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June 6, 2008


Block that metaphor!

As the dust begins to settle from Tuesday’s elections, here and in Montana and South Dakota, a few blurry shapes are becoming visible through the murk of campaign ads and media hype.

The Chronicle’s Bill Whalen seems to have been the only person to notice that we — the State of California — shot ourselves in the foot when we changed the date of our presidential primary from June 3 to February 5. If we’d left well enough alone, we coulda been a contender.

At the risk of over-romanticizing, the Democratic Party scenario would have played out something like this: On the 40th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s storied win here, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton would have come to California in similar dire straits as RFK: a New York senator/presidential underdog long on family legacy but short on delegates, desperately in need of a win to force a favorable outcome at the national convention.

Like Kennedy, Clinton would have forged a coalition of working-class whites and Latinos (RFK had Cesar Chavez as an ally; Clinton has Cesar L. Chavez, his grandson, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in her TV ads). Ironically, Clinton would have slammed her main nemesis, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, much the same way as Kennedy was attacked by his rivals: too young, too brash, too liberal. In the end, she likely would have prevailed – in numbers superior to Kennedy’s (RFK won with 46.3 percent of the vote in 1968; Clinton racked up 51.1 percent in February). Maybe it wouldn’t have cost Obama the nomination, but it sure would have been fun.

When will Californians learn that they should insist on doing things their way instead of trying to follow the rest of the country? Batting clean-up is always more exciting.

In the election we did have, it was the fight over Propositions F and G that was most exciting, at least if the number of mailers sent and dollars spent is any indication. The contenders entered the ring wrapped in layer upon layer of controversy. At heart, of course, they were fighting for the future of Hunters Point. But even though Prop G won on Tuesday, the election was only the first round. This fight won’t truly be settled until the area is built out. Until a slew of issues and a passel of nitty gritty details are worked out, we won’t truly know who won the prize — Lennar or the people of Hunters Point.

One issue that will undoubtedly remain in Round Two is the question of a new stadium for the 49ers. That stadium is beginning to feel like the Flying Dutchman, forever wandering from here to there, with never a place to call home. Maybe it’s time to let it sail off into the sunset. That’s not just my opinion. Ray Ratto, who is far more involved in the pro football world than I am,

knew that the stadium was pure bait-and-switch.

And why did we know that? Because this is the new world of stadium construction, in which ballparks are placed in the middle of grander urban projects (ballpark “villages”) that miraculously come under the control of the owners of the team getting the stadium. That’s why, as one example, the Giants want the development across the cove from the ballpark. It’s Real Estate 101 for the mega-acquisitive.

But these projects are only myths, Ratto adds. And these days, they’re not very helpful ones:

the economy says they are stupid ideas, period. And stupider now than ever.

Lennar’s plans to build thousands of new homes. The 49ers hopes for a new stadium. These were the most visible issues in the Prop F and G fight. But if you read the literature carefully, you discover that there was another theme as well.

Mayor Gavin Newsom explains, in Lennar-sponsored mailer:

Real work on transforming the Hunters Point Shipyard began when Senator Feinstein was mayor. A plan that has been through literally hundreds of meetings and thousands of hours of communitiy input is coming before you as Proposition G.

Community leaders from the Bayview and around the City have spent years to craft the best plan possible.

Then Supervisor Chris Daly came along. With no public input, no community meetings in the Bayview, and no real plans — Supervisor Daly put Proposition F on the ballot.

Another Lennar-sponsored mailer says:

Prop F is a false promise from Chris Daly.

The San Francisco Women’s Political Committee (which mysteriously requires a user name and password to enter its website) says the same thing in almost exactly the same words:

Proposition F is just another false promise to the Bayview. Sponsored by Chris Daly and placed on the ballot without a single public hearing, Prop F overturns ten years of community planning for jobs, parks and housing.

So does the “Official San Francisco Democratic Party Recommendations for the June 3rd Primary Election”:

Proposition F is just anther false promise to the Bayview. Sponsored by Chris Daly and placed on the ballot without a single public hearing, Prop F overturns ten years of community planning for jobs, parks and housing.

Gets a little monotonous, doesn’t it?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

It turns out that Lennar and the mayor may have won in the Prop G / Prop F fight but, as the Chronicle noted, another prize was also up for grabs on Tuesday — the composition of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee.

A little-known but highly influential San Francisco political group is about to add some big-name local politicians to its ranks after voters on Tuesday elected three members of the Board of Supervisors to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and handed control of the body to the city’s left-leaning progressive forces.

The three supes —Aaron Peskin, Jake McGoldrick, and yes, Chris Daly — are members of the progressive Board of 2000, which turned San Francisco politics upside down. They will be termed out in November. But they obviously don’t intend to ride off into the sunset.

On the contrary. Their move to the DCCC suggests that they intend to strengthen the role of the Democratic Party in city politics, to take it beyond the fundraising and education of political newcomers that have occupied it in recent years. Peskin told the Chronicle,

from time to time you now see the party pass a policy resolution that appears on the mayor’s or supervisors’ desks. You’ll probably see more of that.

And the progressives are sending out a message that they intend to direct those resolutions. That pesky Chris Daly managed to do a successful end-run around Prop G.

Newsom, who unsuccessfully pitted some of his staffers against Peskin, McGoldrick, and Daly, described the battle for the DCCC,

It’s about power and positioning and I think that’s self-evident.

Of course, it is. That’s what politics is all about. And I think that’s self-evident.

Stay tuned for Round Two.

Thanks for reading. I’m outta here till next Friday.

        — Copyright Betsey Culp 2008

Tune in to Arthur Bruzzone’s Unscripted this week to hear my not-always-sane-and-sensible opinions on everything under the sun. (Channel 11 in San Francisco. Friday, 8:00 p.m. Sunday, 8:00 p.m. On demand after that at SFunscripted.com.)


2 Responses to “Block That Metaphor!”

  1. Cliff Hawkins Says:

    That CA would’ve been the cynosure of all eyes this June had it not moved its primary certainly occurred to me, but my scenario was different. Obama lost CA only because he was relatively unknown in February; polls now show him much more popular among CA Democratic voters than Hillary. The real folks who shot themselves in the foot are those residing in Michigan and Florida; had they obeyed the rules, they might well have voted for Hillary in February (when, again, Obama was relatively unknown and untested), and provided her with much-needed early victories.

  2. antfaber Says:

    People have noted that we should have left the primary in June.