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SF Supe Sheehy Looks Back on 1st Year

by Matthew S. Bajko

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy  (Source:Kelly Sullivan)

Saturday morning longtime medical marijuana advocate Jeff Sheehy was up early to mark the start of recreational sales of the drug in San Francisco. He helped usher in the historic moment at the Apothecarium, a dispensary in the city's gay Castro district.

It was the culmination of months of work for Sheehy, who as the appointed District 8 supervisor took a lead role at City Hall in pushing for the adoption of rules and regulations required before the sale of marijuana for recreational use could legally begin in the city. At moments during the - oftentimes heated - debate over the issue, it was unclear if the supervisors would be able to hatch out an agreement in time for sales to begin in January, as in many cities around the state the new rules took effect January 1.

"It is a great first step," Sheehy, the first person living with HIV to serve on the board, told the Bay Area Reporter during an interview in his supervisor office shortly before the end of the year.

The extended debate over the issue resulted in many other matters he had hoped to tackle in the fall get pushed to the back burner.

"I lost so much time on cannabis," said Sheehy, who expects to continue to tackle the issue this year as local leaders work to iron out remaining concerns, such as where consumption should be allowed and if there should be a special city commission on cannabis.

It is an idea Sheehy remains undecided on and questions if the marijuana industry should be treated separately from other adult-oriented businesses like nightlife venues and liquor stores. The feedback he has gotten from cannabis businesses is they don't want to pay for the oversight body.

"I personally haven't made up my mind. I want to hear from the stakeholders," said Sheehy. "The philosophical question is how do we want cannabis to evolve."

One priority in the new year for Sheehy is working with District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen to move forward with naming Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport after gay icon and former city supervisor Harvey Milk, the first LGBT person to win elective office in San Francisco and California. Ronen introduced the legislation last summer and expects it to be taken up by the board in the coming weeks.

"I am hopeful we will move forward," Sheehy said.

Another top legislative goal is to grant tenant rights groups the legal authority to go after property owners who unlawfully utilize the city's owner move-in laws to evict tenants from rent-controlled units in order to secure higher rents.

"They will be able to take the lead to restore the tenant in the unit at the price they were paying prior," said Sheehy.

He will continue to push for the city to open a Navigation Center designated for homeless youth, almost half of whom identify as LGBTQ. As for where it will be located, Sheehy said no one has brought to him a suitable location in the city, though he remains open to the possibility of having it in District 8.

Looking back over 2017, Sheehy described it as "challenging, inspiring, and poignant." The challenges were mostly due to the policies of President Donald Trump, he said, while he drew inspiration from the city's unifying against the administration.

The culmination of his first year on the board ended on a sad note with the sudden death of Mayor Ed Lee on December 12. The two had become close over the last 12 months, often meeting over a meal at their neighborhood diner Tyger's in Glen Park, and Sheehy said he will "miss him terribly."

"I think the mayor was under-appreciated," said Sheehy. "He was a kind and noble man who was doing this for the right reasons and he cared deeply about every San Franciscan."

He also ended the year by saying goodbye to his two top aides, Justin Jones, who moved to the East Coast with his wife, and Bill Barnes, a gay man who was a former AIDS czar for former mayor Willie Brown. Barnes agreed to work for Sheehy throughout 2017 and then return to his job as a top staffer for City Administrator Naomi Kelly.

This month Sheehy brought on Martin Fatooh, who had been working on security for the San Francisco 49ers football team and was a campaign aide in 2016 for Ben Matranga in the District 7 supervisor race, and Koledon Lambright, who was a trans employment program associate at the LGBT Community Center. They join Megan Hamilton, who was hired last year by Sheehy as a legislative aide and last month took her oath as an attorney.

June Election Campaign

It was a year ago this month when Lee tapped Sheehy to serve out the remainder of gay moderate former supervisor Scott Wiener's term, as he resigned two years into his second term representing District 8 after being elected to the state Senate in November 2016.

Sheehy made his bid to retain his board seat official last Friday, when he filed for the June 5 election to serve out the remainder of Wiener's term through early January of 2019. He told the B.A.R. he likely would have an official kick-off event later this month.

"I care what happens to people. This is not my career; I came into it to help people," said Sheehy, 60, who had been the spokesman for UCSF's AIDS Research Institute.

He pointed to a number of policies he helped enact, from passing first-of-its-kind legislation to require meat producers to report the antibiotics they use, securing millions of dollars in city funding to tackle youth homelessness and backfill federal cuts to HIV programs, and making it harder for bicycle thieves to openly sell their stolen goods on the street as for why he has earned the right to ask voters of the district to keep him on as supervisor.

"It would not have been fair to ask voters for their support if I had not been productive," said Sheehy, a married father with a daughter enrolled in public school.

His main opponent is Rafael Mandelman, 44, who filed his paperwork Tuesday morning for the June race, which will now also share the ballot with the special election for mayor. In that race, former District 8 supervisor Mark Leno, who went on to be one of the first gay men elected to the state Assembly and then the first gay man to serve in the state Senate, is one of eight people running.

It is the second time Mandelman has sought the District 8 seat, having lost to Wiener in 2010. Asked if he was concerned that the mayoral election would overshadow the supervisorial race, Mandelman said he was looking forward to being on the same ballot as Leno, who has endorsed him for supervisor.

An early supporter of Leno's mayoral bid, Mandelman noted that Leno remains "enormously popular" in the district and "will make a great mayor." Their running at the same time bolsters his own bid for the board seat, added Mandelman.

"We have done a lot of work over the last six months and have window signs up throughout the district," said Mandelman, a gay man who serves on the board that oversees City College of San Francisco. "District 8 voters are savvy enough to think about more than one race at a time, and we are in a great position going into these last five months."

Sheehy and Mandelman are expected to twice compete for the board seat this year. No matter the outcome of the June race, they have both pulled papers to run for a full four-year term on the November ballot.


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