Political Notebook: Dufty says split remains with Newsom
by Matthew S. Bajko
Supervisor Bevan Dufty took off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in late November to spend a week relaxing with his infant daughter Sidney Maely, and co-parent Rebecca Goldfader, and recuperating from his successful re-election bid. The sand and surf apparently did little to dissipate the hurt feelings between him and Mayor Gavin Newsom.
The strain in the political allies' relationship dates back to Halloween. Dufty's frustrations with Newsom's Police Chief Heather Fong peaked when the chief failed to show up in the Castro the day after the annual street party to address questions surrounding a shooting. A gunman injured nine people and a 10th person suffered injuries after being trampled in the melee; the chief released a statement while Dufty stood in front of the cameras.
Soon after, Dufty broke ranks with the mayor and not only supported foot patrol legislation opposed by Fong but voted to override Newsom's veto of the measure, which requires cops to get out of their vehicles and walk their beats. Newsom, stung at seeing the board supersede his veto power for the first time, reportedly badmouthed Dufty at several events around town for his legislative betrayal. The two have yet to mend fences.
"Sadly, the mayor is angry with me and he remains angry with me. The things he said about me I continue to be angry about," Dufty said at the December 7 Merchants of Upper Market and Castro meeting. "It doesn't mean I don't love Gavin but our relationship is quite different now."
Dufty also disclosed that he and the mayor "have had explosive conversations" this year over his "frustrations" with the police department. For the first time in his four years as supervisor, Dufty has had to respond to growing concerns about gun violence and crimes in his district. In addition to the Castro shooting and reports of three men who were allegedly raped in the gay neighborhood, there have been gunfire incidents in Diamond Heights and Glen Park.
In addition, gay and lesbian police officers are apparently leaving the department for other towns and voicing concerns about Fong's leadership. Inspector Lea Militello, head of the San Francisco Police Pride Alliance, told ABC 7 News last month that morale in the department is the lowest she has seen it.
"We need a chief who's going to speak up, and going to support us, and we're not seeing it," Militello said. She later added that, "You have lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender officers leaving this police department to go to other agencies. I can't tell you how unprecedented that is. Gay cops don't leave this department to go elsewhere. They leave elsewhere to come here."
Add it all up, and to Dufty, a change at the top is needed. He has been reported as backing Deputy Chief Greg Suhr as a potential replacement or even looking outside the department for a new chief.
"I don't think Heather Fong is incapable of doing this. But if she wants to be chief she needs to lead this department like she loves this job and let the chips fall where they may," said Dufty, who has sold his Corona Heights home and is moving to a new house he bought in the portion of the lower Haight in his district.
Newsom has consistently backed Fong as chief, refuting rumors he was ready to fire her. A spokesman for the mayor could not be reached for comment at press time.
As for Chief Fong, she snuck into the Castro Thursday, November 30 while Dufty was away on vacation to do a hastily arranged merchant walk through the area. A spokesman for Fong did not respond to a request for comment. Fong had spent the prior afternoon walking Taraval Street with newly elected District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew.
Drop your weapon
Eight police officers and two undercover cops responded to a report Sunday night that a man had entered Martuni's bar carrying a gun. The gun, it turned out, was a plastic toy weapon that drag performer Ethel Merman, a.k.a. Mark Sargeant , planned to use for her "Annie Get Your Gun" bit.
Sargeant's partner, Richard Winchester , had brought the gun inside the bar around 6:45 p.m. He was doing a sound check prior to the 7 p.m. drag cabaret hosted by Trauma Flintstone when the police showed up.
"I am standing by the piano and two undercover cops came up and asked where the gun was. I pointed to the dressing room door," said Winchester, who suspects a guest at the hotel across the street may have seen the toy gun and called police. "They went inside and they brought it back to me and said, 'Here is your gun.'"
Winchester said he wasn't mad about the firearm mix-up, but found it ironic in light of the fact a man on the F-Line the night before had been verbally harassing passengers and nothing was done about it.
"The driver did nothing and the person got off the train 10 minutes later. Here I am holding a toy gun the next night and I get the SWAT team," said Winchester.
Leno eyes Migden's seat
It could be the biggest battle royale in LGBT politics since then-Supervisor Mark Leno slugged it out against former Supervisor Harry Britt in 2002 for the Assembly seat being vacated that year by Carole Migden. Now, Assemblyman Leno (D-San Francisco) is pondering whether he should go head-to-head with Migden, who will be up for re-election to her state Senate seat representing San Francisco and Marin in 2008.
A Leno-Migden match-up would almost certainly reopen old wounds not only between the formerly close allies but also between the city's two LGBT Democratic clubs. The clubs came down on different sides in the bitterly contested Leno-Britt race, and it took several years for the clubs to improve their relationship. The race also soured Migden and Leno's relationship; Migden had backed Britt as her choice to replace her in the Assembly.
The ice did eventually thaw between the two out lawmakers but there are still signs of a rivalry. On the same day last week that Leno introduced his same-sex marriage bill for the third time, Migden put forward a bill to allow any non-gay couple to enter into a domestic partnership. Now, the frost may be coming back.
Last weekend Leno paid for a poll that was conducted to test the waters of waging a possible run against Migden. The poll, according to several people who took it and then blogged about it, portrayed Migden's negatives as her being difficult and a rude lawmaker, and Leno's as being soft on crime and myopically focused on gay issues. The positive aspect for the two politicians was said to be that they are both effective representatives for their constituents.
Leno just won re-election to his third and final two-year term in the Assembly and has been scouting around for his next office to run for in 2008. Leno said this week he has not made any decision as to whether he will enter the race for Migden's seat. He is waiting to receive the poll results first, and if encouraging, intends to consult with LGBT political leaders and Democratic Party officials. A decision would not come until early 2007, he said.
"Given the persistency of questions I received from people both in Sacramento and San Francisco on whether I was running for Senate in 2008, it seemed appropriate to ask voters what they were thinking," said Leno.
He said he had not spoken to Migden about the poll, and when asked to describe their relationship, said, "We are certainly able to conduct business together."
Migden's office had little to say about the poll. "It's a free country, people are allowed to poll," said spokesman Eric Potashner. "We had heard about it."
One critical piece of business will be getting his marriage bill passed through the Senate next year, where Leno so far is short one vote for passage. Asked if he thought his eyeing Migden's seat would hurt the bill's chances, Leno said, "No. I do not think this will, in anyway, interfere with our success on the bill."
Migden would be a formidable candidate to defeat, though she ruffled feathers in Marin during her 2004 campaign and has made several missteps while in office that any potential opponent could use against her, from the minor offense of not paying $540 in parking violations to being fined $94,600 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to properly disclose contributions during her 2002 race for Board of Equalization and her 2004 Senate race.
Migden chalked up the violations to mistakes made by campaign volunteers, according to a statement her campaign attorney James Harrison released to the Sacramento Bee last week. Migden said she would not contest the fines, and the FPPC board is expected to sign off on them at its meeting today (Thursday, December 14).