Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gavin In The Chronicle

Dedicated Newsom Bashers: Eclectic mix of bloggers, activists delights in skewering mayor

Under the sign "Photo-op mayor," Dean Barbella threw his arm over the shoulder of a cardboard cutout of Gavin Newsom and posed for the camera.

It was the closest he's ever been to the San Francisco mayor and probably will be the closest he'll ever get.

Barbella, a 37-year-old software salesman who describes himself as "not really political," runs the Internet blog gavinnewsom, a domain name he bought one night a few years back for $7. He originally wanted, but that site was already taken. A friend suggested he try Gavin Newsom's name and it worked.

"My message isn't really anti-Gavin. It's that I want a better San Francisco," said Barbella, whose white-collared shirt had the words emblazoned on it with stick-on letters. "But Gavin Newsom does suck because San Francisco isn't what she should be."
Barbella, bourbon and Coke in hand, commiserated about life in San Francisco under Newsom at a party in the Mission District on Thursday night thrown by the League of Young Voters and another anti-Newsom blog,

Under the Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling at El Rio bar and to the sounds of salsa and disco beats, the 85 or so attendees relished being in the majority in their anti-Newsom stance. In San Francisco, where Newsom has enjoyed sky-high approval ratings since taking office in 2004, it's often a rarity for them.

Their frustrations with City Hall unite the eclectic mix that included everyone from software salesmen and nurses to political gadflies and activists -- that, and a growing number of anti-Newsom blogs popping up on the Internet through which information is shared and jabs taken at the 39-year-old mayor and his headline-making personal life.

But, for now, it's a movement without a leader. While Newsom's campaign for re-election in November is in full swing, the anti-Newsom crew is eagerly awaiting the emergence of a candidate to rally behind. Will it be Green Party member and former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez, who ran a tight race for mayor against Newsom in 2003? Or maybe Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi? Actor Danny Glover? For some, it doesn't really matter.

"Everybody should run. ... Whether they can win or not, someone needs to stand up and mount a credible challenge against Gavin," said San Francisco registered nurse Patrick Monk, a former Gonzalez campaign volunteer who stood near the Newsom cardboard cutout that drew a short line of people waiting to take a picture alongside it.

Yet Monk, like many others, was not overly confident about any future opponent's chances.
"You should look at my bike helmet and see the stickers all over it," the 63- or 64-year-old (he couldn't remember his exact age) Noe Valley resident said. "It's a testament to lost causes, and I believe in every single one of them."

The bash, billed as a night of partying and politics where people could learn about the "absent and ineffective mayor," was dubbed "The Real Scandal: Who Gavin is Screwing over," a reference to Newsom's recent admission of his affair with the wife of his former campaign manager and close political aide.

There were lollipops with tags attached that said "Gavin sucks" and a map on the wall showing trips Newsom has taken around the country and overseas since taking office under the sign "Travelin' Gavin." Another sign highlighted the city's homicide rate, and another questioned Newsom's environmental policies.

The list of complaints that attendees have about the mayor is long: Newsom takes credit for ideas that weren't his. He focuses too much on photo-ops and not enough on substance. The Municipal Railway doesn't run on time. He refuses to show up and answer questions at Board of Supervisors meetings, as a nonbinding measure passed last year by voters asked him to do. He vetoed legislation to close Golden Gate Park to cars on Saturdays.

The creators and identities of those paying for the gavinwatch .com Web site, one of the party's sponsors, remains a mystery. Natasha Marsh, the state director of the League of Young Voters, said her group helped throw the party to highlight Newsom's political shortcomings, rather than his personal indiscretions that have garnered so much attention.

Click here to continue reading. By Cecilia M. Vega, Chronicle Staff Writer

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