Rob Anderson
for 5th District Supervisor

 
 
"It would surely get the public’s attention---and keep it---every week, reminding us that, as long as homeless people are dying on our streets, we haven’t solved the problem..."
 
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Rob Anderson for District 5 Supervisor in San Francisco

When I ran for District 5 Supervisor in 2000, there were two main issues I pushed---doing something serious about homelessness and using the Green Party to flank the Democratic Party of San Francisco on the left. Then my analysis of the homeless issue---and the puzzling lack of a serious attempt to solve it---placed the blame mostly on the city’s ruling Democratic Party. Hence, I saw the need for a party to oppose the Democrats from the left to deal with homelessness and other issues.

What my 2000 analysis failed to understand is that SF progressivism is a large part of the problem in dealing with homelessness in San Francisco. City progressives---that rather elastic term includes Greens and the left wing of the Democratic Party---live inside an ideological box that prevents their seeing homelessness and other issues clearly. Instead of seeing it as an ongoing emergency---with 100-200 homeless people a year dying on our streets---progressives acted as if the homeless were another oppressed minority, like blacks and gays, whose rights and lifestyle had to be defended. As a result, progressives ended up in effect defending a tragic status quo instead of launching serious political initiatives to address homelessness.

I first lived in SF in 1961 as a 19-year-old barely a year out of high school. Kennedy was president, and the Mayor of San Francisco was George Chrisopher, the last Republican to hold the office. There were very few homeless people in the city in 1961. I’ve lived in San Francisco a number of times since then, but I spent most of the 1980’s and 1990’s elsewhere-- Mendocino County, Marin County, Portland, San Diego.

When I returned to the city in 1995, I was shocked to see mass homelessness and the associated squalor on the streets of my beautiful city. I was even more shocked when I realized that city progressives had no serious intention of doing anything about it. The city’s leftist weekly, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, for example, was obsessed with P.G.&E. and public power while people died on our streets. Doing something about homelessness became my obsession, as I peppered local newspapers and journalists with email messages encouraging the formation of the political will to do something about it. My 2000 campaign was a logical outgrowth of that concern; my 2004 campaign offers some conclusions about the meaning of the failure of SF progressives on homelessness and other issues.

(One of those “other issues” city progressives are befuddled about is Critical Mass. On the last Friday of every month, bike riders still go downtown to screw up rush hour traffic. How this furthers the cause of bike riding in the city is rather murky. Instead, it just angers people trying to get home from work, while the city has to pay overtime to police assigned to the politically obtuse demonstration. Isn’t it time for progressive leaders to call for this to stop?)

Along with my pesky political email messages, this site contains other pertinent documents, including a suggested speech on homelessness I sent to Tom Ammiano’s campaign in the mayoral runoff against Willie Brown in 1999. As it happened, Supervisor Ammiano didn’t make homelessness a major issue in what was a rather tepid, issue-less campaign. Whether the Ammiano campaign adopted my specific approach or not, their campaign missed a great opportunity, since Mayor Brown may have been vulnerable on the issue, having abandoned the summit conference on homelessness he promised for his first term. After that the Brown administration also abandoned the idea of doing anything significant about the issue beyond pushing the homeless out of Golden Gate Park and from one neighborhood to another, without any initiative to deal with the problem as a whole.

Another document I’ve included is a letter encouraging Clint Reilly, one of Willie Brown’s early opponents in 1999, to pursue the homeless issue in his campaign. Reilly made an honorable attempt to get the public’s attention with a solid pamphlet on homelessness that was widely ignored by the political community. After all, Reilly wasn’t a progressive, was he?

Until then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom came along with Care Not Cash, the homeless issue lay dead in the water, which was frustrating to people like me who continue to see it as “the shame of the city,” the title of a recent series on the subject in the SF Chronicle. Actually, I think the electorate has been interested in tackling the issue for some time; it’s the city’s political leadership that, until Newsom, failed both the homeless and the city. Willie Brown and the Democratic Party, the SF Bay Guardian and city progressives, including Tom Ammiano and Matt Gonzalez, all bear some responsibility for failing to come to grips with homelessness in San Francisco over the past ten years.

Rather than pointing fingers, however, our focus now should be on drawing some conclusions from this rather shocking bit of political negligence by the city’s left. My conclusion: San Francisco progressives live in a box constructed of equal parts delusional ideology and moral smugness.

It should now be clear---though a lot of progressives are still in denial on this---that Mayor Newsom is not the grotesque anti-progressive figure created by progressive propaganda during the mayoral campaign. Instead, there’s growing evidence that he’s serious about solving homelessness. I supported him over the allegedly more progressive Gonzalez, who never came up with a serious alternative to Care Not Cash. If he had, I think he would have been elected. (See the supporting-Matt and opposing-Matt email files for a detailed, chronological account of my progressive, so to speak, disillusionment with our present supervisor, even though he is quite good on lesser issues, like the living wage and keeping box stores out of the neighborhoods.)

I’ve also included a sample of the kind of writing---an extended deconstruction of the bogus New Evidence theory on the Judi Bari bombing---I did between the years 1989-2000 for Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley Advertiser, a weekly owned by my brother and his wife.

Finally, I’ve invented a new political/literary genre---a candidate’s response to interest group questionnaires that come pouring through the mail slot when you run for office. This genre involves essentially ignoring most of the questions in the questionnaire while presenting one’s own political issues. I may be the first and the last candidate to practice the form, but it’s especially suitable for candidates like me who have little chance of being endorsed by these groups in the first place. Most questionnaires are more or less innocuous, raising legitimate questions about a candidate’s views on the issues of concern to particular groups. Others---like the one from the Harvey Milk Club---are obnoxiously PC and overly intrusive, the political equivalent to a cavity search and deserve rude responses.

These documents no doubt tell many more than they want to know about my mind set. But how many web sites do any of us read all the way through? We commonly pick and choose, depending on our interests. I hope the way I’ve organized my selection will, at the very least, be helpful in that process.