D5 candidates and constituents scrutinize Olague

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London Breed is trying to unseat Sup. Christina Olague, who was appointed to serve the final year of Ross Mirkarimi's term.
Mirkarimi'sFlickrFeed

San Francisco’s political lines are in the process of being redrawn. That’s true literally, with the current reconstitution of legislative districts based on the latest census, but it’s also true figuratively: old alliances based on identity and ideology are being replaced with uncertain new political dynamics. And nowhere is that more true than in District 5.

In a recent Guardian, we explored the implications of Sup. Christina Olague’s dual (and potentially dueling) loyalties between Mayor Ed Lee, who appointed her to the job, and the progressive political community with which Olague has long identified. Those seemed to play out yesterday when Olague bucked progressives to be the sixth co-sponsor of Sup. Mark Farrell's proposed charter amendment to repeal ranked-choice voting for citywide offices.

Already, many of her progressive constituents – even those who have strongly supported her – have been privately grumbling that Olague hasn't been accessible and expressing doubts about her ability to lead one of the city's most progressive districts. Olague, who initially returned our calls immediately but said she'd have to get back to us about supporting Farrell's legislation (I'll add an update if/when she calls back), adamantly denied that she's had a slow start.

“We’ve been working with constituents constantly,” she said, rattling off a list of nightly meetings. “I’m in the community all the time, getting coffee with folks...We’re working on multiple issues here.”

Michael O'Connor – who owns The Independent and other businesses and who ran in D5 in 2004 and may run again this year – supports Olague but questions the conventional wisdom that her progressive roots and mayoral support make her a lock for reelection this year.

“Olague is an awesome person and she would be a great supervisor in District 9,” O'Connor said, citing her strong ties to the Mission District and work with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. “But she's very beatable in D5 because she doesn't have the deep connections to the community.”

That's a belief that is shared by others, including London Breed – the executive director of the African American Art & Cultural Center for the last 10 years – who jumped into the race last week and threatened to cut into Olague's support among Mayor Lee's supporters.

With Attorney General Kamala Harris and other Lee supporters by her side, Breed cast herself as a more authentic and grassroots representative for the district where she was raised. Or as Harris said, “London understands the challenges and strengths of the district. She is, bar none, the best voice for District 5.”

Left unsaid was the split that her candidacy created among supporters of Lee, whose ascension to Room 200 was engineered largely by former mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak. Brown (along with some of the city's most influential African American ministers) strongly backed Breed for the D5 appointment, while Pak wanted her ally Malcolm Yeung, although she reportedly got behind Olague in the end.

Breed told us that she was supportive of Olague and that “I’ve been adamant about people giving her a chance and working with her.” But she said that it’s already become “clear that she just doesn’t have what it takes and was probably not going to get there,” based on “the feedback and phone calls I got with the experience people had in meeting her.”

“She’s familiar with planning, but not necessarily with the neighborhood and all its community groups,” Breed said. As for crossing Mayor Lee with her decision to run, Breed told us, “This was a hard decision for me to make because I work with many of these people and have good relationship with him.”

Progressive D5 candidates, such as City College Board President John Rizzo, are waiting to take advantage of votes on which Olague breaks with the progressives to carry water for the mayor. As he told us, “The mayor doesn't get to make this decision, it's the voters of this district that will decide.”

Like Breed, Rizzo also emphasized his long ties to the district. “I respect Christina and like Christina, but my connections are very deep,” he said, citing his 26 years of living and working as an environmental activist in the district. “I have a record of going out and taking the initiative and making things happen.”

Thea Selby, president of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association, has also been running an active campaign for the D5 job, including highlighting Olague's split loyalties. “She literally switched camps to help chair the Run Ed Run committee,” she told us. Julian Davis, who ran for D5 supervisor in 2004 and has been rumored to be mulling another run, said that it's disconcerting just how many elected officials in San Francisco started off with the advantage of being appointed to the office: "It's not participatory democracy the way we envision it."

Selby and others will be closely watching how Olague votes this year, and trying to differentiate when those votes are significant (such as being the swing vote to place the challenge to RCV on the ballot) or not (including Olague's early vote to override Lee's veto, which fell two votes short of the eight needed). “We need to look and see how she votes on things – and when it matters and when it doesn't,” Selby said.

