S.F. Supervisor Susan Leal has shown a healthy independent streak during her three-year tenure. Contrasted with the mass genuflection before the altar of Mayor Willie Brown by her supervisor colleagues these days, Leal's habit of speaking her mind and keeping her own counsel makes her a singular political commodity around City Hall.
Nine weeks ago, Leal cast the only "no" vote among the supervisors when it came to placing a labor- and Brown-backed city charter amendment on the November ballot to allow municipal employee unions to negotiate changes in retirement benefits. Currently voters have the final say on these matters. Projections of the amendment's cost run as high as $100 million annually.
Later, when the board was faced with the Brown administration-negotiated contract with Municipal Railway bus and streetcar operators, Leal again was the lone supe ready to vote "no." But this time Leal used the mayor's and Transit Workers' Union's desire for unanimity to pry last-minute concessions from drivers. Consequently, Muni and the drivers agreed to trim the number of allowable unexplained absences and strengthened management's disciplinary hand when it comes to absenteeism.
"It's a chemical imbalance," Leal says jokingly, when asked recently about her emerging role as a check on Brown's hegemony. "He's truly loved and that is great," she says. "He is a leader who makes people feel good about this city."
Not shy about her annoyance with the propensity of the Mayor's Office for dropping expensive, politically charged legislation in the laps of supervisors without notice, Leal is still measured in her criticism. "I don't know how much of it is intentional," she says. "He's juggling so many things right now. I will give him the benefit of the doubt."
Leal demonstrates how a progressive can survive in S.F. without kowtowing to labor. "Sure, some of the labor folks are ticked off at me. But they didn't support me in '94," when she easily won election after having been appointed by then-Mayor Frank Jordan a year earlier. "I don't even get the cops and the firefighters because I'm queer and brown."
Defensive Clinton Act
Bill Clinton's lesbian and gay liaison, Richard Socarides, quietly made the rounds in S.F. last week, unsuccessfully trying to tamp down gay anger over his boss' signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, and generally taking the community's temperature.
Or, as Supervisor Leal told her fellow queer supe Tom Ammiano, who couldn't make the meeting with Socarides Sept. 26, "He sure kissed a lot of ass." The meetings -- with gay journalists and elected officials -- were coordinated direct from Clinton/Gore campaign headquarters. So, harbor no doubt about their import.
Bob Ross, publisher of the Bay Area Reporter, said he raked Socarides over the coals for 45 minutes. "He didn't really have any answers for us," Ross says. "He knew he was fighting a losing battle."
Ross wryly notes that Socarides' father is a well-known psychiatrist who specializes in conversion therapy, that is, the practice of trying to make gays go straight. It appears his son is now practicing his own brand of conversion therapy -- but this time, on gays disillusioned with Clinton's sellouts.
Four years ago, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District's trademark lawyer slapped down an opponent of BART board member Michael Bernick for using BART's "registered mark" in his campaign literature. Cease and desist or be sued, was the message.
Now a complaint's been lodged against Bernick, the Board 9 incumbent seeking re-election, for using a BART insignia on his campaign placards. But this time, BART -- specifically, acting General Counsel John Carrol Naish -- doesn't sound so keen on protecting the agency's good name.
"The District does not endorse candidates to the Board of Directors and discourages use of the 'ba' service mark," wrote Naish in response to the complaint filed by a supporter of Bernick's rival this year, Tom Radulovich. But Naish adds: "There is no specific BART Rule, however, prohibiting use of the servicemark on campaign signs whether by incumbent Board directors or their challengers." Not surprisingly, Radulovich disagrees. The BART board, he argues, should ask Bernick to remove his signs "for the sake of consistency."
Maybe, Tom, but don't hold your breath.
SEIU Later, Jose
The stakes for the obscure office of BART Board District 9 are high, and not just for candidates and riders. Ask supervisorial candidate Jose Medina. Josie Mooney, deputy director of the Service Employees International Union Local 790, where Medina works as a labor negotiator, allegedly threatened to fire him unless he used his clout in the local Democratic Party (he's a central committee member) to reconsider its endorsement of Radulovich. The SEIU backed Bernick as a protector of the union's interests at BART.
Mooney says, "What I said was that it was important for any staff member to carry out this union's wishes, and this union's endorsed candidate is Michael Bernick."
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