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Don't Take This With You to Your Polling Place Nov. 6; War Is Bad. Or Good, Depending.

Wednesday, Oct 10 2001
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Don't Take This With You to Your Polling Place Nov. 6

On Oct. 3, the San Francisco Bay Guardian published its endorsements for the Nov. 6 election. Every election cycle, year after year, the Guardian's owner, Bruce B. Brugmann, has blessed his current favorites and damned his many enemies. His explanations are long, full of moral outrage and self-reference, and are marvels of illogic. Despite all the verbiage, there are a few important facts Brugmann manages to leave out. As a public service -- this year only -- SF Weekly read most of the Guardian's endorsements so that no one else has to. We also added a few details about each endorsement that the Guardian won't tell you.

City Attorney

What it says: The Guardian endorses Neil Eisenberg, even though the first half of its endorsement is a list of the candidate's many imperfections -- he's a longtime backer of conservative causes and politicians; he doesn't support "progressive" (i.e., Brugmann-approved) land-use issues; he "clashes" with neighborhood groups and affordable-housing activists, etc.; he's really a pretty rotten fellow. In fact, the Guardian backpedals and suggests voting for Steve Williams, who "has an impressive résumé," likes neighborhood groups, hates (the Brugmann-hated) developers, and believes (mistakenly, like Brugmann) that San Francisco is not enforcing the Raker Act. "We like Steve Williams just fine," says the Guardian, "but on this one our endorsement goes to Eisenberg."

What it doesn't say: So why is the paper supporting Eisenberg? Because he has been one of the main supporters of the Municipal Utility District item on the ballot, upon which Brugmann has lavished $100,000 in cash and free advertising. We asked Eisenberg why the Guardian's "endorsement" seemed so backhanded. He answered, "I try to be objective and fair, and that sits differently with different people. You can't make everybody love you."

City Treasurer

What it says: Vote for Susan Leal, even though she "was never our first choice for this job. ... She's a pro-downtown vote with somewhat moderate views on social policy. ... She's fundamentally lacking in leadership ... missing in action ... a friend of big business and a loyal ally of the Brown machine." But her only opponent, Carlos Petroni, "hasn't shown us that he has the management skills, political savvy, or financial experience. ... So we'll hold our noses and go with Leal."

What it doesn't say: Petroni is a rival "progressive" who publishes his own alternative newspaper, San Francisco Frontlines. Petroni and Brugmann periodically flame at each other in e-mail debates that they broadcast all over the Internet. Petroni has said in public that he believes Brugmann is an agent provocateur masquerading as an enemy of PG&E so that no real opposition to the energy company can emerge.

Municipal Utility District Board

Ward 1

What it says: The Guardian likes a city housing inspector named Ron Dicks over Sierra Club energy specialist Dan Kalb, in part because Dicks is "committed to an immediate takeover of PG&E's facilities."

What it doesn't say: "Immediate takeover," meaning the day after the election, before a feasibility study can be done that might show eminent domain to be unwise. Dicks also believes the MUD could make a "sizable" profit. (How do you make a profit? You raise electricity rates.)

Ward 2

What it says: The paper supports Joe Alioto Veronese, son of Angela Alioto, who is "clearly Veronese's chief advisor, which gives us a certain amount of confidence."

What it doesn't say: Angela Alioto is also the free lawyer for the Guardian's MUD campaign committee, and if the Guardian hadn't endorsed Joe, Angela would have gone off on Brugmann like an unmedicated Soprano.

Ward 3

What it says: Joel Ventresca gets the Guardian's vote because of his financial experience and because he says the city should go into debt to buy the Potrero and Hunters Point power plants for about $500 million and shut them down.

What it doesn't say: Taking that half-billion-dollar hit to the MUD's bottom line would, without doubt, send electricity rates soaring. Thank God Ventresca lost the race for city treasurer four years ago.

Ward 4

What it says: Brugmann is going with Robin David, a retired PG&E worker who wants to immediately take over all the power plants in San Francisco.

What it doesn't say: Even the Guardian is annoyed by MUD candidate Medea Benjamin's publicity-seeking antics.

Ward 5

What it says: Cast your ballot for Garett Jenkins, "a Tenderloin activist" who would "quickly" take over the PG&E plants and shut them down.

What it says between the lines: The only thing Jenkins has going for him is that he's not his opponent, Bob Boileau, even though the Guardian admits that Boileau "is articulate, is well versed on the issues, and has considerable experience in hardball negotiating." But Boileau "and his union have been tight in the past with [Mayor Willie] Brown," whom Brugmann hates, even though he endorsed Brown for mayor in 1995, because he hated Brown's opponent, Frank Jordan, more.

Municipal Utility District

What it says: Vote "yes, yes, yes" "to quickly and decisively take over" PG&E and end "its corrupting influence on City Hall." Because you see, PG&E is responsible for everything, and we mean every-fucking-thing, that has gone wrong in San Francisco since 1967, when the Bay Guardian took 'em on, dammit.

What it doesn't say: That the Guardian is well aware that voting for the MUD could delay public power for years, even decades, but it would rather see the lights go out in San Francisco than admit it is dead wrong about the Raker Act.

War Is Bad. Or Good, Depending.

As a hard rain of cruise missiles and bombs was falling on Afghanistan, more than a thousand protesters marched on Sunday evening from Fifth and Powell streets to the steps of Mission High School, across from Dolores Park. The bulk of the crowd was young, exuberant, and seemed genuinely distressed that innocent civilians were probably being blown apart in America's search for bin Laden and his supporters.

At Mission High, featured speaker Richard Becker of the International Action Center addressed the crowd through a megaphone. Becker and his co-organizer, Gloria La Riva, are both longtime spokespeople for the Workers World Party, a Trotskyite organization that runs the Mission District-based IAC. The center obtains the police permits and stages for most of the leftist-type protest gatherings in San Francisco, thereby positioning itself to dominate the political action of the moment and, most important, the politics of the speakers at rallies.

Becker spoke in front of an IAC banner proclaiming that the racist United States should stop bombing Afghanistan. He preached about solidarity with the Afghan people, a sentiment the crowd strongly supported. What Becker did not tell the assembled youth, however, was that the Workers World Party, and he, strongly supported the Soviet Union's invasion and occupation of Afghanistan during the entire 1980s. (In 1996, the WWP wrote glowingly: "Every battle was a test not only of Soviet military might but of the political resolve of its leaders. They finally withdrew the troops in 1989 as the shift to the right within the USSR became critical.") Becker and La Riva have also written articles supporting the Chinese government's slaughter of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

About The Author

Peter Byrne

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