FCJ Interview with Mayoral Candidate Tony Hall

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in News, Politics

Published on June 26, 2011 with 2 Comments

Mayoral candidate Tony Hall. Photo by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

June 27, 2011

FCJ: Thank you for agreeing to do this interview for Fog City Journal. How is your campaign for mayor going?

TH: Very well. We are right where we want to be at this time. We have a great team, a dedicated crew of volunteers and have built a good foundation. We are going to give the voters a chance to vote for something that they haven’t had in many years – a mayor that works for them and serves their needs first as opposed to a political agenda; a mayor who is not running for higher office and who is not part of the political machine that is running this City.

FCJ: What political machine are you referring to?

TH: The politicians, the pay- to-play insiders, and the downtown interests that currently dictate policy that is contrary to the common good.  

FCJ: What qualifies you to run for Mayor?

TH: My experience, which I think may be more than what all the other candidates have combined. In addition to being a Supervisor and former Director of Treasure Island, I have over 25-years experience as an executive administrator in seven different City departments covering all three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. Many of the programs and projects that I worked on in those departments served the residents of this City well and are still in place today. I know how to handle budgets, direct personnel and allocate resources in the most efficient and effectual manner.

FCJ: What did you accomplish as a supervisor?

TH: As supervisor, I delivered on all campaign promises I made during my 2000 campaign. The restoration for Lake Merced for the environmentalists, the rebuild of Laguna Honda Home for our seniors, the rebuild of Harding Park for our recreational needs, and the restoration of the Ocean Avenue business corridor. We passed an initiative regarding bond oversight, and proposed legislation relating to home ownership, safe and clean streets, and reducing bureaucracy. I was only able to accomplish this because I reached across political ideologies and worked with other supervisors like Matt Gonzalez who had the common good at heart. But really, I see my greatest accomplishment – the thing of which I am most proud – is standing up to the pay-to-play insiders at Treasure Island.  I risked everything including my career.

FCJ: Tell us about your time at Treasure Island.

TH: As the Executive Director of Treasure Island, I doubled the amount of business there, brought in the film industry, built some of the most wonderful athletic facilities in the Bay area, and greatly increased the quality of life for some of the poorest of residents. My contract as director was not renewed when I refused to sign the sweetheart contracts for the development of Treasure Island that were being illegally pushed by Gavin Newsom to placate his political donors. It was a sad day for San Francisco because it thwarted the only realistic plan for the future of Treasure Island that I had been working on with the Navy. What they are doing there right now is a travesty. There are at least a billion dollars in pre-development costs that will never be financed in this environment by any bank.  They want to build skyscrapers on landfills on a seismic fault. They want to plant organic gardens on toxic soil. To put people’s lives in such danger, and mislead the public is so wrong. But anyway, I have made my case over and over, and the decision-making process regarding Treasure Island appears to be closed as the current Board of Supervisors and the interim mayor are all for it.

FCJ: Why did you go to Treasure Island in the first place?

TH: I had been a city executive for over 25 years before my term as supervisor. As a supervisor, I had a very successful term and I delivered on every promise I made to my constituents. With Matt Gonzalez leaving the Board, and a mayor in place who put his own politician ambitions ahead of the good of the City, I figured that I could do more good for the City by developing Treasure Island into a tremendous net income for San Franciscans rather than go for another term as the lone voice of reason that was sure to be the scapegoat by a Board and mayor that was so out of touch with reality. I didn’t recognize the ambush that Newsom had set up to destroy my reputation. Thankfully, the public now knows the truth behind his play.

FCJ: Do you have any regrets from your days in elective office?

TH: Yes, I would have concentrated much harder at exposing the truth behind issues that have diminished the administration of this City into nothing more than a grab-bag for political expediency. Issues like Care Not Cash, which has resulted in enslaving the poor and homeless in a system that is costing our City ten times more to help the same number of people. I should have attacked and completely reconstituted those “commissions” that are most responsible for the greatest sin in our democratic society, that of voter fraud – without which we would have had completely different results in the 2004 races for mayor and district attorney.

FCJ: What differentiates you from the other candidates in the race?

TH: If I thought that any of the other candidates had the experience and the courage to stand up and really do what needs to be done to fix this City, I wouldn’t be in this race. They are all running for higher office, and as such, are going to do and say whatever helps get them there. How many of the other candidates do you think would have blown the whistle on those contracts at Treasure Island?  Which of these other candidates would have risked their reputations and the inevitable smears and investigations in order to stand up to corruption?  Our next mayor has to do that, or we’ll just get more of the same.

