By Steven T. Jones
How desperate is the pro-car crowd to kill Healthy Saturdays? Sources tell us that De Young Museum matriarch Dede Wilsey and other allies talked rookie Assembly member Fiona Ma into writing state legislation that would have required voter approval for creating car-free spaces in San Francisco parks, and that she was talked out of doing so by financier and backer Warren Hellman -- a supporter of Healthy Saturdays -- just before the Feb. 23 deadline for introducing bills. Contacted by the Guardian, Hellman confirmed the basic story, telling us, "We talked and she had an idea of proposing something, but I thought it was unnecessary.” He thinks the issue is likely to end up before voters either way, either through a referendum on the passage of Healthy Saturdays or a measure placed on the ballot by four supervisors if it fails. Ma's office refused to comment on whether she pursued legislation to prevent Healthy Saturdays -- which she opposed last year as a member of the Board of Supervisors -- and would say only, “I do not discuss private conversations with constituents in the media.”
Saturday closure is an emotion-packed issue for both sides, which may be why Newsom decided to announce his opposition fairly early, just to avoid the acrimony. But that left Sup. Bevan Dufty (who voted against it last year) as the swing vote and someone who admits that his phone has been ringing off the hook lately. But he's pledged to stay engaged and try to do the right thing: "I'm trying to stay refreshingly open on the issue of Healthy Saturdays and consider different viewpoints."