Team Avalos

As a mayoral candidate, Sup. John Avalos casts himself as a movement builder

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John Avalos, mayoral candidate: "There's a Johnny Cash song I really like called 'I Won't Back Down.' "

When Supervisor John Avalos chaired the Budget & Finance Committee in 2009 and 2010, his office became a bustling place in the thick of the budget process. To gain insight on the real-life effects of the mayor's proposed spending cuts, Avalos and his City Hall staff played host to neighborhood service providers, youth workers, homeless advocates, labor leaders, and other San Franciscans who stood to be directly impacted by the axe that would fall when the final budget was approved. They camped out in City Hall together for hours, puzzling over which items they could live without, and which required a steadfast demand for funding restoration.

"One year, we even brought them into the mayor's office," for an eleventh-hour negotiating session held in the wee morning hours, recounted Avalos' legislative aide, Raquel Redondiez. That move came much to the dismay of Steve Kawa, mayoral chief of staff.

Avalos, the 47-year-old District 11 supervisor, exudes a down-to-earth vibe that's rare in politicians, and tends to display a balanced temperament even in the heat of high-stakes political clashes. He travels to and from mayoral debates by bicycle. He quotes classic song lyrics during full board meetings, keeps a record player and vinyl collection in his office, and recently showed up at the Mission dive bar El Rio to judge a dance competition for the wildly popular Hard French dance party.

Yet casual observers may not be as familiar with the style Avalos brings to conducting day-to-day business at City Hall, an approach exemplified that summer night in 2010 when he showed up to the mayor's office flanked by grassroots advocates bent on preserving key programs.

"My role is, I'm an insider, ... but it's really been about bringing in the outside to have a voice on the inside," Avalos said in a recent interview. "People have always been camped out in my office. These are people who represent constituencies — seniors, recipients of mental health care, unions, people concerned about violence. It's how we change things in City Hall. It's making government more effective at promoting opportunities, justice, and greater livelihood." Part of the thrust behind his candidacy, he added, is this: "We want to be able to have a campaign that's about a movement."

That makes Avalos different from the other candidates — but it also raises a crucial question. Some of the most important advances in progressive politics in San Francisco have come not just from electoral victories, but from losing campaigns that galvanized the left. Tom Ammiano in 1999 and Matt Gonzalez in 2003 played that role. Can Avalos mount both a winning campaign — and one that, win or lose, will have a lasting impact on the city?

Workers and families

No budget with such deep spending cuts could have left all stakeholders happy once the dust settled, but Avalos and other progressive supervisors did manage to siphon some funding away from the city's robust police and fire departments in order to restore key programs in a highly controversial move.

"There's a Johnny Cash song I really like, written by Tom Petty, called 'I Won't Back Down.' I sang it during that time, because I didn't back down," Avalos said at an Aug. 30 mayoral forum hosted by the Potrero Hill Democratic Club. "We made ... a symbolic cut, showing that there was a real inequity about how we were doing our budgets. Without impacting public safety services, we were able to get $6 million from the Fire Department. A lot of that went into Rec & Park, and health care programs, and to education programs, and we were able to ... find more fat in the Police Department budget than anybody had ever found before, about $3 million."

Comments

Thanks Bruce,

Seeing John's smiling face on the cover of your paper made my morning.

Giants cutting it close,

h.

Posted by h. brown on Sep. 07, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

In today's Examiner, Former Mayor Willie Brown boasts that he and Rose Pak have raised $70,000 in just one night for Ed Lee. Ahead in the polls, the Examiner is already heralding a return to the Brown days of patronage politics and the bad old days of investigations of downtown corruption from the FBI, should Ed Lee win.

Ed Lee is running on job creation and I'm sure has his number 2 and 3 ranked choice candidates already in line. Conservatives have multiple choices in this years mayors race. Al Gore just announced his endorsement of Alioto Pier who also is running on the jobs she has created. Conservatives could split the vote every which way but lose and with Adachi in the race, Lee will get a shlacking from someone who has his own ideas of reducing the benefits and wages of workers who find him difficult to bargain with. Money is going to be pouring into these two candidates and no, doubt this will be one of the most expensive races in city history.

Progressives, from this article about John Avalos, are trying to build a movement but it isn't clear who is actually in this movement to help. Yes, John is doing much better probably because of David Chiu's fall from progressive grace but with no ranked choice strategy and cooperation with another candidate, Lee and his coat-tails of patronage politics will surely return to Room 200.

Progressives could win in November with a smart strategy that envisions someone who you would actually like to see in Room 200 despite flaws in their past voting records. Choosing someone who is viable is also important. I've seen Terri in a labor endorsement forum and she struggles to get her message across. Taxing the rich is a great mantra but with no specifics on how to do that. Squatting in abandoned buildings is equally interesting but has a homeless policy is leaves me asking how does this work since most abandoned buildings are dangerous and dirty to begin with. Bringing up Matt Gonzalez to a public sector union was equally not smart given Matt's endorsement of B last year. It fell flat.

Building a movement requires a leader who can reach into moderate districts and win with a better message that includes job creation, independence from the usual suspects and speaks to both moderates and progressives.

Posted by Guest lucretiamott on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 4:56 am

FYI.
A good basis to build on might be Sue Bierman's 1994 Prop O. Yeah it's old and dated but so are many of us. The link I have below does not seem to work anymore except from my original email.
http://sfpl4.sfpl.org/pdf/main/gic/elections/November8_1994short.pdf
If anyone is interested in doing more than simply regurgitating the same old bile on this site, you can probably get an updated link from:-
JohnArntz@sfgov.org

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 8:16 am

Elizabeth Roberts, you say (sarcastically) in a post above:

“the other candidates supporting a $700,000 wheelchair ramp project for a single ramp is a much better use of the city's money than supporting nonprofits … Avalos has exactly the budget experience that the next mayor of San Francisco needs to have.”

