Newsom’s chickens come home to roost

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It's not easy being mayor. Especially, when you are running for governor.

In the past few years, Mayor Gavin Newsom appeared to have mastered the way to silence his critics: he avoided debating them.

He refused to show up to Board meetings. And when he finally did, it was to drop a shocking financial bomb, then run away before the supervisors could ask informed questions or participate in a collaborative solution to the City’s woes.

And since announcing his gubernatorial run, Newsom has been increasingly missing in action, even though the city is facing a massive economic crisis.

But now one of Newsom’s fiercest critics has found a way to get his attention.

The Nation of Islam’s Minister Christopher Muhammad has been showing up at town-hall meetings that Newsom is holding statewide as part of his gubernatorial campaign, complaining about unresolved issues around asbestos dust and other toxic materials at the Hunters Point Shipyard.

So far, Muhammad and his followers have showed up in Oakland, Napa and San Diego, and it’s likely they are not going to go away, any time soon.

As columnists Phil Matier and Andy Ross report in today’s Chronicle, after an item about assault rifles flowing in from Nevada, Newsom’s “handlers have a queasy feeling that they will be hearing more from the minister and his friends as the gubernatorial race heats up.”

It’s not clear the minister’s appearances make audiences sympathetic to his cause.

As one source reported, during Newsom’s March 12 town hall in Napa, which was held at the local fairgrounds, “it was standing room only and went fairly well until a group from Bayview/Hunter's Pt. showed up and demanded to vent their spleen.”

“This really pissed off the over 55 crowd, thinning the herd somewhat,” said our source.

But, according to M&T, Newsom “even promised to sit down with the Nation’s leadership if only they would let the rest of the audience get some questions on.”

M&T claim that “no meeting, however, ever took place.”

But it makes you wonder what would happen, if other advocates who have been unable
to get Newsom’s ear, started to show up at his gubernatorial town-halls, too.