Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 15 / 10 April 2014
 
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Wiener for District 8 supervisor

NEWS


Scott Wiener talks with a supporter at last weekend's Castro Street Fair. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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ADVERTISMENT

Of the San Francisco supervisor elections this year, the most difficult decision for us was District 8, which includes the Castro, Noe Valley, and Glen Park. All four candidates running are openly gay. All of them are smart. Three of them have long known and worked with each other. Yet, a choice must be made, and we recommend Scott Wiener.

Wiener, a deputy city attorney, impresses us with his track record of getting things done at the local level. He also has an edge because of his current position working as a deputy city attorney, which Wiener told us has given him a deep understanding of San Francisco government because he has to deal with virtually every city department. "I know in city government what works and what doesn't work," he told us. He'll need that knowledge as supervisor, because quite frankly the city has to balance its budget in tough economic times and everyone in the city family must be prepared to sacrifice. If you doubt that, take a look at the local ballot measures. (See below for our recommendations.)

Improvements are required at Muni, the city's pension system must be changed, and the police department is long overdue for modernization. On each of these issues, Wiener is ready to hit the ground running.

Wiener's experience includes two years as chairman of the San Francisco Democratic Party. When he was elected the local party chair, Wiener inherited an organization that was in debt and had no voter registration program or staff. He got the party back into the black and under his leadership the party registered 15,000 voters. He also served a two-year tenure as co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.

As a member of the national board of the Human Rights Campaign, Wiener spoke out early – and publicly – in support of a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 after HRC reneged on its pledge to support an inclusive ENDA.

Other community work includes co-founding Castro Community on Patrol in 2006 after a rash of rapes reported by gay men. Those volunteers continue to walk Castro streets on weekends and help police by alerting them to potential problems.

In short, Wiener has a track record that speaks to his commitment to the local community and his willingness to make tough decisions. One current example of that is his support of Proposition G, the "Fix Muni Now" measure. While Wiener has the backing of several labor organizations, he told us he is "willing to take heat from labor" over his support of Prop G, which would address salary and other employment issues for Muni operators.

That's a leadership position we want to see at City Hall.

Rebecca Prozan, second choice

Under ranked choice voting, people can select their top three candidates in the supervisor races, and our second choice in District 8 is Rebecca Prozan.

Prozan would be a good supervisor and knows the district and its constituents. She too has years of experience at the local level. She served under Mayor Willie Brown as his LGBT liaison and worked for Bevan Dufty both when he ran the Office of Neighborhood Services and as his legislative aide. She describes herself as a commonsense candidate who is "up the middle" in the district. She also served as a co-chair of the Alice Club for two years.

From her experience as an assistant district attorney, Prozan has a keen sense of the city's crime issues. She supports the city's sanctuary city policy, because, as she told us, undocumented people are not just suspects in crimes, they are also victims and witnesses. She sees a clear distinction between adults and juveniles. "My issue is making sure everyone has access to the criminal justice system," she said.

Prozan also supports Prop G and said that Muni must be made safer.

To gain control over the budget, Prozan would look at mid-management as a potential source for savings, because that's where staffing ballooned in good times, she said. Departments will have to "prove to me every dollar is spent as it should," she added.

One of our big issues is budget set-asides – ballot measures that set aside funding for a specific purpose. The practical problem is that the money can't be used for anything else when there are budget shortfalls. While neither Prozan nor Wiener said they would eliminate them, both said they would not want to create any new ones.

That's a step in the right direction.

Theresa Sparks in District 6

District 6, which includes South of Market and the Tenderloin and Polk Street areas, will get a new supervisor this year because Chris Daly is termed out. After a decade of Daly's tantrums and boorish behavior (though to his credit he did accomplish many good things, including housing projects and restoration of AIDS funding), many voters are ready for a change.

Among the more than dozen candidates running for the seat, we think Theresa Sparks is a good fit for the district. While some of her opponents have tried to paint her as the "conservative" in the race, nothing could be further from the truth. Sparks, currently the executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, is an out transgender woman who has a wide variety of experience – in business and government – that will enable her to quickly assume her new role on the board. A former CEO of Good Vibrations, Sparks knows what it takes to run a business and balance a budget. She also served as co-chair of the Alice Club.

Equally important is her public service work, most important of which was serving on the high-profile Police Commission and two terms as its president. In that capacity, she oversaw the hiring of Police Chief George Gasc—n, which involved numerous public hearings to solicit community comment about what residents wanted to see in a new chief. Sparks has a solid working relationship with Gasc—n and agrees with his reform efforts that are currently under way.

In another example of how Sparks can appeal to both progressives and moderates, Mayor Gavin Newsom supports her supervisorial bid. When she was elected Police Commission president, the mayor was not pleased that Sparks, who was appointed by the supervisors to the panel, secured the needed votes over his preferred candidate.

"I've tried to get beyond ideology," Sparks told us.

She's also someone who can compromise, and that is an art in politics. "I believe if you get 80 percent of what you want, it's a win," she said. "I think that's really required on the Board of Supervisors."

Sparks would be an asset on the board.

Janet Reilly in District 2

For voters in the Marina, Cow Hollow, and Pacific Heights areas of the city, we recommend Janet Reilly for supervisor. Reilly impresses us with her public service history and would bring her enthusiasm to the board and a commitment to health care. She is a solid ally of the LGBT community who supports marriage equality.

Currently, Reilly serves on the 19-member Golden Gate Bridge District, where she is in line to become president. That board, which includes members from as far north as Del Norte County on the California-Oregon border, manages to achieve consensus on many matters, Reilly said.

Four years ago, Reilly ran unsuccessfully for an Assembly seat here, advocating for health care reform. While she lost that election, she has remained committed to health care issues and co-founded Clinic By the Bay, a free health clinic for working families in the Excelsior District that just opened.

Reilly sees her decision to run for the board as an extension of her work and interest in local government. She has some smart ideas for tackling the budget and rebuilding San Francisco's economy.

Lynette Sweet in District 10

Another strong supporter of the LGBT community is Lynette Sweet, who has our endorsement in District 10. Sweet is currently a member of the BART board and worked hard in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant shooting to bring about changes in the BART Police Department. Real improvements were made, she told us, with regard to a new civilian review panel and a new police chief who was brought in from outside the department.

From her perspective as an African American, Sweet said she has always been in favor of equal rights for all people. "I don't like seeing anyone mistreated," she told us. But Sweet also chided the LGBT community for not reaching out enough to the black community during the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign. A lot of yes votes came out of the Bayview, she noted, and more outreach is needed.

Sweet sees jobs as the biggest issue in her district, where the unemployment rate is higher than average and "people have lost hope."

"My job as supervisor is that local hiring is a must," she said. "Not just local union members but also people who live in the district."

Public safety is also a top concern, as well as working with neighborhood groups on programs such as midnight basketball.

Sweet's experience on the BART board has taught her to build consensus and negotiate – two traits that are sorely needed on the Board of Supervisors.

Carmen Chu in District 4

Incumbent District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu is unopposed. She has proven to be a strong advocate of the LGBT community and our issues. We urge voters in that district to re-elect her to another term.

Oakland mayor – Rebecca Kaplan

Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan is our choice for Oakland mayor. In the last four years under Mayor Ron Dellums, the city has weathered one crisis after another and suffered from Dellums's hands-off leadership style. Kaplan, an out lesbian, brings knowledge and innovative ideas to a city that is in financial dire straits. Former state Senate leader Don Perata is the front-runner, but Oakland needs more than a famous political name this time around. City Councilwoman Jean Quan, another top candidate, recently flip-flopped on the parcel tax that she voted to put on the ballot. That's not the type of leadership Oakland needs.

Kaplan was elected citywide to the council two years ago. She will work with the city's labor unions and police to reform the pension system that is at the heart of Oakland's financial morass. We urge readers in the East Bay city to vote for Kaplan for mayor.

