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Jim Meko

Daly and the Seven Dwarfs

By Jim Meko

October 1, 2006

Rob Black slammed District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly last week for stalling Mayor Gavin Newsom's $2.5 million request for police overtime. “We have had over 66 murders and are on pace to meet the 10-year high this year and Chris is even refusing to have a hearing on public safety,” charged Black. Daly had simply asked to see the specifics of the Mayor's plan. Newsom's anti-violence proposal was more a press release than a policy.

Well, good morning SoMa. Welcome to the 2006 race for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Seven challengers have lined up this Fall against Daly, with Black receiving Newsom's endorsement. The same downtown interests that tried to knock off Daly in two previous elections have endorsed Black and are blanketing District 6 with scurrilous hit pieces. Their polling suggests that discontent over public safety and quality of life issues might resonate with District 6 voters. All seven challengers are targeting this so-called pissed-off electorate.

Campaigning in the gutter

SoMa-based lawyer Matt Drake rails: "Our streets are not toilets! In virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco, this behavior would not be tolerated. In District 6, however, the city continues to allow our streets to be used as toilets. We can all smell the effects. This is unacceptable."

Manuel Jiminez, who bills himself as the "quality of life candidate" opines, "Allowing criminals to thrive in the city is not a responsible 'progressive' position. It is an abdication of responsibility by our government. Help me tell our government to stop pandering to the monied interests and political issue junkies that dominate their agenda."

And Black concludes, "Individuals who refuse help and yet continue to harm communities by aggressive panhandling, public intoxication and narcotic use, and relieving themselves in public should be accountable to the communities they harm."

An independent mailer paid for by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association thunders: "Many District 6 residents are frustrated with dirty streets, poor sanitary conditions near their homes and street crime. Rob Black supports enforcement of quality-of-life laws, like the public urination and defecation ban. Chris Daly opposes these laws." Pee, poo and panhandling are defining the most lackluster campaign since the return of district elections.

Under our "strong Mayor" city charter, the Mayor appoints all department heads, including Police and Public Works, and they answer to him alone. If you have a problem with pee or poo, call the mayor. If Daly were to meddle in the operation of these city departments, Newsom's press flack Peter Ragone would be all over him, charging abuse of power under color of authority.

We're voting for a legislator

The Supervisor who represents District 6 is part of the legislative branch of government, a role centered around the creation of legislation. By all accounts, Daly is the most prolific and effective member of the Board in this respect.

In the two years that he chaired the Budget and Finance Committee, Daly delivered a balanced budget that filled many gaps in funding cuts in the Mayor's original proposals. This year's budget restored $28 million to affordable housing and tenant protection programs. In other legislative accomplishments, Daly prevented the loss of 360 rent-controlled apartments by brokering a landmark development agreement for Trinity Plaza, convinced Rincon Hill developers to contribute $50 million toward improving the community's infrastructure and ushered in neighborhood notification and chain store controls in the Western SoMa zoning districts.

Based on the current demographics of District 6, Daly is almost guaranteed reelection. His base of support is found in the Tenderloin, around the 6th Street corridor and in the North Mission. But he also enjoys strong support among small business owners, families in the residential enclaves, organized labor and from those engaged in the arts and in the entertainment industry.

Demonizing the poor

These emotional appeals are in reality a Karl Rovian attempt to divide the electorate by race, class and economic status. Polling suggests a wedge can be driven between Daly's traditional base and the growing number of wealthy condo owners settling in SoMa. Pee, poo, panhandling, police and public safety are all code words that, when you get right down to it, play off of the sensitivities of those who have made large investments in housing in an area that's in transition and reflect a distaste for the poorest elements in society.

I long for the quality of candidates who ran against Chris Daly the Mission housing activist in the first round of district elections back in 2000: Hank Wilson, dedicated AIDS activist; Denise D'Anne, elegant and erudite city hall insider; Joan Roughgarden, Stanford professor and environmentalist; Mark Salomon, passionate Green Party intellectual; h. brown, political satirist ... and even James Leo Dunn, the dapper gentleman who ran on a promise to employ the homeless digging a tunnel under Nob Hill, providing them with housing in its network of catacombs.

Dunn passed away recently but the others are all still fighting for their community.

On the other hand, Chris Dittenhaffer, Roger Gordon, Michael Sweet and Burke Strunsky -- all favored by the downtown interests currently backing Black -- are nowhere to be found.

Candidates who exploit economic disparities and run polarizing campaigns to further their own ambitions belong in the political dumpster. The pee and poo politics of these seven dwarfs make James Leo Dunn's tunnel concept sound downright presidential. Six months from now, you don't really expect any of them to be contributing to this community, do you?

Jim Meko is a South of Market activist, currently serving as chair of both the SoMa Leadership Council and the Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force and as a member of San Francisco's Entertainment Commission. Here at the Fog City Journal, of course, he's expressing his own personal opinions.

Jim can be reached at jim.meko@comcast.net.




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