By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
In a city known for its left-of-center politics, the late Senator Dianne Feinstein rose to power in San Francisco by taking moderate stances that irked liberals, including many Asian Americans, but also navigated the city through the tragic assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.
Jeff Mori counts himself as an admirer of Feinstein even though he says his politics is to the left of hers. The then-mayor appointed him to the Parks and Recreations Commission.
As mayor, she shut down gay bathhouses at the height of the AIDs pandemic in 1984 because she concluded they were superspreader sites.
“It was not a popular thing to do, but she did it because of advice from some of the members of the gay community,” Mori told AsAmNews.
She would go on to be a strong advocate of gun control in the U.S. Senate despite numerous death threats. She pushed through an assault weapons ban in 1994 one year after a mass shooting in a downtown highrise, 101 California.
However, she failed to renew the ban after the law expired ten years later despite numerous attempts.
Feinstein died of natural causes late last week at the age of 90. Her body is lying in state today, Wednesday, October 5; at San Francisco City Hall where she became the city’s first woman mayor and first woman president of the Board of Supervisors.
Tomorrow an outdoor funeral will be held in front of City Hall and the public is invited to gather in the Civic Center Plaza across the street.
Mel Lee served 12 years on the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission and as co-chair of Feinstein’s successful first run for the Board of Supervisors in 1969. His other co-chairs were Japanese American leader Yori Wada, an African American physician and a Jewish attorney.
Lee says Feinstein had a “compassion for underdogs.”
“There’s always people not aligned with her to the left or the right,” he said to AsAmNews. “She’s a very strong moderate. She gets things done by reaching across the aisle.”
Henry Der worked closely with Feinstein during her years in city politics and later as a US Senator during his nearly 25 years with Chinese for Affirmative Action.
“All in all, Dianne had a long, but at times complicated, relationship with the Chinese community,” he wrote in an email to AsAmNews. “We can all be grateful for her many decades of public service and accessibility to community members.”
He said she initially backed a voting system that would make it difficult for Chinese and Spanish-speaking voters to access a trilingual ballot. She would later take a strong position against a ballot initiative to repeal bilingual voting.
Der said she also embraced a settlement of a lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department that he says would have made it more difficult to increase minority and women representation within the department.
After protesters marched into her office, she agreed to change her stance and back a stronger settlement for diversity.
As a U.S. Senator, Feinstein supported the representation of the Chinese community at all levels of government.
Sandy Mori worked with the Senator on numerous senior issues. The co-founder of the senior-serving non-profit Kimochi says the senator helped it raise money for a residential care facility for the elderly
“She’s one of those persons who really had her eye set on getting things done. And she didn’t hesitate to do that,” said Sandy who is also the wife of Jeff. “In my estimation, we really lost the strong leader not only for democracy but for a country.”
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