[Hpn] Supervisor candidates as different as neighborhoods of diverse
Mon, 11 Dec 2000 01:02:34 -0700
Hey all -
For a self-proclaimed anarchist, it seems like I spend way too much of my
time on these pesky elections. Or perhaps it's all the damned election work
that makes me want abolish government. In light of the never-ending
Presidential fiasco, this doesn't seem like an unreasonable goal.
When ex-COH staffer Chris Daly announced that he was running for the
supervisor's seat for district 6, where I both live and work, I was stunned.
My thoughts went along the lines of "he's just a KID, fer cryin' out loud!"
After I managed to process through this admittedly ageist reaction, it began
to dawn on me that he was the best possible choice for this district. He has
run an incredibly clean, POSITIVE, grassroots campaign, and his volunteer
staff roster reads like a directory of every activist in town -- especially
housing activists. Housing is the number one issue in San Francisco today,
and this neighborhood is the last concentration of low-income housing in the
city. Chris has worked hard to create and preserve safe, decent affordable
housing, and for the rights of low-income tenants and homeless people the
seven or so years I've known him, and for some years before that in Philly.
He is a seasoned grassroots organizer. And I must admit he's even a better
dart player than I am.
District 6 is what is termed a "containment zone." This urban police
strategy works something like the way quality-of-life enforcement shuttles
homeless people from one neighborhood to another, except in this case the
cops herd all the drug traffickers and sex workers and sidewalk vendors and
addicts and street drinkers into the poorest neighborhood in town where the
residents are least empowered.
Here, they turn a mostly blind eye to these activities and even permit some
of them to flourish. The drug traffic, especially, is so pervasive and
unchecked that I cannot believe the cops here aren't on the supplier's
payroll -- unless the street dealers are working for corrupt cops.
Police crackdowns are seldom but regular, driven primarily by the cops' need
to meet precinct arrest quotas, and by elections. This practice effectively
sabotages most efforts to create community and organize for community
empowerment, as well as providing prerogative for development and
People who live in other neighborhoods and (who see all this shit going on
in ours) have little empathy when developers raze an entire block, or two,
or four. They're often relieved to see another high-rise tourist hotel go up
(for use by people who don't even live in SF) because it replaces the street
life and "nuisance crimes." And they are too often oblivious to all the
seniors and disabled and working poor people who are displaced as a result
of the destruction of low-income housing.
This is the stage where Tuesday's drama will be played.
Chris Dittenhafer, da Mayor's sock puppet, will be a disaster for poor
people who live in this neighborhood if he's elected. The Polk Street
Merchants' Association and the Council of District Merchants have
distinguished themselves as what I can only term as hate groups, waging to
date a pretty effective effort to ever-further criminalize homelessness in
San Francisco. They've even worked to try to close the city's largest
homeless shelter -- Multi-Service Center North, located at the corner of
Polk and Geary -- because of the "street people" this facility draws to the
The rationale is that visible homelessness is bad for business and property
values, so they mount periodic attacks in the press and public forums
demonizing homeless people. These are the folks yelling at politicians and
editors and columnists and news crews that all homeless people are crazy and
dangerous, that they're all drug addicts and alcoholics, that they are
"choosing" to pursue a "criminal lifestyle." As a result, more and more San
Francisco voters are being propagandized into the belief that homelessness
And all for a lousy fucking dollar.
This ongoing cultural and economic warfare in SF isn't unique. In cities all
across the US, selective enforcement against poor and homeless people for
quality-of-life "crimes" and the "broken windows" theory of urban law
enforcement have served to effectively erase the civil and human rights of
our poorest citizens, and have helped transform this "land of the free" into
a police state.
The blueprint for this crypto-fascist campaign can be found among the many
publications of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank under the
direction of former attorney general Ed Meese. Just log on to Heritage.org
and look around for "broken windows" in their publications. The publications
about welfare reform are pretty chilling, too. Great name, Heritage. Has the
same ring in the ears as "Fatherland."
If Dittenhafer is successful he's going to make Amos Brown look like Mother
Teresa. But all the soft money in the world isn't going to buy his way into
office, even if he does have Mayoral staff working full-time on his
campaign, as do all of Willie Brown's anointed candidates. This is explained
away as staff taking "comp time," but I have real difficulty swallowing the
idea that staff who are paid between $80-120,000 a year plus benefits need
to "compensated" for working evenings or weekends.
George Smith, our homeless coordinator, is working full-time for a Brown
machine candidate in another district, and doubtlessly working harder than
he ever did at coordinating homeless services. Why? Because George covets a
seat on the county Democratic Central Committee. Let's all just take a
moment out right here to wish his campaigning efforts enjoy the same
ineptitude he brought with him to the Mayor's Office on Homelessness, and
the same utter failure that office has perpetuated under his tenure.
Willie Brown's fast-talking party hacks have crafted a last-ditch spin
campaign to brand Chris Daly as a "radical." That's a pretty strong word,
but Chris Dittenhafer would have to have a personality surgically implanted
before he could actually make this charge and convince anyone. The one
debate with Daly that he would agree to found him whining that the studio
audience was packed with Daly's campaign staff (there were two present).
