I decided to run for supervisor because there was no one challenging Aaron Peskin, the incumbent. He has turned his back on the residents who elected him.  He didn’t bother to respond to my email concerning issues impacting our neighborhood.

Furthermore, he had tried to open a “Navigation Center” (a homeless shelter with lax rules) on Broadway without consulting the neighbors. At this point, I  felt compelled to step up.

For years I have written letters, have spoken up at meetings and  have tried to work within the system to resolve concerns of our District. I received very little result from my efforts. Perhaps as a candidate for Supervisor, our concerns and potential solutions would see the light of day.

The barrier to entry was relatively light, $500 and 20 valid signatures. While I could think of more pleasant ways to spend my time and money, but the immediate concerns could no longer be ignored.

I had never run for any office and I was venturing outside of my comfort zone. It is not my nature to pester people, so it was awkward just asking neighbors for signatures. At least I would not be asking anyone for money. While my opponent spent nearly a million dollars for his one year term, I planned to fund my own campaign and spend under $2,000. While I can’t even come close to buying even one junk mailer for that amount, they seem to go straight into the bin anyway. I felt that the message was more important than the medium.

To get the most bang for the buck, I thought I could post notices on street poles and get a bit of exercise in the process. I hadn’t counted on them being torn down as fast as I could put them up. Well, I guess that means more printing and more exercise. I asked neighborhood businesses whose proprietors endorsed me personally, but were leery of displaying my posters for fear of retribution. I shared their fears and quit asking.

I had hoped for even-handed treatment from the media.  Wrong. The first indication that there would be trouble came soon after I filed: The Chronicle ran a list of the candidates for supervisor for each district, but I wasn’t even mentioned.  Although there was someone listed who wasn’t running. My attempts to get errors corrected were futile.

The Chronicle again thwarted my campaign when an interviewer misquoted  and reversed what I had said. She also stated that I did not like tourists or new residents because they “destroy the magic”. I had not mentioned anything about tourists, new residents or magic. Again my attempts at corrections were ignored.

I found new hope when the League of Women Voters  invited me to debate Aaron Peskin, but they cancelled when they couldn’t get Peskin to show up.

I was excited to receive an invite, in my personal email, to a “meet the candidates” event, sponsored by the Friends of the Urban Forest. Unfortunately there was no invitation AS A CANDIDATE.  When I requested to be included as a candidate, they refused. They said they would not include me as a speaker because I hadn’t amassed $5,000 in donations. Perhaps the real reason was because I had fought to save the trees on Van Ness Avenue which they had sanctioned for clear cutting.

Fortunately the internet has opened  new avenues for unfiltered communication. No longer is it necessary to spend obscene amounts of money to reach savvy voters. It has allowed me to embark on this campaign without taking neighbors’ hard earned dollars or getting in bed with big donors.

We have a chance say no to the political machine that has run us into a ditch. Let’s change course while we have this opportunity. We need to take a chance, to have a chance.

 

2 thoughts on “The perils and possibilities of grassroots politics

  1. Thank you for sharing your story and some of the challenges in running for the Supervisorial position (and probably many others). And thank you for posting your thoughts on many different issues.

    Perhaps the following thoughts will be of use in your future campaigns:

    The SF Chronicle might not have taken your campaign seriously as it had not raised enough money for City matching funds;

    Newspapers generally do not like to publish corections;

    Apparently many people do not like to see postings on light posts. I know that I do not (but did not remove any of yours). They might be seen as a form of visual pollution or invasion of public space with the potential to lose votes (although with the campaign’s very low profile, my guess is that they gained you more votes than lost.

    Like

    1. Thanks for your insights, I didn’t particularly like putting up posters, but with my low budget, ($750 spent vs Aaron $77.000) and the fact that businesses were afraid of backlash. One restaurant owner said he expected a health inspection, but put it up for a couple days. Plus I have to remove them, and my knee went south on me. I tried to be sparing with posting and respected the rules.
      I don’t want to do this again, but hope I inspired others to give it a shot. Maybe you 🙂
      Best
      Tim

      Like

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