Richmond Voters go for Lazarus, Reject Public Power
By Rich Zimmerman
The race to establish public power in San Francisco, via Proposition F and Measure I, was close in many respects, with voter turnout so low that the results could easily have gone the other way if more people voted in the Nov. 6 election.
The Richmond District (including Laurel Heights/Anza Vista, Sea Cliff and Presidio Heights has 52,204 registered voters, but only 15,976, or less than 31 percent, voted.
Strong support among Richmond District voters was shown for Proposition C, which requires an election to be held within one year to fill an elected official's mid-term vacancy. Drafted by 20-year Richmond District resident and current Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, the proposition is the predecessor of another charter amendment slated to appear on the March, 2002 ballot, which would require the mayor to share with the board any appointments for the Planning Commission and the Board of Permit Appeals.
Insisting that he is concerned about the possibility of the mayor filling boards and commissions with "friends," McGoldrick noted that he would "go for these changes even if my mother was the mayor."
Last month Richmond District residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of Prop. C, with 74 percent voting to approve it.
On the controversial public power measures, Proposition F and Measure I, the vote reflected the moderate politics of the district. Prop. F garnered 44 percent of the vote and Measure I got 42 percent. The citywide vote was closer, with Prop. F losing by only several hundred votes.
In the runoff race to fill the spot being vacated by current City Attorney Louise Renne, the battle is between Dennis Herrera and Jim Lazarus, the two top vote getters in the November ballot.
District-wide totals in the Richmond, Sea Cliff and Laurel and Presidio Heights in the City Attorney's race showed 6,715 votes for Jim Lazarus, 2,925 for Dennis Herrera, 2,884 for Steve Williams and 2,097 for Neil Eisenberg.
Looking ahead to the Dec. ll runoff in the city attorney's race, where voter participation is projected to be a record low, westside voters could make a critical difference.
At a runoff debate sponsored by the Planning Association for the Richmond held Nov. l5 at the Richmond Recreation Center, Herrera and Lazarus addressed a standing-room-only audience for 90 minutes. With more similarities than differences, both candidates laid out their philosophies, fielded audience questions and noted their endorsements.
On the issue of bond monies mismanagement at the SF Unified School District, both candidates called for an independent audit and investigations into alleged fraud "Board of education politics is at the highest level and makes City Hall problems miniscule by comparison," Lazarus said.
Herrera promised to be "aggressive and investigate, regardless of the mayor and who's in charge." Specifically pledging to bring civil action, Herrera cited a need for "integrity and responsibility" when working with the district attorney and city controller's offices.
On the issue of public power, Lazarus questioned whether the city could compete with PG&E. The city attorney will "probably pursue contracts for surplus power," he noted, "but the public should vote for the purchase (of any PG&E assets)."
Herrera, who campaigned for public ownership of public utilities and the management of city utility services, said the City should "get public power as expeditiously and cheaply as possible."
"If future ballot votes were positive," Herrera concluded, "I would be open to enforcing the Raker Act."
On the questions regarding the late count of the last election's unguarded absentee ballots, stored for five days at Pier 29 and Bill Graham's Civic Auditorium, Lazarus claimed there were "no issues of fraud or irregularity" and that patience and understanding was needed with a "new elections officer on the job, not familiar with all procedures."
Herrera, on the other hand, was in full support of Louise Renne's call for an investigation conducted by the secretary of state.
"We have to get to the bottom of this," he said. "It's abominable that ballots were taken away without a sheriff or police guard. Reports like this cause people to have distrust in the system."
Concluding the debate, Lazarus promised to "bring experience from good and trying days in San Francisco." Proud of his endorsements from senator and former mayor Dianne Feinstein, Assemblyman Kevin Shelley, and former SF Supervisor Annmarie Conroy, Lazarus pledged to bring together diverse organizations.
Herrera touted his ability to set out a vision, look to the future, and work on tough issues while being sensitive to the needs of city residents.
"The City Attorney's race is about looking at a mix of skills to do the job," he said.
Herrera, who is a former police commissioner, is endorsed by former supervisor Angela Alioto and the city's police, fire and sheriffs associations.