For my non-San Francisco readers, I apologize for back-to-back San Francisco-centric* posts. What can I say, I simply love my city, affectionately known in our house as “the progressive bubble within which we choose to live.” Come for a visit sometime, it’s awesome.
As you know, one of the things that I am very interested in is the political landscape of our city. A place where elections often pit “the left against the lefter” San Francisco is both an target for those who hold a more conservative ideology as well as a place where progressive values can be tested and lived out like no other urban center. Nowhere else is this beauty playing out right now than in our current mayoral race. With this post I plan on periodically reflecting on this spirited contest that has all the crud of any political race, but is overall filled meaningful conversation and is populated with am oddly large number of truly viable candidates who. And while I may not find alignment with many of their positions, personalities and/or politics, I trust that each is following a call to public service and the betterment of the city we all love.
But first . . . full disclosure. As some of you know John Avalos is my #1 – more on ranked choice voting later – so if that immediately discounts anything I say, there is not much I can do about that. What I can tell you is that I am not part of his paid staff, no one from the campaign vets my writing and I make no assumptions that I agree with everything that John stands for or against. I simply trust the man and have chosen to give him my support and time. I sit in a few meetings, give some thoughts, tweet a bit and help coordinate the PTA.
With just over two-months to go, here are a few reflections:
RANKED CHOICE VOTING – This year will be San Francisco’s first use of ranked choice voting in its citywide mayoral election. We have used it for supervisor races, but never for the top office. There is much debate about whether ranked choice adds or detracts to the democratic process, but it certainly made a splash last year in the election of Jean Quan as Mayor of Oakland and many suspect it will do so this year in San Francisco. And while I will leave it to those who are indeed smarter than a fifth grader to decode the complicated matrices to figure out how many votes are needed to be elected, I do think it has created some subtle changes to process.
Ranked choice voting will force voters to have a greater dialog about a wider pool of candidates. Rather than having to convince your friend or neighbor why they should vote for your person and abandon their long-time candidate, you can honestly say, “Great, I’m glad Tony Hall is your number one, but would you consider giving Terry Baum your #2? Conversely, if you are split and really do like more than one person, you can take part in the election should your #1 get dropped early. I have found that in my conversations with folks that this shift in strategy forces supporters to acknowledge commonalities between candidates and is an early positive result of the ranked choice process.
NEW ENTRIES – While I was on vacation a few more folks jumped into the race, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and “Interim” Mayor, Ed Lee. I have never met either of them, but Jeff and I share the hometown of Sacramento and at a recent debate, I was really impressed with his energy and honesty. He seems like another viable candidate, and while he may get pegged as only about the reformation of the San Francisco pension system he should probably not be discounted. As far as Ed Lee is concerned, while I have not decided on my #2 or #3, it is safe to say that Mayor Ed Lee will not be in my ballot come November 8th. When I saw the announcement I was not totally surprised, but I was disappointed. As one who has worked to help institutions think about meaningful change, I had been impressed by his ability to leverage his interim status in order to bring a change of tone to city hall. We each certainly have the prerogative to change our mind, but I have yet to hear of any compelling reason that he chose to go back on his promise to many people that he would not seek the permanent office or any acknowledgment that it might be because of these very promises that folks saw his leadership in a different light. All of this prompted this facebook status update which I still stand behind and makes clear where I am on Ed Lee’s candidacy.
Much of the reason that Ed Lee has been an effective INTERIM Mayor is precisely because he is an INTERIM who promised NOT to seek the office. This move has negated the positive foundation [that] has been built for the next mayor to build upon. A great INTERIM mayor and city administrator, but Ed Lee has lost the support of this SF voter for either office. FWIW: I support John Avalos and now ANYONE but Ed.
These two new entries, in addition to the rest of the field, will also create some interesting relationship tests as there are many of us who are friends and colleagues in other political and social arenas. I trust that we will all stay friends and i am simply looking at this as a great witness to our collective commitment to local politics and civic engagement.
THE PERSON AND THE CANDIDATE – Whenever I talk with folks who are far more involved in the campaign than I, I always try to ask them how they are doing. I don’t do this because I am part of Team Avalos and I appreciate their work, but because it is important for us not to lose perspective during the intensity of a political campaign. Regardless of what you think about a person’s politics, we should remember that when they enter the race they embark on a grueling period of time where they are taxed physically, emotionally and spiritually. Sure they have each chosen this journey, but we must still keep in mind that Mayoral candidates don’t all of a sudden get placed in a life vacuum removing the pressures and commitments of everyday life. As much as I may disagree with what they do, say or believe, I always try to remember that they each have families, supporters, friends and limits. As we approach election day and things get heated up, I suspect that many of us will need to be reminded of this more than once.
So that’s it for now. I’ll post again on this if and when there are enough random musings screaming to be release from my head. If you are around this week, on Tuesday night I’ll be a the 2011 San Francisco Arts Forum – hashtag #SFMayorArts – where I’ll be hanging out with other candidates social media folks and live-tweeting for @AvalosSF. Stop by and say howdy!
* “Room 200” is the mayor’s office at City Hall and #SFMayor is the hashtag used for most twitter conversations on the race.