April 24, 2002




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Party people: In a sign of how much things have changed at the Democratic County Central Committee, the local wing of the Democratic Party, progressive veteran Jane Morrison was elected committee president by an overwhelming majority April 17. Morrison took 23 votes; Meagan Levitan, who is more closely allied with the Brown administration, got just 6. Wade Crowfoot, who works as an aide to Sup. Aaron Peskin, was voted treasurer.

To appreciate the significance of the change, you have to look back to Willie Brown's first term as mayor, when the committee served as an arm of his political machine. Its endorsements allowed the mayor's allies to proclaim they were backed by the Democratic Party.

During Brown's 1999 reelection bid the committee stepped even further into the local political fray, raising and distributing millions of dollars on his behalf. (It didn't seem to bother the committee that the mayor's leading opponents were also Democrats.)

That campaign motivated reformers to mount a serious assault on the DCCC. In 2000, anti-Brown candidates failed to win a solid majority of seats, but they gained enough power to challenge the machine's hegemony. In the following year's elections for the Board of Supervisors, the two factions compromised, agreeing not to make endorsements – a decision that some observers called a crucial factor in that election's progressive sweep.

Now that the outsiders have taken over, will they use the committee's muscle to help their side and begin endorsing again? "That'll be up to the members," Morrison said.

Crowfoot, for one, thinks they should. "I'm opposed to soft money playing a big role in supervisorial races," he told us. "But for the party to be relevant, it needs to be involved in local elections." (Gabriel Roth)

Cook off: No one we spoke to at the Board of Supervisors' April 22 meeting could remember the last time the supes rejected a mayoral appointee for a city commission. But the board had no problem ending Frank Cook's tenure on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission with a quick 9-0 vote. There weren't any harsh words for Cook – in fact, many people went out of their way to describe him as a nice person. The problem, as several supes put it, was a lack of professional expertise.

"We're done allowing appointments to slip through who are well intentioned but do not rise to the standards that we all deserve," Sup. Aaron Peskin said. Last year Peskin pushed for the rule change that made it easier for the board to reject certain mayoral appointments. (Tali Woodward)

No injection of funds: With the city facing a $130 million budget deficit next year, the red pen is coming out. Both the Mayor's Office and several of the supervisors have expressed their continued support for High School Wellness Centers, which provide students at seven local high schools with integrated medical and mental health services. But the amount of support the city offers the centers will likely stay at the current level of $1.4 million, which many say is inadequate.

That means there will be no cost-of-living adjustment for the clinic's staff members, no additional staff, and no option to expand the program to more schools. Christy Parson, the program coordinator at Lincoln High School, told the Board of Supervisors' Health and Human Services Committee April 18 that demand for mental health help and other sensitive services, such as family planning, far exceeded her program's capacity. "Funding is a real issue," she said. "We need a full-time mental health counselor, but there is only the budget for half-time."

The teens who spoke before the committee presented a clear message: a clinic staffed with people who care is invaluable. One George Washington High student testified that the clinic counseled her through her mother's cancer diagnosis; others spoke about coping with severe depression.

Sup. Gavin Newsom placed some of the blame for the clinics' sorry state on Gov. Gray Davis, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have boosted funding. (Ellie Kieskowski)

Sunny days ahead? Two members of the community group that wrote and campaigned for the 1999 Sunshine Initiative are likely to join the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force next month. Doug Comstock and Richard Knee, both members of San Franciscans for Sunshine, were appointed by the Board of Supervisors April 22. Also appointed were Edgar David Parker, Alexandra Nickliss, and former task force member Sue Cauthen; current members Joshua Koltun and Bay Guardian editor and publisher Bruce B. Brugmann were reappointed. The task force is charged with hearing complaints about violations of the city's open-government law. If the nominees are confirmed by the mayor, their two-year terms will likely begin May 28. (Rachel Brahinsky)