FCJ: What do you think of the other candidates in the mayoral race?

TH: I give them all respect for throwing their hat in the ring, but are any of them really any different or apart from the machine or “City family,” to use Ed Lee’s rather shallow phrase, which has been controlling this town for the past two decades? No, they are all from the same bag, spinning their sentimental yarns of do-good tales, singing kumbaya, and asking the taxpayers for more money so they can claim to do more for them. After participating in a few of these mayoral forums, I am really tired of hearing about how hard they had it growing up and what they had to undergo to get where they are. I wonder if any of them really know what is was like to grow up as a minority in a working class Italian-Irish family of eight children on the wrong side of the tracks, or could even envision raising seven children as my wife Nora and I have done in San Francisco on a civil servants salary. A few of them need to take some time off to find their inner selves first before they start telling other people how to live their lives.

FCJ: It’s my understanding that you’re not affiliated with any party. Can you explain your status?

TH: I am a true independent, and have always been that way because I believe that labels can be restrictive when trying to achieve consensus to further the common good. As a policy matter, I am a moderate, some even call me conservative, whatever – you can have those labels.  But what really defines me  is my belief that we can put an end to the handful of unelected special interests that run our City for their benefit, end the political silliness that makes us the laughing stock of the nation and return our City to its rightful destiny as one of the great cities in the world.

FCJ: What about Senator Leland Yee and City Attorney Dennis Herrera?  They appear to be the frontrunners in the race at the moment.

TH: ‘Appear’ is the right term. I am an ex-athlete and if there is one thing I know, it is the importance of timing in a competition. Leland is another machine player who on the surface appears to have fallen out of favor. He has an uncanny ability to say things in such a way as to make people think he really cares. He’s a politician with higher ambitions. Dennis’ campaign seems to be imploding amidst all of the insider and lobbyist shenanigans that he has been involved with.

FCJ: What issues are constituents mostly talking about?

TH: People want honest representation. They want real solutions to the problems facing our City. They want someone who cares about them and not higher office. They’ve had enough of politics based on spin and expediency.  I think people are starting to once again look at virtues like honesty, integrity and loyalty.

The main issues I am hearing about today are the pension and health liabilities, run-down streets and facilities, lack of transparency at City Hall, excessive regulation and red tape, and the basic lack of primary services.

FCJ: What is your position on the pension and health care costs problem?

TH: We have this problem because of a downturn in the market that is not giving our retirement system investments a return that would equal the promises made by former mayors who doled out raises and benefits for political gain. I did not support Prop B last year because I had hoped for a better solution that truly addressed unfunded liabilities. Now that I’ve seen Ed Lee’s “City Family” proposal, it’s even less of a solution.  I predict that by November, that pension deal will stink like rotting fish.  How can anyone defend it as anything but a politically driven, election-year effort to head off [Public Defender] Jeff Adachi’s revised measure?  It’s nowhere near a serious solution.  Saving $70 million dollars a year against what the City Controller’s own numbers say will be at least a $5 billion dollar problem?   It still leaves $700 million a year in ongoing overruns after that. And still they got almost the entire leadership of this city and every other candidate in this mayor’s race to stand with a straight face at Lee’s press conference.  So Jeff Adachi wants to offer an alternative, and their response is to say ‘he’s not part of the city family?’ I went into this campaign saying I wanted a negotiated deal, not a ballot initiative. I’m deeply disappointed in the deal that emerged, and more than that , I’m fearful for the opportunity lost to actually solve the problem. There is a solution to this problem that involves the City keeping its promises to all those now vetted in the system, yet having the liabilities eradicated over a period of time by a level of contributions from all new hires.  I’m more determined than ever to make sure the people of San Francisco focus on this issue in this election. If that means I’m permanently excommunicated from the City Family so be it.  Let them try . I promise you, my City Family is larger than theirs.

FCJ: So you consider yourself not part of the so-called City Family?

TH: Who decides that? An unelected mayor who says he speaks for the “City Family?”  I’m sorry, but someone, someone running for mayor needs to say it aloud: The use of the “City Family” phrase is divisive and autocratic. It’s like saying ‘this city belongs to us insiders.’ Well, no it doesn’t – this City belongs to its people.  How is it possible that I am the only candidate in this race is willing to say that’s wrong?

FCJ: Though he has repeatedly said he will not run, what’s your take on Ed Lee going against his word and running?

TH: Ed should only get in the race if he is willing to do the things that he knows are in the best interests for all the residents of this City. Having been appointed by the “City Family,” or what I would call the machine, he will be severely limited in his ability to do what really needs to be done for the average person. The Run Ed Run campaign is nothing more than a veiled attempt by the machine to preserve the mayors office for one of their own.

