Sparks reveals her conservativism in exchange with Walker

Theresa Sparks is who downtown and Mayor Gavin Newsom hope will succeed Chris Daly on the Board of Supervisors.

During the District 6 supervisorial candidate debate that San Francisco Young Democrats held last week, a two-question exchange between two of the leading candidates – progressive Debra Walker and downtown-backed Theresa Sparks – offered a revealing look at their starkly different worldviews and priorities, which is more important in this race than people's machine politics conspiracy theories.

During the second portion of the event, candidates were allowed to ask a question of another candidate, and Walker and Sparks focused on one another with pointed questions (this occurred at around the 30-minute mark, although the video doesn't seem to allow users to forward to that point, forcing you to endure the often insipid commentary).

Walker went first, asking Sparks why, during her more than four-year tenure on the Police Commission – a body in charge of disciplining police officers accused of serious misconduct after citizen complaints are investigated and found valid by the Office of Citizen Complaints, with each case assigned to a particular commissioner – Sparks didn't hold any hearings or act to punish any officers.

Sparks said the accusation wasn't true, and that she did hold one hearing during that time, and then said that the Police Commission is prohibited by the city charter from intervening in the internal workings of the Police Department, implying that the body isn't actually in charge of disciplining officers. Walker said Sparks was wrong and tried to ask a follow-up question and was cut off by moderator Melissa Griffin.

So this week, I called both candidates to try to get to the bottom of the dispute. “She indicated it's not the commission's job to focus on these things, and that's absolutely not the case,” Walker said. “She was incorrect saying it wasn't the job of commissioners to do this.”

And when I talked to Sparks, she didn't dispute that fact, but conveyed how complicated the process was when officers are accused of serious misconduct (minor misconduct just goes to the chief), with lawyers seeking stipulated settlements and whatnot, and repeatedly emphasizing “it's a bad system.” One reason it's so bad is her own lack of qualifications: “You can't have people like me, whose only legal background is watching Law and Order, trying to handle these cases.”

Sparks was appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is backing her supervisorial bid, which is also expected to have strong support from the San Francisco Police Officers Association. She wouldn't say how many cases she was assigned during her tenure, but OCC records show more than 300 cases assigned to the commission during her tenure and the long backlog left in her wake has been the subject of criticism by everyone from Police Chief George Gascon to new Police Commission Jim Hammer.

Rather than supporting this civilian oversight of problem officers, Sparks wants to turn those duties over to Gascon's office, telling us, “We need to give this chief more authority to fire officers rather than going through this ridiculous process.”

At the debate, after seeming stung by a question she jokingly called a “softball,” Sparks fired back by asking Walker whether she supported the proposed tax measures now being considered by the Board of Supervisors to help close the city's large budget deficit, framing the question by saying they would hurt small business.

Walker answered by voicing her support for small business, but noting how essential city services such as public health programs were being deeply cut and that the city needed new revenue to deal with its structural budget deficit, although she said that she had yet to decide which of the tax measures she supported considering none have been approved for the ballot yet.

This week, Moody's Investor Services lowered the citys' credit rating precisely because Newsom's budgets have not addressed that structural budget deficit, and even the Controller's Office has ordered more than a $100 million placed on reserve because of doubts about the mayor's revenue assumptions.

So for Sparks to characterize the need for new revenue as an unfair attack on small business indicates a short-sighted, right-wing approach to municipal finances, an approach Walker rejects, telling us, “I think we need to be responsible and do the right thing in dealing with the city's needs...It's going to cost us and the people who come after us more and more because of these cuts.”

When I spoke with Sparks, noting the Moody's report, she seemed to back away from how she was trying the characterize the revenue measures at the debate. “I do think the city needs new revenue, but I don't think that taxing small business is the way to go,” she said, referring to a proposal by Sup. David Chiu to tax commercial rents, which would be paid by the landlords.

So I asked Sparks whether she supported any of the proposals or if she was advocating any other revenues measures, and she said, “Quite honestly, I need to think about that because I do think we need more revenue.”

Which is pretty much the same answer Walker gave in a far more honest and direct way in that debate, without trying to pander to the fears of small businesspeople. The bottom line is that the downtown corporations who are backing Sparks have done nothing to help the city during this prolonged recession, while demanding even greater police responses to deal with poor people sitting on sidewalks and other perceived problems, and that hypocrisy should be front and center in this election.


