Examiner Endorsements: June 5, 2018

The unexpected death of Mayor Ed Lee in December set in motion a whirlwind of emotion-fueled politics and hypercharged campaigns that reached fever pitch when Acting Mayor London Breed was ousted from office by the Board of Supervisors in late January. Since then, the race for Room 200 has seen a good deal of ugliness, but San Francisco voters would be best served by shutting out the attacks and campaign rhetoric. Instead, residents should appreciate the fact that a majority of the candidates in the June 5 mayoral race are great assets to The City. Three of the front-runners also carry with them the potential for a historic first: the first black woman mayor, the first Asian woman mayor or the first openly gay mayor.

Breed, thrust into the role of acting mayor in December, stoically guided The City through a turbulent transition and proved capable of doing the job. She is a confident, natural leader with a clear vision for San Francisco. With the backing of the business and development community, Breed points to the “housing for all” ballot measure (Proposition D) as a crucial component of her plan to address The City’s housing shortage, and had embraced state Sen. Scott Wiener’s controversial Senate Bill 827, which would have allowed more housing development near transit. She is also an ardent supporter of Wiener’s Senate Bill 1045, which would expand the criteria for placing certain individuals on San Francisco’s streets under conservatorship, and is a proponent of safe injection sites in The City, one of the more radical stances in the moderate candidate’s platform.

Supervisor Jane Kim, with a shared focus on housing and homelessness, has made street cleaning one of the top priorities in her mayoral campaign and has been a proponent of The City’s Pit Stop program, which provides portable public restrooms. The progressive frames herself as a candidate for all San Franciscans and emphasizes taxing the wealthy to support those in need; that ethos can be seen in Proposition C, a measure Kim sponsored that would fund childcare and education programs through commercial rent taxes. She has strong tenant advocacy credentials, as evidenced by the Eviction Protections 2.0 legislation she introduced. Kim, who advocated for higher amounts of affordable housing in The City’s recently approved inclusionary housing ordinance, earned her reputation as an ace negotiator after securing the 40 percent affordable housing components of the 5M and Mission Rock developments before landing her biggest victory to date: the Free City College program.

Former state Sen. Mark Leno offers the most experience of the bunch, at both the state and local level, and a track record of protecting renters and creating affordable housing. His plan to end homelessness by 2020 includes tapping into The City’s existing SRO stock and turning the units into permanent supportive housing. Leno has been a champion for LGBT rights, and his notable accomplishments include authoring The City’s first inclusionary housing legislation and increasing California’s minimum wage to $15. Though he has not been in elected office since terming out in 2016, Leno has positioned himself as a thoughtful, mild-mannered candidate with strong labor backing who can unify moderates and progressives.

Former Supervisor Angela Alioto has run largely on a retrospective platform. Though she’s been out of elected office for more than 20 years, Alioto says the answers to some of San Francisco’s most vexing problems are already on the books. She still believes in the Ten Year Plan to Abolish Chronic Homelessness, which she helped craft under Mayor Gavin Newsom and which was was largely abandoned when Newsom left for Sacramento, and says shelters and other temporary housing options fail to address the core issue of homelessness.

Amy Farah Weiss, though less of a household name than the frontrunners, brings a great deal of knowledge and experience to discussions about homelessness and supportive housing. Weiss’ ideas about how to protect The City’s unsheltered population deserve a serious look.

Each of these candidates has something to offer San Francisco. We hope whoever ends up sitting in the Mayor’s Office recognizes the ways in which the others can contribute to The City. However, right now San Francisco is in need of revolutionary change, and we believe Jane Kim is the best candidate to lead our city forward.

Kim embodies the idea of a public servant, and has shown time and time again that she will stand up to developers and business interests on behalf of her constituents. She has big, bold ideas that will improve the quality of life for residents and a finely nuanced grasp of public policy issues, coupled with a pragmatic approach to dealmaking. Most importantly for us, she shows an independent spirit that we believe will help bring new ideas and a fresh start to The City.

We support Mark Leno as a strong alternative or second choice. San Francisco would be fortunate to have Kim or Leno leading the The City from the Mayor’s Office.

Endorsement: Jane Kim for Mayor

It’s not often that a political challenger boasts more experience as an elected official than the incumbent. But in the race for the District 8 supervisor seat, City College trustee Rafael Mandelman comes off as the polished pro.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, a former HIV/AIDS activist, was appointed by Mayor Lee to fill the vacancy left when Scott Wiener left for Sacramento. That appointment put him firmly in the moderate camp, though he’s drifted to the left on occasion. However, his vote with progressives to appoint Mark Farrell as mayor has left him without a bloc.

