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The CrackBerry Chronicles

With Elaine Santore

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Elaine Santore


November 19, 2007

Barack Obama: Details, details

Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama doesn't really like being a celebrity. He wants to be seen as a serious candidate, but it's hard to take him seriously when he's received endorsements from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Borat.

Last Wednesday, Luke Thomas, John Han, Karen Babbit and I attended an Obama rally at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. I told my parents, "Barack Obama is A-list because he's friends with Oprah, but Dennis Kucinich is D-list because his only famous friend is Shirley MacLaine."

The event was supposed to start at 6:30pm, but a line of people outside snaked around the building and all had to be cleared by security. By the time all the audience members filed in, the crowd reached 6,000. The first speaker, Tony West, said the amount of people waiting to hear the Illinois Senator speak showed that the Bay Area was "Obama country."

Karen Babbitt goes through security.

Tony West

Obama campaign volunteer Kim Mack said, "Thank you, Senator Obama, for working to bring my son home from Iraq." Afterwards, a gospel choir performed in between the soundtrack of oldies and R&B hits. Poet and author of "The Color Purple," Alice Walker, also spoke before a high school student formally introduced Obama.

Alice Walker

Obama appeared on stage at about 9:10pm, but the crowd didn't seem to mind the long wait. Delegations from all over the Bay Area, including Berkeley and Marin, proudly held up signs in support.

Barack Obama: "Are you ready for change?"

Barack Obama's cheekbones are prettier than mine.

Obama made a promise that, if elected, he would get the troops out of Iraq within 16-months. However, he didn't go into details about how he would accomplish this goal.

Another popular promise: "I will make sure every American has healthcare they can depend on." However, Obama didn't mention anything about universal healthcare, but said he would work with private insurance companies to reform the nation's health care system.

The old white dude in white was my favorite audience member, hands down.

The senator expressed support for gays and lesbians, but didn't mention gay marriage, though he has expressed support for civil unions. Of course, Obama created controversy in the LGBT community in October when he announced gospel singer Donnie McClurkin would be part of the campaign's concert tour in South Carolina. McClurkin is a self-proclaimed "ex-gay" who claims, "God delivered me from homosexuality."

Jim Rivaldo Memorial

On Thursday evening, friends and family (biological and otherwise) of Jim Rivaldo gathered underneath the City Hall Rotunda to celebrate Rivaldo's life and legacy in San Francisco politics. Among the speakers were Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Assembly Member Mark Leno. District Attorney Kamala Harris and Sheriff Michael Hennessey were unavailable, but each had prepared statements read during the memorial ceremony.

Jim Rivaldo with District Attorney Kamala Harris and Senator Barack Obama.

Campaign posters designed by Jim Rivaldo.

District 3 State Senate Debate: Bring on the dramz

On Saturday, Fog City Journal attended a District 3 State Senate debate hosted by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. About 150 people participated in the debate, held at the state building and moderated by Belva Davis. The panel included Bay Area Reporter editor Cynthia Laird, Bay Guardian City Editor Steve Jones, Michelle "Meow" Singibath from Quake Radio, and SF Bay Times editor Kim Corsaro.

Debate moderator Belva Davis.

The candidates, Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese, incumbent State Senator Carole Migden, and Assemblyman Mark Leno, each arrived with their own group of supporters. At the start of the debate, Davis requested there be "no hissing, booing, or campaign signs."

Panelists Cynthia Laird, Steve Jones, Michelle "Meow" Singibath and Kim Corsaro with debate moderator Belva Davis, Milk Club President Brian Basinger and D3 candidates
Joe Alioto-Veronese, Carole Migden, and Mark Leno.

The first question for the candidates concerned California's $10 billion deficit. Leno spoke first. He recommended Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger re-instate the vehicle license fee,and argued "We have a revenue problem, not a spending problem."

Assemblymember Mark Leno.

Migden responded, "This is the first time and probably the first and last time I agree with my opponent." She said it was wrong for Schwarzenegger to cut the "ed fund", and said Leno supported the cuts in the Assembly. Leno denied Migden's accusation but Migden fired back: "There's an 'aye' vote in the public record." Meow!

Incumbent Senator Carole Migden.

Veronese emphasized the need to focus on commonalities instead of divisiveness. He suggested California should focus on small business to bring more revenue into the state.

Police Commissioner Joe Alioto Veronese

Steve Jones asked the candidates what they would do make people less dependent on their cars. Veronese suggested promoting solar energy. "I will propose a $1 billion bill for solar energy, to sell energy at the grid like they do in Germany," he said. Veronese also stressed the importance of more American jobs coming into the country so people won't have to rely on their cars to get to work.

