January 22, 2003

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Hall Monitor

By Savannah Blackwell

Lefty strategy: Representatives of some of the city's most influential progressive organizations have decided to meet on a regular basis in an effort to influence the outcome of the November 2003 mayoral race.

While they aren't sure whether Sup. Tom Ammiano, who until recently was considered the clear leader of the left, should or can be mayor, they're determined to make sure that Sup. Gavin Newsom doesn't get the job.

About a dozen activists – who represent the leadership of the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club, the Affordable Housing Alliance, the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, and the Council of Community Housing Organizations – met Jan. 6 to decide how best to influence the agenda and tone of the debate. The idea was to identify issues of concern to a broader spectrum of voters than the hardcore left. And those who attended the meeting have decided that at the top of the agenda should be protecting access to affordable housing and preserving the city's neighborhoods while encouraging growth of diverse local business communities.

"We need to not just react to other people's agendas," tenant and labor activist Robert Haaland, who was present at the meeting, told us. "We need to create our own vision for the city."

"We know we have the obvious shared goal of blocking Newsom," said Jerry Threet, a Green Party member and former president of the Harvey Milk Club who also participated in the session. "To do that, we see that we've got to get back the coalition that we had with more moderate and neighborhood activist types – the one that beat the machine's slate [for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors] in 2000."

Since many moderates are also tenants, it makes sense to make affordable housing the wedge issue, Threet said. (Moderates didn't go for Proposition R, the measure that would have lifted the annual limit on converting rental units to condominiums for sale, which is why it was defeated last November, according to campaign experts.)

And most San Franciscans across the political spectrum consider neighborhood character key to the quality of life.

The dozen or so activists haven't decided which mayoral candidate to present with their platform and are keeping their options open.

Several are unwavering Ammiano supporters. But some feel reluctant to back the former San Francisco Board of Supervisors president, saying he has faced too many losses at the polls in recent months and has failed to demonstrate effective leadership during his last two years as board president.

"Nobody said we had to support Tom," one participant told us.

Shortly after the disappointing results of the general election, some Harvey Milk Club officers were even considering encouraging Ammiano to abandon his plans to make a second run for the city's top elected post. They told us at the time that they thought former state assembly member Carole Migden (who is now a member of the state Board of Equalization) might have a better shot at beating Newsom.

But before any such meeting with Harvey Milk Club officials could take place, Ammiano met with Migden, and he told us Migden assured him she isn't interested in running this November.

Still, there are other possibilities. Some participants have expressed interest in supporting Angela Alioto, who, like Ammiano, provided a progressive voice on the Board of Supervisors.

And some support city treasurer and former supervisor Susan Leal.

But the consensus at the Jan. 6 meeting was to focus discussion on issues rather than on candidates.

On another note, Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition member Richard Marquez, who was present at the meeting, said the progressives need to do more to reach out to the concerns of communities of color. (Savannah Blackwell)