Crowd raps Newsom's 'town hall lecture' 

Mayor Gavin Newsom took his public policy road show to the Mission district on Monday night to discuss The City’s universal health program — but was frequently shouted down by activists demanding to talk about other topics, including affordable housing and recent federal immigration raids.

The town hall-style meeting was the third held by Newsom this year. They have been billed by his office as a response to an initiative that asked The City’s mayor to appear monthly at a Board of Supervisors meeting.

Although 56 percent of voters gave approval to the measure, authored by Supervisor Chris Daly, Newsom has been openly critical of the idea. He sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors in December that said he did not believe attending their meetings would advance discussions about city policy, but instead would result in "political theater."

He announced that he would instead hold his own public policy discussions, and held his first town hall meeting in January on the topic ofhomelessness. Several hundred people attended, including a half-dozen or so critics of the mayor who were dressed in chicken suits to imply that Newsom was scared to face the Board of Supervisors.

At Monday’s meeting, Newsom talked about The City’s new universal health care plan, which has been touted as a way to provide medical care to San Francisco’s 80,000-plus uninsured residents.

Newsom addressed a crowd of approximately 200, which included neighborhood residents, dozens of activists, at least 20 top city staffers and two chicken-suited critics.

Throughout the two-hour meeting, Newsom and panel members, including Department of Public Health Director Mitch Katz, spoke and answered questions written by audience members on cards, but were frequently drowned out by activists chanting and blowing whistles.

During the outbursts, Newsom looked down and shuffled the question cards before beginning to speak again a few minutes later.

"We have two paths we can go down," Newsom said at one point, apparently referring to the protests. "The path where we get things off our chests [and] don’t get anything done, or we can go down the path of substantive dialogue."

Newsom insisted on sticking to questions about health care in San Francisco but invited audience members to bring concerns on other subjects to a 7 p.m. meeting tonight at the Brava Theater in the Mission.

During the meeting, audience member Valerie Tulier addressed Newsom: "I think the problem here is that this is not a town hall meeting but a town hall lecture. People want to speak. People need to be heard."

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

beslinger@examiner.com

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Bonnie Eslinger

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