John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Today City Hall celebrates Frida, a 6-pound chihuahua mix and very good girl.
The newest leader of San Francisco has bristly facial hair, a knack for fashion, and a troubled backstory.
Did Willie Brown somehow get reelected? Nope: wrong species. The city's rising politico is Frida, an aging, floppity-eared pooch that today wields the official title of "Dog Mayor for a Day."
"She's a chihuahua mix, a rescue dog, who weighs—she's near me and might bite me if I give you the wrong number—I'm going to say about six pounds," says Frida's owner, Dean Clark, a retired schoolteacher from South San Francisco. "She's a very fair-tempered, wonderful dog," he adds—qualities that "we don't always get" in two-legged officeholders.
Later this afternoon, the Board of Supervisors will give Frida a commemoration during a regular meeting at City Hall. That ceremony will be followed by a press conference and 4 p.m. gathering of dog owners and lovers that could involve 400 or 500 people, says Clark. Local business folks who've donated money for an honest-to-god pension for the pup might say a few words. And Frida's guardian expects her to go home with a plaque celebrating her "becoming the first San Francisco Dog Mayor, ever." (Three supervisors did not respond to emails Monday about this momentous occasion; an office employee over the phone referred me to the website of Clark's canine-aid group, For the Love of Dog USA.)
If all this fuss over a pup seems excessive, that's probably because you haven't lived in San Francisco. This is a city, after all, that shut down the downtown core to help a sick kid believe he was hangin' with Batman. And it's not like the Dog Mayor has any actual powers: There will be no detention centers for cats or PSAs about the benefits of drinking toilet water anytime soon.
Frida garnered her esteemed post after Clark bid for it this fall at an auction sponsored by the nonprofit San Francisco Animal Care and Control. "All I can say is it was a healthy donation, not just a couple of dollars," says Clark. He hopes today's pomp and circumstance will draw attention to the issue of canine abandonment, which "just makes my heart drop."
Clark notes that after having the "little stinker probably around six years," Frida is finally beginning to pull her weight in achieving the Clark clan's political dreams. "Four years ago I tried to become District 6 supervisor," he says. "So the joke's going around that at least one member of the family made office."
People of San Francisco, bow down before your temporary furry overlord (and then rub its belly):