I’m Not Running, But Here’s Who Is

I’m not running for District 8 Supervisor. There, I said it.

And while the election is 21 months away, it’s already getting hot in here.

This is going to be the biggest Supervisor race in 2010.  The district includes the Castro, Noe Valley, Glen Park, Diamond Heights, the Inner Mission.  It hosts a wide range of interests, including gay tenants and realtors, Noe Valley moms, Mission hipsters, bike commuters and park enthusiasts.  D8 residents are a passionate and politically active bunch.  The district is home to an inconceivable number of neighborhood groups, political clubs and merchant associations, whose members are very active and whose endorsements are closely followed.

Eight is the largest district in voter turnout by a long shot  – in 2006, 37,000 voters cast their ballot for Supervisor in District 8,  compared to 20,000 in District 2 (Pacific Heights/Marina) and a mere 14,000 in District 10 (Potrero/Bayview).  To illustrate the  point, chew on this:  I lost my race with only 30% of the vote, and yet I earned more votes in 2006 than either Supervisors Chris Daly or Sophie Maxwell, both of whom were re-elected that year.  Ha!

Many people are rumored to be running in District 8, but the candidates to watch are Rafael Mandelman, Laura Spanjian, Rebecca Prozan and Scott Wiener.

I listed the candidates in order of their political leanings: Rafael being the most lefty, Scott the most right-y of the four.  I might be wrong; it’s still very early, and so the candidates haven’t yet started positioning themselves.  No one has a campaign website up yet (way too early for that), though Rafael, Laura and Scott still have sites up for their 2008 race for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC): here, here and here.  Rebecca has a personal blog.

First, the similarities: All are openly gay, all are registered Democrats, and all have paid their dues politically.

Rafael Mandelman has consistently aligned himself with labor.  He is a proponent of tenants rights and alternative transportation, and he’s president of the left-leaning Harvey Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.   A graduate of Yale, Harvard and Berkeley, he works as a land use attorney for public agencies and affordable housing developers.  He has served as chair of the Noe Valley Democratic Club, and he lives across the street from Dolores Park.  After a brief stint on the SF Building Inspection Commission, he was recently appointed to the city’s powerful Board of Appeals.  Politically, he is most closely aligned with Carole Migden, who lost her State Senate re-election bid last year to Mark Leno in a nasty fight and huge political upset.  Migden’s got some free time these days, and Rafael is probably hoping she’ll wield her formidable fundraising abilities on his behalf.  In his DCCC race, he was endorsed by a wide range of folks, including labor and the environmental groups, though he was able to get some moderate endorsements as well.

Laura Spanjian has recently moved to the Inner Mission from Noe Valley, and like Rafael, has served on the Board of the Noe Valley Democrats.   She is close to both former Treasurer (and former SF Public Utilities Commission General Manager) Susan Leal and Democratic Party Chair (and former President of the Board of Supervisors) Aaron Peskin.  Laura is smart and savvy, having graduated from UCLA and Stanford, and having figured out how to hold onto her job as the Assistant General Manager of the SFPUC after her mentor Susan Leal was ousted.  I hear Laura has lined up Jim Stearns – the progressive campaign consultant and political powerhouse – to run her campaign.  Laura threw all her eggs in the Hillary Clinton basket last year, representing Clinton at the Democratic convention and serving on her LGBT national leadership committee.  As for her ideological leanings, she has been able to straddle the left/right line so far, though she won’t be able to do this for long once the campaign begins in earnest.  She also served as Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, which is widely considered to be the moderate-to-conservative gay rights group in town (if an LGBT rights group can be called conservative) (…only in San Francisco).  Scott and Rebecca have also served as Co-Chairs of Alice.

Rebecca Prozan has worked in political jobs for former Mayor (and SF Chronicle columnist) Willie Brown, District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty and District Attorney (and Attorney General candidate) Kamala Harris.  (Go Kamala!)  A graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Golden Gate University, she currently serves as an Assistant DA.  Along with her boss, Rebecca was an early supporter of Barack Obama, who named her to his LGBT Leadership Committee.  She has also served as a Commissioner with the SF Recreation and Parks Department, and she lives in the Castro with her partner.  In 2003, while managing Kamala Harris’ campaign to unseat DA Terence Hallinan, Rebecca was busted trying to infiltrate Hallinan’s campaign email list with a false identity.  Look out, D8 candidates, Rebecca’s in it to win it.

