SAN FRANCISCO — Stoked by his unexpectedly strong finish in the San Francisco mayoral primary, Assemblyman Art Agnos wasted little time Wednesday marshaling his army of 1,700 precinct workers for a monthlong runoff campaign that early opinion polls indicate he will win.
However, his runoff rival, city Supervisor John L. Molinari, took drastic measures to counter Agnos' 37-point electoral margin, sacking his campaign manager, reconfiguring his entire campaign staff and pledging openly to fight "those who represent darkness and doom."
Elsewhere around the state, local officials spent Wednesday sizing up their post-election public mandates. Many authorities found a public willingness to assume new taxes--but only if the benefits were clear and direct.
The day after a massive campaign effort resulted in San Diego County's first sales tax increase, transportation officials were laying plans to spend the $2.25 billion that they will receive over the next 20 years.
"We're ecstatic," said former state Sen. James Mills, who led the fight for Proposition A and is chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Development Board. "It's very difficult to get people to vote for an increase in taxes. It's the hardest thing you can do politically."
Fed up with increasing congestion on local freeways, San Diegans approved Proposition A with 53.1% of the vote, raising the sales tax from 6% to 6.5%. The money will be evenly divided among mass transit projects, highways and local road improvements.
A big winner is the county's burgeoning trolley system, which will use its $450-million share to help pay for 33.6 miles of additional track on a system that is currently 20 miles long.
Also in the works are commuter rail services, new state roads that will take pressure off heavily congested interstates, local road improvements and discounts for senior citizens, the disabled and students.
In San Diego, elected officials said Wednesday they will move quickly to name some other street or public structure for slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the wake of a citywide vote to strip his name from a major downtown thoroughfare.
Some members of the national and local black community Wednesday said the decision by 60% of the city's voters to replace Martin Luther King Way with Market Street was racially motivated. They warned that the decision could lead to the same kind of economic boycott now hitting Arizona, where Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded a state King holiday.
"Frankly, it shows that racism is alive and well in the 'enlightened' state of California," said Althea Simmons, Washington lobbyist for the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
But Mayor Maureen O'Connor disagreed, explaining instead that San Diegans voted for tradition and to express dissatisfaction with the way the council handled the issue. She noted that Market Street had been the name of the roadway since 1915. The council changed it to King Way in April, 1986.
O'Connor said she and her fellow council members will move quickly "but cautiously" to name something else after King, perhaps the unfinished downtown convention center or some other public building.
San Diego tourism officials said Wednesday they received no complaints or cancellations because of the vote.
Two Democrats and two Republicans were elected Tuesday to four open seats on the eight-member San Diego City Council.
The new council members--architect Ron Roberts, county supervisorial aide Wes Pratt, lawyer Bruce Henderson and college history professor Bob Filner--won a council race that was among the most expensive in city history. As much as $2 million may have been spent in the primary and runoff campaigns for the $45,000-a-year council posts.
In Del Mar, residents of the seaside San Diego County city overwhelmingly rejected what would have been the toughest anti-smoking ordinance in the nation. The proposed law would have banned smoking in all public places, including outdoor areas such as streets, alleys and sidewalks.
Nearly 65% of those voting turned thumbs-down on the proposal, and backers of the initiative attributed the defeat to the "clouded" perception that smoking would have been banned everywhere and restaurants would have lost business.
The day after 57% of the voters in Mission Viejo agreed to incorporate their planned community, the groundwork was already being laid for a smooth transition to cityhood.
In southern Orange County, the five charter council members of the newly incorporated City of Mission Viejo met with Orange County Supervisor Gaddi Vasquez to discuss what must be done before March 31, when the city formally is founded. Carved from the Santa Ana foothills by the Mission Viejo Co., the new city is Orange County's 37th municipality.