure and succeeded in preventing the Employee Free Choice Act from moving forward in the Senate. Our own Sen. Feinstein recently said she wouldn’t vote for the bill because of the economic downturn, even though she cosponsored the legislation last year.

With the current state of our economy, we need a middle-class bailout — and we need it soon. Feinstein has the ability to make that happen. She should deliver the one bailout we all really need. *

Debra Walker is a San Francisco artist and progressive activist.


The caption for last week’s dine review should have referred to Fly, not Terzo.

We stand with Carole Migden


OPINION As longtime fans of the Guardian and as allies in almost every fight, including the struggles for public power, affordable housing, people-focused land use policy, and clean and open government, we do not like finding ourselves on the opposite side of an issue as important as this year’s state Senate race. Respectfully, we must say that we believe the Guardian‘s failure to endorse Carole Migden in that race was a colossal mistake — not unlike the decision to endorse Angela Alioto over Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez for mayor in 2003.

Both Leno and Migden are good votes in Sacramento. But the simple reality is that Carole Migden has been there for the local left in ways that make her the only choice for progressives willing to take on the establishment. Certainly Migden has made herself vulnerable to political attacks. Her failure to retain a professional treasurer for her campaign finance filings was clearly an error of judgment. But for us, none of this outweighs her incredible record of achievement in Sacramento or her far more reliable support of progressive candidates and causes in San Francisco.

Guardian readers should by now be familiar with Migden’s long record in Sacramento: the California Clean Water Act, saving the Headwaters Forest, community choice aggregation (CCA), a series of domestic partnership laws that have established a viable alternative to marriage in California while setting the stage for extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, a remarkable package of foster care reforms, and cosmetics safety legislation.

But it is Migden’s role locally that makes her so important to San Francisco progressives. Migden is the only candidate in the race who has been there for progressives in difficult political battles. As candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee, we are grateful that the Guardian endorsed our entire slate. But we wonder if the Guardian considered the fact that the vast majority (indeed, almost unanimous) of Hope Slate candidates are Migden supporters, because they are the leading progressive candidates to retain a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors in November. It is not coincidental.

Few politicians who have risen as high in the establishment food chain as Carole Migden have done so retaining a willingness to fight for the underdog. Guardian readers should be familiar with the litany: she supported Aaron Peskin and Jake McGoldrick in 2000; reached out to Chris Daly soon thereafter and stood strongly with him against subsequent challenges; never, ever supported Gavin Newsom; attended the Progressive Convention; and financed progressive campaigns from the Affordable Housing Bond to Muni reform.

Migden is a scrappy street fighter who helps other scrappy street fighters. As one of the very first queers and one of the first women to take political power at these levels, she had to be. Someday progressive politics may not need scrappy street fighters (and someday maybe women will be better represented in public office) — but not yet.

We are proud to stand with Carole Migden, as she has stood with us. She is the candidate in this race who we can count on to fight when it really counts.

Bill Barnes, Chris Daly, Michael Goldstein, Robert Haaland, Joe Julian, Eric Mar, Rafael Mandelman, Eric Quezada, and Debra Walker

The writers are Hope Slate candidates for the DCCC.