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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Target Targeted By Angry S.F. Supervisor Candidates

Posted By on Thu, Aug 19, 2010 at 2:45 PM

click to enlarge Everyone loves the dog. Everyone hates his employer.
  • Everyone loves the dog. Everyone hates his employer.
When candidates running for the Board of Supervisors were asked what they thought about Target's plans to open a pair of San Francisco outlets, their opinions were like discount footwear at the big box store: plentiful, hard to miss -- and uncomfortable. 

The retail chain's donation to a political action committee supporting a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who pals around with stridently anti-homosexual religious zealots has gone over about as well you'd think it would in the nation's gay Mecca. Members of the Board of Supervisors chastised Target in a high-decibel meeting earlier this month. The candidates who hope to ascend to the board seem ready to dish out a few tongue-lashings of their own.

District 6 candidate Debra Walker said that Target's donation was a "slap in the face to the queer community." Theresa Sparks is "very, very concerned" about Target's involvement, adding "they will have to deal with this." Matthew Drake called the donation "repugnant."

Candidates running in District 8 -- that'd be the Castro -- were even less generous.

"No frickin' way!" was how Rafael Mandelman replied when asked if he supported Target's San Francisco aspirations. "If Target wants to have a fight with the queer community, that is their choice." For Rebecca Prozan, Target's contribution is a "huge problem." Bill Hemenger says that Target "is not welcome here in San Francisco..." and Scott Wiener is "disgusted by Target's anti-LGBT contributions and by its refusal to take action to rectify its terrible error in judgment."

Tough luck for Target. The only thing disparate candidates can agree on is how unsuitable it is for this city. Shoppers, it seems, will be forced for the foreseeable future to stock up on cheap Chinese-made goods/support anti-gay bigotry in Daly City.

Target's woes started within hours of a community meeting it held in July at the former Mervyn's site on Geary and Mason -- which it hopes to transform into one of its own. Nearly everyone in attendance was at least thrilled that Target wanted to come to San Francisco. One day later a story emerged about political contributions that were made to an anti-gay candidate for Governor in Minnesota that keeps some pretty vile company. Soon enough the controversy became the bigger issue.

Forget the sartorial crimes exhibited above. Target has bigger problems to deal with...
  • Forget the sartorial crimes exhibited above. Target has bigger problems to deal with...
The Los Angeles Times picked up the story and a Facebook group urging a boycott of Target has amassed nearly 70,000 members. MoveOn is running an ad in Minnesota to encourage consumer reaction. A clever flash mob routine is making the rounds on the internet.

Where does this leave the plans to open not one but two sites in San Francisco?  If you ask the candidates from District 6 -- the home of the proposed Metreon store -- the situation isn't good. 

A big box retailer like Target already draws high scrutiny without any political controversy. D-6 candidate Jim Meko points out that city planning commissioners will determine "whether these stores are necessary or desirable." James Keys, Chris Daly's former campaign manager and anointed D-6 candidate, points out that there is concern about a big retailer having an impact on the small business community in the Tenderloin. Keys notes that "80 percent of jobs in [the neighborhood] are in small businesses."

Meanwhile, D-6 candidates Jane Kim  and Theresa Sparks are both open to finding a solution to fill the largely empty Metreon at Fourth and Mission. Kim observes that "the Metreon isn't doing well" and perhaps the "city could find another retailer" to fill the vacancy. Sparks believes that an "economic stimulus is needed to attract" retailers to the building and that the area "needs somewhere for low-income people to shop." Undoubtedly there could be benefits to the city -- and neighborhood -- if a major retailer could pass the San Francisco smell test and revitalize the Metreon. But has Target's donation scandal, ahem, queered the deal?

Earlier this month, the Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's largest LGBT advocacy group --  and Target executives sat down to talk.  But on Monday negotiations were curtailed. Target will now take its time "to make thoughtful, careful decisions on how best to move forward." That delay is not playing well in San Francisco -- the city with the largest LGBT population in the realm. The city where Target would like to open two stores.

SF Weekly reached out to supervisorial candidates to ask what could be done to salvage this deal. There are as many ideas as there are candidates. Walker: "The mayor (or other strong leader) should meet with Target executives." Kim: "Target should issue an apology to the community and withdraw the contribution." Sparks: "Money alone won't fix this." She also wants an apology. Many suggestions were made about what kinds of financial amends could be offered to make things better.

Prozan suggests donations to HIV organizations like Positive Resource Center or other non profits. Meko would like to see a contribution made to the Victory Fund. Walker says the AIDS Housing Alliance could use a sizable donation from Target. If ever a candidate had a favorite non-profit or charity -- now's the time to bring it up.

Has Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel just arrived on planet Earth? He apologized to Target employees because the contribution affected them in a way he did not anticipate. Anticipate this, Steinhafel: Your stubborn avoidance of addressing the offensive contribution will delay your access to the spending power of LGBT community in San Francisco -- and that delay could last a long time. 

Obstinacy, thy name is GAY.     

Follow Patrick Connors on Twitter at @UppityFag and @TheSnitchSF  

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