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Friday, December 17, 2010

Harvey Milk's Chair -- Can It Be Given Away?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 12:05 AM

click to enlarge Won't anyone take Harvey's chair?
  • Won't anyone take Harvey's chair?

You'd think snagging Harvey Milk's old chair in the Board of Supervisors chambers would be an honor his political heirs would stand up for to sit down in.

But you'd be wrong -- three times wrong. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd should know. He's been sitting there five years. And he can't give it away.

The spot -- the one closest to the public and right by the press gallery

-- was one he inherited from Supervisor Tony Hall in 2005, when Elsbernd was

appointed to the board. Leland Yee had it before that.

You'd think a gay politician would want the honor of sitting in that chair. Or at least Elsbernd did. He offered it to Tom Ammiano in '05. Ammiano declined. He then offered it to Bevan Dufty. Thanks but no thanks.

Four years later, Elsbernd asked David Campos if he wanted the chair. He did not. Elsbernd was 0-for-3.

click to enlarge Sean Elsbernd, seated in Harvey's old spot - LUKE THOMAS, FOG CITY JOURNAL
Why turn down such an honor? Well, to be blunt, the chair is not ideally located. Sitting right in front of the press means members of the fourth estate can see what you're doing on the Internet -- not a worry during Milk's time. And being the closest to the public gallery means anyone who wants to unload a piece of his mind -- or, say hand you a petition from the leader of his planet -- is coming to you first.

That being said, it's a seat Elsbernd has enjoyed sitting in.

"You have access to the public. You're right on the rail and people come to talk to you. You're right next to the press, so you can go talk to the press," said Elsbernd. "Rather than having your back to city staff, when you question them you can look straight at them. And I like that."

Nothing if not tenacious, Elsbernd this year offered the chair to incoming District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. And Wiener accepted. But now things get complicated.

Eldbernd can't simply give his place at the table to Wiener. Instead he has to vacate his seat, and then the supes choose seating arrangements based on their seniority. While Elsbernd is the senior supe, Wiener is 10th of the 11.

He may yet, however, sit where Harvey sat -- "If he makes his case" to the other supes.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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