Yet already, even before the really big and controversial votes like the upcoming 8 Washington and CPMC projects, Olague is feeling the polar tugs on issues such as bicycling. Many bike advocates are mad that Lee has delayed promised bike lanes on Oak Street and with a rash of tickets that cyclists on the Wiggle have received.

“I’ve long been an advocate of biking, but I know there are issues related to parking in the neighborhood,” Olague told us, straddling the issue. “Parking for some reason is a very controversial issue in the city.”

And where does she come down on the stepped up enforcement of bikes rolling stop signs on the Wiggle? “I want to sit down with the Bike Coalition and see what they think,” Olague said.

Meanwhile, Breed – who is widely considered a political moderate, which could cause her problems winning in D5 – is also trying to position herself as more independent than Olague. “I'm about being progressive,” she told us, citing her recent hiring of a case worker at the AAACC to help young African Americans work through barriers to success. “To me, that's what being progressive is.”

Breed readily acknowledged her early political support from Brown, who appointed her to the Redevelopment Commission when he was mayor, but said that she would still take a tough stand against Lennar and other developers to ensure the needs of current San Franciscans are being met by new projects.

“I've told people, this does not mean you have my support,” Breed said of her political contributors and her support of Lennar's massive redevelopment of the southeast part of the city. “As my grandmother used to say, all money ain't good money.”

On Breed's entrance into the race, Olague told us, “It was expected, so I'm not surprised.” Olague said that she's begun to set up her election campaign, but that most of her focus has been on getting up to speed at City Hall and in D5: “I'm just trying to focus on the work of the district.”

Comments

In the job just a few months and already a major fumble where Olague votes her own mind and doesn't support the Progressive block? Are you kidding me?

We will HAUNT her. We will HAUNT her. The destruction that we have wreaked on BOS President David Chiu, essentially ending his career, is nothing compared to what we will do with this latest fumbler.

To start out, the SFBG should endorse her. Let's see her recover from that one.

Posted by Steroidal Progressive on Mar. 07, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

"Sayre's law states, in a formulation quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." By way of corollary, it adds: "That is why academic politics are so bitter." Sayre's law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905-1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University."

Posted by Guest on Mar. 07, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

no D5 candidate will ever be left-wing enough to satisfy the Tim/Steven crowd.

No, the question is rather whether Olague is as left-wing as the district and city are comfortable with and supportive of? And I would say that's correct. Sometimes she votes left and sometimes she votes right.

IOW, she has an independent mind - exactly what we should want in a representative, right Steven?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 7:46 am

Sure, an independent mind is important, but it's also reasonable to expect her to reflect the values of one of the most progressive supervisorial districts in town, one that voted for Green Party members in the last three supervisorial elections, first Matt Gonzalez, then Ross Mirkarimi, twice, before he switched his affiliation to Democrat (Olague also used to be a Green).

Questions of values and independence are what we and D5 voters will explore this year: is Olague a good representative for this district and is she willing to vote independently of the man who gave her this job, whose values are far more conservative than those of D5 voters, who cast their ballots for John Avalos over Ed Lee by a 2-1 margin. So, yes, independence is very important.

Posted by steven on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 11:43 am

Olague may need to side with Lee and the people of the entire city who, by three to two, favor Lee's policies over Avalos. Olage votes on city-wide issues, generally, and not D5 issues.

So if you want independnce, then accept that there will be times when she uses her judgment to make votes that the average D5'er might not agree with.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

Yes, each district should be represented in those discussions of citywide issues, and her district is progressive. Just as I wouldn't expect Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, and Carmen Chu to champion progressive causes -- which they don't, usually voting as a conservative block that represents their constituents -- I also wouldn't expect Olague to take fiscally conservative positions simply because Lee is mayor. If each supervisor tries to reflect the values of their districts, then the whole city will be represented at City Hall.

Posted by steven on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

Olague can obviously listen to her constituents but she should not change her vote, if she truly believes otherwise, just because there are a lot of lefties in her borough making a lot of noise.

Her votes cannot be seen as being manipulated simply if "the usual suspects" yell a lot.

