Political Notebook: Local leaders have strange 'lives' online
by Matthew S. Bajko
Scott Wiener is obsessed with pizza. So much so he not only blogs about where to get the best slice in town but gives highly rated tours of his favorite Italian haunts to tourists.
Debra Walker has spent months fighting with her local school board members over how to pick a new superintendent for the district.
When he isn't fielding questions about federal trade issues, Mitch Katz is busy at his winery making acclaimed barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese.
No, these are not the San Francisco residents the Political Notebook normally follows. They are people who happen to share the same name as the local leaders and often come up in Google News Alerts this reporter uses to help keep track of sources.
In an ode to today being April Fools' Day, the Political Notebook thought it apropos to see if the local bold names knew of their counterparts. As it turns out, their paths have often crossed with people of the same name.
"I am aware of him. We became Facebook friends recently," said the San Francisco Scott Wiener of his Big Apple doppelganger. "I noticed him somewhere online quite some time ago."
In fact the New York Wiener was recently in San Francisco for a visit to – what else? – sample the Bay Area's pizza offerings. He had hoped to sit down with the local Wiener over a pie, but the two didn't connect until the last night of his visit and were unable to coordinate schedules.
"What a hilarious question! Oh boy, do I have an answer for you. I was recently in San Francisco to visit my uncle and sample some of the pizzerias in town," the New York Wiener wrote in an e-mail message to the Notebook. "I have known about SF Scott Wiener for some time now but while I was in town he apparently posted a Facebook message about how he gets Google alerts for his name but for the past year or so he's been bombarded with alerts pertaining to my pizza adventures."
The pizza-loving Wiener, who tasted 27 different local pizzerias and blogged about them at his Web site http://blog.scottspizzatours.com, said he hopes to meet his namesakes and has been searching for other Scott Wieners out in the world.
"I e-mailed him to see if he wanted to get together for a slice but our schedules never matched up. I would have loved to meet another Scott Wiener, but I will have to settle for Facebook communication at this point," he wrote. "I immediately befriended every Scott Wiener on FB. Maybe one day we'll all get together."
It wasn't the first time that the local Scott Wiener, who is running for District 8 supervisor, has had a run-in with someone with a similar name as his. People who misspell his last name in e-mails inadvertently send their electronic correspondence to a Scott Weiner in the Midwest.
"What I do get is when people who have misspelled my last name with the e before i, it goes to this guy in Wisconsin who is kind enough to forward it me," he said. "He said as long as I am a Democrat he will forward it to me."
Over the years the San Francisco Scott Wiener said he has come across another Scott Wiener who works for a tech company and one who worked in New Jersey state government. He said he takes some comfort in knowing he isn't the only Scott Wiener out there.
"Growing up it felt pretty unique with all the Oscar Mayer Weiner comments. It is not as unique as I thought it was," said Wiener. "But the i before e is fairly unique."
The Debra Walker who serves on the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission and is running for supervisor in District 6 said she had no idea a woman with her name serves on the Monroe County School Board in Florida. Her southeast counterpart has been in her local press lately – and therefore shows up on many Google News Alerts – as the school district is embroiled over what to do about its suspended superintendent and his replacement.
While she doesn't keep track of Debra Walker news items, she said, "I know people on my campaign who do that. They tell me if I need to know."
Closer to home Walker said she has been confused for another Debra Walker living in San Francisco but the two have yet to meet in person.
"I get mail for another Debra Walker. I got a package here for her and I took it to where she actually lives," she recalled. "I do get calls when someone calls for a Debra Walker sometimes it is not for me."
Walker said she has come across other Debra Walkers from other states who are active in Democratic political circles and knows her name is a fairly common one based on the searchable online White Pages listing. A painter, Walker said she at times does images searches online to see where her artwork has ended up.
"Then you see what the other Debra Walkers look like; that is funny to see what the other Debras look like," she said.
San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Mitchell H. Katz said he has never met his namesake, who is the spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission.
"No, but many people have said that they were surprised to know I had a vineyard in Napa," Katz said.
A quick Google search brought up the Mitchell Katz Winery, which isn't in the North Bay but located in the East Bay's Livermore Valley. The Pleasanton-based winery makes small batches of estate and vineyard designated varietals.
As for the FTC's Katz, whose full name is Mitchell J. Katz, he said he is aware of his West Coast namesake but feels it is "unlikely we'd be confused with one another."
