Sheehy Strikes Gold with Aide Selections

by on February 2, 2017

San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy has been in office less than a month but already has made two wise decisions: he hired David Spero and Bill Barnes as aides. Both are steeped in San Francisco history. Spero arrived in the city soon after I did in 1979. Barnes was  Chris Daly’s aide during his first term, a period in which Daly had one of the most productive legislative periods any supervisor has ever had.

Spero’s History

Many SF activists do not know Spero, as he has largely been away from the city since 2009. To anyone politically active in the 1980’s, 90’s or early 21st century, David Spero is part of the fabric of city politics.

Spero is the founder of Pacific Petition. Virtually every progressive measure that qualified via signature gathering for the San Francisco ballot for over two decades was done through Spero’s business.

I don’t know how we would ever have qualified so many tenant ballot measures without David’s help (wherever Ted Gullicksen is today, he is cheering Spero’s return to City Hall).

When I was coordinating the Prop H campaign in 1992—the campaign that cut annual rent increases by more than half and likely represents the biggest progressive redistribution of wealth in the nation;s initiative history—I’d always have trepidation as I awaited Spero’s report on how many signatures we got the preceding weekend.

But his team came through.

I had even more trepidation in 1994 when we needed to get 60,000 valid signatures for a charter amendment to create a new Department of Building Inspection and a Commission. The text of the measure made signature gathering difficult, but once again Spero delivered.

Invariably, as the signature deadline neared, Spero would tell us that we had to pay more per signature to get it done. But he always got it done for us. Always.

You can’t buy that kind of reliability and commitment.

David Spero is the rare guy who can get as positive a recommendation from me as he can from longtime landlord consultant, Jack Davis. He is the type of authentic San Franciscan like the late Warren Hinckle of which the city can never have enough.

Jeff Sheehy now has Spero (they are longtime friends) at his side. Stop by Sheehy’s office and introduce yourself to Spero, and if you know of a place to live, he’s looking for housing.

Bill Barnes

Bill Barnes is taking a leave from his position as City Administrator Naomi Kelly’s top deputy to work for his longtime friend, Sheehy. Perhaps best known as the one aide willing to tell Chris Daly that some of his ideas were not good, his careful editing of Daly was good for tenants, the city, and the supervisor himself.

Barnes left Daly’s office for an ill-fated supervisor’s race, and went on to work for Fiona Ma in the Assembly. He had his pick of positions in the Lee Administration after helping to run the mayor’s 2011 campaign, and chose to work with Naomi Kelly.

I’ve been trying to get him to take another position where he could do a lot of good (Kelly is as organized as they come and Barnes could really improve Planning), but it took Jeff Sheehy’s entreaties to even woo Barnes temporarily away from Kelly.

There have been a lot of great supervisor aides, and the current crop is particularly strong. I’ve never seen a more effective aide than Bill Barnes. Nobody knows the inner machinations of city government better than Bill. He is the Aaron Peskin of aides.

With Barnes, Spero and Scott Wiener’s extremely highly regarded aide Andres Power on his team, Jeff Sheehy is off to a good start.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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