[Hpn] San Francisco, CA - Chris Daly - Rebel S.F. supervisor fights for re-election - San Francisco Chronicle - July 15, 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Mon, 15 Jul 2002 11:30:58 -0500

Chris Daly - Rebel S.F. supervisor fights for re-election
Voters ponder if middle-class activist is hero or hot air

Joe Garofoli and Rachel Gordon - San Francisco Chronicle - July 15, 2002

San Francisco -- The 121 people gathered for a candidate's forum in a ritzy
neighborhood near Pacific Bell Park weren't Chris Daly's people. The rookie San
Francisco supervisor is most comfortable campaigning in residential hotels;

one-bedroom condos in this part of his district go for $700,000.

Many in the unusually large turnout five months before the election wanted to
see if their 29-year-old supervisor -- arguably San Francisco's most
controversial in a generation -- bore any resemblance to his most famous media
images: trading cusses with Mayor Willie Brown last year and getting arrested at
a sit-in last month at Hastings College of the Law. Those images make Daly a
hard-charging hero in neighborhoods long neglected by City Hall, and a loose-
lipped iconoclast elsewhere.

Sensing this, Daly pleaded in his opening remarks: Don't believe what's been
written about me. It's all part of a smear campaign for taking on the entrenched
powers at City Hall. "If you have any questions," Daly said, "here's my home
number. Call me."

Less than two hours later, Daly was throwing his satchel over his shoulder and
stalking out of the forum before it ended.

Things started going badly when one of his rivals questioned the value of Daly's
activist stunts, like protesting in front of Bechtel Corp. headquarters with a
bullhorn. Daly responded calmly and went on past the moderator's requests to
wrap it up. People in the audience started yelling for him to "shut up and
answer the question."

That's when Daly bolted, explaining later that only partisans were left by then

To some, the walkout perfectly illustrates Daly's first 18 months in office.

It was another move, like his Hastings arrest, that played poorly for the
cameras, at City Hall, and for many who attended the candidates' forum at South
Beach, where the biggest concerns are potholes and brightly lit billboards.

"The only time you hear about him is when he's in the news, so I wanted to see
what he was like," said Liz Kohler, a 33-year-old assistant property manager
from South Beach who doesn't follow politics. "But after tonight, I can't really
respect what he does."

This kind of thing plays much better, however, with Daly's core supporters in
San Francisco's poorest, most racially diverse neighborhoods at the other end of
his district. On the streets of the Tenderloin, South of Market and the north
Mission District, this child of Washington, D.C., suburbia is hailed as an
in-your-face protector, whose rage-against-the-machine activism was honed by
working in some of the nation's roughest slums.
Finally, in the broad, 6-foot-2 supervisor who one supporter said "looks like a
frat boy, but isn't," they have someone who's getting arrested in the name of
keeping a law school parking garage out of the Tenderloin. Someone who attends
nearly every community meeting in their neighborhoods, and strides fearlessly
through the toughest residential hotels.

"Oh, yeah, you hear a lot about Daly in the newspapers," said 62-year-old Ron
Beverly, who has lived in the Tenderloin for 14 years. "But he's the best to
come along in some time. At least around here."

The disconnect between San Francisco's two visions of Daly is that he is -- in
contrast to blow-dried and poll-guided politicians -- unapologetically an
activist. A year and a half removed from his days as a street organizer, Daly is
impatient for change in a political system that moves glacially.

Soon, voters will decide whether Daly deserves another term, as he tries to fend
off at least seven challengers vying to represent the city's District 6. While
he has said publicly that he'll mount a strong campaign, Daly admits that the
pressures of his first term have started to wear.

"I don't like the way I've become, in some ways," Daly said over coffee -- lots
of sugar -- in a Tenderloin cafe. "I used to be the most patient person I know.
I'm not anywhere near as patient. I'm not as nice.

"I prefer to be on the other side of politics," he said. "I didn't want to do
this (run for office). I still don't. I'm doing it because I feel it needs to
get done. And what I need to get done is more important than what I want to do."

