Meko Kicks Off Campaign for D6 Supe

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Opinion, Politics

Published on June 24, 2009 with 5 Comments

SOMA activist Jim Meko officially kicked off his campaign Tuesday in the 2010 race for District 6 Supervisor. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

June 24, 2009

San Francisco Entertainment Commissioner and long time South of Market land use activist, Jim Meko, held his campaign kickoff event yesterday for the 2010 race for District 6 Supervisor.

Joined by supporters and campaign volunteers at his printing business on 10th Street, Meko said his campaign aims to attract a broad coalition of interests across the district to support his candidacy.

“This is going to be whole different campaign,” Meko said. We’re going to pull together a coalition of those who really care about this District.”

District 6 is regarded as one of the most politically diverse districts in San Francisco encompassing the North and Inner Mission, Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, Hayes Valley, Civic Center, as well as Treasure Island and downtown.

“The way it’s usually done in these races is you draw a big line down 4th Street and you pretty much kiss off east of 4th Street. That goes to the Rob Black’s, the Chris Dittenhoffer’s, or whoever else downtown puts up,” Meko said of candidates that a consortium of corporate downtown interests have supported in previous contests to carry a development agenda on its behalf. “And then you fight like hell for all of the Progressive precincts on the west side of 4th Street.”

The history of District 6 is peppered with struggles over land use issues dating back to the early 1950s when the Bay Area Council, headed by Benjamin Swig, used its financial and political muscle to raze entire working class neighborhoods to make way for the construction of the Moscone Center and the Yerba Buena Center, as well as high-rise office complexes and hotels.

Efforts to resist the displacement of thousands of SOMA residents were ultimately unsuccessful. However, SOMA neighborhoods west of 4th street were largely saved from the bulldozer.

With the passage of Proposition M in 1986, downtown high-rise office development has been restricted to 500,000 square feet per year spurring a shift to market rate housing development with the undesirable effect of further gentrifying the district and making housing unaffordable to most working class families and San Franciscans.

Subsequent efforts to impose impact mitigation fees as well as forcing developers to build a mix of market rate and affordable housing has had mixed results.

“I have been absolutely stunned by the depth of his knowledge and his ability to help manage conflicts, bring people together, figure out creative solutions to all of the kinds of issues that face us in the neighborhood,” Gayle Rubin, a professor of history at the University of Michigan who specializes in LGBT issues, said of Meko’s candidacy.

“I think he would make a dynamic, fabulous, well-informed, and extremely able supervisor,” Rubin added.

Former Democratic County Central Committee member Gerry Crowley, who said she will buck the Democratic Party line, if necessary, to support Meko, said: “Jim Meko has been an activist like none I have ever seen South of Market, and that includes Debra Walker, Chris Daly etcetera, and I usually go with the Party line like the Democratic Party Central Committee, but I am certainly breaking with them in supporting Jim.”

“One of the things that impresses me most about Jim – as we all know his Progressive leanings – it’s really about everyone having an equal voice and rational discussion,” added Western Soma Task Force Vice Chair Toby Levy.

“He really tries to bring everybody into one tent and have us agree on principles as opposed to politics. We may not agree on everything, but I think everybody will be heard and respected, and I think all that’s really critical in a supervisor,” Levy said.

As in previous contests for open seats on the Board of Supervisors, the 2010 District 6 race is expected to become crowded and contentious. So far seven candidates –Mathew Drake, Jeff Gustavson, John Markham, Mark Schwartz, David Villa-lobos, Debra Walker and Jim Meko – have filed papers with the Department of Elections indicating their intentions to run.

Meko said it is too early in the race to have secured big name endorsements but said the campaign fundraising effort “is going extremely well.”

Following his short kickoff speech, Fog City Journal conducted a short interview with Meko to talk about his candidacy and the issues facing District 6.

FCJ: Why are you running?

JM: Because I don’t see any other candidate out there who is seriously interested in bringing this whole District together. I just see divisive politics, left and right, and that’s just not the way I work.

FCJ: This is a diverse district with so many varying interests. What will be your campaign message to attract a diversity of interests to support your candidacy?

JM: You’d be amazed at how many issues involve everybody that lives in this District. No matter how different you are. If you’re a Filipino family in the alleys raising kids, or you’re a young single person who’s just moved into a condo, the issues really transcend those kinds of differences.

Everybody’s concerned about safety. Everybody wants cleanliness. Everybody would like to see a complete neighborhood. That’s the case in the Tenderloin and it’s the case in the North Mission, South of Market, everywhere, and I know how to do that.

FCJ: What do you consider to be the most pressing issue facing this District?

