Art Agnos sizes up SF politics over matzo ball soup

By David Talbot : sfchronicle – excerpt

There didn’t seem much to celebrate for a progressive warhorse like Agnos. A man who represents everything Agnos opposes now occupies the White House. Donald Trump’s victory, said Agnos, “bothered me more than my own defeat” for re-election as mayor in 1991. And he had just come from a memorial service across the street at City Hall for Aileen Clarke Hernandez, the legendary feminist, civil rights and labor activist whose death seemed like one more requiem for the heroic liberation movements of the past.

And yet Agnos, at 78, seems as energetic as ever, after successful heart surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm in November 2015. He continues to play an active role in city politics as a progressive power broker. His clout was felt in the successful 2013 ballot battle to block the ”wall on the waterfront” — the proposed luxury condominium high-rise building on the Embarcadero. The same leadership team — Agnos, former City Attorney Louise Renne, political organizer Jon Golinger, and Aaron Peskin (in between stints on the Board of Supervisors) — reassembled in 2014 to lead the landslide victory for Proposition B, the landmark San Francisco measure that gave voters the right to decide on big development proposals along the city’s precious waterfront.

The Prop. B victory represented a “revolutionary change” in San Francisco, said Agnos — the democratization of a planning process that has long been controlled by developers and their political allies. “Now, if you want to build something on the waterfront, you don’t go down to City Hall and make a contribution to a politician’s favorite charity. You have to go to the people for their support.” Agnos would like to see the Prop. B concept extended from the waterfront throughout the city…

Agnos finds the political establishment to be woefully behind the electorate when it comes to deciding the city’s future. He’s particularly critical of another former mayor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who campaigned for 8 Washington and — as chairman of the State Lands Commission — is suing the city to overturn Prop. B. “This is supposedly Mr. ‘Citizenville,’” said Agnos, referring to Newsom’s book that touted the expansion of participatory democracy in the digital age. “And he’s suing the city he once led, saying the citizens shouldn’t decide.

“I call Gavin the greatest one-night stand in politics. He looks great, he talks great. But you wake up the next morning and you ask yourself, ‘What was that all about?’”… (more)

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