An open letter to Ed Lee

A proven supporter could be the best choice to replace the empty District 5 supervisoral seat


OPINION Dear Mr. Mayor,

During the next week you will be appointing the a supervisor for District 5, an area of the city that has been historically considered the most progressive part of one of the most progressive cities in the country. It will be a signature decision for you in the next year, and will reveal the tone of your administration. Will you be a consensus mayor — or will you carry on your predecessor's fight with progressives?

You have many qualified choices, but there is probably only one on your list that a majority of progressives would consider a clear progressive choice: Christina Olague, president of the Planning Commission. There are some who have hesitations about her, but ironically those hesitations are based on her relationship to you and her support for your candidacy for mayor. I have to admit, as a supporter of progressive Supervisor John Avalos for mayor, I shared some disappointment that she didn't support John.

I'm sure there's intense pressure on you to choose a more moderate choice, and I'm sure there are from your perspective some valid points to that argument. That said, District 5 deserves progressive representation.

I am a Haight resident, and I ran for Supervisor in District 5 in 2004. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi came in first, I came in second, and Lisa Feldstein came in third. Both Lisa and I have spoken repeatedly about whether we would run next year, and we have even discussed running as a slate. Most political analysts think one of us would have a decent shot at winning — but I think both of us would support Christina, assuming that her votes continue to reflect her commitment to the progressive values of the district.

Christina not only supported you, she also supported Mirkarimi in 2004, and Matt Gonzalez when he ran for supervisor in 2000. She was appointed to the Planning Commission by Gonzalez and has been reappointed repeatedly by progressive supervisors to that commission. While her votes have not been perfect, by and large, her record is excellent; she has never succumbed to pressure, has listened well to all sides, and has ultimately done what she thought was right.

For example, she stood up for tenants' rights when the landlord from Park Merced came to the Planning Commission to ask that 1,500 apartments be demolished, all of which were subject to the city's rent control ordinance. She recognized the flaws in the landlord's argument that a side agreement (negotiated without the local tenant groups involved) would prevent rent hikes and evictions. Olague was on the right side of history on the Park Merced deal, and has a long record of building tenant and senior tenant power. That's the kind of leadership we need for District 5, an area comprised of primarily renters. I believe Olague will be a supervisor tenants can trust.

I can't guarantee that all progressives will stand down if Olague gets the seat. The ego game is what it is. You have learned that from politics, I'm sure. But I think most progressive institutions and progressive activists will see her appointment as a victory and will support her candidacy for Supervisor next fall, as they should if she shows that her votes reflect the trends and values of District 5.

With Christina Olague, you have a win-win. You appoint a supervisor who reflects the progressive values of the district and who is also electable in November. 

Gabriel Haaland is an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and an LGBT labor and tenant activist.


Christina Olague is a horrible choice.

Posted by Gerald on Jan. 03, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

Why? Besides the obvious?

Posted by marc on Jan. 03, 2012 @ 11:49 pm

She shouldn't be rewarded for deserting the progressive movement.

But then again, the fact that she deserted the progressive movement, right when it counted, is the only reason Ed Lee's considering her.

The mystery is why progressives like Gabriel Haaland think that makes her fit to represent us.

Posted by d5 is my jam on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Word. He win handsomely and doesn't have to listen to clueless losers like you.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

We're not having this conversation because Ed Lee won his election.

We're having it because Ross Mirkarimi won his.

Posted by d5 is my jam on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

You must not have lived in SF a year ago.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

You must think the distinction between Gavin and Ed Lee is important.

Unlike D5 voters. See points above.

Posted by d5 is my jam on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

sort of situation as had Newsom.

You don't make any sense, you want to get over at this very moment and will bullshit out anything at the moment to get over.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

What d5 is my jam said.

Posted by Gerald on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

I agree that D5 is a progressive district.
Ed Lee should appoint a progressive.
That's why we shouldn't be talking about Olague.

Posted by Juanita Hernandez on Jan. 03, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

The people just returned a hige mandate for moderate leadership.

And D5 is changing. Want to buy a house there? Get yourself a million. More in cole Valley and buena Vista.

Those days are gone, chickleet.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 9:54 am

Why should he appoint a progressive? District 11 is a moderate district of homeowners but has a progressive supervisor. So D5 can have progressive renters and a moderate supervisor. So there!

Posted by Scott on Jan. 13, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

wouldn't be surprised if gabriel haaland was the highest profile endorsement she gets.

Posted by doublejack on Jan. 03, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

Olague was a co-chair of the Run Ed Run bogus Rose Pak-Willie Brown committee and appeared before Ethics to denounce critics as “racist” including Aaron Peskin who had appointed her to Ethics.

Loyalty is a rare commodity at City Hall. So is keeping your word.