And moreover, Lee did appoint her, and of course she supported Lee for Mayor. Olague believes that Lee is a much better choice for Mayor than Avalos. So she must vote her conscience and her loyalty, while of course not totally ignoring her rather eclectic constituency.

But mostly, she has the interests of all of the city at heart, and not just tribes and factiosn within it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

I keep hearing, from Campos and others, that Ranked Choice Voting isn't a matter of Progressives vs Moderates.

But after reading Steven's piece and response I'm wondering if that isn't just lip service.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

As a 10 year resident of D5, I agree with Steven. My neighbors and I lean pretty far to the left - I personally voted for Gonzalez back in the day, and I voted for Mirkarimi for Sup twice (and for sheriff as well) and for Avalos in this last mayoral election. That said, I think it would be a mistake to assume D5 residents are committed to toeing a Progressive party line no-questions-asked. The boisterous and vocal radicals of the neighborhood are definitely the minority. The majority of us in D5 are fairly quiet, though still very Liberal, but we will not support policies or plans that we feel are harmful to the neighborhood, even if they might benefit the City as a whole. The failed attempt to move the Needle Exchange is a good example of what I'm talking about.

Mirkarimi understood this about our District. It was one if the reasons he made such an effective Supervisor and why he was elected & reelected. Whoever wants D5 now is going to have to recognize the "true" dynamic of the neighborhood, not just listen to the loudest and shrillest voices. They'll never last otherwise.

Posted by RamRod on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 8:04 pm

I'm totally confused by her support for Farrell. Progressives' number one candidates didn't win across the board, but in all honesty the winners really seemed to be rightfully our, perhaps unofficial, number 2 choices. I don't see how progressives could be seriously upset by ranked choice. For all its flaws, it should probably actually be expanded, in part by allowing more names on the ballot or tweaking public financing?

In some ways this election accurately reflected a real philosophical split among progressives who have been able to work within the system vs. progressives who have had more success being confrontational.

Seriously though, look who are the one's demanding to repeal ranked choice.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 11:48 am

than the number of people who file to run?

If you're talking about increasing the number of rankings from its current limit of 3 I don't agree. I don't know what end-goal would have accomplished by allowing 21 rankings for mayor other than vastly increasing the time required to mark the ballot in the first place.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 11:59 am

It reflects a loose consensus among people trying to address the problems of ranked choice voting in elections. I believe this is a workable compromise that preserves rank choice in districts. I am of the opinion that if rank choice delivers another unqualified or unpopular candidate with less than 20% of total votes, the entire system will be replaced with majority runoffs.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

The judgment of "unqualified" is highly subjective.

But I think the real issue is that district elections will always produce fringe extremist candidates who would be incapable of ever garnering broad support. Such a system encourages hopers, fakers and losers.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

jean quan

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

Ed Jew is a fair issue to bring up about RCV. The intense 1 on 1 run-off that we lost did have a fair amount of vetting value, with all the attention focused on just two candidates as opposed to say, 10.

Ed Jew won round 1 by 50 votes and would have faced a difficult run-off. It is not at all certain that he would have won it.

The RCV proponents like to point to 'increased Asian American representation' on the board. They take credit for Carmen Chu (who was appointed), Eric Mar (who would have faced another Asian American in the run-off) and David Chiu (who had a 62%-38% lead over his closest rival).

But strangely, no mention from the RCV folks of Ed Jew, who really was affected by RCV.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 7:20 am

My concern is IRV is anything but an instant runoff. The high number of exhausted ballots means thousands are denied a voice in the final outcome. I do not believe the electorate is stupid- SF voters have withstood onslaughts of money and misinformation.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 8:20 am

Farrell introduced the legislation and is its main sponsor, so it is accurate and standard practice to call it his legislation. And Olague is the only co-sponsor who considers herself progressive, so her support for it is notable. But again, I don't know why Olague supports the legislation because when I asked her that question by phone, she said that she was headed into a meeting and would call me back, which she has yet to do. Frankly, I don't think that's a good sign that she's taking a principled position. As for your opinion, our anonymous guest, you're entitled to it, but it's not one that I share.

Posted by steven on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

Just because you don't like her point of view or disagree with it doesn't mean that Olague doesn't have any principles behind her support for this measure.