Scott Wiener might be the best known of the four candidates.  As Chair of the SF Democratic Party until last year, he was able to feature himself prominently on Democratic Party mailers to improve his own name recognition citywide.  Last year newly-elected DCCC member Aaron Peskin staged (and won) a great battle of left-versus-right against Scott, promising to align the party with San Francisco’s more progressive values.   Scott is a moderate Democrat, and affiliated with the more conservative Democratic groups in town including the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club and Plan C (“The Moderate Voice of San Francisco”) (in San Francisco, moderate IS conservative, IMHO).  He was endorsed in his last race by the Police Officers Association, a landlord group, and the right-leaning City Democratic Club.  A graduate of Duke and Harvard, Scott works as a litigator in the City Attorney’s office defending the City in police-related lawsuits and MUNI accident claims.  His loyalties lie with Mayor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Mark Leno, and his boss, City Attorney Dennis Herrera.  Scott has recently become involved with (and elected chair of) the small-but-vocal Eureka Valley Promotion Association, whose focus is “quality of life” issues in the Castro, cleaning up the streets while encouraging gentrification.

Scott, Laura and Rebecca will split the moderate vote. They have a long list of common allies, and they have all served as Co-Chair of the moderate gay group in town.  They each worked on incumbent Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s campaign in 2006 (as did other candidates rumored to be running), and so I think Dufty is likely to stay out.  Their mutual friends are faced with the difficult choice of (1) damaging important political relationships by endorsing one over the others, (2) opting out of the race completely, or (3) diluting their endorsement by picking all three.  I don’t envy them.

Rafael, Rebecca and Scott are all lawyers. And, strangely, all three are Jewish – which J Magazine will find very interesting. It seems that being Jewish is a requirement for winning in District 8, though this factor is not dispositive.  Past winners Mark Leno and Bevan Dufty are Jewish, but so are losing candidates Eileen Hansen and Alix Rosenthal.

Based on my direct personal experience, I think Rebecca and Laura have an uphill battle based on their gender. The District has the highest proportion of male voters in the City, the Castro tends to vote for men, and everyone knows all the lesbians have moved to Bernal Heights (District 9).  I doubt the women’s groups will get engaged in either candidate’s campaign, since Rebecca and Laura have been less involved in these organizations than the many fantastic candidates rumored to be running for Supervisor in Districts 2, 4, 6 and 10.

But here’s the most interesting part: Rafael, Laura and Scott all sit on the Central Committee of the SF Democratic Party.  They will all be running for re-election in June 2010 in a district that includes, but is larger than, District 8.  They will be able to raise money for this race simultaneously with their supervisorial campaigns, and there is no campaign contribution limit for the DCCC. Therefore, anyone who maxes out (at $500) on Scott’s or Rafael’s or Laura’s supe campaign can donate an unlimited amount to his or her DCCC committee. The candidates will have to be careful about how they advertise themselves using DCCC campaign money, but to be sure, they will all be focusing their DCCC resources on one special corner of the district.  My advice to Rebecca Prozan: Run for DCCC.

In the 2008 DCCC race, all three incumbents were defending their seats.  Rafael raised and spent $12,000, Laura raised and spent $24,000, and Scott raised and spent $30,000.  [Though this is somewhat hard to discern in Scott’s files with the San Francisco Ethics Commission – his most recent form is missing some important information, and his treasurer filed no fewer than 11 corrected forms in January of this year for past errors made, starting in 2006.  I won’t hold this against them.  Having been a campaign treasurer, I understand how inane some of these forms can be.]  Laura came in 4th, Rafael 7th, and Scott came in 10th place, below Chris Daly.

Based on what I know about these candidates, I am endorsing Rafael Mandelman.  He is smart and energetic, and he wants the job for the right reasons.  Rafael’s values are a great fit for the district, and he knows the neighborhoods as well as anyone (except of course the incumbent Supervisor Bevan Dufty, neighborhood services guru).

But Scott has access to gobs of money, Laura has lined up the best campaign consultant in town, and Rebecca is a fierce campaigner.

Glad I have a front-row seat.