Posted by Larry Bush on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

Gabs says he won't stand if Olague is picked, trying to intimidate Lee into picking her.

Then he can just "do a Lee" and stand anyway.

Lee got over 60% of the vote. A landslide. He gets to pick someone for the 60% of moderates in this town.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 12:28 am

You haven't yet wrapped your head around the concept of supervisorial districts, have you?

Posted by Jimmy Crack Corn on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

of elections to discover what voters actually want.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

Which "voters" are you talking about?

You do know that the voters of D5 are not the same as the voters of the city at-large, don't you?

Posted by Jimmy Crack Corn on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

Steve Jones, Ross Mirkirimi, Chris Daly, among at least dozens certainly don't get that.

So what dear god is your point?

Posted by matlock on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

Are you really that thick?

An office-holder should reflect the will of their constituency.

I can spell out individual words, if necessary.

Posted by Jimmy Crack Corn on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 6:31 pm

Because the progressive crowd in SF think otherwise and demonstrated that point one short year ago.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

Glad to hear you agree with me on the standards for this particular appointment, then.

Posted by Jimmy Crack Corn on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

I would be of the opinion that Lee appoint someone who somewhat reflects the voters of the district.

I'm not a sleazy progressive who sees every moment as a chance to get over.

Why should Lee bother though?

Posted by matlock on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

I will guarantee you he wouldn't pick a conservative.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 4:45 am

One short year ago the progressives were salivating at the thought of ignoring sf voters.


Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 9:28 am

Either way we win. Supervisor Olague or we get to keep Olague at Planning and we will win with a Supervisor Haaland race in D5. That's a fight I'm all in for. Lacing up my boxing gloves now.

Posted by Brian Basinger on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 7:41 am

an olague appointment is a three-fer for ed lee. he gets a supervisor who supports him. he removes a planning commission vote that occasionally goes against him. and if he plays his cards and finds five other votes, he gets a planning commissioner - say a london breed - who will vote his way and can be groomed for further service if olague doesn't work out. assuming olague would be unhappy to be passed over for the supe pick for someone more moderate then picking anyone other than her creates an enemy on the planning commission and gets him a supervisor that loses in a few months.

Posted by guest on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 8:15 am

The BOS president chooses three of the seven Planning Commission seats, including the one held by Ms. Olague. Besides, the downtown development interests haven't lost a vote on most of the important PC issues over the past 10 years. The PC has been working just fine for the administration and developers, and that doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon.

The affordable housing ratio hasn't been adjusted upwards in years (it's still far below the 50% level that would indicate city government cares about building new housing for all income levels); rents continue to far outpace inflation adding millions in pure profit to the pockets of the largest landlords and developers; the Planning Department continues to support large upscale housing projects with minimal impact fees while directing many of the fees to gentrification projects that increase the wealth of adjacent property owners. The city still hasn't done any comprehensive research about who is buying the new housing over the past 20 years or how many pied-de-terres and speculation purchases are part of the mix. The city is on auto-pilot and SPUR, BOMA and the Chamber of Commerce have never been happier.

It helps when there are sympathetic officials working in government, but it's often the continuing pressure from the streets that's required to alter the status-quo course naturally favored by government. Over the past 8 years it seems progressives have relied more on who the particular legislators/city employees would be and less attention was given to pushing hard on a coherent alternative agenda that had broad-based support and commitment. Government employees and non-profits dependent on city funding may be natural allies when it comes to supporting new taxes, but are less cohesive around budget priorities. Even fewer are interested in the long slog needed to support and enact alternative development strategies.

It's hard to believe these dynamics will change much regardless of who the next D5 supervisor is or who their replacement might be next November.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 11:51 am

I have worked with Christina on land use issues for over a decade. She is rock solid on all the issues progressives have prioritized and has the guts to stand up for those values.
Thank you Gabriel for standing up for Christina. A big step against the continuous sexism on the left. She has been a strong advocate with us and deserves our support in D5.

Posted by Debra Walker on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 8:18 am

Christ lady, give it up already.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 9:12 am

I am not giving it up.
The sexism is obvious in the results of the last ten years. Progressives do not support women candidates like they support their male counterparts.
Unless, of course, they look good in short skirts.
Check the results....and your comment just underlines it.
And in the case of Christina Olague she has been working on progressive causes for about you?

Posted by GuestDebra Walker on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 6:36 am

The only one who has won recently was Jane Kim. No disrespect or anything but she won votes at the margin because she didn't look like the typical rather dowdy and frumpy female prog. She looked a modern, business-like and (I have to say it) really cute woman. She was also smart and organised.

If you look at the other female Supes who have recently won, they're all cute: Aliota-Pier, Ma and Chu. The Bierman/Hestor/Walker look just doesn't play well with the electorate any more.

