Political Notebook: D1 Supervisor Fewer emerges as vocal Trump critic
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Transitioning from the city's elected school board to her District 1 seat on the Board of Supervisors has presented Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer quite the learning curve, the Richmond District resident readily admits.
"It's an odd job; it's a crazy job. I know nothing and all these people know more than me. There is a false sense of power you have," Fewer, 60, told the Bay Area Reporter during a recent editorial board meeting. "I am trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible."
Fewer emerged the winner in the November election after 10 rounds under the city's instant runoff voting system. With nearly 53 percent of the vote, she had bested her more moderate opponent, Marjan Philhour , to succeed Eric Mar , who was termed out of office and had endorsed Fewer in the race.
A fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, Fewer and her husband, John Fewer, a retired police officer, raised their three children, one of whom is gay, in the Richmond. In 2008, she first won her seat on the board that oversees the city's public school system and served until being elected to the supervisor seat covering the Richmond district.
The freshman board member has proved to be a quick study, using her position to tackle a wide array of controversial issues in her first three months at City Hall. Considered part of the five-member progressive minority on the board, Fewer has emerged as one of the more vocal opponents of President Donald Trump and his administration.
After she referred to Trump as "a psycho person" in late January following his order to strip funding from sanctuary cities, Fewer landed on Fox News and received scores of hate mail, though no death threats, she said.
Trump then rescinded protections for transgender students, which, said Fewer, was "just a step backwards. I can't believe such ignorance; it is horrible."
She supported the ordinance that bars city staffers and agencies from assisting with any national Muslim registry that Trump moves to create. Mayor Ed Lee signed the first-of-its-kind measure into law late last month, and individuals or nonprofits now have the right to sue if a city agency or employee violates it.
"It is heartbreaking when we have heard from the community the level of fear and Islamophobia already happening," said Fewer. "As an American, I just felt ... you feel so deeply embarrassed and ashamed that we would have to do this in our country, a country of immigrants."
With the Trump administration's crackdown on undocumented immigrants, Fewer fought hard to fund a new immigrant legal defense unit in the public defender's office in order to provide representation for immigrants detained through the San Francisco Immigration Court. While she fell short of her original staffing goal, her championing of the proposal led to a compromise between the board and mayor that funds the hiring this month of three new staff attorneys and one paralegal.
"With the new attorney general, it is very frightening," said Fewer, referring to Jeff Sessions, formerly a U.S. senator from Alabama, whom Trump tapped to be the nation's top law enforcement official.
She has also denounced efforts in Washington, D.C. to repeal the Affordable Care Act and has spoken out in favor of creating a single-payer health care system in California.
Last month, Fewer received unanimous support from her 10 board colleagues for a resolution calling on the city to divest its assets from any company helping to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been fiercely opposed by a number of Native American tribes, environmentalists, and others. The Trump administration reversed the actions former President Barack Obama took to block construction of the oil pipeline.
In terms of her district's most pressing needs, Fewer said it is affordable housing of all kinds. She would like to see housing for public school teachers be built in the Richmond and pointed out housing that is both affordable and accessible to seniors is also a growing concern.
Fewer has called for a hearing before the board on the city's program to acquire smaller sites for housing and is pushing to see a community land trust established in the Richmond that could purchase multi-unit apartment buildings and other housing so it is affordable in perpetuity. She expects it to soon close escrow on the first acquisition.
"We aren't a dense district," noted Fewer, referring to the modest-sized housing in the Richmond where few affordable housing developments have been built in recent years.
She has pledged that being supervisor will be her last foray in elected politics. Under the city's term limit rules, should she win re-election to another four-year term in 2020, Fewer will be termed out of office in early January 2025.
So far there has been little of the acrimony at City Hall seen in past years, except for a few heated policy fights. Fewer reasoned it is due to there being a common enemy for the board's moderates and progressives to focus on.
"We are all fighting Trump," she said. "We know there is a bigger evil out there. Let's lock arms and protect the city."
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on Equality California's 2016 scorecard of state legislators.
Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail email@example.com.