For his own part, Mandelman says he’s shifted away from the far left platform he employed in previous races, although he still has strong progressive backing.

Both agree on their top priorities: homelessness, mental health care, housing and public safety. Sheehy supports arming police with Tasers and increasing police staffing, while Mandelman thinks reform efforts should take precedence. Mandelman touts his experience as an attorney in affordable housing development, while Sheehy points to his legislation to improve public safety at Dolores Park and crack down on bicycle chop shops.

Sheehy describes himself as an activist, not a politician, and it shows in his blunt way of speaking. His unrefined ways can be endearing, but can also make him seem uninterested in doing the hard work of campaigning for office.

Conversely, Mandelman has continued to seek higher office and has been a strong advocate for students on the City College board.

We believe elected officials should fight for their jobs, just as they’re expected to fight for constituents.

Endorsement: Rafael Mandelman for District 8 Supervisor

Four San Francisco deputy public defenders are running against four sitting Superior Court judges. Maria Evangelista, Kwixuan Maloof, Niki Solis and Phoenix Streets portray the sitting judges as conservatives appointed by Republican governors, and are running on a platform of greater diversity on the bench and judicial reforms, such as decreased use of money bail.

These are laudable aims, but there appears to be little substance to the attacks on the incumbents, all of whom boast impressive résumés.

Judges Curtis Karnow, Cynthia Lee, Jeffrey Ross and Andrew Cheng are all registered Democrats, three of them lifelong. (Lee recently changed her registration from “decline to state” after a previous stint as a Republican in the 1990s.) Two are Asian, including Cheng, who is the son of immigrants.

Karnow, the author of an influential article on bail reform is one of only 18 judges in the state handling complex litigation, with current cases including lawsuits stemming from the recent North Bay fires and the listing Millennium Tower. Lee served as presiding judge during a time of budget cuts and founded San Francisco’s Veterans Justice Court, which provides drug and mental health services to veterans after arrests. Ross, a former criminal defense and civil attorney, has overseen the Veterans Justice Court and worked on cases defending First Amendment rights and Planned Parenthood. Cheng is a former deputy city attorney who recently moved to triple the damages against notorious landlord Anne Kihagi after a jury found she wrongfully evicted tenants from an apartment.

The four public defenders are excellent attorneys, and we would be happy to see any of them on the bench at some point. However, in a race against four well-qualified sitting judges, the best arguments they have come up with are vague allegations of biased behavior by their opponents in the courtroom that we found don’t hold up well under close examination.

That simply isn’t enough for us.

Endorsement: Curtis Karnow, Jeffrey Ross, Cynthia Lee and Andrew Cheng for Superior Court Judge

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission already has the power to issue revenue bonds for water projects. Prop. A would extend that power to bonds for clean energy infrastructure projects, including solar power and transmission facilities that will allow the city to bypass PG&E in bringing power from Hetch Hetchy to public properties and projects. This is a no-brainer.

Endorsement: Yes on A

Prop. B would prohibit those serving on many city commissions from keeping their seats while running for public office. The commonsense measure is intended to prevent potential conflicts for commissioners who are deciding on projects or contracts while also campaigning and soliciting donations.

Endorsement: Yes on B


Prop. C would generate around $146 million a year, 85 percent of which would be targeted to childcare and early education programs for children 5 and under; the rest of which would go to the General Fund. Introduced by supervisors Norman Yee and Jane Kim, the measure would eliminate waiting lists for subsidized childcare for low-income families, increase wages for childcare workers and allow the expansion of subsidized preschool programs for San Francisco families.

Prop. D would generate around $70 million a year, with 90 percent targeted to homeless services, affordable housing developments and other housing programs. It would also put up to $3 million a year into The City’s General Fund from 2019 onward.

The problem is that both measures target the same funding source by increasing the tax on commercial property leases. In practical terms, there can be only one.

Prop. C only requires a simple majority to win approval. Prop. D requires a two-thirds majority, which would seem to give Prop. C a slight edge. But if both reach the threshold for passage, then the one with the most votes wins while the other is nullified.

We deplore the dysfunctional politics that have put voters in the position of having to choose between such fundamental needs as access to quality child care — an area that has remained woefully underfunded in The City despite some pioneering efforts to establish a Preschool for All program — and funding for housing. It is tempting to reject both of these measures and demand that elected officials come back with something better. But given the severity of San Francisco’s homelessness and housing crisis, we are reluctantly compelled to back Prop. D.