Judicial races – SF and Alameda counties

In May we endorsed out candidates Michael Nava for San Francisco Superior Court (Seat 15) and Victoria Kolakowski for Alameda County Superior Court (Seat 9). We continue to strongly support both candidates in their respective races. Both finished first in their primaries and both need voters to remember to cast their ballots in these important runoff contests.

Nava, a staff attorney to California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, is qualified to serve as a judge and has the strong support of the LGBT community. Because he is challenging a sitting judge, San Francisco's judicial community has come out against him. If elected, Nava would be the only openly gay Latino judge on the bench. San Francisco is fortunate to have many out judges, but it lacks out judges of color and Nava's election would add to the court's diversity.

In the East Bay, Kolakowski is qualified and currently serves as an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission. Alameda County, unlike San Francisco, has no publicly out judges that we know of, yet some cities in the county have large numbers of LGBT residents, especially Oakland and Berkeley. It is time for Alameda County's bench to begin to reflect the community it serves, and Kolakowski, an out transgender woman, would enhance the court with her experience, perspective, and temperament. She has a solid civil law background and record of community public service.

BALLOT MEASURE ENDORSEMENTS

SAN FRANCISCO PROPOSITIONS

Prop AA: Vehicle Registration Fee. YES .

This amends the city's Business and Tax Regulations Code to add $10 to the existing annual registration fee for vehicles registered in San Francisco to fund transportation projects such as street repairs and reconstruction (50 percent of fee revenue); pedestrian safety (25 percent); and transit reliability improvements (25 percent). This is a necessary fee to maintain needed infrastructure.

Prop A: Earthquake Retrofit Bond. YES.

This is a bond measure that would authorize the city to borrow up to $46,150,000 by issuing general obligation bonds to fund loans and grants to pay for seismic retrofitting of soft-story affordable housing and single-room occupancy buildings. It requires two-thirds majority vote to pass. It would be paid for by an increase in the property tax, 50 percent of which could be passed through from landlords to tenants. This would permit necessary seismic upgrades and repairs on some 2,800 soft-story buildings in San Francisco containing some 8,247 affordable housing units.

Prop B: City Retirement and Health Plans Reform. NO.

This charter amendment would increase city employee contributions to the retirement system, decrease the city's and other participating employers' share of contribution to the Health Service System, and change rules for arbitration proceedings about city collective bargaining agreements. We feel strongly that the city's current budget and financial situation is a mess that seriously needs reform. While we admire Public Defender Jeff Adachi's courage for tackling this sensitive issue at considerable political cost to himself, we do not feel that this proposition is the solution. The health care provision mandates city employees to pay 50 percent of the cost of dependent coverage, including domestic partners and foster children. While we read about department heads making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, many city employees, such as custodial and certain administrative workers, make closer to $40,000. This provision has the same cost impact on a lower salaried person as it does a higher salaried person, which could cost several thousand dollars a year, making it essentially impossible to afford health coverage. In our editorial board interviews with the various candidates for the Board of Supervisors, all are opposed to this measure due to its inordinate impact on lower waged employees. Yet, all agree to the necessity of pension and health care plan reforms and pledge to work for it. We are going to hold them to that promise.

Prop C: Mayoral Appearances at Board Meetings. NO.

This charter amendment would require the mayor to appear in person at one regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Supervisors each month to engage in formal policy discussions with the board. This grandstanding maneuver placed on the ballot by a majority of the board is a total waste of time. The mayor should be allowed to run the city, as we elected him to do. This will only feed the egos and insecurities of certain current members of the board without accomplishing anything substantive.

Prop D: Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections. YES.

This is a charter amendment that would allow any non-citizen resident of San Francisco who is the parent, legal guardian, or legally-recognized caregiver of a child living in the school district to vote for members of the Board of Education. Championed by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, this is a common sense approach to get parents more involved in their children's schooling. A number of other communities have adopted similar measures and have had good results. As nearly one third of the children in the school district have non-citizen parents or guardians, this is an important and necessary reform.

