City of Art and Innovation


In 1966, NASA was faced with an interesting problem. They needed a pen that would write in zero gravity. They spent millions of dollars developing a pen that would do just that. A scientific, precision instrument that didn’t need gravity to imprint a glyph on paper.

The Russian space program used a pencil.

When I started talking to people about running for Mayor, I got a lot of hard questions about my experience. I was told that I would not be taken seriously. That I would be viewed as less than qualified. That only a highly sophisticated and expensive tool could possibly get the job done. Untrue. Sometimes you only need a simple tool. People of San Francisco, I am that simple tool.

Relevant experience? I’ve successfully run a touring circus staffed entirely by rebellious youth, which requires exactly the same skill set I’ll need as Mayor when dealing with the Board of Supervisors. Same same. It’s true, I haven’t spent the last 10 years in City Hall. Instead, I’ve bought and maintained a 100-year-old live-work space in San Francisco. I’ve operated (and continue to operate) a small business in this city, going through the crushing trials of navigating city bureaucracies and the permit process in order to make interesting things happen in (what could easily be) the most interesting city in the world. Last summer, I spent a few months building a 110’ raft made of junk propelled by 2 VW engines that sent 35 happy artists down the Mississippi river.
I put on shows of all sizes in all places. I support and advocate art and the championing of the amateur artist, with my mantra of “Art for all purposes.” I helped facilitate the opening of a dozen art spaces. I converted my 1975 GMC pick up truck to run on wood gas (page 66) in a weekend. Made of junk, runs on garbage. Soon to run on coffee grinds: the Café Racer. Alternative energy is easier then it sounds.

Me and my dog have invested all our time, attention & money for a decade to make this city the interesting, whimsical, adventure-filled place I want it to be, and that I know so many people came here to participate in.

Watching it turn into a NIMBY suburb isn’t on the menu. It’s unacceptable. You may agree with me. As Mayor I will protect and promote the superior city that San Francisco can be.

People tell me this is impossible. You can never be mayor without support from the big developers or the city’s richest denizens. But throughout my life I’ve been doing impossible things, and most of them have been fabulously successful. And great fun! From running an amateur punk rock circus to getting Burning Man off the ground as a viable business to running a successful performance venue in San Francisco dedicated to all the arts that no other venue would touch. I am the man who beat City Tow out of 50 million dollars. I got a million stories. I’ll tell ‘em to ya later.
Stay with me, here….

The impossible is what I do, is what I’ve always done. But I can’t vote myself into the Mayor’s office. For that I need you. To the point: 10,000 signatures on old-school sheets of paper that all have to be done exactly right, each with ten totally legitimate names and addresses of bona fide registered voters in San Francisco, the city of Art and Innovation. If one name is wrong, the whole sheet gets thrown out. It’s complicated stuff, this politics. They don’t make it easy to do what I’m doing here. But that’s OK, getting a truck to run on garbage wasn’t easy either. Fighting for 10 years to generate more Units of Interesting in San Francisco wasn’t easy. None of it’s easy. But it all gets done. Of course it does. I’m not fuckin’ around. I’m a 100% guy. If I say I’m gonna do something, that’s exactly what happens. We only have our word. Without it, I am as bad as a politician.

I am not a politician.

But I am man with some idea about how this great city should operate. My platform is heavy on power generation and waste. And of course Innovation & Art. But these are things to roll out later. When I’m a candidate. Right now I need to pull together 10,000 signatures. And I defiantly need help. We have only collected like 2,000. It’s harder than it sounds. I am committing to run: to duel to the death!!! I’d like it if 80 of you could commit to getting 100 signatures by the 25th. Here’s what you do: print 20 copies of these forms ON 10 SHEETS OF PAPER: DOCUMENT 1 ON THE FRONT, DOCUMENT 2 ON THE BACK. Print them out, have registered voters sign them. They can only sign for one candidate per election. Drop me a line and I’ll come to your house and collect them and clean your toilet. We only have 2 weeks. 14 days. Here are the docs:

Front of fancy official document
back of fancy official document

Here is a link to my mailing list

Here is a link to today’s New York Times article. I talked to this reporter for an hour and forty-five minutes. Told her all my great ideas. A dozen hilarious jokes. This is what the American people got.
Go read it, and see what I’m up against here….

Thanks for your support. There is no reason why we can’t win.

Chicken John July 11, 2007

“Success is measured by the enthusiasm with which you move from one failure to the next.” Winston Churchill


24 Responses to “City of Art and Innovation”

  1. 1 Tom Price

    If he can work over city hall with the same vision and innovation he can work over a 1974 chevy, and get it to run on garbage, well that works we’ll enough for me, and he’s got my vote!

  2. 2 Nisi

    Thanks to you, this ritual gauntlet will be somewhat humanized. I wish you the best!

  3. 3 Alita

    Go Chicken go! We’re rooting for ya.