FCJ: What do you think of the candidacies of David Chiu, Michela Alioto-Pier, Phil Ting and Bevan Dufty?  They all seem to be vying for the same centrist-voting bloc.

TH: They are all politically ambitious people looking to build their political careers. Many have no executive experience so it’s hard to see how they could claim to be qualified for the job in these difficult times. A few of them need to find themselves first before they start telling other people how to live their lives.

The Mayor’s position is an executive position.  It is a position that requires leadership and management skills. I think that experience will count.

FCJ: How is your relationship with your former aide Sean Elsbernd?

TH: Sean and I really haven’t communicated since he signed on as the errand boy for the machine.  Politics does strange things to people whose goal is to advance up the political ladder. I was disappointed in his involvement in the phony ethics smear that was orchestrated to disparage my reputation, but he has maintained some credible positions on the Board, and I wish him the best.

FCJ: This is the first time Ranked Choice Voting will be used in a competitive mayor’s race in San Francisco. Are you recommending to your supporters a second place vote for any of your fellow contenders in the race?

TH: No, I am not, because my platform is based on real reform and taking on the status quo, and so it is different than any of the other candidates.

FCJ: What about John Avalos?  What do you make of his candidacy?

TH: Avalos is marketing himself as the current progressive standard-bearer. But there he is, essentially supporting this election-year pension deal that threatens the future of almost every city service and program progressives care about this election year. He supports the Treasure Island hoax backed by the City Family’s financiers.  That’s progressive?  No wonder the movement’s in trouble. The progressives have some very genuine issues worth supporting especially when it comes to good, honest and transparent government, but I don’t see Avalos as the person to carry those issues when he is pandering to certain elements of the labor movement that are demanding and unrealistic.

FCJ: What would Mayor Tony Hall be like?  What would your style of governance be?

TH: My style of governance is very simple. It is designed for the advancement of the common good. It is for placing the interests of people over politics, something that this City has not had in many years.  As mayor, I will immediately set out to re-prioritize our administrative policies to insure that all residents of our City are served, protected, and safe so that they once again feel proud to live in San Francisco – a San Francisco that will return to its destiny as one of the greatest city’s in the world. That is my vision.

FCJ: What is your platform based on?

TH: It is a platform that I have refined over 30 years experience of knowing how the City is functioning versus what it should be functioning like. It consists of solutions to six elements that I consider absolutely essential for good government.

FCJ: What are those six elements?

TH: The elimination of corruption and pay to play politics that has bankrupted our City.

(2) To promote the economy, small businesses and jobs so that our youth are not forced to go elsewhere to seek a future. We can do this by eliminating the fees, hidden costs and unnecessary red tape that now discourages a healthy business climate in San Francisco. Streamline the permitting process for all start-up businesses and construction and remodeling projects in order to create jobs. Support a program of payroll tax incentives for businesses that prove they will hire locally. Re-prioritize hotel tax revenues to promote tourism – our number one industry. Lower parking meter rates to encourage patronage of our local businesses

(3) Total Budgetary and Fiscal Responsibility.

(4) Complete Administrative Accountability.

(5) A safe, clean and well maintained City.

(6) An honest, open and transparent administration that serves the needs of the people first.

FCJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?

TH: I very much appreciate the opportunity to relate my thoughts to you, Luke. It is very hard for someone like me to get exposure from the media because of my independence. This City needs a working mayor who is not afraid to engage in a truthful and meaningful fashion so that the best solutions to our various problems can be collectively addressed to the benefit of the common good. I don’t get involved in something unless I feel that I can contribute in a positive way for the betterment of others. I know this is not an easy undertaking but, thankfully, I have a large and loving family and many friends who are supporting me in this endeavor. I am willing to do all I can for the people of this City, but it is ultimately up to them as to how they want their City run. They have a chance to elect someone who will work for them first or just get more of the same. I think the time is here that those silent San Franciscans who truly love this City are willing to step up and be counted.

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 SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. 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 FCJ Interview with Mayoral Candidate Tony Hall are now closed.

  1. Thank you. Tony Hall makes too much sense.
    “The City Family” is like SF’s Insider Cosa Nostra. Access to the Pension funds, and Heath Care funds, is an unspoken part of the story.
    “Our City’ truly needs an independent who is not beholden to any of the bosses and usual suspects. People first–now that would be “progressive”.

  2. A very informative interview, Tony Hall makes a lot of sense and as an independent he is not beholding to any of the political machines that run or tries to run San Francisco.