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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.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Nevena Predolac

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 SFPartyParty.com and a member of the Chicken Group.

Ted Strauser of SFPartyparty.com takes questions
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 clucked.

Chicken 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 its wings.

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 one."

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," she said.




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