  4. 4 JR

    A disastrous Muni, outrageous housing costs, crime, a police force with issues, and a serious homeless problem. Yeah, that’s what this city needs from its mayor: whimsy. Units of Interesting are all well and good but not everyone in this town is a Mission “artist” (or a Pac Heights tech millionaire and a Marina daytrader for that matter). If you’re serious about even getting on the ballot, give us legitimate reasons to vote for you and an actual platform, otherwise, stay back at the “amateur punk rock circus.”

  5. 5 Ori

    I love that anecdote about the space pen but its actually an urban myth:

    Just letting you know before your opponents exploit it 🙂

  6. JR said:
    “A disastrous Muni, outrageous housing costs, crime, a police force with issues, and a serious homeless problem. Yeah, that’s what this city needs from its mayor: whimsy…”

    My words to date are only to give you an idea of who I am, where I am from… I haven’t as of yet asked for any votes. I’ve only asked for help to get on the ballot. My past has nothing to do with a lot of issues you talk about, because I’m not a politicain. They are good questions. If afforded the opportunity to get on the ballot I will answer them. But for now before I’m a candidate I’m only doing this. My platform is innovation and art. I made a truck that runs on garbage. Your dismissive tone is noted, shared and actually coveted. I’m with ya. I’m doing what I can. I hope you can find room in your disgust to see a guy trying to do good work.

  7. Ori said,

    “I love that anecdote about the space pen but its actually an urban myth”

    Oh yea!!!! Prove it!!!!

  8. 8 JR

    Sorry, I sounded harsher than intended. I’m not disgusted, and I appreciate what you bring to the table, but I was just hoping to come here and find some real-world solutions to the real-world problems that this city faces.

  9. 9 Grenadine

    John, I am so delighted that you are trying to run for Mayor. I have 5 signatures on a petition for you already. I have to leave town before the July 25th deadline, but I hope to have at least one full petition to contribute. Just in casers, though, will they accept petitions with less than 10 signatures?

  10. Chicken,

    You make me miss San Fran. I’d almost consider moving back just to vote for you, but I’m busy working on LA.


  11. 11 spy

    JR, real world solutions? are you kidding?
    ya, i want that too.
    and a unicorn.
    i also want to be able to trust someone in public office.
    haven’t you heard the “soloutions” before?
    all the political promises that least offends any potential voters.
    chicken offends everybody.
    why? because he is real.

  12. 12 Roy from the Sunset

    Hey John, good luck to you. I grew up in the City, I miis it…. you will do fine… run, get your signatures, get on the ballot… hit everyone you ever met, all there friends…. sit at the turnstyle at Powell and Market and stick the clipboard in there face, do whatever it takes… San Francisco has had a couple of good Mayors… Christopher was my man… We need leadership, and sewers, and water pipes, and paved roads, and business, we need new business…. And a playground in every neighborhood…. and on and on
    I moved from the City, I am trying to help a community become a town…. We had our first ballot measure, independance from the county as a special district (water sewer and fire)… We are now working on gaining control of the roads… My goal is to be the first Mayor… kind of a long road but probably swifter than trying in the City… Again Good Luck…. Roy

  13. 13 Rachel Weidinger


    Yes, they will accept petitions with less than 10 signatures. Just make super sure your sheet is double-sided and you fill out the signature-gatherer bits at the top and bottom.

    a Bureaucracy Nerd

  14. Hello,

    If you were elected Mayor, what would you do? I mean, besides like going to meetings and giving out Golden Keys and stuff? Like, why should I care that some guy who can make a truck run on garbage is running for mayor? We already have a shmuck in the office already, and I’m really just interested if somebody is going to come along with some ideas about how to make my city better, right? So, what would you do?

    If you can answer that, you’ll get more people willing to do petitions, I think.

    Best of Luck.


  15. 15 Tracy

    A lot of energy is already being put into pinning down John Rinaldi as the “zany” candidate. I have not seen seen such an effort to emasculate a political hopeful since Fox News went after -well- everybody not G.W. Bush.

    And Mr. Rinaldi isn’t even on the ballot yet. Should this set off alarm bells?

    To quote Ice cream Innovators, Ben and Jerry, when they were being unfairly hassled by the status-quo Pillsbury Corp. “What’s the doughboy afraid of?”

    What indeed?

    Do yourselves a favor and allow this man a chance to run. He could easily buy his way into this race, but instead he chooses to collect 10,000 signatures. That is a statement in itself. He might bring some unexpected integrity to the process. If you don’t give him the chance, we will never know.

  16. 16 Allen

    Ori said,

    “I love that anecdote about the space pen but its actually an urban myth”

    Oh yea!!!! Prove it!!!!

    OK, if you want a reliable source, how about Scientific American

    Or, just google “nasa space pen” or “fisher space pen” to learn more.

    Using such a ridiculous story as part of your campaign will come back to haunt you. Why don’t you claim that we never really landed on the moon or that there are aliens in New Mexico.

