October 23, 2002

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Rhapsody in Burke: Readers of the Fangs' Independent and San Francisco Examiner may have noticed the papers seem to have lost their enthusiasm lately for two pet candidates.

To the surprise of regular Fang watchers, the Examiner endorsed District Six supervisorial candidate Burke Strunsky Sept. 24. The editors' support comes after writers at both papers had spent months propping up Roger Gordon, who ran the nonprofit Urban Solutions, and pro-property owner attorney Michael Sweet, both of whom led spirited attacks against the Fangs' favorite whipping boy, incumbent Chris Daly, one of the most progressive members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

What's up? Well, it could have something to do with the $3,000 Strunsky's dad and airport commissioner, Michael Strunsky, and his wife, Jean, contributed to the Fangs' anti-Proposition K campaign the same day the Independent endorsed the younger Strunsky. (Prop. K would put the city's half million-dollar contract for government notices out to bid – and possibly take it out of the hands of the Independent, which currently has the deal.) The Strunskys are a well-off lot. They own the rights to Ira Gershwin's oeuvre. But profit from Gershwin's genius likely didn't go into anti-K coffers. We're told most of the family's cash on hand comes from real estate interests. By deadline, Michael Strunsky had not returned a phone call seeking comment. But Eric Howell, Burke Strunsky's assistant campaign manager, told us, "There is no connection. [Michael] is opposed to K, and we're opposed to it too. [Michael] does his own thing." (Savannah Blackwell)

Planning play: Thanks to some deft questioning by Sup. Matt Gonzalez at the Board of Supervisors' Oct. 15 meeting, the supes pulled a clever move, tossing the "When is the city going to get a Planning Commission?" ball back in Mayor Willie Brown's court.

By aiming queries at deputy city attorney Ted Lakey, Gonzalez got him to publicly state that the mayor is not the only official with the power to swear in the three commissioners already approved by the board. Board president Tom Ammiano can do it, too, Lakey acknowledged.

Ammiano chimed in that he was "ready and willing" to do the job, and Lakey was ordered to draw up the necessary papers. Sup. Jake McGoldrick pointed out that planning commissioners, regardless of who appoints them, serve neither the mayor nor the board, but the public. So the supes officially asked the three – dentist Michael Antonini, Rev. Edgar Boyd, and Bayview Opera House chief Shelley Bradford Bell – to come on down and take their positions.

Only Brown nominee Jeffrey Chen, a member of the anti-tenant San Francisco Neighborhood Resource Center and of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, did not get a majority of supervisors to approve his appointment. Even so, the mayor announced that none of his nominations would start serving. The panel currently has only three official members: those nominated by Ammiano and already approved by the board. It's supposed to have seven. So the commission still does not have a quorum, and as such, planning director Gerald Green has acted in its place.

News flash: In his annual State of the City address Oct. 21, Brown asked the supervisors to accept city administrative officer Bill Lee as his fourth nominee. The request came as a surprise to many officials – not least of whom Lee. Word is, the noncontroversial, longtime city hall fixture will get the board's nod. (Blackwell)

Alioto round three: Angela Alioto, who served on the Board of Supervisors from 1989 to 1997 and was its president for her last two years in office, has announced she's intending to make her third bid for the city's highest elected post. On Oct. 15, Alioto, daughter of former mayor Joe Alioto, sent a letter to "family and friends" announcing her plans to run for mayor in the 2003 race. And she says she's going to raise $4 million – so Sups. Tom Ammiano and Gavin Newsom, Treasurer Susan Leal, and former police chief Tom Ribera, all of whom are also expected to enter the race– might take note. "We are in this game," Alioto told us. "We would like to stay within the $600,000 cap, but if a Gavin Newsom or anyone else goes over that, we plan on being competitive with whatever amount they raise." (Blackwell)

Owning up: Last week the SF Weekly ran a story touted on the cover as a "real estate tour of the fabulous homes owned by foes of homeownership." Sexy headline. Sexy but wrong. We called several of the people whose homes writer Matt Smith features in the story, and not a single one of them opposes homeownership.

The people Smith profiled do, in fact, oppose Proposition R, which, if passed, would make every building in the city vulnerable to condo conversion. But Prop. R isn't synonymous with homeownership.

Many of these folks have actually fought to make home-buying easier. Calvin Welch, for example, helped develop Parkview Commons, 114 units of ownership housing for working-class San Franciscans. Sup. Chris Daly was an early advocate of Proposition B, the affordable-housing bond on November's ballot, which sets aside $60 million for home loans and new construction.

Bay Guardian editor and publisher Bruce B. Brugmann is also labeled an "antihomeownership homeowner." But the Bay Guardian has never downplayed the value of owning a home. In fact, we published a cover story about how the city could use community land trusts to increase homeownership (see "Why Can't You Buy This House?," 8/1/01).

We oppose Prop. R only because it pits tenants who can afford to buy against the majority who can't. The real beneficiaries are landlords and downtown businesses who will profit if renters move out (see "The Empire Strikes Back," 10/9/02).

We asked Smith if he actually interviewed the people in his column about their positions on homeownership, but he didn't respond to that question. Next time maybe he'll spend less time sightseeing and more time checking his facts. (Cassi Feldman)

Quality of whose life? Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), already in the hot seat for OKing a strike against Iraq, further alienated San Francisco progressives Oct. 19 by appearing at a rally to promote Proposition N, a.k.a. Care Not Cash, and oppose Proposition L, the real estate transfer tax increase.

Feinstein addressed a crowd of approximately 250 people at the launch of SF SOS, a new "quality of life advocacy group" backed by millionaire Don Fisher (founder of the Gap) and financier Warren Hellman.

"SF SOS is formed to give a voice to people who do not usually participate in the political process ... people who are too busy to be advocates," organization president Wade Randlett said. "San Francisco needs fresh perspectives. We need to address panhandling. We don't need to get hassled every day." Notably, this last comment received the loudest applause of the event.

Most speakers echoed his sentiments, framing homelessness as a problem that victimizes the middle class. A filthy city, they argued, is unsightly – and detrimental to business. "Homeless people and drug pushers on the streets is a disgrace for any city," attendee Verda Heisler said. "It offends a lot of people."

To make sure none of those offensive homeless people got into their Delancey Street event, SF SOS organizers kept anyone who wasn't on the RSVP list waiting outside for nearly 20 minutes. Demonstrators were forced to protest outside the gates and away from attendees.

Protesters balked when they heard that SF SOS is billing itself as a "grassroots activist organization." Prop. N, which, if passed, would cut cash aid to homeless people, is widely opposed by homeless activists. Prop. L, which would raise the property transfer tax on buildings worth more than a million dollars, would help fund needed community services.

Though most of the demonstrators were protesting Feinstein's war vote, certain attendees drew connections between the impending strike and San Francisco's political shift to the right. One protester carried a No War on Iraq sign in one hand and a No on N sign in the other. Interestingly, Sup. Gavin Newsom, who initiated Care Not Cash, is (along with Sup. Tony Hall) one of only two supervisors who voted against the board's resolution urging Congress to oppose military action in Iraq.
(David Moisl)