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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mike Antonini: Planning Commissioner Says He Has Votes for Reappointment (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 5:55 AM

click to enlarge Says he has the votes...
  • Says he has the votes...

Update (4 p.m.): See end for Board results.

Mike Antonini is not Gregor Samsa. He did not wake up one morning to find himself suddenly transformed into a white, male, Republican, dentist. He has been white and male for a long while, a Republican for not quite as long, and a dentist for no brief interval either.

This was the case when he was reappointed to the Planning Commission three times -- by Boards supposedly less contentious than the present one -- by votes of 10-1, 9-2, and 9-2. Now, however, Antonini has been metamorphosed into a white, male, Republican, westside, home-owning piñata.

The 10-year commissioner tells SF Weekly he's received verbal confirmations from six supervisors that they'll vote to reappoint him to his seat at Tuesday afternoon's meeting. Antonini declined to name names, but there are only so many ways to count to six in this equation.

We'll see if those verbal confirmations were worth the paper they're not printed on. In the meantime, it's interesting -- and depressing -- to note how this matter devolved into a demonstration of mean-spirited identity politics that showcased the city's progressives at their most feckless.

Making nuanced arguments about city planning is difficult. Playing the diversity card is easy. As noted elsewhere, supervisors' halfhearted complaints that Antonini is too white, too male, too straight, and too westside are achingly weak. These arguments didn't keep the supes from confirming other candidates who wouldn't clear the barriers of geography, race, sexual preference, etc. that necessitated a two-week continuance in the debate over Antonini.

If the supervisors who'd rather see Antonini out really feel he's not diverse enough for the Planning Commission, they didn't present their arguments with much skill or effort. If they're using diversity as a stalking horse for other misgivings about Antonini, they're being disingenuous. And if they think they'll get someone who has radically different opinions on planning and development in a mayoral appointee, they're delusional.

Would a gay/minority/renter from the city's southeast -- who thinks and votes like Antonini -- be acceptable to the progressive bloc? That seems to be a pretty hollow notion of diversity. But we may yet find out.

click to enlarge Is it safe? Is it safe? Is it safe ... to reconfirm Mike Antonini?
  • Is it safe? Is it safe? Is it safe ... to reconfirm Mike Antonini?
We certainly will if the Guardian has its way. In a revealing article, it noted that the "main point" to be derived from the tussle over whether Antonini deserves to be re-upped is "Why the hell is San Francisco even considering appointing a Republican dentist with no particular land use expertise to a fourth term on the Planning Commission?!?! " The term "Republican dentist" is bandied about frequently, as if its mere mention carried the weight of, say, "convicted child-molester."

What's revealing is that the "main point" doesn't focus on Antonini's competence and job performance but on his identity. While we're at it, it's also jarring that someone up for a fourth term on a land-use body can be derided as having "no particular land-use expertise."

Benjamin Wachs and your humble narrator last year penned an article about how the progressives have been relegated to the back seat of city politics after a 10-year run of being largely behind the wheel. Progressive supes could boast a number of accomplishments (many in the realm of land-use, incidentally), and generated most of the big ideas that San Franciscans would claim as representative of city values. But they were never able to penetrate beyond the city's progressive strongholds and voters eventually soured on them.

Why is this? Read that Guardian article. The symbolic ("Is Mike Antonini the right kind of San Franciscan?") far outweighs the practical ("Is Mike Antonini competent?"). There's the unsubtle notion that getting "our people" in power is more important than "our people" governing well. When all that matters is pushing your side, competence be damned, there is no accountability for those who come up short.

Guardian progressives have few inhibitions about stating that those with whom they disagree are not fit to participate in government -- or even express their opinion about how local government should work. Bemoaning that a "Republican dentist" holds a spot on the planning commission doesn't seem all that different than pondering how such a job could be entrusted to a Latino greengrocer. When you start making severe judgments about who is fit to participate in government, you can wander into an awkward place -- and right quick.

Finally, as Wachs and I noted in our article, progressives, for all their past successes, never put much effort into convincing those who don't agree with them -- and, for that matter, agree with them on pretty much everything -- to join in a larger, citywide movement. A lot of those people live on the westside, like Antonini. And a lot of them probably don't see Antonini as some sort of dental devil. But the Guardian, and some of our elected representatives, have effectively stated that Mike Antonini and his ilk aren't our sort of people, and have no business volunteering their time for San Francisco government.

We'll see how that goes. We'll also see if those six supes who told Antonini they'd vote for him actually do so when it counts. Malia Cohen hasn't returned several calls from the Weekly. Christina Olague has publicly stated she'd support her former colleague on the Planning Commission -- but that'd also be a surefire recipe for mailers and Guardian articles during the coming campaign accusing her of lending comfort and aid to a George W. Bush-supporting Republican.

Antonini may want to take a whiff of laughing gas prior to today's vote. Perhaps he'll need it.

Update (4 p.m.): As Antonini predicted, he was reappointed today by a 6-5 vote.

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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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