Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:

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 electronic voting.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

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 office.

"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 said.

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.

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 a C-section.

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 same time.

"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 office."

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 Supervisors.

"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 said.

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," Dufty said.

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 Paloma herself.




The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa