Monday, August 08, 2011

No Public Comment at SF Mayoral
Debate Tonite at the Castro Theater

("Liar, liar, pants on fire!")

I used to live in a democracy. Now I live in San Francisco and the myth of democracy continues to crumble. It all started back in January when then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty played the key role to install Ed Lee (pictured) as interim mayor, through the machinations of powerbrokers Willie Brown and Rose Pak.

Since then, Brown and Pak and Lee have made a pathetic mockery of responsible civic engagement, and with Lee this morning formally reneging on his worthless promise to not seek a full-term as he filed papers with the board of elections, San Francisco democracy took another hit.

Let's turn to Rebbeca Bowe's account for the Bay Guardian about the squelching of free speech inside City Hall today:

Former District 6 Sup. Chris Daly has said he believes Lee's run for mayor was scripted from the start. Whatever the case, an outburst that occurred as Lee was filling out paperwork certainly was not part of any script. Surrounded by news cameras, Charles Khalish heckled Lee, asking, "Sir, are you going to step down? You're in the office under false pretenses, Mr. Lee." When security surrounded him, he loudly protested, and a group of sheriff deputies and mayoral security officers with the San Francisco Police Department closed in and grabbed him.

Here's Rebecca's vid of what appears to be 6-7 (!?) sheriffs and cops forcing the heckler out of earshot of our hypocritical mayor:

Strong echoes of Soviet police pushing dissidents off Moscow's streets when they dared to stand in protest with placards calling for democracy.

There's a mayoral candidates' debate starting at 7 pm tonight at the Castro Theater, primarily pulled together by the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association. I emailed the debate organizer, Alan Beach, asking if voters would be allowed to make public comments or directly question the candidates. His reply:

Thank you for your inquiry! We solicited questions from our membership with a deadline of last Monday, August 1. We formed a small committee that then reviewed the questions, refined them for clarity and prioritized them. Each candidate will answer 5 questions on various topics. We are not sharing the questions ahead of time.

As we publicized the opportunity to submit questions to our membership as well as to 2,000 households in the core Castro/Eureka Valley area via our newsletter distribution, there will not be an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions as the schedule is quite packed with originally 9, and now 10 candidates.

While tonight's debate is one of many, and it's a private group holding the event, I am still troubled that voters' voices literally won't have a chance to be heard, except through the moderators reading questions submitted in advance. Seems to me there's some control queenism going on here and I fear the forum will be another instance in which the politicians, from the elevated stage of the Castro, will literally be talking down to the citizens.

Not my idea of democratic engagement. Let's hope future debates, which will include Ed Lee The Liar, are a mix questions from debate organizers _and_ also allow for voters to verbally pose their own questions, unfiltered by the organizers.

That not too much to ask in our diminished democracy here in San Francisco, is it?

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