Man for the moment? - Page 2

John Rizzo's calm demeanor and steady progressivism may be the antidote to the sordid D5 supervisorial race

John Rizzo speaks with D5 resident Maria Burluk as campaign worker Daniel Pope looks on.
Beth Laberge

Rizzo is a soft-spoken family man who has lived in the same building on Waller Street in the Haight-Ashbury for the last 27 years. Originally, he and Christine, his wife of 25 years, rented their apartment in a tenancy-in-common building before they bought it in the early 1990s, although he's quick to add, "In all the years we've owned it, we never applied for condoship."

He supports the city's limits on condo conversions as important to protecting working-class housing, although he said, "The focus should be on building new affordable housing." That's an issue Rizzo has worked on since joining the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter more than 20 years ago, an early advocate for broadening the chapter's view of environmentalism.

He's a Muni rider who hasn't owned a car since 1987.

Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter, said Rizzo brings a wealth of experience, established relationships, and shrewd judgment to his role as the group's political chair. "We really rely on John's ability to weigh what is politically feasible, not just what's ideal in our minds," she told us.

Yet that political realism shouldn't be confused for a lack of willingness to fight for big, important goals. Rizzo has been an advocate for public power in San Francisco for many years, strategizing with then-Sup. Ammiano in 2001 to implement a community choice aggregation program, efforts that led to this year's historic passage of the CleanPowerSF program (with a key vote of support by Olague) over the objections of Mayor Lee and some business leaders.

"CleanPowerSF was carried by John Rizzo, who has been working on that issue for 10 years," Myers said.

Rizzo is a technology writer, working for prospering computer magazines in the 1990s "until they all went away with the bubble," as well as books (his 14th book, Mountain Lion Server for Dummies, comes out soon).

He sees the "positives and the negatives" of the last tech boom and this one, focusing on solving problems like the Google and Genetech buses blocking traffic or Muni bus stops. "On the one hand, these people aren't driving, but on the other hand, they're unregulated and using our bus stops," he said. "We need to find some solution to accommodate them. Charge them for it, but accommodate them."

That's typical of how Rizzo approaches issues, wanting to work with people to find solutions. As president of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees, Rizzo suffered the bad timing of the district having its accreditation threatened just as his supervisorial race was getting underway, but he's steadily worked through the administrative problems that predated his tenure, starting with the criminal antics of former Chancellor Phil Day and continuing with "a management structure still in place, and it had calcified."

Despite being on the campaign trail, Rizzo called the trustees together six times in August to deal with the accreditation problems. "We now have a plan that shows all the things the district needs to do to keep it afloat. City College is back on track."



Eileen Hansen — a longtime progressive activist, former D8 supervisorial candidate, and former Ethics Commissioner — gave her early endorsement to Rizzo, who never really seemed to catch fire. "There hasn't been a lot of flash and I would love for there to be more energy," she admitted.

So, like many progressive leaders, she later offered her endorsement to Davis, believing he had the energy needed to win the race. But after Davis' problems, Hansen withdrew that endorsement and sees Rizzo as the antidote to its problems.


Rizzo's a milquetoast. D5 has always gone for the big hollering firebrands and probably always will. They need someone with more energy and more community engagement — I hardly ever see Rizzo out on the streets or doing stuff in his own neighborhood — unlike Thea Selby. I think she's the logical choice if D5 wants clear progressive leadership AND a chance to get over its history of misogynists.

Posted by walter on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 7:32 am

Thea Rocks City Hall with integrity and strength to represent D5, Like the Gaints rock this year, Thea can do it too. She has that same attitude, Glad to be alive attitude! Cannot be beat! Let's get it moving and shaking for a great city! I vote Thea.

Posted by Guest faceme99 on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 9:46 am

John might be a boring old white guy, but at least he is not distracted like so many transit advocates with something as cheap as a shiny new parklet so that the Lee Administration might give more of our city away to developers and campaign contributors...Selby is on the board of the Transit Riders Union that is a company union advancing the MTA agenda "from the outside" so that it gets a seat at the table.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Hear here!!!

