Running against an incumbent with a 10-year history on the Board of Supervisors takes brass. Green Party member Renee Saucedo says that’s exactly what District 9 needs. A longtime workers’ and immigrants’ rights activist, Saucedo hopes to replace Tom Ammiano and bring a more aggressive approach to social justice with her to City Hall. The four pillars of her community-based campaign are neighborhood health and safety, jobs, housing and youth.
Although Saucedo agrees with a number of Ammiano’s past decisions, she says its time for new energy and new interests to represent District 9, which includes the Mission and Bernal Heights.
“I do believe that term limits are healthy, particularly in local politics. It avoids political careerism,” Saucedo said. “Out of principle, [Ammiano] should allow new grassroots leadership to take the baton.”
As a youth and workers’ rights attorney, organizer for underrepresented groups and advocate for the city’s homeless and immigrant populations, Saucedo has had plenty of time to evaluate San Francisco’s relationship with its residents. And as a San Francisco native, Saucedo has the advantage of knowing her District’s history and ever-changing needs from firsthand experience.
Born in 1963 to a Mexican immigrant mother and a Mexican-American father, Saucedo’s hard work and supportive family led her to the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Political Science and, later, her law degree. Since then Saucedo has worked as a civil rights attorney and community organizer. She is now the Community Empowerment Coordinator at La Raza Legal, a non-profit civil rights law firm in the Mission, and the main organizer behind the San Francisco Day Labor Program, a non-profit program that matches day laborers with safe temporary jobs and fair pay.
Given her demonstrated dedication to District 9’s everyday working people and families, it’s not surprising that her campaign focuses on addressing their needs.
“I’ve been hearing complaints about neighborhood issues being neglected. So I want to focus on these day-to-day neighborhood issues,” Saucedo said. Many of these overlooked neighborhood issues, from dangerous traffic intersections to youth violence, would receive more attention if at least one city supervisor took immigrant needs seriously.
“San Francisco is 30 percent immigrant. It’s actually kind of shameful that we don’t have someone on the board with an immigrant agenda,” Saucedo explained.
In addition to addressing immigrant needs, Saucedo says, the wealthiest among us need to cough up a fair share of the dough before San Francisco neighborhoods will improve. That means more taxes for wealthy property owners and big businesses in order to bolster city revenue.
“It’s not necessary to take it to an extreme,” Saucedo said. “We’re talking about taking it to some kind of equality. The budget has been balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable, namely the poor.”
Much of Saucedo’s campaign addresses the problems of the city’s disenfranchised, many of whom are, as she admits, unlikely or unregistered voters. Not surprisingly, many of her staunchest supporters come from traditionally non-voting populations.
“If immigrants could vote, not to sound arrogant or anything, but this election would be much more of a slam dunk,” she said. Even though many District 9 inhabitants cannot vote, they still deserve adequate protection and care, Saucedo said. And immigrants seem to be taking notice. Already Saucedo counts campaign contributions from poor and immigrant donators, and said her campaign owes much of its leadership to non-voting immigrants.
In her twice-weekly precinct walks, Saucedo has noticed common complaints among many Mission residents. They want decent low-cost housing, more jobs for youth and adults and safer, cleaner streets so youth can grow-up responsibly.
“All of the issues [on the campaign agenda] came directly from the people. So it’s not about Renee thinking she knows best,” Saucedo said.
In her work as a youth attorney, Saucedo has put much of her time and energy into protecting young people and, even though she is not currently taking cases, her dedication has not waned. Just this year, she worked with a coalition to pass school board legislation preventing city police from arresting students facing school disciplinary action. After 9/11, Saucedo said, students as young as 14 were being handcuffed and carted away by the San Francisco Police Department for infractions as minor as bringing nail clippers to school.
As for her current youth agenda, Saucedo wants large businesses in the city to provide a certain number of jobs to the city’s youth each year. Additionally, San Francisco should adopt an alternative incarceration program similar to successful programs that have been implemented in Chicago and Santa Cruz County’s Watsonville. She also wants two youth centers, one in the Mission and the other near the Alameny public housing development.
“When young people don’t have options from the time they leave school to the time they go home, that’s when we need to provide a safe place for them to evolve,” she said.
While much of Saucedo’s past community organizing and work as an attorney has addressed the Latino community in particular, her campaign seeks to attract the rest of the diverse population living in District 9.
“This campaign transcends race. It is not about identity politics. But I think that my experience as a woman, as a person of color, I relate to people very well,” she said.
Of importance to all residents are traffic safety, pedestrian safety, public housing, health care and police accountability. To address housing concerns, consistently one of the San Francisco’s most contentious issues, Saucedo is calling for increased revenues to fund a Family Housing Fund for homeless families, the legalization of in-law units, a Housing Defense Fund for tenants facing eviction and expansion of existing housing programs like Shelter-Plus-Care.
Other highlights of her campaign include a push for universal healthcare, increased funding for mental health and substance abuse programs, enforcement of the San Francisco minimum wage law, the decriminalization of street vendors and the end to finger-printing and photographing people before they enter homeless shelters. Saucedo has high hopes and big plans for her native city, and she’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m not naive. I’m known to be persistent. These goals are definitely achievable as long as they’re given political priority,” Saucedo said.