Prop E: Election Day Voter Registration. YES.

This charter amendment would establish "Election Day Voter Registration" specifically for municipal elections. Municipal elections that are not combined with federal or state elections have notoriously low voter turnout. This is a common sense measure to increase voter participation in local elections.

Prop F: Health Service Board Elections. YES.

This charter amendment would reduce the number of Health Service Board elections by shifting terms so that two members would be elected at the same time. Beginning in 2014, two elections would be held every five years, instead of four elections. This is a government efficiency measure intended to reduce the number of elections.

Prop G: Transit Operator Wages. YES.

Collectively, city employee unions made some $250 million in concessions to help solve the city's financial and budget crisis. The exception was the Muni operators union, which refused to participate in the process. As a consequence, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd led the successful effort to place Prop G on the ballot. Currently, the City Charter requires the Municipal Transportation Agency to pay Muni operators at least as much as the average salary of transit operators at the two highest paying similar transit systems in the country. Prop G would eliminate the formula for setting minimum Muni operator wages and would allow the MTA to set Muni operator wages and benefits through collective bargaining and binding arbitration. It also establishes rules for arbitration proceedings regarding MTA's transit employees, and makes other changes to terms of employment. All municipal employees and their unions need to help solve the city's budget crisis. Muni operators should not be an exception. 

Prop H: Local Elected Officials on Political Party Committees. YES.

This would prohibit elected city officials from serving on a political party county central committee. In San Francisco, the most influential central committee by far is the Democratic County Central Committee. Historically, the principal role of DCCC was to register voters and encourage voter turnout for Democrats. While the DCCC has always made endorsements, its principal role was in the trenches with the grassroots voters. Lately, it has become highly ideological and fractured. Its principal activity of late has been to try to influence elections between competing factions of Democrats. Having elected city officials on the DCCC has exacerbated the problem. This is a reform measure intended to return the DCCC to the grassroots where it belongs.

Prop I: Saturday Voting. YES.

This is a pilot program to create a Saturday Voting Fund to pay for operating polling places on the Saturday before the November 8, 2011 election. It would be funded solely by individuals and organizations. Following the election, the Department of Elections would prepare a report about Saturday voting that includes the effect on voter turnout, impact on working families, and educational benefits. This is another reform measure aimed at increasing participation in elections. We should see what the study shows.

Prop J: Hotel Tax Clarification and Temporary Increase. NO.

This proposal would increase the hotel tax 2 percent from 14 percent to 16 percent. Add this to the 1.5 percent Tourism Improvement District assessment and San Francisco's hotel tax and fees will be the highest in the United States. While a leisure traveler may not care about an increase in hotel tax, we are convinced that it would have a strong, negative effect on San Francisco's important convention business. All companies are cutting costs and keeping expenses as bare-boned as possible. For a medium or large convention, this increase will amount to tens of thousands of dollars. We have seen written threats by five large convention groups to cancel their conventions if this measure passes. So rather than resulting in more revenue for the city, it will amount to less. And it will cost jobs as well. The loopholes this proposition purports to close are all addressed by Prop K, which does not include a room tax increase.

Prop K: Hotel Tax Clarification and Definitions. YES.

This proposition closes two loopholes that have permitted avoidance of the hotel tax.  This would confirm that the hotel tax applies to the amount a guest pays to occupy a room and related charges, and that anyone collecting payment, including online booking services such as Travelocity and Expedia, must collect the tax on that amount and pay it to the city. Also, this proposition would prevent companies, such as airlines, who book rooms for long periods, from claiming the "permanent resident" exemption from the hotel tax. It keeps the hotel tax rate at 14 percent.

Prop L: Sitting or Lying on Sidewalks. YES.

