RE/Search: Tell us about when you ran for mayor…
Jello Biafra: One night we were driving to a Pere Ubu show and Bruce, our old drummer, said, “Biafra, you have such a big mouth that you should run for President—no, you should run for mayor!” I thought, “Aha! I think I will!“
At the Pere Ubu show I told almost everyone that I was running for mayor, and wrote out most of my platform on a napkin while they played. The next day I found out you could legally run for mayor in San Francisco if you get a petition signed by 1500 people or pay $1,500 (a dollar a name). By then I’d shot my mouth off so much it was too late to back out.
I think I paid about $900, and slowly but surely got some signatures. This made me a legal candidate, meaning: my statements could be printed in the voters’ pamphlet that was mailed out to everybody. I got equal time in the newspapers, on the radio and on television.
My platform included banning cars from city limits, making police run for re-election in the neighborhoods they patrolled (practical idea if you ask me), and so on. Proposition 13, a tax initiative, had just passed and the city had laid off 7,000 city employees due to budget cuts. I proposed hiring them back as panhandlers on a 50% commission and sending them to rich neighborhoods and the entrances to private schools.
Another way to raise money for the city coffers was for the Parks Department to erect statues of Dan White in major shopping areas and let the Parks Department sell eggs and bottles for people to throw at them. This was less than a year since he’d killed George Moscone.
Also, create a Board of Bribery to set standard public rates for liquor licenses, building code exemptions, police protection, and protection from the police. That caused the most trouble.
It was a lot of work but it was worth it, especially after election night. I came in 4th out of the 10 legal candidates! Two of the people who came in below me had spent something like $50,000 apiece on their campaigns. I got 6,591 votes, 3.5% of the total. Dianne Feinstein’s campaign manager said something to the effect that: “If someone like that can get so many votes, this city is in real trouble.”