Wow. This is a premier example of the Guardian being the Fox News of the left. Fair and Balanced? Lol. It's deeply disturbing that an organization would put out a newspaper in the hopes of establishing some sort of credibility for its political operation. Let's just rehash some of the remarks made in this piece which attest to just that...

1) "...a two-question exchange between two of the leading candidates – progressive Debra Walker and downtown-backed Theresa Sparks"

Interesting how you chose downtown-backed as opposed to moderate, despite your choosing progressive for Walker. Insight fears of the huge corporation coming in to wreak havoc and piss on the little guy... well done, well done.

2) "offered a revealing look at their starkly different worldviews and priorities, which is more important in this race than people's machine politics conspiracy theories."

A clear stab at another front-runner progressive candidate, Jane Kim, that you're clearly trying to shoot down. FYI - Machine politics = labor, lopsided DCCC dominated by fringe politicians, and yes, the SF Bay Guardian. Again, the fact that a newspaper sends political slate mail to households is absolutely disturbing.

3) "Which is pretty much the same answer Walker gave in a far more honest and direct way in that debate, without trying to pander to the fears of small business people. The bottom line is that the downtown corporations who are backing Walker have done nothing to help the city during this prolonged recession, while demanding even greater police responses to deal with poor people sitting on sidewalks and other perceived problems, and that hypocrisy should be front and center in this election."

If you guys put in HUGE BOLD PRINT, "OPINION" at the top of everyone of your articles, I'd have much less of a problem. Bottom line, you're a disgrace to journalism. This isn't news, this is some asshole with an agenda mouthing off. It's unfortunate that readers believe what they read just because it's in print. San Franciscans will be better served when you're gone.

P.S. I'm working on that last bit, personally.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

"Downtown corporations who are backing SPARKS."

Otherwise, good piece. Some disturbing revelations about Sparks there...

Posted by Greg Kamin on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

"San Franciscans will be better served when you're gone.

P.S. I'm working on that last bit, personally."

How so? Are you working for the Weekly?

Posted by Greg Kamin on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

The bond rating was lowered because of STRUCTURAL problems, mainly our ballooning pension obligations, which will consume 25% of the city budget within 6 years (in other works, 25% of city revenues will be paid out to retired people).

That 's unsustainable, as Matt Gonzalez said on Monday.

Is Matt Gonzales a tool of "Downtown interests," too? (That's BG Logic for you).

Posted by Barton on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

First of all, Sparks was appointed to the Police Commission by the Board of Supervisors, not the mayor.

Now, how many discipline hearings did David Campos hold while on the Police Commission? He was notorious for using the commission as a soapbox while doing little of the heavy lifting when it came to discipline. Where's the equal treatment for a darling of the far left?

Saying Chiu's tax on commercial rents "would be paid by the landlords" ignores the fact that it's specifically designed to be passed down to the actual tenants. Landlords could choose to pay the tax if they want, but very few would.

And that's just a sample.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

@Greg Kamin

By weekly I presume you mean SF Weekly. And no, I do not. Stay tuned.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 4:19 pm


I was appointed to the San Francisco Police Commission, TWICE, by the progressive Board of Supervisors. The only dissenting vote was Chris Daly, TWICE. And I'm most proud of the fact the YOU, on the cable TV show, City Desk News Hour, stated (after I was elected as the first-ever Board-appointed president of the Commission by my peers, both Board and mayoral appointees) that "we finally a progressive president of the Police Commission".....just to set the record straight.

Posted by Theresa Sparks on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

of year zero down at the Guardian offices.

It's not what you have done for us, but what you have done for us lately?

Posted by matlock on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

From a Bay times article

""Theresa Sparks, Good Vibrations president and CEO, was sworn in on April 26th for a second four-year term as a member of the San Francisco Police Commission. The Board of Supervisors confirmed Sparks’ re- appointment to the Police Commission last week in a unanimous vote of confidence. Attended by a delegation of elected officials and representatives of the Mayor of San Francisco, the official swearing in ceremony was administered by Supervisor Tom Ammiano in a ceremony held at the Hotel Monaco."

from same article

"Before swearing in Sparks, Supervisor Tom Ammiano called her an excellent role model. “I am so honored to be able to do this,” he said. “She has made history and will continue to make history.”"

From the chronicle dated may 1 04

"Mayor Gavin Newsom swore in his four picks for the city's Police Commission on Friday, voicing confidence that they would "not bend to politics or political pressures.''

