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Cuss and Conquer 

A more polite, nuanced approach might prove more effective for Supervisor Chris Daly. Or not.

Wednesday, Feb 9 2005
Supervisor Chris Daly is again making headlines for his outrageous comments in public meetings, only a few months after avoiding a rare censure motion brought against him by his colleagues. Since his election as District 6 supervisor in 2000, Daly, a former homeless- and housing-rights advocate, has earned less of a reputation for his work on the city's Budget and Finance Committee than he has for his hotheaded, often-profane behavior. He has screamed at other supervisors, nearly came to blows with former Mayor Willie Brown, and was the subject of a police investigation in 2002 after allegedly threatening a cop who arrested him at a housing demonstration. Many observers have wondered whether a more polite, nuanced approach might prove more effective for Daly. But his supporters hail him as a much-needed champion of the city's poor and homeless, and argue that his aggressive tactics are necessary to bring their concerns to light. Are you an apologist for Supervisor Daly? Take our quiz and find out!

1) Last November, Daly escaped a motion for censure lodged against him by his fellow supervisors. The call for formal reprimand was prompted by an incident at a heated hearing on tenants' rights, when Daly stepped into the audience and told a landlord advocate to "fuck off" before storming out of the room. Although Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier's petition for censure failed 8-2, the supervisors nonetheless scolded their combustible colleague for his frequent breaches of decorum. Where do you stand when it comes to Daly's antics?

A) As far away as possible.

B) Gosh, I just can't decide whether he's an infantile clown, a self-centered political egoist, or a charlatan whose commitment to the "progressive agenda" prevents common-sense legislative compromise. Wait, which supervisor were we talking about?

C) I'm behind Chris Daly 100 percent. Man, the last thing this country needs is more censorship.

2) The most recent Daly blowup, only two months after the failed censure motion, followed a 7-4 vote by the Board of Supervisors to reject his proposal for a $100,000 aid package for victims of the Southeast Asian tsunami. Apparently believing (wrongly) that Supervisor Jake McGoldrick would support his motion, Daly began arguing with his colleague as the board continued to the next agenda item, then followed McGoldrick out of the room, hurling insults, until being called back to the chamber by Board President Aaron Peskin. "Yeah, I'll kiss your ass," Daly told McGoldrick, whom he dubbed two-faced, "right after I kick it." What does the incident last month say to you about San Francisco politics?

A) That maybe I should start following it.

B) Ah, two elected officials ruminating on an essential, universal question: Is it better to kick ass, then kiss it? Or is it best to go pleasure/pain?

C) Supervisor McGoldrick two-faced? That's hardly an appealing image.

3) Which of the following Chris Daly apologies do you consider to be the most heartfelt?

A) From 2001, after nearly coming to blows with then-Mayor Willie Brown in a closed-door session: "I will apologize that I was lured into the mayor's finger-pointing politics."

B) From a few days later, in a handwritten note that Daly personally delivered to Brown's office: "Although I will never apologize for my passion, I do regret my contribution to the lack of decorum at Friday's meeting, and for that I apologize."

C) From November 2004, after narrowly avoiding censure for directing profanity at a colleague: "I learned that in the future it's going to be better for me personally and politically to focus my energy positively on the people I care about instead of negatively on the people I think are doing them harm." (Bonus point if you, like Daly, are able to say this with a straight face.)

4) In the summer of 2001, Daly stormed out of a supervisors' meeting after his colleagues refused most of his proposals for balancing the city's budget. When he eventually returned to the chamber, he took the microphone and delivered a rambling exhortation of his fellow supervisors that ended with Daly infamously declaring, "I'm not feeling the love." What did you make of the incident?

A) Totally inappropriate. There's no place for love in San Francisco city politics, unless we're talking about nepotism on the police force.

B) Trust us, Chris. You don't want to feel the love at City Hall, really.

C) Amen! If there's one thing Chris Daly has stood for during his time as supervisor, it's love. (Bonus point for adding, "Kinda like the Beatles.")

5) Daly whipped up another political firestorm in the fall of 2003, with then-Mayor Willie Brown traveling in Tibet. Brown had tapped Daly to serve as acting mayor in his stead, and Daly used his 14-hour window to appoint two Brown foes to the powerful and controversial Public Utilities Commission. Brown rescinded Daly's temporary powers as soon as he learned of the audacious, premeditated ploy, but one of Daly's appointments stood, touching off a debate on whether Daly's actions were courageous or childish. What was your opinion?

A) They were the actions of a courageous child.

B) Well, regardless of all the political grandstanding, the episode does raise an interesting procedural question: Does Daly get to put "mayor of San Francisco" on his résumé?

C) Whoa. You know Willie Brown was up to no good in Tibet.

6) Daly's latest major legislative push is a sweeping ban on handguns in the city. The measure, which would bar residents from keeping guns in their homes or businesses, could appear on the municipal ballot as soon as November, but is already being attacked as illegal by local and national gun-rights groups. Do you think it's a good idea for Daly to spend his political capital on such a controversial issue?

A) I think it's a good idea to keep Chris Daly away from guns, yes.

B) Well, Daly does have a lot of enemies. Some of 'em might be packing.

C) Hell yes! I only wish he'd gone with the first draft of the proposal, which extended the handgun ban to uniformed police officers.

7) Daly won election in 2000 on an anti- Willie Brown platform, when his background as a housing-rights advocate in Philadelphia earned him respect in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods that comprise much of District 6. But in his time as a supervisor, critics have increasingly charged Daly with ignoring street-level issues while focusing on amorphous, less local problems -- such as his proposal for tsunami relief aid. Do you think Daly has remained an advocate for the constituents of his district?

A) Well, things have certainly turned around there, haven't they?

B) Yes. Daly is a passionate defender of the downtrodden, a refreshing change of pace from politics-as-usual at City Hall, and a thorn in the side of self-serving bureaucrats. Too bad he's got a little crazy in him.

C) His district is Earth.

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: We know, we know. We can't believe he was actually mayor for a day, either.

7-10 points: Please make this guy the next president of the Board of Supervisors. My TiVo would never be the same.

11-14 points: Both Willie Brown's press secretary and a Chronicle editorial have called Daly a "brat." Hey, there's a point in his favor!

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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