Perhaps it's sad, perhaps it's wrong, and perhaps it shouldn't matter. But to get elected as a woman, you've got to make an effort to look sharp and attractive. Same deal in the business world. Looks count and image matters.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 7:01 am

Your comment underlines the sexism. It is exactly why progressive women candidates don't win.
So progressives help Aaron Peskin, Chris Daly and Tom Ammiano (sorry fellows I love you all - but how are these guys not dowdy?)
These races were close enough that support from male progressives would have mattered. But too many progressive have the attitude you illustrate with your comments.
To quote you, "the Bierman/Hestor/Walker look" is kind of sexist. And you are using it. I really am honored to be put in the same sentence with two women who have made more of a positive difference for all of us living here than any male elected in the past two decades. But that you are attempting to demean their work by calling them dowdy is really the issue here.
Thanks for illustrating my point.

Posted by Debra Walker on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 7:42 am

It's no secret that image matters more for a woman than a man. Maybe it shouldn't but it does. It matters in love, in business, in the movies and in politics. So you either bury your head in the sand or you adapt.

I'm not calling anyone dowdy. I am describing how the voters see things. With a woman, they want to see a ceertain "look". The woman doesn't have to be a glamor model but she does have to make an effort. A makeover, a stylist, a modern hair-style, fashionable clothes - these are the (shallow) factors the modern electorate looks for and that make that crucial difference. Hilary Clinton knows that - why don't you?.

You're correct that Aaron, Chris and Tom aren't going to win any beauty pageants either. But it just doesn't matter as much for them. Female progressives haven't done a good job of managing the "image problem".

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 8:05 am

dont know about you, I vote for a representative based on skill, knowledge, effectiveness and record-too bad Deborah Walker lost in 6-the fixes are in and a shiny new SF is on the way-

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

I have been thinking lately about how progressives can most effectively tell the truth, educate and enlighten, and challenge when necessary in a way that wins. I've been noticing we use our shaming and blaming tools as weapons too often. Sometimes that works and sometimes it alienates people unnecessarily. Passionate people sometimes have trouble managing their tongues. I'm trying to groom myself to express thoughts and beliefs in the affirmative, with abundance.

Wish me luck....

Posted by Brian Basinger on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 9:32 am

you do an ode to Chris Daly and his tantrums and screaming.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

Hey Debra!

Chris Daly is hot, NOT dowdy. Tall. Good looking. Smart. Opinionated. Confident. Strong. With a heart of gold and willing to put himself on the line for others. There is nothing sexier in a man.

You're into chicks so overlooking these important factors is understandable. A dude who is into dudes knows the difference.


Posted by Brian Basinger on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 9:29 am

Daly, who is doughy, pasty, has a receding chin and a suburban-style belly, then Aaron Peskin must be considered by many progressives to be the epitome of hotness.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

Seriously. Since progressive males won't vote for progressive females, let the boys compete in their swim suits and evening gowns. The one with the best abs and buns wins. This will save the city a load of cash. And just think of the turn out.

Posted by As long as we're being mindless here on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

Hey Debra, you don't get to blame your opponent for your lack of success in politics. The deck is stacked against us all from a race, class, gender and to a lesser extent queer perspective.

If you're going to be playing the electoral politics game, then you're going to have to be willing to play the hand you're dealt effectively and to own the consequences of how you played your hand. That is all that matters, your opponents can and will fuck with you to thwart you.

I do not believe that looks were decisive in D6 in 2010 although they might have played a minor role like many other factors. The margin was close enough that organizing for vote harvesting is what decided the winner. Your campaign relied on the Guardian and DCCC endorsements while Kim's campaign used nonprofits to harvest votes on an industrial scale.

There was little in your campaign that, to use Hank Wilson's line, magnetized people. Your campaign kickoff was a prime example. Why, for instance, would D1 resident Hene Kelley's shreiking haranguing based on the exhausted 1970s era labor/democrat party coalition, the first thing that one heard at the event, bring anyone new into the campaign?

The nonprofit sector that you support screwed you because they were willing to offer their political cover to power for a cheaper price than your coterie of nonprofits, you did not come up short due to your gender or age. You were just out-hustled.

I understand how important it is to your political culture that friendships be respected over policy or political differences, often to the extent of obscuring the truth. But unless we scrape the layers of varnish off of the situation, we will never be able to uncover the truth and without that, any path forward will be based on erroneous assessments of our current predicament.

