Editorial: B.A.R. San Francisco supervisor recommendations
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The Bay Area Reporter is making the following recommendations in this year's San Francisco Board of Supervisors races.
District 1: Connie Chan
A first-generation immigrant who came to San Francisco from Hong Kong with her single mom and brother, Connie Chan wrote in her B.A.R. candidate questionnaire that the city gave her family a new start. "Now, I want to give San Francisco a New Start to protect working people in our city," she wrote. Her plan includes building more affordable housing and keeping people housed. She supports a Navigation Center in D1 and pointed out that the Richmond district has not received its share of city resources despite a growing homeless population.
It's on police reform, however, that Chan has solid proposals. This includes restructuring the role of police officers in communities so they will not be involved with homeless sweeps, mental health and wellness calls, or behavioral discipline for students. She supports Mayor London Breed's proposal to end having police respond to non-criminal activity. And she wants the state Legislature to reform the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to mandate implicit bias training and stop the hiring, retention, and promotion of officers who fail the testing for such bias.
Chan's New Start plan also addresses life in the COVID world; specifically, she wants to leverage state and federal funds to support job retraining and assistance for small businesses.
We had one additional question for Chan. When she was a spokeswoman for Rec and Park and City College, we didn't always get timely or accurate information or received some pushback from her. "I worked to provide accurate and timely responses to members of the media, understanding there were sometimes instances where we disagreed on implications of policy established by the agency I worked for," Chan wrote. "As a supervisor, my office will respond to media requests as timely and accurately as possible. I also fully support members of the media utilizing sunshine and other open government requests to verify information as they feel necessary."
Chan, an ally to the LGBTQ community, supplied the most detailed answers to our questions among the district candidates who responded, and has broad support in this race. We endorse her for District 1 supervisor.
District 3: Aaron Peskin
Aaron Peskin is running for his fourth and final full term (non-consecutive) and is expected to easily win his race. He wrote in his questionnaire that he finally won approval for a Navigation Center in D3, at 888 Post Street, which will provide workforce development opportunities for transitional-age youth.
On the issue of policing, Peskin wrote, "We are living through a profound moment of real and potential transformation in this country ... where generations of racist systems stand to be radically transformed... ." He continued that he recognizes the historic disparate impact of law enforcement on minority groups, including Black, Brown, and LGBTQ people, particularly trans women of color. "It wasn't that long ago that law enforcement disparately targeted AIDS and HIV-positive patients seeking medicine at Dennis Peron's Cannabis Buyers' Club," he added.
Peskin also wants to work with Chinatown residents to conduct culturally sensitive and multilingual outreach; the community has experienced multiple high-profile, racially-motivated attacks.
Peskin noted that income inequality and housing unaffordability have only been magnified by the pandemic. The city must recommit to policies to keep tenants in their homes and businesses in their storefronts, he explained. "We will extend eviction moratoria for as long as it takes," he wrote, "and dealing with the back rent as our neighbors and businesses attempt to recover must be a high priority."
Peskin has long been an ally to the LGBTQ community and we endorse him for this final term.
District 5: Dean Preston
We did not recommend Dean Preston last year, when he won a special election to fill the term of former supervisor-turned-mayor London Breed. But he has worked hard for his constituents and fought for the rights of tenants adversely affected by COVID-19. Over the past year, he has stood with Black Lives Matter protesters, as he has for years, he wrote, and helped ban the police from applying the knee to neck chokehold that killed George Floyd. "I authored legislation that permanently protects anyone from ever getting evicted for rent they missed during the state of emergency because of the financial impact of coronavirus, pushed the city to house homeless people in hotels, opened San Francisco's second safe sleeping site, [and] successfully stopped Muni fare increases for the next two years," he wrote. He helped establish car-free slow streets around D5 and the Fell Street bike lane.
Preston supports a Navigation Center in his district, and related that he had convened a meeting at which there was overwhelming support for one. Several sites have been identified, but the pandemic has delayed the process.
Preston wrote that he is a strong supporter of defunding the police, by which he means replacing them with unarmed trained professionals to handle homelessness, traffic violations, and mental health calls. He said that funds should be redirected from the police and prisons to social services that aid San Francisco's Black and Brown communities.
Preston has ably represented his district and voters should return him for a full term.
District 7: Myrna Melgar
Former planning commissioner Myrna Melgar submitted impressive responses.
Melgar said that she supports the package of police reforms that was put forward by MegaBlack SF, a coalition of Black organizations and community leaders "because I think self-determination by the communities that are most affected is key to this process of change that we are just beginning," she wrote. She hopes that the Latino, Asian, immigrant, and trans communities get actively involved.
While Melgar was cool to the idea of a Navigation Center in D7, she did state that she supports a safe parking site in the district, so that homeless people living in cars or RVs have a place to park for the night. This seems an effective way to start addressing the issue in her district, and she wrote that she would work to secure a site that includes wraparound services.
On transportation, Melgar wrote that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's budget needs to be restructured to diminish its dependence on fees and that all routes should be fully restored. District 7 is farther away from downtown and many people depend on public transportation, she noted.
Overall, Melgar is in tune with her district and has broad support. We recommend her in D7.
District 9: Hillary Ronen
We have not always agreed with Supervisor Hillary Ronen, but she certainly represents her constituents to the fullest, so much so that she is unopposed for reelection (almost unheard of in San Francisco politics). Ronen has been a strong ally to the LGBTQ community, and we particularly appreciate all the work she did on Harvey Milk Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport. She personally took reluctant airport officials to task to make sure the details of the terminal reflected the respect for Milk that was envisioned for a project of its scale.
There are many Navigation Centers and shelters in the Mission district, and Ronen is advocating for a shared sleeping site at 1515 South Van Ness. She wants to see the role of police limited to the greatest extent possible so that alternative structures and strategies can be safely implemented. And she wants reforms like bias training and limiting the use of force.
She wants to enact Mental Health SF, which she authored (a compromise was worked out with Breed to keep the issue off the ballot) that will "radically transform our mental health system and create the structures and placements necessary to make conservatorships successful when they are needed and appropriate," she wrote.
We look forward to having an ally like Ronen continue on the Board of Supervisors.
District 11: Ahsha Safaí
We endorsed Ahsha Safaí four years ago and he has been a good ally to the LGBTQ community. He has worked to revitalize District 11 by restoring Rec and Park facilities including Merced Heights, Alice Chalmers, and the Geneva Car Barn; improving pedestrian safety; and procuring thousands of masks and other personal protective equipment for frontline workers and fighting to open a testing site accessible to D11 residents in response to the coronavirus.
Safaí supports Navigation Centers and volunteered his district to house a Vehicle Triage Center, which provides shelter, food, and services for those living in their vehicles.
On policing, Safaí wrote that he is "fully committed" to reallocating funding from police to community-based organizations that uplift and support low-income communities. He also supports MegaBlack SF's proposal for $120 million to be redirected from the police department into the Black community and Black-led organizations and businesses. He co-signed and voted for legislation to close Juvenile Hall by 2021.
Safaí co-sponsored legislation that created the Transgender District in the Tenderloin.
He mentioned that the city needs to do a better job of appointing LGBTQ individuals to city boards and commissions and noted that in 2019, just 5% of commissioners self-identified as transgender. We definitely agree with that.
Safaí deserves to be reelected so that he can continue serving his constituents.