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From the Outside Looking In


By Alexa Llewellyn




Closing Notes from a Political Novice

Goodbye and thanks for all of the fish.

-- Douglas Adams, A Hitchhikerís Guide to the Universe

It has been fun being a political columnist for the San Francisco Call. Since I am really a political novice, I have been looking at the political game in San Francisco with a fresh pair of eyes. Here are my closing thoughts as an amateur political junkie:

1. Be nice to everyone. You never know whom you might need a favor from in the future. Todayís enemy is tomorrowís ally. One of our candidates for mayor personally called me and left a nasty message on my voicemail. Little did he know that I am on the Endorsement Committee for one of the cityís political parties. Occasionally your grandmother was right -- be nice to everyone.

2. You can learn from everyone. No one has the complete picture or plan to solve everything in politics. So learn from everyone -- the Democrats, the Peace and Freedom Party members, the Republicans, the Greens ,and yes, even the Radical Socialist Party. You might not agree with 99% of what they are saying. But there is always a nugget of truth that you can learn from.

3. Just because the legislation passed doesnít mean that it will be implemented. For every piece of legislation to be implemented as a policy, there are two steps that must happen. First, money must be set aside to implement it. Second, political will must move it into the bureaucratic arena. A case in point is Instant Runoff Voting. Yes, it was passed in March 2002. Yes, there have been many memos and letters written to the various Election Commissions about IRV. But without funds and the political will to implement this or any other piece of legislation, all you get is a piece of paper.

4. Remember that politicians are people. (News Flash!!) They donít like being asked to do something without you even asking about their health, their family, or their day. Would you go up to anyone else and ask them for a favor without going into small talk? So why do it to a politician?

5. There are 11 supervisors. If one isnít interested in your legislation, try another one. All supervisors are not equal. One is interested in one type of program; another is interested in another. You want to pass legislation on water, planning, and/or the bay, then you should go to Peskin. You have legislation on the homeless, then you should go to Daly. If you are interested in street cleaning, then Dufty and Sandoval are the people to contact. I know of someone who contacted the same supervisor six times about one issue. The supervisor didnít respond. She contacted another supervisor once -- and his staff responded the next day. Another issue came up. She contacted the supervisor who had been so very responsive -- she didnít get a response from the previously responsive supervisor after three calls. She called the formerly nonresponsive supervisor -- his staff called her back within two days. There is a reason why there are 11 supervisors -- use it to your advantage.

Itís been fun being a journalist! Thank you for your kind emails and encouraging words. May you have everything that you wish for and even more.