Good and gooder...
December 4, 2003 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Lesser of two goods? (SanFranciscoFilter) SFWeekly's John Mecklin sums up the wild ride in San Francisco's mayoral race, from Matt Gonzalez's late entry, to the baffling Guardian endorsement, to the obvious Chronicle Gavin Newsom endorsement, to the downright surreal Alioto endorsement debacle. Oh, and then there's the Chron's not so coincidental "Shame " series on homelessness, Newsom's defining issue, in the final days of the election. In all, Mecklin concludes we're pretty damn lucky to have the fortune in this day and age to choose between two candidates that both have the capacity to do a decent job. Is this relevant to non-San Franciscans? Well, if Matt wins (and the odds are even), that puts a Green at the helm of a fairly important US city and may help counter the effect of Arnie.
posted by badstone (33 comments total)
that puts a Green at the helm of a fairly important US city and may help counter the effect of Arnie.

Good god, I hope so. After eight years of Brown's shiny corruptness, I'm certainly ready to have some Green-blooded dude at Van Ness Avenue. The last thing I'd like to see is a Bush-Arnie-Newsom axis of evil. And after seeing the strange Alioto-Newsom endorsement, I'm relieved that I ended up switching for Gonzalez at the last minute. (I had been planning on voting for Alioto for similar reasons mentioned in the SFBG link, but a strange apoplexy overtook me in the voting booth.)

I say: Vote for the hippie and make politics fun again. At least he won't be cracking down hard on the homeless like Silver Spoon boy. (And we're not talking Rick Schroder.)
posted by ed at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2003

Matt represented my district when I lived there and was responsive when I sent a comment to his office. I'm sure he'd do a good job or at least an honest job, though the city is in a really tough place after Willie Brown's handling of things.

Looking at it from the outside in, I'd love to see a green party member take office somewhere, just to see how it manifests in policy or law. It's not like there are any forests to save in SF, but I wonder how day-to-day issues would be handled with a green bent (my guess is they wouldn't be all that different). If Matt does win, I'm sure all eyes will be on him, and he'll be heading into a real slog, with all the problems SF faces.
posted by mathowie at 10:22 AM on December 4, 2003

While I hope Matt wins, the cynic in me sees the big money, well-connected and slickly-coiffed Gavin becoming SF's mayor...

Hope I'm wrong.
posted by birdsong at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2003

My gut tells me the same, John, but on the other hand the polls are even now and Gonzalez is the one with the upward momentum, so I'm stilll fairly optimistic. On the other hand, as much as I hate Gavin, I do agree with Mecklin that even Gavin would be a major improvement for San Francisco, relative to mayors of the recent past. At the end of the day though, the way I could look at it is that the worst thing that could happen is that a Democrat wins, and that's not too bad at all.
posted by badstone at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2003

It barely matters: Newsom is pretty much just a white Willie Brown and will quicky get down to the business of politics-as-usual. Matt, if elected, would find himself stymied at every turn by the Big Dem machine playing politics-as-usual. Neither one of them actually is Willie Brown, so there's at least a marginal improvement no matter which way it goes.
posted by majick at 10:54 AM on December 4, 2003

badstone: Why do you call the Guardian's endorsement of Alioto in the general election "baffling"? just curious...they seem to lay out their reasons well, I guess you just disagreed (that's allowed, even in the U.S. these days)

Isn't it ironic, though, that the Guardian wants anyone but Newsom, and Alioto is now endorsing Newsom (with strings) in the runoff? Is the Guardian going to slam Alioto now and endorse Gonzalez in the runoff? (I'm sure.)
posted by msacheson at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2003

I would consider myself a centrist democrat, which in this town pretty much makes me a Brown Shirt. I worry about a Gonzalez administration. I've spent years developing relationships with city workers, who have helped me shepherd projects through the maze of city hall. They're all scared witless at the prospect of a Gonzalez victory. These are people who do good work, represent their city in a favorable light and certainly won't miss the Brown machine. But they worry that a mayor who governs purely on ideological views, rather than practical solutions, will engage in a wave of firings. I worry that the vocal, and extremely shrill, voices of protest in this town will be handed the keys to the palace. Say goodbye to economic growth, goodbye to any new business development and goodbye to any new civic project of significant size. Say hello to endless public hearings, decision by committee, MORE urine on our streets and continuing job loss.

My heart may be with Gonzalez, but my wallet says "look out!"
posted by pejamo at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2003

msacheson: Mainly because of the Guardian's history of being as bandwagon-ishly left as they possibly can. In that vein, Ammiano, as a long time progressive hero, or Gonzalez, as a Green and a huge proponent of public power, would have been more obvious. I think it's specifically because their endorsement of Alioto was based on such involved reasoning that I found it baffling.
posted by badstone at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2003

The San Francisco Chronicle thinks they're both due for a Queer Eye for the Straight Candidate makeover, and you can dress 'em up yourself.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2003

the guardian just likes to make noise. when it comes down to brass tacks, they're spineless.
posted by muppetboy at 12:33 PM on December 4, 2003

gonzalez signs popping up everywhere in sf, fingers crossed that the hipsters push him through
posted by jcruelty at 12:51 PM on December 4, 2003

As an outsider, I read this and am irresistibly reminded on the 12-step definition of insanity: 'repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result.'
posted by mojohand at 12:51 PM on December 4, 2003

Gonzalez may have an ideological platform, but I don't think he's foolish enough to avoid compromise. His record shows this:

Gonzalez introducing a compromise bill to fight PG&E.

