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    Remembering Jeff Adachi

    By Louise “Lou” Fischer–

    Jeff Adachi was a hero and a fierce protector of the constituents he served. His untimely and sudden passing at the age of 59 was a tragedy for his family and the City of San Francisco. He is most likely the last of his kind in San Francisco, an award-winning lawyer, filmmaker, author, non-conforming renaissance man and elected official who was still respected by groups that did not endorse or support him even when he ran for office unopposed by any other viable candidate. 

    I did not support Jeff Adachi in any of his races; we had differences of opinion and his candidacy represented the “other side” of the political spectrum. That said, over time, he wore me down and won me over in other ways and I truly liked him.

    I met Jeff in 2002 when he ran against my chosen candidate, Kimiko Burton, in the race for public defender. It was an antagonistic race, and as a member of Kimiko’s campaign, we saw Jeff as the rival to be vanquished. He certainly had an ax to grind as one of Kimiko’s first actions upon her appointment as public defender in 2001 was to fire Jeff from the PD’s office. He won the race soundly by a 10-point margin, and while lesser individuals might have gloated, he was gracious in victory and praised the positive changes made by Kimiko and committed to continue her work.

    Jeff was a complex man of political contradictions. For someone who ran for elected office 5 times (including an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2011) he never played it safe or took the easy route. While most elected officials would never dream of taking on controversial subjects that would inflame their base of supporters, Jeff charged ahead and probably ignored the pleas of every political consultant who ever worked for him. 

    He took on labor unions, city employees and even his own staff by waging war on high pension costs borne by the City. He failed miserably with Proposition B in 2010, and while most strategic politicians would have given up, he tried again with Proposition D in 2011. Fiscally, they weren’t bad ideas, but politically speaking, come on. Who does that?

    Last year, he threw caution to the wind again by masterminding the campaign to unseat four San Francisco Superior Court judges with four lawyers from his office.  It is an unspoken tradition not to take on incumbent judges; the tactic was widely denounced and the voters rallied around the incumbents and all four held their seats on the bench.    

    I have my own experiences with Jeff’s contrarian approach to politics; it’s no secret that my political club never endorsed him.  We were, as mentioned, behind Kimiko in 2002, and every other time Jeff ran for office, he managed to come up with some cockamamie scheme or proposition that was at odds with our politics. Despite this, every year at the annual Alice Pride Breakfast, while most non-endorsed candidates either don’t show up or slide in on a free ticket from a sponsor, Jeff dutifully purchased a sponsorship of a high enough value to get his name in the program and made a point to attend. 

    It was an event on a much smaller scale, however, that truly surprised me and cemented my personal respect for Jeff. During my run as Alice Co-Chair, in an effort to inject some culture into the club, I sponsored “Alice Night at the Theatre.” It wasn’t lost on anyone that this theatrical outing coincided with a show in which my partner Amy was cast and I was part of the tech crew; call it a win-win for everyone.

    Standard protocol is to send an invitation to every elected official in San Francisco and hope that at least one or two show up and “say a few words.” Rarely does an elected official actually pay for a ticket and stay for the show. On the night of the Alice event, several of our endorsed elected officials attended, gave a speech, shook some hands and then left.

    A few nights later, after the official “event” and while setting up the spotlights on the mezzanine, I looked down and there was Jeff waving up to me. In the amount of time it took me to think, “What the heck is he doing here?” he bounded up the steps, gave me a hug and said, “Sorry I missed the Alice event. I came tonight to support you and your partner. I love live theater.” 

    After the show, he stuck around to congratulate the performers and was visibly thrilled when the director offered him a tour of the stage and the rest of the theatre. I have no doubt that he didn’t actually “miss” the Alice event. It probably would have been awkward, but I was truly touched that he made the effort to come to, and show his support for, the theatre community. 

    Farewell, Jeff. You were a champion for those most in need. Your legacy will live on. May your memory be for a blessing. 

    Louise (Lou) Fischer is a Former Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and has served as an appointed and elected Delegate for the State Democratic Party. She is a proud graduate of the Emerge California Women’s Democratic Leadership program, was a San Francisco Commissioner and has served in leadership positions in multiple nonprofit and community-based organizations.