Our top 10 memorable moments from one of the city's most memorable officials
City Hall won't be the same in the new year — and not just because Gavin Newsom will be off in Sacramento being lieutenant governor. Sup. Chris Daly, who has represented low-income constituents from the Tenderloin, SoMa, and adjoining District 6 neighborhoods for a decade and has long been framed as Newsom's nemesis, has been termed out.
True to his spitfire reputation, Daly agreed to go out with a Jan. 5 roast. So we thought we'd do our part by recalling our favorite moments from a supervisor who served as the progressive conscience of the board — but not always politely.
"How can you have decorum when at the same time you are allowing children to go hungry and homeless?" he asked us recently. "The most gracious or grateful or proper thing should be to work for justice. To me, that's good manners."
Here are 10 things we will never forget about Daly. (And attend his roast: Wed/5, 8pm, $20. The Independent, 647 Divisadero, SF. Facebook info )
1. He shares a birthday with Fidel Castro.
Daly was born Aug. 13, 1972, characterized as the Day of Long Odds, according to Gary Goldschneider and Joost Elfers' Secret Language of Birthdays. Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro was also born on Aug. 13, in 1926. Further compounding suspicions that Daly is a pinko commie-lover: he met his wife Sarah Low at the World Youth Festival in Havana.
2. He painted with dark colors as a child.
"My mom tells the story about going to the teacher-parent conference when I was four or five and the teacher wasn't exactly sure which kid I was," Daly said. "Then she figured it out: I was the incredibly quiet, somewhat shy, well-behaved one. But she had one concern: when I finger-painted, I always picked really dark colors like black, brown, and dark green. So she called me over and asked why. I told her, "Those are the colors left when all the other kids take all the other colors." Hmmm.
3. He got into fisticuffs with Mayor Willie Brown in 2001.
"Unbeknownst to Brown, Chris brought some homeless activists to a meeting that was supposed to be private," recalled Sup. John Avalos, who was Daly's legislative aide at the time. "Brown stood up and started going after Chris and somehow the story morphed into a fist-fight." Daly claims the mayor started the confrontation.
"He got up and actually got out of his chair and came after me," he said. "And I said, 'You want some of this? You want some of this? Bring it on.' "
4. He developed a whole new meaning for "acting mayor."
In October 2003, Willie Brown went to Tibet and, as was his practice, allowed the supervisors to rotate into the "acting mayor" position, typically a ceremonial job. Daly promptly appointed two progressives to the Public Utilities Commission. "Brown interrupted his visit to announce that there had been a 'coup d'état' in San Francisco and that he had got to get on a plane to deal with it," former Supervisor Jake McGoldrick told us.
5. He screamed at the cops during an arrest in a protest over a proposed parking garage at Hastings Law School in 2002.
Many versions of what really happened here. "I was screaming 'Ouch!' — I was in a pain compliance hold," Daly said. "The cops said he was screaming at them about having them fired," former Sup. Aaron Peskin recalled. "Chris said he was saying 'Ow!' and the police said he was saying, 'Do you know who I am?" Avalos said.
Either way, the photo was used against him by downtown interests in the 2006 election.
6. At an MTA budget meeting in May 2005, Daly stepped out of his role as board member and into the persona of outraged member of public.
Avalos recalled how Daly left the front of the room, sat down with the audience, and was clapping and cheering as the public criticized the board's Municipal Transportation Agency budget decision. "[Activist] Richard Marquez told me, 'You got to do something to control that guy,' " Avalos recalled.
7. He once reportedly told the "motherfuckers at the Golden Gate Restaurant Association who refuse to pay their employees a living wage, fuck you!"
Actually, the reports on this were wrong: Daly's wife said those words, at Daly's 2006 reelection party, a victory that felt even sweeter because downtown spent $1 million trying to defeat him. "My wife is a bit embarrassed about that speech, but I loved it," Daly said.
8. He claimed Newsom was "artfully dodging allegations of cocaine use" during a board hearing on Newsom's proposed health care cuts in June 2007.
There was never any evidence that the mayor was a coke head. But Daly insisted that the rumors were there, and the mayor never denied them. "What ticked me off was that all the big cuts to public health that year were to stimulant treatment programs," he said.
9. Peskin fired him as chairman of the powerful Budget Committee just before it finalized work on Newsom's proposed $6.06 billion budget.
Peskin cited Daly's bitter public conflict with Newsom over budget priorities. "Fundamentally the budget process is about public policy and not about personality," Peskin stated at the time. "When I called him to say he was out, he said it was totally cool. But then for the next six months, he wouldn't talk to me," Peskin told us.
10. In January 2010, Daly told the board's Rules Committee that he would use the word fuck in each of his remaining board meetings.
"That was really helpful to our cause," Peskin recalled.