As a candidate, Lee takes a few lumps

The Duboce Triangle/Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association hosted the mayoral candidate forum at the Castro Theater

It was a lively scene at the Castro Theater Aug. 8 as leading mayoral contenders -- including interim Mayor Ed Lee, who that morning announced he had changed his mind and was going to run after all -- squared off before a jocular crowd that peppered the politicians with cheering, clapping, booing, hissing, and shouting out of turn. 

"If you can't get booed on the stage of the Castro theatre, you're not breathing," quipped former District 8 Sup. Bevan Dufty, drawing laughter and applause.

The candidate forum featured District 2 Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier, District 11 Sup. John Avalos, Board President David Chiu, Dufty, former District 7 Sup. Tony Hall, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, state Sen. Leland Yee, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, venture capitalist Joanna Rees, Lee, and green party candidate Terry Baum.

(Baum wasn't invited, and she was initially informed that there was not enough room for her onstage. But then Lee announced his candidacy, and accommodations were made for him. Incensed, Baum showed up to the candidate forum with her own chair, claimed a spot onstage, and even got in about two minutes of microphone time when Rees and Dufty donated their allotted time to allow her to speak.)

The real fireworks went off when Yee, Chiu, Avalos, and Herrera piled up against Lee for deciding to enter the race after saying he wouldn't. Yee took his criticism the farthest, calling for the mayor to resign from his post in order to run for office. "Had the mayor said that he would in fact run, he may not have gotten the votes for interim mayor," Yee said, asking, "Will you resign from your post in order to then run for mayor?" He also attacked Progress for All, the now-disbanded committee behind the "Run, Ed, Run" campaign, saying it was a "burning" concern for him. "That committee is just out there flouting the law," he charged, "and [the Ethics Commission] should do something about that."

Criticism of Lee's decision to enter the race wasn't limited to "anyone-but-Leland," to borrow a tag for Yee that's frequently repeated by Lee's influential backer, Rose Pak.

Herrera pounced, too. "We need to make sure that someone who's in Room 200 is their own man," he said, letting a gendered statement fly on a stage where men outnumbered women by more than two to one. Referring to Lee, Herrera went on, "My question is, is he his own man? I welcome him to this race, but I think that is a question we have to ask him. Will he be his own man in the future?" Just weeks before, Pak told the SF Weekly that if Lee did not enter the race after all, she would likely back Herrera.

Chiu also hurled criticism at Lee, but focused his statement on what he perceived as a betrayal. Speaking about accomplishments of city government under Lee's term thus far, he said, "Those successes have been based in fundamental trust, and unfortunately, I'm not sure whether that trust exists at this time."

As he was talking, though, some one yelled out, "You put him in office!" This wasn't nearly the most bombastic outburst of the evening. When Lee himself started to speak, he was greeted by boos, hisses, noisemakers, applause from supporters who tried to drown out the detractors, and someone who cut through the cacophony by shouting, "You lie!"

Even Avalos threw a few punches. "Mayor Ed Lee did not change his mind -- he broke his word," he said. Reminding people that he had called for postponing the vote for interim mayor back in December because he hadn't even had a chance to sit down and meet with Lee, who was in Hong Kong at the time, Avalos charged, "We saw City Hall turning into one big back room."

Lee, for his part, reiterated the point in a speech he'd delivered that morning upon announcing his candidacy, saying, "I enjoy working at city hall ... because we've worked to change the tone of government." He also referenced his many years of experience in city government, and pointed to his collaborative style for passing the budget and working with stakeholders on a pension-reform package.

Aside from the raw and bitter feelings about Lee's newly announced mayoral candidacy, there were actually some issue-focused questions, too. Avalos distinguished himself from the others when asked about affordable housing by railing against a system that builds luxury homes with affordable housing as an afterthought. "That is a model that is completely failing this city," he said, and advocated for an affordable housing bond. Herrera answered the affordable housing question by stressing the need for economic opportunity, and Lee emphasized a link between affordable housing and the redevelopment agency, which he fought to preserve.

On the question of the Central Subway, Hall did not hold back, characterizing it as "complete pork gone astray," and saying that the price tag had risen considerably since when the transit project was first proposed. Lee defended it, calling it smart transportation that had been in a planning phase for years. Yee also spoke favorably about the plan, acknowledging that it was costly but saying, "What you need is a mayor who is going to watch every single penny." Dufty also voiced support for the Central Subway, saying, "Chinatown deserves our support to be sustainable into the future."

When asked to provide an example of standing up to defend an issue on principle even if it was controversial, Ting gave the strongest response by saying he was one of the few assessor-recorders in the country who'd championed Prop. 13 reform. "Prop 13 was probably the primary reason our schools went from first to worst," Ting said.

Differences between candidates also showed through when the question of the Twitter tax break came up. Rees voiced support for the idea, saying, "We need large employers in the city." But she also said she'd heard from many regular people in the aftermath of the Twitter deal that their voice wasn't being heard in government.

