Greens Play Nice

Green Party, Treasure Island and Golden Gate Park Politics


By Savannah Blackwell

SFProgressive.Com Editor

Maybe you don’t know this about our local Green Party, but the organization has been reeling from internal controversy lately.

The main cause of the problem is Frontlines editor Carlos Petroni, a San Francisco socialist and staunch supporter of Matt Gonzalez who seems to create rancor in whatever corridors he chooses to infiltrate.

Petroni most recently caused a flap when he allowed email chat normally restricted to the computers of Green Party members to be posted on his publication’s website. That pissed off his fellow greens, as has his insistent objection to the candidacy of party member Renee Saucedo in her bid for District 9 supervisor. (Petroni is backing perennial loony tunes candidate and ally Lucrecia Bermudez.) 

But the party’s most recent meeting on August 18 went pretty smoothly, all things, including Petroni, considered. In the end, the group endorsed an all-green IRV slate for the supervisor’s race in District Five. Ross Mirkarimi easily won the first spot, and Lisa Feldstein and Susan King took the second and third slots respectively. 

Heading into the meeting, many members were expecting a bitter floor fight over a move coming from the office of Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez had apparently convinced some fellow Greens, including his ally, Petroni, that the party should only on August 18 endorse one or two of their fellow members running to replace Gonzalez in District Five, and leave at least one slot open to endorse a Democrat later on in the election season. And indeed, one of the few moments of discord came when Jim Dorenkott, a Gonzalez buddy, arrived late and demanded to know why there hadn’t been heavy discussion of endorsing only one or two candidates prior to the taking of three straw polls. (The members had been allowed to vote “None of the Above” in each of the three straw polls that had already been conducted for each of the three slots. “NOTA” was an expression of the desire to leave the spot blank.)

Here’s the logic behind the Gonzalez move: Since the most likely threat to a Mirkarimi win will come from a frontrunningDemocrat (read tenant and labor organizer Robert Haaland) whom the state Democratic Party will likely throw some serious resources at in an effort to turn the D5 seat back to the Donkeys, the Greens should be prepared to endorse a Democrat whom they believe they could get behind (like, say Haaland’s fellow Democratic County Central Committee member Bill Barnes) and who would be poised to take votes away from a more moderate Democratic threat toMirkarimi.

But the ugly reality is that would mean shoving one or both of the Green female D5 candidates, both of whom are running viable campaigns, off the slate – at least for a good while. And that could further exacerbate the charge that some leaders of the city’s progressive community are insensitive to the gender issue. For example, several prominent women leaders working on Gonzalez’ failed bid for mayor last year complained quietly of feeling shut out of the decision-making process. And Feldstein held a press conference last week criticizing Gonzalez for lapsing into good ol’ boy political tactics in his singular endorsement of Mirkarimi – even though Gonzalez had encouraged Feldstein to enter the race in the first place. (For his part, Mirkarimi supported giving the second and third spots to Feldstein and King. That’s to his credit, though none should go to the San Francisco Bay Guardian – which referred somewhat derisively to Feldstein “hitting the gender thing hard” at her press conference and put out the suggestion that she was raising the issue just to get “a bit of extra mileage out of her campaign theme of ‘the best woman for the job.’” Gee, that showed sensitivity to a very real issue in the progressive community.)

``We have a chance here to have some women on our slate,” member Charlene Smyth said. ``We’re supposed to be about empowerment. You all talk like that all the time in here. But the question is, `Can you live it?’”

And the Greens, at least in the District Five race, decided they could.


Since it’s become clear that former Judge Lillian Sing, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s well-financed choice to replace incumbent lefty Jake McGoldrick in the District One supervisor’s seat, is shaky at best on the issue of rent control, McGoldrickdecided to hold a press conference this week highlighting his strong support of tenant issues.