Perhaps that's why a few gray strands have appeared in his black hair, closely
cropped and brushed forward in the style of the young, white urban men of his
Far from a wide-eyed radical, Daly resembles the stereotype of the clean- cut
dot-commers scorned for gentrifying much of his district. His appearance, with a
perpetual 5 p.m. shadow and genteel, wire-rimmed glasses, is just another stick
in the bundle of contradictions that make up the supervisor intent on changing
the status quo at City Hall.

Opinion on Daly is as varied as his District 6. Is he in the vanguard, or just a
loudmouth with a bullhorn?

Fellow rookie Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who represents the middle-class
Richmond District, said Daly is "rambunctious, tumultuous, charges like a bull.

Eventually, we in the middle end up deciding what gets done, but he gets us

Willie Brown disagrees. Brown and Daly haven't exchanged more than a greeting
since that day in April 2001 -- three months after Daly took office --

when the mayor and the supervisor shouted obscenities at each other during a
closed-door meeting on homelessness attended by a handful of others. In the end,
Daly hand-wrote an apology to Brown. His passion, Daly suggested, got the best
of him.

"He's like a kid, he really is," Brown said. "He's like an 'Animal House'
college kid playing in politics."

Friends say the real Daly is somewhere between the activist arrested for
trespassing at the Hastings protest -- the district attorney decided not to
prosecute -- and the guy cooing on the cell phone with his fiancee about what to
make for dinner. Daly took her calls three times during an interview, a
basketball junkie breaking into a grin each time she updated him on players
chosen in the NBA draft.
The location of their wedding reception next summer: the same South Beach hall
that Daly stormed out of.

It's just another odd twist in Daly's road to the board, one that was hardly the
standard political climb. He dropped out of Duke University and got evicted from
his Mission District apartment on an owner move-in. He's been a bartender at the
hip Justice League club in the Western Addition and a street organizer for the
past decade in San Francisco and Philadelphia.

Critics call him a "trust-fund baby" for what Daly confirmed was a $95,000 loan
from his mother, at 5 percent interest, to help buy the $435,000, three- bedroom
Mission townhouse he shares with his fiancee. The arrangement was first reported
in the online San Francisco Sentinel, which concentrates on District 6.

Daly's backers say the trust fund whispers are retribution for taking on the
city's sacred cows, both symbolic and elected. He has talked about stripping
Justin Herman's name from the plaza near the Embarcadero honoring the former
Redevelopment Agency chief; Daly wonders why Herman, who transformed African
American neighborhoods four decades ago, should be glorified for displacing
people in the name of redevelopment.

Although loathed by Brown, Daly is mentored by Brown's close political ally,
state Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco. The gruff-talking, veteran politico
sees a little of himself in Daly, and regularly calls the younger man with
political advice.

While Daly's arrest at Hastings drew attention to the school's proposal to build
an 885-car garage in the housing-starved Tenderloin, it was Burton who, days
later, forced Hastings to reconsider with a quick flex of political muscle.

And that, Burton pointed out, is the difference between agitating as one 11
members of the Board of Supervisors and leading the state Senate.

"On occasion, I've said he's got to relax, because sooner or later he won't be
taken seriously," Burton said. "I remember yelling and screaming and crying on
the floor when someone wouldn't vote (his way). But there's a danger in letting
(political setbacks) drive you to the extent you get filled with anxiety and

But Daly feels he doesn't have time to waste. Elected to a two-year term that
expires in January, he feels he must try to rock the system now. So when he
senses that people aren't listening, aren't willing to change, aren't juiced by
the same passion he is, he walks.

Last summer, Daly stormed out of a supervisors' meeting when his colleagues
rebuffed the bulk of his suggestions for balancing the city budget. Later, after
he returned, he took the microphone to explain his frustration in a monologue
that was part political stump speech, part therapy session.

"I'm not feeling the love," he told his colleagues.

Even Randy Shaw, director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, who was with Daly at
Hastings, said, "He shouldn't have said that."

