DeLeon, Rich: Moscone's legacy


Rich DeLeon: It seems that the legacy of George Moscone has been kind of been more in the shadows, and has not received the kind of attention and appreciation, in retrospect, his mayoralty and political life deserve. Not to downplay the importance of Harvey Milk for example who deserve all the accolades and respect as a martyr for the Gay rights movement and the liberal progressive movement generally over the years. George Moscone, I think, is of equal significance politically. Certainly in San Francisco’s political history. He swam upstream. He faced tremendous obstacles, some of which we talked about, and transformed the style of government as Mayor of San Francisco, and walked to a different tune, and appealed to a range of new groups and interests and concerns that had been excluded from the process, and essentially laid down a template for policy reforms now that most San Franciscans take for granted, but had their root and seed in the Moscone agenda and his campaign and in his few years he had to govern as mayor. More broadly than that, I think his life and his achievements as mayor, even though he had many defeats along the way, produced this pathway that allowed San Franciscans, and certainly a lot of the new San Franciscans and those on the left and the progressives and liberals to begin to envisage a progressive city in a way they couldn’t. It was sadly interrupted for nine years as Mayor Dianne Feinstein took it in a more moderate and centrist direction, but I think that the city might very well have looked quite a bit different, a little less Manhattanized, would have achieved a lot of the reforms that the city takes pride in now in the area of Gay rights or labor and appointment law or health policy and environmental protection and neighborhood preservation that all, if you trace them back, had roots in his initial agenda. It might have occurred later, but really my feeling is it started then. Finally his assassination and of course that of Harvey Milk. It inscribed [in] tears and anger a significant moment in the city’s history that continues to radiate, and to reinforce through the remembrance of traditions and rituals and marches and memorials to this day, and that kind of remembrance is important and does not significantly enough in my opinion include George Moscone as an equally important actor in achieving all of that.


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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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