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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Put Some Scorpions in a Jar, Shake it Up, Add a Slate Card, and You Have... the Democratic County Central Committee!

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 5:30 PM

'Stay the f**k away from this slate card!'
  • 'Stay the f**k away from this slate card!'
Here's the thing about aspiring political players: Sooner or later (usually sooner) they try to screw each other over. It's a dynamic that's sure to play out repeatedly over the next year on the Democratic County Central Committee, as a number of the city's rising pols duke it out for elected office in 2010.

Infighting was certainly on display at the committee's meeting last night. The provocation was a dull one -- the question of which political consultant should receive a roughly $30,000 contract to produce a small slate card for the 2009 fall election, which features a handful of unremarkable local ballot measures.

The final two bidders under consideration were Stearns Consulting -- headed by Jim Stearns, a favorite campaign adviser to city progressives who has worked for former Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin and current president David Chiu, among others -- and Hope Road Consulting, a firm that has done consulting for the city and for school board candidates. Stearns is a white guy; Hope Road is headed by Stephanie Ong Stillman, an Asian woman.

Based partly on the consultants' ethnic backgrounds, DCCC member Scott Wiener (also a white guy) argued that the contract should go to Hope Road, even though Stearns had submitted the less costly bid.

Saying that the committee "should put our money where our mouth is" on awarding contracts to woman- and minority-owned businesses, Wiener criticized the DCCC bidding subcommittee, which had recommended Stearns. Wiener noted that the subcommittee's head, Laura Spanjian, has agreed to hire Stearns for her 2010 supervisorial race in District 8.

Oh yeah -- and Wiener is also running for that seat. At the meeting, he went after Spanjian, dusting off the DCCC's policies and procedures manual and citing a rule that customers of a company bidding for a contract should not sit on the bidding subcommittee. His comments were echoed by DCCC member Robert Haaland, who opined that "if this happened on the Board of Supervisors, it would be a conflict of interest."

In a somewhat surprising turn, Hope Road was awarded the job by the full committee. The vote was 10 to eight, with a telling nine abstentions.

We caught up today by phone with Spanjian, who was absent from last night's meeting, to see what she thinks about the voting results and allegations of impropriety in her subcommittee's recommendation of Stearns. "I absolutely acted within the letter and spirit of the bylaws, 100 percent," she said. "I'm a huge proponent of good government, I'm a huge proponent of open government, which is how this process went."

She attributed the vote results to "petty politics" -- noting in particular the opposition from Wiener, whom she'll face in the 2010 District 8 race.

"Unfortunately, he decided to make this an issue when it wasn't," she said. "And I hope that when we're on the campaign trail, we'll be able to talk about real issues affecting San Francisco." Sting.

Photo   |   jon.hendry

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Peter Jamison


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