  17. That you won’t even break down and google “russian space pen” shows that you are one of the many San Franciscan’s that need a lesson in whimsy. The Russian Space Pen story is a great one. If you chose to beleive some internet site and don’t want to be available to the high truth of the tone of this story, then so be it. I hope that you know that the Russians used a pencil still gets me to think better, even 20 years after I heard the story. Who cares if it’s true, it’s just a lesson in a way of thinking. If it is, indeed, untrue… I see this as a victomless crime. One that is only causing a few ninny’s excuse to wriggle slightly in their seats. But we as a city, need to be available to an easier thinking. One that will demonstrate better results. A way of thinking that champions innovation instead of wealth and mediocrity. We, as a city, need to just use a pencil.

    And by the way, if ya got a better story send it to me. The Han Christian Anderson story won’t work here. Boys don’t wear short pants anymore.

  18. Dannyman said:

    “I’m really just interested if somebody is going to come along with some ideas about how to make my city better, right? So, what would you do?”

    Well since I’m not a candidate yet, I didn’t want to roll out my platform and stuff. I just thought that would be the prudent thing to do. My platform is “Art for all purposes”. It’s kinda about how art ties into everything. And how affiliatiing with it makes things work. Like the attraction theory. I can’t do it a long thing here. I have information that may lead you to beleive that I can assemble a group of innovative thinkers that will turn SF around and be a place that we can be proud of. I’m not overjoyed with SF at this time. Our city is looking more and more like a suburb. More traffic. More cars. More condos. And less art. Small business’ are leaving. There is less than 3% blacks. We are becoming a city of very rich and working class. It’s distastefull. Our progressive leaders are pussies and only wanna run for Mayor if they think they can win. Intergiry seems at an all time low. But I’m inspired to turn it around. How fun! Stay with me, you may be interested in what I have to say. I can impliment as well as talk. And I do windows.

  19. 19 Grenadine

    I have some petitions to send you, John. Just a couple, but all quality signatures that will pass muster, and doesn’t every little bit help? I can mail them to you — send info?

  20. 20 Tex

    Maybe I’m too new here…just getting somewhat settled after only a few months.
    However, I CAME here from suburbia with NO knowledge of San Francisco beyond what the interwebs and heresay told me.
    One of the best things that happened to me was meeting Chicken John.
    After only having “known” him for, again, a short period…I’ve gotta say that he’s the real deal.

    I’m 40, he’s 39 and, unbeknownst to him, we have a LOT in common.
    I’ve been around many people like the ones who are already giving him a hard time about running (do nuthin’ whiners) and I’m here to tell you that SF residents have a JEWEL in John’s “whimsy”

    My life has been spent on the fringes of urbanity and I grew up in primarily suburban areas. Being here has shown me that urban environments CAN exist and sustain themselves if they are CARED for, which is what John is preaching.
    How many of you spent most of your life in suburbia? Or outside this city?
    Go over the Emeryville, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, Tracy, etc.
    Drive over (hell, take the BART) and spend a few hours to get a reminder as to what SF could become if it continues on it’s current path.
    Come down to the Mission…corner of 21st and gaze at the Marina whitebreads at Medjool and wonder at HOW-IN-GOD’S-NAME a spot like that got approval to build in the middle of that unique and significant area.
    For giggles, go roam Valencia while you’re down near there and look at the shops that have popped up recently…WTF?
    Got time? Take a cab over to the outskirts of Chinatown, meet the working class there, see how they live and just remember how GOOD you have it in your city.
    I could go on. SF exists in it’s own little bubble..I’ve explored ALL over in the few months I’ve been here and VS. the REST of America-at-large..anyone bitching about problems here should move out…now.
    Really, you’ll enjoy the rest of the country! They need you!
    If you’re too myopic to appreciate this city, then I’m not..let me know what your rent is and if you’re still fortunate enough to have a good lease, then I’ll take it over and you can get the hell out.
    I moved here from the hellhole of Colorado Springs, CO and all anyone here needs to do is go there and try to find 1/100th of what SF has to offer, then you’ll know why someone like Chicken is a reasonable alternative to the current administration.
    Want to look into the rest of the country (or a damn close approximation of the general lack of arts in the USA?)
    Check out the Colorado Springs “progressive” blog where the couple dozen techsavvy types hang out, then come back to San Francisco sites:

    I’ll look for comments (or not) and I’ll be out later this week getting John some (well deserved) signatures.

  21. 21 dawn

    sooooo, if that’s the JR I know, he doesn’t even live in SF. He just earns money from here to spend elsewhere (unless he’s in a bar). Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. B, and donate to the campaign when Chicken gets on the ballot. Then challenge him on the ‘issues’ all you want. BTW, what’s the last thing you did for, well…anyone?

  1. 1 Laughing Squid » Chicken John Launches Campaign Blog:
  2. 2 » Blog Archive » Parallel Politics part 2
  3. 3 VentureBeat » Chicken John, tech counterculture candidate for SF mayor

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