Political Notebook: Video blogger runs for SF mayor
by Matthew S. Bajko
A video blogger who has tangled with Al Gore 's startup television channel and became an international sensation for defying the federal government â€“ he spent 226 days in prison for civil contempt, the longest imprisonment of a journalist in U.S. history â€“ has now set his sights on Mayor Gavin Newsom 's job.
Josh Wolf, 25, filed to run for San Francisco's mayoral post on July 5, one day after posting on his Web site that he had decided to jump into the race with a platform that includes gay marriage and revamping how the city celebrates Halloween. Wolf's notoriety stems from his refusal to testify before a federal grand jury and turn over to authorities videotape he shot during a 2005 demonstration in the Mission District where a police cruiser was damaged.
He was released from prison in April after he worked out a deal with federal prosecutors under which he aired his video footage online but avoided testifying.
Wolf told the Bay Area Reporter last week that he decided to run against Newsom after a candidate from the city's progressive camp failed to emerge from a daylong convention organized last month by Newsom arch-nemesis Supervisor Chris Daly.
"I was looking forward to and excited to helping that candidate. Trouble is, it has been a month now and no one has emerged. I have no viable candidate I can vote for," said Wolf, who works as an outreach director at the television station for the Peralta Community College District in the East Bay.
Newsom campaign manager Eric Jaye , when asked about Wolf's campaign, said, "Welcome to the race." He said the interest Wolf's candidacy is generating is "more a reflection of the weakness of the field against Mayor Newsom" and raises questions as to why no one else has jumped in the race.
"Why is it better known candidates won't get into the race? Gavin Newsom is extraordinarily popular and he is popular for a reason. It isn't magic," said Jaye, pointing to such initiatives of the mayor's as his launching a universal healthcare program this month.
Wolf needs to collect 10,000 signatures over the next three weeks in order to avoid having to pay $5,000 to appear on the ballot this November. He also intends to begin raising money for his race. By doing so, he said he would be better able to gauge what kind of support he can garner.
It will also help him to decide if he should remain in the race if another progressive candidate emerges. Former Newsom challenger Matt Gonzalez, who opened his own law firm since leaving the Board of Supervisors, is still considered to be a likely candidate â€“ despite his protestations that he is not interested in running. The speculation has grown after someone paid for a poll last month that focused on a Newsom and Gonzalez match-up.
"If I were to wait for Matt to decide if he was running, it would be too late for me to launch a candidacy myself," said Wolf. "I can't say if I would drop out of the race if Matt were to run. If there is significant support for me to be mayor then I would definitely stay in and run against Matt."
Wolf was born in Santa Rosa and lived for three years in Cotati, but after his parents split up, he moved to Wrightwood in Southern California. He moved back up to San Francisco in 2002, and now lives in the lower Haight.
Wolf, who is straight, said after he wrote an opinion piece in his high school newspaper that argued the state should get out of the marriage business and instead offer all couples domestic partnerships â€“ religious institutions could conduct marriages â€“ his car was vandalized and his friends harassed.
"My argument was we should get rid of marriage as a governmental institution," he said. "It was a wake-up call about the environment I was living in."
Nowadays, Wolf supports seeing the city and county of San Francisco issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even if the documents are invalid outside the county line. His proposal is number six on a platform of 10 ideas he would push as mayor.
"It was one of the greatest things Mayor Newsom has done. It is a civil rights issue. Any two people should be allowed to get married," said Wolf. "That was a very magical time in San Francisco when that was going on."
After Newsom ordered city officials to marry same-sex couples in 2004, the state Supreme Court invalided them, and the court is expected to hear arguments on if the state should allow gay marriages sometime next year. Wolf argues the city should not wait for the court's decision.
He admits he doesn't know if his proposal is legally feasible. Even if the licenses are not recognized in other jurisdictions, Wolf argued the city should issue them anyway.
"If there is any way to do, we should," he said. "It might not work outside of San Francisco, but there are a lot of things San Francisco does that are certainly outside of the United States' norms, and in many ways, outside or ahead of the pulse of California itself," said Wolf.
In regards to the annual Halloween party in the Castro, which has been marred by violence in years past and is set to be shut down by city officials this year with revelers directed to an official celebration along the waterfront, Wolf was dismissive of such an approach. He argues the best way to cull the crowds in the gay neighborhood is to have mini celebrations in numerous parts of the city.
"We need to return Halloween to its origins, and the best way to do that is to create neighborhood-based celebrations," said Wolf. "Most people I know in the Castro don't like Halloween as it is in the Castro. I do know there has been violence and a lot of movement to completely shut down Halloween in the Castro, which I think would be very unfortunate."
