‘Rock star’ Clinton dominates stage at Civic Center rally

Event in favor of Prop. 87 features former president, city politicians, musical acts

Former President Bill Clinton and local rockers turned a Wednesday evening political rally outside of City Hall into a party.

For more than an hour, a star-studded lineup took to the stage to pump up Proposition 87, a ballot measure before voters this Tuesday that would tax oil production in California. Rock music poured out of large speakers hanging over the makeshift stage set up in Civic Center Plaza, inspiring the crowd to dance and shout as they waited for speakers.

The crowd was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the night’s big star, Clinton, who showed up one hour and 45 minutes into the rally.

“What are we here for?” asked CityAssessor-Recorder Phil Ting, who was first to take the stage.

“Bill Clinton!” a woman shouted.

Wednesday’s rally was put on by the Yes on Prop. 87 campaign, which is largely funded by Los Angeles-based movie producer Stephen Bing, who has sunk $50 million into the campaign.

“With a rally, you need music, especially in San Francisco,” said Beth Willon, spokeswoman for the Yes on Prop. 87 campaign.

“Let’s turn this into a rock concert,” shouted Mayor Gavin Newsom, who came onto the stage to introduce R&B singer Bonnie Raitt. As if to appease the crowd, Newsom said Clinton was on his way, referring to the former president as “the rock star.”

Raitt opened up with a Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth,” and drew the crowd into it, asking them to sing along.

San Francisco native Stephan Jenkins, of the band Third Eye Blind, also took to the stage, strumming out a half-dozen songs.

Actress Eva Longoria, of the TV series “Desperate Housewives,” was given the honor of introducing Clinton, and told the crowd that the former president knows how to tackle the problems created by “our oil dependence.”

A roar of applause and cheers greeted Clinton as he took the stage. “This debate on Prop. 87 is like so many of the decisions we are being asked to make all across America today,” Clinton said. “One side says stay the course, and the other says we can do better.”

Prop. 87 would generate $4 billion in taxes on oil production in California over the next 10 years, which would be used to finance research and development of alternative energy sources.

The campaign against Prop. 87, which has $100 million in funding from oil companies, argues that the measure would cause oil companies to decrease oil production and import more oil from overseas, which opponents say would cause gas prices to go up. Opponents also say there isno accountability for how the money would be spent.

After the rally, Clinton was expected to head to the Warfield theater for a Democratic fundraiser, where the music would continue with Jackson Browne and Graham Nash.

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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