SAN FRANCISCO — This city ushered in a new generation of leadership Thursday, inaugurating the youngest mayor in more than a century and swearing in a 39-year-old woman as the state's first African American district attorney.
Under gray skies on the steps of the city's ornate City Hall, Gavin Newsom -- a 36-year-old millionaire entrepreneur and former city supervisor -- was sworn into office by his father, retired state Appellate Justice William Newsom, as several thousand residents and local, state and federal officials watched. Among them were the state's first lady, Maria Shriver, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).
Newsom takes the helm of a city battered by job losses and a record budget deficit whose residents are weary of the growing number of homeless people on its streets. After a bruising campaign that ushered him to power with a slim majority, the restaurateur repeatedly struck a note of conciliation Thursday.
"We have tens of thousands of our fellow San Franciscans out of work -- and far too many of them are running out of hope," Newsom said after a bittersweet send-off from his political patron, Mayor Willie Brown, who is reluctantly leaving because of term limits. "Meanwhile, we have factions of the business community blaming the government, and factions of the government blaming the business community.... I say it's time to start working together to find common purpose and common ground."
Some protesters outside City Hall held signs respectfully reminding Newsom of the thinness of his victory. "We're 47%," they read. "Don't Let Gavin Forget Us." Other Newsom opponents were more disruptive, wailing in mock tears as they carried cardboard gravestones lamenting the predicted deaths of tenants rights, environmental justice and other values they believe Newsom will neglect. A lone heckler screamed intermittently as Newsom took the oath of office, but there were no reported arrests or conflicts.
In a not-so-veiled criticism of his opponents' tactics, Newsom said it was time for a change."I think we've proven in this city that we know how to fight each other to a draw. We know how to stop things," he said in his address. "It's easy to blame.... What's hard is to listen. We need to leave behind old ideas and long-held grudges
Even before taking the city's helm, Newsom moved to distance himself from the outgoing Brown, whose style of politics had been criticized by many as cronyism and backroom dealing. A source close to the mayor confirmed a San Francisco Chronicle report that Newsom had decided to appoint a special monitor to investigate the city's Department of Building Inspection, which has long been the subject of corruption allegations. Chief among the criticisms: that the agency gives special treatment to powerful clients who hire well-connected permit expediters to shepherd their development projects.
While Newsom declined to address his specific plans Thursday, he stated that the era of special interest politics had ended.
"I want to make this crystal clear," he told the crowd. "If you work for this city, you work for everyone. Not the lobbyists, or consultants, or expediters, but everyone."
Newsom has also announced plans to push for a $150-million bond measure to fund construction of housing for the homeless that would include mental health and addiction services. He also has called for a separate affordable-housing bond.
Named by Brown to a minor city commission at the age of 27, Newsom became a supervisor in 1997. He captured citywide attention in 2002 when he promoted a ballot measure called Care Not Cash. The initiative -- approved overwhelmingly by voters but stymied by the courts and Newsom's board colleagues -- would have dramatically reduced cash payments to the homeless in lieu of services. Newsom's opponents said the measure -- along with another anti-panhandling initiative -- would punish poverty. His new proposals address that criticism by proposing enhanced services.
Thursday's festivities began with a service at the city's Grace Cathedral, where representatives of several faiths offered advice and encouragement. After the ceremony, Newsom and his wife -- legal commentator, former prosecutor and lingerie model Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom -- welcomed a stream of well-wishers through the mayor's office, smiling broadly with the good looks and easy charm that supporters say give the city's first couple White House potential.
Then Newsom, who has earned a reputation as a policy wonk, headed for several neighborhoods to meet with constituents
The simple celebration stood in marked contrast to the fete thrown eight years ago by Brown, who arrived in a horse-drawn carriage for his waterfront bash with 50,000 revelers.