The factors working in Chris Daly's favor aren't very mysterious, or
"radical." 80% of district 6 voters are renters, and district 6 has the
lowest per-capita income in San Francisco. Volunteers from the Daly campaign
have been phone banking, precinct walking and knocking on doors all over the
district. And every day there's more people who become fed up with Willie
Brown and his sleazy political machine selling the ground beneath people's
very feet to his corporate cronies to develop for tourists and dot.coms.
If prioritizing human needs above the almighty fucking dollar, and having
the political will and grassroots support to forward that agenda through to
policy makes someone "radical," then I truly pity officeholders who aren't.
People like Dittenhafer use the word "radical" where you or I would say
"passionate." And it also reveals a small truth, that Chris Daly's agenda
represents a threat to to the agenda the interests Chris Dittenhafer
I sure hope so.
Ralph Nader remarked at a meeting I was at couple of months ago that "The
definition of greed is infinity." He wasn't joking, and I think his
statement goes a long way in explaining why, in the midst of this boom
economy, pro-business groups are continually demonizing and persecuting
homeless people in the interests of future gains and enhanced property
The winds of change are stirring in this neighborhood. Maybe, come Tuesday,
they'll rise to blow some of the stink off City Hall.
Published Sunday, Dec. 10, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
Supervisor candidates as different as neighborhoods of diverse district
OUTSIDER ACKNOWLEDGES EXTREME STANCES; OPPONENT PROMOTES COOPERATION
BY MIKE ZAPLER
It's a cold and drizzling evening at the city's dismal Transbay bus terminal
at First and Mission streets. A line of utterly bored-looking people wait to
catch the 108 line to Treasure Island.
``Hi, I'm Chris Daly, and I'm running for board of supervisors, District
6,'' Chris Daly says, over and over, as he greets members of this captive
audience. ``I'm fighting for the neighborhoods; my opponent is backed by
Clad in a dark green button-down shirt, beige slacks and casual brown shoes,
and sporting short-cropped hair and a five o'clock shadow, the 28-year-old
Daly could easily pass for one of the young high-tech workers who have
descended on the South of Market district, ground zero of the city's new
economy. But looks indeed can be deceiving.
Daly has spent much of the past few years protesting dot-com office
development and shouting down the city's political establishment. Now he's
trying to join the government, and in the election for District 6 on
Tuesday, about the only thing Daly has in common with his opponent, Wells
Fargo manager Chris Dittenhafer, is their first name.
Daly finished as the front-runner in the Nov. 7 general election, with 33
percent of the vote in a field of 17 candidates. Dittenhafer placed second
with 15 percent. Because neither won a majority, the two face off in a
While Daly is sticking to the person-to-person approach that worked for him
last month, Dittenhafer's strategy is equally simple: Make Daly the issue.
The tall, unassuming native of rural Camp Hill, Pa., is now calling Daly a
``radical'' incapable of conducting the give-and-take of government
business. Dittenhafer presents himself as the moderate voice of reason who
can get along with people across the spectrum.
``To be a radical as one of 11 supervisors is going to get you nowhere,''
Dittenhafer, 35, says in an oft-repeated line.
Daly doesn't reject the label, as long as it's defined as someone who goes
to extremes to fix problems.
``If I'm a radical, then that's what appeals to more people in this district
than what he has to offer,'' Daly says.
Whoever wins has a tough job ahead. District 6 encompasses a sprawling area
with vastly different neighborhoods -- from South Beach, the community of
million-dollar high-rise condos near Pacific Bell Park, to the Tenderloin
district, where shoddy single-residency-occupancy hotels line the streets,
drug dealers ply their trade and homeless people congregate near City Hall.
In the middle is South of Market, once an industrial zone and now a
cutting-edge locale for many of the city's dot-coms. Abandoned warehouses
have been converted into offbeat office spaces, and expensive live-work
lofts have sprouted up on almost every street.
Hayes Valley, Treasure Island, Mission Bay, the northern Mission district
and a southern slice of the Financial district make up the rest of District
6, in which a citywide high of 80 percent of residents are renters. Though
it has its share of well-heeled loft dwellers, the district houses mostly
low- to middle-income renters and seniors less likely to vote than San
Daly's grass-roots campaign started with his background.
Raised in Gaithersburg, Md., by his father, an official for the U.S.
Department of Energy turned consultant, and his mother, a certified public
accountant, Daly was studying comparative social movements at Duke
University in 1993 when he decided he'd had enough of academia. He left
school and moved to Philadelphia to work for a program that monitored police
actions against homeless people. By 1995 he was in San Francisco, where he
co-founded Mission Agenda.
Daly has used the non-profit group to advocate for low-income tenants and
the homeless, draw attention to decrepit conditions in residential hotels
and build the organization that has become the backbone of his campaign.
Driving his shiny Ford F-150 truck -- which he says he bought so he could
deliver goods to homeless people -- from the bus terminal to the next
campaign stop, Daly points at an abandoned building on Sixth Street and
asks, ``Why is that not housing for people?''
