Group launches effort to oust Sup. Jake McGoldrick
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They gathered May 30 in the Richmond District's Lee Hou Restaurant to voice their anger and outrage at Sup. Jake McGoldrick, calling him incompetent, unaccountable, hostile to the will of the voters, and a "born liar." They blamed him for everything from potholes to the state of the economy.
Yet a closer examination of why the Citizens for the Recall of Supervisor Jake McGoldrick say they are trying to get rid of the elected official reveals that this campaign is based on just a few controversial issues that animate these two dozen fairly conservative people.
Primarily, they're mad at McGoldrick for sponsoring Healthy Saturdays, which sought a second day of closing some Golden Gate Park roads to cars, and for his support for studying a Bus Rapid Transit system on Geary Boulevard, which some merchants fear will disrupt their business.
"The problem with Jake McGoldrick is he does not allow us to have our issues," said David Heller, a Geary Street merchant who has led the charge against BRT and who ran against McGoldrick three years ago but has since moved from the district.
"Jake McGoldrick has not been responsive to our needs. He's not there when we need him," said Paul Kozakiewicz, the Richmond Review publisher whose inflammatory and misleading front-page commentaries "The Case for Recalling McGoldrick" over the past two months have been the main rallying point for the recall effort.
As he spoke at the press conference kicking off the recall drive, Kozakiewicz was flanked by Heller and Howard Epstein, a member of the San Francisco Republican County Central Committee, the only political group to endorse the recall drive so far. Democratic Party clubs have all opposed the effort, as did the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee on a rare unanimous vote.
McGoldrick and his supporters say this isn't about accountability but about his policy disagreements with a handful of particularly vocal constituents. "What you have here is some folks who just have to have it their way," McGoldrick told us. "The bottom line is we have a situation where some folks disagree on some issues. But to use this to threaten a politician into backing off these issues is an abuse of the recall."
There's also an ironic note to all of this: if Kozakiewicz had been more truthful in his high-profile attacks, his readers might know that McGoldrick actually watered down the BRT study to appease the Geary merchants and that he resolved the long-simmering park road closure issue in a way that maintains full auto access to the museums and prevents alternative-transportation advocates from reviving the fight for at least five years, much to the chagrin of many walkers, skaters, and bicyclists.
Recalling McGoldrick would require the valid signatures of 3,573 registered voters from District 1, or 10 percent of the total, according to the city's campaign services manager, Rachel Gosiengfiao. The campaign has until Sept. 14 to gather signatures, although Gosiengfiao said that if recall supporters want to make the November ballot, they need to submit the signatures for verification by June 22.
If the signature drive is successful and a majority of voters then decide to remove McGoldrick, Mayor Gavin Newsom will appoint a replacement who will stand for reelection at the end of next year, when McGoldrick's term expires.
"We're not getting involved with replacing the supervisor," Kozakiewicz said. "We're going to leave that up to the mayor."
Kozakiewicz's "The Case for Recalling McGoldrick" started with this description of how the effort began: "In March, a dozen community leaders from a broad cross-section of the community gathered for breakfast at the Video Cafe on Geary Boulevard. The topic of discussion was the district's supervisor, Jake McGoldrick, and what should be done to limit the perceived damage the supervisor was doing to the City."
He then went through a litany of supposed abuses, presented in a seemingly factual and straightforward way BRT, Healthy Saturdays, various "Attacks on Families and Property Owners." At least, they might appear objective to those not familiar with the details. The approach sparked more interest in the recall.
"This is a new venture for me, so I'm a little nervous," Richmond resident Margie Hom-Brown said at the event before attacking McGoldrick's Healthy Saturdays stand. "Two-thirds of San Francisco has voted repeatedly not to close the park. He went on year after year and made it his number one priority.... The actions seem to me rather unethical."
Kozakiewicz used the November 2000 vote against park closure to conclude that McGoldrick "ignores the will of the voters" and used a large, bold pull quote to feature the Measure G question and the fact that 62 percent of the voters rejected it. But what Kozakiewicz doesn't say is that the measure was placed on the ballot by closure opponents trying to defeat Measure F, which called for immediate closure (before construction of the garage that has since been built) and got 46 percent of the vote (a figure Kozakiewicz conveniently leaves out).
Because of the confusing nature of the two measures, it's impossible to know how many voters wanted permanent closure at some point, let alone the six-month trial period that Healthy Saturdays called for. But Kozakiewicz has no use for such nuance in his conclusions, remarking at our questions during a phone interview, "Now you're going into shades of gray."
Similarly, he casts McGoldrick as "forcing BRT on [the] district without notification," despite the fact that the project has been contemplated for decades and that it is now being studied with plenty of future opportunities for public input rather than being a done deal created through some secret McGoldrick plot.
In fact, transit advocate Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, said Kozakiewicz's commentary is misleading in several ways, most notably in that it fails to say that McGoldrick, as chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, actually prevented the BRT study from looking at light rail because of his fears that it would be too disruptive for the Geary merchants.
"The sensitivity of merchant concerns is one reason why the best option isn't even being studied," Radulovich said. "It's ironic that he's being recalled over this. In a way, you could say Jake is kowtowing to the merchants too much and dismissing good transportation options."
Nonetheless, the recall has a decent shot at qualifying, particularly given the fact that the committee has already raised about $24,000, including $5,000 from the Residential Builders Association and $1,500 from the Small Property Owners of San Francisco. It has also hired a firm called JKW Political Consulting, which is not registered with the city as required.
"In reality, the 10 percent threshold is pretty low. Whether you're paying people or using volunteers, you can get that," McGoldrick campaign consultant Jim Stearns said. "So I told Jake we need to be prepared to fight the recall."
And McGoldrick said he is. "We're talking here about ultraconservative, right-wing Republicans," McGoldrick said of the recall proponents. "And they've said that I vote far more progressively than my district.... But I'm trying to do some things that are good for the entire city." *