Welch, Calvin: Moscone's legacy


Calvin Welch: I think that one of the great and enduring tragedies of the assassination of George Moscone is that they associate his [morality] with the assassination and not with what I think was truly the transient and transitional quality which was I think his great contribution. I work with people who flatter themselves who believe that we’re about empowerment. I’m proud of what we’ve all done and been able to accomplish, but in my most honest moments I fully understand that we could not have done that without George Moscone. That the difference between what happened in this city before 1975 and what happened in this city after 1975 is that brief period. I’ve come to understand it’s not easy. Social and political change is not easy. And another kinda problem with George’s legacy was that he was so effortless that it appeared easy and people didn’t value what it was that he did. He took a city that truly was on the brink of civil war. Some would argue that that’s his greatest failing that he didn’t allow that civil war to happen. I’m not one of those people because I don’t think my side would have prevailed. George Moscone brought in a guy by the name of Jim [Chaket] from HUD [Housing and Urban Development]. Much as Christopher did in M. Justin Herman. Jim, he put in charge of the Mayor’s Office of Community Development, and Jim’s job was to institute the new federalism of Nixon, the Community Development Block Grant Program. And Jim [Chaket] believed in the Community Development Block Grant Program – at almost a religious, I mean he brought the attitude of a Peace Corp volunteer – that he was going to figure out a way to get federal money to create institutions that would empower low-income neighborhoods, and George Moscone backed him all the way. There are multimillion dollar community-based corporations today. Chinese Community Development Corporation, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, Tenants and Owners Development Corporation that have a net asset base of literally hundreds of millions of dollars of affordable housing that they have developed that but for Jim [Chaket] and George Moscone, would not even exist. In the subsequent years from the Moscone administration, these faith in community-based non-profit housing developers have developed 25,000 units of permanently affordable housing. Over half of which houses families with dependent children with incomes of below fifty percent of median. It is not putting too fine a point to it to say that those people wouldn’t be in San Francisco but for George Moscone. Community centers, senior centers, the entire neighborhood movement and everything it achieved in a significant way was empowered by the Moscone administration. He presided over the institutionalization. Joe Alioto unmistakably brought people of color into city government. George Moscone empowered those people. Alioto brought them in to serve him. Moscone empowered those organizations, institutions to empower those communities, and that’s a profound difference. It’s hard for me and the people that I work with to conceive what this town would look like but for that – looking back on it – incredibly brief period. I think George Moscone’s mayoralty was the most important, had the most enduring impact of any post World War II mayor administrations in San Francisco as brief as it was. As brief as it was. George had the courage of his convictions to see a city that was in the midst of deep distress and transition, and like the clearheaded fellow that he was he chose to back the transition. He could have been preoccupied with the civil war. He chose to bet on the transition. I think that bet has been paying dividends to the city since, and it’s a goddamn shame that people don’t understand that about George Moscone.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library

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