US 2003 elections
Urban poverty in the US
US cities in fiscal crisis
US mayoral elections
US Conference of Mayors
Mayors' Institute on City Design
National League of Cities
City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa | Events |
Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa are competing for the annual World Mayor Award. More
City Mayors ranks the world’s largest as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More
City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More
City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More
City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world and questions them about their achievements, policies and aims. More
City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More
City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More
City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More
City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More
City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More
City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More
City Mayors examines education issues and policies affecting children and adults in urban areas. More
City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More
City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More
City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More
City Mayors invites readers to write short stories about people in cities around the world. More
City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More
City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More
City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More
|This is an archived article published in December 2003
Democrats win unconvincingly
in San Francisco and Houston
By Nick Swift
Two mayors named Brown found themselves out of term time in the United States in late 2003, and both were replaced in runoff elections by their own preferred, Democratically at least, nominally oriented, candidates. In Houston, Texas, Lee Brown was succeeded by Bill White, and preserved Houstons status as a Democrat island in a sea of Republicans. The significance of that occasion seems fairly straightforward, except, perhaps, within the context of what happened in San Francisco.
On the map of the United States, that city is on the extreme left, and the 9 December 2003 nail biter that very nearly saw a Green Party candidate replace Willie Brown reveals it to be so politically as well. One finds oneself choosing from among ways to describe it: Matt Gonzalez made the winner, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, look like a Republican (a suggestion Newsom and his allies ridicule); Gonzalez and the Green Party out-Democrated the Democrats; he grabbed the values traditionally espoused by the Democratic Party and ran with them, because (which is how the Green Party, the progressives, see it, anyway) those values are no longer being paid more than lip service by the Democrats themselves; the Greens were and are doing no more and no less than continuing the process of devolving power to the people and away from the moneyed corporate interests that, however the facts may be otherwise interpreted, turn out indisputably to have been on the side of the eventual winners, in both San Francisco and Houston.
The claims of Gonzalez and his Greens command attention if only by virtue of the results. Gonzalez, the President of the Board of Supervisors (a post he retains) and a former Democrat himself, entered the race only four months before the election on 4 November 2003 that saw him win 20 per cent of the votes, just under half Newsoms figure. His campaign, which sprouted modestly in his own Haight-Ashbury area, working hard to focus those politically least enthusiastic and with such a sense of disenfranchisement as to be almost a cliche, students and people in the arts, spent a little more than one-tenth of the Newsom campaigns $3.6 million (with, some estimate, another $4 million in contributions). The Newsom camp, attacked by Gonzalez as in the pockets of downtown, were sufficiently worried to call in the heaviest artillery Bill Clinton and Al Gore to speak for their candidate. Newsom himself is acknowledged to owe his political career to the outgoing mayor, and his campaign drew on the skills of seasoned professionals, whereas the Greens relied largely on the contributions of volunteers.
With all that, Gonzalez got 47 per cent of the vote, compared with Newsoms 53 per cent. (It is also acknowledged that Newsom only won by the exercise of the absentee vote.) For that reason, if no other, what happened in San Francisco deserves close attention.
At least two ironies (unless theyre really the same thing) and one certainty emerge, then: respectively, that Newsoms main criticism of Gonzalez was that he was without the practicality (what does impractical mean when you get nearly half the votes?) and the determination (see the third paragraph above) to do what needs to be done to help San Francisco surface in the wake of the financial plunge of Silicon Valley; that the Democrats have something to feel good about under the new Republican Terminator governor; and that the San Francisco Greens approach the future with renewed determination and organization. Their realism is already evident in Gonzalezs declaration of appropriate support for the new mayor.
In the most expensive race in Houstons history, businessman and avowedly non-partisan Bill Whites $9 million campaign that concentrated on ameliorating the citys daunting transportation challenges, implementing improvements outlined by the Quality of Life coalition he jointly chaired with a Republican business figure, and enhancing effectiveness and responsibility at City Hall, carried him to first place with what some perceived as a true ethnic coalition. A former chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, and CEO of the Wedge investments group, White won 63 per cent of the votes, and is thus mayor of Houston for the next two years.
He defeated Orlando Sanchez, a Cuban-American city councilman for six years and a near-winner in the 2001 mayoral election. Sanchez also addressed the (hardly avoidable) transportation problem, and showed himself an ally of taxpayers in his approach to economic and efficiency issues. His Republicanism is thought to have proved at odds with the sympathies of Americans of Mexican extraction, yet failed to win him as much support from the Republican camp as he had hoped for. Sanchez is an executive with an asset management and banking company, and his campaign spent $3.3 million. They said they wished theyd had more.
It will, no doubt, be objected that there is only one San Francisco. The metaphor of grassroots, however, is a reference not to the smallness of the visible product, but to the depth of its basis; and, even, its depth is a further allusion to its breadth. It is the ultimate ground out of which the buildings downtown grow, in San Francisco, Houston and everywhere else; and a respect for the arts can stem, if from nothing else, from a familiarity with them and their history sufficient to indicate that the artist has proven, time and again, to be the lightning rod for bolts from the future.
• Poverty is a crime against humanity
• Support mayors who fight poverty
• Nominate the best for the 2020 World Mayor Prize