By Steven T. Jones
Sup. Chris Daly has been getting beat up by Team Newsom, the Chronicle, the Examiner, and Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, but at today's Board of Supervisors meeting, he showed no sign of retreat or remorse. In fact, he's giving as good as he gets in some hilarious and poignant ways. As the meeting began, he distributed to the press copies of a letter to Mayor Gavin Newsom making clear "I did not accuse you of using cocaine" and asking for an apology, and handed out a printout of his latest blog post, in which he labels the concerted attack on him "Operation Eric Jaye" and chides Alioto-Pier for being an out-of-touch elitist who only seems to show up for work when it's time to carry water for the mayor.
Journalists chuckled and pointed out the funniest passages to one another as the board rapidly fired through its business. But the real fun began when it came time for the supervisors to introduce new legislation and Alioto-Pier announced her previously announced proposal to create a code of conduct for supervisors.
Guardian photo by Charles Russo
Actually, Alioto-Pier had two items, the first of which seemed especially ironic given what Daly had written under the subhead "Swells' Sensibilities Sullied" about how Alioto-Pier is the representative for "San Francisco elites." She decried how the school board had closed Newcomer School in her wealthy part of town without approval from the board (which has no jurisdiction over such decisions) and then didn't even consult her before turning it into a charter school called Metro that will bring in ... (pause for dramatic affect) ... "100 low-income students form Marin." She was aghast and seems to expect that everyone else would be as well. "I want us to take this seriously," she implored. "I don't know what to do."
And, once again, the irony seemed lost on the supervisor from District 2.
But that's OK because she had bigger fish to fry, namely Daly. Using the most lofty language she could muster, she said the board needed to do something to preserve decorum. She was careful to praise the First Amendment, which she considers very important, but she said "we also know one is not allowed to yell fire in a dark, crowded theater." She painted Newsom as the helpless victim of Daly's attacks, "with no opportunity to defend himself," and said, "I believe the supervisor should not use these chambers as a bully pulpit from which to attack others."
Thus, she introduced her proposal for an enforceable code of conduct, which will be considered at a future meeting. Then it was Daly's turn to introduce legislation and he proposed his own code of conduct for elected officials, with Newsom and Alioto-Pier clearly in mind.
Daly's code would set standards for sexual harassment, improper fraternization between elected officials and the managers under them, the use of intoxicating substances while on the job (the first three being clearly aimed at Newsom's sexual improprieties with an employee and admitted drinking problem), and an attendance policy (clearly aimed at Alioto-Pier, who has by far the worst attendance record on the board). The message was clear: an aggressive political style isn't the only behavior that should be subject to scrutiny.
But Newsom press secretary Nathan Ballard didn't see it that way when reporters approached him afterward. "It is yet another thinly veiled attempt to level false allegations against the mayor," he said. I pointed out that the issues Daly raised about Newsom weren't false allegations, but things the mayor has already admitted to and then refused to discuss in any detail with the media, but Ballard said, "I'm not going to comment on the substance of what he's saying." Oh, I see. "Lobbing personal attacks at the mayor is inappropriate and his colleagues should rein him in," Ballard said. Hmm, apparently it's OK for a city employee, particularly a public information officer (who already has a code of conduct that he's supposed to abide, which includes fairness and not leveling personal attacks) to lob personal attacks at an elected official, but a legislator isn't allowed to attack the chief executive.
As Sup. Tom Ammiano said earlier in the meeting on an unrelated item, "Yes, collegiality folks, that's the name of the game in these chambers."