Or are you suggesting that anyone who disagrees with you must by definition be unprincipled?

Weasel words and phrases should be avoided.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

She won't explain her reasoning, so I have no way of assessing yet whether it seems to ring true or whether it's something she's doing for Mayor Lee. That's what I meant about whether it's a principled position.

Posted by steven on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

Simply because IRV is being opposed by conservative downtown forces and supported by progressives does not mean that IRV repeal is an evil downtown plot.

I think that progressives have so much investment in IRV as a progressive project that they are blinded to the bad parts of the tradeoffs between runoffs and IRV. That institutional bias is what is driving this.

That might be the charitable interpretation. Many progressives in the nonprofit world fear having to reach out to the voters because they fear the voters. The path of least resistance is to offer up, well less resistance, and cut deals for the favor.

By any measure, the organizing capacity that runoffs afforded to neighborhood and progressive campaigns is a big ticket tradeoff. There is nothing wrong with Olague supporting a return to runoffs for Mayor. Runoffs can only help the 99% build capacity to contest downtown's dominance of politics in the face of what looks like an even deeper deluge in corporate campaign cash.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

All of the present and future candidates are San Francisco progressives. If I run again, I won't have to sit down with the Bicycle Coalition to find out how to vote on ticketing reckless cycling on the Wiggle.

Street parking is a big issue in District 5. I'll oppose the bike lanes on the Panhandle and on Masonic Avenue. City voters never get a chance to vote on these anti-car issues. Even a lot of progressives are becoming disenchanted with City Hall's anti-car policies and its predatory approach to motorists in the city. The city already raises more than $170 million a year from parking lots, parking meters, and parking tickets.

Breed has no record on the issues, and neither does Selby. Rizzo is a knee-jerk progressive who didn't distinguish himself on the Concourse Authority, where he was a minority of one opposing almost everything when the garage under the Concourse was being built as per the desires of city voters.

Olague only has a record on housing and planning issues, and she has a bad record on those: "smart growth," highrise projects, and dense development in SF, which is already the second most densely populated city in the country after only New York City.

And of course she voted to make the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan with no environmental review, which was clearly illegal and she knew it.

District 5 voters deserve a real choice for a change, not cookie-cutter city progs who differ little on the issues.

Posted by Rob Anderson on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

Your positions are why you'll never be more than a single-digit footnote to this race, Rob. Last time, you finished last among just three candidates, with less than 2,000 votes and 5.6 percent of the total. This time, with a crowded field of candidates expected, you'd probably be lucky to do half as well. The world is changing, Rob, and doesn't just revolve around the car anymore.

Posted by steven on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

SF voters a single-issue question around bikes versus cars and transit. And in fact Rob's point is that these bike measures would never pass if put to the vote. They only get approved because there's a board that meets and their meeting is crammed with activists from SFBC. It's a classic case of a noisy minority getting it's way because most people are too busy with real lives to show up at city hall at 10am on a school day.

What good do bike lanes do the elderly, the disabled and those who don't have the nerve or fitness necessary to ride a bike? We need to prioritise public transit for all, not just a bunch of elitist white yuppies on bikes.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

I almost hit a jaywalking jogger at the corner of Steiner and Waller today but had to slow down and did not hit the jaywalking jogger who was breaking the law.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

Jogging is NOT public transit. Joggers, like dog walkers, should be licensed and required to pay a fee for using our parks, sidewalks and bike lanes, especially if they are overweight and wearing spandex. However if they want to post pix of themselves in panties for future reference, and they have real cute patooties, they could apply for exemption. I'm sure Rob Anderson and Scott Weiner would be supportive of such revenue generating legislation.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Mar. 08, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

Christina Olague is new to office and has made a mistake supporting Farrell's anti-RCV Charter amendment. She opposed a similar proposal last month at the Board which interestingly enough did not carve out the Board of Supervisors. His new plan does. Fortunately, there is still time for her to correct this error.

Here are key limitations:

Electoral reform should apply to all offices; in the same way the 14th amendment should apply to all laws The concept that what is good for a Mayor, City Attorney or DA but not good for the Board of Supervisors places this on electoral thin ice. It's elitist. If reform is good for San Francisco why should "the few" with the actual power to place Charter measures before the voters be exempted? While voters may like individual supervisors, the institution of the Board as a whole is not beloved. In an eventual campaign this is vulnerability. Voters will be asked to use different voting methods in different years and this would be a source of confusion.

