"You can medically address people who are violent," she told us, saying the first step is to properly diagnose and treat depression in men. "Just as we looked at AIDS as an epidemic," she said, "we should look at violence as an epidemic." Which is, at the very least, an interesting approach.
Sumchai has some innovative ideas, including a universal child-care program for the city, paid for with a "fat tax" on unhealthy food. She's a strong supporter of public power and a longtime critic of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
She can be abrasive and temperamental, but she's talking about critical issues that almost everyone else is ignoring. She deserves support.
Chicken John Rinaldi is the political surprise of the season, an artist and showman who has managed a traveling circus, run a bar in the Mission, put on unusual performances of every kind and somehow managed to be the only person running for mayor who could qualify for tens of thousands of dollars in public funding. On one level Rinaldi's campaign is a joke he told us repeatedly he has no idea what he's doing, and that if by some wild chance he were elected, he would hire people like Mecke and Sumchai to run the city. He's the Dada candidate, with his entire run something of a performance art piece.
But Rinaldi has a real constituency. He represents a dying breed in the city: the street artists, the writers, the poets, the unconventional thinkers with economically marginal lifestyles, who were once the heart and soul of San Francisco. It's hard to pin him down on issues since he seems to disdain any policy talk, but in the end, the very fact that he's running speaks to the pressure on artists and the lack of support the unconventional side of the art world gets in this increasingly expensive city.
Rinaldi is the protest candidate of all protest candidates, but he's going to get a lot of votes from people who think San Francisco needs to stop driving some of its most valuable residents out of town and if that leads to a more serious discussion about artist housing, affordable housing in general, arts funding, and the overall crackdown on fun under Newsom, then it's worth giving Chicken John a place on the ticket.
There are several other candidates worthy of consideration. Josh Wolf, a video blogger, served 226 days in a federal prison rather than turn over to the authorities tape of a demonstration he was filming. It was a bold and courageous show of principle (anyone who's ever done time knows that spending even a week, much less month after month, behind bars is no joke), and it speaks to his leadership and character. Wolf is talking about some key issues too: he's a big supporter of municipal broadband and sees the Web as a place to promote more direct democracy in San Francisco.
Lonnie Holmes, a probation officer, has roots in the African American community and some credible ideas about violent crime. He favors extensive, direct intervention in at-risk communities and would fully fund recreation centers, after-school programs, and antiviolence education in elementary schools. He thinks a network of community resource centers in key neighborhoods could cut the crime rate in half. He's a little conservative for our taste, but we like his energy, commitment, and ideas.
Harold Hoogasian, a third-generation florist, registered Republican, and small-business activist, is a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative and law-and-order guy who complains that the city budget has skyrocketed while services don't seem to have improved. Yet somewhat to our surprise, he told us he supports the idea of a moratorium on market-rate housing and a ballot measure that would force developers to build housing more in tune with San Francisco's real needs (even if he wants to start with ownership housing for cops). He supports public power, wants more sunshine in government, and opposes privatization.