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District Elections Should Spark More Candidates
By Karen Topakian
The political landscape of Noe Valley will be heating up this summer as supervisor wannabes prepare for the first district elections in San Francisco in 22 years.
As a result of Proposition G, a ballot measure approved in 1998, city voters on Nov. 7 will be choosing just one supervisor to represent their district for a four-year term. Under the current system, supervisors are elected by a citywide vote.
A task force appointed by the Board of Supervisors has carved the city into 11 districts -- each with populations of 60,000 to 65,000 people, but not necessarily the same number of registered voters -- taking into consideration voter turnout, ethnicity, geography, neighborhood boundaries, and other issues.
Residents of Noe Valley and surrounding neighborhoods will elect a supervisor from District 8, an area bordered by Guerrero and San Jose Avenue on the east; Bosworth on the south; O'Shaugnessy, Twin Peaks, and Ashbury to the west; and Duboce and Market to the north.
Candidates who receive a majority of votes will be elected. For others, runoffs will be held Dec. 12. "The candidates must win 50 percent plus one of the votes," says Christopher Bowman, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections. "This means there will be plenty of runoffs."
The last time voters demanded district elections was in 1976, when a similar ballot initiative was approved. The elections held the following year brought the first female African-American supervisor, Ella Hill Hutch, and the first openly gay supervisor, Harvey Milk, to City Hall.
People who favor district elections say it boosts minority representation and encourages more grassroots activists because they need less money to compete. The system also makes supervisors more accountable to their districts, and therefore more accessible to residents.
On the other hand, district elections can spawn a city of fiefdoms and insulated supervisors who worry only about the issues affecting their districts.
But Bowman points out that a lot has changed in San Francisco since the last time district elections were trotted out. "Every district is a microcosm of the city, so candidates must have a more citywide view," he says. Also, "with term limits, there won't be any ward bosses staying for 30 years."
You're Welcome to Join the Race for Supervisor
Want to run for supe from District 8? Here's the scoop -- plus a look at who's already thrown their hat in the ring.
As of May 2000, the following people had filed with the Department of Elections to run for supervisor from District 8: Mark Leno, current member of the Board of Supervisors; Teresa Baum, playwright and director; Michael Garrett, disc jockey at CD Record Rack in the Castro; Eileen Hansen, longtime community activist and current public policy director for the nonprofit AIDS Legal Referral Panel; Shawn O'Hearn, elected member of the Democratic County Central Committee; Gary Virginia, civil rights and AIDS advocate; and Darren Zetena (no information available at press time).
Political junkie Alex Clemens also lists a number of potential candidates on his web site "The Usual Suspects" (www.clemens.org/suspects.htm).
However, "until the nomination papers' filing deadline of August 11 passes, any list of candidates for District 8 must be considered incomplete," says Theresa Rabe, campaign services manager with the Department of Elections.
That means there's still time for you, or someone else you know, to join the race. Here are the two basic requirements:
Z You must be a registered voter who resides in the district for at least 30 days prior to declaring your candidacy.
Z You must remain a resident in that district throughout the term.
Still game? Then you need to pay a filing fee of $500, or submit an SIL ("Signatures in Lieu" of filing fee form) to the Department of Elections. To avoid the fee, you must collect 2,000 valid signatures. SIL forms are available at the Department of Elections in Room 48 of City Hall beginning June 2. They must be returned by July 27.
All candidates must file nomination papers between July 17 and Aug. 11. These require a minimum of 20 valid signatures and a fee of $500.
Of course, you can always wait until the last minute and run as a write-in
candidate. Still, you'll have to file your Write-In Candidacy and Nomination papers between Sept. 11 and Oct. 24.
And what's a campaign without campaign contributions? If you intend to receive any, you must fill out a Declaration of Intent to Solicit and Accept Contributions.
If you're lucky enough to win a seat on the Board of Supervisors, you may end up holding it for only two years. In order to stagger the four-year terms of office, the board clerk will draw straws on Jan. 8, 2001 -- the day candidates are sworn in -- to determine whether representatives of even- or odd-numbered districts will have to hit the campaign trail again in 2002.
For more information, go to the City and County of San Francisco's web site at www.ci.sf.ca.us/election/gd_board, or call 415-554-4375.