Other proposals on Wolf's platform sure to be scrutinized â€“ and already being ridiculed by critics â€“ include adopting a 10-year plan to wean the city off all federal funding, having the city declare its independence from the federal government, and having the mayor wear a webcam helmet to broadcast his daily meetings. The proposal is number one on Wolf's platform.
Jaye said the mayor's admi
"I am not sure a Gavincam is in the offing," said Jaye. "I think webcasts of more city meetings is a good idea."
South Bay mayor disses Pride
It wasn't only gays in the Sierra rebuffed last month on wanting official government recognition for Pride month. Turns out the mayor of Campbell, a South Bay city near San Jose, also turned down requests to issue a Pride proclamation.
The town's five city council members rotate the position of mayor among themselves, and this year the title is held by Dan Furtado . His council colleague, Evan Low , the city's first openly gay council member, asked Furtado to issue a Pride proclamation on June 5, the same day openly gay Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager raised a Pride flag at the county's government offices. Yeager, whose district includes Campbell, also had the board issue its own Pride proclamation.
Low's request remained pending for 23 days, until he finally received notice from Furtado that he would not issue the proclamation. Furtado did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, but Low told the B.A.R. the mayor informed him in a phone call that his staff did not have time and that there were already too many requests for city proclamations.
In an e-mail Low sent out to constituents he admonished the mayor.
"Let's continue the momentum to work hard and educate our not-so-enlightened representatives and elected officials ... Campbell and our community deserves better," wrote Low.
In an interview, Low said that the mayor told him he only issues proclamations for retirements and city-specific events, and not for celebrations recognizing various ethnicities or minority communities.
"That is kind of funny; that is exactly what they are for. They are symbolic and meant to recognize contributions of various groups in our community," said Low. "He has a different view on that, which is disappointing."
Low said he will try next year, when hopefully a different council member will hold the mayor's seat.
"If we have an enlightened person then this is a no brainer kind of deal," said Low.
Dave Rupel, Sacramento Stonewall Democrats' new communications chair, received an Emmy Award this year as part of the writing team for The Guiding Light. Rupel was part of the group of writers who won "Outstanding Drama Series Writing Team."Â
"I have been nominated before. Whether win or lose it is always a fun event, but it is of course, more fun when you win," said Rupel, who was also the executive producer for Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County and has worked on other reality shows, such as CBS' Big Brother and Fox's Temptation Island, developing the format for that show.
The Indiana University graduate and Writer's Guild of America member moved to Sacramento last year to be closer to his partner, Fred Palmer, the publisher of the local gay newspaper Outword. The two met in Los Angeles three years ago when they both happened to be celebrating friends' 40th birthdays at the same venue.
He joined the local LGBT Democratic club soon after relocating, and this year revived the communications position. Last week he helped the group respond to the death of a local man after he was beat up in a Sacramento park because he was perceived to be gay.
"They asked me to do it because they wanted guidance on how to be a bigger media presence here," said Rupel.
Â The Lambda Letters Project, a Sacramento-based LGBT lobbying group, is hosting its first big fundraising dinner and awards event tonight. The project hopes to raise up to $6,000.
Most notable about the program is the group, which sends out e-mail alerts to members asking them to write or call lawmakers on a variety of legislation it supports, did not pick any of the five members of the legislature's LGBT caucus as its male and female legislators of the year. Instead, the honors are going to straight allies Assembly Majority Floor Leader Karen Bass, the first African American and woman to hold the position, and state Senator Gilbert Cedillo . The two Democrats represent Los Angeles area districts. Bass is thanking the group by hosting a luncheon in the state Capitol to honor the letters project.
Boyce Hinman, the project's director and head lobbyist, said the honorees are deliberately not gay or lesbian.
"We work on more than LGBTI issues," said Hinman, adding that both winners have strong records when it comes to LGBT issues. Â
"It takes 41 votes in the Assembly to get a bill passed and it takes 21 votes to get a bill passed in the Senate. We are not even close on either of those if we are relying on just LGBT legislators," he said. "It just makes common sense to build coalitions with leaders of other communities."
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday, July 12) at the Holiday Inn, 300 J Street, in Sacramento. Tickets cost $50 per person.
Closer to San Francisco, supporters of Vallejo City Council member Gary Cloutier's bid to be that city's, and the Bay Area's, first openly gay mayor are hosting a comedy fundraiser this Saturday, July 14. The lineup includes comedians Will Durst, Aundre the Wonder Woman , and Lisa Geduldig .
The event begins at 6:30 p.m. at the California Maritime Academy, 200 Maritime Academy Drive, in Vallejo. Tickets at the door cost $40 or $35 online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com.