John Avalos was right to vote against the wheelchair boondoggle, as you suggest. The city could have put in a small lift that would have cost only a few thousand dollars.

However, Avalos is wrong to give the nonprofits everything they want, without requiring any city oversight as to their performance and accountability.

Our nonprofit political complex exercises the same influence over the supes that the military-industrial complex does over Congress.

It’s time to rein them both in.

Sen. John McCain will never be in the forefront of reining in the military-industrial complex. And Supervisor John Avalos will never be in the forefront of reining in the nonprofit political complex.

It's not hard to figure out why in either case.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 9:10 am

Link appears to be working.
FYI.On my computer I printed out pages 206>222.
A review of those in favor and those against illustrates that not much has changed.
There are many articles on-line for those who are truly concerned. The general consensus is that the proposition was defeated as a result of an extensive 'disinformation' campaign funded by Shorenstein, how surprising. Amongst the other usual suspects were; Golden Gate Restaurant Assosc; SF Republican Party; SPUR; SFChamber of Commerce. Sound familiar.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 9:15 am

I'm glad to see some major articles about the candidates, finally, but your approach is too inconsistent.

With your piece on Leland Yee, you spoke mostly to his detractors, nothing at all from the Labor Council, CNA, the Sierra Club or the many others who support him.

With Avalos you spoke mostly to his supporters.

We need to read both sides, for all of the candidates, Even the ones you like.

Posted by quahog on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 11:59 am

Lucretiamott, you make some good points in your thoughtful and detailed post above. Some thoughts follow.

You say:

“Former Mayor Willie Brown boasts that he and Rose Pak have raised $70,000 in just one night for Ed Lee. Ahead in the polls, the Examiner is already heralding a return to the Brown days…”

Ed Lee is ahead in the polls, fundraising, and media hype.

What is the progressive strategy for answering this push? Are progressives even capable of thinking in strategic terms anymore?

You say:

“with Adachi in the race, Lee will get a shlacking from someone who has his own ideas of reducing the benefits and wages of workers…”

Jeff Adachi will have a respectable showing at the polls. However, too many forces hate him – not just dislike him – for him to win.

The only person who thinks Adachi has a serious chance to win is h brown. And he almost never supports a winner. Usually, an endorsement from h brown is the kiss of death for any candidate’s chances.

You say:

“Progressives, from this article about John Avalos, are trying to build a movement but it isn't clear who is actually in this movement to help.”

SF progressives aren’t interested in building a movement. They’re a doctrinaire sect that demonizes anybody who only agrees with 90% of their views. They want complete unanimity of belief, or else!

John Avalos will be the progressives' sacrificial lamb. He will perish at the polls for their political sins. As a result, they will feel cleansed and morally superior to everyone else. That’s what they’re all about these days.

We’re dealing here with the political equivalent of a salvation religion.

You say:

“…Lee and his coat-tails of patronage politics will surely return to Room 200.”

The problem is that a salvation religion doesn’t know how to build a broad-based coalition with heathens. The religionists want to convert the heathens, not co-operate with them.

You say:

“Progressives could win in November with a smart strategy that envisions someone who you would actually like to see in Room 200 despite flaws in their past voting records.”

“Smart” and “progressive” parted company in SF a long time ago. Doubt it? Look at the posts here by Vigilante, Pat Monk, “Guest,” h brown, and marc salomon, to name just a few. They have made anti-intellectualism into a way of life and a political program.

You say:

“I've seen Terri in a labor endorsement forum and she struggles to get her message across. Taxing the rich is a great mantra but with no specifics on how to do that.”

Voters are tired of ideologues who shout bumper-stick slogans through bullhorns. That’s not enough anymore.

You say:

“Bringing up Matt Gonzalez to a public sector union was equally not smart…”

Gonzalez is good in the courtroom but a disaster everywhere else.

By the way, have you ever seen his artwork? It’s amazing that no one calls 911 when he has an exhibit, to report a crime against art.

You say:

“Building a movement requires a leader who can reach into moderate districts and win with a better message that includes job creation, independence from the usual suspects and speaks to both moderates and progressives.”

There you hit the nail on the head.

SF progressives are incapable of such an effort. They’d rather be ideologically pure than electable.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

@Ruthie.
You aked for :- "details "
I ask:- Well ?

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Sep. 09, 2011 @ 8:01 am

Hmm, guess Ruthie slithered back under his rock.
Wassa matter, you wanted details; print to small; make to much sense.
Would love to see you lift 'selected' phrases or passages, out of context of course, from the original proposal, and give us the benefit of your adult, rational thinking and objections; preferably something original and constructive and not your usual boring, boilerplate, repetitive, bumper sticker bs.
By the way, I'm curious, is there anything/anyone that you do like; that you do support/agree with; that does give you pleasure.
But maybe you're not responding because I'm to rude, ignorant, uncouth, inconsequential, incapable of objective thought and unwilling to consider 'other' points of view. Oh well, your prerogative. But just FYI, if there were 4 choices, both Tony Hall and Teresa Baum would be on my list. But I guess you hate Tony also.
"We" have to find a way to stand together, unlike congress, despite our 'differences', or we'll all end up in the same khazi.
PS: Any other members of "Ruthie and The Hagfish" are welcome to chip in.
EG; Meathead; Lucie; Mattie; Snappy; "Guest".
OOOH. Have I been a bad boy, will I get spanked and 86'd, wouldn't be the first or last time.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Sep. 09, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

It requires creative, original, intellectual thought, and the ability to engage in rational dialog.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on Sep. 11, 2011 @ 2:53 pm