May 15, 2004
So now we know the battle to replace Matt Gonzalez on the Board of Supervisors has officially begun.
On Thursday, May 13, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council hosted the first candidate forum of the season. For the most part, it was a casual kind of affair, low-key and friendly. But note that one candidate, housing activist Robert Haaland, is already bringing in the big guns. Two local political consultants - Jim Stearns and Jim Rivaldo - were there taking notes and acknowledged they are "working with Robert."
You know Stearns and Rivaldo. They're the pair who handled Kamala Harris' successful bid for District Attorney in 2003. Haaland's endorsement of Harris over incumbent progressive Terence Hallinan puzzled and upset some fellow members of the Harvey Milk Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Club. (See "Run Ross Run") The club officially endorsed Hallinan. Interesting to see that Haaland seems to have inherited Harris' political consultants.
Back to the scene…
The community gathering room of the public library on Page Street was jammed with more than 20 candidates and more than 100 interested voters. It was quite the San Francisco scene. Where else would something like 25 people all want to run for a district office? Where else would we get a candidate (with a broken foot) whose unofficial motto is "If I can walk, I'll run!"
H. Brown, the sfbulldog columnist who's decided to amuse himself (and us) by running for D5 supe, likened it to a speed-dating session for the two groups.
Here's how it went: HANC officials decided to break the crowd up into three groups. About six or seven candidates sat in a row of chairs in front of roughly 30 members of the audience. After offering a little statement and taking a few questions, the candidates would move on to the next group.
Since I arrived late, I didn't get to hear each group of candidates. So my apologies to those folks whose presentations I missed (Note to Bill Barnes and Lisa Feldstein: you guys each owe me a phone call).
I sat down in the cluster around Ross Mirkarimi, Katherine Roberts, Craig Thompson, Phoenix Streets, Robert Haaland and H. Brown. Haaland, decked out in suit and tie, spoke of the need to hit up big business for more revenue in a time of a crippling budget deficit. (Points for Haaland on this one. HANC leader Jim Rhoads says that the budget problem is probably the biggest issue for the district. The parks are likely to take a nasty hit, and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is very park dependent and oriented.)
Roberts (the one with the broken foot) spoke about the recent moves by a stealthy private outfit to tear up Golden Gate Park's concourse to build a parking garage. She's the activist whose lawyer has caused Wells Fargo financier Warren Hellman a lot of headaches and hassle in the courts. She commands respect with HANC, one of the small handful of groups that denounced the 1998 voter initiative that authorized the garage.
Mirkarimi has the longest track record fighting at the forefront of progressive campaigns and causes. I think he mentioned that. (It was hard to hear, and I kept getting distracted listening to Newsomite candidate Andrew Sullivan babbling on and on in the group behind me. Sullivan just recently made a horse's ass out of himself opposing the March initiative to get rid of MUNI's diesel buses.) Mirkarimi did mention what I think he has the best shot at bringing to the Board of Supes - and that's a plan for building the progressive movement.
Streets is a public defender (he was featured in the documentary Presumed Guilty) who came up with some reasonably good stuff, but seems to need some more seasoning. And as for Thompson, um, well he was so uptight (hair heavily varnished), he didn't seem real. Bets were on after the event as to whether he might be an android.
In the district that served as ground-zero for the counterculture movement - the one that elected Harvey Milk to the Board of Supervisors, you gotta show you have some soul -- something human about you -- as Diamond Dave Whitaker put it that night. Diamond Dave - the lyrically ranting SF character who takes credit for first putting Bob Dylan on the radio - is running, too, of course.