Matt Gonzalez’s actions at yesterday’s Board meeting should stop anyone from despairing over his decision to leave office. Matt’s backroom deal paved the way for the Board’s easy approval of a weak, non-community based Police Commission, as Gonzalez betrayed the many activists of color who had worked so hard on his mayoral campaign.
The details of the Board’s vote on the Police Commission appointees can be found in the accompanying article by John Dunbar. For those who thought that the passage of Prop H in November would bring at least some strong community presence to the Commission, the Board’s deliberations were a nightmare.
It became clear that something was amiss when the Board reviewed the first mayoral appointee, Doug Chan. Chan was a solid, 100% pro-landlord vote when he served on the Board of Appeals under Frank Jordan. Chan not only sided against tenants, but he consistently voted to allow residential hotels to convert to tourist use without paying replacement housing. Chan’s votes would have cost the city millions of dollars in affordable housing funds.
After Chris Daly questioned Chan’s lack of experience with police issues, the need for a Latino on the Commission, and Chan’s disconnection to Chinatown activists involved in police reform, Matt Gonzales of all people rushed down from presiding over the meeting to defend Chan.
Gonzalez told Daly and his colleagues that diversity was “a complicated idea.” He noted that diversity had not played out as expected on the Supreme Court (in obvious reference to Clarence Thomas), and said that when he and Daly took office “there was only one woman on the Board, and he did not see Daly or others lining up to resign.” He argued that all of the proposed appointees to the Police Commission were “good picks.”
Matt’s speech would have made Ward Connerly proud. Gonzalez’s analysis is precisely that made by affirmative action opponents in the recent case involving Michigan Law School before the United States Supreme Court. The Court ultimately upheld affirmative action on the sole basis*diversity*that Matt finds “complicated.” Is it really possible that Gonzalez does not see the difference between appointing a person of color who has no connection to, and does not represent their community, with one who does?
And lets not make believe that the Gonzalez phenomenon last November-December would have happened if he were a white candidate named Smith. Matt’s Latino background gave his campaign an authenticity and panache that would otherwise not have been connected to a white candidate in office for less than three years.
Daly reminded Gonzalez that none of the progressive Supervisors elected in 2000 ran against a progressive woman, whereas there were candidates of color for the Police Commission that were far more progressive and community-based than those endorsed by Gonzalez’s Rules Committee.
The bottom line: Gonzalez wanted his mentor, Peter Keane, on the Police Commission. Keane is a white man that has no connection to the communities of color impacted
by police misconduct. Nor was Keane involved in the grassroots activism that led to Prop H’s passage. To ensure Keane’s appointment, Gonzalez was willing to attack affirmative action, diversity and the notion that a Latino should serve on the Commission.
Gonzalez cut a deal with Ammiano and Maxwell. Each would get to pick one Commissioner. He also got Newsom’s allies to support Keane, while Matt would vote for all of Newsom’s picks.
That’s why Matt Gonzalez, who never spoke up for the Trinity Plaza tenants during the course of four Board meetings, rushed down to speak passionately in defense of Chan. If Chan went down, Keane was at risk, and that had to be avoided at all costs.
Matt Gonzalez used to be the guy complaining about his colleagues making deals*now he’s put cronyism over principled politics and sacrificed police reform in the process.
With Gonzalez having gone to the other side, and Ammiano’s pleas for Latino representation compromised by his own deal for Teresa Sparks, Chris Daly was left alone to speak the truth about what the Board was about to do.
Daly noted that it took four votes to suspend a police officer for misconduct, and predicted that such votes would not be obtained from the Commission about to be approved. He noted that the grassroots activists who ran the campaign for Prop H felt entirely unrepresented by the appointments, and that there was at best two appointees with a commitment to reform.
Chris Daly is the conscience of this Board. He publicly revealed the deal cut at the Rules Committee, and had the guts to say something that it was wrong for a Commission that primarily impacts people of color to be comprised of a white majority.
Daly was clearly frustrated by the Board’s sabotaging of the spirit of serious reform that led to Prop H. We should all help him keep his spirits up as he continues to fight for what’s right in the months ahead…