Known as the Sit/Lie measure, this proposition came out of the neighborhoods, particularly the Haight. Residents and businesses alike complained that aggressive and disruptive behavior was harming businesses and the quality of life for residents and visitors. This proposition gives the police an additional tool that they feel they need in order to keep the neighborhoods safe and pleasant. We would be reluctant to support such a measure if it were in another community than San Francisco. However, we have confidence in Police Chief George Gasc—n, who strongly supports this measure, as well as the officers on the street who have undergone intensive sensitivity training to respect the diversity of cultures and lifestyles that thrive in San Francisco.

Prop M: Community Policing and Foot Patrols. NO.

Everyone is for community policing and more foot patrols, but that is not what this measure is about. It was put on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors to undermine the Sit/Lie measure, as it overrides Prop L even if Prop L passes. Currently, community policing and foot patrols are determined by the Police Department based on public safety needs. This is how it should be. Voters are not expected to have the expertise or knowledge to mandate where police resources should be deployed. That is why we have a professional police department to make and be responsible for these decisions.

Prop N: Real Property Transfer Tax. YES.

This is a necessary revenue measure that would increase the city tax on the sale of real estate of $5 million or more in San Francisco. It will mainly affect large, commercial transactions and perhaps a few homes out on Broadway's Gold Coast. It is a modest revenue measure that the city badly needs and imposed on those most able to pay.

Coming next week: Editorials explaining our position on state ballot measures and some of the major statewide candidates.

B.A.R. election endorsements

General election

Local races

San Francisco Supervisors

Dist. 2: Janet Reilly

Dist. 4: Carmen Chu

Dist. 6: Theresa Sparks

Dist. 8: Scott Wiener, first choice

             Rebecca Prozan, second choice

Dist. 10: Lynette Sweet

Assessor-Recorder

Phil Ting

Public Defender

Jeff Adachi

San Francisco Board of Education

Kim-Shree Maufas, Hydra Mendoza, Bill Barnes

San Francisco Community College Board

Anita Greer, John Rizzo, Lawrence Wong

BART Board, Dist. 8

James Fang

Judges

SF Superior Court

Seat 15: Michael Nava

Alameda County Superior Court

Seat 9: Victoria S. Kolakowski

CA Supreme Court

Retain Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Ming Chin and Carlos Moreno

Other races

Oakland Mayor: Rebecca Kaplan

Berkeley City Council, Dist. 7: Kriss Worthington

Campbell City Council: Evan Low, Rich Waterman

State races

Governor: Jerry Brown

Lt. Governor: Gavin Newsom

Attorney General: Kamala Harris

Secretary of State: Debra Bowen

Treasurer: Bill Lockyer

Controller: John Chiang

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson

Board of Equalization (District 1): Betty Yee

U.S. Senate: Barbara Boxer

State Senate (San Francisco)

Dist. 8: Leland Yee

State Assembly (San Francisco)

Dist. 12: Fiona Ma

Dist. 13: Tom Ammiano

State Senate (East Bay)

Dist. 10: Ellen Corbett

State Assembly (Regional)

Dist. 6: Jared Huffman

Dist. 7:  Michael Allen

Dist. 14: Nancy Skinner

Dist. 16: Sandre Swanson

Dist. 21: Rich Gordon

State Assembly (Southern California)

Dist. 44: Anthony Portantino

Dist. 46: John A. Perez

Dist. 50: Ricardo Lara

Dist. 53: Betsy Butler

Dist. 76: Toni Atkins

Congress (Bay Area)

Dist. 1: Mike Thompson

Dist. 6: Lynn Woolsey

Dist. 7: George Miller

Dist. 8: Nancy Pelosi

Dist. 9: Barbara Lee

Dist. 10: John Garamendi

Dist. 12: Jackie Speier

Dist. 13: Pete Stark

Dist. 14: Anna Eshoo

Dist. 15: Mike Honda

Dist. 16: Zoe Lofgren

Congress (Southern California)

Dist. 45: Steve Pougnet

Ballot measures

SAN FRANCISCO PROPS

Vote YES on AA, A, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, N

Vote NO on B, C, J, M

CALIFORNIA PROPOSITIONS

Vote YES on 19, 25

Vote NO on 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27

Remember to vote on November 2!






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