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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Choose San Francisco's Next Mayor ... Sort Of

Posted By on Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge rsz_mayor_poll.jpg

The upcoming selection of our next mayor by the Board of Supervisors promises to be the quintessential example smoke-filled room politics -- but for the fact that, in San Francisco, city legislators will earnestly tell you that lighting up indoors quantifiably makes you worse than Hitler.  

It remains to be seen whether the people of San Francisco's ostensible desires for who should succeed Mayor Gavin Newsom will be a factor. We're guessing no. But, if they are, a graduate student at U.C. Berkeley has a website that may be of help.

Jesse Oliver Sanford is the co-creator of Quite simply, folks can weigh in online who they'd like to see occupy Room 200.

Sanford says he's a bit disturbed that most of the coverage of the ongoing "clusterfuck" of the mayoral succession process has been about "insider dynamics." Of course, insider dynamics is what's going to decide the next mayor. But Sanford is focusing on how he'd like things to be, not how they are.

"We have a decent Sunshine Ordinance. A lot of our meetings are open and people participate. I love that about San Francisco," says the cultural anthropology student who's penning his dissertation on how software interacts with the democratic process. "That same type of populist, experimental, participatory attitude should be brought to [the selection of] San Francisco's mayor."

It may be difficult to check users are actually San Francisco residents -- but it'd be hard to game the system by voting multiple times. Sanford and co-creators Ben Woosley and James Teow  of Participant Labs set it up that you can vote once per Twitter account. If you have multiple Twitter accounts tied to multiple e-mail addresses and want to tweak a meaningless online straw poll -- knock yourself out.

Isn't all this hopelessly idealistic? Yes, admits Sanford, it's idealistic. But not hopelessly.

"I think democracy is a pretty great invention. I think we can still make it better than it is," he says. "If we didn't try things that seemed a little idealistic, we wouldn't have the culture of innovation that's so important in the Bay Area."

Our next mayor may wish to take note.

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly

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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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