While the soon-to-come State of the Union speech is set to give us all heartburn, San Francisco’s State of the City speech is a no less controversial affair.
Mayor London Breed had a tough task at Wednesday’s event: On her plate was not only smoothing things over with progressives and the roughly 50 percent of San Francisco voters who did not cast a ballot for her, but also definitively laying out San Francisco’s future.
Keep in mind, this is a mayor who won her election last June on the power of her own personal narrative, without truly spinning a vision for San Francisco’s future. Some of that is not her fault — an accelerated mayor’s race due to Ed Lee’s death had all the politicians scrambling for a coherent message.
Let’s break down the mayor’s speech by topic area. And if you disagree with my take, by all means sound off in the comments, on Twitter @FitztheReporter or on Facebook.com/Fitzthereporter — this is meant to be a conversation.
Breed came out swinging on housing and mostly connected. She announced a ballot measure to allow affordable housing and teacher housing projects to bypass permitting requirements to speed up their implementation. This might’ve saved the 140-unit affordable housing project that was nixed by NIMBY Forest Hill neighbors who were scared to live in the relative vicinity of (formerly) homeless people, for instance. That’s a big deal.
Our mayor also announced a $300 million affordable housing bond which would help create sorely needed teacher housing. While that’s welcome news, I am worried about who the housing funding will support — Breed has previously pushed affordable housing for our “missing middle” at the expense of the poor.
Ultimately, these were strong promises but scant on some needed specifics.
Director of Mental Health Reform
Mayor London Breed spent the better part of the last year arguing against Proposition C to tax wealthy businesses to fund homelessness, saying we had waste and duplication in our programs — so clearly, the solution is to create yet another position to tackle homelessness! This proposal literally flies in the face of every argument she made last year. In-cred-ible.
The mayor said we needed a director of health reform to provide “better coordination of mental health care” who will “yes, cut the ineffective programs” because “clearly there are things in this city that just aren’t working.”
Too bad she needed to create an entirely new position to do the job.
Grade: F — for Are You “F-ing” Kidding Me!?
New Director of the Department of Public Health, Doctor Grant Colfax
A mayor should be judged on the pedigree of people she appoints to leadership positions. In this case, London’s pick to replace outgoing DPH Director Barbara Garcia is a no-brainer. Colfax has deep experience in San Francisco battling HIV/AIDS and the backing of the LGBT community. Should you need to yak with someone who will sing his praises, just dial-up former President Barack Obama.
Swing and a hit.
Sheltering 4,000 people in four years is a laudable goal, and the second of Breed’s moon-shot announcements Wednesday. But it’s also something she could have done more easily had she supported Prop. C. Because the mayor opposed it, the tax measure to support homelessness fell short of its needed two-thirds majority and will see its funds tied up in court.
Kudos to the mayor for saying “every neighborhood” should be part of the solution, but she shouldn’t receive praise for her Monday-morning quarterback help for the homeless after working to screw over a funding measure to help them.
Grade: Less Than Two-Thirds of a (Prop.) C
Policing and crime
Breed sounded like a stat machine during this segment of her speech, listing drops in property and violent crimes across the board which she credited to putting more cops on the streets.
Sorry to burst your statistic-bubble Madame Mayor, but when poor people are gentrified out, some crimes will drop. Property crime reduction may be a win for the SFPD, but violent crime dropping is likely a strange-yet-fascinating side effect of watching poor residents lose their homes.
One major bone to pick: Breed offered no updates on the department’s progress on Obama-era justice reforms. Didn’t her “compelling” personal story include her neighborhood’s unfortunate clashes with cops? What about Alex Nieto and Mario Woods? Where’s our SF native mayor at?
“People may continue to drive in San Francisco but that can’t be their only choice,” Breed boldly said, as she announced her support of Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s ride-hail tax and touted the need to build more bike lanes. Beyond that, she made no sweeping announcements — nothing regarding the need to aid Muni, no ray of hope for the dying taxi industry or new efforts to curb ride-hails that city studies say increase congestion.
It’s no secret that housing and homelessness are The City’s most pressing crises. But Muni spent the last year making misfire after misfire, the supervisors have frozen Ford GoBike expansion and driverless vehicles are on the cusp of launching on our streets, yet the mayor glossed over transportation like the ignored middle-child of San Francisco. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
Grade: D for Dang, are we even here?
On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.