Endorsements: No on C; Yes on D

Prop. E would uphold the Board of Supervisors’ ban and prohibit retailers in San Francisco from selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, shisha and nicotine solutions used in e-cigarettes. Opponents of the ban, namely Big Tobacco, claim small business owners will bear the brunt of the measure and caution against criminalizing non-violent behavior.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in America, and flavored tobacco products undeniably target young people. Upholding the ban is a matter of improving public health and safety.

Endorsement: Yes on E

In a city where renters comprise nearly two-thirds of all households and home prices continue to set new records, eviction is an ever-present threat for many residents. Prop. F would establish a right to representation for most tenants faced with eviction and require The City to pay for the lawyers.

The program would be potentially pricey, with a Controller’s Office estimate placing it between $4.2 million and $5.6 million in the first year, although proponents argue it could reduce costs in areas such as homeless services. However, if we are serious about protecting tenants’ rights, preserving existing affordable housing and combating gentrification in San Francisco, we need to back that commitment with support for city residents faced with the loss of their homes.

Endorsement: Yes on F

San Francisco schools are struggling to recruit and retain teachers and other staff because salaries have not kept pace with the high cost of living. Prop. G, a $298 parcel tax, would provide $50 million annually toward salaries, teacher training and development and classroom technology. About 75 percent will pay for a 7 percent annual add-on to teacher salaries over the next 20 years.

This won’t solve the entire problem, but it will help.

Endorsement: Yes on G

This measure is designed to deceive unwary voters.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association, which wrote and introduced this measure, would like voters to believe it’s about arming police with Tasers. Community members have fought hard against the adoption of Tasers for more than 10 years now, arguing they are a dangerous weapon with potential for deaths and misuse, while the San Francisco Police Department has advocated for their implementation as a means of reducing police shootings and injuries to both officers and suspects.

Whatever your stance, that issue has already been settled. The Police Commission, the civilian body that provides oversight to the department, approved the use of Tasers in November 2017 and approved a policy governing their use in March. While the details of implementation and the department’s budget for the rollout have not been finalized, the process is underway and currently scheduled to begin at the end of this year. So what is this really about?

In a word: control.

The policy approved by the Police Commission has strict controls on Taser use, including considerations for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, and language allowing officers to use Tasers only in situations where an individual poses a credible and immediate threat. It also calls for an electronic control device review board that would regularly post summaries of Taser use on its website.

The police union’s measure does not include considerations for vulnerable groups and would allow officers to use Tasers in any situation where a subject is “actively resisting,” such as if a subject refuses to let go of something.

The union measure also makes it harder for the Taser policy to be updated, requiring a ballot measure or a four-fifths majority vote by the Board of Supervisors for any changes.

Effectively, Prop. H would allow the union to override a carefully thought out policy and make an end run around the civilian oversight provided by the Police Commission.

It is for these reasons that Police Chief Bill Scott and nearly every elected official in The City has come out against this measure. Scott, an advocate for the use of Tasers, said the measure is the “antithesis” of the reform efforts launched by the department in early 2016 in response to controversy over police shootings.

Endorsement: No on H

Prop. I essentially asks San Francisco voters to apologize to Oakland for wooing the Golden State Warriors across the Bay. It also cites the 49ers’ relocation to Santa Clara.

The measure has no real impact. But if you’re guilt-ridden about the Warriors’ relocation, this is a way to formalize that feeling.

No Endorsement

RM3 will gradually raise tolls on Bay Area bridges from $6 to $9 between 2019 and 2025 and use the funds to pay for an array of transit and highway projects across the region intended to reduce traffic congestion.

Projects that would benefit San Francisco residents and commuters include $500 million for new BART cars, $140 million toward the replacement and expansion of Muni’s fleet and facilities and $325 million toward the Caltrain extension to the new Transbay Transit Center. Another $50 million would go toward studying a potential new underwater Transbay Tube intended to help beef up BART service. Other funds would pay for improvements projects on U.S. Highway 101 at state Highway 92 and on the Dumbarton corridor, and improvements to the Bay’s commuter ferry system, as well as bus service on bridge corridors.

Nobody loves bridge tolls, but RM3 is a sensible way to generate funds for the infrastructure needed to handle Bay Area traffic problems.

Endorsement: Yes on RM3

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