A November runoff is a given even if a candidate wins a majority of the primary vote. Farrell's measure echoes Prop 13's 2/3 requirement. For small d democrats who think majorities should count, and not be continually frustrated in American politics (which they are thanks to our 18th Century system, unlike entrenched economic interests that benefit from political stasis).

A September primary election in odd years would not be a magnet for civic participation. Historically progressives have felt that larger turnout elections are by nature more democratic, and in theory those elected in such elections have a mandate to act beyond the limiting interests that are a City Hall constant: Chamber of Commerce, development interests and the editorial voices of the daily papers. Odd year September elections are likely to mirror the turnout figures of City Attorney contests which over the last 15 years have ranged from 16% to a high of 30%, and that was with a multi-million stadium campaign on the ballot.

If Christina Olague insists upon being the 6th vote for an electoral reform to scrap RCV, why not mirror the cost savings of RCV and move all local elections to the even years. For example, the Mayor could be elected when the Presidency in on the ballot when 75% to 80% of the electorate shows up to vote. There could be a majoritarian runoff in June, and if no candidate receives 50% plus one, the top two challengers could face off in November when over 300,000 San Franciscans vote. This is one suggestion. There may be other ways to reform as opposed to end instant runoff voting, without the additional $2 million plus cost of another election or its 2/3 vote requirement that has done so much ruin to California government since 1976.

Farrell's Charter measure has only been introduced. Olague is not a neophyte to the local scene. The significance for a D5 contest of siding with a big money, downtown scheme to do end RCV for all City contests except for the Board of Supervisors is clear. As written, Farrell's Charter amendment will double if not triple the cost of running for citywide office. The economic interests that actually pay for these campaigns is easily documented, and has been in this paper for generations now. It's the 1% who writes campaign checks because it’s the cost of doing business with the expectation/promise of future gain either through planning decisions or city contracts. As written, Farrell's charter amendment is another hit on local democracy.

Hopefully, Olague will reconsider her position.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 1:36 am

>"Voters will be asked to use different voting methods in different years and this would be a source of confusion."

That is an argument to get rid of RCV entirely. Right now there are different methods on the same BALLOT. Voters select their Presidents, Senators, Governors one way and then, when they get to local races at the bottom of the ballot, everything changes and they have exponentially more work to do.

>"Odd year September elections are likely to mirror the turnout figures of City Attorney contests which over the last 15 years have ranged from 16% to a high of 30%, and that was with a multi-million stadium campaign on the ballot."

That is a strange analogy; using a City Attorney race to predict Mayoral turnout. Perhaps we should also look at the Mayoral December run-offs. Despite what you hear from RCV proponents, turnout went UP for the last two Mayoral run-offs. Yes, MORE people came out in December than in November.

>"For example, the Mayor could be elected when the Presidency in on the ballot when 75% to 80% of the electorate shows up to vote."

Most cities go out of their way to avoid this, having their Mayoral contest dwarfed by a Presidential election. BTW, cost is really not a factor in Farell's proposal. One $3.5 million election amortized over 4 years is a rounding error in the city's budget.

>" It's the 1% who writes campaign checks because it’s the cost of doing business with the expectation/promise of future gain either through planning decisions or city contracts. As written, Farrell's charter amendment is another hit on local democracy."

Well then, why don't RCV proponents (including the SFBG) just have the courage to say so. That this isn't about HOW we elect, it is about WHO we elect. You're talking about a sophisticated electorate of about 450K in a 7x7 geographic area. You don't think that a good, creative candidate could find a way to rise above their opponents spending? Do we really have to tweak the rules of democracy to to give them a chance to win?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 7:44 am

Moving the filing deadline up 60 days in order to solve the problem of zombie public finance candidates does more to advantage moneyed interests than returning to runoffs. If you wanted to solve the PF problem, you'd prohibit using PF to run for AD19, you'd prohibit comingling of any PF dollars with any dollars to be used in a subsequent run for a different office, such as D3 supervisor, you'd prohibit St. Helena dwelling termed out supervisors who voted against PF from using PF and you'd prohibit any employment of a candidate who received PF by the winner of the election as, say, homeless czar. That's where your downtown campaign to dismantle PF came from and nobody's doing anything about it except for raising the bar to participate in the mayoral election to those who have the resources to plan far in advance.