So long as oversocialized progressives put their personal needs, friendships and relationships ahead of the well being of the movement and don't take a big picture view, we'll continue our downward trajectory.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 9:59 am

For more than a decade, the number of women that progressives have elected to office, other than School Board, is practically nil. I think Greg Shaw said it best in his letter to the editor at BeyondChron~

Jan. 15, 2009

To the Editor:

The Supervisors that progressives have gotten elected the last decade are all men: McGoldrick, Peskin, Gonzalez, Daly, Ammiano, Sandoval, Mar, Chiu, Campos, and Avalos (do you personally really count Maxwell, Randy?) My calculator says the odds of that happening by sheer luck are just short of a hundredth of a percent.

The problem isn't representation or power for women in jurisdictions that overlap us -- obviously, the corporate Democrats have been pretty good at that locally. We need progressives to say, save rent control, but that doesn't change the fact it's the progressives who can't elect women anywhere past the School Board, and by this point it's hard to see it as anything other than institutional and entrenched sexism. The odds are 99.99%.

Greg Shaw
San Francisco

Posted by Lisa on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

That point has long since been noted and logged. The question is what are you going to do about it?

Might I add that in 2010 Walker lost to a woman who was running as a progressive, and that in D6, some 80+% of the vote went to women who were running as progressives?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

I like and respect Greg Shaw, but I think perhaps he's being a bit myopic here. If you're going to have a serious analysis rather than try to fit facts into an already preconceived opinion, you should probably look beyond a sample size of 10. And even in the limited sample, he conveniently omits a couple data points. Yes, Greg, you DO count Sophie Maxwell, because it doesn't matter that she sold out later. If you're debating whether or not progressives are too sexist to elect a progressive woman, then the only thing that matters is how she *ran*. And Sophie Maxwell *ran* as a progressive, no question about it. And progressive men voted for her. By the same token, Jane Kim counts too. Whether she is or is not progressive in reality, is immaterial for the purposes of this discussion. She ran as a progressive.

That still makes it 10-2, sure, but 10-2 is not 10-0. You have to recalibrate the calculator, because 10-2 really messes up the argument that there's a statistical near-impossibility of that result happening by sheer luck.

But if you really want to make a serious argument, you really need to go beyond the 7x7 borders of this town and look at a broader sample. Let's start with the East Bay and North Bay, just for starters. Seems that most of the progressives who've been elected have been women... oh just off the top of my head... Rebecca Kaplan, Jean Quan, Loni Hancock, Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, Gayle McLaughlin, Audie Bock (oh yes she counts, even though later she did an about face, she beat Elihu Harris running as a progressive Green). There are a few others but I'd have to google the names. The only progressive males I can think of off the top of my head are Jared Huffman and Kriss Worthington.

So does that mean progressives outside the city are somehow different than SF progressives? Is this evidence that reverse sexism is at work?

Or is it just about who chose to run for those offices and how the chips fell?

In the SF races you mentioned, were there better progressive women who could have potentially won those races?

For what it's worth, I have a theory. I don't know if it's sexism, so much as "look-ism." If you're a tall and good looking man who looks good in a suit, you have a leg up due to society's biases. If you're a woman, same thing (maybe moreso in terms of facial attractiveness, but OTOH you don't have to be tall. If Barbara Boxer were a 4'11" MAN, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be Senator). If you're blessed with good looks, you have a lot of advantages in life, a lot of doors open for you that wouldn't open for others. We talk about class priveledge, race priveledge, gender priveledge... but we overlook the priveledge of attractiveness. With that in mind, I always scrutinize attractive people in politics a bit more carefully. Is this person, born into priveledge because of their looks, really committed to helping people, or are they just trying to climb the ladder because "I'm young and beautiful and my time is now"?

Of course it's just a theory, so in the end, I just try to judge each person individually. When a woman is the best candidate, I help the woman. When a man is the best candidate, I help the man. Sometimes my candidate wins, sometimes they don't. I don't spend too much time worrying about identity politics.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 10, 2012 @ 12:39 am

She's not "rock solid on all the issues progressives have prioritized."

I'm pretty sure the mayor's office is an issue that progressives have prioritized. When the chips were down, she cashed out on us for the chance at a job. Twice.

John Avalos would have made a much better mayor than Ed Lee. If she doesn't know that, she shouldn't be supervising a progressive district. Of course, she does know that. Which made her endorsement worse.

Posted by Jimmy Crack Corn on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 1:48 pm
Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

GOD, will you please just shut the fuck up, you stupid asshole

thanks in advance

Marke, please try to do, something, about this jerk-off - he is really intolerable........

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

Marke should butt out trying to censor voices here but if he's going to censor someone, make it those who just throw out abuse and insults.

Posted by Anonymous on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 4:46 am

shut up are you not clear on?

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 05, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

Progressive values? Now that is pure oxymoron!

Progressives won't be satisfied until all of SF has the "urine stained homeless shelter" motif of the Tenderloin.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2012 @ 9:30 am

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