Posted by GranyGear on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

I'm not distracted by parklets. I'm distracted by the Rizzo's GINO track record screwing over real Greens and real environmentalists in the name of machine endorsements. Everything he's overlooked has gone broke. What are YOU distracted by, exactly?

Posted by Jym Dyer on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

I like John Rizzo as well. He's got my second vote, no question. He's serious, responsible, has good values and is not a sociopathic egomaniac. We could use more such people.

Like walter, though, I'm going for Thea. All of John's traits plus energy, enthusiasm, real-world experience and a true determination to make all of D5 better. Have you seen her out walking and talking to people all over the District? A sight to behold!

London Breed and Christina Olague are two sides of the same bad coin. Let's vote for a change and better times ahead. Selby: 1. Rizzo: 2.

Posted by Gust on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 8:55 am

Thea Selby indeed has the strength, integrity, outspoken-ness to represent D5 in city hall. She is the clear choice when it come to standing up and speaking out with what counts in our beautiful city. She cannot be bought! She is great. Go Thea! Love to see you working for us in City Hall. Your accomplishments truly stand out! You love your job and want to show us what we are made of! Great enthusiasm for live, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!

Posted by Guest faceme99 on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 9:42 am

Thea is a NIMBY and (owner move in eviction) specialist. Don't be fooled.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 10:12 am

Thea in City Hall! We rock the city with integrity, strength and enthusiasm when she is around.

Posted by Guest faceme99 on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 9:43 am

D5 is a core district for San Francisco progressive politics. Over the past 20 years the voters in D5 have been in the forefront of every important San Francisco progressive issue and campaign, whether it be Prop M that limited out-of-control highrise development, to affordable housing funding, to chain-store restrictions, to medical marijuana, to district elections.

Thea may be a fine person, although anyone who evicts another person from their home like she did (apparently) should never get anyone's vote for public office. But a "fine person" isn't nearly a good enough qualification for a D5 supervisor. Thea may be a perfectly adequate candidate for D2 or D7, but for D5 her candidacy is a joke and should be repudiated by every progressive who lives in D5.

If Thea wants to be taken seriously, let her sit on the College Board or a city commission for a few years where her votes and influence can be evaluated. It's easy to run a political campaign on a bunch of nice platitudes; it's much different sitting on an actual political body and doing the difficult work to make a difference. Thea has no record of any such hard work or difficult decisons. People promoting Thea's D5 candidacy are NOT friends of the progressisve movement by any stretch of the imagination.

John Rizzo is the class candidate for D5. Anyone who has been privy to his work on the College Board knows that he has built meaningful alliances with disparate board members, while spearheading the college's FIRST financial audit three years ago, and helped lead the board in the eventual ouster of City College administrators who were later indicted and convicted for wrongdoing. In contrast to Christina Olague was was always too happy to jump into bed with Michael Antonini by voting to approve one bad project after another on the Planning Commission with few public benefits to show for it, John worked with non-allies to find common ground and pushed City College forward, although there is obviously lots of work that still needs to be done at CCSF.

John Rizzo may be too wonky or unsexy for some, but these are precisely the qualities the city, state and federal governments need to get us out of some serious financial problems. Budgets. Audits. Accountability. Long-term vision. Environmental stewardship. These are the qualities D5 progressives and other residents should be looking for, and not some progressive hack who has decent rhetorical skills but terrible results like a couple of the other so-called progressive candidates.

Vote John Rizzo #1 and feel proud. Then hold your nose (very tightly) and fill out the ballot with your #2 and 3 choices, which are far, far below the quality standard represented by John Rizzo.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

Thea is the past President of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association and has been involved in neighborhood issues for years--in a contentious and rough and tumble hood. She has taken stands on numerous policy initiatives over a long period of time and has worked hard to get things done. There's plenty of basis for a fair judgment. It's not like she's a novice.

