None of the candidates for public office this year can beat the performance of a 2004 supervisorial hopeful who showed up at the Guardian office for an endorsement interview with a completely spaced-out homeless friend in tow. The candidate was talking rapid-fire for an hour, shifting effortlessly back and forth from his history as a welfare recipient turned bartender turned subject of a drug bust turned successful businessperson to his suggestions for public policy and proposals for improving the neighborhood. His pal was muttering the entire time, off in his own world, his random comments a kind of atonal counterpoint to the candidate's high-speed pronouncements and reminiscences — until the would-be politician began to talk about the time years ago when the cops caught him with a bunch of LSD that wasn't really his. Quite a bit of LSD. At the description of the inventory, the sidekick snapped out of his reverie for a moment and proclaimed, "That's a lot of dose." Then he was back to his own world.
The 2006 contenders are a much more predictable lot, generally speaking. But there have been some moments.
At the top of the list, I think, were Starchild, the Libertarian candidate for District 8 supervisor, and Philip Berg, the Libertarian for Congress, who came in together and told us that the city would be a much safer place if the entire populace were armed — not just with handguns but with AK-47s — and that the trouble-plagued Halloween Night in the Castro would be much more peaceful if everyone who attended had a weapon.
I've always wanted the rest of the world to be able to share these moments with us — Guardian endorsement interviews are great moments in policy formation and political debate, as well as high theater of the finest kind. Soon we'll have them online, unedited — questions, answers, speeches (ours and theirs), fights, laughs ... every moment, for your listening pleasure. Check www.sfbg.com for details.
We generally don't record interviews with people who just come down to the office to chat and give us advice about the election, which is fair — but I want to share a really sad moment with you. Sarah Lipson stopped by at my request to talk about the SF school board race; she's one of the best members of that often-dysfunctional panel, the kind of person who gives you hope for the schools and for local politics ... and she's not seeking reelection. She misses teaching, she told us, and that's understandable — but she also said that it's basically impossible for someone with kids who isn't rich to devote perhaps 30 or 40 hours a week to the school board and still have a job on the side.
Thing is, the San Francisco Board of Education, which oversees a half-billion-a-year budget, is essentially a volunteer ($500 a month) gig. That's a model from a very different era, and it doesn't work anymore.
San Francisco is a hideously expensive place, a city where almost nobody can support a family on one income. Full-time volunteerism is an impossible burden, and it means people like Lipson — who is exactly the sort of person we want setting policy for the schools — can't serve on the board. Either you punish your family or you don't do the job you want to do.
Being on the school board is a full-time job. We need to pay these folks a full-time salary. SFBG