Progressives Face Test on Mazzola Appointment

by Randy Shaw on March 16, 2009

On March 19, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Rules Committee will decide whether to appoint Plumbers Union Local 38 official Larry Mazzola, Jr. to the Golden Gate Bridge District Board. Mazzola is organized labor’s pick for the seat, and, given the Board’s pro-union orientation, confirmation to the little-known body would appear to be virtually automatic. But there are two facts regarding Mazzola’s background that raise serious questions about his suitability. First, his union spent years attempting to demolish the Civic Center Hotel at 12th and Market Streets, ignoring concerns that this would displace over 100 longterm tenants and eliminate desperately needed SRO units from the city. Second, the Plumbers not only provided major financial support to Chris Daly’s 2006 electoral challenger, but his opponent’s headquarters was housed at the union’s Market Street office. The Board can do better than reward someone who has caused sleepless nights for low-income and disabled tenants, and led the fight to defeat the staunchly progressive Supervisor who fought to keep these tenants in their homes.

On February 16, 2006, Civic Center Hotel residents and their supporters held a protest against plans by Larry Mazzola Jr., business manager and leader of Local 38, to demolish their 156-unit home. It was the first of many such protests, and later the Plumbers Union did everything possible to elect Rob Black and defeat the tenants champion, District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly.

Now Mazzola expects Daly and the progressive Board majority to appoint him to the Golden Gate Bridge District. Why in the world should they?

Labor’s Only Choice?

Mazzola has argued in a letter sent to the Board that labor has had a seat on the Golden Gate Bridge District for fifty years, and that as labor’s chosen representative he should be approved. The San Francisco Labor Council and individual unions have also sent letters supporting Mazzola.

This show of support can be interpreted in two ways:

It could mean that the labor community believes Mazzola will bring a unique and critical perspective to issues facing the Golden Gate Bridge District, and will be a great advocate for riders and unionized workers employed therein.

Or it could mean that Mazzola desperately wanted the post, was the only labor leader who really cared enough to fight for it, and that after he elbowed his way in the rest of labor lent their support.

I am not aware that Mazzola has any history in the fights against MUNI fare increases, or that he has played any role in using the resources of Local 38 to support the needs of public transit users. His position with the Plumbers does not seem much, if at all, connected to the issues facing the Golden Gate Bridge District.

Mazzola Family Appointments

It’s not as if San Francisco has shortchanged the Mazzola family when it comes to appointments.

Larry’s grandfather, Joe Mazzola, served on both the Golden Gate Bridge District Board and the Airport Commission. His father, Larry Mazzola Sr., served on the Golden Gate Bridge District from 1969-76, and has been on the Airport Commission since 1994. He is now the President of the Airport Commission, one of the most powerful appointed posts in all of city government.

It seems that San Francisco politicians have long sent a message to the Mazzola family that serving on the Golden Gate Bridge District Board is essentially a birthright.

No wonder Larry Mazzola, Jr. is so irate that Chris Daly is questioning his suitability for a position he was essentially guaranteed from the time he was born. Daly wasn’t even born in San Francisco, and cannot possibly understand the sense of entitlement that the families of “those who built this city” have.

The Change We Need

When Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Chiu, and Mar campaigned last fall, they vowed to support progressive change. Using one of the Board’s few slots on the Golden Gate Bridge Board to appoint Larry Mazzola does not fit this definition of change. In fact, it represents a complete surrender to business as usual government of the type these candidates, along with their fellow progressives, vowed to reject.

Labor has a wealth of talented people who would do a stellar job on the Golden Gate Bridge Board. The Board should reject Mazzola, and give labor the chance to pick among the many candidates who have not tried to displace over 100 tenants, who have not tried to demolish SRO housing, and who have not done everything in their power to defeat the Supervisor who fought to keep those tenants in their homes.

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