Rally for Bay to Breakers Thursday

There’s so much happening on the Bay to Breakers front that I don’t know where to start.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s Office, along with participants and advocates, have organized a rally and press conference at 11:30am Thursday morning (February 19).  Expect to see neighborhood activists, small business representatives, and members of the Outdoor Events Coalition arguing on behalf of keeping the event as weird as possible.  No one will be defending the out-of-control partiers, the public-urinators, the participants who make a mess of the place and give the race a bad name.  They’ll make the case to save Bay to Breakers, and they’ll probably offer many suggestions to make it better, including registering floats, increasing the number of johns and trash cans, adding recycling bins, increasing enforcement for public drunkenness and public urination, and same-day race registration, among others.  

There are many solutions that ING and the race organizers haven’t considered.  It’s time to have a public conversation about how to keep this important San Francisco tradition safe, clean and fun.

If you’re interested in voicing YOUR opinion, a public hearing will be held on plans for this year’s Bay to Breakers on Thursday, February 26, at 9:45am, at the Office of ISCOTT (Interdepartment Staff Committee on Traffic and Transportation, a division of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency). 1 South Van Ness,  San Francisco, Room 7080.  See you there.

Bay to Breakers Revived!

An exciting movement is afoot to save Bay to Breakers from oblivion.

Several groups have organized themselves on Facebook to keep themselves informed about the latest happenings in the movement to save B2B. Many larger groups have merged into one, claiming at least 4600 supporters as of this morning.  They are keeping each other posted with constant news about negotiations, media pieces, contacts with stakeholders.  They are researching the impact of B2B on San Francisco sales tax revenues, staging a mass divestiture from ING. And presumably these 4600+ FB supporters are keeping their powder dry for the moment they are called into action.

In today’s Chronicle, C.W. Nevius made a compelling argument that B2B is an indispensable San Francisco tradition, and that it should be kept as it is – so long as we weed out the drunk idiots and keep folks from trashing the neighborhoods. While Nevius has a reputation for being a suburban fuddy duddy, his column came as no surprise to me. He was a supporter of keeping Halloween in the Castro, arguing for planning the event with more care and common sense.

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has stepped in to negotiate on behalf of the participants. With Mirkarimi’s leadership, this new coalition is in touch with the sponsors, neighborhood groups and city officials to push back against ING.   I’m looking forward to seeing what they can accomplish.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s ON.

RIP Bay to Breakers

So apparently the forces of sobriety have gripped the last great exemplar of San Francisco’s partying ways: the annual Bay to Breakers run.  ING is this year’s sponsor of the event, and they have announced that B2B will be a dry event this year, with a zero-tolerance policy for floats, nudity and drinking along the route.

It would really be a shame to see the B2B go the way of Halloween in the Castro.  For many Bay Area residents, Bay to Breakers is the one place they feel safe to get their freak on, to try on a different persona than the one they wear every day.  Events like this are also what make San Francisco a highly entertaining place to live and to visit.  Who doesn’t love to see the super-old naked guy running alongside Dick Cheney in an orange prison jumpsuit?

This is sad news for most B2B participants, and not surprising given the sobering trend in the last few years to try to turn San Francisco into Walnut Creek. The powers-that-be have cancelled Halloween in the Castro, they’ve prohibited alcohol at many city events including the Haight Street Fair.  What’s next? No bondage gear on Folsom Street?

To be fair, I understand where ING is coming from. I went to B2B last year, and even I was shocked at just how drunk and sloppy many of the “runners” were.  And at how often I saw participants (all male, of course) urinating on trees and cars.  I was glad I didn’t live within a few blocks of the race, and that it wasn’t my job to clean up the urine, the puke and the empty beer cups along the way.

But ING doesn’t need to throw the beerbong out with the bath water.  Just because (an admittedly very large group of) participants make a mess of the race doesn’t mean you have to ruin the party for those of us who enjoy the revelry responsibly.

There are all kinds of less dramatic solutions to the problem. There is clearly a need for more portable toilets and trash cans along the route.  Organizers can encourage the police monitoring the event to cite the clearly-very-intoxicated for public drunkenness.  There’s no excuse for being so sloppy you can’t stand up.  Once cited, can we get them to scrub the sidewalks of Hayes Valley or the Haight?  That’s what we call karmic justice.