If Gonzalez could run a competitive campaign with 1/10 of the resources of Newsom in 2003 and come within 15000 votes of winning, then the problem is not a structural problem with runoffs versus RCV.

We've got to root out the corrupt nexus between downtown and the nonprofits in order for the bonds of cooptation to be severed and for neighborhoods and progressives to be able to formulate a platform that can swarm over the corporate shills.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 8:37 am

Farrell's legislation sets up two separate voting systems for local City offices. One for the Board of Supervisors, and one for every other local office. Of course, the Board of Supervisors can not change how voters elect members of the state legislature or Congress but they have the authority to ask voters to change the rules for local offices. If the Board feels the need to tinker, having the same rules apply for all local offices is a reasonable expectation. The Board of Supervisors carve out for RCV in Farrell's legislation raises the question, if the reform is good for Mayor, DA etc... why not the Board of Supervisors?

Is there is a good explanation for this form of Board of Supervisors "exceptionalism."

Farrell's 2/3 vote threshold for the September primary makes it less of an election, and more like a screening exercise. The California legislature, local school districts and municipal finances across California have been wrecked by 2/3 vote requirements. It destroys the capacity of majorities to act.

There is no San Francisco experience with September primary elections for Mayor, DA etc. The anemic turnout figures for City Attorney are apt. When opponents of district elections repealed them in 1980, and San Francisco went back to Citywide contests for 20 years, it was done in an August election. Sure under Farrell's plan, a November runoff election would virtually guarantee a higher turnout in contrast to the low turnout, 2/3 vote threshold September primary election.

There are progressives who would like to end RCV. That's an argument that can be had in D5 but there are ways to do it that are not reactionary like the Farrell proposal. If all local contests took place in even years, that would guarantee higher turnout and more voter participation. That would save San Francisco millions of dollars and two elections every four years. If the City Attorney election were moved to even years, this would save a third election every four years. A sophisticated, electorate of 470,000 people can think about Supreme Court appointments, gross receipts taxes or the Central Subway at the same time.

Let's all be clear here. Farrell's legislation is a gift to economic interests capable of putting together $5 million to $10 million in a 6 week runoff election. Development interests and large commercial property owners stand to benefit, and they already do rather well under the existing rules.

Fortunately, there is time for Christina Olague to reconsider her support of this misguided legislation. It's OK to make mistakes, learn and move on from them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

">The Board of Supervisors carve out for RCV in Farrell's legislation raises the question, if the reform is good for Mayor, DA etc... why not the Board of Supervisors?"

They spoke about this at the BOS meeting. The Citywide elections have enough heft to carry two separate voting exercises. They felt that the district supervisors did not. When we had December runoffs the turnout frequently went UP for both the Mayor and DA. If it dropped it was usually in single digits. In no event did it ever approach the low of 30.5%, which is the percentage of the electorate who had votes cast for either Lee or Avalos in last year's instant run-off.

>"The anemic turnout figures for City Attorney are apt."

Come on, do you really expect someone to believe that the City Attorney election is the same as the Mayoral election? So you are saying that Dennis Herrera has the same name recognition as Ed Lee or Gavin Newsom?

>"Sure under Farrell's plan, a November runoff election would virtually guarantee a higher turnout in contrast to the low turnout, 2/3 vote threshold September primary election."

Without a governor or president on the ballot (which is what we are talking about), there is not a whole lot of magic about a November election. I I keep hearing all these prognostications from RCV opponents and I don't feel guilty about not accepting them as fact. The only experience we have is Oct 7, 2003. A Gray Davis recall. Turnout:60%. So with all due respect, our voters will show up for important measures without worrying about the calendar.

>" Farrell's legislation is a gift to economic interests capable of putting together $5 million to $10 million in a 6 week runoff election. Development interests and large commercial property owners stand to benefit, and they already do rather well under the existing rules."

