Activists and City Leaders Rally for the Next Generation

by Ben Malley on May 14, 2007

In an October 2005 survey prepared by the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University, nearly half of the families with preschool aged children interviewed stated their intent to move out of San Francisco within three years. The three major issues of concern were (a) lack of affordable housing, (b) concern over public safety and (c) the state of the public education system.

In response to this crisis, San Francisco families and political leaders gathered Saturday to support Coleman Advocates’ “Next Generation” campaign. The campaign addresses the three problem areas that parents in the survey identified. It calls for – by the year 2011 – doubling the current affordable housing plan from 1,550 homes for families to 3,100, and for raising the level of school achievement to the point where at least 60 percent of students in all racial groups have the opportunity to attend college.

In San Francisco, less than one in five households have children, compared to one in three in Oakland. The city has the lowest child population (15 percent) of any major U.S. city. The enormous increase in housing prices in recent years has driven many families out of the city.

Among the bigger names at the rally were Mayor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Carole Migden and Supervisors Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, and Tom Ammiano. The names of city political leaders were written on a large sign on the side of the stage. Each name had a box next to it, where a check mark would be placed if the person was in favor of the Next Generation agenda.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said he was “yes absolutely” in favor of the agenda and that, “the city can do a better job on affordable housing and education.” He then walked over to the sign and put a check mark next to his name. Newsom recalled his time growing up in San Francisco and described how families moved out of the city, saying he didn’t want to see it happen again.

In the middle of Newsom’s speech, a huge gust of wind blew a large tent completely over and knocked out the speaker system.

And unluckily enough for the Mayor, it was Chris Daly who spoke next. He attributed the sudden gust of wind to all of the “hot air” coming out of the Mayor’s Office, and proceeded to hold up a letter from the Mayor announcing his Friday night veto of a $28 million affordable housing supplemental to the current budget.

“It’s hypocrisy for him to stand up here and say he supports this affordable housing plan when just last night he rejected this,” Daly said. “The white flight of the 1960s is qualitatively a different thing than working class families of all races being forced out due to gentrification.”

Daly went on to promote his June 2 “Progressive Conference” saying that if this Mayor doesn’t care about things like affordable housing and keeping San Francisco a diverse place, we’ll find someone who will.

As Daly continued to rip into the mayor, Newsom stood to the side of the stage with his back to Daly, posing for pictures and shaking hands with the diverse group of people who attended the rally – a diversity that Daly says is disappearing from the city.

When asked to respond to Daly’s comments, an obviously frustrated Newsom said “it isn’t worth responding to someone like Chris Daly who doesn’t understand the issues.”

Supervisor Mirkarimi said he would “move heaven and earth” to support the Next Generation agenda. He went on to address the disagreement over the upcoming budget not as a political battle, but as “our work to save families and keep them here in San Francisco.”

Coleman Advocate’s Development and Communications Director Ingrid Gonzales said the rally was a “great celebration for the last six months of hard work by all of the families and everyone involved with the organization.” She said that to have people like the Mayor and eight of the eleven Supervisors commit to the Next Generation agenda is obviously an incredibly positive thing.

Tom Jackson, Coleman’s Director of Organizing, said that on the affordable housing side of the Next Generation agenda, the plan has been to test the political will of doubling the family housing pipeline. Now that there is a large amount of support for the current plan, the focus will be shifted more towards re-zoning efforts in the City’s Eastern Neighborhoods.

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