SF's new political era - Page 4

What Mayor Lee and a new board mean for the city

Luke Thomas/Fog City Journal

There's another kind of identity politics at play as well — that of native San Franciscans, who often express resentment at progressive newcomers talking about what kind of city this is, versus those who see San Francisco as a city of immigrants and ideas, a place being shaped by a wider constituency than the old-timers like to acknowledge.

"I'm honored to join Sups. Elsbernd and Cohen in representing the neighborhoods they grew up in," Sup. Mark Farrell said during his opening remarks after being sworn in Jan. 8., sobbing when he thanked his parents for their support.

As he continued, he fed the criticism of the notion of ideology-based politics that has been a popular trope with Gavin Newsom and other fiscal conservatives in recent years, telling the crowd he wanted "to turn City Hall into a place based on issues and ideas, not ideology."

Cohen also placed more importance on her birthright than on her political philosophy, telling stories about entering board chambers through the back door at age 16 when she was part of a youth program created by then-Mayor Frank Jordan, and with former Mayor Dianne Feinstein coming to speak at Cohen's third-grade class. "I am a San Francisco native, and that is a responsibility I take seriously," said Cohen, who graduated from the Emerge Program, which grooms women for political office,

"We will have another woman as president of the Board of Supervisors, and we will have a woman as mayor of San Francisco," she added. And as the sole African American on the board, she also pledged, "I will be working to add more members of the African American community to the elected family of San Francisco."

But what issues she plans to focus on and what values she'll represent were unclear in her comments — as they were throughout her campaign, despite the efforts of journalists and activists to discern her political philosophy. In her public comments, her only stated goal was to build bridges between the community and City Hall and let decisions be guided by the people "not political ideologies."

Oftentimes in recent San Francisco history, identity and ideology have worked in concert, as they did with former Sup. Harvey Milk, who broke barriers as the first openly gay elected official, but who also championed a broad progressive agenda that included tenants rights, protecting civil liberties, and creating more parks and public spaces.

Sup. Scott Wiener, shortly after being sworn into office, acknowledged the legacy of his district, which was once represented by Milk and fellow gay progressive leader Harry Britt, telling the crowd: "I'm keenly aware of the leadership that has come through this district and I have huge shoes to fill."

Yet Wiener, a moderate, comes from a different ideological camp than Milk and Britt and he echoed the board's new mantra of collaboration and compromise. "I will always try to find common ground. There is always common ground," he said.



Chiu is making a clear effort to break with the past, and has been critical of some progressive leaders. "I think it's important that we do not have a small group of progressive leaders who are dictating to the rest of the progressive community what is progressive," he said.

While he didn't single out former Sup. Chris Daly by name, he does seem to be trying to repudiate Daly's leadership style. "I think that while the progressive left and the progressive community leaders have had very significant accomplishments over the past 10 years, I do think that there are many times when our oppositional tactics have set us back."

When Chiu was reelected board president, he told the crowd that "none of us were voted into office to take positions. We were voted into office to get things done."

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