Editorial: Now the hard work begins

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday July 11, 2018
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London Breed's inauguration Wednesday as San Francisco's 45th mayor was a celebratory affair. Since her election last month, Breed has pledged to unify the city and is looking to the future. She has said that her top priorities will be addressing the mental health and housing crises. We're glad she and newly sworn in gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman went to Sacramento last week to testify in support of Senate Bill 1045 (introduced by gay state Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco), which would give San Francisco and Los Angeles more local control over conservatorship laws. Mandelman and Breed occupy different positions on the Democratic-progressive spectrum, so it was refreshing to see them working together before either took office. We hope the spirit of cooperation continues.

Combatting homelessness will not be solved by removing tent encampments, although that approach is high on Breed's agenda. Services or other housing alternatives must be provided for these people. Some of those with mental health issues could be helped by conservatorship laws. Queer youth will require a different approach. During the campaign, Breed proposed a host home program whereby adults volunteer to take in homeless youth as a possible solution that, while it wouldn't help everyone, bears attempting. The LGBT Community Center has submitted a grant proposal to the Housing and Urban Development Department for such a program. A similar one run by Avenues for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis was brought to Breed's attention by a former staffer. It was something "I thought was a really great idea and could be potentially a program we could implement here," Breed told us this spring during an editorial board meeting. "And if successful, could be a great opportunity for housing for some of our homeless youth."

She also talked about a Navigation Center targeting LGBTQ youth. However, she pointed out it would take more time to identify a location and build services. We'd like to see Breed make this a priority for her homeless plan, as queer youth make up nearly half of the homeless youth population here.

When we met with Breed, we asked her if she would commit to appointing at least one LGBT person to every city board and commission. "I am definitely open to that for sure," she told us. "I just think that it is important there is LGBT representation, there is diverse representation on our boards and commissions." That's important, because the community has lost representation on the powerful Port Commission, where there are no out members since lesbian former supervisor Leslie Katz was unceremoniously dumped by former mayor Mark Farrell back in May. And the city's Police Commission, another high-profile panel, is down to one out member - lesbian Petra De Jesus - after the retirement (and subsequent death) of Commissioner Julius Turman. We would like to see another out person on that body, because the San Francisco Police Department continues to struggle with officers who need more training on LGBT issues, especially regarding interactions with trans and nonbinary people.

Getting a safe injection site open - where people use drugs under supervision and off the streets -is also on Breed's to-do list. Breed has been an outspoken advocate of the program since she changed her opinion of it, which, by the way, is a sign of leadership. There are challenges related to state law, but we're confident that Breed and our state representatives can work something out.

"And as you know, I am fearless," Breed said. "I just don't do this job in fear of losing it. I just care about making San Francisco a better place."

She will need that fearlessness - and more - to tackle the city's problems. And we hope that she continues to enjoy residents' good will so she'll have the political capital to succeed.

Thanks, Supervisor Sheehy

Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy's tenure ended with his last board meeting Tuesday. Sheehy, who was the board's first known person living with HIV, was appointed by the late mayor Ed Lee to replace Scott Wiener, a gay man who won election to the state Senate. Sheehy didn't win election last month, but in the year and a half that he served, he was a staunch advocate for HIV/AIDS funding, including fully funding Getting to Zero, the city's ambitious program to eliminate new HIV transmissions in the city.

Another of his priorities was securing additional funds to help homeless LGBTQ youth, including additional services at the LGBT Community Center.

And, he worked with District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen on getting board approval to rename Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport after the late gay supervisor Harvey Milk.

In short, Sheehy enjoyed a productive time on the board, securing services for his district and holding public safety meetings to address car-break-ins and the shooting at Mission-Dolores Park.

This was only his most recent role in community service, after many years of political and HIV/AIDS activism. We're sure he'll continue to work for the benefit of San Francisco and the LGBT community. We thank him for his service.