Alioto-Pier seeks charter ammendment
to support alternatives to on-site voting
District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier with newborn, Valentina
Paloma, is seeking a charter ammendment to facilitate off-site
By Aldrich M. Tan
May 29, 2006
When she ran for Secretary of State in 2001, Supervisor Michela
Alioto-Pier was five months pregnant with her first son Nicholas,
4. The city Supervisor of District 2 recalled many people telling
her to sit out the election to raise her family and then run for
"If young women are to run for office and participate in
government, they need to be able to do so during their childbearing
years in order to compete with men who begin their careers in
their 20s," Alioto-Pier said. "Women should be encouraged
to participate while they are raising their children because they
add a new, different and important perspective."
Such advice didn't stop Alioto-Pier, with her then-41 inch waist,
from running for office. And being pregnant with her third child,
Valentina Paloma, didn't stop Alioto-Pier from serving on the
Board of Supervisors, making major decisions of the city throughout
her pregnancy because she must be physically present in the Board
Chambers to vote.
When Alioto-Pier realized that there was no real means to vote
without being present while pregnant, she started to think about
the rules themselves. As she nurses her newborn daughter in her
office at City Hall, Alioto-Pier spoke about the legislation she
introduced to allow pregnant women to vote electronically.
"Women should not have to choose between the health of their
baby and fulfilling the duties and obligations of their office,"
Alioto-Pier's proposed legislation will amend the city charter
to enable members of the Board of Supervisors to participate in
meetings through teleconferencing, or other electronic means,
when they are physically unable to attend due to pregnancy or
childbirth, as certified by a health care provider.
City officials and other elected officials have maternity leave,
but not the Supervisors themselves, Alioto-Pier said. Under the
city charter, members of the Board of Supervisors must be physically
present in Board Chambers to cast votes so Alioto-Pier attended
meetings throughout her pregnancy.
"Since I represent a specific community, I have to make
sure that I am voting every time and be as active as I can be,"
Alioto-Pier said the only challenge she faced during her pregnancy
was towards the end of it.
"Just because you are tired does not mean you can't make
it to the office," Alioto-Pier said.
There are possible complications that can occur with pregnancy,
such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and extreme fatigue,
Alioto-Pier said. Female Supervisors could also be out of commission
after childbirth for a period of time, especially if they had
Alioto-Pier said she is fortunate that she evaded many of the
complications that accompany pregnancy and post-pregnancy. But
she also has a new responsibility raising her daughter.
Alioto-Pier now attends her committee hearings and Board of Supervisor
meetings with 6-week-old Valentina Paloma in a baby sling.
"Right now, my baby is very little and I am nursing her
every two to three hours," Alioto-Pier said, "At this
age, she needs to be with me all the time."
The members of the Board of Supervisors enjoy seeing Valentina
Paloma during their meetings. Supervisor Fiona Ma said she didn't
think she could be both a parent and a public official at the
"Being an elected official is far from a 9 to 5 job,"
Ma said, "but after seeing what Michela has been through,
I think Michela is a role model for me and for all women in public
District 4 Supervisor Fiona Ma (right)
Photo by Kai Ping Lui
Alioto-Pier agrees with Ma regarding the specific challenges
that female public officials face.
"We barely have women elected to Congress in their 20s but
there are so many young men who are involved in politics,"
Alioto-Pier said. "Much of that situation has to do with
women bearing children when they are still young."
Alioto-Pier said she hopes her charter amendment will open the
doors for more young female Supervisors.
"We are not breaking the glass ceiling unless women have
the opportunity to run for office while raising their families,"
Alioto-Pier said. "This charter amendment is a public way
of telling young women that we want them to be in politics and
we want them to run for office."
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said the legislation is also encouraging
to Supervisors raising their children and their grandchildren.
"I'm raising my grandson Rama Zumbi, 10, and I work everyday,"
Maxwell said. "He sits in my office to do his homework when
he has to come here while I'm working."
Maxwell said bringing one's child to work is no longer a barrier
for elected officials.
"I'll never forget that picture of President John F. Kennedy
with his child underneath his desk," Maxwell said.
It's important to have elected officials who are currently raising
their children, Alioto-Pier said.
"It is important to have elected officials who know what
it is like to find childcare, good schools, safe and clean parks
and recreation centers where children can congregate that are
also earthquake safe," Alioto-Pier said.
Alioto-Pier's charter amendment has not gone to committee yet
for discussion, and is still in development. One item of discussion
is including paternity leave into the legislation for the male
"The role of the father or of a second parent should not
be overlooked," Alioto-Pier said.
Supervisor Bevan Dufty is co-parenting with his lesbian friend
Rebecca. Dufty spends time with Valentina Paloma when Alioto-Pier
brings her over to the Board of Supervisor meetings.
"Valentina is my practice baby," Dufty said.
District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and Valentina Paloma
Rebecca is now five months pregnant, Dufty said.
"If there are issues regarding delivery of my child, I would
definitely want to choose being there for my baby," Dufty
Paternity leaves would strengthen the legislation, Dufty said.
"If there are circumstances where I do need to be there
for my child, this legislation will give me an option to be a
good and supportive father and still do my job as a city official,"
The charter amendment will go to the Rules Committee in June,
Alioto-Pier said. It will ultimately need six votes from the Board
of Supervisors for the amendment to get on the November ballot.
In the meantime, Alioto-Pier continues to raise Valentina Paloma
to be as strong and determined as her mother.
"I hope that my children will reach their potential and
are able to do what they want," Alioto-Pier said.
And perhaps, the name Supervisor Valentina Paloma Alioto-Pier
will someday grace City Hall. But that would be up to Valentina