The people of my community know my heart

Original Author
Original Body
pstrongDisplaced Hunter's Point Activist Keeps up the / br /Pt 2 in the PNN series on the SF election process /strong/p pDIV align="left" TABLE cellpadding="5"TR VALIGN="TOP"TDIMG SRC= "../sites/default/files/arch_img/913/photo_1_supplement.jpg" //td/trTR VALIGN="TOP"TD/td/trTR VALIGN="TOP"TDTR VALIGN="TOP"TD pby Gretchen Hildebran/PNN Community Journalist/p pOn the TV screen the strong, intelligentbr / African-American woman turns her face bravely towardsbr / City Hall, insisting on her right to retain her job atbr / the top levels of government. She is flanked bybr / people from her community denouncing the racism ofbr / commissioners who had recently fired her. Mybr / co-worker Nancy had just called me into the office tobr / watch Tammy Haygood, the head of the SF department ofbr / elections, fight for her job. Nancy turns from thebr / set and tells me in a hushed tone, "Her partner isbr / transgender! They don't want to give him anbr / operation! " /p pWhat is wrong with this picture? A scandal at the SFbr / Department of Elections is nothing new, but thisbr / scandal had nothing to do with the missing ballots,br / ballot box lids floating in the bay, undercountedbr / precincts, police harassment of voters or the generalbr / corruption and mismanagement that has plagued thebr / department over the last several years. Thebr / newscaster never mentioned the fact the SF Departmentbr / of Elections had yet to comply with CA Secretary ofbr / State Bill Jones demand for a recanvassing of thebr / November 2000 vote. Nor was it brought up that thebr / Elections Commission, who allegedly fired Tammybr / Haygood for mismanagement and overspending of citybr / funds, was created when voters approved Prop E in 2001br / to respond to our Cityís criminally sloppy / Thanks to commercial media we were instead treated tobr / a sensationalized version of Tammy Haygood's personalbr / struggles. Meanwhile at the Department of Elections,br / it is business as usual. Supervisor Tom Ammiano, whobr / is considering a run for mayor in 2003, says,"This isbr / a distraction from the real issue, which is to get thebr / election department running again and give the votersbr / what they voted for with Prop E."/p pAmmiano remembers the past several elections andbr / recalls, "We were very unhappy, there may have beenbr / widespread corruption, and the whole thing could havebr / been wired. We were looking forward to Prop E as abr / way to address electoral fraud." The propositionbr / created the elections commission as a means to makebr / reporting and investigation of electoral fraud morebr / accessible and effective. But when the commissionbr / took steps to fire Haygood, an appointee of thebr / Mayor's, things took a turn for the ugly./p p"The Mayor is unrelenting," says Ammiano, "He's notbr / letting the election commission do what we put thembr / there for." Itís no surprise that the Mayor wouldnítbr / be interested in enacting the reforms approved by thebr / voters. Willie Brownís legacy has included a stringbr / of elections marred by disenfranchisement and fraud inbr / low-income communities, especially those in Districtbr / 10 which encompasses the Bayview, Potrero Hill andbr / Hunter's Point neighborhoods./p pThis November, District 10, along with all other evenbr / numbered districts in the city, will elect Supervisorsbr / to represent their district in City Hall. And withbr / nothing changed in the elections department, itbr / remains to be seen whether voters will be toobr / discouraged to get to the polls. Unfortunately, whilebr / the community can still mobilize to get out the vote,br / one major factor will limit District 10 votersíbr / decisions at the polls. The community-based advocatebr / Marie Harrison won't be on November's / In a recent interview, Harrison explained thatbr / environmental pollution and economic factors willbr / prevent her from entering the race this fall. Highbr / rents made it difficult to find a place in Hunterísbr / Point for her whole family to live. Her five year oldbr / grandson has developed environmental illness,br / including asthma. Her family found they had tobr / relocate outside the district. Supervisors arebr / required to have their primary residence in thebr / district they represent, so the move disqualifiedbr / Harrison from the race. /p p" We can truly not afford to live here," shebr / explained,"to put my family through this, I had to bebr / assured that this will be a fair and honest race."br / Harrison has reason to doubt her chances for such abr / race. As a candidate for District 10 Supervisor inbr / the November 2000 election, she witnessed widespreadbr / intimidation, coercion and election day violations inbr / the polls she visited. (See "Disappearing Votes,br / Disappearing Communities") Many votes from her corebr / constituents also vanished once the ballots werebr / counted. /p pMany of the groups who mobilize the community to vote,br / such as the A. Philip Randolph Institute, work tobr / ensure that their communities carry the big partybr / lines on election day. Not surprisingly, APRI wasbr / also at the helm of the campaign to reinstate Tammybr / Haygood after her dismissal. This kind of poorbr / leadership within the community, Harrison claims, hasbr / betrayed any real chance of its representation inbr / government./p p "In the era of Willie Brown, its all about how muchbr / money you have. People are not out there to representbr / the community, they are there for my folks, theybr / want to see what they can get out of it." Harrisonbr / made clear. According to her, nearly all of thebr / politicians out there "owe something to somebody."br / She insists that isn't a sacrifice she would be ablebr / to make, which has meant she has had to turn down manybr / offers of support that arrived with strings / Although she wonít be on the ballot, she insisted,br / "I'm not out of the game." Harrison still works inbr / the community and she is advising people to write inbr / their choice for Supervisor if they donít like any ofbr / the candidates." That vote is like money in the bank,"br / she said, "spend it like it was your last / Explore your options, take a chance and send abr / message." Over and over again she stressed thebr / importance of continuing to vote, a sign of her ownbr / powerful commitment to community power. /p pHarrison's rich and warming voice and her solidbr / philosophies come back to me as I watch the crowds ofbr / politicians swarm after Haygood on the TV screen. Thebr / media circus is yet another distraction from the realbr / issues that people like Marie Harrison are fightingbr / for. As she put it, "We are fighting for a chance tobr / survive, to see our children grow up healthy inbr / Hunterís Point." And while politicians and theirbr / appointees scramble for money and position, leadersbr / like Harrison carry on beyond the ballot box and thebr / media frenzy. As she concluded before hanging up, "Ibr / am still battling for my community. I will fight tillbr / this thing is done."/p pFor more information Read pt 1; Disappearing Votes, disappearing communities by Gretchen Hildebran /p/td/tr/td/tr/table/div/p