Alix Rosenthal Discusses Candidacy, Bid Against Dufty

by Casey Mills on July 5, 2006

Editor’s note: Alix Rosenthal is running against Bevan Dufty in this November’s race for District 8 Supervisor.

Beyond Chron (BC): Why are you running for Supervisor in District 8?

Alix Rosenthal (AR): I decided to run because I want to lead San Francisco into a more affordable and sustainable future. I don’t want to say there’s a lack of leadership on the Board, because I think there’s a lot of leadership there. But I think there can be more leadership in terms of affordable housing, sustainability and violence prevention. Those are my three key issues in this race.

In terms of affordable housing, I want to make sure that everybody who wants to live in San Francisco can live in San Francisco. There was a story in the Chronicle that said we’re losing our middle class. I often has question what the chronicle says, but I think that article was right on. We’re losing our worker bees, we’re losing our artists. The Castro is becoming more and more straight every year, with all the condo conversions, and we have to be very careful about who we’re becoming. We’re turning into a more homogenous society, and I want to keep San Francisco weird. I want to make sure that we hold on to the folks that make this city the place that I moved to, and I moved here because San Francisco is a bubble, and I love this bubble. I love how freaky it is. I love the freaks, and I include myself in the freaks

BC – What is the main reason Bevan Dufty should be unseated?

AR – I like Bevan as a person. He’s a really nice guy, and very good at answering his phone and returning e-mails. But he’s a reactionary. If he is alerted to a pothole that needs to be filled, he makes sure that constituency is connected to the person who can fill that pothole. However, I think this district needs a person who is going to lead this city into the future, and take on some of the really tough issues facing both District 8 and San Francisco. Like the issues I’ve mentioned.

I’m going to actually write legislation. I’m going to bring groups together to collaborate on this legislation. And I’m also going to answer my phone and e-mail, and make sure the constituent services are taken care of, because they’re a very high priority for me. But I’m also going to be an active legislator, and that is something that I think Bevan has not done.

BC – What are some of your accomplishments?

AR – I was instrumental in turning around the Elections Department. When the Elections Commission was created in 2001, the Elections Department was a mess. The director at the time had eviscerated the staff, and morale was at an all time low. There were ballot boxes floating in the bay, and people’s confidence in their elections systems was at an all time low. That to me was the scary thing, because elections are the foundation of democracy people have to have confidence that the results of their elections are true and good and right. So when being on that first Elections Commission, and being in the leadership of that commission, we very quickly turned it around by getting a new Director who did a really good job of building the morale and building the Department back up very, very quickly.

Another issue is not so much a San Francisco issue as much as a regional issue. I was hired to help turn around the Oakland army base. The Oakland Base Reuse Authority, which is a joint powers authority created to help with the transfer of the army base from the army to the City of Oakland) was actually in a very similar state to the Elections Department when I came on board. It was perceived in this city to be upside down, and I’m proud that we are about a month away from turning the base over to the Redevelopment Agency. I’ve really helped turn that department around.

I’m proud of helping to rebuild the National Women’s Political Caucus that went through a difficult time a couple years, because most of our Board members split off and became another organization. With the help of Sadie Ferguson, we’ve rebuilt the organization from a dwindling membership of around 36 members to about 230. And that’s no small feat.

I also served as Treasurer on Proposition H, the handgun ban, which I was very proud of.

BC – What is your experience working in District 8?

AR – I’ve lived in the same place since 1999. My experience has been both as a renter and a homeowner. I actually rented my place before I bought it from my landlord. I’m a dog owner, and I know all the parks in District 8 very well, as does my dog.

A lot of my extracurricular work out side of my job has been focused on citywide issues. For example, I’m president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, and we fight for feminist causes around the city. My work on the Elections Commission was citywide as well. But I feel very psychically connected District 8, because while it may be slightly more affluent tan other districts, it is significantly more progressive than other districts. If you look at Rich DeLeon’s Progressive Voter Index, what really strikes you is that while District 8 is I think the second most affluent district next to District 2, it’s the fourth most progressive district. That’s something I really identify with. I don’t necessarily identify with the affluence, but I own a home and I’m probably more comfortable than most folks in the city who can’t afford a home. But I feel very fortunate that I was able to buy my place, and I don’t feel like I have any kind of sense of entitlement for that reason. Some people call us limousine liberals – I just call it folks with a conscience, and that’s what I think District 8 is.

BC – What do you have to say to progressives questioning your status as a progressive?

AR – What makes me a progressive is my devotion to economic justice. I said this at the Harvey Milk Club meeting last night – you cannot separate economic justice from the values I believe that the folks of District 8 hold, and the folks of the city hold. For example, in terms of queer rights, you cannot separate transgender rights from economic justice, because transgender folks face discrimination every day that lead many of them to live in SROs. Queer homeless youth are on the streets because of discrimination too, so you can’t separate out economic justice form these issues as I know a lot of groups in this town like to do.

