I have to admit I like Chris Daly.
The District 6 supervisor has always struck me as a truly innocent young man, with no sense of complication or convention, political or otherwise. In many ways this has been refreshing. Daly is, above all, entertaining.
But on the other hand, Daly is bellicose, or tends to be at any rate, raising concerns about his effectiveness as the elected representative of his district.
Daly’s aggressiveness raises two questions that District 6 voters may want to consider as Election Day approaches. Granting that there is a time and a place for occasional righteous bombast in public life, how can Chris Daly represent his district effectively when he is so prone to hurl verbal bombs atnearly everybody in the public arena with whom he disagrees? And how can he effectively secure the help of the Mayor’s Office, which he regularly castigates (see Daly’s blog at www. Chrisdaly.org), cooperation he sorely needs to serve his troubled district, while dealing this way with people such as Peter Ragone on the mayor’s staff with whom he must work?
Daly does not fling outrages at public officials alone, mind you. An ordinary citizen is just as likely to feel his lash. On one occasion at a Board of Supervisors meeting Daly turned on a citizen and hurled an obscenity at him. Apparently the citizen had dared to approach the public rostrum to oppose a measure Daly supported. The attack was so brutal that it raised a formal motion for censure from Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. “I don’t ever want one of my constituents to come to a meeting and be treated disrespectfully,” she said. Daly responded: “I believe that this political style speaks to the realities of a majority of my constituents.” The motion was defeated, 8-2, with Daly claiming vindication and victory.
But was it? Daly’s “political style” may not be as acceptable to his constituency as he presumes. The demographics of his district have changed. Now he is being vigorously challenged by a well-qualified alternative candidate, Rob Black. Tellingly, polls cited by the Chronicle’s Matier & Ross show Black surging ahead of Daly.
Black’s résumé is impressive. A Hasting’s law graduate and law review editor with a long record of service monitoring elections worldwide, Black excelled in a stint with the Carter Center in 1996, overseeing election returns in Liberia. Black has a brilliant, analytical mind. He served as an attorney in the firm of Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor, the state’s premier political law firm, then served for two years as Alioto-Pier’s legislative aide, learning how to get things done at City Hall.
Black’s positions on issues are just as progressive and as attuned to the needs of District 6’s constituents as Daly’s. He favors expanded community policing. He says, “We need to have more cops walking the beat.” He favors the installation of more security cameras in notoriously high crime areas around The City whenever a community asks for such help. He favors legislation adding housing for working families. He proposes a major urban beautification and revitalization of the heart of The City’s downtown.
These planks are not fundamentally different than those offered by Chris Daly. But there is this difference between the two candidates: The affable, conciliatory, analytical Rob Black, though in one sense less entertaining than the incumbent, is far better situated at City Hall to bring back real results for his district than the more mercurial Chris Daly could ever hope to be.
Darrell Salomon is a San Francisco trial attorney.