Gonzalez revisted: Poetry in Emotion
great San Francisco stories
bloom in front of your eyes like roses. Gavin Newsom and Angela Alioto
have harvested the garden of the bizarre with a scenario in which Alioto
would potentially be made "vice mayor" in exchange for Alioto's endorsement
of Newsom for regular mayor.
Even if this was news to him, as it has appeared since and, at times,
during the announcement last week, Newsom initially affirmed Alioto's
vision of a "historic partnership" with "legal ramifications" that would
allow Alioto to "administer" homeless policy, public power, and some
city contracts. Newsom has not had an easy time explaining what role
Alioto would have in his administration. At press time on Thanksgiving
Day it seemed as though they had both been had.
And then there's Matt Gonzalez.
Friday, November 21: Gonzalez arranges a private poetry
reading, a mid-afternoon soiree on Fillmore Street near his campaign
office on Haight.
The apartment that poet Micah Ballard shares with
photographer Sunnylyn Thibodeax is the kind of flat one is likely to
find in Bohemian San Francisco. Furnishings consist of shelf cubes and
some vintage cast-offs. The art on the walls is decidedly Dada, including
an abstract painting by Gonzalez titled "Portrait
of Felix McNee." A poem Gonzalez wrote in honor of Ballard hangs
on a wall in a black frame from Walgreen's. The verse is a lilting benediction.
In 1997 Gonzalez published a book of poetry by Jack Micheline, the San
Francisco poet and Bohemian icon who would die of a heart attack on
a BART train the following year. Micheline wrote, "Genius is a ragged
lion holding sunlight in his hand."
Among the group of seven assembled at Ballard's place is Gonzalez' brother
Chuck. Chuck Gonzalez performs two songs he arranged from Ballard's
poems, "A Long Long Time," and "Sweet Sue Pennsylvania." Ballard reads
from his own work, a reflection on the Metarie Cemetery in New Orleans.
Matt Gonzalez believes that along with Cedar Sigo's, Ballard's is an
essential emerging voice in the city's literary pantheon.
Gonzalez lounges, relaxing in the warmth of his friends and a glass
of Pellegrini cabernet. He says if he had to have an anthem he would
choose "Spanish Bombs" by The Clash. "They're one of the great political
bands," Gonzalez says.
Over a wedge of smooth brie and a baguette, topics range from Bob Dylan
to Baudelaire. Our group discusses the campaign, the pitfalls of Gonzalez's
new-found celebrity as a populist candidate, and the on-again off-again
Long before Alioto's endorsement of Newsom, many journalists knew that
the former president of the Board of Supervisors, who came in third
behind Gonzalez in the November 4 general election, was shopping an
unprecedented "vice mayor" arrangement. Reliable sources were informed
that Gonzalez had turned Alioto down. (Alioto says Gonzales initially
turned her down but then accepted after a later meeting.)
Since I had arranged with a Gonzalez campaign scheduler to attend a
press conference in the Marina followed by a barbecue in the Sunset,
I am not surprised to discover that both events are in the Bayview.
Like the candidate himself, the campaign has earned a reputation for
some grassroots-style disorder.
At Gonzalez' Third Street headquarters the candidate's voting record
as a member of the Board of Supervisors is celebrated by environmental
leaders. Next, we head over to a barbeque that Public Defender Jeff
Adachi is holding at 1800 Oakdale Avenue to promote Clean Slate. Adachi's
program will help people with certain non-violent convictions to have
their records expunged.
Gonzalez congratulates his friend and former colleague Adachi. I observe
the manner in which both Gonzalez and District Attorney Terrence Hallinan
address this community. Both are able to meet these San Franciscans
where they are in a natural way, acknowledging the stigma of these convictions.
An opportunity to have them expunged offers an important second chance.
It's also nice to see that "Quintronic Embezzlements" demonstrator Frank
Chu gets out of the Financial District and Union Square once in a while.
Our Q&A session is brief and straight-forward. Is Gonzalez anti-business?
Gonzalez claims that defending small business against big business doesn't
make him anti-business.
He defends Adam Werbach as an "excellent choice" for the Public Utilities
Commission, but not Chris Daly's stealth tactics that got Werbach the
Have Democrats failed as the party of the people?
Gonzalez says the current electoral system forces both political parties
away from their fundamental values at the expense of the public interest.
"Major corporations basically funnel money into both sides of this battle
without worrying about who wins," he says, "because they have influence
Sunday: While attending a rally at Collingwood Park
following the candle light vigil in honor of the 25th anniversary of
the assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk,
I run into Gonzalez. This is because there are nine people in San Francisco.
"Plus 15 press agents," my pal Bruce Bellingham likes to add.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano's endorsement of Gonzalez comes from left field
following Ammiano's remembrance for the slain leaders. His brief statement
consists only of, "I have endorsed Matt Gonzalez for mayor."
Gonzalez is unaware that Ammiano planned to endorse him at the rally.
"He told me he was going to announce it soon," Gonzalez says, "but no,
I didn't know."
Monday: Arriving early on the cold morning of Alioto's
press conference, I stand alone in the lobby of her Montgomery Street
law office. I'm absorbed in a framed press clipping titled, "Winning
by making pain very clear to the jury," when someone tickles my elbow.
It's Gavin Newsom. He scoots up the stairs, emerging twenty minutes
later, along with Alioto, in front of at least a dozen members of the
For the good of the Democratic Party, the attorney issues an anguished
endorsement for a man she has said for months was an exploiter of the
poor. The Newsom/Alioto partnership
press conference sends shock waves through the city. The following day,
in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board,
Newsom struggles to explain his alliance with Alioto.
Epilogue: It is a cornerstone of San Francisco politics
that Angela Alioto is deeply committed to meaningfully serve the people
of San Francisco, preferably from the mayor's office. Her mythic passion
for this, her mission, is something on the order of Captain Ahab. The
likelihood of that coming to fruition with Alioto as a homelessness
czar for a Newsom administration appears less likely every time Newsom
answers questionson the subject.
In what may be the defining moment of the campaign, Gonzalez has shown
his true character by possessing not only the political acumen, but
also the kindness, to decline Alioto's offer.
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