Introducing a compromise through gradual phase-in of car-free Golden Gate Park days.

Clearly, this shows that Gonzalez will back down a bit to get things accomplished. And what a potential breath of fresh air that would be in light of Brown's unilateral machine approach.
posted by ed at 12:59 PM on December 4, 2003

kirkaracha - I saw that article and was completely disgusted. This is politics as media event, not thoughtful civic duty and it sickens me. Furthermore, if these were two young women in contention, rather than two young men, do you think we would be subjected to endless prattle about who's hotter and who's the most date worthy and who's got the best clothes? I wonder.
posted by pejamo at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2003

There's only one issue that matters in SF. Homelessness. The linked Shame series is good reading, particularly today's article about possible solutions and where Gonzales and Newsom stand.
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2003

". . . that puts a Green at the helm of a fairly important US city and may help counter the effect of Arnie."

If a Green becomes mayor in SF it really means that the Dems will be feeling the pressure from both sides. They've failed to be a party of choice at the national level and it's obviously effecting how they're being received on a municipal level.

Al Gore was here in SF on Tuesday to offer his support for Newsom. To my knowledge these men never had any prior affiliation - other than happening to belong in the same party. There's a reason Newsom had him make an appearance. He recognizes the possibility of a loss.

To me, Matt is a real as gets in politics. His presence in this election inspired me to get involved. I spent the past few weekends registering voters. It felt great. And it felt good to be helping a grassroots party that actually has the guts to take a stand. Newsom calls this "ideology". I call it acting on principle and I think it's something the Dems need to learn.
posted by quadog at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2003

I find it pretty astonishing that Gavin Newsom, who has been backing Democrats his whole (political/civic) life and who's a member of a family with decades of credentials in Democratic politics, is being branded some kind of right winger. He would be regarded as an extremely liberal Democrat almost anywhere in the country.

I find it personally amusing that the exact same pedigree (in terms of family and social connections) which is so despised by the left when it comes to Newsom is completely excusable when it comes to (say) Howard Dean.

A lot of this is (I think) animated by the consensus "progressive" view on homelessness and poverty in San Francisco -- a view that is, quite frankly, totally insane. San Francisco has housing which is more expensive than almost anywhere else. Even if you could wave your Marxist magic wand and make housing cheap, you'd still have a job market which is exceptionally demanding in terms of education and experience ... (I have to think San Francisco has the highest percentage of barristas and cash-wrap clerks with graduate degrees of anywhere.) The bottom line is that San Francisco is the worst possible place to corrall the mentally ill, hopelessly addicted, lazy, or uneducated -- they no more belong in San Francisco than a polar bear belongs in the desert. (I stole that analogy from someone...)
posted by MattD at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2003

Well, MattD, many would argue that the state you describe is a relatively recent symptom of the Machine's (Willie Brown, etc...) bad handling of the dot com boom. 10 years ago there was quite a bit more light industry that could employ the "lazy, uneducated" people you disdane so much in your post. All that light inudstry and the affordable housing that its employees lived in was blown away by the dot com invasion. Now that those morons and snake oil salesmen have failed and left or gotten jobs as barristas, we're left with a shell of the economically diverse city that San Francisco once was. By the same process, San Francisco's art and musical culture was similarly gutted. You can now go visit the old San Francisco in Oakland, Chicago, Oregon, and Pittsburgh.
posted by badstone at 2:39 PM on December 4, 2003

Just be careful to vote for a human, not a replicant, folks. California's already got one killer android in office.
posted by adamrice at 2:59 PM on December 4, 2003

I agree with the general consensus that a win for Newsom wouldn't be a Bush-sized disaster, but I would consider a win for Gonzalez a win for brains and ethics over privilege and smarmy good looks.

I had the opportunity to see Newsom in action last summer while I was taping a non-profit festival at which he and his pack of smirking frat boys deigned to make a showing. Here Gavin is buttering up a mid-level San Francisco politico until he spots my camera. Watch how quickly he reassigns his hand.

And here he is flashing his trademark gesture, which one could translate many ways: 1) great kegger! 2) lock and load, dude! or 3) what I lack in soul, I compensate for in vanilla pizzazz.

Mind you, I bear Newsom no particular ill will; I just thought my fellow San Franciscans would enjoy seeing a little unscripted Newsom. Enjoy.
posted by squirrel at 3:16 PM on December 4, 2003

What I've found most interesting about this campaign is Gonzalez's success purely from a grassroots standpoint. It's virtually impossible to go a block where I live in the inner sunset without seeing one of his signs, yet I have yet to see a TV ad.

