Talk:Matt Gonzalez/Archive 1

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Archive 1 | Archive 2

Proposed Matt Gonzalez Article


As regards the Clean Up notice, the sprawling, poorly written article on the Article page is filled with factual errors and is weighed down with POVs, editorializing, unneeded detail, too many footnotes, and numerous grammatical errors. Judging by the paltry number of edits to the article, we can assume nobody reads past the first paragraph or two. The article is not objective or balanced (much of the material is copied verbatum from Gonzalez campaign Web sites and the SF Bay Guardian). As the Wikipedia tag notes at the top of the article's edit page, This page is 38 kilobytes long. This may be longer than is preferable. That tells you right away that the article needs editing.

I propose using the following article instead. It is objective and paints a thorough, concise, accurate picture of the former supervisor and mayoral candidate. I request that if you have comments about this article, you put them below the article, not between paragraphs. Thank you. Griot 21:07, 28 November 2005 (UTC)Griot

Matt Gonzalez

Matt Gonzalez is a leading member of the Green Party. In the years 2001 to 2005, when he served on the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco, California, he was one of the highest-ranking Green Party elected officials in the United States. He lost the 2003 San Francisco mayoral election to Democrat Gavin Newsom. He now heads the law firm Gonzalez & Leigh (pronounced LAY) in San Francisco.

Childhood and Youth

Matthew Eduardo Gonzalez was born June 4, 1965 in the border town of McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, but spent his first five years in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His father was a division chief for the international tobacco company Brown & Williamson. Besides San Juan, job transfers took the Gonzalezes to New Orleans, Maryland, and Kentucky, before the family returned to McAllen when Gonzalez was eleven years old. "Eddie" as he was called in his youth was an Eagle Scout and president of his senior class. He discovered his talent for debating at Memorial High School, from which he graduated in 1983. [1]

Gonzalez said about his childhood in South Texas: "The Mexican-AmericanLatinoChicano culture in California is different than my experience in Texas. I grew up in a town that is majority Mexican and Mexican-American. In McAllen, we didn't refer to ourselves as Latinos or Chicanos. We referred to ourselves as Mexican. There's a different feel in that border area." [2]


In 1987, Gonzalez earned a B.A. from Columbia University in political theory and comparative literature. He was captain of Columbia's debating team; he developed a taste for modern art in New York City's many art museums and galleries. "I see myself as a product of affirmative action..." he said in an interview. "It's something when your first museum experience is going the Metropolitan or the Whitney or the Guggenheim." [3]

Gonzalez earned a law degree from Stanford Law School in 1990. He was an editor of the Stanford Law Review and member of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal. He helped Paul Brest, the Dean, revise a constitutional law casebook (his contributions to this textbook had to do with gender discrimination and religion clause issues). Gonzalez also worked for the California Appellate Project, a state-funded non-profit law firm that represents indigent people in death-penalty and other criminal appeals.

Public Defender

For ten years beginning in 1990, Gonzalez worked at the Public Defender's office in San Francisco as a trial lawyer. He earned a reputation for being fiercely loyal to this clients. "Most public defenders are devoted to their work," colleague (now District Attorney) Jeff Adachi said about Gonzalez. "But we don't give clients our home phone numbers or let them know where we live. Matt would bring clients home with him." [4]

Defending a client in a minor marijuana-related offense, an angry Gonzalez told the deputy district attorney handling the case that he would run for district attorney if charges were brought. In 1999, Gonzalez ran against incumbent District Attorney Terence Hallinan. Although he came in third in the election with just 11 percent of the vote, he earned the endorsement of many Democratic clubs, and his campaign for district attorney raised his profile in San Francisco. [5]

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

In 2000, a system of electing supervisors by district rather than citywide took effect. At the urging of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Gonzalez moved his residence from the Mission District (in District 9) to Hayes Valley, and ran for supervisor in newly made District 5 (besides Hayes Valley, District 5 comprises the Haight-Ashbury, the Western Addition, Alamo Square, and the easternmost part of the Sunset District). Between the general election and the run-off election in which he defeated school-board member Juanita Owens, Gonzalez left the Democratic Party and joined the Green Party. Gonzalez became the first or second Green Party member ever elected in San Francisco (the first, according to some sources, namely the San Francisco Green Party, was school-board member Mark Sanchez [6]).

