GREEN PARTY MEMBER MATT GONZALEZ ELECTED TO PRESIDENCY OF SAN FRANCISCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
For immediate release: January 9, 2003
San Francisco - In a suspenseful seven round contest at San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday, January 8, Matt Gonzalez - the only Green Party member of the city's 11 member Board of Supervisors -- was elected Board President. San Francisco is now the largest U.S. city or county (pop. 776,000) to have its legislative body headed by a Green.
Prior to this historic vote, speculation had centered upon whether Gonzalez could muster enough support among Board members to win in this city long controlled by the Democratic Party, and currently home to such key Democrats as U.S. Congressional Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and California State Senate Leader John Burton. "Despite the non-partisan status of electing our 11 district supervisors, I can tell you that the state Democratic Party is likely shocked that this could happen in one of their biggest strongholds," said Ross Mirkarimi, a Bay Area resident and Green Party spokesperson.
Board President is the second-most powerful political position in city government after Mayor, with the ability to set agendas, determine committee memberships, and otherwise affect legislation.
Gonzalez credited his election to his non-partisan commitment to openness and honesty in government. "At the end of the day, people want city services, accountability and an honorable debate by elected officials who don't abuse the public process to gain ideological advantage." Illustrating this point, Gonzalez was nominated by Tony Hall, the Board's most conservative member, who said "Gonzalez is a man of integrity and intelligence, who will carry out his responsibilities fairly and impartially."
Gonzalez succeeds outgoing Board President Tom Ammiano, who stepped down after two terms. Facing off against Gonzalez were Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Sophie Maxwell, who shared seven votes between them for six rounds, while Gonzalez held onto four. With a minimum of six votes necessary to win -- and with a potential stalemate looming -- Peskin released his votes on the seventh round, leading to a 6-5 Gonzalez win. Boardmembers then revoted 11-0 in order to make it unanimous.
Gonzalez's election marks the growing strength of San Francisco Greens, who make up 3% of the city's registered voters, three times the state average. Green gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo received 15.5% of the city's vote in November, finishing second ahead of Republican Bill Simon. Sarah Lipson became the first Green elected in a citywide race, joining Marc Sanchez on the seven member Board of Education (Sanchez reregistered Green after being elected in 2000.) In 2001, voters also approved a Gonzalez/Greens-led ballot measure to institute Instant Run-Off voting for city elections.
Statewide, the Green Party is California's fastest growing party, with over 155,000 registered voters and 59 elected officeholders. Nationally, 168 Greens hold elected office in 23 states. Gonzalez is the third U.S. Green to hold such an office - Elizabeth Horton Sheff is the current City Council president in Hartford, CT and in 1995, Keiko Bonk was County Council Chair for the Island of Hawai'i.
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