In keeping with the name play of today's column, Katz offered his own federal bureau's coincidental identity nugget.
"Now here's something more interesting. Our chairman's name is Jon Leibowitz, and believe it or not, that's the birth name of Jon Stewart ," wrote Katz, referring to the host of the The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
Seems appropriate the anchor of a fake news show would have a fake stage name.
Beware of April Fools' pranks today.
Barnes jumps into D10 supe race
Bill Barnes, the AIDS czar under former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown , and at one time the Bay Area Reporter's political colu
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell is termed out of office this year; already 15 people had declared their intent to seek her seat. Barnes, who turns 33 this Saturday, becomes the first out person in the race.
He has been renting an apartment on Potrero Hill and currently works as a legislative aide for District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. Both Ma and his current boss, as well as openly gay BART Board Member Tom Radulovich , have endorsed his candidacy.
"I had been thinking about it for a bit. I went to some of the events and listened to the people running," said Barnes, who filed his intent to run two weeks ago.
He said he didn't hear the candidates addressing what he sees as the main concerns impacting the city and its residents. It cemented his decision to seek the seat.
"There wasn't a clear focus on economic equity. We are in a tough economic time," said Barnes. "City Hall has been stuck for a while. People want their tax dollars to go to stuff. They want their firehouses open, their streets paved, and there kids in programs that run."
District 10 covers some of the city's most economically depressed areas and neighborhoods that are predominantly African American, such as Bayview and Hunters Point. As the District 8 seat is unofficially designated the "gay seat," the District 10 seat is seen as the "black seat" on the board. Along with joblessness and crime issues, AIDS is also a major factor for people living in District 10.
Barnes's background and story will likely resonate with many District 10 residents.
Barnes, who is HIV-positive, is of mixed race: his father is African American and his mother is white. He grew up in New York City, dropped out of high school and headed west at the age of 16.
He landed in San Francisco during Pride month in 1997 and never left. He earned his GED and went to work for the nonprofit agency Health Initiatives for Youth.
Asked about his health, Barnes said "I feel well enough to run. I am one of the lucky ones; I haven't been extremely ill ever."
But he allowed that his health is something that changes every day.
"It would be dishonest to say anything else. Everyday isn't great," he said.
In terms of the campaign, Barnes said he doesn't intend to shy away from his HIV status or sexual orientation. He doesn't see either as being a negative, since many LGBT people and people living with HIV and AIDS live in District 10.
He said he sees his personal struggle with health issues and policy work on AIDS as a strong point in the race.
"If my running for office makes someone understand they should get tested for HIV, even better," said Barnes. "I don't think there has been a leader on the board on the health care issue in a while."
His first official campaign event will be on April 8 at a Visitacion Valley forum being organized by former African American supervisors.
"It is going to be a fun eight months. I think I am going to win, for what it is worth," said Barnes.
Lesbian named Cloverdale mayor
Since January out lesbian Carol Russell has served as mayor of the Sonoma County city of Cloverdale. Her fellow City Council members elected her to the ceremonial post, which rotates among the council.
Russell was elected to the council in 2006 and is a relative newcomer to the close-knit town. She and her partner, Roz Katz , relocated there from San Rafael in 2002, and when she began her bid for city council many townspeople doubted an outsider could win.
"They were only being honest. They were surprised themselves, so there it is," said Russell, who served as vice mayor last year.
Russell will likely be running for re-election this fall – she hasn't decided quite yet – and demurred when asked if she has ambitions to run for higher office, such as county supervisor or state Assembly.
"I am not running for anything this year but we never say we don't run for anything," Russell responded when asked about seeking a different political position than city council.
In 2008 Russell and Katz were profiled in the B.A.R. 's special Pride report about the Bay Area's growing "gayaspora." A growing number of mostly lesbian couples had been moving into Cloverdale as a cheaper destination to either retire or buy second homes.
Since then Russell said the trend has only continued. An out lesbian, Jill Ravitch, is running this year to be Sonoma County District Attorney. She recently received the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in her race.
More gay men have also been moving into the area, said Russell, which is known for its warm climate, golden hills, and proximity to world-class wineries.
"Now we got guys coming up along with the lesbians because we have so much land available," said Russell, who also serves on a number of county commissions and task forces. "Things are progressing so well in terms of gay people and how happy they are here. The city I really think thinks of us as part of their economic plan. They understand we have money and we spend it and know we are good neighbors."
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on Republican voters backing pro-gay candidates for state offices.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.