In a press release declaring his support of District 6 candidate Rob Black, Mayor Gavin Newsom displayed a poor understanding of the district’s make-up. Newsom describes District 6 as including “Downtown, the Financial District, the Upper Mission, South Beach, SOMA, and Treasure Island.” The description somehow neglected to mention the Tenderloin, the most densely populated and lowest income neighborhood in the area. It also mentions the ‘Upper Mission,’ a term you’d be hard pressed to find a single District 6 resident using, as the Mission is divided into its Inner and Outer portions. Downtown and the Financial District have suddenly become two different neighborhoods, and the real estate industry-created “South Beach” neighborhood elevated to prominence. Can Black and Newsom convince District 6 residents that they understand and care about the area when they reveal little understanding of its most basic characteristics?
Black has quickly made his strategy clear – to capture enough votes in certain rapidly gentrifying areas in the South of Market, where he can tap into upper and upper-middle class homeowner’s disaffection with Daly’s commitment to the poor, to overcome the incumbent. Including ‘South Beach’ in the press release is an attempt to cement that area as a distinct neighborhood with a different identity than the lower-income areas around it, and galvanize the area for Black.
Whether he meant it to or not, Newsom’s press release reveals that the neighborhood with the greatest need for assistance, yet a relatively low level of voter turn-out, does not fit into this strategy. Residents of the Tenderloin may be concerned that if they’re ignored during the campaign, the treatment will continue should Black reach office.
Newsom’s ignorance about the way city residents refer to different areas of the Mission District may reveal a total lack of familiarity with one of the City’s most diverse, colorful, and low-income neighborhoods. Or, it could reveal a desire to ignore the fact that the Inner Mission – the part of the Mission actually in District 6 – has been Daly’s stronghold in his previous two campaigns.
Finally, dividing up Downtown and the Financial District looks like an attempt to make the area where Black will get a majority of his funding, but where no voters live, a lot bigger and more important to the election than it actually is.
Regardless of any photo-ops on 6th Street, Newsom and Black obviously hope to capture the district by appealing to the area’s wealthier denizens. But the fact remains that no matter how a press release is written, the district is made up of low-income people who appreciate the work Daly has done on their behalf. Black faces an extremely uphill battle, and after his recent press release, it doesn’t appear Newsom is going to be of much help.