District 9 Candidates Discuss the Issues

by Ben Malley on April 4, 2007

Three (potential) candidates running for District 9 Supervisor in November 2008 discussed issues affecting residents at a Harvey Milk Club PAC meeting last night. The idea was not to have a candidates’ debate – but to have an issue-based discussion on housing, tenants’ rights, crime, and education.

The panel consisted of candidates Eric Quezada, Mark Sanchez and David Campos. Quezada spoke about housing, Sanchez about education, and Campos on crime. Also present was Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union. Gullicksen — who is not a candidate – spoke about tenants’ rights.

According to election results, District 9, which covers most of the Mission and Bernal Heights, is the most progressive district in the city. Supervisor Tom Ammiano will not run for re-election as he plans to run for State Assembly, and has already endorsed Police Commissioner David Campos in the race.

Campos, who is also Chief Legal Counsel for the San Francisco School Board, said he is concerned about racial profiling by the Police Department. A city like San Francisco, he said, should not have this kind of problem. He also identified a need for cultural sensitivity in the Police Department, starting with the Police Academy.

Immigrant communities in San Francisco have been preyed upon, said Campos, because they sometimes do not report crimes. He wants to do a better job educating immigrant communities about the police department. “Even though San Francisco is a sanctuary city,” he said, “right now the community does not trust the police.”

The issue-based discussion was organized in part because a race with three progressive candidates running against each other could get divisive and ugly. But with ranked choice voting in San Francisco, there is less of a worry that three candidates would split the progressive vote.

Sanchez, who is President of the San Francisco School Board, told the audience he was “trying to think of some good news” to say about education. Sanchez said he is looking for a school district superintendent who does things a little bit differently. “Too many people just look at test scores and not enough at drop out rates,” he said.

According to Sanchez, 55 percent of African American students and between 45 to 55 percent of Latino students do not graduate. “And that has a lot to do with the juvenile justice system,” he said. “Some drop out because they are afraid to come to school because it isn’t safe. Some kids who have been expelled for bringing a knife to school, for example, do it because they are trying to protect themselves.”

The discussion stayed cordial throughout the night and everyone seemed very friendly and informal. Early on, questions were asked on specific issues and were answered by the “expert” on that issue in the room. But as the night moved along, the questions became focused more on identifying how the candidates differed on certain issues.

Quezada, Executive Director of the Dolores Street Community Center, said the Mission is still predominantly a tenant neighborhood. He said the number of tenants is at 80 percent, but ownership is increasing.

The largest ethnic group in the Mission is still Latino, he said, at about 50 percent. But it’s the only Latino neighborhood in the country that isn’t growing. He also cited the connection between adequate housing and health, saying that housing is the number-one indicator of good health.

Gullicksen told the audience that evictions are trending down and that there were only two Ellis Act evictions in the city last month. He said that Proposition H had a larger impact on eviction prevention than originally anticipated.

But buyouts are now one of the most problematic tenant issues in the city. “Buyouts are illegal evictions,” he said. “But they don’t count as evictions because they don’t get recorded.” Gullicksen said he hoped that there would be a way to get buyouts officially recorded in the future.

Tenants’ rights activists are also tracking California Senate Bill 464 – which would require that a property owner must have owned a property for five years before they can evict tenants under the Ellis Act. Because 80% of Ellis evictions are done by landlords who owned their property for less then five years, the bill would have a huge impact. The bill most recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27th.

As the night progressed, it became clearer what the candidates cared about most by what points they kept going back to. Quezada spoke about “community benefit zoning” in planning decisions. “We need to change the rules of the game for housing developers,” he said.

With community benefits zoning as the population density of an area goes up, the developer would be require to provide more community benefits. He also said the community needs to take an active role in community planning. “We need to produce an alternative, to have documentation and plans of our own,” he said. “That’s what we did in the Mission. It’s hard because it takes so long, but it’s worth it.”

Quezada cited the Octavia Plan as an example of community planning where the people who would be most affected by a development were not included in the planning process.

Campos focused on the federal government and their disinterest in respecting local laws. “We need to stand up to the federal government and protect our city’s values,” he said. He cited both the medical cannabis issue and the danger that the city’s new security cameras could be used in political demonstrations.

Campos, who voted in favor of security cameras, said that he would change his vote if there was no proof that they helped reduce crime. He is worried the federal government could subpoena the cameras and identify people at events such as immigration rallies.

Sanchez had less time to speak than the other two candidates because he didn’t receive as many questions about education. But when asked to identify one of the major problems with the school system, he said that a high quality pre-kindergarten education was missing. But he added that Prop H funds could provide $20 million towards that purpose.

The District 9 election is still over 18 months away, but it’s never too early to start having a look at the candidates. Having an issue-based discussion is essential to finding solutions in the progressive community. The audience began to notice the inter-connectedness of the issues as the night progressed. It was a way of reminding people that we’re all on the same side here.

Right now, there is no animosity between the candidates and let’s hope we can keep it that way.

Send feedback to bmalley@sfsu.edu

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