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They Might Be Mayors: Gavin Newsom


The front-runner in almost every poll taken for the mayor’s race, San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom, has been helped by his friendships with two powerful and influential men. In politics, he has enjoyed the protection of Mayor Willie Brown. In business — Newsom owns restaurants and nightclubs — he has been helped by his family friendship with billionaire Gordon Getty.
Appointed to the board in 1996 and re-elected three times since, Newsom’s campaign is aimed at city residents just like him: Young, business-minded city dwellers who want to see changes made in the city’s politics as usual.
Newsom first captured their attention last year with the controversial “Care Not Cash” proposal to reduce cash payments to the city’s homeless and this year’s race has built on that ballot-box success. Newsom’s mayoral campaign enjoys support not just from the city’s political establishment — he’s been endorsed by Brown — but also from the business community. Newsom was interviewed at his campaign headquarters on Van Ness Street, Sept. 18.2003
What’s this race about? For you, for what is this race for mayor about?
It’s about the future of San Francisco. It’s about uniting San Franciscans around real solutions to our real problems. It’s about getting this city moving again. It’s about creating jobs, creating opportunities for people. It’s about cleaning the streets, giving people the hope and expectation this city can turn around its homeless policies, its failed aggressive panhandling policies. It’s about creating housing opportunities for the middle class, the forgotten middle class who have been left out of the equation. It’s about working families. It’s about restoring a sense of pride, spirit and confidence in the of San Francisco.

His priorities:
1)Jobs/Economic Recovery
2)Homelessness/Quality of Life*
4)City Government Reform
5)Housing/Home Ownership
6)Police Dept. Oversight
7)Neighborhood Preservation/Development Issues
8)Muni/Public Transit
[*Homelessness and Quality of Life Issues are ranked together with schools; Newsom would prefer not to put one before the other.]
Everybody has a memory of the city they treasure. What is your fondest childhood memory?
The one that profoundly sticks with me was experienced in San Francisco down in Funston Park, as a relatively young guy playing baseball and striking out three times in a game, dejected, humiliated. Only to have my mother, who raised us, grab me after the game, after everyone left the field. She started throwing me the ball and sort of instilled in me a renewed sense of confidence only to — true story — a month and a half later face the same pitcher — to this day I will not forget his name — who I hit a home run off of. All down there in Funston Park. That is a very empowering childhood memory that I have stuck in my mind and it grows, in terms of the years, in vividness.
The city’s changed a lot since then, too. What do you miss about it?
Having grown up here — and five generations of us — I really do think the thing that’s missing right now is that sense of pride and spirit that had always defined San Francisco. It’s an intangible thing, it’s not something you can’t quantify in words. There was an élan. There was a sense of pride. When you say you’re from San Francisco it meant something. Now, you defend it. I find myself argumentative in my defense.
What is the most important change that needs to take place in this city? Whether or not you’re mayor.
We need to really unite around practical solutions. We’ve got to start implementing our ideals. The way you do that is you put your ideology aside and you get to work and you try to unite San Francisco around these real solutions. They’re out there. The answers to every problem exist.
I think in politics we lose a little of that because we’re so risk-adverse. We like to play it safe. We like the embrace that’s perceived as consensus. I think we need to be challenged and challenge our elected officials in ways we haven’t. And I think that’s, to me, fundamental in terms of moving social justice and social change forward and to really fully integrate this city.
We are an incredibly diverse city and it’s our greatest strength. It’s what distinguishes this region, frankly, it’s what distinguishes this country, the most diverse democracy on the planet and here we are the most diverse region in the most diverse democracy. That’s our greatest strength. But we need full integration, we need to be fully connected, that ‘web of mutuality’ that Dr. King talked about, that we’re all in this together. We need to recognize each other’s strengths and not exploit each other’s weaknesses.
What don’t you want to change about city?
The diversity, the one thing that distinguishes this great city.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of as public official?
Willingness to take risks.
What’s your biggest disaster as a politician?
Willingness to take risks [laughs]!
Some people have compared the mayor’s race to the TV reality show, “Survivor.” You’re on the island. Who would you vote off?
I don’t like playing games so I would voluntary use myself as the fall guy.
You realize everyone else is going to vote you off the island anyway?
I don’t play games. I don’t make deals and I would never succeed in that. I know exactly who would if it were my colleagues on the board [of Supervisors].
I didn’t say it was your colleagues on the board. You can vote off anybody…
I would honestly make it easy on the rest of the team…

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