He also talks about the difficulty of raising money. Most of the $44,804
he's collected, he says, came from family members and friends. A critic of
``special interest'' money, he says he declined a $250 check from AT&T
because big telecommunications issues are coming before the board next year.
As a self-described outsider and advocate for the downtrodden -- one ally
called him ``one of the most principled, committed, revolutionary-minded,
North American white activists that I have ever had the pleasure of building
a movement with'' -- Daly is often in opposition. When Mission district
activists rallied at City Hall this fall to protest the displacement of
renters and non-profit organizations, Daly led the lineup of speakers. He
has berated city planning commissioners and blasted office builders.
``San Francisco is the place we call home, not a playground for greedy
developers and real estate speculators looking to make a quick buck,'' Daly
declares in one campaign piece.
It's the kind of language that appeals to disaffected residents of District
6 who see gentrification taking hold and evictions climbing to record
levels. But that's not how Dittenhafer sees it.
``I think he's playing on a fear factor,'' Dittenhafer says. ``I think a lot
of developers are scared of Mr. Daly, and that could make it difficult to
build all the affordable housing he claims to want.''
One real estate owner and activist in South Beach, who met with Daly on the
campaign trail last month, agreed.
``I'm very uncomfortable having a progressive radical in the most diverse
district in the city -- it kind of grinds me,'' said Jeff Leibovitz. People
are angry at Willie Brown, he said, ``and that environment lends itself to a
character like Daly emerging as a top candidate.''
But others see a refreshing idealist in Daly, who has been endorsed by
several prominent groups and politicians, including state Sen. John Burton.
``I think people who expect him to come out against all development will
find him to be more reasonable than that,'' said Alexander Clemens, who runs
a Web site on San Francisco politics (www.clemens.org/suspects.htm).
While Daly has assembled a platoon of activists as foot soldiers for his
campaign, Dittenhafer's base of support is primarily in the business
community. That is not all that surprising, given his background.
The son of a state employee and a homemaker, Dittenhafer spent his summers
on his grandparents' corn and potato farm.
``It was a wholesome experience,'' he said. ``People there led basic lives,
and honesty was important.''
After dropping out of Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where he said
he experienced discrimination because he is gay, Dittenhafer headed to
Philadelphia and began working for a bank. But, like Daly, Dittenhafer was
drawn to San Francisco.
``Being a gay person . . . for me, San Francisco was the place,'' he said.
At 23, Dittenhafer moved to the city and landed a job at Wells Fargo. He now
manages two of its branches.
Dittenhafer's first taste of politics came in the mid-1990s, when he joined
the Polk Street Merchants Association. He learned about neighborhood
preservation issues, and he voiced concerns that bike lanes could tie up
traffic. He later became president of the Council of District Merchants and
then joined the city Taxi Commission. His emergence as a candidate for
supervisor came rather suddenly this summer when incumbent Supervisor Leslie
Katz resigned and Dittenhafer answered Brown's call to run.
Although his signs are plastered throughout the district, Dittenhafer has
run a relatively quiet campaign, which seems to be partly a function of the
hefty fundraising advantage he enjoys. He's collected $54,831 -- but
corporations have kicked in another $161,906 in unregulated soft money,
which has funded mailers and other direct advertising. Just $15,504 has been
spent on Daly's behalf.
Except for one debate on cable television, Dittenhafer has avoided joint
appearances with Daly, concerned that Daly backers will try to embarrass
His low-key approach was on display on a sunny afternoon a week before the
election. Dressed in work attire -- a formal gray suit and tie, white shirt,
a silver Kenneth Cole watch -- he spends 45 minutes chatting with a few
people at Tartine Cafe in Hayes Valley before heading to City Hall.
With him is Colleen Meharry, a restaurant and property owner who befriended
him about four years ago while working on merchants' issues.
``A lot of business owners are constantly fighting city legislation that
either keeps us from hiring more people or increases our costs,'' she says.
``He will bring a small-business agenda.''
Ties to mayor
Perhaps Dittenhafer's biggest liability is his connection to Brown -- he
also has taken flak for moving into District 6 just before the filing
deadline -- or at least the perception that he is indebted to the mayor.
``It's an absolute non-truth,'' he says.
But when asked to name issues on which he disagrees with Brown, Dittenhafer
pauses for several seconds before saying, ``I need a little time to think.''
Then he says the two disagreed at one point on legislation to curb
Dittenhafer says he and Daly are in concert on the issues. But it's safe to
say that Daly has a much more skeptical view of development -- possibly the
most important issue in rapidly changing District 6. Daly was a leading
proponent of the slow-growth ballot measure Proposition L, which would have
banned live-work lofts and reined in office construction. Dittenhafer backed
Proposition K, a more lenient proposal drafted by Brown. Voters rejected
But as Tuesday's election approaches, issues have taken a back seat to
labels each candidate has attached to the other. For Daly, it's being a
divisive ``radical.'' For Dittenhafer, it's being a crony of Brown and a
tool of downtown interests.
Contact Mike Zapler at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 394-6875.
© 2000 The Mercury News.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107,
this material is distributed without charge or profit
to those who have expressed a prior
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