Greens Win Historic Board of Supervisors Seat in San Francisco

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In a breakthrough victory for the Green Party, Matt Gonzalez became the first Green elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in a December 12, 2000 run-off election.

Gonzalez swept to victory by a 66.1% to 33.9% margin, despite being overwhelmingly outspent by his opponent Juanita Owens. Owens was backed by San Francisco Democratic Mayor Willie Brown’s political machine and received over $200,000 in soft money expenditures from the San Francisco development community.

With the election of Gonzalez, San Francisco overwhelmingly becomes the largest US city to elect a Green (750,000), followed by Madison, WI (210,000), Hartford, CT (130,000), Salem, OR (130,000) and Berkeley, CA (110,000).

Gonzalez’s victory comes in San Francisco’s liberal 5th District, which stretches from the Western Addition and Haight-Ashbury to Japantown, and which contains many young, politically active voters, renters and a significant poor black population

A public defender and affordable housing advocate, Gonzalez joined the Green Party in October, after having been a Democrat for many years. He wrote an editorial “Why I Turned Green” for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, on why he changed parties, and addressing whether his switch would hurt his chances in a district with 33,519 Democrats and 2,735 Greens.

The Democratic Party in San Francisco includes sanctioned Democratic clubs that engage in massive soft-money campaigns against good progressive candidates. What do I have in common with these clubs and the tactics they employ? I don’t have much in common with them at all. So I joined the Green Party. I decided I am not going to vote for candidates who support the death penalty or oppose gay marriage. I’m not going to vote for candidates who oppose campaign-finance reform or value the corporation over the individual. Nor will I give the local machine party any legitimacy by remaining a part of it”

Some urged Gonzalez to wait to change parties until after the election. In his editorial, Gonzalez responded. Why should I wait? Shouldn’t the voters in District Five have the opportunity to vote against me because I’m Green? And what kind of impression would I be making on folks whom I’m asking to trust me if I can’t even be honest about my own party affiliation?

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The local Democratic Party attacked Gonzalez with an ill conceived direct mail campaign attempting to associate Gonzalez with the situation in Florida, saying “its about the Supreme Court, stupid” and “doesn’t this guy get that Nader may have caused Gore to lose in Florida,” along with a photo of Owens together with Tipper Gore–as if being seen with Tipper Gore were an asset in liberal Haight Ashbury.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian endorsed Gonzalez, saying:

…his positions on the district’s most pressing issues–gentrification, homelessness, tenants’ rights–are solidly progressive and particularly well reasoned. A highly regarded lawyer, he’s fluent in policy matters but never loses sight of the human consequences of political decisions. And he has brought a unique and thoughtful style to the stump, treating campaign events and debates not as occasions for sloganeering but as opportunities for discussion. He’d be an open, accountable, and engaged member of the board.

Gonzalez’s campaign energized San Francisco Greens who were also active in the Nader for President and Medea Benjamin for US Senate Green Party campaigns, and drew Greens from around the state to come to San Francisco to work for Gonzalez as well. Gonzalez and his volunteers walked the entire district, visiting almost every residence at least once, and ran an effective “get out the vote” operation on election day.

With the election of Gonzalez, California Greens won 13 races in 2000. There are now 32 California Greens holding elected office, including 19 city council members (www.greens.org/elections). In Sebastopol, CA in November, Greens won two seats to form the second-ever-Green city council majority in the US. Three new California Green mayors have also been appointed since November–Larry Robinson (Sebastopol), Tim Fitzmaurice (Santa Cruz) and Mike Feinstein (Santa Monica), bringing to five this year. Santa Monica is also now the largest US city to have a Green mayor. Nationally Greens won 33 races in 2000 and have 79 Greens holding elected office in 19 states. A record total of 275 Greens overall ran for office in 2000, in 32 states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. This is more than twice the previous high of 131 in 1998.

Mike Feinstein, elected to the City Council of Santa Monica, is now mayor of that city.

* Preserve rent control.

* Mandate affordable housing component to every new apartment building.

* Stop unfair rent increases for capital improvements.

* Strict oversight of non-profit housing development.

* Supports the creation of housing cooperatives to assist low income people in obtaining home ownership.

* Save Section 8 housing.

Local, Universal Health Care

* Save SF General Hospital’s model health programs.

* Implement voter-approved universal health care in San Francisco.

Workable Solutions for Homelessness

* Accountability for city’s treatment on demand for mental health and addiction abuse service.

* Develop and promote a comprehensive city-wide strategy for homeless services that helps provide educational and vocational training.

* Work with state and federal officials to increase funding of homeless services in San Francisco

* Supports drop-in facilities for homeless to make counseling acessible and promote public health.

A Return to Open Government

* Committed to city officials complying with the Sunshine Ordinance.

* Increase oversight of SF School Board, Redevelopment Agency, Human Rights Commission and Housing Authority.

* Support of Instant Runoff Voting, reducing government waste and saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

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Limit on Big Money Influence

* Create Municipal Utility District to end PG&E’s monopoly.

* Support public financing of election campaigns and the immediate disclosure of soft money contributions.

* Will not accept campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporations.

Livable Neighborhoods

* Limit chain-store encroachment in order to support local businesses and preserve neighborhood character.

* Implement traffic calming measures in order to better protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

* Encourage responsible community law enforcement.

* Increase MUNI service to Golden Gate Park and along North-South corridors.

Urban Environmental Protection

* Committed to Naval Shipyard cleanup in Bayview/Hunters Point.

* Supports more bike lanes and fostering multi-modal travel.

* Close JFK drive in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays.

* Committed to building the Octavia Boulevard Project without unnecessary delays.

Economic Justice for Working People.

* Supports a living wage with health benefits for all employees of businesses that contract with the city.

* Supports the right of workers to organize and will fight any effort to encroach upon that right.

* Supports domestic partner benefits.

* Supports comparable worth legislation to ensure pay equity for all.

Human Rights

* Supports gay marriage.

* Support the availability of medical marijuana.