The underground campaign - Page 4

Despite the veneer of Newsom's popularity, the mayor's race shows some real discontent -- and some good policy ideas

But Wolf isn't running on a police-reform platform so much as a call for "a new democracy plan" based loosely on the Community Congress models of the 1970s, updated using the modern technologies in which Wolf is fluent.

"The basic principle can be applied more effectively today with the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0 than was at all possible to do in the 1970s," Wolf said, calling for more direct democracy and an end to the facade of public comment in today's system, which he said is "like talking to a wall."

"It's not a dialogue, it's not a conversation, and it's certainly not a conversation with other people in the city," Wolf said. "No matter who's mayor or who's on the Board of Supervisors, the solutions that they are able to come up with are never going to be able to match the collective wisdom of the city of San Francisco. So building an online organism that allows people to engage in discussions about every single issue that comes across City Hall, as well as to vote in a sort of straw-poll manner around every single issue and to have conversations where the solutions can rise to the surface, seems to be a good step toward building a true democracy instead of a representative government."

Also calling for greater populism in government is Chicken John Rinaldi (see "Chicken and the Pot," 9/12/07), who shared his unique political strategy with us in a truly entertaining interview.

"I'm here to ask for the Guardian's second-place endorsement," Rinaldi said, aware that we intend to make three recommendations in this election, the first mayor's race to use the ranked-choice voting system.

Asked if his running to illustrate a mechanism is akin to a hamster running on a wheel, Rinaldi elaborated on the twin issues that he holds dear to his heart — art and innovation — by talking about innovative ways to streamline the current complexities that artists, performers, and others must face when trying to get a permit to put on an event in San Francisco.

"I'm running for the idea of San Francisco," Rinaldi said. He claimed to be painting a campaign logo in the style of a mural on the side of his warehouse in the Mission District: "It's going to say, 'Chicken, it's what's for mayor,' or 'Chicken, the other white mayor.'"

He repeatedly said that he doesn't know what he's talking about; when we asked him what he'd do if he won, he told us that he'll hire Mecke, Holmes, Sumchai, and Wolf to run the city.

Yet his comedy has a serious underlying message: "I want to create an arts spark." And that's something he's undeniably good at.


Sheriff Hennessey and District Attorney Harris aren't being seriously challenged for reelection, and both decided early (despite pleas from their supporters) not to take on Newsom for the top job. In fact, they're both endorsing him.

But in interviews with us, they were far from universally laudatory toward the incumbent mayor, saying he needs to do much more to get a handle on crime and the social- and economic-justice issues that drive it.

Hennessey said San Francisco's county jail system is beyond its capacity for inmates and half of them are behind bars on drug charges, even in a city supposedly opposed to the war on drugs.

"I had this conversation with the mayor probably a year ago," Hennessey said. "I took him down to the jail to show him there were people sleeping on the floor at that time. I needed additional staff to open up a new unit. He came down and looked at the jails and said, 'Yeah, this is not right.'"

Asked how he would cut the jail population in half, Hennessey — in all seriousness — suggested firing the city's narcotics officers.