Among the examples of McGoldrick’s record of support handed out at a Thursday, August 19 press conference: his support for the current $200 million housing bond, fellow supervisor Aaron Peskin’s ordinance limiting the amount landlords can increase tenants’ rent for operating and maintenance costs, fellow supervisor Tom Ammiano’s legislation enacting negotiated settlements between tenants and landlords over the capital-improvement pass-through dispute, his support for the 2002 (failed) $250 million housing bond and his opposition to former supervisor Tony Hall’s (also failed) 2002 initiative lifting the limits on condominium conversions. 

The press conference came on the heels of an illuminating item penned by San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter RachelBrahinsky in the paper’s August 18 issue revealing that Sing admitted in a questionnaire that she supported a 1998 ballot proposal to eliminate rent control on some 50,000 units in the city. Brahinsky also wrote that Sing told the SFBG that she “favors (rent control) but said she’s also for landlords’ rights.” Huh? Sounds like Sing is either playing both sides, or, worse, doesn’t understand that in this city, where the stakes over land use are so high, one inevitably takes away from the other. 


Here’s yet another stinky twist to Newsom’s Hall-to-Treasure-Island/Sean Elsbernd-to- District Seven Play. Newsom swore Elsbernd in as Hall’s replacement on the Board of Supervisors on the morning of Friday, August 6. That was the same day as the deadline for candidates to file in the supervisors’ races.(correction from Eric Allen: Newsom actually swore Elsbernd in Thursday evening, and then the next morning, the Hall protégé filed his paperwork with the Dept. of Elections indicating he was the incumbent running for supervisor representing the city’s Westside.)

The San Francisco Department of Elections abides by the rule that if there is no incumbent in the race, the deadline is extended by five days. Hence, Mirkarimi, for example, didn’t have to file for his candidacy in D5 (a seat incumbent Gonzalez has decided not to seek again) until the following Friday. 

Even though Elsbernd was an incumbent by only a matter of hours, officials at the Department of Elections decided the “no incumbent” rule did not apply. Too bad, because sources tell the SFProgressive that such an extension would have encouraged a wider field of candidates in District Seven – where there was only a couple days’ notice that Hall would definitely be vacating the seat (due to the flap and delay over whether he could legally take the helm at Treasure Island. See “The Political Scene in California and at Home.”) 

Speaking of that flap, Ethics Commissioner Joe Lynn points out that 1998’s Proposition K, a successful measure sponsored by former State Senator Quentin L. Kopp aimed at reigning in the mayor’s control of the Treasure Island enterprise, stipulated that “leasing, sub-leasing and development of Treasure Island shall be subject to all state laws and city ordinances proscribing conflicts of interest.” The commission’s majority ruled that since the Treasure Island Development Authority is a state agency, the city’s conflict-of-interest rules don’t apply. (Hall has taken campaign money from T.I. developers). Maybe someone on the Board of Supervisors -- say Chris Daly, who vehemently opposed the Hall-to-T.I.-move -- might want to revisit the matter.


Activists opposed to the city and Wells Fargo heir Warren Hellman ripping up the Golden Gate Park Music Concourse to build a massive underground parking garage were dismayed when they read Judge James Warren’s August 10 decision saying it was ok for revenues from the garage to go toward paying for the facility’s construction. Proposition J, the 1998 measure allowing construction of the garage, stipulated that only philanthropic donations should be used to build the thing. 

In his much-anticipated decision, Warren did at least acknowledge that the plan to put an entrance and exit right at the concourse did violate the terms of the measure, but he’s allowed the city to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new configuration. And still keep digging up the concourse in the meantime. Oddly, he went ahead and okayedthe environmental impact report for the design. Wouldn’t the need to move the second entrance to outside of the park create a valid argument that the EIR should be re-done as well? 

As for the activists, Katherine Roberts of Trees Not Cars, which filed suit over the matter, told the SFProgressive that she’s not giving up the fight. 

``We’re going forward with the appeal seeking the injunction,” Roberts said. ``I think Prop J is clearly written to show people did not want to use public money for the garage, and I’m not sure how anyone could interpret it otherwise.” 

Email SFProgressive editor Savannah Blackwell at savannah.blackwell@gmail.com

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