Meanwhile I think what's turned me off to Newsom was the only television spots I've seen so far were ads attacking Gonzalez (not even on real issues no less). That and the fact that the city of SF could have a mayor that currently still has rooomates is pretty cool.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:58 PM on December 4, 2003

"There's only one issue that matters in SF. Homelessness."

Sir, I am loathe to be pedantic but you have apparently misspelled "rampant Brown/Burton cronyism and unchecked hypergentrification." Sure, homelessness is a big deal, but in a town where you have to break $250K/year to own a home anywhere outside of HP, there are clearly bigger problems of which homelessness is only one of many symptoms. It's annoying and I agree that cleaning up after Reagan is important (and more difficult now that it's the 80s all over again), but SF is far from a one-issue town.
posted by majick at 8:04 PM on December 4, 2003

Majick, I don't think that the quote you listed was intended to be the point of view of the poster. In all the polls voters overwhelmingly cited homelessness as being their number one issue with all other issues running far behind. This problem is getting high visibility and the Newsom has decided to capitalize on it. If he wins it will be because he's built his campaign around easily digestible slogans like "Care Not Cash".
posted by quadog at 8:27 PM on December 4, 2003

Here's an Awesome article on John Eder, the only Green on a state legislature, up in Maine. It's a great story, with some insight on the Green/ Democrat relationship...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:47 PM on December 4, 2003

I mean, um, HERE'S an awesome article on John Eder...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:48 PM on December 4, 2003

As a Green Party Bein', nonapologizin', ACLU-Card-Carryin', Haight-livin', rent-payin', haircut-shy San Franciscan, Matt's my man. I even voted for him for DA several years ago. I heart Gonzalez. It feels good to vote for someone I respect for a change. Try It! (I'm just happy to have something else besides Terminator to see- I'm in major denial & don't deny it). Ask me, and I'll tell you that Matt has never voted on Anything for anything but the right reasons.

Matt For Mayor!{love kt}
posted by obloquy at 1:50 AM on December 5, 2003

Here is a link to the Forum (KQED radio program) audio archive. You can listen to two of San Francisco's most criminally outdated hairstyles speaking for themselves. Of course, I'm a Matt man; surprisingly, Newsom's bit kinda reached me.
posted by squirrel at 10:02 AM on December 5, 2003

not that anyone is still reading this thread... but I thought this opening from an article in today's Chronicle was thought-provoking, if not visibly biased. Still, it paints a picture that is different than what many assume to be the facts.

One candidate is Ivy League, a Columbia University scholar who became editor of the prestigious Stanford Law Review. A native Texan, he is the son of a former tobacco executive involved in international import-export and nephew of a onetime big-city mayor and now is in the seat of power himself president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The other candidate went to Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, and was raised by a single mother who simultaneously worked jobs as a secretary, waitress and bookkeeper and put her son to work as a busboy. He landed an $18,000-a-year job in a powerful businessman's office, developed a network of political friends and backers, and forged a successful business.

If the life stories of Matt Gonzalez, the former Texan now heralded as a political outsider and candidate of the working class, and Gavin Newsom, raised in San Francisco and portrayed as a blue blood of privileged background,
are surprising, then so is their unexpectedly heated contest.

posted by pejamo at 12:56 PM on December 5, 2003

pejamo: There are lots of ways to tell a story. Unsurprisingly, the Chronicle endorses Newsom.

Later the article admits that Gonzalez's uncle was the mayor of the mexican town of Reynosa - not insignificant but not a major world city.

In contrast, there is Newsom's very influential father:

Bringing Up Baby Gavin
How William Newsom's pipeline into the Getty fortune has put money -- lots
of it -- in his politically ambitious son's pocket
posted by vacapinta at 1:17 PM on December 5, 2003

Also, the Stanford Law Review vs. Santa Clara College thing is about merit not priviledge.
posted by vacapinta at 1:21 PM on December 5, 2003

i'm still reading! thanks for the posts everyone. based on the ZIP code proxmity thingy in the user profile, I figured there'd be enough MeFiers to have a decent conversation about this.

Don't forget to check Matt's calendar, lefties! There's lots going on this weekend!
posted by badstone at 2:46 PM on December 5, 2003

Well, vacapinta, I'm surprised you didn't bring up the mother of all Gavin/Getty connections. Don't you know that Gavin and Billy are star-crossed lovers and their lingerie model wives are just beards? I thought everyone knew that.

I'm not here trying to defend Newsom, I'm merely suggesting that Matt's supporters have vilified him beyond the point he deserves. He's no Arnold! He's from the Clinton school, and we could do a lot worse for mayor. And I worry that Gonzalez might be a lot worse. Does it serve the city to be seen as even more of a fringe dweller than it already is?
posted by pejamo at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2003

Does it serve the city to be seen as even more of a fringe dweller than it already is?

But "fringe dweller" is San Francisco's historic identity! San Francisco's soul is in its creativity and innovation, whether you're talking culture, technology, or politics. It's what residents live for and what pays the bills. Do you really want to see another bland San Jose-type city on the tip of the peninsula? There's a reason that the rest of the country looks west when they wonder what is up and coming.
posted by badstone at 5:18 PM on December 5, 2003

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