The new commissioners are lawyer Douglas Chan; lawyer Joseph Alioto Veronese, son of former Supervisor Angela Alioto; Omega Boys Club director Joe Marshall; and former City Attorney Louise Renne.

They will join three commissioners selected by the Board of Supervisors: transgender activist Theresa Sparks and attorney and law school Professor Peter Keane, both of whom were sworn in last week, and Gayle Orr-Smith, a former police officer and police commissioner. She will take the oath of office early next week, before the new commission holds its first meeting. "


The guardians narrow minded hypocrisy is so comical.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

Let's see how Steven wiggles out of this one.

Theresa should realize it doesn't matter how many times she or anyone else points out the facts. The Guardian's junta, led by el commandante Steven Jones, has made up its mind on the matter and from now on the story will fit The Guardian's line - fact be damned.

That's the way "journalism" works down at The Guardian. The story fits the editorial line.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

The police commission, school board, the hundreds of make believe commissions and panels in SF are all just a joke, they are just stepping stones to be a bigger punchline.

But reading Steve's weird blog struck me as all wrong, and he claims to be the expert, and he is the Guardians city desk editor. I don't even care and I knew it was wrong. I spent five minutes reading that thing called the internetaphone and got a whole other story.

The tax plan is in the news right now and Steve can't even get that right.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

a truly horrible person and candidate, based on my direct, personal knowledge.

I cannot give too much detail for fear that will reveal my identity, but I implore all right-minded voters to reject her.

Posted by TomFoolery on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

Just gotta say, as somebody whose undecided about this whole election, this sort of comment doesn't help me any in the same way that this Guardian article didn't really help me any.

Vague accusations, personal attacks unsupported by facts, histrionics. I suppose that's politics in San Francisco, but it's a sad state of affairs.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

Innuendo and accusations posted by an anonomous poster in an Internet chatroom don't carry a whole lot of weight. Sorry.

Posted by Barton on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 6:43 am


Who here isn't anonymous? Is Barton your real name? Or better yet, "Guest"?

i have a posting hisitory here. I have never before made a personal comment about any candidate or person. But DB is bad, bad news. So I make a one-time exception.

I'm not risking a lawsuit by revealing how I know this, or who I am. But I do know this.

Listen now or repent at leisure. Your call.

Posted by TomFoolery on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 8:32 am

The City is being hoodwinked by Moody's, the same honest brokers who rated toxic residential Mortgage Backed Securities as investment grade, as part of the global war on public sector finance. With profit rates crimped, we're seeing the finance sector inserting its blood funnel into each and every crack and crevice of the economy in an effort to draw out more unearned income. Having offshored the productive economy, government along with real estate is all that can't be shipped off. They're doing this in Europe, launching a frontal assault on the public sector, to lay claims on tax revenues to fund wars and bank bailouts. This has nothing to do with San Francisco's structural deficit, rather with the end game of finances' death grip on the national project.

Sparks was appointed by Ammiano to the Police Commission as a deal to make temporary peace between Alice B. Toklas and Milk to elect Tom's favored candidate, but the deal failed to bring home the goods. Sparks showed some promise at first by staging a coup against Renne, but once in the catbird's seat, folded her tent and preened. Sparks is correct that commissioners should not be finding fact and law in SFPD discipline cases. That should be done by a professional hearing officer hired by the Commission and taking direction from the Commission, with the Commission voting up or down on discipline according to the record developed by the hearing officer.

Did Sparks do anything about it? Of course not and for that she will be rewarded by the POA this election cycle. Her solution would be to further enable corrupt cops by forfeiting power to the Chief, who appears to be in the pocket of the POA.

The progressive Board of Supervisors should craft a charter amendment to implement a hearing officer for cop discipline cases now.

Of the rest of Sparks' tenure on the Police Commission, we can point to such successes as the drug lab scandal going down on her watch, to the failure of SFPD to disclose criminal conviction histories of officers before testilying on court, and of the appointment of George Gascón, who appointed brutal thugs like Capitain Greg Corrales to Mission Station and is playing the same lame game of musical captain, shuttling around overpaid, overweight third of a million dollar overtime managers waiting to retire with $200K/yr minimum.

A good chunk of the structural deficit that San Francisco faces is due to Sparks' seat warming on the Police Commission, silent when Newsom's 2007 MOU that gave the cops a loss-leader 25% raise went through. Again, Daly was the only one to vote against that travesty.