But I'll just disagree with your larger point. I don't think people should run for School Board or City College Board or serve on a city commission unless that is their actual interest or actual goal. Enough of the stepping stones! We deserve better than that. And we need to encourage fresh voices. Thea is connecting with people because she is out there talking and listening every day. Isn't that exactly what we want in a public servant? What good does twenty years in the echo chamber do?

Posted by Gust on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

"in a contentious and rough and tumble hood" do you mean that there were knee grows afoot in the Lower Haight, not as many as there used to be, but still?

Posted by marcos on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

No, she means that there were (and are) drug dealers, illegally bred pitbulls, abandoned storefronts full of puddles of waste and ak-47s, car fires, armed robberies, hot prowls, slum landlords, and a neighborhood notorious for not calling the police. and a whole bunch of elected folks who said — see Christina Olague's 2008-ish testimonial on the planning commission about a bad MCD — nothing could be done. Selby actually stepped up to the plate with some tenacity and spine and got changes made.

Rizzo's accomplishments are shiny on paper (Sierra Club! City College! Endorsements!) but I want to know what he's done for his neighbors recently. Enough of this toeing-the-progressive-line junk. Maybe if you're running for higher office. But as a Supervisor, if you can get stuff done in the neighborhoods, that's what matters, and Selby can.

Posted by june on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

Selby has stepped up to each challenge in a neighborhood filled with difficult and life threatening issues. Yes, I agree, why should she serve on a school board such as a city college school board or for things that set her back, like correctly put: echo chambers, and take the true motivation out of her work now? We need her now, not when she has become tired and frustrated by "working her way up thru some machine". Elect her now while she is fresh, working for everybody and getting it done. She has what it takes now, no doubt. Visit her at her headquarters on the lower haight, you will see for yourself. She has the power to add more depth and breath without fear and judgement into city hall than most people could gather through many careers.

Posted by Guest faceme99 on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

It's jaw dropping that anyone would advocate for giving Rizzo the keys to a much greater kingdom.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

Troll II, thanks for besmirching the good names of trolls everywhere since your insight and logic are beyond laughable.

Anyone seriously following the debacle at City College realizes that its problems go back decades, long before John Rizzo was elected to the College Board. They would also realize that when John was first elected, he joined a board with some of the most inept and corruptible administrators. No one gets to work in a vacuum, and having to work with unsavory and corruptible people makes reform even that much more difficult.

Rizzo did the smart thing. He studied hard and learned where some of the biggest problems were. He made alliances with non-allies to find areas of mutual concern. And AFTER getting facts straight and building working alliances he pushed to rid the college of its most corrupt administrators, he initiated the FIRST financial audit for the college, and he worked within the progressive community to bring these bland, boring toipics about accounting, and budgets, and accountibility to light and action.

It's so easy for progressives to be pro-sex, pro-drugs, pro-affordable housing, pro-taxes. But the really hard part of governing is budgets, and finances, and audits, and accountability. Not many people want to get their hands dirty on these topics since it's not very easy to figure out what to do, which facts to believe, or determine a reasonable course of action.

John Rizzo stands heads and shoulders above the other D5 candidates precisely because he's willing to get his hands dirty on difficult, complex issues and is able to work with non-allies to push important issues forward, including the very progressive issue of good government and accountibility.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

Claiming Rizzo worked himself to the bone to keep City College from falling into its current state is not "accountability." It's bullshit. Were he accountable he'd resign in shame and withdraw from politics entirely - instead he wants to be given control over billions of additional dollars! No thanks.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

Troll, now I'm feeling sorry you've likely signed on to support a cad like Julian, or the millionaire developer's bestest friends Olague and Breed, or the lightweight Selby. These are very tough campaign sells in a district that has some of the smartest, best educated, politically aware, and very active voters.

If you were hoping that your ill-chosen candidate(s) might benefit from your tarnishing John Rizzo with the deep-seated, long-simmering problems of City College I wish you well, but I don't think most of the knowledgable voters of D5 are going to buy it. John has been one of the few people actually working extremely hard to improve the finances and accountability of City College. You obviously don't know anything about City College or you would already know this.

