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Editorial: Mandelman for SF board president

by BAR Editorial Board

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Photo: Courtesy Rafael Mandelman
District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. Photo: Courtesy Rafael Mandelman  

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will meet January 8 and, after elected and reelected members are sworn in, will choose a new board president. The person selected to preside over the board should be someone who can work with their colleagues as well as Mayor London Breed, because the city faces unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. We think that the person who is best equipped to do that is gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

It has been decades since the board had an out president — the last was former supervisor Tom Ammiano (1999-2003) and years before that, the late Harry Britt (1989-1991). Mandelman is currently the only out supervisor, a fact that he's lamented over the years, as elected LGBTQ officeholders have been decreasing in city government. But beyond representation, Mandelman has the temperament and skills to handle the job successfully. The board president makes committee assignments and is the leader of the city's legislative branch.

Mandelman will often align with the board's progressive majority, but also works closely with Breed on a number of issues. That ability is crucial as the city works to return to some semblance of normalcy when the pandemic ends. To be clear, it will likely be at least another year of hardship for many, both economically and health-wise. Small businesses have suffered this year, especially restaurants and bars. Other sectors such as gyms and personal care businesses like barbershops and salons have been hard-hit. The city has implemented numerous programs aimed at helping small businesses during this economic disaster, but too many people remain out of work. That, of course, leads to problems paying the rent.

As a member of the board's budget and finance committee, Mandelman has a deep understanding of the city's fiscal issues. And the supervisors are poised to continue such initiatives as eviction moratoriums and homeless services. The mayor, meanwhile, continues with various housing projects. Just last week Breed celebrated the grand opening of 96 new units of permanent affordable housing in the Mission district. Mandelman has been at the forefront promoting safe sleeping sites for the city's unhoused residents. He has advocated on behalf of HIV/AIDS issues, mental health services, and small businesses, among many others.

Mandelman won points with us during the recent dustup over advertising contracts for community-based newspapers. At a time when seven of his colleagues saw no problem excluding one paper because they disagreed with its coverage, Mandelman was one of the four board members to oppose that hideous anti-First Amendment decision. (The other supervisors came around a week later, but the point remains that several don't appreciate the paramount importance of free speech.) Mandelman's years as a trustee (and a stint as president) on the board that oversees City College of San Francisco have taught him the importance of pragmatic governance and that has served him well as a supervisor.

Mandelman's colleagues should seriously consider him for board president. San Francisco needs a city government that is united in overcoming myriad challenges of this health crisis. He works well with the state legislative leaders. In short, Mandelman gets along with people across political divides.

It all comes down to who can get six votes from their fellow supervisors. We urge board members to put their differences aside and pick a board president who can help shape the city as it enters this next stretch of the pandemic and beyond. Mandelman is that person.

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