Why Leland Yee Won the Sierra Club Endorsement

Thumbnail image for Leland Yee and Werewolf.jpg
A snapshot of Leland Yee's environmental record
Somebody has it out for state Sen. Leland Yee -- someone aside from Rush Limbaugh.

When the news hit that the highly esteemed Sierra Club had tossed its support behind Yee for mayor, Twitter started buzzing; City Hall insiders -- and even reporters -- hinted that something wasn't quite right with this endorsement.

Upon announcing the endorsement, Sierra Club chairman John Rizzo issued a statement, saying Yee has the strongest and "most established environmental record of the candidates running for mayor." Yet City Hall insiders argue otherwise, claiming the state senator has one of the worst environmental records of any mayoral candidate.
Yee's opponents will gladly point to his environmental mishaps. In 2004, he opposed a bill to reduce rail emissions. He also opposed a bill to impose state air pollution controls on farm equipment, only later to flipflop on his position.

More recently, Yee was criticized for coming out against the controversial shark fin ban, which sailed through the Assembly this week. He insisted that federal laws go far enough to protect sharks from being mutilated.

So why would the Sierra Club, which emphatically supports a shark fin ban, settle on Yee?

Well, there has been talk at City Hall that Yee and Rizzo made a deal: If Yee got the Sierra Club endorsement -- and he was elected mayor -- he would appoint Rizzo, an aspiring politician, to fill Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's presumed vacant seat. Mirkarimi is expected to win the sheriff's race in 2012.

That's one theory.

As Bay Citizen political reporter Gerry Shih said in a recent tweet: "Yee nabs coveted Sierra Club #1 endorsemt 4 , Avalos #2. Exec cmte known 4 independence but insiders wonder if Yee'll get Rizzo back."

We called Yee's campaign strategist, Jim Stearns, who told us it's just not possible for anyone to make a deal with the independently minded Sierra Club. "They are the least able to be manipulated of any political organization in the city and the county, or perhaps the whole fucking country," he says. 

He pointed out that Yee consistently receives high scores in Sacramento for his voting record on the environment. So this talk of a dirty deal leads his campaign to believe only one thing: His opponents are just talking trash. "Everyone wants that endorsement. If they don't get it, they trash it -- they are just sour grapes," Stearns says.

Rizzo tells SF Weekly that although he does want that supervisor seat, he has made no deal with Yee: "People could say this with any candidate we endorsed," he says.

On the other hand, perhaps the buzz is nothing more than a way to sabotage Rizzo as a potential candidate. Did one of the many people who are lining up for Mirkarimi's seat stir up a faux-backroom deal to make the endorsement appear corrupt?

"Even if Leland didn't get the endorsement, Rizzo is a significant candidate for that seat," says Jim Ross, a local political consultant. "There are at least 30 people who want that seat, so this rumor might be nothing more than an attempt to blunt that possible appointment."

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John Muir
John Muir

Yee got the Sierra Club endorsement because he backs the GGNRA dog plan and opposes the Beach Chalet soccer field artificial turf rehab.  A bunch of his supporters are the anti-dog, native plant and historic preservation people in the Sunset.  His Sacto voting record gave the Club cover but they really just care about what's happening in the City.

I don't think there was a deal with Rizzo.  Leland's too smart to barter something that valuable this early, even to be able to put the Sierra stamp on his mailers, and Rizzo is too chickenshit to force Leland's hand. 

Besides, if you were the new mayor, is John Rizzo really the guy you place as your ace on the board?  Yeah, I didn't think so.

outsidelands
outsidelands

"A bunch of his supporters are the anti-dog, native plant and historic preservation people in the Sunset."

Really? The same Leland Yee who compared native plant advocacy to racial cleansing and xenophobia? The same Leland Yee who wrote an ordinance with Mark Leno in 2002 that would have allowed dogs off leash in virtually every park in SF? Leland does an amazing amount of flip-flopping, but not everyone in this town has the attention span of a flea.

Ted Edwards
Ted Edwards

Yee is telling other groups in not-so-private conversations that he would not take action to block turf rehab and nor would he actively support the GGNRA plan.

njudah
njudah

oh the "adult thing to do." compromise with an avowed liar, and sacrifice Muni and BART and SamTrans and everyone else in the state. Sorry, no. Leland Yee and his cohorts had a chance to fight injustice, and instead forced the state's problems on everyone else. Sorry, Campaign Sock Puppet, but you lose this one. Yee defends cuts to Muni that cripple it, and the lies that Arnold told to get them. Denied.

CptSludge
CptSludge

When the alternative is shutting down the state government, yes compromising with an avowed liar (and philandering scumbag) is absolutely necessary. Every single Democrat in the senate voted for the thing because it was the only way to push through a budget. The real crime is that Yee and his colleagues aren't pushing harder for systemic reform so that extremists can't hijack the system. Also, I'm not a Yee sock puppet. He sure as hell isn't getting my 1st round vote and probably won't get any of the others.

Josh
Josh

You need to learn the record. Yee voted against the budget. He also has revenue reform legislation that would clawback billions in corporate tax credits from businesses that fail to keep job promises or that move out of the state.

Josh
Josh

You are completely wrong on the record. Muni and SamTrans even publicly praised Leland Yee for voting against the budget at their board meetings.

njudah
njudah

Yee also voted for Arnold Schwarzenegger's raides on transit funding, gutting Muni and BART out of hundreds of millions of dollars. I guess the Sierra Club wanted to go along with the Sacramento shenanigans.

BTW, under John Rizzo, the Sierra Club has littered the City with tens of thousands of doorhangers every election. I guess being an environmentalist means "do as I say, not as I do."

Josh
Josh

Not true. Yee was one of the few to oppose such cuts and was the only Senator to vote against the bad water deal. He was 1 of only 2 senators to be 100% rated by Sierra Club, CLVC, and Clean Water Action Hancock being the other.

njudah
njudah

If he voted for any budget under Arnold and the reigning legislative democrats, he voted for the cuts. Period. He may have "opposed" them in the sense of saying something, but he voted for the budgets that made those  raids. Also, did he support the gas tax swap that cost money from transit  also? Clarify, please.

Josh
Josh

Yee in fact voted against the budgets and subsequently lost his authorship of two bills and his leadership position as asst pro tem in retaliation. Transit adocates, teachers and home care workers praised him for his votes. You should know the record before making such statements.

CptSludge
CptSludge

I hate that I'm defending Yee, who I think is a classic "smarmy politician," but I'm not going to pin the budget or gas tax issues on Yee or the democrats. The problem is the 2/3 budget and revenue requirement.

Because of Republican intransigence, Senate democrats were basically faced with the choice of either approving the budget and the gas tax swap or having the entire state government completely collapse around them. They were barely able to keep things afloat even with the absurd compromises. Voting for those budgets was the adult thing to do. Now if only they would put half as much effort into reforming the system, they wouldn't be put in this spot year in and year out

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