Conversion to the Green Party

Gonzalez's conversion to the Green Party occurred at the spur of the moment, without aforethought, in what he called "a political or moral epiphany." Gonzalez was attending a rally at the offices of KRON-TV in San Francisco to protest the absence of Green Party senatoral candidate Medea Benjamin at a debate between Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger Tom Campbell. Gonzalez wrote about that evening:

I wasn't anticipating anything. I certainly wasn't expecting any kind of political or moral epiphany.
But as the event wore on, what was at stake became disturbingly obvious to me: a thoughtful, intelligent, and honest progressive candidate for senator was being excluded from the opportunity to reach voters and win electoral support.
I couldn't help thinking of how most of my support in last year's district attorney's race came as a result of being allowed into televised debates with my better-known opponents and how that support has eventually led to my being the front-runner in the District 5 supervisorial race.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wasn't OK with it. I didn't want to be a member of a party that was urging the exclusion of a candidate solely on the grounds that the candidate didn't have enough support, when it's precisely television coverage that could win that candidate public acceptance. [7]

In the run-off election, Owens tried to take advantage of Gonzalez's Green party affiliation and capitalize on many Democrats' ill feelngs toward the Greens in the wake of the acrimonious 2000 presidential election [8], but Gonzalez won the run-off election. Like all municipal elections in San Francisco, elections for supervisor are nonpartisan, but some Greens saw the election of their candidate as a significant achievement because, for the first time, a Green Party member had been elected to an important position in a major U.S. city.

Term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

Midway through Gonzalez's four-year term on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, his colleagues elected him to a two-year term as Board President. From this powerful position, he was able to push his legislative agenda. Gonzalez told the San Francisco Call: "I'd rather think of the minimum wage and IRV (instant run-off voting) and the chain store legislation as my legacy." [9]

Gonzalez's crafted these ballot propositions that won election in San Francisco:

  • Minimum Wage (Proposition L in 2003): A city ordinance that raised the minimum wage in San Francisco to $8.50 an hour (or $7.75 for nonprofit groups and companies with fewer than 10 employees). The ordinance gave San Francisco one of the highest minimum wages in the United States. [10]
  • Instant Runoff Voting (Proposition A in 2002): A charter amendment changing the election laws to allow for instant run-off (IRV) elections in San Francisco. IRV reduces the expense of run-off elections and is believed by its supporters to promote third-party candidates. San Francisco became the first city in the nation to implement IRV. [11]
  • Supervisors' Salaries (Propositoin J in 2002): A charter amendment re-classifying the eleven San Francisco supervisors from part-time to full-time status and setting their salaries by the Civil Service Commission at $112,000 (previously the supervisors' salaries were $38,000) [12]

Gonzalez also wrote and pushed to pass this legislation:

Gonzalez opposed the sale of the naming rights to Candlestick Park (hetried but failed to qualify a ballot proposition to rename the ballpark "Mays Field at SBC Park"). He prohibited the San Francisco Zoo from keeping elephants after concerns were raised about their health [13], and Changed the term "pet owner" to "pet guardian" in city regulations. [14] He supported transgender health benefits for city employees [15] and the acceptance of Matrícula Consular ID cards for immigrant workers from Mexico. [16]

Gonzalez also authored these ballot initiatives that were voted down at the polls:

  • Energy Self Sufficiency (Proposition D in 2002): A charter amendment requiring San Francisco to acquire its own municipally owned and operated public utility system. The inititative would have required the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to secure electrical supplies for all the city's power customers and to possibly buy out PG&E's local distribution system. [17]
  • Noncitizen Voting in School Board Elections (Proposition F in 2004): A charter amendment giving non-citizen parents and guardians of schoolchildren the right to vote in local school board elections. [18]

2003 San Francisco Mayoral Election

In 2003, Gonzalez entered the race for mayor of San Francisco only 24 hours before the filing deadline. The race generated much excitement in the City because of the candidates' youth, Gonzalez's membership in the Green Party, and Gonzalez's charismatic appeal to San Francisco's ideological left-wing voters. "He's the indie-rock Kennedy," one supporter said of Gonazlez. [19]