JM: Socio-economic justice. Clearly there are serious challenges as to the demographics of this City. Who is living here? Who is working here? And we need to give serious consideration to what we’re doing with the planning infrastructure in this City. What is San Francisco like now and what’s it going to be like in the next ten or twenty years?

FCJ: What is your vision for District 6 over the next ten to twenty years?

JM: I fear for District 6. Probably a much better answer to why I’m running is that I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen to this District because of the amount of market rate housing that’s crowding out good jobs and working class families. We really need to back up and take a look at what we’re doing to this whole District.

FCJ: One of the big problems in this District is the vagrancy issue, particularly in the Tenderloin with human defecation and urination on the streets. This seems to be a perennial problem in this District.

JM: “You’ve got that on every corner in South of Market. I came home from my Western Soma Task Force meeting one night, just one of the worst meetings I ever attended. We argued about using the word ‘equitable’ for two and half hours and my head hurt so bad and somebody had done it (defecated) in my doorway.”

FCJ: What would you do differently to address this problem?

JM: “Well, first of all you get out your hose. You don’t get on the phone and tell your supervisor. But, on the other hand, if I’m your supervisor I’m going to be leaning on the mayor and the Department of Public Works to give this District every bit as good a service as Pacific Heights, the Marina, and all the other areas of the City. And that really is the big difference here: we don’t get equitable service from the City agencies that are responsible for this.

FCJ: Are you saying that the City is practicing a form of economic prejudice?

JM: Absolutely. You know, that’s another thing that’s done to divide us. It’s just the way politicians seem to think. You keep people on edge. You keep people angry. You keep people intolerant. This campaign is going to be way beyond the angry and the intolerant. It’s going to be a coalition of those who really care about this District, and there are thousands and thousands of them.

FCJ: How are you going to win this race if you don’t get the Democratic Party endorsement?

JM: District 6 is not accustomed to being told what to do. I understand that the established political structure outside of this District has its favorites, and that’s fine, but they don’t vote in this District and we’ll see what District 6 actually wants to do about it.

FCJ: Is it possible to run as a Progressive and garner the support of downtown interests as it relates to smart growth and development?

JM: This is a really good question. SPUR (San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association) talks an awful lot about smart growth, but most of the proposals I hear from them are some of the dumbest things ever.

I don’t mind tall buildings. I don’t mind market rate housing. It’s just that developers have a responsibility to the rest of the community.

I fully expect a lot of people that are “downtown” will support my candidacy. They’ve been wasting their votes for the last three elections for crying out loud and you don’t need to throw away your vote on somebody from the Chamber of Commerce, or someone who was moved in at the last minute to the District.

I work with people in development circles all the time and we may not agree on everything but they’ve come to at least trust me and they know that my word is good, and I think they would much rather have that on the Board of Supervisors than somebody who’s cutting deals and telling one crowd of people one thing and another crowd something else.

I’m not going to do that. I will tell downtown people the same thing I tell the people over on 6th Street.

Jim Meko with John and Michael Nulty.

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Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Comments for Meko Kicks Off Campaign for D6 Supe are now closed.

  1. The reason I chose to support Jim is because Jim has no problem rolling up his sleeves and getting into the trenches, not just the edges. Anyone can be seen at a rally, but Jim is the rally.

  2. Shutterbug,

    What I’m saying is that you have another scoop. No other news outlet in town is covering the developing (and highly fascinating) story of this race.

    You get total photos and coverage of CA10 and City D6 and a hundred dead beats cash a check to copy your stuff?


  3. Shutterbug,

    This is a great piece which would beat any other piece in the place about the subject but no one else is in the arena watching what is happening and relating it to the people who will actually determine who will be the supe.

    Meko is pure democracy. Walker is pure Democratic Party.
    She’s a nice person but we do not need more machine.

    Nuff said,


  4. When asked what he would do about people urinating and defecating on the sidewalk, Jim Meko said:

    “Well, first of all you get out your hose. You don’t get on the phone and tell your supervisor. But, on the other hand, if I’m your supervisor I’m going to be leaning on the mayor and the Department of Public Works to give this District every bit as good a service as Pacific Heights, the Marina, and all the other areas of the City.”

    What about enforcing the laws against urinating and defecating in public?

    Or is that asking for too much?

  5. “The way it’s usually done in these races is you draw a big line down 4th Street and you pretty much kiss off east of 4th Street. ”

    Kiss off East of 4th Street? Wow. Jim, you could try and engage with the people East of 4th Street.

    What a bunker mentality you have. I sincerely hope you are not elected a supe and voting on matters that would affect all San Franciscans.

    Is there any other parts of San Francisco you believe should be kissed off? We progressives used to be open minded and engaging…now, more and more we have become dismissive and getting into “us versus them” scenario. Our City is in decline.