Lee offered praise for Zynga and Twitter as “the new economy in San Francisco," adding, "We need to innovate with these companies and back them up." But Yee railed against the Twitter tax break, calling it a slap in the face to small business. Herrera answered the Twitter question by saying, "This city has fallen asleep at the switch when it comes to having responsible tax policy."

Avalos, meanwhile, pointed to his successes at passing the local hire ordinance, working with various stakeholders to pass a budget as former chair of the Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee, and authoring a real-estate transfer tax that had softened the blow of cuts to city services. "Mayor Lee would not have been able to balance the budget" if it weren't for that extra revenue, he said. Speaking to a question about whether he supported Lee's pension reform deal, Avalos said, "It wasn't Mayor Lee that put that on the ballot. It was done with a great deal of support from public sector unions."

Hall stood alone in voicing support for Public Defender Jeff Adachi's pension reform package instead of the consensus plan that city officials and labor put together, saying the consensus plan would not save enough money and would continue to "kick the can down the road."

When candidates were asked to identify half-truths they had heard that night, Herrera praised the Chronicle's "Campaign Check" column that had inspired the question, saying, "I'm glad that the press keeps us honest."

Hall chuckled a little at the question. "I have heard a few half-truths here tonight, folks," he said. "But that's okay. That's politics."


1. Lee
2. Aliota-Pier
3. Dufty

I like Hall but he's too sensible and reasonable for SF. And I think he's dead wrong on the Central Subway, even thought he's dead right on the pensions mess.

Since yesterday's poll shows Lee with more than one third of the first choice votes, and with nobody else with significantly over 10%. I'd say Lee is odds-on favorite. Which is prresumably why SFBG is endlessly blogging about him in a whiney way.

Avalos looks like getting the wooden spoon. Or as we now call it - the "Fumble Award".

Posted by Harry on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

The new Subway will cost over one BILLION DOLLARS per mile, will cross under Market Street, but won't stop there. I really think there's something wrong with this project. Tony Hall knows pork when he smells it!!!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 5:22 pm

It's also the wrong route. It doesn't go near the new Transbay Terminal, nor does it extend further into North Beach where commuters could take it to work downtown.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 6:22 am

Moscone Center, Union Square and ChinaTown. All are heavily used by tourists.

Few tourists use the TransBay terminal and those that do are obviously happy to take a bus anyway. Much more important that the underground streetcars link well with BART, since underground rail transit is the way to go for all major cities.

Posted by Harry on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:07 am

It's also the wrong route. It doesn't go near the new Transbay Terminal, nor does it extend further into North Beach where commuters could take it to work downtown.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 6:23 am

There will be a walkway from the new Union Square stop to Powell/Market. there will be no need to exit and re-enter the system to change lines there.

Posted by Harry on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:08 am

Why would you want subway users to walk two blocks underground to transfer to another train? If we as taxpayers are forking out over 2 BILLION DOLLARS to build a subway to nowhere it should at least be engineered correctly. This is a classic case of bad engineering.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

I'll tell you exactly why that stop doesn't conveniently hit the main Market Street Powell Muni station; elitism and racism.

Once the new extension goes in, it will greatly speed up the T-Third getting directly downtown from the Bayview Hunters Point (compared to the now excruciatingly slow loop around the Embarcadero). And the Central Subway extension will then also suddenly admit a lot of lower income Asians living and/or working in Chinatown into a fast connection to downtown as well.

City elites and western semi-suburbanites, don't want all those poor folk suddenly making easy connections to the entire rapid rail system in the main Muni hub at Powell Street Station.

This kind of thinking was shockingly revealed over the last year. Opponents of moving the Muni M Line directly into the Parkmerced neighborhood complained that this would make it easy for criminal elements from other neighborhoods to get to their neighborhood by train. That was code of course for 'Now that the T-Third is bringing low income people of color from the Bayview to Market Street, we don't want them to also easily get into our nice neighborhood by transferring to the M train.' (I'm all for saving Parkmerced, but that particular complaint was pretty frightening...)

So middle and upper class west side dwellers are happy to let Chinatown and Bayview residents easily get to -eachother's- neighborhoods. But they don't want them to easily get to everyone -else's- neighborhoods.

This fear of low income people-of-color dynamic, is exactly why there are no BART extensions into Marin County.

And I'm sure it plays a strong role in the failure to do the blatantly obvious sensible move of connecting the new Central Subway at Powell or Montgomery station.

In one master stroke, this new alignment will a) take a lot of Bayview/Sunnydale residents who currently directly connect via the T-Third line to all of the Muni train stations on the Market Street spine and instead track them directly into Chinatown away from those central stations; and b) likewise track all of the Chinatown residents and commuters away from those main Market Street train stations as well.