His opponent, Gavin Newsom, another member of the Board of Supervisors, outspent him by $3 million. National Democratic Party figures such as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi campaigned on Newsom's behalf. Nevertheless, Gonzalez lost the race by only 6 percentage points. He received 10,000 more votes than his opponent on Election Day but lost when the absentee ballots were counted. Had Gonzalez won the election — had he perhaps entered the race sooner or been able to rely on an established party apparatus to help in his campaign — he would have become the first Green Party mayor of a major U.S. city.

"Floppy-Haired, Slump-Shouldered Champion of the Counterculture"

"Gonzo" as he was affectionately called by his supporters was an unorthodox politician. Newspaper accounts from the San Francisco mayoral election noted that Gonzalez slept on the uncushioned slats of a futon frame because "it's more comfortable," didn't own a watch, and wore Dr Martens and baggy suits [20] (some of which were given him by former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos). [21] The "floppy-haired, slump-shouldered champion of the counterculture," as the Christian Science Monitor called him [22], has never been married or owned property. He gave away his 1967 Mercedes Benz sedan because, he said, he found it easier to get around on public transportation. [23]

Gonzalez hosted monthly art exhibits in his City Hall office. He was fond of playing chess and reading poetry. In 1997, at his own expense, he published a collection of poetry by Beat poet Jack Micheline called Sixty-Seven Poems for Downtrodden Saints. He served on the Board of Directors for Intersection for the Arts, a non-profit organization, and in 2004 taught a course called "Art & Politics" at the San Francisco Art Institute. He played bass guitar in a rock band (called John Heartfield after the German artist and anti-Nazi activist). Also in the band were his brother Chuck and his law partner Whitney Leigh. [24]

Gonzalez's critics considered him a stubborn and willful idealogue. He walked out of Mayor Willie Brown's State of the City address in 2002; he refused to meet with Brown during his first two years on the Board of Supervisors. When the Board put forth a resolution commending Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a San Franciscan, for being elected House Mintority Whip, Gonzalez was the only board member who voted against it. As a public defender, he was twice jailed for contempt of court and ordered arrested a third time (the contempt findings were overturned on appeal).

At an art exhibit in his City Hall office, graffiti artist Barry McGee spray-painted "Smash the State" on the wall. [25] In March 2002, Gonzalez stunned a Golden Gate Breakfast Club audience when he allegedly told them, "Really, I am a Marxist." [26] He had earlier written in regard to why he joined the Green Party, "I read The Communist Manifesto & liked it." [27]

Retirement from Politics

In early 2005, Gonzalez, arguably the highest-ranking Green Party politician in the United States, abruptly announced that he would not seek re-election as supervisor and would return to practicing law. He explained his decision to the San Francisco Examiner:

I like the whole idea of disengaging from politics for a while and looking at things from the outside. I think the world would be a better place if politicians returned to private life from time to time... Hey, you've got to follow your instincts, you know. That's how I got into politics in the first place, joined the Green Party, ran for the board presidency and later for mayor. What am I supposed to do now? Not listen to myself? [28]

Besides his work at Gonzalez & Leigh, the former supervisor keeps busy as a frequent contributor to the online newspapers Mesh and SF Frontlines. A return to Texas may be in Gonzalez's future. "I’m not capable of saying I won’t go home," he told Columbia College Today. "Notwithstanding the political differences of Texas, I’ve always liked where I come from, so it's always been a natural thought that I would get back there." [29]

External links

External links to articles written by Gonazlez

External links to audio and video interviews with Gonzalez

Further reading

  • Carlsson, Chris, ed. (2005) The Political Edge, City Lights Foundation Books: San Francisco, CA. ISBN: 1-93140-405-4.
  • Walter, Nicole (2004) Go Matt Go! Hats Off Books: Tucson, AZ. ISBN: 1-58736-346-1.

Gonzalez, Matt Gonzalez, Matt Gonzalez, Matt Gonzalez, Matt Gonzalez, Matt Gonzalez, Matt