In the twilight of their careers, most elder statesmen hope to enjoy a state of sage grace: Think Ted Kennedy's colleagues urging passage of health care reform in the Lion of the Senate's honor. Or, to use a local example, think of Supervisor Tom Ammiano receiving flowers and warm words from even his legislative enemies on his last day on the job before heading to the state Assembly.
Don't expect such collegial praise for Chris Daly, who is entering the final year of his final term as the Board of Supervisors' bad boy.
For instance, Daly foe Ken Cleaveland, director of government and public affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association, sounds more poised to bid the outgoing supe good riddance instead of good luck. Cleaveland recalled that Daly once called him a bitch on the phone. “He's had zero relationship with the business community,” he said. “We tried to retire him early, and we failed. … I'm thankful he only has one year left.”
Of course, you'd expect a business guy like Cleaveland to be counting down the days to when Daly leaves office and becomes a full-time Fairfield resident. But lately, the District 6 representative seems to be testing even the patience of his purported progressive allies. For instance, he and Supervisor John Avalos, his former aide, butted heads over Daly's introduction of a zero-tolerance policy for firefighters using alcohol on the job. Then in December, his progressive board colleagues endured many a “fuck you” after they voted to end his filibustering on a nonbinding policy statement on national health care, put on the imperative agenda by a Daly rival.
The final straw for some seemed to come when Daly made a New Year's resolution to say “fuck” during every board meeting, which was seized upon by everyone from Mayor Gavin Newsom to conservative TV pundits. “I don't think it's helpful when we're mocked on FOX News,” progressive board president David Chiu told SF Weekly. “Everyone knows Chris does and says things that are unhelpful. If he'd curb that inclination, he'd be tremendously effective.”
Daly himself openly admits that when he's “pilloried in the Chronicle,” his progressive pals “distance themselves” from him.
Last week, Chiu released the board's committee assignments for the upcoming year. Daly — the former chairman of powerful bodies like Budget, and Finance and Rules — was picked to serve on the City and School District Committee, which is largely advisory and thus largely irrelevant. However, Daly says he asked to be seated on the School District Committee — which met all of seven times in 2009 — so he can spend 2010 strategizing with his political allies on the board. Daly says that if he served on more committees, he would be prohibited by open government laws from kibitzing with his colleagues.
That may sound like face-saving spin, but the truth is that the arrangement offers the best of both worlds for the lefties: They lower the profile of their most controversial comrade during an election year while benefiting from his political acumen and organizational skills behind the scenes.
Daly says he wants to spend 2010 doing one thing and one thing only: ensuring another progressive is elected to take his place and retain the progressive majority on the board. “Because without that,” he says, “we're lost.”
And if that happens, “fuck” will be one of the nicest things he says.