Friday, July 07, 2006

Civility and Chris Daly


The title of Tommi Avicolli Mecca's article in BeyondChron ("No Need For Civility," June 30, 2006) says it all: of course the city's fringe left supports Chris Daly's idea for a monthly public question and answer session with the mayor being grilled by the supervisors:

In a phrase: Keep them unrehearsed. No scripts. No briefing the mayor ahead of time, no submitting questions to Team Newsom so that they can come up with the best spin. This should not be the Disney version of democracy. Let's keep it real. San Francisco government unplugged. It's risky, I know...Give me Chris Daly and Tom Ammiano with free rein to ask the mayor questions once a month and maybe it won't be democracy in action but it sure as hell will be entertaining. If the session gets a little hot under the collar or things get said that aren't exactly polite, well, so be it. The Board and the mayor will survive. I for one am looking forward to a front-row seat with a box of organic popcorn and some melted Earth Balance non-butter. Anyone care to bring the naturally sweetened lemonade? We can take bets on who asks the rudest question.

Anyone who's been following city politics since Gavin Newsom was elected mayor knows that Supervisor Daly's motives for making this proposal are impure, to put it mildly. Daly has regularly denigrated and insulted Mayor Newsom. On the Comcast City Desk Newshour last year, he told Bruce Petit that the mayor was "two-faced," bragged about not having talked to him in 18 months, and said that Newsom "isn't as concerned with the poor as he should be."

He likened Newsom to the Devil on his blog during the kerfuffle about regulating the pot clubs last year, when he rebuked Supervisor Mirkarimi for negotiating with the mayor: "When you deal with the Devil, it usually comes back to bite you." Daly wanted to continue to allow club customers to buy up to a pound of marijuana per visit, while the Murk's proposal would have allowed the purchase of merely a half pound! The limit is now down to one ounce at a time, which is still a lot of "medicine" no matter how sick you are.

Ken Garcia mocked Daly's proposal in his column in yesterday's Examiner, goading him to run against Newsom for mayor next year:

Daly's legislative ruse to come up with a way to create a public forum for his political agenda is far too transparent to have any chance of working. If Daly really wants to set himself up as the head of what he once called the "opposition party," then he needs to take off his love beads, stop hiding behind his blog and tell the world why Newsom doesn't deserve public support. And there's only one way to do that. Daly needs to run for mayor ("Daly Needs Bigger Forum Than Q and A for Newsom Bashing," SF Examiner, July 6, 2006).

Yes, Daly versus Newsom would be good theater, but it would be a disaster for the city's left. Daly would be the personification of all that ails local progressivism---the hollow, high-minded resolutions by progressives on the BOS, the marijuana clubs (Daly has 19 pot clubs in his district), Critical Mass and the anti-car bicycle fantasy (though, alas, both Daly and Newsom support the bike bullshit), graffiti as art, and the tolerance for homelessness and disorder on city streets in general.

In short, such a campaign would end up being largely about civility in the city, and the left would be exposed as the juvenile political tendency that it is. Which is why progressives don't really want to see a Daly versus Newsom campaign. Newsom, on the other hand, would love to run against Chris Daly.

In any event, the reality is that we don't need less civility in San Francisco, as Mecca seems to think; we need more of it---on city streets and in our political dialogue. Daly's question-and-answer proposal for the mayor would be a step backward for civility in a city where, for those paying attention, politics is already quite entertaining enough, thank you.

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