The future of the Democratic Party in San Francisco came down entirely to timing.

As a move that would have given the mayor and his allies considerable additional power came before the Democratic County Central Committee tonight, the only issue was whether enough members of the progressive minority would get there on time.

The pro-real-estate folks who dominate the party right now were one vote short of the two-thirds they need to abruptly change the rules for DCCC membership in the middle of an election.

Celi Tamayo-Lee, with the Youth Empowerment Academy, argues that 16- and 17-year-old should be able to vote in local elections. Sup. Malia Cohen, in the background, posed the idea
Celi Tamayo-Lee, with the Youth Empowerment Academy, argues that 16- and 17-year-old should be able to vote in local elections. Sup. Malia Cohen, in the background, opposed the idea

So the vote was going to be razor close. But you have to be present to vote – and unlike the Board of Supes, where an absence counts against a majority, the two-thirds is based on the number of people on hand for that meeting.

Carole Migden, former state Senator, was travelling and asked the chair, Mary Jung, if she could appoint a proxy. That’s standard practice – but the rules say that you can only be replaced by a proxy ten times in a term, and Migden has already used her ten. Jung, who had the discretion to allow a proxy vote anyway, refused.

So Migden raced back, making it just in time. Keith Baraka, who was the proxy for Sen. Mark Leno, an opponent of the change, was running late. Megan Levitan, who was one of the 11 critical votes against the bylaws change, wasn’t there when the meeting started either.

So the progressives were sweating, counting, and hoping … and as it turned out, there was more time than anyone expected.

That’s because Member Tom Hsieh Jr. (who supported the bylaws change) also put an item on the agenda at the last minute that would put the panel on record supporting plans for a new Piazza in North Beach that would involve closing down a block of Vallejo St.

Hsieh was the one who convinced former Sup. Angela Alioto to run for DCCC, and she’s the chief proponent of the piazza.

The item brought out as many speakers as you might expect for a Planning Commission meeting. Alioto came and spoke in favor. At least two dozen North Beach residents came to speak against it. The discussion went on for more than 45 minutes.

The merits of this idea are a matter for another day, but Hsieh did his foes a big favor: By the time the committee actually got to the important business, which was a profound change in the makeup of the panel, everyone was present.

And at that point, it was clear that Alix Rosenthal, who had sponsored the measure, didn’t have the votes to pass it.

So Rosenthal backed off, and proposed that the measure instead become a non-binding resolution, calling on the next DCCC to consider the changes she wanted. Hene Kelly asked to make the resolution even broader, and Rosenthan agreed: In the end, by an overwhelming majority, the DCCC agreed to call for unspecified changes in the membership of the committee, after the election – and to also consider campaign contribution limits.

The result was a defeat for the ruling majority on the panel, and keeps open the possibility that the June election will bring in a new majority that will seek to replace Mary Jung, a lobbyist for the Board of Realtors, as chair.

Along the way, the DCCC also voted overwhelmingly to endorse a November ballot measure that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in local San Francisco elections. Most of the members thought this was a great idea (which a party that needs new young voters really ought to agree on); Dan Bernal, who is the proxy for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, talked about how impressive the young people who are promoting the measure were.

And he was right – the young speakers were all articulate, together, and made a great case.

What’s strange is that the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Sup. Malia Cohen not only voted No, but made a short statement, saying that she opposed the measure for the same reason she supported raising the age for tobacco sales to 21: Young people couldn’t be trusted to make good decisions. That’s an astonishing statement.

Levitan also voted No – and Sup. Scott Wiener, through a proxy, abstained, as did the chair, Mary Jung, and Hsieh Jr.

Here’s the message: The current leadership of the local Democratic Party doesn’t think 16- and 17-year-olds should be able to vote in local elections. Too bad the youth of San Francisco can’t vote June 7 on the leadership of the Democratic Party.

  • L_Mariachi

    Sup. Malia Cohen not only voted No, but made a short statement, saying that she opposed the measure for the same reason she supported raising the age for tobacco sales to 21: Young people couldn’t be trusted to make good decisions. That’s an astonishing statement.

    Not if you’ve ever known a teenager. Or been one.

    Brains are physiologically still in development until the early to mid twenties, to say nothing of the inherently callow nature a dearth of life experience entails. 16- and 17-year-olds are still in the practice phase of democracy, voting for homecoming queen and class president and the theme of the big dance (Enchantment Under the Sea, duh!)

