The great divide - Page 4

The rich and powerful went for Mayor Ed Lee. Now what happens to the rest of us?

Sup. John Avalos celebrates his second-place finish with his wife, Karen Zapata, and Sup. Jane Kim

Avalos echoed similar themes when we spoke on election night, emphasizing the importance of the long struggle of the progressive movement over whether he won the mayor's race. When we asked him whether election night felt like a victory for him, Avalos replied, "I felt like it was a victory yesterday."

"All I wanted is for people to be turned out big time for this campaign, and they did that," Avalos said. "So now, we'll see what's next."

Here's what's happening now: The Avalos campaign did, to a significant extent, what the mayoral campaigns for Tom Ammiano in 1999 and Matt Gonzalez in 2003 did — it got the progressives excited and brought a new generation of activists into the world of local electoral politics. As Avalos called up his key supporters to the stage at Roccapulco on election night, it was clear that a broader progressive coalition was forming, with new faces, young organizers, and people of color.

The left in this town has a long history of winning by losing: The Ammiano campaign created the movement that took back the Board of Supervisors a year later, and the Gonzalez campaign drew more activists into the movement. Gonzalez, of course, left office a year later — but Avalos shows no signs whatsoever of backing down from the leadership role he has created.

The other very good news for progressives is the victory of Ross Mirkarimi, who won the race for sheriff and became the first staunch progressive to win a citywide race in more than two decades. He is also positioned to take more of a leadership role, and possibly to run for the mayor's office at some point down the road. Since there are no term limits for the sheriff, he doesn't have to rush.



One of the key decisions Lee now faces — and one that will define his administration — is choosing a replacement for Mirkarimi. District Five is probably the most progressive district in the city, one that voted overwhelmingly for Avalos. And while Lee will want a loyalist in that job, most of the people who are likely to be able to win an election in 2012 supported another candidate. If Lee puts someone who will vote with the centrists on the board in that seat, he — and his anointed supervisor — will take a big loss in the fall.

He will also have to deal with the city budget — and it won't be easy. Nonprofits like the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, where he had strong support, are already clamoring for more money for raises for their underpaid staff who have effectively had pay freezes for the past four years. Prop. G, the sales tax measure that Lee was hoping would fill part of the revenue gap, went down in flames. And the big-money people who spent so much getting him elected are supporters of tax breaks for business, not tax increases on the wealthy.

He'll have to figure out whether to join Avalos and support OccupySF — or join with the more conservative law-and-order types who want the encampment evicted. At press time, as police erected barricades around the encampment, it seemed like that decision was imminent.

And Lee will have to face the fact that, for all his talk about unity and consensus, this is a city deeply divided. There is a huge political and economic gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the 99 percent and the 1 percent, the folks at the Palace Hotel with their limousines and $17 cocktails and the folks in the Mission with their bicycles and beer. Their interests are often directly and unalterably opposed — and on Nov. 8, the powers-that-be made it very clear whose side they think Mayor Ed Lee is on. Additional research by Nena Farrell

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