Newsom town hall meeting draws criticism
from chicken protest group
Mayor Gavin Newsom gives a thumbs up to city efforts to end homelessness
while a member of The Chicken Group simultaneously gives a thumbs
up to "Question Time" during Saturday's district town
hall meeting at the Richmond Recreational Center.
January 15, 2007
Some 200 attendees, an unusually large pack of news media outlets,
a phalanx of mayoral department heads, a homelessness panel and
six chicken-suited protestors, all descended on the Richmond District
Recreation Center, Saturday, to witness the first test of Question
Time (Measure I), and to engage in a panel discussion on homelessness.
Measure I, a non-binding measure passed by voters in November,
requests the mayor of San Francisco to attend monthly board meetings
at City Hall to answer questions related to policy from Supervisors.
Mayor Gavin Newsom, instead, has chosen his regularly scheduled
district town hall meetings to satisfy the will of voters but
has come under fire for scripting the town hall meetings to avoid
answering the tough questions.
Newsom introduced his first district meeting of 2007 as "an
opportunity to talk to people in the community about their frustrations
on specific issues," but limited the two-hour meeting to
a discussion on homelessness.
In the carefully scripted meeting, Newsom ensured his exemption
from being held to account for his policies by selecting questions
from attendees written on question cards.
Mayor Gavin Newsom with question cards.
Questions on homelessness Newsom couldn't answer himself; he
deflected to his panel that included Former Board President Angela
Alioto, Father Harding from St. Anthony Foundation, Head of the
Department of Human Services Trent Rohrer, Episcopal Community
Services Executive Director Kenneth Reggio, and Department of
Recreation and Parks Executive Director Yomi Agunbiade.
District Supervisors did not attend the meeting out of protest
for what was expected to be a filibuster on Measure I and an infomercial
on Newsom administration efforts to end homelessness. On January
9, Supervisors solidified their support for the will of voters
voting 10-1 to set aside every third board meeting of each month
for the mayor to participate in "Question Time."
Before the meeting began, protesters, including The Chicken Group,
spoke to reporters clicking and clucking their discontent over
Newsom's refusal to attend board meetings at City Hall.
"If it talks like a chicken, walks like a chicken, it's
probably a chicken," explained publisher Ted Strauser of
a member of the Chicken Group.
Ted Strauser of SFPartyparty.com
from Fog City Journal intern reporter, Nevena Predolac.
Another member of the Chicken Group, who went by the name of
Chicken McGreen, accused the mayor of forsaking San Francisco
for the sake of Washington D.C.
"His job is to be the Mayor of San Francisco. His job is
not to run for governor, not to run for senator. It's not to chase
photo-ops and press releases all over the world," McGreen
Although Newsom ignored the chickens in the audience, homelessness
tzarina Angela Alioto acknowledged their presence asking what
the chickens have done lately to help end homelessness.
"Instead of sitting around in chicken costumes, what have
you done lately?" she asked to wide applause.
Former Board President and homelessness tsarina Angela Alioto.
The chickens responded with a few feint cock-a-doodle-doos and
one brazen chicken could be heard heckling inaudibles at the back
of the recreation center while jumping up and down and flapping
Alioto, herself a proponent of question time in board chambers,
has urged Newsom to comply with Measure I but expressed hope that
question time sessions "will always be dignified."
She also distinguished Newsom from previous San Francisco mayors
as "the first mayor to face homelessness face on, one on
Alioto urged all San Franciscans to help homeless people seek
short-term shelters. She also lauded the accomplishments of the
Council to End Homelessness, which she said has secured 2434 permanent
supportive housing units for homeless clients since the council
was formed ten years ago.
"When you see someone literally sleeping in the street,
please call somebody, call me, call my law firm, call anybody,"