- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO Willie Brown is still mayor for another three years, but he is no longer the boss of the nation's most left-leaning metropolis.
As results trickled in from last week's runoff elections for nine seats on the city's board of supervisors, it became clear that one of Mr. Brown's most ardent enemies won re-election last month.
In addition, eight of the candidates Mr. Brown backed in Tuesday's runoffs for seats on the 11-member board either lost or were trailing in incomplete returns. Only one candidate closely tied to the mayor was ahead, with final results in some races not likely to be known until this week.
That will give Mr. Brown's opponents the eight votes they need to override mayoral vetoes if they act in unison.
"It's pretty disappointing," said Mr. Brown's press secretary, P.J. Johnston.
Mr. Brown's problems arose not because he is considered too far left for this city but because he has been too pro-development for some.
While Mr. Brown's name was not on the ballot in the city's first district-by-district election in 20 years, it was clear to most voters that this was a referendum on him and his business-friendly fast-growth policies.
Since 1980, supervisors had been elected at-large.
Mr. Brown, the Democratic speaker of the California Assembly for 16 years before term limits forced him out of the state Legislature in 1996, also had no doubt who the vote was about. In his state-of-the-city speech a month ago, he remarked, "I just hope that the irresponsible advocates of electing people just because they oppose Willie Brown don't load us down with a lot of crazy people."
For sure, his foes have filled the city-county board with Brown critics.
"It looks like there will be a good number of independents on the board," said community organizer Chris Daly, who won a big victory over a Brown-backed businessman in the largely residential Sunset District on the city's west side. "Mayor Brown will have to negotiate with people who have other ideas, and that will be very good for the city."
One of those Mr. Brown will have to deal with is Tom Ammiano, the write-in candidate who almost upset him in last year's mayoral election. "This will make it much tougher to govern in San Francisco," Mr. Johnston said. Mr. Brown was not available for comment.
"This will go down in history as the beginning of the end of the last political machine in America," crowed anti-growth activist Aaron Peskin, who received 60 percent of the vote against a Brown-backed incumbent.
The vote was the second setback in two weeks for Mr. Brown, who early this month said he was exploring whether to seek the chairmanship of the California Democratic Party, a $118,000-a-year post whose clout was greatly increased by passage of the statewide Proposition 34 last month. The measure is expected to shift most political fund-raising functions from legislative leaders to the major political parties.
But Mr. Brown forswore any such effort a week later, saying he will back incumbent state party chief Art Torres of Los Angeles for another five-year term.
The lone winner linked with Mr. Brown was incumbent Supervisor Mark Leno, a nationally known homosexual-rights activist originally appointed to the board by the mayor. He won easily in the mostly homosexual district centering on Castro Street, long known as America's unofficial homosexual capital.
One major issue in the campaign was the city's handling of a massive influx of dot-com companies, which have flooded into areas once known as low-rent. Their presence has raised both commercial rents and apartment prices citywide. Another issue involved a proposed Titanic-shaped hotel and commercial development proposed for the city's waterfront.
"Now the mayor will have to listen to the neighborhoods on these things," said neighborhood activist Leonard Sanider. "He's got to deal with a whole new group on the board and for once they won't all be beholden to him." Mr. Brown had appointed six of the 11 pre-election board members.
Local officials called the light turnout a record as just 30 percent of voters cast ballots.
"The turnout was pitiful," said Elections Department spokeswoman Christiane Hayashi. She reported that poll workers and election observers outnumbered voters at most polling stations. Because 38,000 absentee ballots were cast in this city of 650,000, many results could not be immediately certain.
Said voter Howard Saferstein, "I think a lot of people were discouraged by the presidential thing. I know I hesitated to vote, but I did it anyway because it's getting too expensive to live here. It's only going to get worse if we don't do something about the dot-coms and the commercial building."

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