    We’ve got enough dumbasses who mistakenly think they know everything gumming up the works. Let’s not add to their ranks.

    • Ragazzu

      Since when does increasing the vote “gum up” the works? Too few adults vote as it is. Making a choice at election time isn’t rocket science. Of course, we know the real reason conservatives try to stymie the vote wherever possible…

      • Tod1732

        Yes, and lowering the voting age to 15 or 14 would be even better in stopping all that stymieing by conservatives.

    • Greg

      I disagree. I remember myself at 16 and 17. Yes, I was a libertarian then, and I’ve grown much wiser now. But I was still more politically aware than most adults. More importantly, teenagers are our future and their voice should matter.

      Brains actually don’t stop developing until people are in their late 20s. That doesn’t mean they can’t decide what they want. And I think they’re more capable of making those decisions than seniors in the throes of dementia. Yet we wouldn’t think about taking the right to vote away from seniors no matter how badly their cognitive abilities have declined. So why is it acceptable to deny young people a seat at the table?

      For Malia Cohen, one of the younger members of the BOS, to oppose this, is in fact astonishing. That said, at least she’s not a hypocrite. For progressives to wax poetic about voting rights for young people, and then take away their right to buy cigarettes (for their own protection, natch), is just rank hypocrisy. Again, I remember myself at 16 and 17. If tobacco companies are marketing their crap to young people, they were marketing it to me too. I made a conscious decision not to smoke in spite of all their best efforts, so to tell someone like me that I’m incapable of deciding anything for myself is just insulting.

      • Drunken Housewife

        Why allow teens to vote but not smoke? Because voting is good and smoking is bad. It’s that simple. Our society needs more voting and civic involvement and less unhealthy, cancer-causing actions. It makes plenty of sense.

        And as Emerson so wisely observed, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”

        • Greg

          And I’m saying that young people are perfectly capable of deciding what’s good and bad for themselves without the likes of you protecting them from themselves.

          • L_Mariachi

            > young people are perfectly capable of deciding what’s good and bad for themselves

            They really aren’t. (A lot of adults aren’t capable of that either, but you have to draw the line somewhere.)

  • Tod1732

    Migden already exhausted her 10 proxy allotment?

    Sound like Carol doesn’t care about the job. I hope nobody asked her to drive over from Berkeley were she actually lives with her wife. With her driving record, she might have killed someone.

    • SnapsMcKenzie

      She was one of the most corrupt members of the legislature, was caught using her state credit card to pay personal expenses, illegally cast the vote, in the Senate chamber, for another Senator and was routinely voted “worst boss in Sacramento,” year after year. Yet Tim has stood by her through thick and thin. Just goes to show you the rank hypocrisy Redmond likes to criticize on the right is just as prevalent on the left.

    • Greg

      Feinstein and Pelosi can NEVER be bothered to show up, and yet they’re granted unlimited proxies routinely. What Jung did was highly unusual, and just dirty politics.

      Hopefully her clique will be voted out soon.

      • Tod1732

        No, Greg. Pelosi and DiFi are limited to 11 proxies, too. Even the former Speaker of the House has to obey the rules.

        They don’t bother assigning proxies very often, given the inherent trivialities of the DCCCCCCCCC.

        • jhayes362

          $am, I’ll bet you’ve never been to a DCCC meeting and I doubt you know rules or common practice. Stick to something you know, like being a predatory landlord.

          • Tod1732

            JimmyHayes thinks that anyone who disagrees with him must be “Sam”, the ubiquitous troll-meister who apparently haunts Progressive Worldland day, night, and in dreams.

    • chasmader

      Migden knows the rules, and had the shoe been on the other foot; she’d be the first to throw a rule book at the other side.

  • Chris J.

    This wasn’t a controversial item, but something else that happened during the meeting is that the DCCC passed a strong resolution (without opposition) calling on the City to fund the creation of the country’s first open source voting system. The resolution concluded:

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the DCCC join the San Francisco Elections Commission, California Common Cause, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Code for San Francisco, and many other individuals and organizations in urging the Mayor and Board of Supervisors to champion and fully fund, starting with the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year, the development and certification of an open source voting system for San Francisco to use starting with the June 2020 election.

    In the days prior to the DCCC resolution, the SF Tech Dems and Harvey Milk Club also signed on in support of fully funding the project.