Janet Reilly at the Linnenbachs

and Camp Newsom Zeroes in on the Uninsured

by Savannah Blackwell

SF Progressive editor


A little more than one week ago, Christine Linnenbach and her mother, Doris, threw a house party for state senate candidate Leland Yee and Janet Reilly, who is running to replace him as District 12’s representative in the California assembly.

Linnenbach ran for District 7 supervisor in 2004 and finished only 10 percentage points behind winner Sean Elsbernd, who owed his success to a heavily financed campaign and a significant outlay of soft money. 

Though she is currently working as a public defender in Sacramento, she’s keeping a hand in San Francisco politics. 

She and her mother opened up their Twin Peaks home – which features a breath-taking view of the city -- to a large gathering of West side neighborhood activists on Saturday, February 25.

Many of the attendees were involved in the historic battle to force the corporate media-owners of Sutro Tower to make the monstrosity safe in the event of an earthquake. 

Linnenbach was their attorney. She exposed Sutro Tower Inc. for hanging hundreds of telecommunications antennae on the structure over the years without getting proper permission from city officials. Although the corruption of former Mayor Willie Brown’s administration stopped her from ultimately prevailing, the work she and the Twin Peaks Neighborhood Association did went a long way in shedding light on some pretty dark corridors at City Hall. (see GREEN'S GONE: GOOD, SFProgressive, 11/01/05)

When state assembly member Yee took the floor, he played up that point. His was one of only two votes (the other was that of Supervisor Tom Ammiano) the neighbors got on the Board of Supervisors, which at that time was stacked with Brown’s lackeys. 

“There are still efforts to undue the neighborhood process,” Yee said. “I will fight to make sure you all have a voice.”

Yee faces an uphill battle, he said. Though he clearly has better name recognition in San Francisco than Democrat Mike Nevin, he’s not well known in San Mateo County. 

When he introduced his choice of successor, the plucky and upbeat Janet Reilly, he said he won’t have to worry about “who’s in the assembly,” if she wins.

Reilly has won the support of former supervisor Matt Gonzalez and the Sierra Club. Some San Francisco progressive leaders say she is more likely to approach state politics in a manner akin to theirs than would District 4 Supervisor Fiona Ma, who is also running for the post. 

As the wife of former political consultant Clint Reilly, she currently lives far beyond the means of most San Franciscans. But it was not always that way for her.

The youngest of six children, Janet Reilly grew up in Sacramento. Her father was a renderer, which meant he gathered animal carcasses to extract fat for use in tallow. 

She knows what it’s like to live on a tight budget. After graduating from Medill -- Northwestern University’s highly competitive graduate school of journalism (writing the striking blonde off as an empty-headed trophy wife is a big mistake) -- she worked as a television reporter in tiny towns such as Cheyenne, Wyoming and earned less than $20,000 yearly before she moved to Los Angeles and became a spokesperson for former mayor Dick Riordan. 

Reilly’s biggest problem is distinguishing herself from her husband, Clint – a real estate honcho who, incidentally, has been a huge help financially to progressive efforts such as the 1997 bid to defeat Willie Brown’s 49ers stadium initiative, the 2000 fight to keep Brown from destroying the city’s historic growth control law and the campaigns of several progressive supervisors.

Reilly’s main pitch is that she’s running for office, because, as a mother of two young daughters, she’s worried about California’s future and wants to address systemic problems such as the under-funding of public education, the lack of planning for an expected boom in population growth and the failure to provide universal health care.

It’s interesting that Reilly is running on her support for providing health care to the long rolls of uninsured Californians.

Getting health care to the working poor is something Mayor Gavin Newsom says he wants to do as well. 

I ran into Newsom’s political consultant, Eric Jaye, at the February 28 birthday party of mayoral staffer Alex Tourk at Finnegan’s Wake on Cole Street. (Jaye also happens to be Reilly’s consultant.)

Former police captain John Newlin and Rich Hillis (everybody’s favorite City Hall staffer) were standing outside of the bar when I happened to see them after striking out in trying to buy a MUNI pass at Pharmaca drug store.

Jaye, who appears to be channeling either the 19th Century composer Ludwig von Beethoven or the Rev. Al Sharpton with his wild, untamed do, was all fired up that he and Newsom have come up with a plan that Jaye thinks could get health care to at least 60,000 uninsured San Franciscans.

The idea is to make the city’s businesses cough up an additional $80,000 in taxes that would help fund preventative care for the working poor at San Francisco General Hospital. The rest of the needed dough would come from the feds and the city's general fund, Jaye said. 

I asked him if the cabal of small businesses that felled Propositions J and K in 2004 wouldn’t move to kill this proposal as well, but he said they’re on board. His big challenge will be convincing progressive leaders such as Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi that the effort makes sense. 

Given that by some accounts Newsom is starting to slip in the polls, this could hand him a major victory if the program proves successful. 



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