Christina Olague was a great planning commissioner. I've always liked her, and when she was appointed we pointed out how strongly she was rooted in the progressive community.
Olague has strong progressive activist credentials, from working with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition to protect low-income renters during the last dot-com boom to her more recent community organizing for the Senior Action Network. She co-chaired the 2003 campaign that established the city's minimum wage and has been actively involved in such progressive organizations as the Milk Club, Transit Riders Union, and the short-lived San Francisco People's Organization.
She also served two terms on the Planning Commission — appointed by Board of Supervisors then-President Matt Gonzalez in 2004 and reappointed by then-President Aaron Peskin in 2008 — where she was known for doing her homework on complicated land use issues and usually landing on the progressive side of divided votes.
We've had some disagreements since she took office -- particularly around 8 Washington. (I also disagreed with the Labor Council on that one, and only three of the supervisors agreed with me.) And it's not the first time an elected official I supported turned around and infuriated me on a development vote.
I want Olague to succeed; I want her to come to us in the fall with a record that makes us want to endorse her for a full four-year term. She's been talking seriously about violence in the district and about young people, predominantly African Americans, getting killed. I feel like she wants to do the right thing.
But her reelection effort is starting to feature some bad actors.
At a recent fundraiser in Chinatown, former Mayor Willie Brown, who ranks as one of the most corrupt public officials in modern San Francisco history and whose administration was a disaster for poor and working-class people (he once even said that poor people ought to just get out of town because this city is too expensive for them), stood up and made a speech, warmly endorsed Olague and said he would be with her "all the way." Olague then thanked Rose Pak, the Chinatown power broker, for "all of her support over the last few months."
This makes me nervous. And it hasn't helped my nerves that I've been trying to talk to Olague about these issues for the last week, and she keeps avoiding the conversation by not returning calls or cutting conversations short when I do reach her.
Willie Brown, with his Chron column, has taken on this funny, warm, man-about-town persona, but when he was running City Hall, everything was about money. He cut deals right and left that destroyed communities and neighborhoods. He oversaw, aided and encouraged what we called the "Economic Cleansing of San Francisco." Tens of thousands of working-class people, artist, writers, young people ... were driven out of the city by a steamroller of gentrification -- all with the mayor's blessing.
Now he's working as a private attorney, and last time we checked was getting $200,000 a year to represent PG&E. We have no idea what other big corporate clients he has or what he does for them -- but it's clearly not writing legal briefs and handling litigation. He gets paid for being a political fixer. For the bad guys.
And he's going to be with Olague "all the way."