A lot of folks from San Francisco feel that it’s consistent to be in favor of homeownership and against discrimination, without seeing the kind of subtleties of those issues. For example, condo conversions are a good thing for some people and really horrible for others. It was a good thing for me because I was able to convert myself from a renter to a homeowner, and I’m not against that. However, we’ve got developers and speculators who are converting condos and displacing folks who’ve been living in rent-controlled apartments for a very long time. As a renter who’s become a homeowner, I identify with the renter portion. I identify with the person who had a really hard time becoming a homeowner and found an opportunity to do it, and I want to help others do the same.

I’ve been very deeply involved in the Burning Man community in the last couple years. That community has really opened my eyes to the possibility in the world, in particular with keeping San Francisco freaky. I feel like Burning Man is to San Francisco what San Francisco is to the rest of the world. It’s really important to me that San Francisco retain its unique character, and I think that’s a progressive value.

BC – What role do you think sexual orientation will play in this race?

AR – I think there is a lot of affinity between the feminist movement and the queer rights movement. Essentially, homophobia is very similar, if not the same, as gender discrimination, because it’s discrimination based on a fixed identity trait. Supreme Court cases, such as Bowers vs Hardwick, equated gender discrimination with homophobia.

I’ve always felt a strong affinity with the queer rights movement for a very personal reason. My uncle Cameron was gay, and died of aids in 1995. He never came out of the closet to his family, and it really tore us apart. It made me profoundly sad to know that he could not live his life as fully as he should have been able to, because he was afraid to explain his sexuality to his family. It wasn’t because we’re homophobic. To this day I don’t know hwy he didn’t come out to us, because I know he was out to other folks. It happened at a formative moment in the creation of my political belifs, and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve always fought for civil rights.

Sexuality could play a role in this race. District 8 is Noe Valley, the Castro, Glen Park, parts of the Mission and Diamond Heights. It is not majority gay, so I assume that alot of gay folks will vote for Bevan simply because he is gay and because they affiliate with his identity. I also think that a lot of gay folks will look at the two candidates and compare their ideologies, and I’m hoping folks will vote for me who agree with what I plan to do in city government, independent of my identity.

BC – If you were elected tomorrow, what are some of the things you’d try to accomplish?

AR – I’d support Sophie Maxwell’s minimum wage legislation. I’d support Ross Mirakrimi’s cooperative housing legislation that I hear he’s working on.

I’d like to make it harder for folks to convert to condos and make sure we are not allowing speculators and developers to convert condos, and that the folks that are converting condos are people who are living there and want to keep living there.

I want to work on sustainability issues, including imposing stricter green building requirements both on public and private projects. The city of Chicago has some fantastic green building requirements that they’ve imposed on private projects, and every single city building has a green roof. I don’t think that’s the case here in San Francisco.

I’d also like to work on getting Prop. A back on the ballot. Violence issues are very personal to me. I’m a survivor of domestic violence, and I’d really like to see a coordination of city governments to better prevent and punish domestic violence.

BC – What was your involvement with Bill Barnes’ campaign for Supervisor, and why didn’t the campaign file with the Ethics Commission?

AR – I was Bill’s Treasurer. I opened his bank account and I paid his bills. Bill was responsible for raising his money. I didn’t participate in the raising of his money, except to the extent that I attended the one or two parties that we held. Bill is a master fundraiser

The filing is a much more complicated issue. Our campaign computer, that was unfortunately not backed, but had all our finance records on it, was stolen the day after the election. It was because we left it in the office, and we think that somebody had a key that shall remain nameless was responsible for the disappearance of the computer. So it took us a very long time to reconstruct those records, and I believe Bill has done that. We filed a police report, but that was why were a non-filer. It was a stupid lack of communication between us and the Ethics Commission.

BC – What’s your current stance on Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV)?

AR – Right now I’m helping the folks out the same folks that were promoting IRV in San Francisco in their effort to get IRV in Oakland. I’m a deputy city attorney over there, and I know most of the council members, and work pretty closely with them. I felt it was important to tell them at the Rules Committee hearing the other day that having been through the IRV experience in San Francisco. I had a lot of the same questions they may have about IRV. What I’ve seen in this city is that all the fears of widespread disenfranchisement caused simply didn’t come true, and we’ve got the numbers to show it. There was no significant drop off of folks, particularly of language minorities, which is who we were most worried about. So I testified to the committee to say, ‘Hey, this works.’

For more information about Rosenthal’s campaign, e-mail

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