Lions leapt. Glasses clinked. Copious amounts of seaweed salad were gulped.
Yes, dear readers, it was just another political banquet in Chinatown.
In a ritual as time-honored as Chinatown’s political power in this city, the newly minted Mayor London Breed dined with the well-connected and the hoi polloi Thursday night to celebrate her inauguration (coronation?).
It’s de regueur for city politicians who find themselves catapulted to victory by the Chinese community to dine with them afterwards, and to make promises aplenty before the podium — because when this community helps you net a win, you thank them at New Asia Restaurant at 772 Pacific Ave.
In this case the banquet’s host, David Ho, had especially earned the grace of London’s presence, since he played a key role in delivering Westside voters to our new mayor.
But fret not, Breed certainly delivered for Ho, and the swath of Chinese community supporters there that night.
“This room full of all of you is such a beautiful sight,” Breed told the crowd.
She wasted few breaths before promising funding for a number of programs to benefit those present, and the communities they represent. Breed pledged to provide funds for arts programming and youth services in API Council programs that were set to expire, to direct more funds to Chinatown businesses that did not initially receive subsidies to help them through Central Subway construction (which has stopped the flow of nearby foot traffic to businesses), and lastly reiterated her pledge to power broker Pius Lee, “No cannabis clubs in Chinatown, I haven’t forgotten,” she said.
The last promise was especially intriguing considering the funders of the banquet included dispensaries Barbary Coast and Green Door. I asked one of the pot-shop representatives if he found irony in that, and he simply shrugged, with a laugh.
Breed’s office said they were able to identify already existing department funding sources to bolster those art and youth programs that were set to expire. The cost of the API programs alone amounts to an estimated $117,000, according to The Mayor’s Office.
Considering San Francisco’s past politicians who have walked through the door of New Asia Restaurant, and the promises they also made, Da Mayor (not to be confused with The Mayor) Willie Brown perhaps uttered the best observation of the community that night, on stage before a cheering audience.
“They’re kicking off her time as mayor in the Ed Lee tradition!” he exclaimed.
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Speaking of Willie,one banquet speech-maker scored a pretty good zinger off him Thursday night. Malcolm Yeung, deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, told the crowd how he thought London Breed won the Chinese vote.
Name-checking the community groups like the Lee Family Association, Yeung asked the crowd “Which name association did she go to first?” The answer was easy, he said.
“The Brown association, it’s only got one member.” I nearly snorted into my Tsingtao.
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Homeless advocates — one, anti-tenant jerkwads — zippo. That’s the score this week, as the signature drive in Mountain View to scale back rent control there has failed to qualify for the November ballot. Readers of this column will recall that effort was paying signature gatherers an absolutely noggin-shattering amount of $40 per-signature, when the going rate in San Francisco rarely tops a Hamilton. (Just to save you a Google, that’s ten bucks).
The number of paid signature-gatherers flocking to Mountain View to work for those astronomical rates hindered the chances of a San Francisco ballot measure to house the homeless, Our City, Our Home, as organizers struggled to put pens in voters hands. But if you read these pages often, you’ll know that measure qualified last Monday — with much thanks to the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter, who stepped up to provide volunteers to gather John Hancocks. And in a kumbaya moment, individual YIMBY’s — a group that has oft-been on opposing ideological sides with the Coalition’s allies — pitched in with fundraising as well. It’s always nice when everyone’s on the same page, ain’t it?
In the meantime, one smart-aleck reader, however, suggested to me a solution to the Coalition on Homelessness’ signature-gathering-woes.
“There is an easy way to collect signatures,” Charley Marsteller wrote to me, in an email. On a signature volunteer drive he worked on to enact statewide campaign finance reform in 1995, the then 45-year-old, 225-pound, 6’5” Charley had an uphill battle convincing folks to sign anything, he wrote. He said he “looked like I must be asking for money.”
But his friend Margaret, at 75 years old, had far more luck. “We both learned that for little old ladies, simply saying ‘pardon me’ will get immediate response,” he wrote.
Margaret collected 6,000 signatures to his 2,000.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.