Perfect social engineering ala the 1950s and 60s.

With the gap between rich and poor growing ever wider in our current times, this move is not surprising.

One look at what is happening in London tells the story, and shows what elites are afraid of...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

This is seriously the stupidest thing I have ever read. How can an inanimate thing be racist? You should write for the onion. Seriously. I am guessing you are also white?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

"This is seriously the" is incredibly dumb, short, TROLL comment.

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

I think log-ins would be a good idea, that way people can't post these crazy posts under other peoples names.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2011 @ 7:48 am

I believe Hall said he didn't support either the "consensus" or the Adachi pension reform proposals. He said both proposals didn't go far enough, and referred to Lee who told the BayCitizen several months ago that any pension reform proposal needed to save as much as $300 million a year.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

I had not even heard of Terry Baum until the debate. I don't blame the Duboce Triangle Association for being afraid of her because she reminded me so much of Jean Quan. She isn't Asian of course which means she probably won't get a single Asian vote but they both have that same energy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

Good for the candidates on letting loose on Ed Lee. There's no way Ed Lee's poll numbers will hold up in the coming months when more and more people learn about how Ed got to this point, and who got him there.

Ed will not, cannot change the tone of politics. San Francisco: Do you want Pak/Brown at the reigns again? No thank you!

Posted by HoneyBadger on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 12:21 am

On the so-called "Central Subway" plan. First of all, why is it called that? It's just an extension of the Muni metro (see wikipedia). In other cities I've lived in when they extended their metro they merely called it "the blue line extension" or whatever the line color was. What will be the name of this new metro line? (That's what it should be called).

I would support this extension of the muni metro IF it intersected with the Market Street muni metro stop. It will not. Idiotic. Whoever thought this plan up has their head up their anal orifice and/or knows nothing about how metros work. (If I had to guess, I'd say they've never ridden a metro and likely drive their SUV to work and anywhere else they go). Have they never been to DC and seen their metro center stop (multiple levels where the metro trains connect). It's a major transfer point on the DC metro. Why isn't the same type of thing being done here?

Also, some/many of these closed-minded, rigid, dictatorial neighborhood associations are out-of-control. What were they afraid of by not inviting Terry Baum? They are not for democracy, otherwise they would welcome all candidates rather than be afraid of them. And no public comments allowed? That's not democracy.

I also read Steven's comment about the Guardian considering banning the trolls. I agree they have ruined the site. They spam the site; they say the same thing over and over. They are obnoxious. The trolls will say it's about censorship, etc. Well, before I stopped reading the comments from the trolls I can tell you that it's not about censorship as the Guardian has allowed the trolls to say any goddamned thing they want. Nothing but bile. They can't stand progressives. Fine, go to a site where they are none (there are plenty of those). You'll be happy there. So the trolls will have to scream some other line other than "it's about censorship and not wanting people who disagree with the Guardian." Bull shit.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 2:28 am

I agree. That one troll Marcos used to spam the board using a software program that posted random words pulled from other peoples posts. the guardian even encouraged it by leaving his pages of posts up!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 6:23 am

Recall during the Vietnam War, we burned down villages in order to save them. Same with Central Subway. It will destroy Chinatown as we know it, while speculators buy up land and zoning changes are being planned for higher density.

Posted by Guest Denise on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 9:49 am

"Dufty also voiced support for the Central Subway, saying, 'Chinatown deserves our support to be sustainable into the future.'"
Tony Hall is so right to question the substance of the "consensus" pension measure given Lee's entry into the race.

Yet the most clarifying Mayoral litmus issue is the Central Subway.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

In today's (Thursday's) Chron, columnist Chuck Nevius says Mayor Ed Lee should go on the aggressive in regard to issues and ignore the air-horn crowd (link below).

Nevius also pokes fun at the hypocrisy of Leland Yee and David Chiu in criticizing Lee for changing his mind about running.

These are good points. However, Nevius underestimates the concern of ordinary voters about Lee's change of heart. Many are offended by it.

Even so, though, my guess is that Lee will win. His opponents are still not able to come up with a positive alternative. They're coming across as air-horner ranters about Willie Brown and Rose Pak.

That sort of ranting didn't stop Gavin Newsom from being elected mayor in 2003. And at the time of his first election, Newsom wasn't even mayor. Lee today has the benefit of incumbency.

Also, that sort of ranting didn't stop Willie Brown from being elected mayor in1999. He defeated Tom Ammiano ("the progressive alternative in this race") by a 20% margin.

Lee's progressive opponents remain mired in negativity. They are unable to provide rational arguments for their dogmas. They're quick to resort to ad hominem slanders against their critics. They try to shut down open debate. You see this flaws commonly at this website.

These flaws, of not knowing how to debate rationally or present positive alternatives, will sink them in the current campaign.

Here's the link:

Posted by Arthur Evans on Aug. 11, 2011 @ 6:50 am