That's what we've had since the return of district elections in 2000. Matt Gonzalez was a Green Party member who (other than one unfortunate vote on school funding) held down the board's left flank. Ross Mirkarimi, who on occasion clashed with his progressive colleagues, never went south on a single issue. We're looking for a strong, progressive leader here, someone who can break new ground and launched dramatic new programs and ideas. But just as important, we're looking for someone the left doesn't have to worry about, someone who, when John Avalos or David Campos proposes a good piece of legislation, will always be in the yes column, and who, when the conservative supervisors propose something awful, will always be voting no. This isn't a swing district; when the tenants and labor and the environmentalists and the people who support taxes on the rich and the housing advocates and the human-services community and the rest of the often-fractious but generally together progressive coalition are trying to count to six votes, they shouldn't have to worry about where the D5 supervisor falls.
The supervisor from this district needs to be ready to defy the mayor when he's wrong (which, sadly, is a lot of the time).
We wanted that person to be Christina Olague. A longtime community activist appointed by Gonzalez to the Planning Commission, Olague was for years part of the coalition that fought against the brutal displacement and economic cleansing that was the administration of Mayor Willie Brown. She was one of the most reliable voices on the commission, a rare vote for sanity in a time of madness.
We were pleased Mayor Ed Lee appointed her for Mirkarimi's seat. And then she quickly let us down.
Olague voted in favor of the 8 Washington project. She worked with Sup. Mark Farrell, probably the most right-wing member of the board, to undermine ranked-choice voting. She voted to reappoint Mike Antonini, a Republican who is downtown's best friend, to the Planning Commission. You can argue any of those votes, but the fact is, the two strongest progressive on the board — Avalos and Campos — were on the other side every time.
She's also aligned herself with Brown, Lee, and Rose Pak, who have raised more than $50,000 for her re-election. She seems not to recognize that, as the next tech boom rolls in, city politics will be defined by a profound class struggle — and Brown, Lee, and Pak will be on the wrong side. It's sad to say this after all of her history, but Olague isn't the person to represent District 5 for the next four years.
There are a wide range of strong challengers — and while none of them are perfect, they present credible alternatives to Olague. Our choices are Julian Davis, John Rizzo and Thea Selby.
John Rizzo, as a leader in the local Sierra Club, has been part of the progressive coalition for years. As the president of the Community College Board, he's been one of the reformers trying to keep that institution alive after more than a decade of corruption and mismanagement. He's particularly strong on environmental issues, and would be a worthy successor to Mirkarimi, who engineered bills like the ban on plastic bags that put San Francisco in the forefront of the urban green movement.
Rizzo has to deal with the fact that he was at the helm when City College faced the greatest crisis in at least half a century. In retrospect, it's hard to believe that even the reformers didn't realize how much trouble was at hand and didn't take greater steps to head off the crisis.
But Rizzo's got the seasoning and the agenda to be a solid supervisor.