Meet the new supervisor

How will Christina Olague balance loyalty to Mayor Lee with the needs of the city's most progressive district?

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resident Christina Olague was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY STEVEN T. JONES

Christina Olague, the newest member of the Board of Supervisors, faces a difficult balancing act. She was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee, whom she supported as co-chair of the controversial "Run Ed Run" campaign, to fill the vacancy in District 5, an ultra-progressive district whose voters rejected Lee in favor of John Avalos by a 2-1 margin.

So now Olague faces the challenge of keeping her district happy while staying on good terms with the Mayor's Office, all while running in her first campaign for elected office against what could be a large field of challengers scrutinizing her every vote and statement.

Olague has strong progressive activist credentials, from working with the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition to protect low-income renters during the last dot-com boom to her more recent community organizing for the Senior Action Network. She co-chaired the 2003 campaign that established the city's minimum wage and has been actively involved in such progressive organizations as the Milk Club, Transit Riders Union, and the short-lived San Francisco People's Organization.

"One of the reasons many of us are so supportive of Christina is she is grounded in the issues of low-income San Franciscans," said Gabriel Haaland, who works with SEIU Local 1021 and accompanied Olague to a recent interview at the Guardian office.

She also served two terms on the Planning Commission — appointed by Board of Supervisors then-President Matt Gonzalez in 2004 and reappointed by then-President Aaron Peskin in 2008 — where she was known for doing her homework on complicated land use issues and usually landing on the progressive side of divided votes.

"Coming from the Planning Commission, she can do a lot of good," said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and a supporter who has worked with Olague for 15 years. "We lost a lot of collective memory on land use issues," he said, citing the expertise of Chris Daly and Aaron Peskin. "We do need that on the board. There is so much at stake in land use."

Olague disappointed many progressives by co-chairing Progress for All, which was created by Chinatown power broker Rose Pak to push the deceptive "Run Ed Run" campaign that was widely criticized for its secrecy and other ethical violations. At the time, Olague told us she appreciated how Lee was willing to consider community input and she thought it was important for progressives to support him to maintain that open door policy.

In announcing his appointment of Olague, Lee said, "This is not about counting votes, it's about what's best for San Francisco and her district." Olague also sounded that post-partisan theme, telling the crowd at her swearing-in, "I think this is an incredible time for our city and a time when we are coming together and moving past old political pigeonholes."

With some big projects coming to the board and the working class being rapidly driven out of the city, progressives are hoping Olague will be a committed ally. There's some concern, though, about her connections to Progress For All campaign's secretive political consultant, Enrique Pearce.

Pearce has become a bit of a pariah in progressive circles for his shady campaign tactics on behalf of powerful players. In 2010, his Left Coast Communications got caught running an independent expenditure campaign partly funded by Willie Brown out of Pearce's office, even though Sup. Jane Kim was both its beneficiary and his client — and that level of coordination is illegal. Last year, Pearce was hired by Pak to create the "Run Ed Run" campaign and write the hagiographic book, The Ed Lee Story, which also seemed to have some connections with Lee's campaign. The Ethics Commission hasn't fined Pearce for either incident, and he didn't return a Guardian call for comment.

Comments

Watch as she sells us out.

Posted by Sooth on Feb. 08, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

Olague is nothing but an opportunistic, how do you think it will play out with the district lines a changing?

Posted by Jerry Jarvis on Feb. 09, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

Yo bro, how's life in the sticks.
Let's grant her a grace period, she's been pretty good for many years. They're all 'politicians' and we can't expect to much.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Feb. 09, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

I was kinda secretly hoping that he'd pick some right wing machine nutball who'd be easy to beat in November. My preference would've been for an elected instead of appointed supe. Less baggage that way.

That said, he probably picked the best person we could've expected. She's been a decent planning commissioner (with some exceptions). Hopefully she'll be a decent supe. My worst fear is that she'll act progressive till the election, then turn and sell out and support the machine on key votes. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell. But what can you do? We'll just have to see what the field looks like and vote for the best candidate.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:40 am

Just glad to see her off the planning commission.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 8:41 am

Points for using the word "hagiographic " in a sentence!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:54 am

It shows you how scared he is she's going to go off the Non Profit Inc reservation and how important it is that he's around to "correct" her if she does. Haaland's acting as the enforcer here so we can prolly expect the same positions held by her erstwhile predecessor at the board - Ross "scorched earth" Mirkarimi.

Posted by guest on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 10:55 am

Olague voted to make the Bicycle Plan part of the General Plan and begin implementing it without any environmental review, which was pure prog opportunism on her part. She surely knew that doing that violated the most important environmental law in California, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

But she also knew that if she was going to seek higher office here in Progressive Land she couldn't antagonize the Bicycle Coalition.
http://district5diary.blogspot.com/2005/04/bike-zealots-want-your-childr...

Posted by Rob Anderson on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

You're right. The Bicycle Plan was an unfortunate power play. Whether it was bad advice from the City Attorney, or over enthusiastic supporters, or miscalulations by one or more supervisors who supported the 50 bike projects, I'm sure there are a few decisions people might make differently if given a chance.

But your team "won," so be happy! You put on a fun show in the process, so thanks for that too. I've rarely seen some of the most blowhard bicyclists foaming and ranting as much as they did when your side was tearing them up in court. (BTW, some progressives thought CEQA was the way to go in the first place since the Bike Plan was obviously a "project" and CEQA evaluation is a "progressive" reform that should apply to everyone, even the bicycle angels.)

But in the end - ironically enough - by forcing them to go the CEQA route, you made it sooooo much easier to implement all 50+ projects after the $500,000? report was prepared. So as a car driver who loves bicyclists since they don't want my scarce and valuable parking space when I'm traveling from one place or the next, I say thank you! The bicycle improvements are making driving much more predictable in many sections of the city, and the handful of parking spaces lost here and there are more than offset by the growing numbers of cyclists drawn to the much improved bike infrastructure.

But come on Rob. You need to come up with a new angle. You're starting to sound like Bruce Springsteen on "Glory Days" - the kind of person who spends most of the day in a bar, or cafe or chat room kvetching about one thing or another and not doing anything about it. We expect better from you than repetitious rants about the bicycle conspiracy and the 500 story towers proposed for the Market/Van Ness area.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

Olague is one of the ethically and intellectually challenged officials in San Francisco. She backed Michael Antonini, a millionaire developer who insists that every applicant buy him lunch (check his ethics commission filings), and gets free tickets to Giants games from architects. Antonini's latest manuver is bankrolling Santa Clara Plays Fair, by arranging for donations from Peet's Tavern to the Santa Clara group opposing the stadium. Olague defended to us over the phone Antonini's comments that Bayview was "filled with welfare housing." Now, Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, who represented San Francisco on the Hunters Point stadium project are representing Santa Clara Plays Fair in their effort to block the stadium in Santa Clara. Olague prevented the release of emails from Antonini to Bill Bailey, who has made several racist comments about President Obama in public meetings, and Debbie Bress, a failed candidate for Mayor in Santa Clara (who, according to court records said that AIDS victims should get what they deserve-----quote from Sunnyvale police report). Olague is an opportunist, and also an enabler of poor campaign ethics.

Posted by Mission City Lantern on Feb. 13, 2012 @ 6:25 pm