Presumably ING will be spending millions of dollars promoting the B2B event.  Why not include some educational outreach in their advertising budget?  Ask the public to party responsibly, to pack out what they bring in, to “be green” and treat their environment with care.  Treat them like adults and give ’em a chance to get it right.

There are blog posts and Facebook pages dedicated to saving the party.  Some suggest boycotting the event, and others promote partying anyway – they can’t arrest everyone, right?  But rather than asking the neighborhoods to continue to bear the brunt of a day-long outdoor roving fraternity party, why don’t we all pledge to be responsible revelers, and to encourage our friends to do the same?

On Blogging

My friends,

I offer you this daily occasional pointless drivel commentary on life in the Bay Area San Francisco. I’m most interested in sex politics and the underground art scene, especially where they intersect.  My perspective is that of someone who consumes mass quantities of Zinfandel news,  who nearly killed herself while enjoyed running for local office, still thinks Burning Man is the best freaking party in the world a fascinating experiment in intentional community, and finds humor in her own foolishness unexpected places.

I hope I have the attention span discipline to write here often, and really hope it’s worth forwarding to everyone you know reading every once in a while.

I look forward to your mockery feedback.


25 Things About 25 Things

Now that I’ve been tagged in at least twenty-five “25 Random Things About Me” notes on Facebook, I’ve made a few observations:

1. Most people can’t think of 25 interesting things to say about themselves, including me.

2. When I posted my 25 things, I tried to come up with things that very few people would have reason to know about me. I thought they were pretty cool. Like the thing about how i got my finger tip chopped off in the 5th grade. Neat!

3. The things most people think are interesting about themselves might just be the most boring.

4. For example: “I have lived in every state that starts with the letter A.” (Fascinating. That tells me so much about you!)

5. “I think Prop 8 should be overturned by the California Supreme Court!” (that’s great! everyone agrees with you on that one).

6. “My favorite color is _______”

7. “I love…” or “I hate…” [insert thing here that lots of people love or hate]

8. The thing about my finger tip being chopped off? Not that interesting. Doesn’t tell you anything about me except that I’m slightly deformed.

9. The most embarrassing thing i wrote in my 25 Things? “I cannot stand chardonnay.” Really? Did i just say that? All that tells you is that I think I have impeccable taste in wine. Ew.

10. My 25 Things tell you that i really like drawing attention to myself. That coloring my hair, being on TV, and talking to celebrities is important to me. I’m not proud of this.

11. Cheers to those of you who put a lot of thought in your 25 Things. Thank you. Even if many of them are not that interesting, your 25 things do tell me a lot about you.

12. For example: Are you a good writer?

13. And did you spend a whole day writing your note, as evidenced by the complete paragraphs attached to each number, with subsections and headings?

14. What KINDS of things did you write about – the origins of your political activism? things that are more about your mother than they are about you? superficial facts, or things that give us a glimpse into you psyche?  I want to know your hopes and fears, quirky habits that tell me Who You Are.

15. Just as interesting: Who did you tag in your note, and how many of those people do I know?

16. Do I know YOU that well?

17. And if I don’t, I’m really flattered that you tagged me. I think it means I’m a person you want to get to know better. Or maybe there’s something in your note that you think would resonate with me and perhaps strengthen our friendship. Cool.

17. Did you number your paragraphs correctly?

19. Did you clearly stretch out your 25 Things by listing a few things twice, stated slightly differently?

20. Or did you have so much to say about yourself that you had to include 28 things? 35?

21. The “25 Things” phenomenon clearly indicates that many of us are craving a deeper connection to our friends through the internet tubes.  In the words of my friend Patty, we are all just yearning to know and to be known.

22. Don’t get me wrong; FB has done a great job of splitting your relationships down to atom-sized memes in the form of pokes and updates, enabling you to keep track of 1360 friends instantly and at the same time. It’s a panacea for those of us who love to network.

23. BUT – it may also have made some of our friendships more shallow because it’s so easy to keep track of someone without even contacting them.

24. I went to dinner with someone the other night who argued passionately that the “25 Things” phenomenon was pointless navel-gazing, that no one is actually out there reading all of these notes.

25. He’s wrong; I’m reading them. Keep em coming.