I know facts are a big nuisance. And whichever of the candidates noted above you're supporting, they don't have very good factual history to support their campaigns. Their campaigns are a tough sell with the well-informed voters of D5, but I hope you're being well-compensated for your heroic efforts.

I'd suggest that after next Tuesday, when you're done with your hyperbole and smear campaign against Rizzo, you might want to get involved with helping City College solve some of its problems and get your own hands dirty like John who is trying to actually bring fiscal accountability and long-term viability to the college. Although that would require real work beyond being a wrist jockey, and frankly you may not be up for that. And there's no pay and little reward other than trying to do the best thing for future generations of CCSF students.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

Your comment wasn't addressing me because it addressed none of my points - instead focusing on conjecture and fantasy. Sorta like Rizzo's spin on not being responsible for anything going on a City College despite being in a leadership position at the school all these years.

Rizzo - The Power of Failing Upwards!

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

I still think that Thea is free of some of these accusations and stuff that takes time. She is able to do the job well. She has the heart of San Francisco.

Posted by Guest faceme99 on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

Rizzo supported Prop J, Willie Brown's corrupt 1998 ballot argument that privatized Golden Gate Park and built a massive 800-car garage in the Music Concourse at public expense. Then Brown appointed Rizzo to the garage authority as a Commissioner, to reward him for his good and faithful work carrying water for the rich and powerful. But even then "It wasn't Rizzo's fault!!" It was the bad people who were responsible for building the garage and stealing millions of dollars from the Rec and Park Department. Rizzo was only the lone dissenting vote on the Commission -- but again, never disturbed enough by how corrupt things got to quit in disgust. That's because he saw the Brown appointment as his meal ticket to a life in politics, and in so many ways he was right. His campaign for D5 began the day Brown appointed him, & he has never stopped running since.In case you doubt me, go look for his name on the plaque inside the garage right next to Willie Brown & Warren Hellman's. Also, the text of his paid ballot argument in favor of the garage is here:

J Underground Parking for Golden Gate Park


Proposition J converts 250,000 square feet of surface parking into grass, trees, and open space where today there are cars and more parking will be removed later.
Proposition J jump-starts long-discussed public transportation projects including a free inter-park shuttle, supported by fees from the parking garage, as well as better public transportation to the Park. It preserves the Museum Concourse while removing cars from the surrounding area. Frop J also enables the Park to keep the Academy of Sciences, an institution that supports wildlife, plant, and habitat conservation through research and education.
None of this is a coincidence. Environmentalists worked hard on the design of Proposition J to ensure that it would improve and enhance Golden Gate Park for recreationists, museum-goers, and everyone else who enjoys the Park.

John Rizzo, Environmental Activist

Posted by grrlfriday on Oct. 31, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

John Rizzo is pretty darn solid, but I'll bet his detractors have not forgiven him for the role he played in the Proposition J in the late 1990s and the garage park-lovers love to hate that is now under the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park.

Still, I would vote for him first, not sure who second, maybe Thea Selby. Selby is politically ambitious but seems pretty decent. She has been active in her neighborhood, but I am concerned because the San Francisco Alliance for Jobs has thrown the same amount of money into an I.E. in support of her as it has for London Breed:

The San Francisco Alliance for Jobs gets a lot of its funding from the SF Association of Realtors and is part of the machine backing David Lee in District 1, pulling out all the stops to defeat Supervisor Eric Mar.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:10 am

John would make an excellent D5 supervisor, as would Christina or Julian.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:20 am

I don't think that IE was an attempt to do Thea any favors. More like put her in the same boat as London Breed--except with, you know, progressive credibility. Who knows what the intent was--that's a hall of mirrors--but I would bet it was meant to help London by making her seem more reasonable. And who cares if that's at Thea's expense. She's an attractive candidate and London is less so. The money is probably credited evenly because it was a single doorhanger. But if you've seen them on the street you'll notice they were all designed to hang with London's picture showing. Don't even get to Thea unless you actually read it.

Posted by Gust on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 9:13 am

Except now he's gone and given up. I want a fighter, not a quitter.

Posted by Gust on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 8:59 am

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