As far as Good Vibrations goes, what can you say that a business executive gave major dildo action to a venerated cooperative sex toys operation, turning it into a top-down money losing corporation and getting fired for that? If you can't make a go of selling vibrators and sex toys out of SoMa, then there's something really, really wrong with you, as the sex industry represents perhaps 25% of the western SOMA economy.

But no, this basis for failure earned Sparks a promotion to head the Human Rights Commission, a sinecure from which she is seeking office. Once upon a time, this was viewed as a significant ethics gaffe, but under Newsom's corrupt regime, anything goes.

Break out the cocaine, wine and your best friend's spouse, because you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Marc Salomon
District Six, San Francisco

Posted by marcos on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 9:03 am

I can't understand why a debate would only invite two candidates. Also, what is SO great about Debra Walker?

Posted by Harry on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 9:18 am

Actually, there were seven candidates total at the SFYD Forum:

Matthew Drake
Glendon “Anna Conda” Hyde
James Keys
Jane Kim
Jim Meko
Theresa Sparks
Debra Walker

Steve Jones was only discussing the specific exchange between Walker and Sparks.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

I was wrong, certainly about who appointed Sparks to the Police Commission, and also about whether she would turn out to be a progressive. At the time, before she had any voting record, I assumed that a transgender woman who headed Good Vibrations and was being touted by Tom Ammiano would be progressive. Tom thought so as well, but he also now realizes that he was wrong and has endorsed Debra Walker in this race.

Theresa, if you want to be a progressive, great, be one. Don't just quote me giving you that label before I knew any better, embrace the values and help us fight for more progressive priorities. But that's not how you seem to be aligning yourself. You opted for downtown consultants and allies, criticized civilian police oversight and the need to seek new revenue, and you seem to take delight in belittling progressives. But there's lots of time until November, and the revenue measures on that ballot will need all the support they can get, so I welcome the chance to be wrong again about how you seem to be positioning yourself politically.

Posted by steven on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 9:37 am

progressives fail at running this city.

Steve's mea culpa isn't an oops "I was wrong," but, "I am a persecuted victim yet again." Its not that Steve is upset that he got busted for being an uniformed dope, but that his previous assumptions based on identity politics were wrong.

"I Steve Jones assumed that people who do one thing that I celebrate share the progressive uni-mind, when they don't share the uni-mind it is the fault of that person and I Steve Jones am the victim again.

Diversity is such a meaningless jingo from San Francisco's progressive, sure they don't care what your: color, religion, sexual preference, gender status is, as long as you agree with them on everything concerning politics.

If you don't toe the line you get Steve's uninformed smear job, true believers hate everyone not like them, but they really hate an ex true believer.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 10:58 am

Are you saying Steve that Tom Ammiano told you he doesn't think I'm progressive?

Posted by Theresa Sparks on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 10:18 am

Steve, why are you trying to play Barack Obama, center rightist, who extends open hand to opponents, only have it sliced, slapped and singed?

Sparks' record speaks for itself. Just because she is a playah doesn't mean that you need to be trying to coerce temporary concessions from her. She will do or say whatever she has to do or say in order to get elected. Overtures by the SFBG to Sparks only give her toeholds to fuck us.


Posted by marcos on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 10:19 am

Theresa, Tom has told us that you have turned out to be a real disappointment, that he doesn't consider you to be a part of the progressive movement, and that he's enthusiastically supporting Debra Walker. Listen, if you want to be progressive, be progressive. Marc's concerned that I'm reaching out to you, but all I'm saying is that we're open-minded and the proof is in the pudding. You'll be judged in this race by what positions you take and who your allies are. I stand by what I wrote in this post, that your comments at the debate showed you to be far more conservative than the progressive candidates.  

Posted by steven on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 11:00 am

Steve, why do you insist on pasting pictures of our opponents front and center on this blog when generating face time for them only heightens their name recognition at the cost of support for candidates and issues we mutually want to advance?


Posted by marcos on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 11:27 am

Open minded is supporting the candidate of your choice and respecting the people you don't agree with. Much of your blog was a hysterical ad-homonym.

Your mea culpa was you blaming Sparks for not being what you expected of her and you being hurt because of it, you were upset identity politics didn't work this time.

The special rage and intolerance that true believers feel for those who left the uni-mind or who they think should belong to it is pretty amazing.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 11:33 am

We should take all the money people make and give it to the Board of Supervisors to distribute at their pleasure. The dumb, stupid people can't handle those decisions on their own.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2010 @ 2:48 pm