San Francisco welcomes its 'dragon' mayor
by Matthew S. Bajko
Under the Chinese zodiac 2012 will mark the Year of the Dragon. The strongest of the 12 animals in Chinese astrology, the mystical creature is associated with personalities that are driven and unafraid to tackle thorny issues.
San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, whose birth in 1952 coincided with a previous Year of the Dragon, embraced those character traits during his inaugural speech after being sworn in January 8 as the city's 43rd mayor and first Chinese American to be elected to the post.
"The dragon is the most powerful of all animals in the Chinese zodiac. Therefore the Year of the Dragon is a time of confronting challenges, taking risks, and embracing innovation," said Lee. "I can think of no better time than this year, the Year of the Dragon, to take on the challenges we face together. Together, we will witness the unlimited power and potential of our people."
During his 25-minute speech Lee said his number one priority would be jobs and seeing the city's unemployment continue to fall. As of November it stood at 7.8 percent, a drop of 1.7 percent since Lee was sworn in as interim mayor in January 2011.
"I know you are tired of hearing me talk about it and some in the media have made fun of me for talking about it," joked Lee. "It will be my top priority every day I am your mayor."
He pledged to see that the city's major construction protects continue to move forward despite the state's gutting funds from local redevelopment agencies. Tuesday he introduced legislation with District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen to create a successor agency to ensure the Mission Bay, Hunters Point Shipyard, and Transbay Terminal projects move forward. Among those Lee nominated to serve on the new body is gay Planning Director John Rahaim.
District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, a bisexual Latina whom Lee appointed to the seat Monday, and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim are co-sponsors of the measure, which also calls on the city to develop new tools to finance affordable housing projects.
"You have my unwavering commitment we will make good on our promises from Hunters Point to Mission Bay to Central Market," said Lee on Sunday.
He also called for reforming the city's payroll tax structure and a new loan program targeting the city's small businesses.
"We can surely reaffirm our business tax structure to incentivize job creation not discourage it. Now is the time to get it done," said Lee. "Small businesses are the backbone of our vibrant economy and the backbone of our neighborhoods."
Attracting more biotechnology, high technology, and clean technology companies to the city is another top concern for the mayor. As is opening up markets overseas in Asia and in Latin America for San Francisco-based manufacturers to sell their wares so they can expand and hire more workers.
His guiding principles will be "jobs, community, and innovation," which Lee repeated several times during his speech. And he called on the city's political establishment to work together for the good of the city.
"We all have one boss – the people of San Francisco – and they expect us to get things done," said Lee.
LGBT leaders who attended the ceremony said the mayor struck the right tone with his speech.
"I think we are all happy he is focusing on jobs. The Human Rights Commission has a very strong focus on creating jobs and helping small businesses. That is very important for the city," said Theresa Sparks, a transgender woman who serves at the pleasure of the mayor and hopes to remain in place at the HRC, which Lee once oversaw.
Castro business leader Steve Adams, who was elected president of the city's Small Business Commission this week, added, "jobs, jobs, jobs – that is the key."
Port Commissioner Leslie Katz, a former supervisor, said Lee has his priorities correct for the upcoming year.
"It shows his desire to bring the city together and move us forward," she said. "I think our community will be very pleased with having Mayor Lee in office."
Human Rights Commissioner Cecilia Chung, who served on the mayor's inaugural committee, said Lee signaled he plans to be "a collaborator" with his speech.
"He will bring some of his progressive activist vision into his administration," said Chung. "It sounds like the mayor has some big vision. It is a great indicator he is going to be the people's mayor."