I think that I just have a higher respect for the voters than you do. I don't think that they are lemmings who just bend over when they hear a commercial on TV. Sorry, we just have to agree to disagree about the intelligence of the voters on this one.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

We will HAUNT the non-conformist progressive!

We will HAUNT this woman who does not follow the script exactly the way we wrote it.

It's on...LIKE DONKEY KONG.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

A September, odd year primary election followed up with a November, odd year runoff serves the interests of most of Farrell's Charter amendment sponsors pretty well. Probably 84 percent of them to be exact. The September primary will screen out the top two vote winners in an electorate top heavy with homeowners and older voters, disproportionately white.

Such an electorate has typically been responsive to the editorial line of the Chronicle and Examiner. That means no new revenue, unquestioned deals for the police and fire departments, stirring up prejudice towards the poor and homeless with some lip service to MUNI improvements in the central business district. This is also the hope of the conservative Board members (Elsbernd, Farrell, Chu) who want to repeal the current form of RCV. Call it, snuff out the progressive opposition Part 2.

6 week runoffs can be fun organizing experiences and/or group therapy but in citywide elections, you'd have to go back to 1975 for an example where liberals won a seriously contested runoff. The 1987 Agnos-Molinari runoff was not a serious contest, the race was decided in November. One win every 37 years is like waiting for a comet.

The primary reason the 1999 and 2003 elections ended as they did was money. It's impossible to have a fair fight when one opponent can outspend their opposition 7:1 or 10:1 as was the case in those contests. These races happened before the Citizens United decision which opens the floodgate to even greater inequities. To look back fondly on these runoff elections as the basis and source of legitimacy for the Farrell proposal is misguided.

Progressives have typically done well in district level contests where outspent candidates can at least meet and talk to enough voters to level the electoral playing field. It's impossible to have that level of interpersonal connection with a 470,000 person electorate. That is why money and political marketing are so critical in these citywide contests, and why a progressive with $500K to their name doesn't stand a serious chance.

In short, even with public financing and RCV, the local political deck remains stacked in favor of citywide political candidates who have the support of the daily newspapers and all of the money development and commercial interests are only to happy to invest in the political system. Farrell's plan takes an uneven playing field and makes it that much harder to have a meaningful, truly democratic contest.

If oligarchy is the goal, Farrell's plan should probably work.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 11:05 pm

Wow, fellow Guest. Not only do you know how many people will vote in our first September primary, you even know their demographics.

Can I go to Vegas with you sometime?

Seriously, you should know that you don't get taken seriously when you start spouting nonsense that you can't possibly know and then go on to arbitrarily dismiss whatever factual data there is.

And look, just because we (almost) never elect a Progressive Mayor doesn't really mean that the system is broken. It just seems that way to you.

Posted by Troll on Mar. 09, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

Troll, There 4 generations of academic research now out there on the subject "Who votes?" If you ever have a desire to stretch your mind beyond snark or the four local elections you've find talismanic, check some of it out.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

Troll's point remains valid. "Progressives" don't get elected not because the voting system is skewed or rigged, or because of money or fraud, but quite simply because not enough people, even in SF, support such positions to enable Progs to win.

So it's not surprising that Progs devote huge amounts of time mentally masturbating over voting systems in a desperate search of some method that might compensate for the fact that a majority are not Progs and never will be.

But try and try and try again, you just can't do it. The only left-wing Mayor we ever had was Agnos, and he was elected under the old system - the very same system you claim to oppose in favor of RCV, which routinely dispatches your candidiates to the trash can.

As we saw last November, Moderates are an easy 60% majority here and there is no way you can rig the math to turn that around.

Posted by Grog on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

How about a source of all of this academic research telling us who will vote in a September local election in San Francisco in 2014?

Perhaps you have something from 4 decades ago to show is?

Posted by Troll on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

Not even Mark Farrell is thinking of a September 2014 election. The proposal calls for municipal primary elections to take place in September of odd years.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

who cares what michael o'connor thinks? He got his ass kicked hard in the last competitive election, he's shady, and he's a closet republican. what he knows about politics in d5 could fit on the head of a pin.

Posted by D5 Troll on Mar. 14, 2012 @ 5:02 pm