Longtime City College of San Francisco Trustee Rafael Mandelman officially stepped into his new role as District 8 supervisor Wednesday, following a swearing-in ceremony at City Hall that drew dozens of cheering supporters.
Approaching the Board of Supervisors chamber at City Hall, where he will serve out a large part of his term for the next four years, Mandelman was greeted by friends, city bureaucrats and state leaders, many of whom were turned away as the room reached capacity.
Mandelman unseated incumbent Jeff Sheehy in last month’s special election, replacing the latter as the only openly gay supervisor on the board while ushering in a progressive majority.
On Tuesday, his new colleagues welcomed him from across the political spectrum.
Supervisor Ahsha Safai, a moderate who presides over District 11, said he is hopeful that Mandelman will continue the board’s “collaborative vibe.”
“I think 90 plus percent of the time we agree on the issues,” said Safai. “I think Rafael is balanced in his approach. If he doesn’t agree with you he will figure out a way to explain why, and he will stand his ground.”
Moments after being sworn in by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Mandelman expressed a firm stance on difficult issues that he will navigate alongside his colleagues in the coming months, including support for an expanded use of conservatorships for the homeless, pending the passage of Senate Bill 1045.
“There are people in this world that cannot take care of themselves, and it is our job to take care of them,” he said, citing his experience growing up with a mother who was mentally ill.
“When I was older I was able to get conservatorship over her, I was able to intervene in her life, and get her into a …much better place,” he said.
Mandelman credited his mother, who died during the course of his campaign, with shaping his political ambitions of tackling homelessness and improving mental health services.
“One of the first things I did after being elected supervisor was go up to Sacramento with our Mayor Elect London Breed, to testify in favor of SB 1045,” he said, adding that the bill will provide for “modest” expansion of conservatorships. “It is a tool, it’s controversial, it’s complicated, and I know that my colleagues have many different feelings about it and I look forward to engaging in conversation with them over time.”
Throughout his campaign, Mandelman has also vowed to improve the conditions of homeless youth, particularly within the LGBT community, in part by advocating for a Navigation Center serving solely this population — a promise that resonated with youth advocates.
“The first time I met Rafael Mandelman, we had an over-hour long conversation on the difficulties and hurdles, primarly for funding programs for homeless youth because of the de-incentivization of the low-income tax credit for folks to be enrolled full-time in school,” said Zak Franet, a San Francisco Youth Commissioner who was formerly homeless. “I look forward to working with him and his office to resolve some of these issues.”
Mandleman’s former colleagues on the City College Board of Trustees, where he served for six years, rejoiced at the thought of gaining a strong advocate for the college in City Hall.
“We do now have a member of the board that really understands the needs of City College and it’s students— it will be great to have that understanding,” said Board President Brigitte Davila, adding that the college has “a multi-layered plan” for addressing housing insecurity among its students. “Part of it will be very helpful to have the support of the board of supervisors. I don’t think Rafael ever will lose sight of that.”
It is unclear who will replace Mandelman on the board — Mayor London Breed, who was also sworn into her new role on Wednesday, is expected to make an appointment to his seat in the coming weeks.
Both Davila and Mandelman agreed on the need for Asian American representation on the college’s board, given that nearly 30 percent of its students fit that demographic.
“I think the mayor should look seriously at Asian Pacific Islander candidates because I think that its a little bit of a shame and embarrassment that CCSF doesn’t have any API representation on the board,” said Mandelman.
Mandelman will be supported in his new role by fellow City College Trustee Tom Temprano, his campaign manager Kyle Smeallie, an Erin Mundy, the former campaign manager for Mayoral hopeful Mark Leno, whom he has handpicked as his legislative aides.
“I feel ready for the job, but it’s a hard job,” said Mandelman. “District 8 expects a lot, and they deserve a lot.”