WHAT’s funny about the memorable phrase “all politics is local”, is that it’s so easy to forget about local politics. I was given a good refresher tonight at Public Works, where 5 candidates (Supervisors Beavan Dufty, John Avalos, and David Chiu; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; and State Senator Leland Yee) to become the next Mayor of San Francisco talked MUNI, parks, and how much they loved their opponents. Matthew Troy, co-owner of Faye’s Video & Espresso Bar, was on hand to moderate, and to transmit wisdom.
Up to this point, all that I had heard about the race to fill the Mayoral vacancy left in the wake of Gavin Newsom’s election to the most pointless office ever invented, was that it was going to be boring. Ranked choice voting has opened up an electoral path to victory whereby a candidate can win by racking up “second-choice” votes, meaning that no candidate wants to say anything that might turn-off any potential voter who might consider him for their number two pick. In short, boring.
The debate revealed the following: All the candidates support Healthy SF, ranked-choice voting, and public schools. With the exception of Avalos, they are all in support of the Park Merced development project, although they were all made visibly uncomfortable saying why. They are all opposed to privatizing parks, and in support of marriage equality. When asked to say which city department was the biggest disappointment, each of them answered “MUNI”. They all agreed that the 14 Mission bus is “Jacked”. Which it is.
Being in the Mission, they were sure to mention their support for tenants rights. They all refused to answer my question, which was who were they casting their “second-choice” vote for, even though I specifically admonished them not to duck the question. Beavan Dufty thinks bars should be allowed to stay open until 4am.
When each of the candidates were given a chance to ask their opponents a question, they served them up on platters of the purest gold. Beavan Dufty asked David Chiu to reflect on his memories of growing up in the Mission. Dennis Herrera asked John Avalos about his feelings toward the immigrant community. Avalos asked Yee if he supports privatizing parks (he doesn’t!). Only Chiu’s question to Herrera, whether, as mayor, he would have signed onto the Park Merced deal (Herrera replied “yes”), had any sort of english on it. The night’s only disagreement came between Herrera and Yee, over the former’s support for gang injunctions.
Here’s what I learned: Beavan Dufty wants you to know he likes to party, Leland Yee really wants you to know that he really likes schools, John Avalos is quite handsome, and David Chiu, with his abuse of the Clinton thumb-point, probably wants to be mayor more than all of them. That, and that ranked-choice voting, while probably still a good idea, makes for some boring politics.
As election day nears, I’m hoping we get just a smidge more fist shaking, and a touch less back slapping.