San Francisco Mayor Struggles
Frank Jordan has low ratings; but some say he can pull the city through
AFTER being swept into office with throw-the-bums-out fervor in January, this city's self-proclaimed "citizen-mayor" has stumbled into the lowest ratings of any mayor in local history - lower than his predecessor, Art Agnos.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But a number of observers say that if the job can be done by anyone amid the city's worst fiscal crisis in half a century, former Police Chief Frank Jordan (D) will eventually pull the beleaguered city up by the boot straps.
"Jordan is more of a tortoise, while Agnos was more of a hare," says political consultant Richard Rapaport. Noting a slow start fueled by myriad staff changes, severe budget deficits, riot crackdowns, and political controversies, Mr. Rapaport says, "Frank is deliberate, in touch, and unwavering, which is a new way of doing business here. San Franciscans are used to the glitzy `we-can-fix-everything-in-a-hurry school.' "
Six months into Mr. Jordan's tenure, just one in four San Francisco voters believes that he is doing a good job, according to a June San Francisco Chronicle Poll. That assessment puts Jordan's performance rating lower than that of his predecessor, Mr. Agnos, at any point during Agnos's four-year term. It reflects a widespread view that the mayor has failed to make significant progress in solving the city's problems. Poor ratings
Just 3 percent of the respondents said Jordan is doing an excellent job; 21 percent rated his performance as good, 41 percent as fair, and 31 percent as poor. On issues from the dismissal of a new police chief (Richard Hongisto) to promotion of San Francisco as business capital to providing solutions to the homeless problem, only a minority of the respondents praised Jordan's efforts.
To become the city's 40th mayor, Jordan campaigned on a moderate, centrist platform promising to improve basic city services and "get San Francisco back on track" after years of rises in crime, homeless population, and city blight from graffiti to street trash. Jordan served as chief of police from 1986-90.
"Jordan's mayoral victory was really a referendum showing popular distaste for Agnos at an all-time high," notes Larry Kamer, political commentator for Kamer/Singer Associates. He calls the six-month nightmare honeymoon of Jordan a "roller coaster of highs and lows" that is only now leveling out. "People have had to discover what he is going to do on the job under the worst of circumstances. It has been one crisis after another," says Mr. Kamer. Troubles hit early
Beginning in January, the owners of the San Francisco Giants baseball team announced they were interested in leaving the city, testing Jordan's savvy in trying to retain them.
After balancing a $61 million budget deficit in his first two months with sharp cuts in social services, health care, and public safety, Jordan was faced with a $90 million deficit for the coming year.
Already the worst deficit since 1939, the figure has since grown to $175 million - not including cuts imposed on cities by state efforts to close its $11 billion budget gap. A possible $80 million in further cuts would require an approximate 10 percent cut in the city's $2.4 billion overall budget.
"He has been handed economic conditions that are beyond his ability to control," notes Rapaport. "With no money and so many pressure groups, every city in America is close to ungovernable right now. Civic politics are as close to gridlock as you can get."