August 10, 2004


The Political Scene in California and at home


By Savannah Blackwell, Editor


“No’’ and “No again,’’ “We said, no Nader!’’


Well, we must thank god, the goddess, the fates, the force, or at least the better judgment of some green politicos for this one.


Sensing the announcement will be met with a collective sigh of relief, we are pleased to declare the effort to replace David Cobb with Ralph Nader on the California Green Party ticket for president all but dead.


Party member Susan King, who has been heavily involved in state and national level green party politics for years, tells us that the coordinating committee of the state party has decided to decline a request from Nader’s green supporters to call for a special convention to consider the state party’s official nomination for president.


Even though the green’s national delegation chose Cobb over “no endorsement” (which would have paved the way for a Nader/Camejo ticket) at the party’s national convention in Milwaukee last June, the state party remains loyal to Nader. Holding an emergency California convention would have given Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo – a former green party candidate for governor, a shot at becoming the state party official nominees on a ticket both -- independent from and at odds with -- the national green party ballot. As San Francisco Chronicle writer Carla Marinucci pointed out on August 7, it would also allow the two to build a stronger public relations platform for their national candidacy.


Many progressive voters are concerned Nader’s efforts could undermine efforts to get George W. Bush out of office. The Bay Guardian, for example, has urged the longtime consumer advocate to abandon his campaign to get on as many state ballots as possible.  (Nader has succeeded in at least six states, including Florida.)


``(Nader’s move) could have been used to replace Cobb on the California ballot,” King told the SFProgressive. ``But it appears at this point that all such efforts have failed.”


She should know. A strong supporter of Cobb, King (who is also running for supervisor in San Francisco’s District Five) has spoken frequently with members of the committee over the past several days. She said many objected to Nader’s request on the basis that it threatened the sanctity of the party’s official nominating process and procedures.


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From District Seven to Treasure Island and Back


What can Gavin Newsom be thinking?


I don’t mean to suggest that there’s not plenty of voters out on the city’s west side who wouldn’t mind a chance at finding someone other than Tony Hall to represent them at City Hall.


But to hand executive control of the future of Treasure Island to Hall, seems, at best, highly short-sighted, and a little like giving it to Long John Silver at this point.


At best, Newsom’s decision smacks of the sort of political opportunism and deal-making that many San Franciscans were hoping were over with the termination of former mayor Willie Brown’s tenure at City Hall.


For Brown’s part, he appointed Annemarie Conroy, a former supervisor and helper in the effort to build a new 49ers stadium, to the T.I. post in 1997. Her gig was frequently cited in news stories as an example of Brown’s patronage hiring policies. As we all know, Brown largely took care of those who took care of him. In 1995, Conroy abandoned her support for her own god-father, Frank Jordan, and helped Brown build Westside support in the mayoral election that brought Brown to office.


Even though Brown got the state legislature to pass a bill allowing him to appoint a special body (the Treasure Island Development Authority) with singular control over development of the island in 1997, nothing too big has gone on out there – thanks or no thanks to the Brown/Conroy power combo. (The high cost of environmental clean up as well as needed seismic shoring has no doubt been a factor in the delay – as well as the lengthy back-and-forth between the city and the U.S. Navy over getting city control of the site.) The city did work with a private developer to make hundreds of units of old army housing available for rent – but there hasn’t been any major new commercial development.


Not yet anyway. Deals, however, have been made. The key one: who gets the opportunity to leverage city dollars and make the island over for generation of private (and some) public profit. TIDA decided to grant that chance to an interest that includes Democratic Party fundraiser and lobbyist Darius Anderson. An old pal of Brown, this guy gets around, and it turns out he’s a political buddy of Hall’s. We learned from the Chronicle on August 4 that Anderson provided the venue for a campaign fundraiser that netted some $20,000 for Hall’s effort to keep secure his District Seven seat.


Pretty whiffy this stuff --- sure makes Newsom’s choice for Treasure Island Director a lot stinkier than Brown’s. Is this the way the Westside should get a new supervisor?


At least Conroy had no financially connections to island interests before she, pardon the pun, took the helm. And since she hasn’t been running for anything, we would assume that’s remained true. Not that she needs any campaign cash now either. Newsom sent her off to head the Office of Emergency Services in order (apparently – was there some other reason why it was vital to the city’s interests to suddenly have her heading up OES?) to free up a job that Hall would take. (We do hear that Hall wouldn’t take the treasurer’s post.)


The eight officials (all four TIDA members and four of the five ethics commissioners) who signed off on sending Tony to T.I. are hanging their collective hat on the fact that TIDA is officially considered a state organization. So the law prohibiting former supervisors from working for the city for a year after leaving office – would seem to not strictly apply.


