Bronstein, Phil: San Francisco's political divide


Phil Bronstein: Well I think that a lot of groups of different communities in San Francisco had really not had much of a voice in previous administrations. I can’t really speak personally prior to Alioto, but I think that powerful people ran the city and controlled the city. It wasn’t exactly Richard Daly, but it had the same effect. So you had a variety of communities. You had women becoming much more politically conscious and aggressive about the role that they wanted to play. You had the Black community. The Asian community, while growing, was I think probably still not ready to assert itself, and you had the Gay community which had become huge in a relatively short period of time. Mecca is the right word. And at the same time you had these friction points, and the Western Edition was a huge friction point because you had people from the Gay and Lesbian community kind of considering themselves pioneers in these bad neighborhoods. Let’s say Fillmore or somewhere [across street] in the Western Edition – that was previous a place you didn’t even want to get near because of the potential threat, menace, and crime and biases and so forth suddenly became a Gay [fern] bar which then started pushing Black people out of the Western Edition to Tenderloin to Bay View to Oakland. So that was going on. I think they were competing interests from groups and communities that none of had had a voice really in city politics. George had long championed the Gay community and gay issues. He signed a legislation with Willie when he was in the State Senate. I think that he was viewed as someone who was gonna bring these groups together somehow and give them a voice in government. I remember we had a news room. We had Barbagelata on one night and John Barbagelata was everything that was the opposite of that. I’ve since gotten to know one of his sons fairly well, but John was an irascible, for San Francisco, ultraconservative character. I remember that night, Belva Davis was the anchor I think, and I remember him literally coming across the table at me. I don’t remember the question, but it was some probing, inappropriate question I’m sure knowing me at that time. Very provocative, and maybe about real estate. I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine today, but the city was literally split down the middle, and that half of San Francisco, and if you went down to the western part of San Francisco this wouldn’t surprise you. Irish families and so forth as far as the eye can see socially more conservative, but it’s hard to imagine that John Barbagelata actually represented half of the city, and easy to imagine that George Moscone represented more than half of the city, but they split it.


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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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