Confession time: I feel like I’ve pulled my punches on Jane and Scott.
Perhaps that’s because with the state Senate race between supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener, voters actually have a conscionable choice between two candidates with reasonable but wholly different visions for San Francisco and California.
Neither candidate is holy, nor wholly without sin. In San Francisco, the choice is often more clear.
Scott is strong on transportation; Jane is strong on transportation safety. Jane has a record of successfully strong-arming developers for affordable housing; Scott may bring a “build, build, build” mentality to the stymying suburbs.
Yet, Scott has repeatedly targeted homeless communities, and Jane’s soda tax opposition is awful health policy. Scott backing police without question is unconscionable; Jane’s Twitter tax break support is equally so.
My job is to hold them accountable, yet I still respect them both. That’s why it’s so disappointing to see Scott, an otherwise intelligent candidate, stoop to such a new low.
To wit: Wiener just twisted a dead man’s words to bolster his candidacy.
In his newest election mailers, Wiener showcases an old San Francisco Bay Guardian cover story featuring himself with a quote his campaign layered on top of it: “Wiener has a history of supporting pro-tenant legislation.”
But that quote is actually a section of a story where the writer, former Bay Guardian editor Steven T. Jones, is paraphrasing an interview with the now-dead former head of the San Francisco Tenants Union, Ted Gullicksen.
The full quote, in its full context, was found by another former Bay Guardian editor, Tim Redmond, on his website, 48 Hills. I’ve italicized the bastardized section of it Wiener used:
“Gullicksen acknowledged that Wiener has a history of supporting pro-tenant legislation, particularly during his time on the [Democratic County Central Committee] when tenants were at war with Wiener’s predecessor, Bevan Duty, and then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. But he said that Wiener changed after the progressives took over the DCCC and prepared to run for supervisor in a district that has gentrified, largely because of apartments being turned into TICs and condos.
“‘He made the decision that he was not going to be with the progressives and to ally himself with the conservatives, moderates, and real estate people,’ Gullicksen said.”
In this latest state Senate race, Gullicksen’s warning rings from the grave. Wiener has been supported indirectly, and directly, by more than $200,000 from the California Association of Realtors and its allies, who bitterly fought Ellis Act reform at the state level.
Ted’s words were critical of Wiener, but the candidate twisted them to be supportive.
I was enraged when I first read the misquote, because Ted means so much to me.
I wrote my very first “On Guard” column for this paper on Ted’s death for a reason: He helped my now-dead grandfather navigate his Ellis Act eviction from his decades-long Castro District home.
That was the same home in which my grandfather, Frank “Paco” Rodriguez, helped raise me. Where we watched countless Giants games from his matching recliners.
And I remember the day, after the eviction, I saw Pa dead in his new living room after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer, his oversized knuckles frozen by rigor mortis and curled toward his new ceiling. That was my first thought when reading Wiener’s gnarled words.
That ceiling was only Pa’s because of Gullicksen’s help, while I was only a teenager. Ted was respected in the community because he helped thousands of similar renters with sweat, guts and even, famously, bolt cutters (to help the homeless squat in abandoned buildings).
Ted’s words carry power. That’s why twisting them is so indefensible.
I asked Scott if he’d like to apologize for misconstruing Gullicksen’s remarks and explained that he had used a partial quote inaccurately.
“Ted repeatedly made public, positive comments about my record on rent control. Indeed, I worked with Ted on several pieces of pro-renter legislation,” Wiener told me. He cited legislation to stop Academy of Art University from converting rent-controlled stock for student housing.
But a 2010 election mailer written by Gullicksen warned that Wiener winning as supervisor would mean “more evictions, demolitions of rent-controlled apartments, fewer apartments to rent” and “higher rents.”
Near the end of his life, Ted scathingly cut down Wiener’s housing record.
Scott, you owe it to the dead to use their words accurately.
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter.
The 2010 mailer is embedded below:
— Larry-bob (@larrybobsf) October 25, 2016