"But Chris has matured greatly since his first six months in office," said Shaw,
who scoffs at those who accuse Daly of grandstanding. "C'mon. He spends a
tremendous amount of political capital on a constituency who doesn't give
political contributions and doesn't vote."

Daly insists he doesn't do it out of a sense of noblesse oblige. Besides, his
upbringing in Gaithersburg, Md., was more Cleavers than Kennedys.
Born to a mother who is an accountant and a father who was a midlevel federal
bureaucrat, Daly was gradually drawn to service as a teenager through the 4-H
club. Later, he was inspired by a high school teacher who led the Key Club, a
community service organization that some college applicants use to pad their
resumes without doing the grunt work.

But Daly, the class valedictorian, did the grunt work, and the experience got
him into neighborhoods different from his own. The work gave him a sense of
perspective, and he carried that ethos to Duke, where Daly spent more time
working at the local Habitat for Humanity site than he did in class. After
watching his grades drop precipitously, he withdrew after five nonsequential
semesters. His parents weren't pleased.

But college didn't seem to matter after what he saw on the streets while away
from Duke. In 1992, he worked in Philadelphia for the Kensington Welfare Rights
Union, a group dedicated to, and run by, poor and homeless people. There, in one
of the nation's toughest slums, Daly gained the street experience to match his

"At first, giving back was the reason I got into this kind of work, but now,

after doing it for 10 years, it's become a part of me," Daly said. "It's who I

When he moved to San Francisco in 1992, his streetwise compassion made true
believers out of folks like Stephanie Hughes. She met Daly when she was living
in a Mission District scrap yard with her five children, and he was a housing
rights organizer. Daly accompanied Hughes to her often-contentious meetings with
Housing Authority officials -- not going there to be her advocate, but to wait
in the hall and baby-sit her children.
"He taught me how to fight for myself," said Hughes, whom Daly helped get an
apartment and a job. He also played basketball with her oldest son, and took her
children to Marine World.

Just three days before Hughes was interviewed, Daly had called to see how she
was doing. She volunteers with his campaign, even though Hughes lives in the
Bayview -- out of his district.

Now, with Daly 18 months into his term, some say he represents the underclass a
little too well. South Beach architect Toby Levy wishes Daly would pay more
attention to her part of the district. At a meeting earlier this year on
redistricting, she suggested that her neighborhood secede from District 6 just
to get away from Daly.

"I respect what he did at Hastings and all, but I just wish he dealt more with
the more mundane, middle-class issues here in his district," Levy said. "My
impression of him is that he's living by his principles. I just wish his
principles extended to my concerns."

It's one reason that Brown -- who started in politics 13 years before Daly was
born -- dismisses him as little more than a rhetorical bomb-thrower with a weak
political base. Even though Daly beat the Brown-backed candidate, he didn't get
board President Tom Ammiano's endorsement until the runoff.
"If it weren't for district elections, Daly would wouldn't even be a blip on the
screen," Brown said. He speculated that Daly's political life will be limited.

"I don't think he'll go anywhere in politics beyond District 6," Brown said.

"Could you imagine someone in Pacific Heights voting for Chris Daly? Or the
Ingleside? Or the Sunset? Or Telegraph Hill? Or Bayview-Hunters Point?"

Although Brown says Daly "delivers nothing," the freshman supervisor, with his
other left-leaning insurgent colleagues, has changed the way City Hall operates.
Daly, for example, was one of the biggest backers of voter-approved plans to
strip the mayor's complete control over the city's land use commissions and
blunt mayoral sway over the Elections Department.

But Daly agreed with Brown that he probably couldn't get elected beyond District
6. "At least not until there's a radical change in the way politics operates in
this city."

Nor, he said, does he have such aspirations. It would take him too far from
working on his issues. While he would be comfortable returning to the street
organizing, Daly still believes that "the best way to address poverty is through
political solutions."

First, however, he's got to win re-election.

source page:  http://makeashorterlink.com/?A2C915441
E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com and Rachel Gordon at

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