Still, lone ethics commissioner Joe Lynn had a point when he said the deal sets a bad precedent.


All that said, it’s still refreshing to see Hall’s seat open up. The wedding singer was often a grim reminder that small pockets of small-mindedness – where residents, say, don’t support abortion rights, persist in San Francisco. Moreover, he largely sided with development interests over those of the city’s neighborhoods.


This Tuesday afternoon, I’ve been listening to Newsom’s anointed choice, 28-year-old Sean Elsbernd, handle himself at his first supervisors’ meetings just a few days after Newsom hastily appointed him on August 5, which was just one day shy of the August 6 filing deadline. (Another smooth move on Newsom’s part. At least Willie generally had the play lined up before he ordered it.) Since Elsbernd served for several years as Hall’s key legislative aide, he knows the routine well. And he sounds earnest and poised enough.


But it’s important that Newsom not win assurance of a veto-proof (read four member) majority on the Board of Supervisors. He already can generally count on allies Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty and Fiona Ma. Hall, a personal friend and occasional political ally of Gonzalez (who quickly endorsed Elsbernd), was never a sure supporter. The two tangled, for example, over “Care not Cash.” Hall has his own persona and his own base. It will be difficult for Elsbernd to establish his own identity and track record in the district in such a short period of time. (Having just submitted a resolution addressing problems with grafitti in the district, he’s clearly wasting no time in trying to build a presence.)


Elsbernd will naturally feel more pressure to be loyal to Newsom -- who plucked the quiet mannered fellow from his position as aide to Hall and appointed him the mayor’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors last January. The Elsbernd/Newsom connection doesn’t end there. Prior to working for Hall, Elsbernd worked at Nielsen, Mirksamer, Parrinello, Mueller and Naylor -- the Mill Valley firm that until last year employed Jim Sutton, Newsom’s campaign attorney who met with controversy early this year when his new firm accidentally emailed documents to the San Francisco Ethics Commission suggesting Newsom was going to pay off his campaign debt –illegally using inaugural funds. (The matter has since been resolved in Newsom’s favor.)


So independence should matter a lot in the race for supervisor representing District Seven. Here’s one example where the play of pro-Newsom v. ever shifting block of progressives on the Board of Supervisors mattered. Newsom would have vetoed Board President Matt Gonzalez’ legislating aimed at limiting chain store development, had he been assured of a fourth vote to support an override.


Another longtime Westside resident – one who says she’ll be independent from the mayor – has decided to challenge Elsbernd’s bid.


Attorney Christine Linnenbach, who the San Francisco Bay Guardian named a “Local Hero” in 1999 for her battle to stop the well-heeled media interests that own Sutro Tower from expanding the mammoth structure in the late 1990s, filed for official candidacy on Friday, August 6.


Linnenbach, who has long been involved in the West of Twin Peaks Neighborhood Association, supported Newsom’s electoral efforts but volunteered on Gonzalez’ campaign for mayor last November, said she was drafted into the race by residents who “felt they needed to have a choice that is accountable to the job and especially West side residents,” she told the SFProgressive.


``Most importantly, I think people are looking for someone who is independent from City Hall,” she said. Linnenbach is joining a field of some 12 candidates. (see for more information)


Newsom’s ability to control the board may also be threatened in District Two, where Alioto-Pier, whom he appointed to replace himself on the Board of Supervisors, is seeking her first election.


Marketing Consultant David Pascal, who, like Linnenbach, volunteered on Gonzalez’ mayoral campaign last year, has decided to challenge Alioto-Pier.


Pascal, who is working on an economic development initiative with Global Exchange, also pointed to the need tomaintain “check and balances between the board and newsom” as a factor in his decision to enter the race.


``That’s slowly eroding,” he told the SFProgressive.


``Taken together with the feeling that our neighborhoods need a strong local voice – taken together that suggests there’s a need for something to happen,” said Pascal, who has joined a field of five candidates, including Alioto-Pier. (seedavid@pascalforsupervisor com for more information.)


Pascal cited Alioto-Pier’s vote against Gonzalez’ chain store legislation and her backing of Newsom’s efforts to give the biotech industry a special tax credit as evidence that Alioto-Pier is “not focused on the district’s needs.”


``If you’re supposed to be the voice of District Two, the biotech question is completely irrelevant.” Pascal said. ``It suggests her agenda has more to do with the mayor’s agenda than it should.”


``You’re there to represent the neighborhoods, not some political agenda.”

  --Email Savannah Blackwell at


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