Migden stressed her support for the Community Choice Aggregation bill to lessen San Francisco's dependence on fossil fuel heavey PG&E. She also proposed telecommuting options, higher fees for drivers, and a smarttrain for Marin and Sonoma.

Carole did NOT just whip out the finger!

Leno suggested cutting carbon emissions with plug-in hybrids, and installing solar panels on top of city garages. He used the City CarShare program, which he helped start in the late nineties, as an example of an efficient way to cut carbon emissions. Although critics labeled the program as "crazy" when it began, the program inspired for-profit companies like ZipCar.

Michelle "Meow" posed a question about LGBT issues in the campaign. Veronese argued that, although he wasn't a member of the LGBT community, "I fight the fight" with gays, lesbians, and other minorities as a lawyer and as a member of law enforcement. Veronese joked that Leno was "very friendly with my wife," which was slightly awk.

Julie Veronese and Mark Leno. Put your hands where we can see 'em, Mark!

On the topic of Leno's Gay Marriage Bill, Corsaro asked Leno to explain his claim that he "had a strategy for dealing with the Governor." Leno responded, "It was based on a false premise that the Governor is a decent human being." This, of course, drew big laughs from the crowd. He also noted the Governor's promise to abide by the California Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

The audience was ready for the dramz.

Migden added that the fight for marriage equality was "the most important civil rights issue in this century."

On the topic of health care reform, all candidates agreed the system needed a complete overhaul. However, they differed on the possibility of a single-payer universal healthcare system. Leno spoke about the single-payer health care bill he proposed in 2006. According to Migden, "It is very far from reality."

Veronese agreed with Migden, but said, "We do have universal healthcare but you have to be in San Quentin to get it." Leno responded saying, "It's a sad joke because it's deplorable that we don't have universal healthcare in prisons. People are dying in our prisons."

Before posing another question to the candidates, Michelle "Meow" commented, "They warned me it would be a catfight, but the claws have not come out."

Mark Leno: "Nice debate, Carole." Carole Migden: "If you eff-up my manicure, I will cut you!"

On the topic of improving the California prison system, Midgen said, "We need to get rid of the third strike." She also discussed the importance of incarcerated individuals being rehabilitated and re-introduced into society. Veronese added that ex-cons should also receive rehabilitation services to help them get off welfare and "learn the pride of getting a paycheck."

Leno promised to amend the Three-Strikes law, and said, "I have the backbone to stand up against Prop 83, Jessica's Law." This led to a recount of Migden friend Michael Calbruno's accusation in his personal blog that Leno was a "kiddie porn king" for opposing Prop 83. Migden rebutted saying, "We're here to talk about our records, not useless trash."

Midgen and Leno famously pledged not to run negative campaigns, but didn't do much to uphold the pledge during the debate. Leno said, "I will keep my pledge." He recounted his competitive races in 2000 and 2003, and claimed he didn't make negative hits against his opponents. An audience member shouted something in defiance, but remained quiet.

Veronese said, "I get along with both candidates as long as they talk to me."

"There's been very little withholding to the pledge," Migden countered. She claimed the Leno-commissioned blogs were negative and sexist, but "I rise above it."

As the incumbent, Migden came across as entitled and, as one audience member commented, "She's trying to do her best Joan Crawford." Migden even touched up her makeup during the debate, which didn't win her any fabolosity points with me. (Re-applying one's makeup in public is always a no-no.) But I still loved it.

However, Migden's diva performance didn't hold a candle to Veronese's mother, Angela Alioto, who arrived fashionably late enough to make a dramatic entrance.

Angela Alioto obvs doesn't leave the house
without the It Girl essentials:
Makeup, jewelry, sunglasses, and a small purse-sized chien.

There's always an after-party…

Of course, it wouldn't be a debate without an after-party at a local watering hole. An eclectic mix of Leno supporters, Migden supporters, and those unaffiliated with any candidate gathered at Harrington's Pub to discuss the debate and gossip. There was no shouting, no fighting, and no name-calling. Seriously.

2010 District 6 Supervisor candidate Deborah Walker arrived late and informed us that she and her threesome of heroes helped prevent a murder on their way over. Good job, guys!

Although it's too early to determine who will win the election, there was a universal sense of excitement over such a contested race. The stakes are high, the lines are drawn, but people want to see a real election for a change.

Fog City Journal publisher Luke Thomas
Photo by Marc Salomon

To democracy and Bruce Wolfe who announced
he will be running for College School Board (again).

Longtime Milk Club member, Rick Hauptman (center), kept time during the debate.

Marc Salomon re-enacts prying the camera out of Luke Thomas' hands.

h. brown

Frank Chu returns with an updated message from outer space.

Beyond Chron's Paul Hogarth, Elaine Santore, and Karen Babbitt.





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