Editor's Notes

Can a mayoral nomination convention save the city's soul?


Sup. Chris Daly has kind of a cool idea: he wants to hold a progressive convention to pick a candidate and a platform for mayor. The date is June 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The place is the Tenderloin Community School. The idea is for hundreds of grassroots activists to gather, nominate someone to take on Gavin Newsom, and kick off a citywide campaign that will, at the very least, force the carefully protected mayor to come out from behind his handlers and answer some tough questions.

Not everyone thinks this is a good concept — and I'm the first to agree it's a bit of a risk. It assumes, for example, that there's a serious candidate for mayor whom we can all agree on and who actually wants to run for the job. And it assumes that we all really want to put the effort into a full-scale campaign against an incumbent who looks pretty close to unbeatable right now.

Neither of these is a trivial issue.

In theory, a nomination convention is a chance for constituents to choose among candidates who are competing for the right to seek office. Four years ago, when we had Tom Ammiano, Angela Alioto, and Matt Gonzalez in the race, a convention would have been fun, if not terribly useful; none of those people would have dropped out in favor of another based on one convention vote. But right now there's not a lot of competition: nobody who has the profile to launch a credible race has stepped forward and volunteered for the mission. And it would look pretty lame to have the People speak and call for a candidate who then took the stage and declined.

If this is going to work, the situation has to change in the next few weeks. The folks who really don't want to see Newsom get a bye are talking, and one of them is going to accept the responsibility. Me, I'd be happy with Daly, Matt Gonzalez, Aaron Peskin, or Ross Mirkarimi, but Gonzalez isn't ready to announce anything at this point, Peskin has told me he's not going to run, Mirkarimi is being awfully coy, and Daly seems pretty reluctant (although he hasn't ruled it out, he says he'll do it only if nobody else will).

Not everyone thinks it's even worth the fight. Paul Hogarth, writing in BeyondChron.org, argued May 14 that it's better to save our energy and let Newsom be a weak lame duck for another five years. After all, he hasn't been able to do much harm — and now and then, he does something decent.

The problem is that the city has serious problems, and it's not OK for a mayor to be missing in action this long. Think about the murder rate. Think about Muni. Think about the future of blue-collar jobs, affordable housing, and the eastern neighborhoods. Think about the fact that in the next four years, the last big piece of land where San Francisco can preserve blue-collar jobs and build affordable housing will be up for grabs. Think about the city's soul. Because it really is on the line here — and I'm not ready to hand it over to Newsom again without a fight. *

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